Updated on December 10, 2021
Back in 2018, I wrote a post about who I consider to be the most popular superheroes. While it’s been a popular post, the movies portion was based on North Americans’ favorite superheroes. But as even Hollywood admits these days, superhero movies are now a global phenomenon. (Traditionally, not so much superhero comics; in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe, Donald Duck’s comics vastly outpace Batman and Wolverine in popularity.)
Thus, I’m taking a look at what superhero movies are popular outside of North America. Figures are taken from Box Office Mojo as of October 10, 2019, and aren’t adjusted for inflation.
Top 10 superhero movies by non-North American box office
Here’s the top 10 superhero movies by non-North American box office. In parentheses is the percentage that box office figure makes up of its global total.
- Avengers: Endgame, $1.94 billion (69.3%)
- Avengers: Infinity War, $1.37 billion (66.9%)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron, $946.4 million (67.3%)
- The Avengers, $895.5 million (59%)
- Aquaman, $813.0 million (70.8%)
- Iron Man 3, $805.8 million (66.3%)
- Captain America: Civil War, $745.2 million (64.6%)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home, $741.0 million (65.5%)
- Captain Marvel, $701.4 million (62.2%)
- Black Panther, $646.9 million (48%)
By far, the most popular superhero movie characters are the Avengers. The team itself take up the top three slots globally, while Iron Man and Captain America take up two other slots. And yes, Marvel’s definitely been the dominant superhero presence of this decade, hands down.
Three of the top 10 films star someone that isn’t a White male: “Aquaman,” “Captain Marvel,” and “Black Panther.” Which I’m sure irritates the various online trolls, racists, and sexists trashing said films.
The sole top 10 DC Comics movie, and by default the most popular non-North American one (not adjusting for inflation) is “Aquaman.” As for why the Sea King is so popular, my guesses:
- The rest of the world doesn’t have as many preconceptions about Aquaman. As such, like Rocket Raccoon and Groot in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Aquaman (and his famous “communicate with sea creatures” power) might come off as unique.
- Ocean-based adventure stories seem to be popular outside of North America. See the heavily-international box office for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.
- International audiences might have differing ideas about what can constitute adventure stories. As a reminder, “Asterix,” “Tintin,” and “Donald Duck” are popular comics in Europe. Meanwhile, Japan has tons of heroes that can do everything Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman can do.
- Aquaman (and Black Manta) actually look like non-North American film-goer demographics. (Yes, they look like people here, too, but…).
If wondering, the top five highest-grossing DC superhero movies are: “Aquaman” ($813 million); “The Dark Knight Rises” ($636.8 million); “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” ($543.3 million); “The Dark Knight” ($469.7 million); and “Justice League” ($428.9 million).
Image from “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” (Marvel)