Maybe it's the cape; maybe it's the secret identity; maybe it's just because we all wish we could fly or have x-ray vision or turn green and rip our shirts off. Whatever the reason may be, comic-book-based superhero movies grab our attention - no matter how predictable the plot lines may be. (To learn more about summer movies, check out The Economics Of Summer Blockbuster Movies.)
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

Top Earners for 2011
In the top 10 highest-earning movies for 2011, so far, superhero flicks have made quite a mark. The latest installment in the Transformers never-ending storyline of cars-turned-heroic-robots has transformed into $261 million in gross earnings. Further down the list, Thor has grossed over $175 million and the current X-Men movie (which one is this? third? fourth? fortieth?) has managed over $140 million.

Kung Fu Panda, while not a comic-book-based superhero movie, still gives us superheroes, albeit animated ones. Apparently, audiences will take superheroes in live action or animated form. Kung Fu Panda 2 has pulled in over $159 million in gross sales.

Highest Grossing Superhero Movies
Those are just the high earners for superhero movies produced in 2011. The highest grossing superhero movies have earnings that are staggering. Dark Knight made over $1 billion; all three Spider-Man movies made well over $700 million each, with the third reaching almost $900 million in earnings. And The Incredibles grossed over $600 million - another score for animation.

Not bad for the fan boys.

Those numbers are high, compared to movies of any genre. In 2009 the top-earning movies of all time, out of every genre, are all right around the $1 billion mark with the exception of Titanic (1997), which grossed closer to $2 billion. (For more on movies that make the most money, see Movie Genres That Make The Most Money.)

Highest Production Cost Superhero Movies
So a high-earning superhero movie is just a high-earning movie, period. High-earning movies can also be high-budget movies, racking up millions in production costs. An average production budget in 2006 was around $100 million. Production costs for superhero movie can easily top that average. Green Lantern, for example, cost close to $200 million to produce, and Thor around $160 million. Iron Man reportedly tallied up a bill of $150 million to produce.

How Many Superhero Movies Are There?
There are anywhere from 400 to 600 Hollywood-produced movies per year. Since 1978, there have been only 85 superhero movies produced (by Hollywood); of those 85, 22 were sequels. 2008 gave us eight superhero movies, the most of a single year thus far, according to an infographic by CinemaBlend.

Superhero movies are a small percentage of all the movies coming out of Hollywood, which makes it perhaps even more significant that three (or four, if you count Kung Fu Panda) of the current top-10 earners of 2011 are superhero movies.

Superhero Stocks Can Fly, Too
The companies that own these superheroes (and accompanying villains) are hoping to keep the superhero love alive. Marvel Entertainment, which owns Spider-Man, the Avengers, Thor and Iron Man, was named a top stock pick in 2008. Good call - Marvel's stock jumped 9.42% on the release of Iron Man alone. So if you really want to win big with superhero movies, buy some stock before the next big release ... and then smuggle in your own popcorn...

What will they do when they run out of superheroes? It's a money-making business, so don't expect superhero movies to quit appearing, as long as we keep lining up to see them. Think sequels, trilogies, spin-offs ... maybe a whole series of "Children of the Superheroes" is in order. Clark Kent Jr, anyone? (To see which movies have been successful in the past, see Top 10 Successful Movie Franchises.)

Related Articles
  1. Investing News

    How 'Honesty' Could Pay off for Jessica Alba

    Is it possible that Jessica Alba is one of the savviest businesswomen on the planet?
  2. Investing News

    Famous Celebrities Who Love Investing

    Celebrities have a bit of a bad reputation these days. These five celebrities, though, have used their fame and their money to invest successfully instead of spending it on looking good.
  3. Professionals

    The Top 5 Richest Restaurateurs

    The top five richest restaurateurs have proven that it is possible to not only turn a profit in the restaurant business but to become multi-millionaires!
  4. Professionals

    The Top Six Richest Supermodels

    Through excellent investing, brand management and high earnings, these six supermodels have cultivated multi-million dollar net worths.
  5. Stock Analysis

    Netflix's Future Growth: Greater Than You Think?

    The potential for Netflix could be considerably greater than you think.
  6. Investing News

    7 "Apprentice" Hosts From Around the World

    There are as many as 26 countries with their own local version of "The Apprentice," and each version is hosted by a native, incredibly rich entrepreneur.
  7. Investing Basics

    Netflix's Billion-Dollar Content Licensing Budget

    Understand how Netflix selects the TV shows and movies it streams to its subscribers, and learn how it finances those licensing deals.
  8. Personal Finance

    5 Reasons The Cable TV Industry Is Dying

    The demise of cable TV has been written about for many years but cable continues to hang on. This article discussed why cable is faced with these issues.
  9. Entrepreneurship

    How Did Mark Cuban Get Rich?

    From his first business to today, here’s how Mark Cuban got rich.
  10. Investing Basics

    Should Netflix Consider Commercials And Ads?

    Understand why Netflix does not currently support commercials or ads on its streaming site, and learn how it could benefit if that changed.
  1. Over The Top

    Television, video on demand (VOD) or other content provided over ...
  2. Rothschild

    A prominent family of German bankers that established banking ...
  3. Tycoon

    A prominent figure in a particular industry who has built up ...
  4. Bowie Bond

    An asset-backed security;which uses the current and future revenue ...
  5. Gregg L. Engles

    The chairman and CEO of Dallas-based milk processor and distributor ...
  6. Edouard Michelin

    A former president and CEO of French tire manufacturer and map ...
  1. How are Rupert Murdoch's holdings distributed?

    Rupert Murdoch owns a controlling share of News Corporation and over 750 different businesses. Some of the major brands he ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How did Rupert Murdoch become a media mogul?

    Rupert Murdoch's father was a journalist and newspaper owner in Australia. Upon his death in 1952, Rupert inherited the News ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!