When Did Marvel Dethrone ‘Star Wars’ as the Biggest Box Office Hype?

Not so long ago, in a galaxy far, far away Star Wars ruled the roost when it came to the box office. The original 1977 movie helped cement the modern blockbuster mentality that every major studio chases. 

Lately, however, the bloom seems to be a bit off the Star Wars rose now that Marvel sets box office records left and right, culminating in Avengers: Endgame becoming the most successful box office hit of all time, worldwide just a few weeks ago.

However, it would be premature to downplay Star Wars when they still have Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker coming out this December.

Marvel has dominated in recent years

Avengers Endgame
Avengers: Endgame world premiere | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Nobody disputes the success of Star Wars, with most of the series’ movies grossing more than $300 million, even before you adjust for inflation. However, Marvel seems to get most of the glory these days. In addition to the success of Endgame, Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home were both enormous hits, each grossing more than $1 billion worldwide 

According to Box Office Mojo, the 11 Star Wars movies (the 8 episodes, Rogue One and Solo, plus the animated Clone Wars) and their reissues have made $4.5 billion here and $ 9.4 billion worldwide, and that’s over a 42-year span. By contrast, the 23 MCU movies have made $8.5 billion here and 22.4 billion worldwide — and it took them only 11 years to hit that number.

It’s important to note that Marvel has released more than twice as many films as Lucasfilm has with Star Wars.  Marvel puts out as many as three movies a year, while Star Wars has never issued more than one per year, and Lucasfilm recently announced they were scaling back.

The Lucas franchise is coming off a disappointing period. The Last Jedi sharply divided fans, and Solo underperformed by Star Wars standards, grossing only $392 million worldwide. Even The Last Jedi, divisive as it was, still made $1.3 billion worldwide.

‘Star Wars’ is still the king here

Marvel’s success is amazing by any standard, especially in maintaining a level of consistency over almost two dozen movies. Most fans agree that Marvel’s movies are at least solid, with only  a handful of clunkers, arguably including The Incredible Hulk, Thor: the Dark World and Iron Man 2

However, Marvel fans shouldn’t crow too loudly. Amid all the hubbub about Endgame becoming the new No. 1, that’s not true in the United States. Here, The Force Awakens is still No. 1, with $936 million, which is considerably ahead of Endgame’s $867 million. While Marvel is bigger when international grosses are factored in, Star Wars is a bigger deal in the US. 

If you adjust the box-office figures for inflation, the gap narrows..While the MCU has made $8.9 billion adjusted, Star Wars is not that far behind, with $7.5 billion. 

And when you adjust for inflation, the original Star Wars is number 2 of all time, with $1.6 billion, behind only Gone with the Wind. There are two Star Wars movies in the top 20, with the biggest MCU movie, Endgame, coming in at number 16. Of course, the original Star Wars trilogy came out before home video significantly impacted the box office.

No matter what, Disney is happy. 

Smiling from ear to ear with all this success is Mickey Mouse, because Disney owns both Star Wars and Marvel. So no matter which franchise comes out on top, Disney wins. Now that Disney has bought Fox, it also has a claim on their mega-hit Avatar

Looking into the future, both series are at a significant crossroads. Star Wars will wrap up its Skywalker saga this year, although after that the future is somewhat uncertain. There are multiple series of films planned: one by David Benioff and DB Weiss of Game of Thrones fame, and the other by Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, although no definite timeline has been laid out for either one. 

Marvel is also entering a new phase in more ways than one. Now that iconic characters like Iron Man and Captain America are either gone or evolving, the company is staking its future on lesser-known properties like The Eternals and Shang-Chi.

It’s too soon to say which franchise will come out on top in the end, but for either one, make sure you get your tickets early.