1944-1990 | 1998-2004 | 2005-2009 | 2010-2014 | 2015-2016 | 2017-2019
Despite constant predictions that the superhero film bubble would burst, superhero films continued to dominate the box office throughout the 2010s. This was in part because of a competition between the two main American superhero comic book companies, DC and Marvel, but also competition between many Marvel characters.
In the 1990s Marvel comics had sold off the film-rights to many of their titles. While most had over the years reverted to Marvel Studios, owned by Disney since 2009, there were still studios owning the film rights to popular Marvel characters. Universal Studios held the distribution rights to films purely based on the Incredible Hulk, Columbia Pictures had the rights to Spider-Man and associated characters, but The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) had shown they were struggling to turn their lucrative rights into money-making films. The biggest competitor to Disney's Marvel Studios was 20th Century Fox, who held the rights not only to Fantastic Four but also X-Men and associated characters. As long as they kept making films featuring those characters before their film rights expired, their film rights were extended. This had allowed them to make a series of X-Men films followed by a recast, prequel series:
- X-Men (2000)
- X-Men 2 (2003)
- X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
- X-Men: First Class (2011)
- The Wolverine (2013)
- X-Men: Days of Futures Past (2014)
Yet by far the most successful studio making films featuring Marvel characters was, appropriately enough, Marvel Studios. Their Marvel Cinematic Universe contained inter-connected characters, with each impacting on events on the next. Marvel also conceived their films as having over-reaching story arcs and grouped their films into 'phases'. The Marvel Cinematic Universe consisted of the following films to date:
|Phase 1:||Phase 2:|
|1. Iron Man (2008)|
2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
4. Thor (2011)
5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
6. Avengers Assemble (2012)
7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Listed below are all the Marvel film adaptations made in 2015 and 2016, with recurring actors and characters who appear in other films shown in Bold. Also mentioned is whether the films pass the Bechdel Test. This can be summarised as whether the film involves two or more female characters who have a conversation together that does not focus on men in general or specific male characters.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
|Plot||The Avengers capture a secret Hydra research base where Loki's sceptre, which contains the Mind Infinity Stone, was used in experiments intending to create super soldiers, but only two subjects with superhero powers survived, twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff. Stark plans to use the sceptre in order to create an artificial intelligence that will be part of a global defence programme, however when it gains sentience it builds a robotic body, escapes and plans to destroy the world. Wanda Maximoff, who blames Stark for their parents' deaths as they were killed by Stark weapons, manipulates the Avengers against each other by giving them hallucinogenic dreams. Ultron plans to create a perfect body for himself using the Mind Stone but instead this is thwarted by the Avengers and Stark with Thor, who following his vision, instead create an ally with the consciousness of JARVIS named Vision. The final confrontation with Ultron takes place at the fictional city-state of Sokovia, which Ultron plans to wipe out in his plan to destroy the world.|
|Setting||Marvel Cinematic Universe:|
|Related Films||All Marvel Cinematic Universe|
|Stan Lee Cameo||Veteran at party|
|Infinity Stone||The Mind Stone was used to give the Maximof twin's super powers, create Ultron's sentience and also bring Vision to life.|
In 2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron was the 7th most-successful film of all time, but still only the fourth most successful film of the year, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World and Furious 7.
|Plot||Hank Pym, who invented a suit that reduces a man to the size of an ant while correspondingly increasing his strength to the same degree, retires from working for SHIELD following the death of his wife. He wishes to keep his secrets out of the wrong hands but years later, after his company has been taken over by former protégé Darren Cross, the secret of shrinking is about to be broken. Working with his estranged daughter Hope and Scott Lang, a recently released burglar who is struggling trying to live an honest life, they plan a heist to steal Cross's prototype suit, the Yellowjacket.|
|Setting||Marvel Cinematic Universe: Prologue: 1989 SHIELD headquarters. Main film: 21st Century America|
|Related Films||All Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially Captain America: Civil War (2016)|
|Bechdel Test||Narrow pass|
|Stan Lee Cameo||Bartender|
|Post-Credits Scene||Both mid-credits and a post-credit scene that features in Captain America: Civil War|
A film that had a difficult journey to the screen, with proposals to make a film based on the character regularly suggested since the success of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). Since the creation of Marvel Studios, this incarnation of the film was due to be directed by Edgar Wright, who co-wrote the first draft, however during Wright's completion of the 'Cornetto Trilogy' with film The World's End (2013) it was announced that Wright would no longer direct Ant-Man due to 'creative differences'. In the original Marvel Comics, inventor Hank Pym's biggest creation was that of Ultron, however the film Avengers: Age of Ultron changed the original storyline to make Tony Stark Ultron's creator.
Curiously, the villain's initials are DC, which just happens to be the name of Marvel's rival comic publishing company…
Fantastic Four (2015)
|Studio||20th Century Fox|
|Plot||Child genius Reed Richards designs a teleporter, building a working model with best friend Ben. Impressed, Franklin Storm recruits Reed to join his institute and develop the transporter, which is similar to one being designed by Victor von Doom. Together they build one capable of carrying people across a different dimension to a world called 'Planet Zero', but when Reed, Johnny, Ben and Victor travel across they encounter a strange substance that mutates them. As Victor is believed dead the others flee back to Earth, contaminating Susan in the process. When their powers is discovered the government wants to use them as soldiers, Reed Richards disappears for a year and eventually they re-open the portal to Planet Zero, but Victor has decided he'd like to destroy the world.|
|Setting||Early 21st Century America and Planet Zero, a world in a different dimension.|
Fantastic Four, also called Fant4stic, was a huge commercial failure. The film met with negative reviews and lost at least $80 million. The film has been accused of being rushed into production as under the terms of 20th Century Fox's screen rights to the Fantastic Four characters the rights revert to Marvel if they do not make a film within seven years of the previous Fantastic Four film, in this case Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007). However none of the main cast do anything particularly fantastic and aren't known by their identities of Mr Fantastic, Human Torch, Invisible Woman and The Thing. Doctor Doom's plan to destroy the world also has little impact and provides little menace as all we see it doing is inconvenience some trees and cause a traffic jam.
|Studio||20th Century Fox|
|Plot||A mercenary named Wade Wilson discovers he has terminal cancer shortly after proposing to his girlfriend. After being told he can be cured if he takes part in a medical experiment he becomes mutated; although the cancer is healed, his body is scarred and disfigured and is about to be sold into slavery when he escapes. Now calling himself Deadpool, he seeks revenge on the mutants who experimented on him, hoping to reverse the process.|
|Setting||21st Century New York|
|Cameos||Weasel's Bar Patron - Rob Liefield|
|Stan Lee Cameo||Strip club MC|
By far the rudest and most offensive Marvel adaptation to date, Deadpool became the most successful R-rated film in America (Rated 15 in the UK). Reynolds had first played Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but though his role was one of that film's highlights, fans were disappointed he did not have a much larger role. Despite its comparative modest budget by superhero film standards, it became the most successful film in the X-Men series to date on release and was the ninth biggest film of the year, behind Captain America: Civil War, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Finding Dory, Zootropolis, The Jungle Book, The Secret Life of Pets, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
|Directors||Anthony & Joe Russo|
|Plot||Fed up of the accumulated collateral damage the Avengers have built up, the UN decides that the Avengers should be directly answerable to them. Iron Man agrees whereas Captain America feels that they should serve a higher ideal than politicians. Yet after a bombing that kills T'Challa's father is apparently committed by Captain America's brainwashed best friend Bucky 'Winter Soldier' Barnes, his disagreement with Iron Man turns into an all-out fight, especially when a long-lost secret is revealed.|
|Setting||Marvel Cinematic Universe: 1991, 21st Century across the world|
|Team Iron Man|
|Related Films||All Marvel Cinematic Universe|
|Bechdel Test||Narrow Pass|
|Stan Lee Cameo||As a deliveryman|
|Post-Credits Scene||Yes, two.|
Essentially an Avengers film with twelve superheroes in total, this quickly became a huge box office success and the most successful film of 2016. This was the first film in Marvel's Phase 3.
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
|Studio||20th Century Fox|
|Plot||Almost 4,000 years after an all-powerful mutant who ruled Egypt was buried alive he is awoken and gathers four mutant followers, planning on destroying the world and remaking it in his image. One of his followers is Magneto, who wishes to make humanity pay for the deaths of his wife and daughter. Mystique, worried about Magneto, joins Xavier, who has been reunited with lost love Moira MacTaggert. Soon Xavier's school is destroyed, all the nuclear missiles in the world have been launched, Xavier has been kidnapped and only a team of mutants can prevent the apocalypse.|
|Setting||Ancient Egypt, Egypt & America in 1983|
|X-Men & Mutants|
|Horsemen of the Apocalypse|
|Stan Lee Cameo||He and his wife see the launch of nuclear missiles|
|Post-Credits Scene||Yes, introducing Essex Corporation|
This film was a box office success but critical disappointment. Although this film introduces the Essex Corporation in its post-credits sequence, setting up the film for a sequel, the Essex Corporation did not feature in the next X-Men films. The only link is that Deadpool 2 involved the Essex House for Mutant Rehabilitation as an orphanage that seeks to control mutant children through torture and abuse, however that is not directly linked to the post-credit sequence.
Doctor Strange (2016)
The Ancient One is a long lived sorcerer who teaches her students at Kamar-Taj, but a group of evil sorcerers led by Kaecilius plan to do some evil sorcery including gain immortality and steal an ancient text. Some time later Doctor Stephen Strange, an arrogant neurosurgeon, is involved in a car crash and is no longer able to manipulate his hands with the accurate dexterity he formerly took for granted. After hearing about a paraplegic who regained the use of his legs he finds Kamar-Taj looking for healing. There he becomes the Ancient One's apprentice, also being taught by Master Wong and Mordo, learning that Earth is defended from threats from other dimensions in the astral plane from sanctums in London, Hong Kong and New York. He also learns how to use the Eye of Agamotto, which is forbidden to all but the Ancient One. After Kaecilius kills the Ancient One, can Dr Strange defeat Kaecilius?
|Setting||Marvel Cinematic Universe: Kamar-Taj sorcerery school Kathmandu, New York and various dimensions on the astral plane|
|Related Films||All Marvel Cinematic Universe, particularly|
|Infinity Stone||The Time Stone is held in relic the Eye of Agamotto|
|Stan Lee Cameo||Man reading on a bus|
|Post-Credits Scene||Both mid-credits and post-credits sequences|
Into the Future
The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to develop and grow. With one of the recent films making the top ten most successful films of all-time list (unadjusted for inflation), the Marvel films had consolidated their place among the annual blockbusters and looked set to complete the decade in a dominant position. Unlike the villains, Marvel's superheroes look poised to take over the world – at least world's box office.