How many live-action movies are there based on Marvel comics? At the time this article was updated, September 2021, the answer is 59, or 67 if you count publications by Marvel imprints. If you’re a comic book fan getting into movies, or a movie fan who likes superhero actions you are well served by cinema. But it can be confusing to navigate your way through so many movies, especially when the vast majority of Marvel movies have been released in the last 25 years or so.
The Beginnings Of Marvel Cinema Movies
The first Marvel ‘movie’ to hit the big screen was Captain America in the 1940s, though that was actually a serial film, released in seven instalments. Even in those days, a superhero movie needed a big budget, it was the most expensive serial ever made by the Republic studio. Good luck tracking it down!
It took another 40 years before a Marvel movie hit cinemas again, this time in the form of Howard The Duck. Executive produced by George Lucas, the movie was a flop and received a very negative reaction.
1944 Captain America
1986 Howard The Duck
Marvel’s first foray into movies for over a decade was the Wesley Snipes vampire movie Blade. Considered dark, the film was a success and certainly seems to have opened the door for more comic book adaptations. Blade himself will return in the next few years, as he joins the MCU, to be played by Mahershala Ali.
2002 Blade II
2004 Blade: Trinity
The X-Men Movies
Before Christopher Nolan got The Dark Knight trilogy going and before Sam Raimi’s Spider-man movies, the X-Men movies were showing that superhero movies could be more than just action. The characters had depth and the storylines were compelling. Throughout the series, which began in 2000, veteran actors like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen mixed with young talents such as Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy. The biggest impact was perhaps made by Hugh Jackman’s Logan, who earned his own spinoff trilogy. The X-Men movies also saw the first appearance of Deadpool, who also got two solo movies. The X-Men universe wrapped up with 2020s The New Mutants and contains 13 movies.
2006 X-Men: The Last Stand
2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine
2011 X-Men: First Class
2013 The Wolverine
2014 X-Men: Days Of Future Past
2016 Deadpool | X-Men: Apocalypse
2018 Deadpool 2
2019 X-Men: Dark Phoenix
2020 The New Mutants
The X-Men characters are expected to return to screens as part of the MCU.
Spider-man, aka Peter Parker, is a character Marvel have turned to repeatedly in the last 20 years. Sam Raimi’s trilogy gave up as a great Spider-man, played by Toby Maguire, and put him up against great villains in the first two movies, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Alfred Molinas Doc Ock. Spider-man 3 couldn’t quite maintain the quality and suffered from too many villains, as they crammed in Green Goblin, Venom and Sandman.
2004 Spider-man 2
2007 Spider-man 3
Just five years later the character was rebooted again, with Andrew Garfield taking on the title role, opposite Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey. This series didn’t match the popularity or acclaim of its predecessor and stopped at two films.
2012 The Amazing Spider-man
2014 The Amazing Spider-man 2
Spider-man would be revived again for the MCU, played by Tom Holland in five movies so far.
2000s Marvel Movie Mix
Throughout the 2000s, ahead of the establishment of the MCU and then alongside, there was a selection of movies adapted from Marvel origin stories. Before he was Batman, Ben Affleck was Daredevil, the blind crimefighting lawyer. Two years later, that movie earned a spinoff, focussing on Jennifer Garner’s Elektra.
In 2003, director Ang Lee had a go at Hulk, with Eric Bana starring as the big green monster.
In 2004 came The Punisher starring Thomas Jane, as vigilante Frank Castle, and John Travolta. A planned sequel never happened, with a reboot, Punisher: War Zone, following instead just a few years later. This time Ray Stevenson played the main role.
In 2007 Nicholas Cage entered the superhero sphere for the first time, as motorcycle stunt rider turned demon hunter Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider. The movie was not a critical success but performed well at the box office, grossing more than double its budget, and that was enough to earn a sequel.
10 years after the character appeared in Spider-man 3, Sony had another go at Venom, with Tom Hardy starring. That movie did well enough to earn a sequel, due for release later in 2021.
2003 Daredevil | Hulk
2004 The Punisher
2007 Ghost Rider
2008 The Punisher: War Zone
2012 Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance
Fantastic Four Movies
It seems fair to say that the Fantastic Four movies have never quite taken off in the same way as some of the Marvel movies going on around them. After years in development, a movie was released in 2004, with a young Chris Evans playing Human Torch. That movie got a sequel, but that did not do well enough for the series to expand. 10 years later, there was a reboot, directed by Josh Trank, that did not fare well at all and plans for further movies were cancelled. The Fantastic Four will come again though, as part of the MCU.
2004 Fantastic Four
2007 Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer
2015 Fantastic Four
The Marvel Cinematic Universe
The big one. The Marvel Cinematic Universe launched with Iron Man in 2008 and surely no one back then could have predicted the juggernaut it would become. They soon hit on a winning formula, establishing major characters in solo outings before bringing them together in team-up movies. At the time of writing, the MCU spans 25 movies, with many more planned. The franchise has revived the career of Robert Downey Jr and made the three Chris’, Evans, Hemsworth and Pratt, into superstars. The movies have maintained a staggeringly high quality and now regularly attract A-list talent in supporting roles, for example, Annette Benning, Cate Blanchett and Michael B. Jordan. The same is true behind the camera, where an increasingly diverse group are taking on directing duties.
2008 Iron Man | The Incredible Hulk
2010 Iron Man 2
2011 Thor | Captain America: The First Avenger
2012 The Avengers
2013 Iron Man 3 | Thor: The Dark World
2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier | Guardians Of The Galaxy
2015 Avengers: Age Of Ultron | Ant-Man
2016 Captain America: Civil War | Doctor Strange
2017 Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 | Spider-man: Homecoming | Thor: Ragnarok
2018 Black Panther | Avengers: Infinity War | Ant-Man and the Wasp
2019 Captain Marvel | Avengers: Endgame | Spider-man: Far From Home
MCU Phase Four Movies
2021 Black Widow | Shang-Chi and the Legend Of The Ten Rings
For Completionists! Movies From Marvel Imprints
If you want to be really thorough in your Marvel movie watching there are also three franchises based on comic books published by Marvel imprints. Those are the movies based around Kick-Ass, Kingsman and Men In Black. That means adding another eight films to the list.
2013 Kick-Ass 2
2015 Kingsman: The Secret Service
2017 Kingsman: The Golden Circle
1997 Men In Black
2002 Men In Black II
2012 Men In Black 3
2018 Men In Black International
The Future Of Marvel Movies
There is no sign of Marvel movies slowing down, with firm plans in place for many many more movies. Marvel will continue to develop movies alongside its rapidly increasing television output. The vast majority of these will now be under the umbrella of the MCU, which will as mentioned eventually bring in characters from X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Blade. With 80 years of Marvel comic book history to explore there are still plenty of superheroes and storylines to look forward to!
How many Marvel movies have you seen? What’s your favourite?
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