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Adjusted for Inflation, How Did the Other 5 Superman Films Stack Up Against the Massively Successful Man of Steel

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | June 16, 2013 |

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | June 16, 2013 |

Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel absolutely dominated the box-office this weekend, breaking the June record for best opening and generating the second biggest opening of the year, behind only Iron Man 3, which had the second biggest opening of all time, behind only The Avengers. Man of Steel’s $125 million opening weekend, in fact, eclipsed the total box-office for the second through fourth films of the Christopher Reeve era, and nearly matched the box-office total of the original Superman box-office of $134 million back in 1978. It also more than doubled the $52 million opening of Brandon Routh’s Superman Returns back in 2006, and will likely surpass that film’s $200 million box-office within the first ten days of release.

It is an unmitigated success, and those that enjoyed Snyder’s Superman will undoubtedly get to see more of him. I’m quite looking forward to them, although I am bummed that future installments may not feature who I thought was the best part of Man of Steel, and the guy that anchored the film’s emotional core, Kevin Costner. Without Costner, I don’t think I liked Man of Steel half as much as I did because, even with very limited screen time, he managed to humanize Clark Kent more than anything else in the film.

Given the massive success of Man of Steel, however, I was curious as to how it stacked up against earlier Superman entries, once inflation is accounted for. It looks like, even adjusting for inflation, that Man of Steel is likely to eventually surpass all the entries except the original, which tapped out at $455 million adjusted, good for the seventh highest grossing superhero movie of all time. It says something about The Avengers ($609 million) that, even adjusted for inflation, it holds the top spot among superhero films, ahead of The Dark Knight ($591 million, adjusted), the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man ($551 million), and Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman ($499 million).


Granted, Man of Steel — if word of mouth is outstanding — still has an outside chance of beating the original Superman, but it should have no problem at all grossing more than Superman II ($308 million, adjusted) and Superman Returns ($200 million, adjusted).

It’s interesting to remember, however, that back in the day, sequels almost always failed to live up to their predecessors at the box office (Stars Wars, excepted). It’s why sequels used to not be as common as they are today, an era when the sixth Fast and Furious movie just became the most successful in the franchise, passing Fast Five over the weekend. In fact, Superman III and Superman IV were practically bombs. Superman III put up an only OK $153 million (adjusted for inflation), while the bottom dropped out with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which made only $31 million adjusted for inflation, or $15 million actual. I’ve never seen The Quest for Peace and judging by its box office, I am not alone. Critics were not kind, either; “one of the cheesiest movies of all time” holds a meager 9 percent on the Tomatometer.


In fact, adjusted for inflation, Superman IV fared even worse than Supergirl’s $33 million, adjusted for inflation, and that film I do remember. It was awful, even to a 10 year old. That is fairly evident from the trailer.

Let us hope that Warner Brothers doesn’t let the success of Man of Steel go to its head and make the same mistakes twice.