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New Data Reveals Marvel & DC's Top 6 Most Popular Movies In Pandemic Era, Ranked

Spider-Man, Batman, Venom
By Richard Nebens

Since the movie industry came back into prominence in 2021, both Marvel and DC have retaken their places at the top of mainstream media with some of the most popular movies in the game. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has come back with a vengeance after the Infinity Saga, while DC works to rebuild its own popularity through both streaming and theatrical releases.

The first half of 2022 has already seen both Marvel and DC movies earn impressive success with their big-screen blockbusters, even outside their efforts on Disney+ and HBO Max, respectively. Each studio released a full movie in theaters, both of which topped $750 million or more at the global box office, and there are still a handful of other films set for release later in the year as well.

All of these different numbers beg the question - how are Marvel and DC performing against the rest of the movie world in terms of pure popularity? Well, a new round of statistics has an answer to that question, although it came with some results that many might not have expected to see.

Marvel & DC Continue to Dominate Movie Landscape

Doctor Strange, Batman
Marvel & DC

Parrot Analytics, as reported by Business Insider, revealed its top 10 in-demand movie popularity ranking between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022 in the pandemic era, which analyzes fan engagement for film releases. These rankings factor in viewership numbers, social media interaction, and online research taking into account all kinds of engagement from viewers instead of purely looking at the movies' box office standings. 

The top ten movies had six superhero films from Marvel Studios and Warner Bros' DC properties, including the four top spots on the list.

Interestingly, The Batman was the only theatrical exclusive from either studio to make the list from 2022, although DC also had Zack Snyder's Justice League after its release on HBO Max in March 2021. Sony Pictures' Venom: Let There Be Carnage impressively came in the runner-up position with an exclusive theatrical release, while Spider-Man: No Way Home became the most popular movie of the past 12 months.

  1. Spider-Man No Way Home
  2. Venom: Let There Be Carnage
  3. Eternals
  4. The Batman
  5. Turning Red
  6. Godzilla vs. Kong
  7. Luca
  8. Zack Snyder's Justice League
  9. Black Widow
  10. Encanto

Also included are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office from 2021 and 2022, almost all of them having been released during that same time frame. Although there are a few similarities, the films in the engagement rankings don't necessarily line up perfectly with the movies that earned the most money at the box office.

Encanto, Luca, Godzilla vs. Kong, and Turning Red didn't rank high in their box office returns, but all of them earned viewership and engagement numbers in their streaming runs. The Snyder Cut was almost exclusively released on HBO Max, and it wound up as one of the most viewed movies in that 12-month span.

The top four entries in the Parrot rankings all wound up within the top 13 spots on the box office list, including three of the top five movies. Most notably, while Eternals struggled with its box office numbers it ranked only behind Top Gun: Maverick and Spider-Man: No Way Home in the engagement category, indicating a strong at-home performance.

With Top Gun: Maverick and Doctor Strange 2 only having been in theaters for a couple of months or less, they could move further up the engagement list in future analysis:

  1. Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
  2. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
  3. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
  4. The Batman (2022)
  5. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2022)
  6. Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)
  7. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
  8. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (2022)
  9. Black Widow (2021)
  10. Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)
  11. Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022)
  12. F9: The Fast Saga (2021)
  13. Eternals (2021) 
  14. No Time To Die (2022)
  15. A Quiet Place Part II (2021)
  16. Uncharted (2022)
  17. Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
  18. Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
  19. Free Guy (2021)
  20. Lightyear (2022)

In total, barely more than a quarter of the movies in the Parrot list are in the top 10 box office performers for either 2021 or 2022 at the box office. This confirms that plenty of other factors were in play with regard to which movies performed the best in engagement with fans.

Marvel & DC Disconnect Between Popularity & Box Office

Looking at these lists from the past couple of years, some might see a bit of a disconnect between which movies fans enjoy and which movies succeed at the box office. However, viewers also have to take into account the changing landscape of the viewing experience after the pandemic, with streaming becoming such an important piece of the equation.

It's no surprise that Spider-Man: No Way Home was the biggest winner on this list, as it now ranks as the sixth-highest grossing movie in history with a re-release already on the way. Even Venom 2's placement makes sense after it earned the second-highest opening weekend at the box office in 2021.

However, with how important streaming releases were to the movie landscape, particularly shortly after the pandemic settled down in 2021, it's not surprising to see their presence felt on this list.

Three of Disney's biggest animated releases find themselves in the top 10 with streaming releases becoming more important to families during this time. This is also seen with dual streaming and theatrical releases like Black Widow - this movie specifically helped to bring the box office back to prominence while also being available to stream on Disney+.

With that same idea in mind, Zack Snyder's Justice League took full advantage of its streaming-only release, especially looking at how much of a build-up it had before its debut last year. This one was particularly impressive, looking at the movie being over four hours long, and without any box office numbers to look at, it still became one of the most highly-discussed events of the year.

The same thing happened on the Marvel side of the equation with Eternals after its Disney+ debut, which allowed fans to go back and revisit the number of criticisms that viewers had upon its November 2021 release. With that movie being the second-longest in MCU history, there was an opportunity to really see what the film did right and wrong, likely leading to more comments about it from both perspectives.

Looking at the big picture of this report, it's undeniable that superhero movies remain the biggest driving force in the industry in 2022, and that will likely continue moving forward. More than half of the "most popular" list included outings from Marvel and DC, and with both of their schedules packed for the next couple of years, that's unlikely to change anytime soon.

Marvel is currently in theaters with Thor: Love and Thunder, and will finish 2022 with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on November 11. DC will continue with League of Superpets on July 29 and Black Adam on October 21.