The Most-Streamed Superhero Movie In 2022 Was A Huge Flop

Eternals was the most-streamed superhero movie of all in 2022.

By Phillip Moyer | Published

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The year 2021 was not good for superhero movies. While Spider-Man: No Way Home made almost $2 billion in theaters, the rest of the year’s superhero films, including Marvel’s Eternals, couldn’t break the $500 million mark. But apparently, people still wanted to see Eternals, since Nielsen reports that it was the most-streamed superhero film of 2022.

Eternals made $402 million at the box office when it was released in late 2021 — double its $200 million production budget but a far cry from the amount that pre-pandemic movies made for the studio. Eternals is the fourth-worst-performing MCU film ever made, just beating out 2021’s Black Widow and 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, while demolishing the almost-forgotten 2008 film The Incredible Hulk.

Eternals was always a bit of an oddball for Marvel movies – focusing on a group of immortal aliens who are tasked with using the earth as a birthing ground for a god-like being known as a Celestial — destroying the earth in the process. Compelled by the love of humanity that they fostered during their centuries on earth, a group of the titular Eternals chooses to forsake their mission and prevent the birth of the celestial Tiamat.

In fact, Eternals feels less like a superhero movie and more like a character drama along the lines of director Chloé Zhao’s other work, such as Nomadland and The Rider. The result was a polarizing film, with an MCU record-low 47% Rotten Tomatoes score countered by some critics giving the film high praise for its choice to go in a different direction than most Marvel movies. 

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The film’s box office failure was originally blamed on its unusual take on the genre. However, hardly anyone was coming back to theaters in 2021, meaning that the extent of its failure to capture audiences’ interest may have been overstated. The fact that so many people chose to watch it in 2022 as opposed to  Black Widow or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings shows that there’s something about that film in specific that is gaining people’s attention.

In fact, Eternals is the only superhero movie to be featured on Nielsen’s list of top streaming programs. While Disney+, the home to almost every Marvel film, has 10 of the year’s top 15 streaming movies, eight of those top spots are taken by animated Disney and Pixar films. The only other live-action film listed was Hocus Pocus 2.

The much-loved (and strangely experimental) Encanto took the top spot overall with more than 27 billion minutes viewed. The number two spot belongs to Turning Red, which had less than half that many minutes viewed: about 11.4 billion. In comparison, Eternals only had 4.2 billion viewing minutes.

While Eternals 2 is not part of the upcoming Marvel phase 5, the apparent newfound interest in the film might lead to the MCU reconsidering the series when planning phase 6. Of course, we’ll have to wait until after 2025’s Avengers: The Kang Dynasty before we have any chance of seeing Eternals 2 in theaters.