Iron Man was too arrogant and Captain America too jingoistic to connect with foreign audiences on solo adventures. But team them with Thor and the Hulk in "The Avengers" and pit them against a common enemy and the result is nearly $900 million at the foreign box office.
2008's "The Dark Knight" was the rare blockbuster that earned more domestically than internationally. Not so the third film in Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise. Over half of "The Dark Knight Rises'" worldwide total came from foreign territories.
"Skyfall" opened to $5.1 million in China on Monday, three times what the previous film in the Bond franchise grossed on its first day in the country's theaters. Not bad for a super agent who recently celebrated his 50th year on the big screen.
"The Hobbit" did not enjoy the critical raves of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and its capacious running time was parodied on "SNL," but audiences don't mind. The film is expected to earn more than $1 billion after it finishes its run.
"Ice Age: Continental Drift" made less than 20 percent of its receipts domestically. The rest of its monster haul came from areas like Latin America and Asia, making it a film that gains, rather than loses in translation.
Bella and Edward's love story transfixed moviegoers around the globe, who flocked to the final installment of the "Twilight" franchise to watch the star-crossed lovers ride off into the eternal undead. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" will become the highest grossing film in the series.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" successfully rebooted a series that had only been out of theaters for five years. Analysts said it benefited from new theaters in Asia and South America. Audiences abroad may have been familiar with the wall-crawler, but amenities like 3D and IMAX helped this story seem fresh.
Pixar's "Brave" may have garnered more critical attention, but "Madagascar 3" from DreamWorks Animation performed better at the foreign box office. Helping matters was a plot that saw the exotic animals crossing Europe, giving it an international flavor.
"The Hunger Games" racked up nearly 60 percent of its gross stateside. That percentage could change when "Catching Fire" hits theaters this year. Sequels pick up steam with foreign audiences as a franchise continues. Just ask Batman.
More than 70 percent of the worldwide gross for "Men in Black 3" came from foreign ticket buyers. Will Smith is clearly one export that plays well in any language.
The box office roared back to life in 2012 with "Skyfall," "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises" each collecting north of $1 billion. Beyond the big three, foreign audiences exhibited a hunger for U.S. movies. Enthusiasm for these animated yarns and superhero adventures powered the international box office to a history-making $23.1 billion, while domestic audiences contributed a record $10.8 billion. Here's a look at the top 10 highest grossing movies of the year.