Hulk’s Movie Rights: Has Marvel Got Them Back From Universal & Is A New MCU Movie On The Way?


  • Distribution rights uncertainty surrounding a potential Hulk sequel persists.
  • Marvel Studios can make Hulk movies, but a previous deal meant Universal would have first rights for distribution.
  • It’s unclear if the Hulk movie distribution rights reverted back to Disney in 2023 or not.

Despite the popularity of Mark Rufalo’s Bruce Banner, messages have been mixed and confusing about a potential MCU sequel to The Incredible Hulk. Having recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, The Incredible Hulk was released in 2008 starring Edward Norton in the titular role. Although Bruce Banner was recast with Mark Ruffalo for subsequent appearances in the MCU, there’s never been a sequel to The Incredible Hulk or any kind of solo feature for the Jade Giant. This was previously due to distribution rights for films starring the character, but it’s unclear if that’s still the case.

During Marvel Studios’ earliest days with their interconnected universe, The Incredible Hulk was the second MCU movie following 2008’s Iron Man, distributed by Universal Studios before the proper forming of Marvel Studios as a distributor. At the time, Marvel Studios did not have a distribution model ahead of Disney’s purchase in 2009. Comments from Ruffalo himself have, at different times, made a Hulk solo movie seem likely and almost impossible.


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Everything We Know About Hulk’s Movie Rights Reverting Back To Marvel

While Marvel Studios has always been able to develop MCU projects involving Bruce Banner’s Hulk, Universal has first refusal for any projects. This means they’d get a larger chunk of the profits if Marvel were to produce any sequels to The Incredible Hulk or solo projects with Banner as the lead. This explains Hulk’s limited role in the MCU compared to his fellow Avengers, though it’s unclear if this distribution deal is still in place or if the rights have reverted to their original ownership.

According to an SEC filing in 2006, it’s confirmed that Universal agreed to distribute The Incredible Hulk and any sequels under the same terms as Marvel’s deal with Paramount, its other distributor at the time:

“Universal Studios has agreed to distribute Marvel’s film The Incredible Hulk and sequels on essentially the same terms as those on which Paramount has agreed to distribute the other films financed and produced under the film facility.”

To that end, the referenced SEC filing with Paramount laid out the terms of distribution within an initial 15-year period. As such, this suggests that the distribution rights for The Incredible Hulk would be set to revert to Marvel in June of 2023, based upon the movie’s June release date in 2008. However, public comment hasn’t been made, and recent comments from MCU leadership and Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo haven’t cleared things up either.

Is A New MCU Hulk Movie On The Way?

Hulk flexes in a promotional image for Avengers: Age of Ultron

While information about the original distribution rights for Hulk-centric movies seems to indicate that they may have lapsed in 2023, Mark Ruffalo’s late 2023 and early 2024 comments have done little to clear up Big Green’s place in the MCU. In December 2023, Ruffalo played coy about a Hulk movie, saying the following:

I’ve been asked not to comment on it, that specifically. Hopefully one day they’ll work it out. I think it could be really cool, and I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what it could be to be cool, but I don’t know yet.

While not perfectly clear, the comment does seem pessimistic. While the idea that he’s been asked not to talk about a Hulk movie may tease that there’s something to hide, a character’s actor thinking about potential movies isn’t particularly unusual. However, in February 2024, Ruffalo gave a much less clear response to questions about a solo project for Banner. Read his full comments below:

Yeah. Kevin [Feige] was like, ‘What would you like to do?’ And he said, ‘What would you do if you had a standalone Hulk movie?’ I said, ‘Well, I’d like to take him from this raging maniac to kind of this integrated character.’ And he’s like, ‘Okay. We’ll do that over the course of four movies. We’ll never give you a standalone Hulk…I Don’t mean to burst your bubble, but that’s just not going to [happen.] So, we’ll do it over four movies, how does that sound?’ As far as I know. [when asked if it’s still true that Marvel Studios doesn’t want to do a Hulk movie.] I can talk more about it, but I’ve been told not to.

His words very clearly spell out why the idea of a Hulk solo movie was a no-go in the past, but his refusal to clarify if that’s still the case now – and his instructions not to talk about it – seem to tease that there’s something interesting to hide. Given Ruffalo’s willingness to explain past issues, it’s unclear why that wouldn’t be the case for the present if the same status quo remains.


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What A New MCU Hulk Movie Could Be About

Hulk in gladiator armor.

Currently, there have been a handful of recent Hulk-related teases within the MCU. Marvel’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law included Bruce Banner as he was responsible for giving his cousin Jennifer Walters powers through his gamma-irradiated blood. However, Banner was eventually called away to space. It was later revealed at the series’ end that the Hulk now had a son hailing from Sakaar, where he had a career as a cosmic gladiator before and during Thor: Ragnarok. As such, these teases suggest a new Hulk movie could adapt a version of the comics’ World War Hulk.

Additionally, it’s been confirmed that the upcoming Captain America: Brave New World will feature an appearance from Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross, Bruce Banner’s original love interest who hasn’t been featured since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. The same is true for Tim Blake Nelson’s Samuel Sterns who’ll likely become The Leader, finally paying off his villainous evolution 15 years later, and now-President Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. It’s possible that plot threads from this movie will set up a potential Incredible Hulk sequel if Marvel Studios does indeed have distribution rights back.

The Incredible Hulk

The second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is The Incredible Hulk, which was released in 2008. The film introduced a new backstory for the Hulk to differentiate it from the 2003 movie, Hulk. Actor Edward Norton played the role of the green hulk, and his alter ego Bruce Banner. He is joined by actress Liv Tyler who plays his love interest, Dr. Elizabeth “Betty” Ross. Betty’s father, General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt), is hoping to recreate a World War II supersoldier program and, in the process, exposes Bruce to gamma radiation that transforms him into the Hulk. He flees to find a cure for himself but is eventually tracked down by Thunderbolt, who forms an alliance with Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). After The Incredible Hulk, Mark Ruffalo took over the character for subsequent movies in the MCU.

Louis Leterrier

Release Date
June 13, 2008

Universal Pictures

Zak Penn

112 minutes

Key Release Dates