The Marvel Cinematic Universe is by far the most popular movie franchise in the world right now. Every time a standalone adventure or one of their sequels comes out starring one of its superhero characters, audiences come out in droves to see it. Every time they all team up for a larger ensemble piece, audiences come out in droves that are twice as large to see it. The reason that this franchise has managed to last so long is all down to its fantastic, endearing characters. So, here’s a list of every superhero in the MCU ranked from worst to best.
23. Bucky Barnes
This will be a controversial choice for the worst superhero character in the MCU, and not just because he was briefly a villain. Bucky is just a douche. Nothing he says is funny or interesting or engaging. He’s just the most boring and uninteresting character in the MCU. There is talk of him taking on the role of Captain America after Chris Evans jumps ship next year, but please, God, don’t let that happen.
Aaron Taylor Johnson was worried about signing on to the MCU in a superhero role, since he was concerned about committing to ten years’ worth of movies. As it turns out, that wouldn’t be much of a concern, since his character ended up dying before he had even lasted for more than one movie. Sadly, the MCU version of Quicksilver is nowhere near as fun and cool and entertaining as the one that Evan Peters played alongside the X-Men. He was just a boring runner who slipped in and out of an Eastern European accent.
Hawkeye is basically a joke. Everyone knows he’s the most useless member of the Avengers, as you’ve got Hulk jumping from building to building, dragging alien aircraft out of the sky, and Thor the actual god summoning the power of thunder and then you’ve got Hawkeye, who has a bow and arrow. Some of his arrows have bombs on them. They could easily do without him, and earlier this year, they actually did. He’s not the worst character, and the fact that he’s a family man is kind of sweet, but he is clearly one of the weakest superheroes, if you can even call him that.
20. War Machine
Don Cheadle took over this role, pretty nobly, when Terrence Howard demanded too much money for the sequel. Well, actually, there is some debate over how aggressive Howard was compared to how dishonest Marvel were about how much they would pay him for the sequels, but let’s forget all of that. The problem with War Machine is that he exists in Iron Man’s shadow. He hasn’t stepped out and become his own character, because he has literally the same suit, just in a different color, and he seems to just kiss Tony Stark’s ass with every decision.
Vision was sort of the by-product of the experiment that created Ultron. He was the one that didn’t turn out to be evil. Paul Bettany’s monotonous voice worked better when he was just J.A.R.V.I.S., the voice in Iron Man’s suit. That confined him to being a computer doing computer things and his penchant for logic was fun. But now that he’s floated off and manifested himself in human form, the writers have given him human storylines like romance and heartbreak, and it just doesn’t work for him.
Mantis was a late addition to the Guardians of the Galaxy and she’s not for everybody. In fact, a lot of MCU fans have not taken too kindly to her since she was introduced last year. The Guardians are characterized more for being cool or funny or badass. The best thing that Mantis has going for her is that she’s sweet and adorable. It doesn’t exactly fit in with the Guardians of the Galaxy’s hiring policy. But she’s far from the worst character in the MCU. She’s very likable and that’s the most important thing.
17. Scarlet Witch
Wanda Maximoff is the surviving half of the Maximoff twins, which is a good thing, since she is definitely the most interesting of the two. Scarlet Witch is far from the best character in the MCU, but she is at least a relatable one. When she feels upset or hurt, we feel it with her. We care about her. And isn’t that the mark of a strong character? Still, if she had some funny lines or better roles in the action set pieces, that wouldn’t hurt.
The reveal that Sam Wilson was the Falcon when Cap and Black Widow drop that guy off a rooftop, only to have Wilson swoop him back around, was really awesome. Sadly, the character has not kept up that level of awesomeness since then. He’s a paratrooper who came home and volunteered at the V.A. and befriended Captain America and learned to fly without the use of a plane – in theory, he should be incredibly interesting. But he just isn’t. it’s difficult to place exactly why. He just never says or does anything that’s as interesting as the character himself. Still, Anthony Mackie’s charms help a lot.
15. The Wasp
It was a great joy to see the Wasp join Ant-Man this year. In the previous movie, Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne had been relegated to the backseat while Paul Rudd took the reins. So, it was fantastic to see her join him in the spotlight this time around, getting involved in the action and quipping just as many one liners (well, maybe not equal amounts, but she got to get more involved this time around). She’s a really great character and it’ll be fun to see more of her in the MCU’s future.
Zoe Saldana is a terrific actress and this role, paired with her roles as Uhura and Neytiri, have quickly made her science fiction royalty. As Gamora, she’s had to grapple with a lot of difficult emotions, like falling in love with Peter Quill and turning her back on the guy who raised her, Thanos. Saldana has taken us on Gamora’s emotional journey for three movies and it culminated in a tragic, shocking ending. Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of her, because she’s one of the strongest female characters in the MCU, and those are sadly few and far between.
13. Drax the Destroyer
Drax was much, much cooler in his first appearance than he was in the sequels to that movie and the bigger team up with the Avengers. The direction that the character went in after he was introduced was all wrong. He went from being a badass hellbent on avenging the murder of his family to being a comic foil who brags about the size of his turds. Still, Dave Bautista is terrific in the role and he keeps the character interesting and delivers his lines in a perfect deadpan pitch, so he’s one of the best.
12. Black Widow
Finally, Natasha Romanoff is getting her own solo movie. It only took ten years for the MCU to recognize what the fans want. Black Widow is not the most useful member of the Avengers when it comes to a large scale battle with an alien army, but she is one of the best when it comes to hand to hand combat. Plus, her tragic backstory only serves to make her a stronger character. Scarlett Johansson was the perfect casting, since she’s every bit the sexy badass that Natasha is.
If anyone reading this had not heard of Groot before his MCU debut, this character sounded dumb, right? A talking tree with the voice of Vin Diesel – that’s absurd, right? There’s no way that a talking tree could work. But then the movie came out and the visual effects were rendered beautifully and the repeated “I am Groot” line became endearing and those naysayers were silenced. And then he said, “We are Groot,” and those naysayers were brought to tears. He’s a wonderful character.
The creators of Marvel Comics plundered Norse mythology to create Thor and hiring Kenneth Branagh as the director of his origin story was a smart move as it brought a Shakespearean charm to the movie. Thor began his MCU tenure as a pretty bland and uninteresting character, which was only made worse in his second solo movie, arguably the worst and most formulaic movie in the MCU, but luckily he’s been saved in the last couple of years as his ego has been played for laughs and turned him into more of a comedy character. With anybody other than Chris Hemsworth, that might not work, but Hemsworth plays it perfectly.
9. Captain America
Cap is just an all round good guy. Back in World War II, he was desperate to fight for his country and they wouldn’t let him until he got himself injected with that super soldier serum and made himself the perfect specimen of a man. Then he went behind enemy lines and brought down HYDRA, nearly killing himself by crashing a plane into the Arctic to save the world. As we’ve gotten to know him over the years, we’ve seen that he’s shy around women and doesn’t like swear words and always does the right thing. He’s a terrific character who’s always a joy to watch.
Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang as a Paul Rudd character, which has meant that he’s one of the funniest characters in the MCU. We’ve seen Lang learn the ropes of not only the Ant-Man technology, but the Giant-Man technology, too. Ant-Man was a lesser known Marvel Comics character before Rudd got his hooks into him, but Rudd and his director Peyton Reed saw to it that he would become a widely recognized and beloved superhero character.
7. Doctor Strange
You wouldn’t have thought that a magician could be one of the coolest characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but that’s Benedict Cumberbatch for you. The actor brings his usual charm to the snarky quips of Stephen Strange. He’s one of the only characters on this list who is strong enough to anchor his own movie and bring an audience in, even though he’s one of the lesser known Marvel properties, and he’s also one of the few who stands out as significant and makes an impact when dozens of characters are crammed into a huge ensemble movie.
If he didn’t come up with so many smart quips to bring his friends down and he didn’t come across as so eloquent in the voice acting of Bradley Cooper, Rocket Raccoon would come off as a little silly. His character would be the joke, instead of the humorous things that he says. But the writing and the acting and the CGI effects, which were based on the movements of actual raccoons, elevate the character into a well rounded, three dimensional character. He’s snarky and lovable, all at the same time. It’s difficult to pull off, but Rocket does it.
5. Iron Man
Iron Man was the first hero to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and he still remains one of the most entertaining and watchable and interesting and engaging characters of the whole bunch. It’s safe to say that without him, there would be no MCU at all. Thanks almost entirely to a charismatic, electric, and career defining performance by Robert Downey, Jr., Iron Man is one of the most awesome characters in the MCU.
The MCU’s Hulk is the most faithful adaptation of the comics yet, as Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of both Bruce Banner and the Hulk shows us the troubled relationship between the two. Banner doesn’t just become the Hulk when he gets angry – it’s much more complex than that. They’re like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They have a difficult relationship, and it’s that relationship that makes the Hulk one of the best superhero characters in the MCU. It’s just a shame that, legally, they still haven’t been able to give Ruffalo his own solo movie.
This character has come under fire recently for his actions on Titan when he ruined the Avengers’ chances of defeating Thanos and removing the Infinity Gauntlet from his hand. But come on, he’s only human! He lost his dad, he lost his other dad, he lost the love of his life – let him act a little selfishly for once! As a character, he’s always been awesome. Chris Pratt’s performance makes him funny and entertaining and watchable, while characteristically, he’s like a cross between Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Does it get any more awesome than that?
2. Black Panther
T’Challa was formerly a little known superhero character in the Marvel Comics pantheon, but in just one year, he has become one of the most popular. His introductory solo movie – the first time that a lot of moviegoers had even seen him – became one of the highest grossing movies of all time, grossing an unprecedented $1.3 billion. The character also gets bonus points as a positive representation of black people in mainstream Hollywood cinema who is, along with his sister, encouraging young black kids to get into the fields of science and technology.
Spider-Man makes a strong case for being the greatest superhero character of all time. While Batman has his big, fancy, expensive Batcave and Iron Man has his hi-tech laboratory, Spider-Man just keeps his suit in a closet at the back of his bedroom in his aunt’s house in Queens – or, in the MCU’s case, his aunt’s apartment. Tom Holland’s version is perhaps the best we have seen on the big screen yet. He’s certainly the most faithful adaptation of the comics. And his suits are the coolest they’ve ever been, since Tony Stark has been designing them with his cutting edge technology.