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40 Best Marvel Characters From Movies and TV, Ranked

Marvel’s 40 Best Characters in Film and TV, Ranked
Marvel’s 40 Best Characters in Film and TV, Ranked

It’s hard to imagine this now, but there was a time when Marvel Comics had zero presence in film or live-action television. That all changed 25 years ago with “Blade,” released by New Line Cinema. Then came “X-Men” in 2000 from 20th Century Fox, then “Spider-Man” in 2002 from Sony Pictures, and then, in 2008, Marvel launched its own independent film company, Marvel Studios, with “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk.” By the 2010s, the Marvel superhero revolution began trickling onto TV.

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To date, the major studios have released at least 68 feature films based on Marvel comics, plus another 21 TV shows on linear and streaming. They’ve given diehard fans hundreds of characters, quotes and fight scenes to, ahem, marvel at, and Variety has taken on the nearly impossible challenge of ranking the 40 best characters in the Marvel universe in film and on television.

For this list, nothing is off limits: the MCU, Sony’s “Spider-Man” series, Fox’s “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four” movies, New Line’s “Blade” trilogy and Netflix’s mini TV universe of street-level heroes — they all count. The criteria hinged on the actor’s performance and the character’s powers, pop culture popularity, story arc and overall importance to the past, present and future of the greater Marvel universe.

That means a lot of MCU characters will pop up in this list, but there are also many representatives from “Spider-Man,” “X-Men” and beyond. But our list does not take into account the Marvel comics themselves or any upcoming appearances — apologies in advance to the Fantastic Four, who did not make the cut after several lackluster films in the 2000s and 2010s, even though they’re set to appear again in the MCU in 2025. Also, this is the multiverse, so multiple versions of a character are fair game, so long as they are distinctive individuals (as opposed to younger or older versions of pre-established characters).

In descending order, here are all of the Avengers, web-slingers, mutants and more who are in the top 40 Marvel film and TV characters of all time.

40. Eddie Brock / Venom

40. Eddie Brock / Venom
40. Eddie Brock / Venom


Played by: Tom Hardy

First appearance: “Venom” (2018)

Most recent appearance: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)

We are Venom! Tom Hardy’s super-sized symbiote is a worthy portrayal of the Spider-Man villain, complete with black, gooey tendrils and a slobbering tongue. Hardy’s hilarious physical performance and rough growl give Eddie Brock and Venom a slapstick, buddy-cop quality to the lethal protector. Put him in a movie with Spider-Man, and then you’ve got a real showdown.

39. Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk

39. Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk 
39. Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk


Played by: Tatiana Maslany

First appearance: “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” (2022)

Most recent appearance: “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” (2022)

She-Hulk didn’t just break the fourth wall, she obliterated it in her lighthearted legal drama – the K.E.V.I.N. scene alone would give Deadpool a run for his money. In the lawyer and superhero worlds, both dominated by men, She-Hulk shows the everyday struggles of being a woman, without compromising her strength, sexuality, humor or intelligence.

38. Wong

38. Wong
38. Wong


Played by: Benedict Wong

First appearance: “Doctor Strange” (2016)

Most recent appearance: “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” (2022)

When we first meet Wong, he’s the officious librarian at Kamar-Taj with no patience for Dr. Stephen Strange’s shenanigans. But Wong is also a fearsome warrior, battling alongside Strange with tenacity and not a small amount of style. By the time he shows up on “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” binging episodes of “This Is Us,” Wong’s become one of the MCU’s true stealth MVPs.

37. Clint Barton / Hawkeye

37. Clint Barton / Hawkeye  
37. Clint Barton / Hawkeye


Played by: Jeremy Renner

First appearance: “Thor” (2011)

Most recent appearance: “Hawkeye” (2021)

Clint is no longer just the “arrow guy.” After getting the short end of the bow in the first “Avengers” movies, he finally gets some character development in “Endgame” as the vigilante Ronin and some well-deserved screen time in “Hawkeye,” when he confronts the demons of his past and reconciled with being an aging hero with hearing loss. We see a vulnerable parental figure making the tough decision to hang up the bow and arrow and pass down his wisdom to the next generation.

36. Raven Darkhölme / Mystique

36. Raven Darkhölme / Mystique 
36. Raven Darkhölme / Mystique


Played by: Rebecca Romijn, Morgan Lily, Jennifer Lawrence

First appearance: “X-Men” (2000)

Most recent appearance: “Dark Phoenix” (2019)

At first, Mystique is a shape-shifting villain driven by rage at a world that refuses to accept her, which would probably be enough to get her on this list. But in the 2011 prequel “X-Men: First Class,” Lawrence stepped into the role as a young Mystique, and her path (much like the “X-Men” franchise’s own internal continuity) begins to change to something more complicated and heroic.

35. Okoye

35. Okoye
35. Okoye


Played by: Danai Gurira

First appearance: “Black Panther” (2018)

Most recent appearance: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022)

Out of all the vibrant, memorable characters of Wakanda, Okoye stands as one of its best, and certainly its most stoic warrior. Her skills with a spear (or a wig!) and loyalty to T’Challa and his family are unmatched. After losing her role as the general of the Dora Milaje, we’re excited to see how Okoye defines herself next.

34. Phil Coulson

34. Phil Coulson
34. Phil Coulson


Played by: Clark Gregg

First appearance: “Iron Man” (2008)

Most recent appearance: “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7 (2020)

In the earliest days of Marvel Studios, Agent Coulson was no less than the common thread that connected the MCU together. When Loki kills him in 2012’s “The Avengers,” the loss of the affable, dogged S.H.I.E.L.D. operative is the catalyst that finally brings the titular superhero team together — he means so much to them (and to us), they want to avenge him. Coulson’s literal resurrection for the ABC series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” could’ve been a disaster, but instead, the show ran for seven seasons and 136 episodes, thanks in part to Gregg’s shrewdly understated performance and Coulson’s winning pluck as a character.

33. Sam Wilson / Falcon and Captain America

33. Sam Wilson / Falcon and Captain America 
33. Sam Wilson / Falcon and Captain America


Played by: Anthony Mackie

First appearance: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)

Most recent appearance: “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (2021)

Taking up the mantle of Captain America is a monumental task, but if anyone can do it justice, it’s Mackie’s Sam Wilson. As Falcon, he was mostly relegated to being Cap’s back-up, but his adept flying skills and quips in combat made him more than just a run-of-the-mill sidekick. In “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” we finally learn more about him and take a serious look at the challenges of being a Black superhero, something the MCU had never broached.

32. Peter Parker / Spider-Man

32. Peter Parker / Spider-Man
32. Peter Parker / Spider-Man


Played by: Andrew Garfield

First appearance: “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012)

Most recent appearance: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)

Of the three live-action Spider-Men that have slung their webs on screen this century, Garfield’s been saddled with by far the least satisfying movies. But the actor’s passion for the role, and the playfulness and pathos he brings to it, are second-to-none. His profoundly emotional reaction to saving MJ (Zendaya) in “No Way Home” — redemption for the death of his own beloved Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in 2014’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” — is arguably the most satisfyingly emotional moment in any of the Parker “Spidey” movies.

31. Yelena Belova

31. Yelena Belova
31. Yelena Belova


Played by: Florence Pugh

First appearance: “Black Widow” (2021)

Most recent appearance: “Hawkeye” (2021)

On paper, Yelena is what would’ve happened to her adoptive sister Natasha had she not escaped Russia and the Red Room: a tougher, more ruthless version of the Black Widow. In Pugh’s hands, Yelena is so much more — delightful and formidable and irresistibly watchable, catapulting the character in just two appearances into the top tier of Marvel characters.

30. Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange

30. Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange
30. Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange


Played by: Benedict Cumberbatch

First appearance: “Doctor Strange” (2016)

Most recent appearance: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (2022)

By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, mystical magic and odd incantations have never looked quite this good in a superhero movie. Cumberbatch gives the Sorcerer Supreme a level of depth, arrogance and personal growth over his two movies that set him apart from the classic do-gooder hero. Plus, he makes the wavy, spellcasting hand motions look cool.

29. Bruce Banner / Hulk

29. Bruce Banner / Hulk
29. Bruce Banner / Hulk


Played by: Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton

First appearance: “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)

Most recent appearance: “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” (2022)

A gamma-irradiated mash of brains and brawn, Bruce Banner and the Hulk are a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with the power to flatten an entire city. Even though Norton originated the role, Ruffalo took it to new heights in “The Avengers” and beyond. “Age of Ultron” turned him into a mindless mayhem machine, “Thor: Ragnarok” played up Ruffalo’s comedic chops as a hapless Bruce and “Endgame” introduced a nerdy goliath who enjoys meditation. There hasn’t been a solo Hulk movie since 2008, but hopefully the reveal of his son Skaar could usher in a new era of Dad Hulk in the future.

28. N’Jadaka / Erik “Killmonger” Stevens

28. N’Jadaka / Erik “Killmonger” Stevens 
28. N’Jadaka / Erik “Killmonger” Stevens


Played by: Michael B. Jordan

First appearance: “Black Panther” (2018)

Most recent appearance: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022)

The unwitting prodigal son of Wakanda’s royal family transformed himself into a lethal military assassin so he could meticulously manipulate his way onto the throne. Killmonger’s simmering rage — so vividly rendered by Jordan — ultimately consumes him, but it doesn’t negate the fact that he’s right: Wakanda should have been sharing its vast technological resources with the rest of the African diaspora, instead of withholding it in isolation. That’s a helluva arc for a Marvel villain.

27. Jessica Jones

27. Jessica Jones
27. Jessica Jones


Played by: Krysten Ritter

First appearance: “Jessica Jones” Season 1 (2015)

Most recent appearance: Jessica Jones” Season 3 (2019)

Ritter plays a hardboiled detective suffering from PTSD and alcoholism caused by her past superhero career in this hidden gem from Netflix’s mini-Marvel universe. The series didn’t have an MCU-level budget to show Jessica’s super-strength, but it got by just fine and delivered a mature story that rivals many of the feature films.

26. Eric Brooks / Blade

26. Eric Brooks / Blade
26. Eric Brooks / Blade


Played by: Wesley Snipes

First appearance: “Blade” (1998)

Most recent appearance: “Blade: Trinity” (2004)

Before the MCU or Spider-Man or the X-Men, there was Blade, the half-human, half-vampire daywalker who proved that Marvel had a future in the movies. And even after the dozens of superhero films that have come since, it’s hard to think of any Marvel character who’s been as cool as Snipes was on screen as Blade, even if the movies he was in sometimes couldn’t come close to matching him.

25. Matt Murdock / Daredevil

25. Matt Murdock / Daredevil
25. Matt Murdock / Daredevil


Played by: Charlie Cox

First appearance: “Daredevil” Season 1 (2015)

Most recent appearance: “Daredevil” Season 3 (2018), or “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” (2022)

This one is a little tricky. Cox was an instant hit when he debuted as Daredevil on Netflix, between the show’s brutal fight scenes, gray morality and the character’s burning Catholicism that informed his every move in court and on the streets. After Netflix canceled “Daredevil” (as well as all its other Marvel series), Cox has been the only hero from those shows to jump to the MCU, with welcome turns in “No Way Home” and on “She-Hulk.” Except, apparently, the MCU’s Matt Murdock — who will continue in 2024’s “Daredevil: Born Again” — is not the same character as the Netflix version, even though the Netflix shows (which were not produced by Marvel Studios) were originally billed as being a part of the MCU. Ultimately, this corporate hairsplitting doesn’t matter: No matter how you slice it, Cox’s Murdock is pretty great.

24. Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel

24. Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel
24. Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel


Played by: Iman Vellani

First appearance: “Ms. Marvel” (2022)

Most recent appearance: “The Marvels” (2023)

What’s not to love about a Marvel character who’s also a Marvel superfan? Kamala Khan’s idolization of Carol Danvers and the Avengers is infectious and endearing, and her jump from “Ms. Marvel” to “The Marvels” felt seamless and well-earned. Keep in mind that “Ms. Marvel” was newcomer Vellani’s first career role ever, and “The Marvels” was her film debut. Her sky-high potential is exciting, and the ending of “The Marvels” teases greater things to come.

23. Otto Octavius / Doctor Octopus

23. Otto Octavius / Doctor Octopus
23. Otto Octavius / Doctor Octopus


Played by: Alfred Molina

First appearance: “Spider-Man 2” (2004)

Most recent appearance: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)

Doc Ock’s powers — four giant robotic arms fused to his spine and overriding his sense of higher morality — are the peak of comic book eccentricity, which only makes the grounded, human poignancy Molina and director Sam Raimi bring to the character that much more impressive. He’s brilliant and brutal in equal measure.

22. Nick Fury

22. Nick Fury
22. Nick Fury


Played by: Samuel L. Jackson

First appearance: “Iron Man” (2008)

Most recent appearance: “The Marvels” (2023)

With two words, Jackson sent the fledgling MCU into maximum fandom overdrive: “Avengers Initiative.” Countless movies and shows later, Nick Fury’s impact is still felt, and his shadowy presence is missed on screen. “Secret Invasion” may have been a narrative misstep for the MCU, but it provided a much-needed dive into Fury’s personal life and history. And seeing him preside over S.A.B.E.R. in “The Marvels” made us miss how much of a smart, tactical leader he was for S.H.I.E.L.D.

21. Charles Xavier / Professor X

21. Charles Xavier / Professor X
21. Charles Xavier / Professor X


Played by: Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy

First appearance: “X-Men” (2000)

Most recent appearance: “Dark Phoenix” (2019)

Watching the early “X-Men” movies now, Stewart’s calm intelligence gave Prof. X the larger-than-life gravitas he needed, but it’s striking just how much the powerful telepath was there merely as an exposition machine. It wasn’t until the prequels that Charles came fully alive, as McAvoy was allowed to paint with bolder, more complicated colors.

20. Thor

20. Thor
20. Thor


Played by: Chris Hemsworth

First appearance: “Thor” (2011)

Most recent appearance: “Thor: Love and Thunder” (2022)

One of the best things that ever happened to Marvel Studios was the discovery of Hemsworth, whose otherworldly physique and surprising wells of deep emotion made him practically the only actor capable of convincing audiences he is the God of Thunder. The discovery that Hemsworth could also be funny — like, scream-laughing in your seat funny — in 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok,” well, it’s unfair, really. (And makes the aimlessness of “Love and Thunder” that much more disappointing.)

19. Norman Osborn / Green Goblin

19. Norman Osborn / Green Goblin
19. Norman Osborn / Green Goblin


Played by: Willem Dafoe

First appearance: “Spider-Man” (2002)

Most recent appearance: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)

In “Spider-Man,” Norman transforms from Peter Parker’s mentor — and the father of his best friend — to a power-crazed, homicidal mad man so indelibly terrifying that he haunts Spidey’s life well after his death in the first film. Dafoe had to audition for the part, which seems ludicrous now, given how sublimely well-suited he is to the role; even in “No Way Home,” Osborn proves to be the most malevolent force in the life of every Peter Parker he encounters.

18. Nebula

18. Nebula
18. Nebula


Played by: Karen Gillan

First appearance: “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

Most recent appearance: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (2023)

Nebula’s quarrelsome, sisterly bond with Gamora is one of the best sibling relationships in the MCU. Under Thanos, they were savagely pitted against each other, with Nebula losing trust in her sister along with literal pieces of her body. Seeing Nebula rekindle their bond, regain a family and reinvent herself has been a foundational part of the “Guardians” trilogy. Gillan’s feisty performance makes her stand out among the Guardians, and seeing her awkwardly dance to Christmas jingles in the “Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” was a real treat.

17. Peter Parker / Spider-Man

17. Peter Parker / Spider-Man
17. Peter Parker / Spider-Man


Played by: Tom Holland

First appearance: “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

Most recent appearance: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)

Everyone has a favorite Spider-Man, but if one is measuring only by screen time (three solo movies and three team-up films), then Holland takes the crown. The actor’s background in gymnastics and ballet has made him the most acrobatic Spidey, lending some serious credibility to his web-slinging performance. He can backflip, throw out hilarious zingers and his on-screen chemistry with Zendaya’s MJ has made the two a real-life Hollywood power couple. “No Way Home’s” tragic Aunt May scene also proved he has the dramatic chops to make Spidey fans reach for some tissues.

16. Wade Wilson / Deadpool

16. Wade Wilson / Deadpool
16. Wade Wilson / Deadpool


Played by: Ryan Reynolds

First appearance: “Deadpool” (2016)

Most recent appearance: “Deadpool 2” (2016)

The mute Deadpool in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” would top a list of the worst Marvel characters of all time, but luckily Reynolds got a chance to do the Merc With a Mouth justice. A perfect actor-character combo sent from the comic-book gods, Reynolds and Deadpool were made for each other. Everything he says is a goofy, crass, fourth-wall-busting joke, just as Deadpool was made for, and we can’t wait to see him skewer the MCU in his official Disney welcome.

15. Peggy Carter

Played by: Hayley Atwell

First appearance: “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

Most recent appearance: “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

Atwell’s performance as the WWII British officer-turned-founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. is so gosh darn winning, so captivatingly capable, that it is no surprise at all that Steve Rogers went back in time to return to her embrace at the end of “Endgame.” No, the spinoff TV series “Agent Carter,” which ran for two seasons on ABC, wasn’t exactly great, but Atwell was great in it, so much so that you wish there’d been more opportunities for her to mix it up in the larger MCU. (Technically, the Captain Carter who pops up in 2022’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a totally different Peggy Carter, but it was still thrilling to see her all the same.)

14. Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto

14. Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto
14. Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto


Played by: Ian McKellan, Michael Fassbender

First appearance: “X-Men” (2000)

Most recent appearance: “Dark Phoenix” (2019)

While his means are abhorrent, Magneto, like the best villains, comes to his wrongdoing honestly: He’s a Holocaust survivor who believes humanity to be inherently corrupt and untrustworthy. Also, and this is no small thing, the man has style, whether sharp black turtlenecks in his youth or dramatic half-capes later in life — not to mention, his ability to manipulate any metallic object is maybe the coolest superpower in the “X-Men” franchise.

13. Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow

13. Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
13. Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow


Played by: Scarlett Johansson

First appearance: “Iron Man 2” (2010)

Most recent appearance: “Black Widow” (2021)

Natasha is the only woman in the original Avengers sextet, and the only normal human among them (even Hawkeye has his supernatural aim). So one might have expected Johansson to compensate by making Black Widow larger than life. Instead, she underplays the role, giving Natasha a subtle world-weariness that served as an ideal counterpoint to her male compatriots’ outsized personalities (and egos). Everything one needs to know about her is in the scene in 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” when all the male Avengers try to lift Thor’s hammer to see if they’re “worthy.” When it’s Natasha’s turn, just smirks and delivers a perfect retort: “Oh no, that’s not a question I need answered.”

12. Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier

12. Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier
12. Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier


Played by: Sebastian Stan

First appearance: “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

Most recent appearance: “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (2021)

James Buchanan Barnes — aka Bucky, the Winter Soldier, the White Wolf and resident bad boy of the MCU — is proof that a sidekick can go on to do great things and that a metal arm is the coolest accessory. His up-and-down relationship with Steve Rogers, from closest friend to bitterest enemy and back again, was a surprising hallmark of the “Captain America” trilogy. Whether it’s opposite Chris Evans’ Cap, Anthony Mackie’s Falcon or even Tom Holland’s Spidey, Stan has electric chemistry with every one of his co-stars.

11. Thanos

11. Thanos
11. Thanos


Played by: Josh Brolin

First appearance: “The Avengers” (2012)

Most recent appearance: “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

Most Marvel villains fail. Thanos succeeds in erasing half of all life in the universe. For that reason alone, the eggplant-skinned Mad Titan would rank high, but Brolin’s understated, world-weary performance makes Thanos far more relatable than one would ever expect from someone who was willing to sacrifice his daughter Gamora in pursuit of his genocidal ambitions. It’s true, Thanos does ultimately fail, but his impact still resonates inside the MCU to today.

10. Gwen Stacy / Spider-Woman

10. Gwen Stacy / Spider-Woman
10. Gwen Stacy / Spider-Woman


Played by: Hailee Steinfeld

First appearance: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018)

Most recent appearance: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (2023)

“Across the Spider-Verse,” one of the most highly anticipated Spidey sequels, doesn’t begin with Miles Morales or Peter Parker, but instead shines a spotlight on Gwen Stacy and her gorgeously water-colored world. She becomes one of the major emotional anchors of the movie, and her story of trying to connect with her police officer father resonated with many young fans. Instead of being relegated to a high-school crush, Gwen is just as powerful a Spider-hero as Miles — and just as complex and compelling a character. Her story is just as integral to the entire “Spider-Verse,” and putting her on equal storytelling footing highlights just how infrequently that happens for women in the superhero landscape.

9. Rocket

9. Rocket
9. Rocket


Played by: Bradley Cooper (voice); Sean Gunn (on set)

First appearance: “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

Most recent appearance: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (2023)

It’s hard to think of another MCU character who’s undergone a more profound emotional evolution than this irascible furry misanthrope. In the first “Guardians” movie, we understand that Rocket’s transformation from a common raccoon into a bipedal technological genius was both excruciating and against his will. But it’s not until “Vol. 3” that we truly understand the depths of pain and trauma that caused Rocket to become a hardened cynic who delights in causing misfortune and general mayhem. Finding a family with his fellow Guardians finally allows Rocket to let go of his pain and embrace deep feeling and vulnerability — not exactly the arc one expects from a superhero character, let alone an anthropomorphized animal.

8. Loki

8. Loki
8. Loki


Played by: Tom Hiddleston

First appearance: “Thor” (2011)

Most recent appearance: “Loki,” Season 2 (2023)

The god of mischief has been through it over his decade-plus in the MCU: He discovered he’s really a frost giant, tried and failed to conquer Earth, got tossed like a rag doll by the Hulk, inadvertently caused the death of his mother, pretended to be his father to rule Asgard, watched Asgard be destroyed, reconciled with his brother Thor, was throttled to death by Thanos, came back to life as a variant who escaped capture in the Battle for New York, caused the creation of the multiverse, and finally found purpose beyond himself as an ad-hoc member of the Time Variance Authority. Through it all, Hiddleston has been a puckish delight as Loki, tracking the character’s growth with Shakespearean detail.

7. Steve Rogers / Captain America

7. Steve Rogers / Captain America
7. Steve Rogers / Captain America


Played by: Chris Evans

First appearance: “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

Most recent appearance: “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

There are almost too many iconic Captain America lines to choose from: “On your left,” “I can do this all day,” “I’m with you ‘till the end of the line,” “America’s ass” — but “just a kid from Brooklyn” may describe Evans’ character the best. Scrawny Steve Rogers just wanted to help his country however he could, even if that meant enrolling in an experimental Super Soldier program. Anyone can have muscles and throw a shield, but it’s what’s on the inside that makes you a hero. Steve’s desire to always do the right thing and help people – like when he jumps on what he thinks is a live grenade without hesitation in the first “Captain America” – speaks louder than any superpower. What could’ve been just a do-gooder, Boy Scout role became one of the MCU’s most adored characters thanks to Evans.

6. Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch

6. Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
6. Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch


Played by: Elizabeth Olsen

First appearance: “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)

Most recent appearance: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

In “Age of Ultron,” Wanda goes from putative secondary antagonist to reluctant secondary hero, and that’s where she stays through “Avengers: Endgame,” even though her powers — telekinesis and mind control — seem quite formidable, including when she nearly defeats Thanos all by herself. But it’s on “WandaVision” that she comes into her own, as the character’s overwhelming grief over the loss of her beloved Vision unlocks the full potential of her abilities, allowing Wanda to become the Scarlet Witch. Alas, her exposure to the corrupting force of the Darkhold sends Wanda on an abrupt — some might even say poorly conceived — return to villainy in “The Multiverse of Madness.” In Olsen’s electrifying hands, however, Wanda’s heel turn is still outrageous fun.

5. T’Challa / Black Panther

5. T’Challa / Black Panther
5. T’Challa / Black Panther


Played by: Chadwick Boseman

First appearance: “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

Most recent appearance: “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

This one still hurts. Boseman’s tragic death in 2020 left Marvel fans, Hollywood and the world in mourning. T’Challa wasn’t just a Marvel character, he became a cultural icon. As the first Black character to headline an MCU movie, Boseman ushered in a wave of representation that the predominantly white superhero genre had never seen before. As the proud king of Wakanda, T’Challa stood tall against the world and tried to live up to his father’s mantle, and it’s a true shame we’ll never be able to witness the stoic greatness of Boseman’s performance again.

4. Logan / Wolverine

Played by: Hugh Jackman

First appearance: “X-Men” (2000)

Most recent appearance: “Logan” (2017)

Over nearly two decades, Wolverine was a near-constant presence in the superhero firmament, not really changing, per se, so much as the movies around the supremely long-lived mutant changed to fit the times. From the lows of “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” to the highs of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Logan,” this character ran the gamut of superhero storytelling. On paper, Jackman — an unfailingly polite, six-foot-three Australian — is all wrong for the role of a rageful, five-foot-four Canadian, but he made it unmistakably his own. So much so that, even though Jackman definitively (and masterfully) retired the role in “Logan,” it’s hard to get mad about his impending return in the third “Deadpool” movie.

3. Miles Morales / Spider-Man

3. Miles Morales / Spider-Man
3. Miles Morales / Spider-Man


Played by: Shameik Moore

First appearance: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018)

Most recent appearance: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (2023)

Even though Miles Morales is one of the newest characters on the list (he first appeared in Marvel comics in 2011), he’s quickly become one of the most important and recognizable. “Anyone can wear the mask,” and the fact that a half-Black, half-Puerto Rican teen can be universally beloved as Spider-Man in a zany animated movie is truly remarkable. Being Spidey is never easy, and watching Miles learn the web-slinging ropes, save the multiverse, please his parents and figure out his future in just two films, so far, has been one of the best joys of any superhero movie.

2. Peter Parker / Spider-Man

2. Peter Parker / Spider-Man
2. Peter Parker / Spider-Man


Played by: Tobey Maguire

First appearance: “Spider-Man” (2002)

Most recent appearance: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)

Without Maguire’s Spider-Man, would there even be a Marvel universe? The web-slinger’s first solo movie served as the blueprint for a Marvel superhero origin story, and his Peter Parker stands as the ultimate version of Spider-Man on screen. Maguire nailed the awkward, nerdy Peter and the joking, stalwart Spidey, always putting his superhero responsibilities over his personal life. From the upside-down kiss to stopping the train to the cheesy dance moves in “Spider-Man 3,” there are so many iconic moments of Maguire’s Spidey trilogy, and introducing him to the MCU in “No Way Home” was the perfect cherry on top.

1. Tony Stark / Iron Man

1. Tony Stark / Iron Man
1. Tony Stark / Iron Man


Played by: Robert Downey Jr.

First appearance: “Iron Man” (2008)

Most recent appearance: “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

In one of the great alchemies of character and actor, Downey brings an irresistible fusion of charm, humor, hubris and intelligence to Stark, and transformed Iron Man from one of Marvel’s second-tier superheroes — Batman with more gadgets and less trauma — into the fulcrum point of the entire MCU. Yes, Stark can be the architect of his own misfortune, but those deeply human flaws only make his triumphs (up to and including sacrificing his life to defeat Thanos) that much more resonant and satisfying. In fact, Downey’s performance is so singular that it feels impossible to imagine anyone else in the role; more than his tech, wealth and brains, Downey is Stark’s superpower.

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