Whether you think it’s the worst thing to happen to cinema or the only thing keeping it alive, there’s no denying the MCU changed Hollywood forever. Kevin Feige and his producing partners at the time should never stop getting praise for creating the franchise mold everyone borrows from now and for finally delivering the connected superhero universe every comic book fan dreamt about for ages. They weren’t the first to produce quality superhero movies but they were the first to make each film an event by making you see how each one was going to connect to the next and what it was all leading to. It was a ballsy move that ended up being the most successful gamble in Hollywood history. It has spawned over 30 movies and almost half as many TV shows. Not all of them have been great but almost all of them have produced great characters. Characters that turn no-name actors into instant movie stars and make B-tier comic creations into instant fan favorites. This franchise will continue to thrive for years to come because the actors they cast are always on point (well, most of the time) and the writing keeps them feeling distinct and instantly memorable. No other franchise has produced this many unforgettable characters and I predict, no other franchise ever will.
These are the 100 Greatest Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters of All Time.
30. Groot & Groot II (Vin Diesel)
Groot (and Rocket) were the best parts of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the whole film (it’s probably still my favorite of the MCU movies), but those two stole the show, and Groot in particular got the most fun AND the most moving moments (grabbing the battery early, the smile after killing all those bad guys, “WE are Groot.”). While I appreciated the idea of Baby Groot (and holy crap, remember when he was as popular/ubiquitous as “Baby Yoda?”), I did also feel like it undercut Groot’s sacrifice a little. As it turns out, it wasn’t the original Groot, but his “son,” and we’ve gotten to see him grow up – from adorable dancing toddler, through surly, video-game obsessed teen, to… jacked young adult? I think? ANYWAY, it’s been fun to watch the character’s evolution, even if he’s never been quite as captivating as original Groot. We’ll see if that changes in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy 3.
I remember reading somewhere that Vin Diesel (who voices both iterations) insists on knowing what “I am Groot” actually means in each scene, so he can be sure to give his performance the right inflection. Whatever you think of Diesel, that’s actually pretty cool. Just not as cool as Groot.
29. Samuel “Sam” Wilson / Falcon / Captain America (Anthony Mackie)
Anthony Mackie can do no wrong in my eyes. He was a welcome addition to the Captain America cast in The Winter Soldier as both a friend and superhero sidekick for Steve Rogers / Captain America. Marvel rightfully reimagined the Falcon for the MCU, losing the telepathic to falcons and giving him some badass military-grade metal wings. After remaining at Cap’s side through Civil and Infinity War, Sam Wilson got his long-awaited “On your left” revenge in Avengers: Endgame, which must have impressed Steve since he ended up giving his shield and title of Captain America to Same.
SIKE. Sam didn’t feel that he had earned the title, so he donated the shield (like an idiot) to the U.S. government who immediately turned around and gave it to the new Captain America. Well, that didn’t sit well with Sam or Bucky, leading to a six-episode miniseries that basically ended with Sam accepting the mantle of Captain America and getting a sweet new superhero suit. What Sam lacks in super soldier serum, he makes up for in sharing the same morals as Steve Rogers. It feels like the MCU has only just scratched the surface in exploring Mackie’s Sam, and now that he’s Captain America, I cannot wait to see how he interacts with the rest of the universe’s superheroes in the next Avengers film.
28. J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons)
A staple in the Spider-Man library of characters, Jameson has the distinction of being played in five films over the course of 21 years by the same man: J. K. Simmons. Now I should say there are actually two different iterations of Jameson: the Sam Raimi Spider-Man version and the MCU version. I happen to like both. The Raimi version was more comic relief and the MCU version seems a bit more on the devious side, though still comical. The Raimi version had the full-fledged Daily Bugle newspaper while the MCU has the Daily Bugle operating as an online web-show/podcast. I’m not sure where this new version of Jameson will end up, but if Simmons keeps the role, I’m in.
27. Gamora (Zoe Saldaña)
It ain’t easy being green, nor is it easy being the adopted daughter of a mad titan. Gamora served Thanos for years until she was able to find a way to free herself from his reign. She would be hired to steal the orb, accidentally running into Peter Quill and ultimately befriending him as well as other members of the Guardians of the Galaxy. She would fight alongside them as a team in The Battle of Xandar and would decide to stick around, considering them family. Zoë Saldana has recently expressed a lack of interest in franchise roles moving forward and it’s honestly hard to blame her after seeing her spend the last decade-and-a-half appearing in Star Trek, the MCU, and Avatar.
26. Wong (Benedict Wong)
Wong has become one of the most beloved characters in the MCU. Whenever he pops up in movies and TV shows in Phase 4, Phase 5, and beyond I will be a happy camper. His presence easily brings a smile to my face. Which is something I gladly always welcome. It will be cool to see how his story continues to grow and evolve as the MCU saga pushes along. I can only imagine his significance in major story lines and own personal arc will continue to grow over time. It’s only fitting, he’s arguably the best part of both Doctor Strange and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and his cameo in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is incredible. No wonder Tony Stark told Wong he was invited to his wedding. This guy is awesome.
25. Clinton “Clint” Barton / Ronin / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)
I’ve always enjoyed Jeremy Renner’s take on Hawkeye, a soldier and regular human who just so happens to work with the most powerful superheroes on earth. He’s got a dry sense of humor, is intensely loyal, and – most importantly – has a family that keeps him grounded and mentally healthy in a world where gods just show up and entire nations can get wiped off the face of the planet. That doesn’t mean he’s perfect (except when using his bow), and it was heartbreaking to see him lose everything, including his moral center, when the Snap took his entire family away. Seeing him work to come back from his Ronan days and redeem himself was something that didn’t get enough screen time, but I know those movies were already jam packed.
Luckily we also go the Disney+ series with Hawkeye mentoring Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) as he also tries to prevent his past from destroying her present. Throw in Yelena (Florence Pugh) as Natasha’s sister, trying to make Clint pay for the death of her sibling, and we got pretty much everything I was missing from the films. Payback, redemption, humor, sacrifice, heroism and he actually made it back to his family in time for Christmas. Hawkeye was always a good Marvel MCU character, but it took that show to really make him great.
24. Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista)
“Why Gamora?” I gotta say when I first heard Bautista was turning to acting a la The Rock I was nervous. I didn’t realy know much about the guy, but I was like, “here we go again”. But the dude proved me wrong. He has some serious acting chops and as a plus, he picks some great roles to boot. His addition as to the Guardians cast was a great one. He nails the role of Drax the Destroyer. The poor guys family was killed and he is hellbent on revenge. His ultimate goal of killing Thanos was finally achieved with the help of all The Avengers in Endgame. It’s gonna be interesting to see what happens to him and the rest of the gang in the last installment. So don’t screw this up for us James Gunn!!
23. Peter Parker / Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield)
Every scene between the three Spider-Men in No Way Home is one of the gifts only the MCU could deliver. It’s a miracle it works considering it’s nothing but manipulative nostalgia porn but man, does it work like a dream. Yeah, Into the Spider-Verse did it first but those are different Spider-Men. We as viewers have no emotional connection to those Spider-Men. This has all three cinematic Spider-Men for the first and seemingly last time. It was the best send-off any character(s) could ever get but while one treated it like a victory lap, the other sought redemption and completely up ended the movie in the process. The energy level between Maguire and Garfield is not inconsiderable. There’s parts of his performance where Maguire feels like he’s doing us a favor for even being there. He’s not as connected to the material and just feels checked out for parts of it. Not the entire film, there are scenes where he is Spider-Man but every once in awhile, you can see him looking at his watch waiting to get off set. Garfield on the other hand, showed up to prove a point and he dunked on every other actor to do it. It’s embarrassing how effortless it seems he is at stealing this movie away from everyone else. He had years and years of hearing nothing but shit talking articles about how miscast he was in the role and made sure every single hater was silenced forever. I had such a radical 180 on him, that I was mad the producers of Morbius didn’t fill up a garbage truck full of money to get him to just shoot a scene for their end credits teaser. They delayed that movie a million times and spent a mini fortune on reshoots and they didn’t check the temperature in the room? Everyone wanted Garfield back in the role. Disney could make money off of two Spider-Men but Sony decided to go all in on Vulture. Great job y’all, you’re crushing it.
22. Matthew “Matt” Murdock / Daredevil (Charlie Cox)
With the wrong touch, Daredevil could come off as a silly character. But as portrayed in the Marvel Netflix series, Daredevil is one of the most complex and mature heroes in the current MCU stable. Charlie Cox gives a great performance as the tortured Catholic lawyer/vigilante Matt Murdock as he struggles to weigh fighting crime through the legal system and behind a mask.
21. James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes / Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)
At first glance, Bucky Barnes appeared to be a one-movie kind of character. Steve Rogers’s best friend and protector, his catalyst for obeying orders, which leads him to his first encounter with Red Skull. They’re more like brothers and so when Bucky allegedly dies, it reinforces Steve’s will to defeat Red Skull. It wouldn’t have been surprising for that to be the end of Bucky Barnes. But then lo and behold, Steve’s BFF returns as the Winter Soldier, a Hydra assassin. This twist certainly added depth and intrigue to Steve’s arc, even as it created Bucky’s own tragic storyline. While Steve was the hero, Bucky seemed to be the anti-hero, damaged and tormented by his past and looking to atone for all of the harm he’d done. Bucky’s a strong enough character to continue on without Steve by his side and he’s certainly become a fan favorite. He continues to be a force in the MCU and I hope that doesn’t change anytime soon!
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Who are some of your favorite MCU characters? Maybe they’ll show up later in the list!