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.
60. Frank Castle / The Punisher (Jon Bernthal)
My favorite Punisher appearance is actually Thomas Jane in Phil Joanou’s “Dirty Laundry” short. That being said, I love Jon Bernthal’s performance as Marvel’s resident anti-hero. Was the Netflix show a perfect Punisher representation? I guess it depends on what you’re looking for, and for me it didn’t quite hit the sweet spot. Not that I’m a huge comic Punisher fan – I’ve dipped in here and there, and it’s way too easy to write him as not much more than a murderous goon with only the flimsiest of excuses for what he does. When he’s written well, though, he’s riveting. With the show it was less the writing and more the charisma of the actor that pulled me in. I still enjoyed it more than most of the other Marvel shows – but of course I’m one of those loons that wasn’t grabbed by Daredevil. The second season was lackluster enough that I don’t remember much of it, but I still remember Bernthal’s performance and I’m looking forward to seeing him playing the character again.
59. Mantis (Pom Klementieff)
What exactly is the point of another character whose sole purpose is to bring yet more comic relief to an already large gang of comedians? I don’t know. Quite frankly, I don’t want to know. Why? Mostly because she was able to bring something different to the dynamic and stand out in an already overstuff ensemble cast. This is one character who was given a complete makeover prior to joining the MCU. Have you seen her original comic look? It’s something that barely even works on the page. Go on, look it up. I dare you. It’s definitely a character change that I am not complaining about. There’s been some push by the actress to have her own Disney+ series alongside Drax but after the Guardians Christmas special, it’s evident that Mantis works best when she is used in small doses.
58. Ultron (James Spader)
When James Spader was announced as the villain I was pretty excited. He’s a great actor who I thought could bring some real talent to the CGI robot we all knew he was playing. And he did. He’s really great as the peacekeeping A.I. gone rogue. I know some people took issue with it, but I don’t mind that they changed his origin from being created by Hank Pym to Stark and Banner one bit. It made more sense in the MCU at that current point. I just hate that he was a one-and-done villain that really had no impact. I mean sure his actions started the Sokovia Accords and gave us Civil War, but as a whole, unfortunately, he was just kinda there with a massive army of drone bots. But at least because of Ultron, we got to see J.A.R.V.I.S. turn into Vision. So that’s cool too. I know for a long time Age of Ultron was a lower-tier MCU film, but after multiple rewatches, it’s really become a better film within The Infinity Saga storyline.
57. Dr. Henry “Hank” Pym / Ant-Man (Michael Douglas)
Giving Scott Lang/Ant-Man a pseudo-father figure in Hank Pym was a genius idea. Their relationship is as pure as that of a true father/son relationship. Michael Douglas is surprisingly funny in the role but can undoubtedly maintain the gravitas necessary for some of Pym’s heavier scenes and moments. It’s also worth noting that Pym in an odd way is one of the most crucial characters in Avengers: Endgame. Without his Pym particles, there would’ve been no way to retrieve the old Infinity Stones in order to bring everyone back. Thanks, Hank Pym! You’re the real MVP!
56. Okoye / Midnight Angel (Danai Gurira)
The Dora Milaje could easily be almost-faceless warriors, but Danai Gurira manages to avoid that being the case with Okoye being a breakout star of the king’s guard. She went from strength to strength in Wakanda Forever, becoming Shuri’s right-hand woman and facing the full wrath of Angela Bassett’s Queen Ramonda. After acquiring the Midnight Angel armor in Wakanda Forever, I’m excited to see where Marvel decides to take the character next.
55. Harold “Happy” Hogan (Jon Favreau)
Happy Hogan is the man’s right-hand man. Which man? Iron Man. Happy was a constant in Tony’s life even before he became Iron Man, and Happy’s devotion to Tony would continue long after Tony’s death by looking after Peter Parker. Jon Favreau plays the role with just the right amount of humor and I always appreciated the chemistry he shared with Robert Downey Jr. Making Happy a larger part of the Spider-Man franchise was definitely the right choice by Marvel. Happy’s character found a new depth when he began to look after Peter and his devastation was certainly felt when they lost May. Sometimes we forget these “minor” characters have had their own share of trauma, but even after losing two people who were extremely important to him, Happy continues to push through. We need more Happy in the MCU.
54. Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía)
The thing I appreciate most about the way Namor was brought to life in Wakanda Forever is that they didn’t shy away from the more outlandish aspects of the character. Whatever changes there he is still fundamentally a pointy-eared man with wings on his feet who resides in the ocean and is rarely seen wearing more than a pair of green trunks. Even the comics have shied away from the green trunks at times. The MCU, with its drone version of The Falcon’s falcon Redwing and many militaristic-inspired costumes, could have easily reinvented the character, but they decided to more or less tear him right out of the comic book pages, and he’s one of their best characters for that alone.
53. Marc Spector / Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac)
Possibly one of the most anticipated introductions of 2022 was Moon Knight, played by Oscar Isaac. Not a big fan of the costume, I like the sleek white costume as opposed to the mummy bandaging, but I didn’t make the show. Instead of a traditional MCU origin story, Marvel just dropped us in the middle and let the show take off from there. We did get to meet the multiple personalities of Marc Spector (Moon Knight), Steven Grant (Mr. Knight), and Jake Lockley. In case you forgot: Spector was the mercenary, Grant was the museum employee, and Lockley was the ultra-violent cab driver. This is one of those characters that needs to pop up in the movies, and my fingers are crossed that Marvel will give him a large role to play going forward in the MCU.
52. Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani)
Kamala Khan is one of the most recently created characters who just happened to find some popularity, which doesn’t happen too often with new creations. I haven’t read any of her comics and didn’t know anything about the character prior to watching her show — something that I am probably grateful for. The best part about Kamala is that she is just your average, ordinary, everyday teenager. She’s not the most popular kid in school, she is awkward around her crush and she rebels against her parents. Remind you of anyone? No, not you — Spider-Man! There was a huge change regarding her powers, which I feel is for the best. She can stretch like Mister Fantastic for some reason. I’m not sure why this was the power she was given but the change to a mystical bracelet tied to her Muslim roots feels like a much better fit — but that’s only if you’re asking me.
51. Adrian Toomes / Vulture (Michael Keaton)
Michael Keaton may be Batman, but god damn was he a nice addition to the first Marvel Spider-Man film. It’s kind of a bummer the MCU took so long to make more meaningful villains. Every movie they were one-and-done for the most part. But with the Vulture being imprisoned and not flat-out killed it leaves the door open for more. I just don’t know if Sony will do him justice. Anyway. Keaton brought real gravitas to the role (as he always does) and he had a genuine reason for doing what he did. Plus (spoiler alert) making him the father of the girl he was crushing on was a nice move to make things more intense.
Who are some of your favorite MCU characters? Maybe they’ll show up later in the list!