As we approach the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga with Avengers: Endgame, some of us at Middle of the Row decided to write a little something about the film series. After some brainstorming, I decided on a ranked list of MCU characters. I thought about including every single MCU hero at first, but eventually settled on title heroes. That means all the Avengers, Guardians, and heroes who have their own movie. Apologies to fans of Okoye, Nick Fury, or any of the non-Avenger Revengers.
Without further ado, here are the MCU title characters, ranked:
SPOILERS FOR PRE-ENDGAME MCU FILMS BELOW
Number 26: Pietro Maximoff, Quicksilver
The male Maximoff twin may have died heroically in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but that death also prevented us from getting to know or care about Pietro. And considering how much more powerful and intriguing his sister is (just in their first film), it was a no-brainer placing Quicksilver on the bottom of my list.
Number 25: Mantis
Unfortunately, Mantis really hasn’t been given the chance to make herself a popular character in the MCU yet. She’s pretty funny, and has had a couple of sweet moments with Drax, but the antennaed Guardian feels more like a background character than one of the core group. Hopefully Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 fixes that.
Number 24: Clint Barton, Hawkeye
Hawkeye is fun to watch when he’s working his fellow Avengers, and it’s nice to know he has (or had?) a family, but Clint doesn’t have much else going on. His role as a mind-controlled slave of Loki in The Avengers and his absence in Infinity War despite being a founding Avenger show that he doesn’t even matter that much to the people making these movies.
Number 23: Sam Wilson, Falcon
Aside from his aerial battle in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the MCU’s Falcon has been pretty lackluster. He plays off of Steve well but feels less important than Bucky, and he’s not as cool a combatant when you have the likes of War Machine, Iron Man, or Vision in the sky. He’s not terrible, but not great either.
Number 22: Stephen Strange, Doctor Strange
I feel kind of bad for placing Strange this low on my list, but like Mantis and Clint, the sarcastic sorcerer hasn’t done much to stand out among his teammates yet. His powers are fantastic, and he was arguably the most dangerous opponent Thanos faced on Titan, but there isn’t much else to say about him. My biggest complaint about the Doctor Strange movie was that it felt like Iron Man but with magic, and that applies to the title character pretty well too.
Number 21: Scott Lang, Ant-Man
Scott Lang is a fun protagonist, but his adventures thus far haven’t quite matched those of the other heroes in the MCU. Even his suit, which helped create one of the best moments in any of the films, is rarely as awesome as Iron Man’s. Maybe that’ll change with his role in Avengers: Endgame?
Number 20: Vision
Despite how useless he was during most of Avengers: Infinity War, Vision is one of the most powerful Avengers, and and intriguing character to boot (heh). As a fairly young, evolving AI, Vision is a unique entity who’s learning where he fits into the world and what it means to be… Well, human-ish. His romance with Wanda is also a compelling, unexplored direction (in the films at least) that I hope we get to see more of in the MCU’s fourth phase.
Number 19: Hope van Dyne, the Wasp
I like Scott Lang, but I think his partner is cooler. As the daughter of two superheroes and super scientists, Hope is smart, tough, and everything else a superhero should be. She can hold her own in a fight (Ant-Man is only a competent combatant because she trained him) and is probably one of the most intelligent people on this list.
Number 18: Gamora
Gamora’s childhood and all (/half?) of her planet’s population were taken from her by the Mad Titan Thanos, so her hesitation to trust and bond with others is easily understandable. Relentlessly trained to be the deadliest woman in the galaxy, Gamora struggles with her past and personal demons, but is still one of the more thoughtful and level-headed Guardians. She’s a tactician, warrior, and usually the common sense of the rag-tag family.
Number 17: Wanda Maximoff, Scarlet Witch
Wanda is one of the heaviest hitters in the entire MCU, which means her battles a blast to watch, but her struggle to keep her abilities in check make her a fairly sympathetic character despite all that raw power. Add in her relationship with Vision, another being whose power is fueled by an Infinity Stone, and you’ve got a character who I hope to see more of in the future of the MCU.
Number 16: James “Rhodey” Rhodes, War Machine
Rhodey is one of the few people who will call Tony out on his mistakes to his face and be taken seriously by the billionaire genius playboy philanthropist. From creating cover stories to hide Iron Man’s existence to donning a similar suit to engage robots, aliens and even other Avengers in battle, Rhodey is one of the most prominent supporting characters in the MCU, and has more than earned his spot among Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Number 15: T’Challa, Black Panther
T’Challa may have been slightly overshadowed by a certain wall-crawler during his initial appearance in Captain America: Civil War, but the insane box office numbers of his first solo film show how popular he’s become since. Black Panther has to manage the balance of being a wise King, a great Avenger, and he’s one of the MCU’s better recent additions because of it.
Number 14: Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel is a total badass, the strongest Avenger, and a solid pick for the new face of the MCU. No matter the challenge, she’ll stand tall, both physically and metaphorically, and she’s exactly what Disney and Marvel needed for their first solo outing of a female hero. It’s so great that despite the review-bombing and misogyny emanating from “fans” who hadn’t even seen it yet, Danvers’ attitude happened to match those of the MCU’s true believers who ignored all that nonsense. She doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone.
Number 13: Yondu Udonta, Mary Poppins
Yondu wasn’t a Guardian for long, but his presence was a highlight in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and his last few moments with Quill and Rocket were some of the most poignant in the entire MCU. If you didn’t at least tear up when the fin-wearing Ravager said “He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn’t your daddy” or when the fireworks started during his funeral, you’re probably dead inside.
Number 12: Drax the Destroyer
Drax is the funniest character that any MCU film has produced so far, no question. His matter of fact, brutally honest way of speaking, confusion with metaphors, and downright dangerous overconfidence have made me laugh harder than anything else in Marvel’s movies thus far. In a film series with humor almost as impressive as its action sequences, Drax stands at the top of the comedic crop, which is a complement that would probably prompt him to ask about humorous plants.
Number 11: Nebula
Nebula initially appears an enemy of the soon-to-be Guardians of the Galaxy and her sister Gamora, who’s tragic backstory seems a little nicer when compared to Nebula’s. While both were trained to be unstoppable killing machines, Nebula’s “failures” eventually led Thanos to make the machine aspect literal in her case. However, after hashing (and slashing, and punching, and shooting) it out with Gamora, the blue-skinned cyborg became a semi-Guardian. Her anger is still there, but at least it’s pointed in the right direction now (at her adoptive father), and I’m pretty sure it’ll be put to good use in Endgame.
Number 10: James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, the Winter Soldier
Just like his BFF Steve, Bucky is a man out of time. However, his time between World War II and the present was far less cozy than Cap’s ice nap. Used as a weapon to commit heinous crimes for the bad guys, Bucky is a tragic, broken being who will probably never truly move on from his past. Seeing him return to fight along Steve in Infinity War brought a huge smile on my face, and his dusting was one of the most painful to watch because of how much I cared about him.
Number 9: Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk
Bruce Banner and his bigger, angrier, greener half are drastically different, but each bring so much fun to the MCU. Banner’s bro-bond with fellow Avenger/super scientist Stark and possible budding romance with Natasha are two of my favorites relationships in the series, and Hulk is a powerhouse of both action and comedy. With Banner you get two great characters for the price of one.
Number 8: Groot
Groot is without a doubt one of the most consistently entertaining characters in the entire MCU. His bodyguard-to–son relationship with Rocket is one of the series’ strangest and most endearing, and when he’s on screen I’m either laughing, being awestruck by his unfathomable cuteness, or on the verge of tears. And thanks to his initial “death,” all of Groot’s appearances so far are different but still bring the same level of humor as he re-grows into an adult.
Number 7: Peter Quill, Star-Lord
No comic book character has been changed so drastically and been anywhere near as beloved as Star-Lord. His charming, somewhat childish, relaxed attitude make the leader of the Guardians a genuine delight virtually every time he’s on screen, and Chris Pratt plays off of all his co-stars brilliantly. Sure, he may have screwed up on Titan, but I still find it hard to hold it against him. Plus, he has an amazing taste in music!
Number 6: Rocket Raccoon
Rocket may appear to most as a snarky, selfish asshole with an affinity for heavy weaponry that’s downright concerning, but he’s also carrying some of the heaviest baggage of any hero in the MCU. He’s the only one of his kind (that we know of) and is clearly struggling a lot of serious trauma surrounding his creation, but Rocket is still trying to better himself and connect with the other Guardians. He’s definitely got a lot of growing to do, but that’s why he’s such a compelling character to watch and root for.
Number 5: Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow
Even though she hasn’t received her own movie yet, Black Widow is easily one of the best characters in the MCU. Her quest for redemption to make up for a dark, blood-soaked past, her ties to S.H.I.E.L.D , meaningful bonds with almost every other Avenger, and totally badass skillset have myself and many others wondering how the MCU has gone on so long without giving her a solo film. One is apparently in the works, and all I can say “it’s about time.”
Number 4: Thor Odinson
The first taste we got of a bigger “universe” in the MCU was with Thor, and the Avenger/Revenger has grown and matured along with the series’ scope. Originally an arrogant brute who never really thought about the consequences of his actions, Odinson has become a truly worthy King and hero to root for over the course of his tragedy-filled story. And despite his many losses, the ass-kicking Asgardian is also one of the funniest parts of the entire MCU.
Number 3: Peter Parker, Spider-Man
I loved Tobey Maguire in the first two Raimi films and enjoyed Andrew Garfield’s performances as the wall-crawler, but Tom Holland is Spider-Man. Almost no other Avenger (aside from number 1 on my list) has been translated to the comics this well without drastic changes, and Holland brings a level of enthusiasm to Peter Parker that makes the character feel like he loves his fellow superheroes and the world they’re in as much as the fans watching. Spider-Man is one of the most relatable characters in Marvel comics, and the same is true for his MCU counterpart.
Number 2: Tony Stark, Iron Man
The money-making juggernaut that is the MCU all started with Robert Downey Jr.’s career-reviving performance that even influenced changes in Iron Man’s personality in the comics. The sarcastic wit and endearing mannerisms of RDJ’s portrayal added humor and character to the previously less-popular Avenger, and solidified him as the face of the MCU for the past 11 years. Even if Endgame really is his final film, Stark’s legacy in the MCU won’t be forgotten for a long, long time.
Number 1: Steve Rogers, Captain America
Iron Man may have been the face of the MCU during its Infinity Saga, but Captain America was its heart. Steve Rogers’ peak-human strength and stamina are nothing compared to his unflinching resolve to never back down in the face of evil and his almost inhuman drive to do and defend what he believes is right. The message that Stan Lee always wanted his comics to convey was that anyone could be a hero, and Chris Evans’ take on the first Avenger embodies that message in each MCU story he’s been a part of. There’s no way he shouldn’t be at the top of this list.