Who are the best MCU characters? In 2008, Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures released Iron Man into the world – introducing Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born. Since then, the Avengers have banded together to face the greatest threats the universe has ever seen — and they’ve raked in billions at the box office simultaneously.
The Avengers roster has changed a little since the 2012 action movie – with plenty more colourful characters joining the ranks of ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ by the time Avengers: Endgame came around. It’s a good job, really, since Thanos was trying to rewrite reality itself in the 2019 movie. The climactic battle has pushed Marvel movies to explore bigger concepts now that all these characters have collided so many times.
Their story arcs have snowballed together in MCU movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, as well as WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and Loki on Disney Plus. Basically, Marvel has legions of characters in its ongoing tapestry, so it’s time for one thing and one thing only: our ranking of the ten best MCU characters.
Who are the best MCU characters?
- Doctor Strange
- Black Panther
- Captain America
- Iron Man
- Scarlet Witch
- Stan Lee
Star-Who? Of all the characters in the Guardians of the Galaxy menagerie, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is easily the best. Come on, he’s an anthropomorphic Raccoon, and he has more weapons than you can shake a Groot at – what’s not to love?
His backstory is something of a mystery in the MCU. All we know is that he was experimented on over and over again before winding up like this. So that’s why he’s the spiky, cynical member of the gang, but that also makes him one of the most entertaining.
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Obviously, some credit has to be given to Groot because they’re a bit of a double act – but some of Rocket’s lines are instant classics. “Does anybody have any tape out there? I wanna put some tape over the death button.”
Nice. Don’t even get us started on his obsession with prosthetic limbs… Hopefully, James Gunn gives us more brilliant Rocket moments in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3.
Although Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) only joined the MCU at the end of 2016, he’s quickly wound up in a pivotal place at the centre of the Multiverse (of Madness). It’s easy to see why Cumberbatch’s snarky hero ushers in the weirder side of the universe in the best way possible, thanks to things like the Mirror Dimension and the Dark Dimension.
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He’s the conduit for Marvel to prove that it doesn’t just make “comic book” movies but genre-inspired adventures. He’s instrumental in saving the universe, too – remember, he looked into 14 million different timelines to see the one version of Infinity War where the Avengers beat Thanos.
Without that information, Tony Stark wouldn’t have been able to make his sacrifice play with the Nano Gauntlet. And after his scary trip through alternate universes in Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, anything is possible for the Master of the Mystic Arts.
Marvel fans everywhere rejoiced back in 2016 when Spider-Man (Tom Holland) was finally introduced into the MCU thanks to a ground-breaking deal between Sony and Disney so that he could appear next to the Avengers.
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Since then, the Web-Slinger’s adventures have taken him to new heights and redefined how an entire generation sees the hero. It’s hard not to compare Holland to his predecessors, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, but what’s impressive is that he manages to balance a fine line between his fellow Wall-Crawlers.
Not only does he perfectly capture Spidey’s witty one-liners and light-hearted approach to crime-fighting, but Holland also really leans into Peter Parker’s lovable awkwardness.
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There’s something wholesome about the way Holland conveys the struggle to keep up the eternal balancing act between his normal life and his superhero career. Sure, Spidey does get a little too close to being Iron Man Jr. at times, but it’s hard to deny that his adventures are some of the best in the MCU.
When it comes to iconic heroes, we have to talk about the King of Wakanda – Black Panther. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) first shows up in Captain America: Civil War, where he’s desperate to find justice for his father’s death at the hands of Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl).
It’s a fascinating place to start his story since he’s not a king at that point – and we watch him grow from lusting for revenge to ensuring he does the right thing in choosing to save Zemo from himself.
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Chadwick Boseman’s regal performance throughout the MCU inspires hope and righteousness thanks to his commanding but compassionate presence. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is nothing short of a rich adventure with a truly talented cast led by Boseman.
The star’s death was devastating for fans around the world, and it’s incredibly sad we’ll never get to see him reprise the role again or see what else his career had in store for us.
Of course, Mad Titan earns his spot on the list – mainly because his whole plot to kill half the universe in an effort to stave off the chaos is just about as ambitious as Kevin Feige’s plan for the MCU itself.
When the big purple baddie first shows up in The Avengers’ post-credits scene, general audiences had no idea who he was – but fast-forward to 2022, and even my Mum knows about Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.
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The way Marvel built up the importance of the Infinity Stones over the years only made fans more desperate to see Thanos get his hands on them. And it is weirdly satisfying watching him go around the cosmos collecting them in Avengers Infinity War.
But there’s a depth to his crusade, which is only made understandable and potentially reasonable due to Josh Brolin’s incredible performance. Nobody would care if he was just a generic snarling CGI bad guy, but Brolin gives Thanos moments of quiet that actually make the audience connect with him a little more. We’ll never have another Marvel villain like him, that’s for sure.
Of course, we have to talk about the First Avenger. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is the most idealised version of a hero that fans could ask for while also being incredibly lovable at the same time.
The reason Cap is great in the first place is the same one that persuaded Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) to choose Steve for the Supersoldier Program back in World War II. He’s a good man with an honest heart — and he doesn’t lose his humility when he suddenly has the chiselled abs to rival an Asgardian god.
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All Steve wants to do is to protect those in need from anyone who might do them harm, and he doesn’t have a problem throwing himself on the grenade to do so. Even when all hope is lost in the finale of Avengers: Endgame, he still gets up and faces down the full might of Thanos and his army.
Sure, Alan Silvestri’s spine-tingling score kicks in, and Cap gets reinforcements, but he had every intention of running in alone. That’s who Steve Rogers is.
Next up is the God of Mischief, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). When he first showed up in 2011, the Asgardian was just a predictable villain who wanted a sneaky power-grab to take Odin’s crown. But since then, he’s grown into something greater, and he even had his eyes on world domination thanks to his partnership with Thanos in The Avengers.
His unpredictable, backstabbing nature makes him incredibly fun to watch alongside his stoic brother – especially when they turn into frenemies in Thor: Ragnarok.
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But let’s face it, the Loki TV series is really where he’s flourished. The Michael Waldron-created Disney Plus series, deconstructs the Asgardian to look at why he’s the God of Mischief before he evolves into actively trying to save the fabric of reality itself.
Much of his personal growth comes from finally finding love with his variant, Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). Yes, it is a bit weird if you think about it too long, but it’s also incredibly sweet. Hopefully, that continues when Loki Season 2 eventually comes around.
Of course, we couldn’t get into the top three without including old Shellhead, Iron Man. Yes, he’s the man that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe way back when in 2008, and he’s soared to infinitely greater heights ever since.
Obviously, the Jon Favreau movie was the comeback story for Robert Downey Jr., and he masterfully brought Tony Stark to life in a way that was nearly indistinguishable from his own personality. His performance gives the impression that the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang star has a whale of a time playing in the Marvel sandbox, and he looks undeniably cool doing it.
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Thankfully, Marvel quickly realised they needed to do more with Tony other than having him as an ultra-cool hero, and the much overlooked Iron Man 3 dives into his PTSD and looks at what makes him tick post-Avengers.
And although he started out as the man who wouldn’t make the sacrifice play, he grows into the man who stops and saves the universe at the expense of his own life. That’s a hell of a character arc, and killing him off actually gives the Endgame some weight. Although that’ll probably be undone when Marvel dumps a load of cash at Robert Downey Jr.’s house for Secret Wars…
Yes, Scarlet Witch deserves such a high spot on this list. Why? Well, because of her incredibly complex evolution throughout the MCU, that’s why. She’s gone from villain to hero, to villain again in a stunning deconstruction of love, loss, and grief.
Yes, there are plenty of Marvel character arcs that change heroes into villains and vice versa, but none have been done quite as well as Scarlet Witch. Plus, the mystery behind her powers fuelled her arc as we slowly learned how she became so powerful in the first place — thanks to some Hydra experiments on Loki’s sceptre.
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But the one-two punch of WandaVision and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness really hammered home how much trauma Wanda’s really gone through over the years – and Elizabeth Olsen’s heartbreaking performance in the former is nothing short of stunning. While her villainous turn in the latter is incredibly fun to watch, Sam Raimi really puts the Witch in Scarlet Witch.
Wanda Maximoff is undeniably the strongest Avenger, and that’s why she’s earned her high spot.
Stan Lee is the best MCU character. Sorry. Yes, OK, his cameos started out as a lovable homage to the fact that he had a hand in creating many of these costumed crusaders, but Kevin Feige managed to find a way of weaving his appearances into the actual tapestry of the franchise.
In one of the post-credits scenes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Stan Lee is seen talking to a group of Watchers, explaining all the things he’s seen over the years.
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It’s a great moment that confirms the true purpose of the cameos, noting that Lee has been a part of something bigger in the cosmos. It’s a touching parallel to how much the creator has given to the world through his creations.
Obviously, he didn’t create every single Marvel character, but it’s genuinely lovely that Marvel Studios wanted to honour Stan Lee in such a way.
If you love all things Marvel, then check out our guide on the MCU’s Phase 4. Or perhaps you prefer the Distinguished competition at DC? We have DC movie articles as well, including a guide on how to watch the Superman movies in order.