Top 7 Super Heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
You voted in our poll, and now we have the results! For our first crowd-sourced entry in our Marvel Cinematic Universe recap series, we’re counting down the Top 7 heroes as voted by you, the fans and readers. “Best” hero is always a subjective argument, but the list below reflects the collective opinion of our audience. Think someone is ranked too high/low, or was unfairly snubbed from the list altogether? Let us know in the comments!
In case you need a refresher: With Phase Two of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe wrapping up after this summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, we decided it was a good time to take a look back at some of the best moments Marvel Studios has brought to the silver screen. Between now and Age of Ultron’s release we’ll be counting down several Top 7 lists that celebrate many of the greatest moments from the MCU so far. For reference, this includes every movie released to date (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy), as well as all the straight-to-video Marvel One-Shots (“The Consultant”, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer”, “Item 47″, “Agent Carter”, and “All Hail the King”), and also Marvel’s ongoing foray into television (as of print date: Agents of SHIELD up to the mid-season break in Season 2, Agent Carter through 6 episodes, and before Daredevil has aired). Finally, this should go without saying, but: SPOILERS AHEAD!
7) BLACK WIDOW aka Natasha Romanoff
We ended last week with Black Widow, and we’ll begin this week with her as well. Coming in at 7th in our poll, Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff has been a Marvel Cinematic Universe mainstay since her introduction as an undercover SHIELD agent embedded in Stark Industries in Iron Man 2. She’s since battled the Hulk, Hawkeye, and the Chitauri in The Avengers, exposed and chased down Hydra in The Winter Soldier, and will soon be part of the globetrotting Age of Ultron. It’s a safe bet to assume that Widow’s role will only grow bigger in the movies ahead; with Captain America: Civil War set to focus on government regulation of superheroes, don’t be surprised if Ms. Romanoff makes a return to Capitol Hill. We’ve watched her outwit Loki, hold her own against the Winter Soldier in hand-to-hand combat, elude HYDRA, play Tony Stark–and beat up a lot of bad guys. Without super powers. Your move, boys.
Chris Hemsworth’s Thor has always been an intriguing character in the MCU’s hero lineup since there’s nobody quite like him. 2011’s Thor was the first MCU movie to feature magic of any kind…although the “magic” was nebulously explained as “technology so advanced we only think it is magic.” He’s also a “god,” but flashbacks and a conversation with Loki in The Avengers imply that Asgardians just live for a long time and aren’t actually immortal. However Thor, Asgard, and the Nine Realms fit into the greater tapestry of a unified universe, the hero is definitely one of a kind. Sure, he’s really strong and can fly, but his signature powers include throwing around a magical hammer named Mjolnir and being able to summon lightning on command. I’ve heard some people dismiss Thor as sort of boring or straightforward, but I personally really enjoyed his arc through the first movie as he transitioned from a bombastic, arrogant youth into someone truly worthy of Odin’s throne. We later see him as a wiser, more somber leader, and by the time we reach the end of The Dark World Thor is actually refusing the throne–something that would have been unfathomable to a younger version of himself. Whether its his powers, family, or background, Thor’s fantastical roots definitely add an element of wonder to the MCU movies. No doubt those lightning powers will come in handy fighting against an army of robots in Age of Ultron.
5) HULK aka Bruce Banner
Everyone’s favorite green monster, and only one of two MCU superheroes so far to have been portrayed by two different actors (the other being Colonel James Rhodes aka War Machine). Edward Norton’s turn as the character in The Incredible Hulk was pretty good, but fans seem to have embraced Mark Ruffalo’s incarnation a lot better. Of course, fans of Hulk often don’t care too much about Banner; he’s necessary, sure, but it’s the other guy who’s fun to watch on-screen. In the MCU movies, Hulk has often played the role of anti-hero: even in TIH, where he was the protagonist, he was essentially branded as a criminal and social pariah. In The Avengers, the threat of the Hulk looms over the entire team, and in fact turns to blows once Banner actually “Hulks out”, only for him to be one of the key players in the battle against Loki and the Chitauri. He’s kept a low profile in Phase Two so far, but we’ve already seen Hulk battling Iron Man in the teasers, and with Civil War on the horizon, it seems likely that Hulk’s nebulous spot in the Avengers roster will continue to be a fluid point of contention. As long as he’s smashing things, though, I think fans will be happy to see him return in any form. After Age of Ultron, though, it’s anyone’s guess when–and where–we’ll get to see him next.
4) ROCKET RACCOON
The only non-human hero to appear on this list, the Guardians of the Galaxy’s furriest member may be vertically-challenged, but he also packs quite the heat. His origins are only hinted at in the first Guardians movie, and that’s just fine with us–it’s clearly something shady and potentially traumatizing, but the Rocket we see in the movie (brought to life with a wonderful vocal performance from Bradley Cooper) is intrinsically tied to the wackier, funnier beats that film goes through. Despite his diminutive stature, Rocket prefers and easily handles weapons that are as big as he is. He also shows off some technical skill in hacking the Kyln’s security system, creating makeshift explosives from scrap, and of course hastily repairing one of his big guns in the movie’s climax. He brings an attitude and swagger to the team that plays well off his Chewbacca-like companion in Groot and the extremely literal Drax. With a newf0und family and a new lease on life, it will be great to see what the future holds for the bounty hunter-turned-Guardian.
3) STAR-LORD aka Peter Jason Quill
Guardians of the Galaxy was filled to the brim with memorable characters, but Chris Pratt’s breakout role as Star-Lord unquestionably formed the heart and soul of the movie as well as its eponymous team. It’s not unusual for a human character to be the audience’s main point of connection in an alien-laden science fiction romp, but Peter Quill has a somewhat unique arc. We start off with a strong emotional connection due to the events surrounding his mother’s passing, and almost immediately after he makes laugh (which he continues to do throughout the flick). Minutes later Quill is also proving himself as a competent fighter, and one who can improvise well with his arsenal of trinkets. He’s got kind of a charming, careless swagger about him even in the most dire situations, which makes for some great scenes with the stoic Gamora and equally humorless Drax. Now that he’s evolved from petty outlaw to the leader of a band of misfits, it will be great to see how his adventures continue, and how the team continues to evolve before they inevitably cross paths with Marvel’s earthbound heroes.
2) CAPTAIN AMERICA aka Steve Rogers
Cap was actually leading our poll for most of its duration before his friend and Civil War rival edged him out in the last couple days. Nevertheless, it’s no surprise to see the star-spangled hero near the top of this list. He’s been one of Marvel’s most iconic superheroes for the better part of a century, and he’s consistently been one of the key characters in the big-screen MCU. Captain America’s also arguably had the most variety between all of his appearances, showing that he’s got almost as much range as the actor who plays him, former Human Torch Chris Evans. The First Avenger was a bit campy at times, but it was fun exploring a super hero set in the 1940s and it was a great introduction into the character of Steve Rogers and the values that drive him in the future films. Joss Whedon did a better job showing off what a super soldier could do in The Avengers, and it was really the first time we see Cap start to question his altruistic values. And then came the Russo brothers’ The Winter Soldier, which I would argue has been the best exhibition of the Captain America character in any medium. The tonal shift to an espionage thriller added much needed tension to the story and resulted in serious ramifications for the greater MCU, while Steve’s working relationship with Black Widow drove the move forward in both action scenes and the quieter, dialogue-heavy ones. Best of all, though, I think we saw the true potential of Captain America’s abilities. Whether is was diving out of an airplane and single-handedly disarming an entire ship, or fighting his way out of a packed elevator of highly trained thugs, or going blow for blow with the Winter Soldier, or taking down a quinjet in one seamless acrobatic manuever–Captain America was a force to be reckoned with in this movie. Equally impressive, the Russos managed to retain the character’s core values without having him come off as a boring goody-two-shoes. Joss Whedon has been the crown jewel of Marvel’s “cast” of directors so far, but both company’s and Rogers’ futures look to be in great shape with the Russos in charge of Captain America: Civil War as well as their rumored involvement in the two-part Avengers: Infinity War.
1) IRON MAN aka Tony Stark
The man who kicked everything off and arguably made this all possible. Back in 2008, Marvel Studios was still seen as a risky venture, Robert Downey Jr.’s reputation was in tatters, and many questioned whether the bubble of comic book movies had already burst at the box office. With four words, “I am Iron Man,” Downey’s brilliant take on Tony Stark flipped the script entirely. Stark has so far been the core of the entire set of movies and is so far the only hero to be featured in three solo flicks (that will of course change in Phase Three). The balance Downey and director Jon Favreau struck between action and comedy has since become a signature fingerprint in all of the MCU movies and a huge part of the mega-franchise’s success. Iron Man himself has been a great character for the big screen as in addition to his varied and visually spectacular array of powers, Stark’s status as a wealthy weapons manufacturer and futurist allows his movies to comment on contemporary themes while also exploiting some of his very visible flaws. In contrast to his suit’s emotionless facade, Stark’s genius is sort of manic and chaotic, fun to watch for entirely different reasons than his alter ego is fun to watch. After three solo appearances and four movies overall, it’s tough to say where we’ll find Stark and his venerable suits in future movies; we know he comes to blows with Hulk in Age of Ultron and will find himself on the opposite side of a political struggle against Captain America in Civil War, so it appears–despite the cathartic ending to Iron Man 3–that we are headed for a darker chapter in the life of Tony Stark. It also remains to be seen how central Iron Man will be to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe going forward; we know he’ll be in Avengers: Infinity War, but he has no solo movies on the Phase Three slate and he’s likely to lose (or at least be challenged for) his status as the most-beloved Avenger if Marvel and Sony pull off their Spider-Man partnership. How that all plays out is anyone’s guess at this point, but you can bet we’ll all be tuning in to watch.