Tour The Marvel Cinematic Universe With 45 Influential Characters
Thanks to the dozens of movies and TV shows, getting to know the plethora of characters in the Marvel universe has never been easier. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the focal point, with almost 30 films and over a dozen TV series, you’d think that viewers would have a comprehensive understanding of the wider world of Marvel. Everyone knows Iron Man, the superhero that started it all, but that’s just for the films. In fact, the Human Torch was the first ever Marvel character!
Superheroes have always been popular, but the stellar acting, jaw-dropping effects, and heart-wrenching plot twists have brought in thousands of new fans that never had the opportunity to read the comics.
Even though they’ve changed many character backgrounds and story arcs, the movie/TV show characters can still teach fans a lot about the wonderful world created by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and more. Read on to learn a bit more about our favorite Marvel superheroes.
Warning: spoilers ahead…
We are starting off with everyone’s favorite Flora Colossus. Vin Diesel brought the once-unknown Marvel character to life in Guardians of the Galaxy. Even though his vocabulary (to humans) is five words, he has plenty to say. Just ask Rocket.
Fun fact: Vin Diesel was the voice of Groot in 15 languages! That’s a level of dedication and consistency we don’t often see in, well, anything. And, not only that, but there was a separate Groot-translated script for him to work off of. Cool, huh?
Before 2015, only true comic fans knew Ant-Man. In fact, the character was so bizarre that Paul Rudd’s son was put off when his dad broke the news that he’d be a Marvel superhero. Little did we know that this insectoid hero would be a fan favorite.
But comic fans knew his name long before Paul Rudd put on the suit. In fact, Henry Pym, the first Ant-Man, was on the original Avengers roster in 1963. Our only real critique about the 2015 film is that our beloved Ant-ony is actually Ant-oinette (aka female).
In the films, Nick Fury is the thread that ties the Avengers together. Sort of. The director of SHIELD brought all of the Avengers together to fight the first of many epic battles. The strategist is a force to be reckoned with, even if he doesn’t have a suit or serum.
The three-time veteran is an expert in armed combat and proficient in countless weapons. He’s cunning, daring, and can go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest baddies in the Marvel Universe. And yet, his arch-enemy is a cat. Don’t worry; that “feline” is on this list, too.
The running gag in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film wherein Quill is constantly frustrated that people don’t know his name is a piece of meta-humor brilliance! After all, only true comic book fans knew his name before 2014.
Though, those fans were probably more than a little upset with Gunn’s decision to change his father in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. If you didn’t know, in the comics, Star-Lord is the son of J’son, the king of Spartax.
Yondu’s redemption arc in Vol. 2 had us bawling in the theaters. Sure, it was not-so-subtly hinted in the first film that he wasn’t as mean as he appeared to be. After all, he gave Quill way too much slack, even if it meant stealing from his “adoptive” father.
The Centaurian has a mean smile but a warm heart. We were sad to see him go, but we’re glad he got a proper send-off. Don’t worry; Kraglin is stepping up and working on mastering his former captain’s Yaka arrow.
Goose The Cat
Meet the one character that can bring Nick Fury to his knees. That’s right, this cutie is a Marvel superhero. Although Goose looks like a cat, don’t be fooled. She’s actually a Flerken — a dangerous alien creature that is exactly like the cats we see on our planet.
Just like cats, she’s finicky and doesn’t take kindly to strangers. If given enough love, affection, patience, and space, she’ll warm up and become a cuddly companion. And, like Earth cats, she’ll always hold onto that seed of disdain and scratch at whoever messes with her.
Say what you will about Age of Ultron, but it was a pivotal film in the series. For one, Vision was born. To give an abbreviated recap: thanks to an infinity stone, Jarvis got a body. Fans were happy, but Paul Bettany, the actor, wasn’t as thrilled.
Before Age of Ultron, he just had to record his lines. But with the birth of Vision, Bettany had to show up early to set just to get in costume. Still, you can’t say that he hasn’t been a vital character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just as Wanda.
Vers, aka Carol Danvers, is one of the abandoned heavy hitters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When she was introduced in 2019, fans were promised there would be more of the blonde superhero in the future. However, she seems to have been put off to the side…
She can fly, hit as hard as the Incredible Hulk, absorb energy, and shoot radiant bursts of energy. She could even go toe-to-toe with Thanos without being instantly obliterated. So, why haven’t we seen more of her? And where was she for all those years before Thanos showed up?
How can we even begin to think of Marvel without talking about Stan Lee? He is one of the brains behind Marvel and we feel confident in saying that our world wouldn’t be the same without him. His characters have had such an impact on our lives!
Even non-Marvel fans have likely felt his impact. Sadly, he passed in 2018, but his legacy will forever live on. We’ve already had a few movies that didn’t feature cameos of the comic genius, but we’re still heartbroken every time.
Tony Stark is the OG Avenger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Technically, the first film was The Incredible Hulk, but Iron Man (in 2008) was the real first movie of the franchise. Without Robert Downey Jr’s stellar acting, we probably wouldn’t have this list.
Iron Man stands apart from all the other superheroes because his powers don’t come from a serum, alien biology, or supernatural weapon. The suit — that he first built in a cave, mind you — is a product of his outstanding intellect. RIP Tony.
The comic writers/artists created dozens if not hundreds of original characters, but they also “borrowed” personas from various mythologies. Norse mythology has played a vital role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thor, Loki, Odin, the list goes on. While these characters are different from their true Norse counterparts, there are still enough similarities.
Thor, God of Thunder, protector of Midgard, is someone you don’t want to mess with. While the first films implied that it was Mjolnir that gave him power, as with any true superhero, he learned that his powers come from within. It’s cliche, but true!
Cosmo The Spacedog
Oh, you thought that Goose was the only pet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Meet Cosmo the Spacedog. He’s a real Earth dog. In the comics, Cosmo was gifted telepathic abilities as a result of experimentation. Though that part hasn’t been confirmed in the film version.
We only saw a glimpse of him in a post-credit scene in Guardians of the Galaxy, but rumors have it that he’ll be in the Guardians Holiday Special! He has, however, had more “screen time” in the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series on Disney XD.
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has had several iterations on the big screen and countless animated versions over the years. While Tom Holland is technically the MCU Spider-Man, No Way Home gave the fans some satisfaction and answered how there could be so many silver screen Spider-Men.
We’ll blame his youth for his naive mistakes. Spidey is a classic superhero, and one of the few that made a name for himself long before the MCU was created. Perhaps it’s because the young web-slinger is so relatable to youngsters everywhere.
Loki has had a…complicated…character arc. He also hails from Norse mythology. Tales from the Prose and Poetic Edda(s) tell of a trickster. Contrary to initial impressions, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki was more chaotic than he was evil. Some theories even say that he was mind-controlled in The Avengers.
The films have given comic and mythology fans cameos of two of his monstrous children. That’s right. Odin rides in on Sleipnir in the first Thor film, and Fenrir appears in Thor: Ragnarok. All that aside, we’re glad that Marvel has given Loki full character development…and even his own series!
How do you describe patriotism using only one picture? You use Captain America, of course. Steve Rogers was the perfect pick for the supersoldier program. His pure heart is beyond compare. Heck, he’s the only human that stood a chance at lifting Mjolnir!
Unlike many superheroes, Steve got his happy ending. It’s currently known if we’ll ever learn what happened after he went back in time, but we’re just glad that he lived a full, happy life with the love of his life. He deserved it!
We normally think of science and magic as polar opposites, but Doctor Strange proves that you don’t need to pick between the two. After his devastating accident, the former surgeon traded his scalpel for sling rings and worked hard to become the sorcerer we know and love today.
Sadly, he was Snapped, and the five-year gap meant that he couldn’t become Sorcerer Supreme. Perhaps he was just angsty and that’s why he made those ridiculous decisions in No Way Home. We’re still reeling from The Multiverse of Maddess. What the heck, Strange?
Speaking of Doctor Strange the Multiverse of Madness, Wanda Maximoff has been gaining more of a foothold in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, she was always powerful, but WandaVision finally named her as the Scarlet Witch. And you can’t deny her might after seeing The Multiverse of Madness.
We’re still not sure if her character was always supposed to be a natural-born witch, or if WandaVision just ret-conned her character background that was set up in Age of Ultron. Regardless, her character arc in WandaVision and The Multiverse of Madness is heartbreaking. She shows us how grief can tear one apart.
When we first met T’Challa, he was a true-neutral character. He didn’t seek violence and mainly kept to the affairs of his people in Wakanda. But once tragedy struck, the African superhero stepped up and fought for what was right.
Gifted with extraordinary abilities and a kick-butt suit crafted by his sister, the King of Wakanda was prepared to face whatever threatened his people…and the world. Sadly, the man behind the mask, Chadwick Boseman, passed away in 2020. Wakanda will forever live on, thanks to him.
The Black Panther already has some superhuman powers, but T’Challa wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous without the inventions built by his sister, Shuri. Boseman may have been the top-billed actor in Black Panther, but Letitia Wright was the star of the film.
Shuri is a master engineer with a sharp wit to boot. She has a remarkable intellect and can even keep pace with Bruce Banner! Wakanda wouldn’t be the technological superpower it is without Shuri’s brilliant mind. We are dying to see more of her. Come on, Marvel!
Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t the most well-recieved Avengers flick, but that doesn’t mean that the primary antagonist wasn’t terrifying. Ultron is the emobdyment of Tony Stark’s hubris. Tony designed Ultron to save humanity…but things never go as planned, do they?
Ultron’s story is a bit (okay, a lot) cliche. Instead of saving humanity from external threats, it tried to save humanity from itself. Even though its storyline is overused, Ultron itself is a powerhouse of an antagonist. The Avengers had to pull out all the stops to take him down.
Ghost holds the distinction of being one of the few Marvel characters to have been gender-bent. In the comics, Ghost is a male, but the screenwriters for Ant-Man and the Wasp decided to make Ghost a female. Meet Ava Starr.
The enemy-turned-ally has a tragic backstory — shocker, right? The genius hacker under the suit was raised under the stern hand of SHIELD. Even though the agency is the on the side of “good,” you’d never be able to tell given Starr’s backstory.
Guardians of the Galaxy introduced us to a variety of different cultures, most notably Xandar. The leader of the elite Nova Corps is Irani Rael, also knwn as Nova Prime. She may look like a human, but trust us, she’s Xandarian.
When Ronan the Accuser sieged war on Xandar, Irani showed us why she is in charge. For starters, she actually listens to what her suborniates have to say. It was Rhomann Dey that voiced his support for Star-Lord, and Nova Prime trusted his instincts — which eventually saved the day!
Carl Lucas was an upstanding citizen, but society let him down and he was wrongfully sentenced to prison. His unjust carceration strengthened not only his spirit but his body, though the latter was due to human experimentation. Look, we didn’t say that Marvel always had unique backstories.
After his escape, Carl Lucas “died” and he became Luke Cage. Under this new persona, used his new abilities for the greater good. The leader of Heroes for Hire gathered the vigilantes of New York City in an attempt to make their homes a safer place.
The High Priestess of the Sovereign is the epitome of royalty. Her posture is always perfect, voice always level, and her emotions are kept locked up tight. Her xenophobia and snobby supremacy painted a (well-deserved) target on her back that Rocket was happy to aim at.
The arrogant and arguably immature royal showed her true colors when she failed to get her revenge on the Guardians. But with the stinger at the end of Vol. 2, involving Adam Warlock, chances are we haven’t seen the last of her.
The last of the Valkyries, this heroine won fans’ hearts in Thor: Ragnarok. Even though she was introduced as a bit of an antihero — she abducted Thor for goodness sake — there was no doubt that she would end up as a force for good.
Now, she is the new Queen of New Asgard and rules her kingdom with both love and respect. The politics may bore her to tears, but when her people are in danger, you can bet she’ll be on the front lines defending them…and even giving lessons in hand-to-hand combat.
Korath the Pursuer
While Ghost was a villain-turned-hero, Korath is the exact opposite. But the biggest twist for fans was that he was introduced as a villain (Guardians of the Galaxy) and it was only in a demi-prequel (Captain Marvel) we saw his hero-side.
As Ronan’s enforcer, Korath earned the moniker “the Pursuer.” Although he was not one of Thanos’ “children,” he fought alongside Nebula and Gamora. Yet, despite his training with some of the deadliest assassins and his cybernetic enhancements, none of it stood a chance against Drax.
Comic books have always touched on the social and political issues at the time of their release, sometimes it’s intentional, other times, it’s just a reflection of the atmosphere. Take the Red Guardian, for example. The supersoldier made his comic debut in 1967 as the Russian version of Captain America.
Alexei Alanovich Shostakov was Russian’s first and only supersoldier. But unlike Captain America, Alexei held no sense of honor and justice. The adoptive “father” of Natasha Romanov was thrilled to hear that his daughters were succesfully trained killers just like he was.
Gamora is proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy may be the adopted daughter of Thanos, but she has a kind heart. She survived several tragedies and still grew up to be a hero.
The expert assassin is arguably the most important character in the MCU. After all, if she had survived her “trip” to Vormir, Star-Lord wouldn’t have gone off plan and doomed all of the heroes in Infinity War. But don’t blame him; we bet Tony would have done the same if it was Pepper.
When Steve retired, fans were debating about who would take up the mantle of Captain America. In the end, Sam took the shield, albeit reluctantly. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was the series we didn’t know we needed but we’re glad Disney gave us.
Sam is one of the many heroes that is powered by his spirit, not any supernatural abilities. Even before he was gifted the Falcon armor, he was a worthy opponent. And, on a different note, we’re glad he and Bucky finally made amends and joined forces.
Thanks to the Snap, Wong rose to the role of Sorcerer Supreme — Doctor Strange’s five year absence disqualified him, much to his chagrin. But, to be honest, we think Wong is a better fit for the job; he has a level head.
Wong is played by actor Benedict Wong. We bet that there was a fair amount of confusion behind the scenes whenever Doctor Strange and Wong were in a scene together. Despite any bitter feelings between Strange and Wong, it seems that they’ve found a balance in their positions of power (or lack thereof).
Wakanda may be a powerful nation, but it wouldn’t exist without the mighty women defending it. Okoye, the head of the Wakandan armed forces and intel, is both the brain and the brawn behind the Dora Milaje. She is one you should never mess with.
We don’t have room to list all of her accomplishments, but we’ll give it a go. She’s an expert tactician, proficient in various weapons inclusing spears, skilled in hand-to-hand combat, and she’s multilingual! As one of the surivors of the Snap, she lent her skills to the Avengers as a temporary member.
The Allfather, the King of Asgard, Odin Borson is a force to behold. Odin was yet another character adapted from Norse mythology, though movie fans didn’t get a big insight into his background. For one, it’s never explained why he’s missing an eye!
In the films, he seems to serve more as an instigator for the plot but does not do much himself. Then again, when we first met him in Thor, fans got to see Odin riding in on Loki’s child, Sleipnir.
How could we miss the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen? Matt Murdock fights for justice both in the courtroom and on the streets. Although Agents of SHIELD was technically the first MCU-canon Marvel TV show, Dardevil is the first to really play a role in the MCU.
In fact, he made a surprise cameo in No Way Home! If you haven’t seen it, check out the movie just to see Charlie Cox’s small scene. And, the blind superhero is finally returning in a Disney+ series. Is it 2024 yet?
The Merc with a Mouth is the antihero we all root for. He might not always be the good guy, per se, but his heart’s in the right place. While Deadpool isn’t technically in the MCU, he’s undisputedly a Marvel character and we’re happy he has on-screen appearances.
Another reason to love him is that Deadpool is technically a cancer survivor. Although he beat the illness with the help of an illegal human experimentation project, he made the most of his second lease on life. Whoever did the casting for Deadpool deserves a raise for picking Ryan Reynolds.
Agent Phil Coulson
He’s an agent of SHIELD and Nick Fury’s right-hand man. It feels like a lifetime ago, but Coulson was once a name on everybody’s lips. Fans took issue with his death in The Avengers; perhaps that’s why Agents of SHIELD gave him a canon-resurrection.
Though we haven’t heard from him since the ABC series. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the hick-butt agent, you should check out A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To Thor’s Hammer, a one-shot feauring Coulson. Spoiler alert: he stops a robber using only a bag of flour!
As with most superheroes, there are several versions of the Wasp. Superheroes pass on their legacy to protegees and, in this case, family. Whether you’re talking about Janet Van Dyne or her daughter Hope, Wasp is the companion to Ant-Man we all need.
Or, perhaps it’s the other way around. Given Hope’s impressive skills in Ant-Man and the Wasp, she was the real powerhouse of that team. For starters, she can fly with her synthetic wings, while Scott relies on misgendered ants to carry him around.
“Behind every great man, there stands a woman.” If this doesn’t describe Virginia “Pepper” Potts, we don’t know what does. Long before she put on a suit, she was supporting Tony unflinchingly. She was there for him through all his successes and his failures.
She was always an impressive woman, but we’re glad she finally got to join the other protagonists on the battlefield. Going by the alias “Rescue,” Pepper kept pace with the trained superheroes in the battle against Thanos. Marvel has no shortage of powerful women.
She might be Agent 13, but Sharon Carter isn’t unlucky. The great-niece of Peggy Carter joined the MCU in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as an undercover ally. She dropped off the radar for a while before making a reappearance in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
If you haven’t seen the Disney+ series, we suggest you skip this paragraph (spoilers ahead). We’re so conflicted by her face-heel turn from an Agent of SHIELD to a crime lord in Madripoor. We’re anxious to see what the double-agent will do next.
We have covered mostly protagonists, but a Marvel Cinematic Universe list wouldn’t be complete without The Mad Titan, Thanos. The genocidal maniac single-handedly brought the Avengers to their knees, and the superheroes needed an intergalactic army just to challenge him.
Though his death was anticlimactic, to say the least, you can’t deny that he wasn’t a dreadful threat. We just wish that someone would have explained to him that halving all of the plants and animals didn’t solve the overpopulation issue! Snapping plants cut the food resources in half, defeating the purpose!
Thor: Ragnarok was on a whole different level. Director Taika Waititi gave us a masterpiece of a film back in 2017. The effects were jaw-dropping and, as per usual, the actors were outstanding. One of the newest “sidekicks” to join the MCU was Korg.
In TV shows, it’s not uncommon to see directors or producers acting in an episode or two, but with big-budget films, it’s rarer. Why do we mention this? Well, the Kronan warrior is voiced by none other than Taika Waititi!
Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings may have been predictable and boring at times, but we have to give Shaun (Xu Shang-Chi) credit. Or, rather, we give Simu Liu props. Liu plays the titular character, a martial arts expert with a…complicated family history.
The reason we’re such big fans of Liu in the film is that he did most of his own stunts! That’s why Xu is shown taking down baddies without wearing a mask. The filmmakers didn’t need to fool the fans into thinking there was only one person portraying Shang-Chi.
Unlike his sister, Pietro Maximoff didn’t last long in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A victim of human experimentation, he was “gifted” with superhuman speed. He can move, think, and act faster than we could ever dream of. But he couldn’t outrun Ultron’s wrath.
Although he died in the same movie he was introduced, WandaVision gave him a comical “resurrection.” Poor Wanda is so lost without her brother and her lover. On a non-Marvel note, let’s take a quick look at his name. Quicksilver is another term for Mercury, who was the Roman god of speed!
Speaking of characters that died in the same movie we met them, let’s talk about the Ancient One. The Sorcerer Supreme wasn’t on board with Stephen Strange joining the Masters of the Mystic Arts, but we’re glad Mordo convinced her otherwise.
While her death was tragic, one thing that can be said of the Ancient One is that she lived a full life. The sorceress was born in the 14th century! Her longevity and wisdom would go a long way to explain her peaceful acceptance of her death.
Can you tell that we’re fans of Thor and Norse mythology? Heimdall is an unsung hero of Asgard and we’ll fight anyone that says otherwise. The golden-eyed protector was essentially the gatekeeper of the nine realms. As in the original mythology, he didn’t live to see Ragnarok.
Heimdall is survived by his son, Axl. Axl takes after his father in more ways than one, including his bravery, and even ability to astral project. While we were sad to see Heimdall go, we’re glad he has such a wonderful (and adorable) legacy.
Captain Monica Rambeau is the daughter of the late great Maria Rambeau. Like so many others, she suffered great loss during the Snap — her mother died while she was “away.” She was introduced in Captain Marvel, but we finally got to see more of her in WandaVision.
Although she is human, she was able to withstand the devastating mind-altering abilities of the Scarlet Witch. In fact, Westview would likely still be under Wanda’s control if it wasn’t for her. We’re excited to see more of her when The Marvels is released.