The Marvel Cinematic Universe has seen hundreds of characters throughout their days. From Iron Man to Thor to Ant-Man, there have been plenty of iconic male characters to look up to. They each have their own strong suits and their own weaknesses. But in the end, you can’t deny that they are iconic. They are the icons of the MCU. Although no female character has had her own movie released, Brie Larson with Captain Marvel is set for 2019. To honor this milestone, we’re going to go over some of the most iconic MCU characters to have ever graced the big screen.
Remember that X-Men movies do not qualify as MCU movies, so Jean Grey, Storm, etc. will not be seen. It’s sad, considering there are so many strong women who are icons in our eyes to show there. But it is what it is. However, along with our most iconic female characters, we’re going to remember a few that just didn’t measure up to our expectations.
In the name of Captain Marvel, we have ten female MCU characters that are total icons…and five that…well, ended up nothing but duds. We pray that one day, they will get their time in the critically-acclaimed light. But for now, they are just examples of what women who don’t leave a legacy will have to look forward to. As for the others? They will go down in history as women who changed the cinematic universe as well as the world forever. Give it up for them.
15 Best: Black Widow
This is really no surprise, due to her popularity, but she really is more than just a pretty face. According to Madison of Odyssey, Natasha’s character didn’t come into full bloom until Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Due to her relationship with Steve, we see that there’s much more depth to her character than we first thought. She’s not just a fighter robot, she’s a real human being.The writer also noted that she is portrayed better in the Russo brothers’ movies than Joss Whedon’s movies.
All around, she has stronger character traits than all of the other Avengers put together.
With any popular character (real or not) there will be haters. Many agree that Black Widow is the worst thing to happen to MCU. They say she’s empty, one-dynamic, and is simply fan service. But if you watch the movies again, you’ll see that she is as caring as Steve, as smart (almost) as Tony, and as determined as Thor. No matter what anyone says, even if you don’t like Black Widow, you can’t deny that she’s the most iconic woman in the MCU hands down. This may have something to do with Scarlet Johansson, but who cares? Actors are half of the characters in the first place.
14 Worst: Pepper Potts
Before going on, we’d like to say that Pepper and Tony’s relationship is great when it’s there. She’s the only one who has any authority over Tony and is really great for him. He treats her well compared to others, though, he does let the teasing get a bit too far. He may be selfish, but at least she tones that down a little. In the comics, she’s nothing (has no important role), but in the Iron Man movies, they gave her power, they gave her a purpose. That said…take away Tony, and what is she?
In short, Pepper’s role in the movie was too one-dimensional. A critic stated, “Her only role in the movie, and it seems, in her life, is to help Tony be Tony.”
It’s true. This woman’s take on Pepper is pretty spot on. After the Iron Man movies, she too is forgotten. She may be mentioned, but it becomes evident how unnecessary she really was. She was good for Tony, but aside from that, she didn’t add much to the MCU. Another reason Pepper might have flopped is that so many people dislike Gwyneth Paltrow. It just goes to show us how important actors are when it comes to likability in a character.
13 Best: Gamora
She’s more than just a green-skinned alien, she’s a revolution. A critic from Glamour states the reasons why Gamora is the best character in Guardians of the Galaxy. He starts off by saying that her first line is, “it will be your doom,” which is pretty threatening. After that, she beats up pretty much every one of the guys on the show, mostly Starlord. Plus, she uses lines line, “pelvic sorcery,” when referring to Starlord’s womanizing. Then again, all of those things can be meaningless.
If you want something with substance, listen to SyFy Wire when they say that, if Guardians were a road trip, “Gamora would be the navigator.”
That makes a lot of sense! She is the one that led everyone from the start, brought together the team, and betrayed the baddies in order to help them. She made the movie happen. That’s saying a lot for a female side character because most of the time their only job is to play the love interest. But Gamora does so much more, as she’s crucial to the plot and leads us all the way through the movie. Plus, the green-skin alien deal is really cool. Who doesn’t want to be an alien?
12 Best: Sif
If Thor had a right-hand man, it would be Lady Sif. She’s the greatest warrior his planet has and isn’t afraid to prove that. We’re so used to damsels or objectified women but she’s neither. Sif takes care of herself and doesn’t have to hide behind some feminist attitude. She’s just who she is and everyone accepts it. But besides her power and personality, it’s because of her that Loki was brought down. She betrayed him, warned Thor on earth, and ultimately fought for him, the humans, and the greater good. If I were a little girl, I’d want to be her when playing MCU with my friends. Not many other women would be able to take her on.
If the actress weren’t tied to Marvel, she would have been a perfect fit to replace the talented Gal Gadot for Wonder Woman. She’s already her own tough female role model.
Ancient Origins gives us a great story of the original Sif when she was known as the wife of Thor. Even though her title insinuated male empowerment, her story is one for the books. She was one of the most powerful gods of the era. That’s saying a lot considering all of the Norse gods of her time.
11 Worst: Mantis
Even Mantis’ own creator is ashamed of what she was portrayed as in Guardians of the Galaxy. Steve Englehart told Polygon that, “I was not happy with Mantis’ portrayal. … That character has nothing to do with Mantis. I will say that I liked the film quite a bit overall, they’re doing good stuff and I enjoyed my night at the movies so long as I turned my brain off to the fact that that’s not Mantis up there. I really don’t know why you would take a character who is as distinctive as Mantis is and do a completely different character and still call her Mantis. That I do not know.”
He then went onto say that he liked the actress and the character was entertaining. But…it wasn’t his Mantis. It was an entirely new concept. We totally get what he’s saying though. She was a funny character, but she lacked a certain depth and much of a brain at all. She was almost like a rude child with no one to look up to. Her relationship with Drax was adorable, but aside from that, her mousy attitude left little room for us to admire her otherwise. At least she’s cute…
10 Best: Shuri
When a Forbes critic ranked each Black Panther character, he made Shuri number one, and there’s a wonderful reason for that. The Forbes writer thought that she defied stereotypes. For once, the tech geek wasn’t a nerdy white man but a teenage black girl. But do we really need anyone else’s opinion to confirm that Shuri is one of the best MCU characters to ever exist? She had everything! Another writer for Vox mentions that she’s one of the first inventors to never lose control of their inventions! That alone, makes her important.
But there’s so much more! Shuri is a genius, she’s beautiful, she’s witty, and she has the best one-liners in the movie. But aside from that, she’s exactly what the world needs right now. Someone who is internet-relevant, a walking meme! But on the other hand, is always fighting for the greater good, always working to make the world a better place with fierce determination. She was so important to Black Panther. She created everything that was used to do anything significant in the movie. And yet, she was so likable! If you don’t like Shuri, you have a problem. She’s that little sister (who is way smarter than you) to everyone. She’s not afraid to put you in your place, but you’d do absolutely anything for her. No wonder critics are putting her above T’Chala when it comes to the best BP characters.
9 Best: Jessica Jones
Hands down, one of the best MCU series available is Jessica Jones. Critical Spy ranks Jessica Jones as the number one MCU series! The number one Marvel series in general. They say that she tells, “a story about an abuse survivor made for a dark and poignant tale.” There is so much depth to her story, so much grit, and so much to learn. She deals with issues that so many of us are afraid to even bring up. That’s what makes her so important. Rotten Tomatoes gives the series a 92%, which is incredible, considering their usually harsh scale.
One of Rotten Tomatoes’ critics even said, “as a measure of solidarity to survivors and as an education for those who want to understand abuse beyond the statistics, it’s hard to imagine a better show.” And that’s the truth! Jessica Jones is needed in a world where so many awful things are relevant whether we face them or not. That’s the real reason her and her series are so popular. They are everything that we need in a world so rough. All we want, as humans, is to relate to one another. When we realize we can do that, we’re hooked from then on.
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8 Worst: Betty Ross
Betty Ross (not to be confused with Betsy Ross, the flag maker) had potential to be a great addition to the MCU. But it’s as if as soon as we began to like her, they dropped her completely— even harder than they did other MCU women. She had the potential to be in every Hulk movie, every Avengers movie, and more. But all we got was her in The Incredible Hulk, and then nothing.
What’s worse is that her father, Thaddeus, made it to Captain America: Civil War, as well as Avengers: Infinity War. But his daughter isn’t even mentioned. She was Hulk’s mentor, friend, and possible love interest. But where did she go? Get this: she is the only one of the Pre-Avengers love interests not to be featured or mentioned in The Avengers. It’s almost as if everyone has completely forgotten about her. Which is saying a lot considering she’s played by Liv Tyler. We all keep hoping that eventually she’ll show up again, but after she failed to appear in Infinity War, it’s time for us to accept her fate as an eternal flop in the MCU. Her impact was meaningless, and we’ll likely forget about her soon after reading this.
7 Best: Valkyrie
To many, Valkyrie is the female version of Thor, but one of the reasons she became so popular in Ragnarok is because she stands for women who are different than others portrayed in film and comics. Valkyrie is insinuated to be in the same boat that Batwoman, Catwoman (rumored), and Korra from Avatar are. She shows us that a female hero doesn’t have to be a man’s love interest, according to The Nerdist.
What else stands out is that Valkyrie is no longer the blonde Norse with an eight pack. She’s now a tough and capable mixed-race woman. The actress’ father is Panamanian, while her mother is both European and Mexican. It’s so refreshing to see them break away from the comics in this way.
Generally, we want the movies to follow the comics exactly, but in this case, it’s a good change as it lets us know that ethnicity plays a small role in character development. But at the same time, is something to be proud of. We may not be identified by our race, but we can be proud of where we came from. More importantly, who we came from. Regardless of that, we are in love with Marvel’s new Valkyrie.
6 Best: Hela
Since when is a villain iconic and important to the development of our world? Since she’s in agreeance with Valkyrie’s preference and oozes female empowerment. Not to mention, she’s equal with Thor and Loki when it comes to royalty and ability to rule. One Gizmodo evaluator states, “Hela’s the type of character that I always gravitated toward as a kid: big, outlandish, and unapologetically committed to her own madness.” We can totally relate to that. we like her for many of the same reasons we like Loki. Except for with Loki, he’s never straightforward and never as strong as his opponent.
When it comes to Hela, there’s hardly an opponent she wouldn’t face. She has no fear and always goes unmatched.
She wants to rule over every realm without facing an opponent she doesn’t take down. If they don’t want her there, she will make sure they soon beg for her mercy. All she really wants us for every man, alien, or otherworldly being to bow down to her and her kind. It’s not her fault of violence is the only answer to bending the knee of everything breathing specimen. She wants a following! Now is that too much to ask?
5 Worst: Jane Foster
Natalie Portman is an amazing actress and portrayed Jane Foster in Thor well. The problem is…the character itself was lacking. She appears in the first two Thor movies but is only mentioned after that. For her to be so important to Thor, her absence makes little sense. This is the biggest problem that fans have with her. Thor returned to earth rather than stayed in Asgard specifically so he could be with Jane.
She made a big entrance and then she disappeared. This caused a lot of fans to forget about her existence entirely.
The answer as to why she isn’t in Ragnarok is frustrating. According to Entertainment Weekly, it’s simply because “they broke up.” We would love a better reason, but that’s all we got. Even worse, Valkyrie was put into the movie to be a replacement for her. A better version of her that was Thor’s equal rather than someone he felt the need to protect. Marvel Studios told EW that she would be much more of an equal than Jane. It’s a pity to hear them say that Jane was inferior to Thor, but it does put her way down on our list. What wasn’t said was whether or not Thor and Valkyrie’s relationship would ever escalate.
4 Best: Agent Carter
It takes a lot to be a strong, intelligent, independent woman in the 2000’s, but it takes so much more to be one in the 1940’s. She even ended up creating the world’s first superhero! We kind of wish it was her that had become Captain America, but she didn’t…Steve did. It worked out well, but just imagine Peggy Carter as Captain America. Hayley Atwell is one of the ones to blame for Carter’s popularity. She did so well that MCU hired her for her very own series.
Needless to say, Carter is one of the most important characters in the MCU. She owes a lot of that to her own era. She was a WWII woman! Not many can say that, but those who can need someone like Agent Carter in their lives. One of the best descriptions of why Peggy is so important was created by Lesley Coffin of The Mary Sue. Coffin explained that Peggy Carter represented every woman who served in the war. She says, “My grandmother is the same age, suffers some of the rapid memory loss, and in the 1940’s marched with pride in a uniform very similar to the one Peggy war on screen.”
3 Best: Hope Van Dyne
This woman deserved so much more than she received. She’s no doubt the best female Ant-Man character and we’re super excited to see her in the next Avengers movie. Her mother was one of the greatest, most selfless heroes to ever live, and now, we see her following in her mother’s footsteps. After losing her mother, her father shipped her way, neglected her. Growing up with such a childhood normally leads to an antagonist lifestyle, but some how she pulled through. She was such a fan favorite that she gets her own movie Ant-Man and the Wasp that will be released later this year.
Why did they like her so much? Again, we have a woman who trained the hero. She did so well too. She puts the past in the past and uses mistakes, pain, and cruelty to learn. She uses everything she can to learn. This can’t be said for others like Darren Cross who did what would have been so easy for Hope to do. He used his knowledge for all the wrong reasons, he let pain grow into bitterness rather than utilize it for good like Hope did. Now that’s a true hero. We have a lot to learn from this woman, and that’s what makes an icon.
2 Worst: Aunt May
In the Spider-Man movies with Toby Maguire, Rosemary Harris played a very likable, loving, and all-around fitting, Aunt May. We fell in love with her in the first few minutes. After that, Sally Field killed it with her interpretation of the sweet older lady. She was strong, but she worried to no end. Still, extremely likable for the role. But then, in the newer installments, she became young, perky, and almost fake. Though Marisa Tomei is an amazing actress, it truly did he take away from the integrity, innocence, and natural order of Aunt May’s character. Plus, seeing Tony Stark hit on her leaves a bad taste in our mouth. That’s not who Aunt May is supposed to be.
Before Homecoming was released, The Wrap noted that Twitter exploded over the news, and we understand why. Homecoming was such a good movie regardless, but we assume ratings would be even higher if Aunt May would have been a sage rather than the crush that she was. We like Marisa Tomei, we just think that an older actress would have been a better fit. No one agreed with the choice which makes us wonder why the MCU went through with it in the first place.
1 Best: Scarlet Witch
How can you look at Scarlet Witch’s powers and not me amazed? The only complaint anyone has about her is that she’s underutilized. Scarlet Witch made a choice when Hawkeye offered it. She could become a villain, or she could become a hero. She chose the noble hero role. The only problem is that she’s the Jean Grey of the Avengers and is treated like just another hero. Her newfound romance with Vision may have been strange, but that doesn’t make her any less of a fighter. She teamed up with one of the most powerful, though naïve, characters out there.
According to Pop Sugar, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg with Scarlet Witch and that’s easy to believe. After all, with the strongest powers on the team and very small roles to play, there has to be so much more to see from this unstoppable woman. Unfortunately, we remember what happens to The Phoenix in X-Men when she became overpowered. She had to be shut down by those she loved most. I guess the short story is, if you become too powerful, the world won’t be able to handle you. Give them a few decades, maybe things can change!
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