When you think about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, popular heroes like Captain America, Iron Man, and Black Panther probably spring to mind first. Or you might even think about the notable villains like Loki and Killmonger.
But the MCU is also rich with memorable supporting characters that have made their mark on their respective movies. Standouts like the rock-man Korg in “Thor: Ragnarok” or Black Panther’s technologically savvy sister Shuri stole the show in great movies.
With Nick Fury getting the supporting treatment in “Captain Marvel,” Business Insider has gathered 23 of the most memorable (some more than others) supporting heroes and “sidekicks” in the MCU and ranked them worst to best.
Love interests like Natalie Portman’s character in “Thor” and Rachel McAdams in “Doctor Strange” were left off the list because the MCU unfortunately casts talented actresses in wasted, underwritten roles. There are, though, a couple exceptions, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts in the “Iron Man” movies and Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia in “Black Panther,” who have memorable roles that stand apart from the main character.
Below are 23 notable supporting heroes and sidekicks in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ranked:
23. Erik Selvig (“Thor” and “The Avengers”)
Played by Stellan Skarsgård
The astrophysicist Selvig was first introduced in 2011 in “Thor” and reprised his role in “The Avengers,” and then the sequels to both of those movies. You probably wouldn’t realise that he’s shown up that much in the MCU, even though he’s been a big help to Thor and the Avengers, because he’s kind of forgettable. And he spends much of “The Avengers” brainwashed.
22. Sharon Carter (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War”)
Played by Emily VanCamp
Sharon, the great-niece of Peggy Carter, gets in on the action in “The Winter Soldier” as an undercover operative, but in “Civil War,” her character is downsized to a very weird love interest for Captain America (weird, because Cap was in love with Peggy back in the 1940s).
21. Harley (“Iron Man 3”)
Played by Ty Simpkins
Harley is a very, very supporting character who shows up in “Iron Man 3” and helps Tony Stark after his armour shuts down and leaves him stranded. The movie is so divisive, though, that perhaps the one thing most people can agree on is that this kid is the best part of the movie.
20. Ned (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”)
Played by Jacob Batalon
Ned, Peter Parker’s best friend, doesn’t really do much in “Homecoming” aside from providing comic relief. He does help Parker unlock some cool features in his Spider suit, though.
19. Kraglin (“Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Vol. 2”)
Played by Sean Gunn
Kraglin is a fun character who you can’t help but feel bad for at the end of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” after Yondu dies, but beyond that, there just isn’t much development to him.
18. The Warriors Three and Sif (“Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World”)
Played by Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, and Jaimie Alexander
Thor’s best friends, The Warriors Three and Lady Sif, are loyal and helpful allies to Thor in the first two movies. But the Warriors are killed in the blink of an eye and never mentioned again, even by Thor in “Ragnarok,” which drops them down a few rankings.
17. Heimdall (“Thor” trilogy)
Played by Idris Elba
For the most part, Heimdall just stands guard at the bridge to Thor’s home of Asgard – an important job, but not a very exciting one. Heimdall is memorable because he’s played by the great Idris Elba, and that’s pretty much it, although he did gives his life to save Thor in “Infinity War.”
16. Maria Hill (“The Avengers”)
As a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Hill has had Nick Fury’s back on more than one occasion, which makes her a valuable supporting character. And she was the only agent he trusted in “The Winter Soldier” when he faked his own death.
15. Wong (“Doctor Strange”)
Played by Benedict Wong
Wong is Strange’s right-hand man, and is an integral part of teaching Strange the mystic arts. He’ll make his return in “Avengers: Endgame.”
14. JARVIS (“Iron Man” trilogy)
Voiced by Paul Bettany
Before Bettany was Vision, he voiced Tony Stark’s A.I. assistant, JARVIS. The A.I. is now infused with Vision’s body, but before that, he was just a funny voice lending support, and the occasional sarcasm, to Stark.
13. M’Baku (“Black Panther”)
Played by Winston Duke
In the comics, M’Baku is a Black Panther villain, but in the film, he was a surprise comedic standout who ultimately saves Black panther’s life and helps him defeat Killmonger.
12. Pepper Potts (“Iron Man” trilogy)
Played by Gwyneth Paltrow
While Paltrow has sort of taken a step back from the MCU recently (aside from brief cameos in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Avengers: Infinity War”), she is still one of the only love interests in the franchise who hasn’t felt like a throwaway character. She’s one of the few people that Stark will listen to and can put him in his place, and she’s saved his life on more than one occasion.
11. Hope Van Dyne (“Ant-Man”)
Played by Evangeline Lilly
She became a superhero in last year’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” but in “Ant-Man” she is a tough, determined character ready to fight alongside Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang.
10. Peggy Carter (“Captain America: The First Avenger”)
Played by Hayley Atwell
Peggy Carter was good enough to get her own TV show, “Agent Carter” on ABC, which is a fine accomplishment in itself.
9. Nakia (“Black Panther”)
Played by Lupita Nyong’o
“Black Panther” has the best supporting cast of all the MCU movies. As a Wakanda spy, Nakia is a worthy ally to T’Challa who literally makes him freeze in his tracks.
8. Yondu (“Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Vol. 2”)
Played by Michael Rooker
Yondu is kind of unlikable at first, but he consistently shows compassion for his semi-adopted son, Peter Quill. That makes his character’s sacrifice in “Vol. 2” to save Quill all the more meaningful. Yondu, as morally complicated as he was, truly cared about Quill and gave his life for him.
7. Korg (“Thor: Ragnarok”)
Played by Taika Waititi
Korg surprisingly stole every scene he was in in “Thor: Ragnarok” as the movie’s funniest character, without even trying to be. He’s even better when you realise he was voiced by the film’s director, Waititi.
6. Nick Fury (“Captain Marvel”)
Played by Samuel L. Jackson
Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury has been an essential member of the MCU ever since the first movie, “Iron Man,” in 2008, when he told Tony Stark about the Avengers Initiative. But he’s given the supporting-character treatment in “Captain Marvel,” which follows a younger Fury (and a digitally de-aged Jackson) in the early days of S.H.I.E.L.D. Still, it’s one of Jackson’s best turns in the role, and delivers most of the movie’s most comedic moments, specifically in his interactions with the fan-favourite cat, Goose.
5. Bucky Barnes (“Captain America: The First Avenger”)
Played by Sebastian Stan
Bucky is way more interesting post-“First Avenger,” when we dig deep into how he comes back from “death” in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and then explore his complicated friendship with Cap more in “Civil War.” But he’s still an important, loyal friend in “First Avenger,” and plays an integral role in Cap’s origin story.
4. Agent Coulson (“The Avengers”)
Played by Clark Gregg
Phil Coulson emerged as a fan favourite in the MCU by making multiple cameos throughout the movies leading up to “The Avengers.” He’s the one element that ties all the Phase One movies together, and his death in “The Avengers” was used to push the characters to get over their differences and assemble as a team. But he was popular enough to be brought back to life, and currently is a main character on ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV series.
3. Shuri (“Black Panther”)
Played by Letitia Wright
Letitia Wright seems to be the next big thing after her scene-stealing performance in “Black Panther.”
2. Valkyrie (“Thor: Ragnarok”)
Played by Tessa Thompson
Valkyrie spends a lot of “Ragnarok” drunkenly getting into fights, but by the end of the movie, she is a worthy ally to Thor. She is one of the best parts of the movie, mostly because Thompson is such a great actress, and has great chemistry with Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. We can’t wait to see more of her in the MCU.
1. Okoye (“Black Panther”)
Played by Danai Gurira
Gurira moved from “The Walking Dead” to the MCU as one of the strongest supporting characters in the franchise. She made a giant rhino stop in its tracks, which none of the other characters can say. Next, she’ll be one of the surviving member of “Avenges: Endgame,” and she’s such a fan-favourite, that Marvel Studios added Guira’s name to the movie’s poster after it originally excluded her.
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