The Marvel Cinematic Universe has undoubtedly been the standout film franchise of the past decade, with many of its titles making it into the top 10 highest grossing movies of all time when they were released, and all of the films making hundreds of millions from eager movie-goers. Not only did the MCU create a rich world full of excitement and possibility, it also reimagined beloved comic book characters who have now truly ingrained themselves in the public psyche. Make your way to any comic convention, and you’ll be greeted with hundreds of Iron Mans and Captain Americas, dozens of Thors and Black Widows, and even villains like Thanos and Loki are popular for cosplay choices.
Superheroes are an entertainment archetype that will likely never go away, because they represent something that so many people are desperately looking for in this ever-changing world… Hope. Superheroes have the skill and opportunity to make a difference. They right the wrongs of others, they pursue good, and they ride through their own fears. So the public will flock to see a film where good triumphs over evil, not just because it’s entertaining to watch, but because it fulfils a need within their very soul. The characters on the screen become icons, treasured memories to always fall back on.
But what about the characters who have less screen time? The ones who the general public seem to forget about, and who don’t get the credit they deserve. In this list, we explore 10 characters who made a real impact, and are woefully overlooked for their contributions. It’s time to celebrate the underrated MCU characters!
Often mockingly described as “Nobody’s favourite Avenger”, Hawkeye is the one original member of the team who just never seemed to gain traction with the fans, and for a long time Clint was the Avenger who was just kinda… There. He’s pretty much the epitome of underrated MCU characters. For the first couple of phases, he was rarely given any cool action scenes, and pretty much any jokes he had were self-deprecating ones made at his own expense. Yet although it wasn’t really showcased in the movies, Clint had already made a huge impact behind the scenes.
He was one of the most accomplished field agents that Shield had, due mostly to his prowess with a bow and arrow, and he was actually the person who recruited Black Widow, another of the founding members of The Avengers. Not only did Hawkeye work incredibly hard as an agent, putting himself at risk in situations where he was at a massive disadvantage, but he also was a fierce ally to his friends.
His loyalty was demonstrated when he fought alongside Captain America in Civil War, trying to do what was right and stop the Accords from taking place. He did this despite being a dedicated family man, and after he was freed, he agreed to go under house arrest so that he could be there for his wife and children.
In Endgame we saw just how deeply Clint loved his family, as after The Snap he went on a rampage as a broken-hearted vigilante, ridding the world of those who he felt did not deserve to survive. When he realised that there may still be a way to stop Thanos and save his family, Hawkeye was prepared to risk everything to get them back, even attempting to sacrifice his own life in exchange for the Soul Stone.
Clint Barton may not have the most exciting powers, but he is passionate, driven, and fully worthy of his place as a founding Avenger.
‘Baron’ Helmut Zemo
Up until phase 3, the MCU had a serious villain problem, with the exception of Loki and a couple of Thanos teasers. With Malekith, Ronan, and Whiplash falling flat with the fans, Marvel were in dire need of a lifeline… Enter Zemo. When people discuss epic villains in the superhero universe, I doubt Zemo comes up in many conversations, but he really should.
Of all the villains that The Avengers ever faced, Zemo was the most dangerous. Not because he had super-strength, or super-speed, or even super-intelligence, but because he had a mission. He didn’t care about winning, he didn’t have self-centred motives of improving his own life, or idealist views of making the world in his image. All he cared about was revenge. He wanted to break up The Avengers by any means necessary, and he succeeded.
Even though they thwarted him at the end of Civil War, the damage was done, and the rift he caused within the very relationships of The Avengers was irreversible. There’s even an argument to be had that he was the reason Thanos was able to defeat The Avengers so easily… They’d already been beaten by Zemo. Civil War was an incredible movie, driven by an even more incredible villain, and it goes to show that hatred is the most powerful weapon. Often excluded from conversations about the MCU, he’s definitely one of the most underrated MCU characters.
James Rhodes (War Machine)
Rhodey is Iron Man’s right hand man, and has undergone one hell of a transformation since we were first introduced to him (quite literally changing from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle). Rhodes is initially working as an officer for the US Air Force, and liaison to Stark Industries. Through this role, he builds a friendship with Iron Man, and Rhodes is the one to rescue Stark after he gets kidnapped in the first Iron Man movie.
Although he’s limited to more of a supporting role in the first movie, Rhodes is still essential to Iron Man’s defeat of Iron Monger, and protected Tony by covering for him during his early tests of the armour. Although Rhodey was willing to hide Tony’s Secret, Stark himself revealed it at the end of the first movie, and from there went down a reckless path.
Rhodey is forced to choose between supporting Stark, and doing what he feels is right, and ultimately takes on the role of War Machine. He once again teamed up with Iron Man to defeat Whiplash at the end of the second movie, and although Tony tried desperately to discourage him, Rhodey insisted on keeping the armour and remained as War Machine.
Despite this, James never stopped being a close and supportive friend to Stark, and he remained constantly by Tony’s side even after he was paralysed as a result of a tragic accident during Civil War. Rhodey is brave, good, and loyal, and is very much a hero in his own right… Let’s just pretend Iron Patriot never happened. Never a main character, Rhodey is a steadfast part of the series. It would be a crime not to include him as one of the underrated MCU characters.
The little sister of Black Panther, Shuri is by no means in his shadow when it comes to talent. Brilliantly intelligent, she is the most respected designer in Wakanda, and is responsible for using the precious vibranium to create the Black Panther suit, amongst many other things. Despite her young age, she is shown to be vastly more capable than many others with more experience than her, especially when it comes to technology. When Black Panther allows Bucky to remain in Wakanda for safety, Shuri is the one who is able to deprogramme all the messing around that Hydra did in Bucky’s mind.
She also volunteers to remove the infinity stone from inside Vision’s head, a task that required impeccable precision and talent. Unfortunately she was unable to complete the task due to Corvus Glaive stopping her in her tracks, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that she was ready and able to help out. When she’s resurrected before the final battle in Endgame, she eagerly joins in the fight against Thanos.
A loving sister, a talented scientist, and a brave patriot, Shuri is one of the most impressive characters in the MCU.
Sam Wilson (Falcon)
Sam is Captain America’s trusty sidekick, and prior to The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, to a lot of Marvel fans that’s pretty much all he was, but in reality he is so much more. Although he did get a TV show alongside Bucky, many fans don’t have Disney Plus, and so he definitely comes under what I’d class as underrated MCU characters, seeing as he didn’t get as much screen time in the movies.
Sam was a hero long before he ever met Steve Rogers; he worked active duty as a pararescueman in the US Air Force, and after that he dedicated his life to helping veterans overcome PTSD. After meeting The Cap, Sam becomes a loyal friend, always doing what’s right and being a trusted ally for The Avengers. When Black Widow and Captain America go on the run in Winter Soldier, Sam is the one who they trust to keep them safe whilst they look into what’s happening with Hydra. He takes them in, knowing the risk, and never even considers turning them away.
Sam puts his own life to the side to help Steve go after Bucky, because he knows how important it is to his friend. He is loyal to a tee, brave, and dedicated to fighting for justice, not to mention he has some great quotes throughout the movies.
Also, he has a set of mechanical wings. That’s just crazy cool.
Michelle Jones (MJ)
MJ has this wise-cracking, devil-may-care attitude that you just can’t help but love, and yet for some reason she doesn’t seem to get anywhere near as much praise within the fandom as she should do. Not only is she incredibly entertaining to watch on screen, her character gives great depth to Spiderman’s story, and has been a really fun inclusion in the MCU.
She initially comes across as very aloof, but once we get to see more of her, we realise that’s just a reflection of her disregard for social norms, rather than her actively pushing people away. She doesn’t need other people, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want them as friends either. In Spiderman: Far From Home we get to see her sensitive side a lot more when she helps Peter defeat Mysterio, and she opens up about her feelings for him.
She’s also incredibly resourceful and intelligent, figuring out not only that Peter is Spiderman, but also that Mysterio isn’t all he appears to be. She’s elected captain of the Academic Decathlon after the old leader moves away, and she’s clearly passionate about winning.
MJ is a refreshing beacon of independence, and she doesn’t fit any particular stereotypes. Instead, she forges her own path, and despite her lack of powers, is likely to be a valuable ally to Spiderman going forwards. Easily one of the most underrated MCU characters.
Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver)
Pietro was just 10 years old when he witnessed his family home in Sokovia get destroyed by a Stark Industries mortar, killing his parents in the process. The experience left Pietro traumatised, and fiercely protective of his sister, Wanda. He motivates her to seek justice, and together they volunteered to be experimented on in an effort to gain super powers.
Pietro gained super speed, coining the name Quicksilver as his alias. He had excellent control over his powers, and he and his sister nearly defeated The Avengers at the Hydra research base, before Wanda’s mercy allowed The Avengers to regroup and overwhelm the Hydra defences. His goal in life was to seek revenge on Tony Stark and by extension The Avengers, and so he was only too eager to help when Ultron offered him the opportunity.
However, skewed by his own sense of morality, and having witnessed the destruction that Ultron was capable of, Quicksilver switched sides. Working alongside his sister and The Avengers, Pietro fights to rescue the people of Sokovia, and ultimately gives his own life to save Hawkeye.
Despite only appearing in one movie (Age of Ultron), Quicksilver made a lasting impact upon the MCU, and deserves to be remembered for his sacrifice.
‘Agent’ Maria Hill
It would be an oversight to write about underrated MCU characters and not include Maria. Agent Hill is a proud example of a woman succeeding in a field typically dominated by men. She worked her way up the ranks of Shield, eventually landing the coveted role as Deputy-Director. She was also one of the few people that Nick Fury trusted implicitly, and she was the one that he shared his plans with when he faked his own death in Winter Soldier.
Throughout the movies, Maria demonstrates bravery in the face of adversity, as well as her adaptability to stressful situations. She followed Fury in his decisions even when she doubted them herself, because she was intensely loyal, and good at her job. Despite nearly dying as a result of the destruction caused by the Tesseract in the first Avengers movie, Hill’s immediate concern is for the public, and she contacts Fury to inform him without even wavering over her own precarious situation.
Throughout the movies, Agent Hill is shown to be pragmatic, capable, and great at what she does, yet she’s denied the screen-time that she deserves. But from what we do see of her, one thing is clear… She’s certainly the kind of woman you’d want on your side!
Introduced in the Doctor Strange movie, Wong is one of those characters who is easy to overlook, but really should have more attention paid to him. Incredibly skilled, Wong is easily one of the most powerful characters in the MCU.
Wong is the librarian of Kamar-Taj, and it’s his duty to protect the mystical books, and to preserve the ancient knowledge kept within their pages. He takes his responsibilities very seriously, and will stand up to anyone who attempts to break the rules. Later on in the movie, he defends the Sanctum in Hong Kong against Kaecilius and his followers, determined not to let them break the natural order. Even though Dr Strange breaks the natural law in order to defeat Kaecilius, Wong recognised that it was what needed to be done, and did not reprimand Strange for his actions.
Wong is one of the many to be snapped out of existence by Thanos, but when they all return in The Blip, Wong uses his powers to teleport The Avengers and their allies into the final battle in New York. Powerful and dedicated, Wong earns his rightful place as one of the most underrated MCU characters.
Better known as being Jane’s dorky intern, and easily overlooked, Darcy is actually a great character in her own right. Not only is she an independent spirit who stays true to herself despite societal pressures, she’s also a lot smarter than most people give her credit for. When they meet Thor in his first movie, Darcy tases him, which although played for laughs in the movie, was actually a quick-thinking and pertinent thing to do. They had no idea who that man was, all they knew was that he easily survived being hit by a van, he was seemingly crazy, and he was moving aggressively towards them. Darcy was also the one who realised that Thor came from the atmospheric event.
Darcy, although having much less scientific experience than Erik or Jane, was not afraid to speak her mind, and routinely made suggestions and observations that proved to be accurate, showing that she’s a formidable thinker, and certainly someone useful to have by your side. She never gives up on Thor in the events leading up to Thor: The Dark World. Darcy provides constant reassurance and support to Jane who’s convinced she’s been abandoned, and Darcy is the one who encourages Jane to keep up hope.
She was also a great addition to WandaVision, and it was fun to see another familiar face joining the story. Her personality fit brilliantly well with the tongue-in-cheek humour in the show, and it highlighted all of her positive traits. Darcy has an inquisitive mind, a can-do attitude, and despite the unwarranted hate she gets from many in the Marvel community, she absolutely deserves a place on this list.
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