The Marvel Cinematic Universe has come a long way in eleven years establishing itself as the quintessential superhero franchise of the 2010s and the defining series for the “cinematic universe” hype that studios are still trying to imitate today. However, two major complaints have stained the reputation of this massive movie universe time and time again: the lack of great villains and the lack of female hero representation. Recent entries have provided us with a few great villains to prove the MCU is learning from its mistakes, but the women have also become a much bigger piece of the picture. This weekend the long-awaited first female-led film of the MCU will debut with “Captain Marvel”. Honestly though I don’t think Marvel gets enough credit for its strong female characters. Even if they take a backseat in the action many great ladies have helped build on this cinematic universe whether as protagonists or the antagonists of the stories. So, in celebration of probably THE most epic and significant woman to enter the MCU to date I decided to look at the other ladies that deserve to be celebrated from this universe’s pantheon of heroes AND villains. These are my picks for the Top 10 Women of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
For this list I looked as any major female character, hero or villain, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and picked out ten who I think shine above the rest. This was a very tough list to narrow down as, believe it or not, there are numerous memorable women who have graced the big screen in Marvel’s interconnected films. The goal of this list is to shed light on the women of the MCU who are normally overlooked in favor of the much larger and more front and center male cast.
Before I proceed, I want to acknowledge a few women who barely missed the cut. So here are a few honorable mentions:
– Jane Foster
– Maria Hill
– The Ancient One
Who is your favorite woman of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Let me know in the comments and look for my review of “Captain Marvel” coming soon.
10. Agent Peggy Carter
A British agent helping the United States in World War II, Peggy Carter assists in picking the most deserving recruit for the super soldier program eventually bonding with the scrawny Steve Rogers who becomes the super soldier Captain America. Agent Carter serves as a devoted ally to Rogers but establishes early on that she can hold her own when she attempts to stop a Hydra agent who stole a vile of the super soldier serum. While her character is slightly stained by the fact that she only falls for Rogers after he is given the perfect male physique, Carter’s bond with the captain provides one of the most touching relationships in the entire franchise. Agent Carter is, at least in the MCU timeline, the very first female hero in the expanded universe and becomes an essential piece of the overarching story as a founder of SHIELD. She eventually earned her own spinoff television series which is a testament to not only her popularity, but her convincing capabilities as a soldier and agent. She also has an equally badass daughter, Sharon, who became Rogers’ love interest in the sequels.
9. Hope Van Dyne
Hope is the first woman to get her name in the title of an MCU film through “Ant-Man and The Wasp” where she suits up alongside her on-and-off love interest Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, to take on the villain Ghost and rescue her mother, Janet Van Dyne, from the Quantum Realm. A stubborn and confident woman, we learn through two films that Hope’s off putting demeanor is due to her having lost her mother which created a fractured relationship with her father, the original Ant-Man Hank Pym. Hope wants nothing more than to follow her family’s legacy and don the Pym Tech suit which she does in the sequel becoming a frankly much more capable hero than her partner Ant-Man. Hope’s powers may be limited to her suit’s capabilities, but even without the uniform she is an expert at hand to hand combat and inherited her parent’s smarts. Hope Van Dyne may not always play well with others, but she has earned her place among the greats of the MCU.
8. Lady Sif
While she has been outshined by another woman from the “Thor” franchise in recent years, Lady Sif still holds a special place as the first powered female being of the MCU. In the God of Thunder’s first film she is introduced alongside the Warriors Three, loyal friends and allies of Thor. Sif is shown to be a capable fighter on the battlefield possessing similar abilities to Thor, minus the lightning, and serves as a more level-headed counterpart to the Avenger. Even Thor’s father Oden sees Sif as a fitting mate for his son, touting her as superior to Jane Foster and it’s hard to argue against that logic. Sif is not only a formidable warrior but also a smart, capable and independent woman rarely in need of saving. Sif was even incorporated into a few episodes of the MCU spinoff show “Agents of Shield”. Unfortunately, Jaimie Alexander was unable to reprise the role for the third “Thor” film leading her to be replaced in Thor’s story, but who knows she may still be out there helping spread peace among the realms.
7. Pepper Potts
The first main female character introduced in the MCU, Pepper is the love interest of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. Pepper is usually relegated to damsel in distress, but that doesn’t make her a bad character. On the contrary. Pepper is a determined and capable woman in her own right acting as CEO of Stark Industries for a time and even showing the knowledge and ability to use an Iron Man suit (or at least an arm) in “Iron Man 3”. Most of all though Pepper is Tony’s inspiration serving as a driving force behind his heroism as well as his inner conflict throughout the MCU. She is a big part of Tony’s character arc making Potts someone who gives Tony purpose both in and out of his suit. She’s also not afraid to jump into the fray to help whenever necessary even if it puts her own life in jeopardy. While not everyone likes Potts or the role she plays in the MCU it’s hard to deny her influence and rumor has it we may finally see her get her own full Iron Man-style suit in “Avengers: Endgame”.
Hela is the only villain to be featured on this list which is a testament to her abilities, story and design. Hela is introduced in “Thor: Ragnarok” as Thor’s long-imprisoned sister and the true heir to the thrown of Asgard. After Oden passes away Hela’s prison is broken and she returns to claim her birthright. Hela’s design perfectly compliments her title as the Goddess of Death with a horned helmet and pitch black uniform as well as a piercing stare that could cut through stone. She also possesses the ability to produce weapons, mostly swords and the like, instantly using her skills to takes on the whole of Asgard’s army at once. Thor and his allies find they can only defeat her by destroying Asgard itself meaning she is borderline immortal. Hela has been labeled as one of the MCU’s best villains with her dark backstory, intimidating abilities, awesome design and relentless ruthlessness helping her stand out even after only a single film.
It seems the “Thor” franchise was the source of a lot of female Marvel staples actually. Case and point, the third entry on this list from that series, Valkyrie. Valkyrie is not actually this characters name. However she is the last Valkyrie alive. She meets Thor during his imprisonment on Sakaar in “Thor: Ragnarok”. Serving as somewhat of a replacement for Lady Sif. Valkyrie was part of a group of female warriors that gives her her name who were decimated by Hela leading this Valkyrie to take refuge on Sakaar and turn to alcoholism to drown her pain. Valkyrie proves to be a powerful warrior and eventually teams with Thor to escape Sakaar and take on Hela. Like Hela, Valkyrie became memorable after only a single film, but makes the character even more interesting is she serves as the first LGBTQ hero in the franchise having been confirmed as bisexual. Unlike other female heroes she doesn’t have a romantic connection to her male counterpart, instead showing a respect for Thor that he returns. Even then some have called her a superior female partner for Thor when compared to both Sif and Jane Foster.
While 2018’s “Black Panther” is T’Challa’s story the true standout character is his younger sister Shuri. Shuri is a mastermind whose technical genius rivals even Tony Stark. She is responsible for many of the gadgets and weapons the Black Panther uses in the field, designing his nanotech suit, his sound canceling shoes, and devices that can take control of vehicles and aircrafts. She is a committed ally to her brother and even goes into battle against Killmonger using a pair of sonic weapons of her own design. In “Avengers: Infinity War” she is tasked with removing the Mind Stone from Vision by reorganizing his mechanical makeup further showcasing her brilliance as a masterm of technology. While there were several women from “Black Panther” that could have made this list Shuri was the most deserving because she’s not just a warrior, she’s possibly the smartest character in the MCU. While other characters tend to take themsleves more seriously, Shuri’s youthful sarcasm and sense of humor make her one of the most delightful and memorable characters from Wakanda.
Gamora is an alien whose people were attacked and half the population killed by Thanos. Seeing potential in her bravery, the Titan took her in as his surrogate daughter grooming her as his heir. We first meet her in “Guardians of the Galaxy” where she is charged by Thanos to retrieve the orb containing the Power Stone but betrays her father knowing what he plans to do with it. Eventually she joins the Guardians and develops a romance with Star Lord. Her natural leadership skills and fighting abilities make her the most well rounded of the team and possibly the most famous, or infamous, of the Guardians as she is considered by many to be the “fiercest woman in the galaxy”. Gamora can be both ruthless and sympathetic having been trained as a relentless soldier but finding her more delicate side through her friendship with the Guardians. Gamora’s relationship to Thanos has made her an integral part of the overarching story of the MCU that was brought to a head in “Infinity War” and serves as one of the most emotional scenes in the entire MCU canon.
2. Scarlet Witch
Possibly the most powerful female hero in the MCU other than Captain Marvel, Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, is the MCU’s take on the X-Man character who is presented as a gifted individual rather than a mutant. Along with her brother Pietro, Wanda is the result of experiments by Hydra using the Mind Stone which granted her the abilities of telekinesis, mind manipulation and energy projection. Wanda has gone through one of the most prominent character evolutions of any hero in the MCU evolving from an ally of the evil Ultron seeking vengeance for her parents’ deaths to a confident hero even after she inadvertently kills innocents during a mission. During that time she has learned how to harness her powers while her emotional growth and character arc has made her among the most relatable heroes in the franchise especailly thoguh her unique relationship with the android Vision. Scarlet Witch has certainly become and important and valuable asset to the Avengers and as a testament to her power she’s the only one who has the ability to destroy and Infinity Stone. Quite impressive indeed.
1. Black Widow
Yes it’s the easy choice. Not it’s not the most inspired choice. I don’t care. The first female hero in the MCU, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow is a reformed Russian assassin who is put in charge of guarding and reporting on Tony Stark in “Iron Man 2”. Eventually she reveals herself as the cat-suited hero and becomes the first female member of the MCU’s Avengers. Despite having no super powers Black Widow is shown to be one of the most capable fighters on the team in hand to hand combat. While she starts off as an all-business S.H.I.E.L.D. agent we have seen her open up more over hte course of five films as she has served as a powerful support system for the lieks of Hawkeye, Bruce Banner and Captain America. She has also made huge sacrifices to be the perfect agent, including sterilization. A fierce friend, a talented fighter, and one of the leading members of the Avengers Black Widow has led the way for nearly every woman on this list. Her popularity has grown to much there has been demand for a solo film reportedly in the works.