The Marvel Cinematic Universe showed audiences that a man could fly (as long as he was in a robotic suit of high-tech armor, or a literal god), and the slow threading of various superheroes into a cohesive universe has been amazing. But of all the mighty and astonishing superheroes that make up Marvel’s premiere super-team, which is the most incredible?
To settle the question, we’re ranking the most powerful members of the Avengers, starting from the bottom and ending with the strongest one there is. To qualify, we counted all the heroes in the Avengers movies, obviously, as well as characters who appeared on Iron Man or Captain America’s team in Captain America: Civil War, both because they’ve all been Avengers at one point or another in the comics, and because part of the fun of it was the two heroes assembling their own team of Avengers.
We’ll start with the obvious loser on the team, the Avengers’ arrogant archer Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye. While the Hawkeye of the comics has built a loyal cult fanbase based largely on David Aja and Matt Fraction’s stripped-down formalist run on his solo book, none of those qualities are visible in the Hawkeye of the MCU. He’s technically a super-spy on the level of Black Widow, but his defining moments in the movies involve him decidedly not stopping Thor from getting to his magic hammer (Thor), getting mind controlled by Loki (Avengers), almost being shot to death (Avengers: Age of Ultron), and getting immediately taken out by Black Panther in an airport brawl (Captain America: Civil War).
There’s certainly a charm to a lovable loser who keeps fumbling his way through dangerous situations, but unfortunately for Hawkeye, we’re not giving extra credit for a downtrodden demeanor. Hawkeye easily lands at the bottom tier of the team, at least until they fight a supervillain whose only weakness is arrows.
Believe it or not, there was a time when Quicksilver, the white-haired on-again/off-again son of Magneto, was in two movies in the same year (X-Men: Days of Future Past and Avengers: Age of Ultron). It’s certainly hard to believe, since his appearance in Ultron is so bad it’s rocketed him down to the Hawkeye tier of our list.
His power is superspeed, which seems like it would keep him a bit higher on a list of most powerful superheroes in the MCU, but he was shot to death by Ultron’s machine guns. Dying because of regular bullets, especially when you’re a literal superhero with superpowers, is just embarrassing. Superman over at DC is known for being faster than a speeding bullet, but clearly Quicksilver isn’t, which makes his “super” speed pretty unimpressive, if you ask us.
There’s no shame in Black Widow’s placement this far down the list. In a world with gods, robots, magic, and aliens, Black Widow earning a spot on the Avengers’ roster due to sheer competence is nothing to be ashamed of. Like Hawkeye, she’s a super-spy, but unlike Barton, she knows better than to use an outdated weapon that mankind has been developing countermeasures against for literally thousands of years. She also gets a few extra credit points for appearing in so many Marvel movies. There’s got to be some reason that Iron Man, Nick Fury, and Captain America rely on her so much, even if actual onscreen examples of her excellence haven’t been as constant as some of her peers.
If this list were graded on charm and the strength of the supporting cast, Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang would easily vault near the top. Unfortunately for the diminutive dynamo, we’re grading on sheer power, and Ant-Man’s skills don’t quite stack up. There’s a reason that the climax of Ant-Man goes for easy laughs with the constant reminder of the scale of Ant-Man and Yellowjacket’s final battle.
To be fair to the reformed con man, he did test out growing to a massive size in Captain America: Civil War, but no one ever grows to a massive size to win a fight. Call it a byproduct of our obsession with David and Goliath stories, but generally the only time a character gets bigger is to be satisfyingly knocked over like an AT-AT Walker on Hoth. Still, actual superpowered technology beats quick-dying quasi-mutants and super-spies on this list.
You know what rules? Flying. You know what rules even more? Flying around on awesome metal wings while you try to save the world from fascism with your best buddy Captain America. Sam Wilson has all the training that comes from working as a pararescue airman for years, plus the coolest technology that doesn’t come with a Stark branding. There’s a reason Captain America trusts him to watch his back.
The only downside to the MCU Falcon is that they decided to go with a robotic drone version of his comics counterpart’s faithful Redwing. Sure, talking to birds like some sort of high-flying Aquaman isn’t the greatest power, but we’re getting to the superpowered side of this list, so he’d need something to rank a bit higher. Plus, if we’re being fair, he actually lost to this next Avenger, and we’re nothing if not objective.
He might look like a teen exploring his identity at Hot Topic, but Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, a.k.a. the Winter Soldier, is a force to be reckoned with. Tortured and mind-controlled by HYDRA, he’s been on so many secret assassination missions that his name is a legend in super-spy circles. Add in a super-strong and super-flexible metal arm that can punch a hole through concrete, along with a version of the Super Soldier Serum that powers Captain America, and the Winter Soldier’s a formidable threat.
Plus, thanks to his central role in two different Captain America movies, we’ve actually seen him fight a good chunk of the Avengers, making his placement on this list fairly easy. Just imagine playing rock, paper, scissors against a guy with a metal arm. Now that’s intimidating.
They say it’s good to have friends in high places, but generally that means that those friends can get you a job or maybe loan you some money. For James “Rhodey” Rhodes, being best friends with Tony Stark means that he gets a personalized version of high-tech armor with enough guns and missiles to fuel a small war.
As War Machine, Rhodey’s got all the explosive offense of early Iron Man armors combined with the exacting methodology of a U.S. Army pilot, basically walking around in a wearable fighter jet. The Winter Soldier might be a brilliant assassin with a metal arm, but when you’re wearing a mobile armory capable of shooting a missile from 1000 feet away, it’s hard to imagine Bucky winning against War Machine.
Smart, superpowered, and fitted out with Stark tech, Spider-Man’s a late, but powerful, addition to the MCU. His relative youth and experience might cause him trouble in his regular life as Peter Parker, but his spidery alter ego, is a powerhouse. In his first appearance in the MCU in Captain America: Civil War, he’s able to disable Winter Soldier and Falcon, bring down a Gi(Ant) Man, and even keep up with Captain America. That’s a pretty strong showing for the young superhero.
Plus, in Spider-Man: Homecoming, audiences saw just how extensive the Stark-designed suit really was, with a powerful on-board AI, thousands of different kinds of webbing, and even an automated fight simulator. You give someone with actual superpowers some Stark tech, and they get bumped up to a whole new tier.
Captain America’s the full package, and we’re not just talking about actor Chris Evans. Steve Rogers has superpowers, fighting prowess, and an indestructible vibranium shield that’s the closest thing to unbreakable in the MCU (until adamantium shows up). Plus, if we’re counting raw charisma as a superpower, that’s one more advantage Cap has got to push him into the upper tier of powerful Avengers.
Onscreen, he’s handily beaten nearly every character on this list, whether in fistfights (Spider-Man) or footraces (Falcon). Unfortunately, there’s one opponent he wasn’t able to beat, even when the fight took place in his own movie.
Iron Man is everyone’s favorite genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, and that’s even before you get to the laser-blasting, high-tech weaponry all wrapped up in a suit powered by tech more powerful than a literal nuclear reactor. Iron Man’s got some power, is what we’re saying. And that’s only in one suit, not including the literal dozens that he can control remotely, or the giant suit he built especially to beat down the strongest thing in the world.
While his lack of close combat experience might seem to drop him a bit lower, the ending of Captain America: Civil War is literally him fighting Captain America and the Winter Soldier to a standstill, even with a barely functioning suit, so he’s more than earned his spot.
Tony Stark might be an eccentric rich genius in America who gets treated like a king, but he’s not an actual king like the Black Panther, ruler of Wakanda. Like Iron Man, he’s got a technologically advanced suit—though in his case, it’s made of nigh-indestructible vibranium instead if iron— and the resources to build any gadget he needs. But Black Panther’s also got the fight training that Stark lacks, along with highly trained bodyguards, and the backing of an entire country so technologically advanced it makes New York City look like Amish country.
Plus, depending on how closely the upcoming movie follows his comic book origins, Black Panther might also have some mystical background, as he’s able to communicate to Bast, the Panther goddess who gives him enhanced senses and strength. Even if the movie veers more toward realism, well, he’s definitively beaten Iron Man a few different times , so even this spot on the list might be conservative.
This is a bit of a tough one, since the Scarlet Witch of the MCU might be significantly less powerful than the comics version. In the comics, the Scarlet Witch is a ridiculously powerful mutant who was able to completely erase the mutant genome from the planet with her chaos magic, but the comics’ “No more mutants” has nothing on Disney’s “No mutants (until we buy the rights to the X-Men back).” As a result, the Scarlet Witch of the MCU uses abilities that run closer to telekinesis and telepathy than the magical powers of her comics counterpart.
Even without magic, though, she’s a powerful superheroine, able to take down half the team under Ultron’s orders. Still, considering the Doctor Strange movie has put magic squarely in the realm of the possible, it’s not out of the question that we’ll be seeing Wanda Maximoff reach closer to the ridiculous power of the comics. She might be young and have questionable taste in robot men, but being the only magic user on the Avengers puts her over the top. And speaking of questionable robot men?
In the comics, the Infinity Gems are the most powerful items in the universe, used in conjunction with the Infinity Gauntlet to wield complete control over basically everything. While there’s not full confirmation that the MCU will follow suit until the release of Avengers: Infinity War, it’s not a far stretch to say that the magical MacGuffins are incredibly powerful. The Vision, the cybernetic homunculus based on Tony Stark’s JARVIS AI, has the Mind Gem embedded in his forehead, giving him the powers of density manipulation, intangibility, and laser blasts. Even before the Mind Gem was used to power everyone’s favorite walking AI, it was used to by Loki in a magic staff to mind control followers and bring a horde of alien invaders to attack earth in The Avengers.
Altogether, the combination of a brilliant AI, laser blasts, and a power source derived from a fundamental power source of the entire Marvel universe makes The Vision almost godlike.
Unfortunately for Vision, godlike isn’t godly, and Thor is the actual God of Thunder, which puts him just over the top. Faster than a bolt of lightning, more powerful than a burst of thunder, able to leap tall buildings in a single throw (of his hammer)! In a world of super-soldiers and tech geniuses, only a god can keep the rest of the Avengers humble. Even if you discount his magic hammer, or his control of storms, or even his super-strength, he’s the prince of Asgard, a popular scion of a supremely powerful king who commands a whole army of gods. Each one of Thor’s many friends and family members are nearly as strong as he is, living in a god-filled utopia in space. Oh, and for eons, there was an entire basement full of world-ending weapons under his dad’s castle. In the Marvel Universe, there’s no one who can command that level of power. Well, almost no one…
The Hulk has beaten basically everyone in the entire Marvel Universe a few different times, often in (literally) earth-shattering ways, and that’s just in the comics. In the MCU, Hulk’s personally beaten the tar out of Thor, Iron Man, Loki, The Abomination, and the entire U.S. Army—and those are just the characters who’ve actually bothered to fight him instead of just running away. When Iron Man’s response to Loki in The Avengers is to offer up the fact that the Avengers have Hulk on their side, it’s not a joke. Hulk really is the strongest one there is.