The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a huge impact on cinema. Now, half of the media produce is superhero related and countless film studios are trying to replicate that success by creating their own shared universes. From monster movies, to superheroes on film and television, everyone wants a piece of the action. But nothing has come close to touching the impact that the MCU has had. The MCU has also had a huge effect on the lives of all the crew working on the films, as they have been promised financial stability for years to come, given the ridiculous number of films that have been producer and are currently in different stages of production.
No one has had as much success as the actors involved in these projects, as they get huge multi-picture deals, world recognition, and a massive audience that now closely follows their career. It must be incredibly daunting, especially for the actors who weren’t particularly known before they accepted their superhero role. Even actors who were quite popular before becoming a part of the Marvel family had no idea what kind of success was in store for them. Here are 15 actors whose career was irrevocably changed by joining the MCU.
15. CHRIS PRATT
Chris Pratt’s success story is an incredibly unlikely one. He went from overweight loveable doofus Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation to six-pack A-lister seemingly overnight. Who would have ever thought he’d have it in him to get in such incredible shape after seeing his comedic work — it is truly astounding.
He had already gotten in shape for movies like Moneyball where he played American Major League Baseball player Scott Hatteberg and Zero Dark Thirty, where he played a member of SEAL Team 6. But it was only after people saw him in Guardians of the Galaxy that he became the envy of every guy and the man of every woman’s dreams. He has also managed to snag a role in another huge franchise: Jurassic Park.
14. SEBASTIAN STAN
Sebastian Stan wasn’t exactly known before accepting the role of Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s best friend and ally in World War II turned Soviet assassin turned Captain America ally. He had a few appearances on different shows like Gossip Girl and short roles in films like Rachel Getting Married and Black Swan. He was certainly a working actor, and he actually got work in some critically acclaimed films, but he wasn’t getting any big roles.
In fact, people only really turned their heads and noticed him in the Captain America sequel The Winter Soldier where he comes back from the dead and proves to be a worthy adversary for the Cap. He recently appeared in Logan Lucky and has quite a few projects in the works aside from his contractual obligations to Marvel.
13. CHRIS EVANS
Chris Evans had quite a few appearances in comic book movies before he got the role of Steve Rogers/Captain America. Before his MCU debut in The First Avenger, Evans was mostly known for playing Johnny Storm/The Human Torch in the Fantastic Four films. He was initially reluctant to take on another superhero role, especially since Marvel wanted him to sign a nine-picture contract.
That’s a huge undertaking that would consume at least 10 years of his life and he wasn’t sure he would be up for it, especially if the movies turned out to be terrible. Lucky for us, he took the role. Now he has become inseparable from the iconic character, and people will always associate him with the hero. It’s a gift few people get in life.
12. MARK RUFFALO
Mark Ruffalo is an incredibly gifted actor who has been nominated for three Academy Awards. He isn’t the type of actor you would expect to take on a superhero role, because he has mostly taken more serious roles in the past so it was quite a shock when he accepted the role of the Hulk in The Avengers. Marvel has had quite a bit of difficulty getting Bruce Banner/the Hulk right on film, but they found the perfect balance of world-weariness, anger and humor in Ruffalo.
Ruffalo continues to take roles in smaller-scale, dramatic films, so he has been able to maintain a balance between his superhero ventures and more prestige work. It is great that he is able to get financial stability from his MCU films, while also taking on smaller projects that provide far less return.
11. TOM HIDDLESTON
Outside of the UK, Tom Hiddleston was a complete unknown before he look the role of Thor’s scheming half-brother Loki. He has become extremely popular due to the role, mostly because Loki is the only recurring villain with any depth in the MCU. He has also become a sex-symbol, which led to a huge push from his fan base to make him the next James Bond once Daniel Craig retires.
Now that Craig has signed on for another Bond film, we can’t be certain who the choice for the next British spy will be, but his chances aren’t bad, especially now that we have seen him play a Bond-type in the fantastic mini series The Night Manager. Hiddleston has also had the opportunity to star in a big-budget film since his turn as Loki — Kong: Skull Island. Not too shabby.
10. GWYNETH PALTROW
Gwyneth Paltrow was already a household name before she appeared as Pepper Potts in Iron Man, but her role certainly gave her acting career a huge boost and it was certainly in a slump before she joined the MCU. She first rose to fame with roles in a slew of critically acclaimed movies like Se7en, Shakespeare in Love and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
She then had a string of not-so-great films before being cast in Iron Man. Now she is back on top, with quite a few MCU films under her belt as well as strong performances in films like Country Strong. She makes for a perfect balance to Robert Downey Jr. fast-talking Tony Stark and their chemistry together helped launch the MCU into the stratosphere.
9. CLARK GREGG
Clark Gregg has been in the acting business since the late ’80s, but you probably never would have heard of him if it wasn’t for his role as Agent Phil Coulson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We all assumed that his Marvel career was over after his tearful death in The Avengers at the hands of Loki that ultimately brought the team together, but that wasn’t the case at all.
In fact, his career had just begun to take off after his “death”. After that film, he became a major player in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But his career hasn’t stopped there. He also does a lot of voiceover work for Marvel, reprising his role as Agent Coulson in various video games and the Ultimate Spider-Man animated television series.
8. CHADWICK BOSEMAN
Before joining the MCU, Chadwick Boseman was mostly known for his biographical film work. He played Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get On Up. He had certainly proven himself as a capable actor, and he was getting consistent work but he was far from being a household name.
People absolutely loved Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War. For many fans, he was the best part of the entire film, and that is why so many people are so excited for the release of his solo film. He certainly had some of the best lines, and he embodied the part perfectly. Although he is only working on MCU related films for the foreseeable future, we can’t imagine Boseman disappearing from Hollywood any time soon.
7. JEREMY RENNER
Jeremy Renner is a solid actor with fantastic roles in movies like The Hurt Locker where he played Staff Sergeant William James, leader of a bomb squad or his turn in The Town where he played James Coughlin, a loose cannon bank robber with a violent streak. When Renner was first cast as Hawkeye in Thor, he wasn’t given much to do with the role. He was certainly doing everything right, but he didn’t have much time to shine.
It wasn’t until Avengers: Age of Ultron that he got his moment to shine and the audience really fell in love with the character. Since he began his work in the MCU, he’s been in quite a few fantastic, big budget movies like the Mission Impossible series, the ’70s caper American Hustle and cerebral sci-fi film Arrival.
6. HAYLEY ATWELL
Hayley Atwell had quite a career in the UK starring in a lot of British miniseries and TV movies, but she didn’t reach a larger market until she appeared as Agent Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger, where she captured the heart of Captain Rogers, and the audience.
Since then, she has appeared in numerous MCU films and the TV series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Much like, Agent Phil Coulson, she got her own spin-off show entitled Agent Carter which only lasted 18 episodes, much to the dismay of fans. Although she hasn’t received as much of a career boost as some of the actors on this list, she has still become instantly recognizable as the agent who may be a love interest of the hero, but can still kick butt all on her own. This isn’t a gal that needs saving.
5. TOM HOLLAND
Tom Holland was a complete unknown before he was cast as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War. People were understandably concerned that he might not be up to the task but he proved everything wrong. People were also concerned that the character might be short-changed given the fact that there were so many other moving parts in that film, but we got just enough of him to leave us wanted more.
Holland was universally praised for his portrayal of the character, and he quickly got his own solo movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming. As expected, he got a lot of praise and the film got great reviews. Holland is still very young, but it is clear that he has star power and he will certainly have a lot of fantastic roles down the road.
4. ANTHONY MACKIE
Arguably, Anthony Mackie’s first big role was as Sergeant JT Sanborn, the Oscar-winning Best Picture The Hurt Locker. Actually, Mackie has appeared in two Best Picture winners, the other being Million Dollar Baby. He has certainly had steady work in film over the years, but nothing he has been in has come close to the popularity of his portrayal of Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and its MCU sequels.
Mackie’s filmography continues to grow thanks to his new-found fandom that provides fantastic exposure for him. He already has 56 acting credits to his name, and he’s just begun. Not many people can say that they have portrayed both Tupac Shakur and Martin Luther King Jr. We’re excited to see what his fame will offer him in terms of great roles in the future.
3. CHRIS HEMSWORTH
Before obtaining the role of Thor, Chris Hemsworth was mostly known to American audiences for his short appearance in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot where he played George Kirk. Before that, he had a sizeable following in Australia for his role on the soap opera Home and Away.
Since then, he has been a leading man in a few feature films like Snow White and the Huntsman (and its sequel), Rush and In the Heart of the Sea. He also had a prominent role in another mega-franchise: Ghostbusters, where he played the hilariously clueless receptionist of the Ghostbusters named Kevin. Thor has clearly made a huge difference in his career, as he went from a local celebrity in Australia to worldwide fame in the blink of an eye.
2. DAVE BAUTISTA
Before Guardians of the Galaxy, no one would have ever expected Dave Bautista to be a good actor, let alone have comedic chops. Before taking on the role of Drax the Destroyer, the alien who takes everything people say literally because he doesn’t understand figure of speech or sarcasm, Bautista was mostly known as a professional wrestler.
Now that he has proven his merits as an actor, he has taken on quite a few compelling roles outside of the Marvel Universe. In Spectre, he played the menacing brute of a henchman named Hinx who didn’t utter a word but certainly instilled fear in us. He also has a role in Blade Runner: 2049 as Sapper Morton which proves that he can take on quite meaty, emotional roles as well.
1. ROBERT DOWNEY JR.
Robert Downey Jr. is currently living the dream. Iron Man single-handedly started the mega-franchise, and it is in large part because he plays Tony Stark perfectly, with a mix of arrogance, wit and charm that was irresistible to audiences. Marvel could not have found an actor better suited for the role. But he wasn’t always such a superstar.
He rose to the mainstream in the ’80s and ’90s in films like Less Than Zero, Chaplin and Natural Born Killers. But in the late ’90s and early ’00s, he developed a substance abuse problem and was arrested multiple times. After going through rehab, he nabbed great roles in films like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and A Scanner Darkly. He really hit it big with Iron Man, which shot his career to heights he had never dreamed of before.
Are there any other actors we may have missed? Let us know in the comments section!
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