Pick up a Marvel comic (or any comic for that matter), and as you flip through the pages, you’ll see a great number of human specimens, both male and female. This is simply par for the course when it comes to the medium, as it features the best humanity has to offer. This is, after all a world of superheroes, of saviors and warriors, and all of these characters need to be in peak physical condition if they have any hope of doing what is expected of them. You will rarely see them train, because that is the beauty of characters living on the page — they are “born” perfect.
However, the same cannot be said for the actors chosen to play these roles on the big screen. While the comic book characters come with the required muscle to perform their superheroics, actual human actors have to spend a lot of time bulking up in the gym to convincingly portray everyone’s favorite superheroes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, being the vast tapestry of characters that it is, sets a precedent physically; one that newcomers must strive to live up to. Here, CBR visits the entire MCU to list the 15 buffest actors that populate it, in no particular order.
15. CHRIS EVANS
It’s no easy feat to bring Steve Rogers to life. After all, Captain America is supposed to be the ultimate human specimen, the perfect athlete and the absolute peak of the human physique. The serum he was injected with made him the world’s greatest super-soldier, a man whose powers are just one push away from being what the common man is able to accomplish.
And yet, for more than five films spanning seven years and counting, Chris Evans has been able to convince everyone that he truly is a superhero. The actor has more than shown his dedication to the role, coming back for each movie with not only massive bulk, but a prowess and athleticism that truly make us believe he is Steve Rogers in the flesh.
14. PAUL RUDD
Back when it was announced that Paul Rudd would be bringing Scott Lang to life, many were taken aback. He wasn’t a bad choice at all, but he also wasn’t necessarily at the top of anyone’s superhero list. Well into his forties, no one expected Rudd to take the physicality of the role as seriously as he did. When he showed up in Ant-Man, not only had he shed some pounds, he had become shredded.
Paul Rudd helped reinforce the idea that Marvel could turn any actor, no matter their reputation or background, into a superhero. In Ant-Man, the actor had the obligatory Marvel shirtless scene to show off just how hard he had worked to become Scott Lang. He might not be the biggest Avenger out there (in fact, he’s technically the smallest), but he put in the work nonetheless, especially when he didn’t necessarily have to. That’s commitment.
13. SCARLETT JOHANSSON
To become the Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson had to take on the physicality of the role like few ever could. Ever since her first appearance in Iron Man 2, the actress embodied the role of Natasha Romanoff perfectly, her character able to stand toe-to-toe with any other Marvel superhero. Not only that, she managed to develop a huge presence, despite her 5’3” height.
Johansson may not be as massive as her male co-stars, but she doesn’t need to be. In her case, it’s not about absolute size, it’s about being the strongest she can be. From the look of things, including the training and the choreography she has pulled in her various MCU appearances, we have no doubt that Scarlett Johansson could take almost anyone one of us out with a single punch.
12. TOM HOLLAND
Even before he was Spider-Man, Tom Holland was a very athletic person. In fact, you might have heard of the story of his audition, where the actor performed an actual flip to help convince the powers that be that he was the obvious choice to bring Peter Parker to life in the MCU. Holland isn’t the bulkiest superhero out there, but he is one who takes his training very seriously.
Online, you can find many videos of the actor going through various impressive weightlifting and gymnastics exercises to accurately portray Spider-Man. Spandex may be the norm for most superheroes, but it’s actually rare when it comes to the Avengers. No one envies wearing that skin-tight suit, but Holland proves that with the right dedication, becoming Spider-Man is feat of strength all its own.
11. MATTHEW COX
In the first season of Daredevil, Matthew Cox spent most of his time dressed in black gear, fighting his way through seemingly endless hordes of ninjas. To bring the Man Without Fear to life, Cox developed a physique to match that of a man who spends his time running and jumping on rooftops. Much like Captain America, he is not the biggest superhero, but he more than makes up for it in lean muscle.
Surely the actor must have gone through excessive training and fight choreography to convince us all that he is a lifelong martial artist, and he boasts the body to prove it. What’s more, the actor has to maintain this physical status for incredibly long periods of time, considering he works on a television schedule, with over three seasons worth of appearance – meaning he has more screen time than any of the Avengers.
10. ADRIANNE PALICKI
On Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Adrianne Palicki was introduced as a Hydra villain, but it wasn’t long before her true identity was revealed: Bobbi Morse, aka Mockingbird. As essentially the first major Avenger character to appear on the show, Palicki demonstrated that her character could truly stand toe-to-toe with any member of the Avengers we had seen in the movies.
Palicki slipped into the role effortlessly, joining the series’ cast as the only television-bound Avenger. There, she proved that she could give Scarlett Johansson a run for her money as the ultimate female fighter. On the series, Palicki showed us that she physically had all that it took to convincingly bring the most efficient and athletic agent to the screen. It has officially reached a point that the actress deserves a chance to interact with the big guns of the MCU.
9. CHADWICK BOSEMAN
Chadwick Boseman was brought in as the third peg in the conflict between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War. Not only did the actor have to go toe-to-toe against the Winter Solider without a suit on, he also had to slip into a black cat suit to fight off Captain America and the rest of his team of Avengers. Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers might be an imposing figure, but not to Boseman.
In fact, as the King of Wakanda, Boseman dwarfs Captain America by comparison. He boasts a physical presence that is equally intimidating and much more regal. Although we have not yet seen him in his own solo movie, what little we have seen of the character in action is all the evidence we need to certify Chadwick Boseman as one of the buffest MCU superheroes.
8. CHLOE BENNETT
Chloe Bennett had a very difficult task ahead of her. She was introduced as a new character on the pilot of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but somewhere along the second season she had to prove her worth not only as a spy, but as an official Marvel superhero when he real identity was revealed as Daisy Johnson, aka Quake. Sure, as an Inhuman, Daisy has special powers, but she uses them more as a last recourse.
First and foremost, Daisy is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and Bennett never once allowed us to doubt her. On the series, she proved her strength by delivering increasingly amazing action sequences that without question required a lot of work and practice to pull off. But here’s the thing: with her impressive athletic abilities, Bennett performs it all admirably, and she continues doing that on a weekly basis, after more than five seasons.
7. JON BERNTHAL
On the second season of Daredevil, Jon Bernthal arrived on the scene as a broken man, a former United States Marine Corps soldier who lost his family to wanton violence. Right off the bat, the actor had to boast the physicality that comes with a background in the military. Not only that, the actor had to be able to hold his own against Charlie Cox’s Daredevil, a character who already had a strong physical presence.
In the comics, Frank Castle is an unstoppable vengeance machine, a monster who stalks his victims. For his portrayal of the iconic vigilante, Bernthal had to develop a physique that would make you believe his bloodied past, as well as his willingness to destroy every criminal that stands in his way. On The Punisher, Bernthal went above and beyond to accurately bring the physicality of Frank Castle to the screen.
6. HENRY SIMMONS
As Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie, Henry Simmons pretty much snuck up on everyone when he was introduced in the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Although he was a new addition to the team, it wasn’t long before he became a full-fledged series regular, and one of the most important members of Coulson’s team. This team might not have many superheroes on it, but Mack sure looks the part.
In fact, the actor is so massive that the character has been mistaken for an Inhuman before. The series does like to poke fun at Simmons’ impressive physique, all the while showcasing the character as nothing short of a superhero with a heart of gold. Mack might “just be” a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but like Black Widow or Hawkeye, he could easily become an asset to the Avengers.
5. CHRIS PRATT
Before he became a movie star, Chris Pratt was far from anyone’s first choice to play Star-Lord, or any superhero for that matter. But the actor charmed director James Gunn, and he got the role. All that was left for him to do was transform his body into that of a superhero. Pratt managed to do that in spades. When next we saw him in Guardians of the Galaxy, the actor was unrecognizable.
The actor proved that with the right commitment, anyone could become a superhero. On top of all this, he managed to take things even further by keeping this physique, and building upon it for the sequel. In fact, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Pratt appears to be even bigger, and stronger. We will see how the actor compares to the rest of the Avengers in Infinity War.
4. DANAI GURIRA
On The Walking Dead, Danai Gurira has shown many times over how incredibly fit she is. Perhaps it’s all those years of swinging a sword at zombies – but it’s actually more than that. The woman is in peak physical condition, and she takes that very seriously. Now, the actress is bound to make her MCU debut in Black Panther as Okoye, a member of the Dora Milaje.
The Dora Milaje are the most fiercesome of warriors, and clearly Gurira is a perfect choice for such a role. Although we have yet to see her in action in that particular context, we know that this is a role that will fit her like a glove, and that she will have no trouble bringing to life one of the most skilled warriors the nation of Wakanda has to offer.
3. MIKE COLTER
In the comic books, few characters can match the sheer size and strength of Luke Cage. The character is massive, a man whose super-strength is made even more formidable thanks to his size. Bringing that character to the screen would prove to be a challenge – that is, until Mike Colter stepped into the role. Without even trying, the man easily fit into Luke Cage’s iconic yellow t-shirt.
Next to him, all of the other Defenders look microscopic. Colter easily stands above the pack of the general populace, but in a room of superheroes, he manages to stand out. Whether he is ripping doors off cars or smashing through cement walls, Colter easily makes us believe that he is indestructible and that super-strength is an actual power that the actor possesses.
2. CHRIS HEMSWORTH
Back when he was first training for the role of Thor, it was reported that Chris Hemsworth had gained so much muscle that the actor actually couldn’t fit into his God of Thunder costume. If that isn’t already proof enough of the actor’s sheer bulk, there is also the fact that pretty much any and all of his co-stars actually refer to Hemsworth as a god-like being.
As the Odinson, Hemsworth has never failed to put on the appropriate weight to accurately bring a god-worthy physique to the screen, even after losing so many pounds for other roles. With each subsequent appearance, the actor seems to redefine what it means to train for the role of Thor. With his next appearance in Avengers: Infinity War, the actor isn’t slowing down, showing that he truly is one of the biggest Avengers.
1. DAVE BATISTA
As a former wrestler, Dave Batista has always been quite a few notches above massive. But when he was introduced to the MCU as Drax the Destroyer, it seems the actor took things even further. Drax is effectively a giant when it comes to body mass, and Batista was up to the challenge of accurately bringing the character’s size to the screen.
Over the course of two films, Batista has towered above every actor he has shared the screen with. Even Chris Pratt, who went through his own impressive body transformation, can’t come close to matching Batista. The truth of the matter is, when it comes to size, no other MCU actor can come close to matching Batista. Well, other than the Hulk, that is. And we will all witness that firsthand when Infinity War arrives next May.
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