The Marvel Cinematic Universe does plenty of things right. From the beginning, its focus on its core characters helped Marvel Studios build something truly magical. In just over ten years, we've been to the far reaches of space with the Guardians of the Galaxy, defended Wakanda with Black Panther and pulled moons from orbit with Thanos. But to bring a character to life from the comic books to the big screen takes more than writing and acting and all of that. It takes a stellar, accurate costume, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is packed full of them.
Sure, there are some obvious successes, what with the millions of Iron Man armors and walking, talking alien species like Rocket Raccoon and Groot. But for every Captain America's shield and Black Widow's gauntlets, there's a misfire, something that just doesn't seem quite right. For some, it's having their characters appear in an MCU television or Netflix show rather than on the big screen. For others, it's just a missed opportunity or a need to make a character more grounded. And hey, it happens. But for now, let's look at ten MCU costumes that were totally accurate, and ten that missed the target.
20 ACCURATE: IRON MAN
Yep, you probably guessed it. The crown jewel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a pretty graceful transition to film, and aside from the charisma of actor Robert Downey Jr., we'd say Iron Man's many suits of armor are next up on a list of most accurate adaptations from the comics. While Iron Man has sported a number of corny and campy looks in the books (looking at you Silver Centurion armor), more recent Iron Man armors have made a stellar transition to film. The first Iron Man film gave us a look at the bulky, Mark I suit that Tony made in a cave, with a box of scraps.
Things quickly amped up, and we started to see a number of iconic suits from the comics on the big screen. The standard red and gold armor, and its many incarnations are a highlight of the films, with fun departures like the space suit and Mark V briefcase suit spicing things up. Additional top marks have to go to the Bleeding Edge armor and the Hulkbuster suit. The former is a celebration of post-Captain America: Civil War Tony Stark, while the latter is a fan-favorite that basically changed the way we looked at the MCU when it debuted in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron.
19 NOTHING LIKE IT: HAWKEYE
You may be thinking, "Why should Hawkeye have an accurate costume? His mask is silly and stupid." Well, we're here to tell you that there are other ways that Hawkeye's costume could've been faithful to the source material. When we're first introduced to Hawkeye, his look makes sense to keep the character grounded in reality, given that we were only at the first Thor film in 2011. He's decked out in tactical gear, dubbed "the Hawk," and seems to be an expert marksman. We don't get a great look at his costume, though.
In 2012's The Avengers, Hawkeye had a purple version of his tactical costume.
Those looks seemed uninspired. Hawkeye has a ton of great things to pull from in terms of costumes from the comics, none of which really lead to the magical cloak-like outfit he wears in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The easiest to match would be his modern T-shirt with a purple arrow on it. It would go a long way to show that Clint Barton is celebrating his "normal life" when he's not with The Avengers. It would also shout out fans of Matt Fraction and David Aja's stellar Hawkeye run. It doesn't offer much protection, but neither does a bow and arrow.
18 ACCURATE: DOCTOR STRANGE
Not everyone was sold on the casting announcement that Sherlock alum Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing Doctor Strange in a live-action film. But as soon as we got our first glimpse of the actor in full-on comics accurate Doctor Strange garb, fans were totally sold. And things only got better when we saw the hero in action in a solo film. Doctor Strange introduced us to the lore of the Sorcerer Supreme wonderfully, and his costume was truly on-point. Everything from Stephen Strange's Cloak of Levitation to the Eye of Agamotto was there, not to mention little details like a bit of grey hair on his head and thin facial hair.
Oddly enough, the Cloak of Levitation actually became the standout piece of clothing here, sealing the deal on just how accurate the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the costume was. The Cloak had its own personality, and when it moved independently of Doctor Strange, it looks like it could have been pulled straight from a panel of the books. The rest of the costume, from its colors to abilities, is the spitting image of the good doctor and his appearance in the comics, and there's really not much we could have asked for.
17 NOTHING LIKE IT: DEATHLOK
It's hard to give Deathlok much of a hard time when we consider the budgeting differences between the Marvel Cinematic Universe live action films and the "connected" MCU TV shows on ABC. After all, the former gave us the Guardians of the Galaxy and the later gave us The Inhumans (we're just talking about the costumes for now!). But Michael Peterson's appearances on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were still great, and the sort-of hero is played wonderfully well, it's just a shame that the costume doesn't live up to the expectations set by the comic book source material.
In comics, Deathlok is a cyborg with a strange but menacing design.
Even if his earlier appearances come off as low-budget or cheesy, it still serves the point. With a look that's a cross between Cable and a red version of Baron Zemo's purple costume, Deathlok's appearance was kind of scary, but the transition to live-action left his costume muted and tired, looking more like stealthy tactical gear than a flashy mercenary suit that also helps keep him alive. All that aside, we still have to revel in the fact that we did get some form of Deathlok in live-action, and for now, that's good enough for us.
16 ACCURATE: BLACK WIDOW
In a world full of aliens in royal garb and heroes with American flags painted on them, it could have been hard to make Black Widow stand out. Well, it helps to have a comics-accurate appearance and an incredible performance from Scarlett Johansson. Since her first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2010's Iron Man 2, Black Widow has been an iconic part of the film series, and her costume has mirrored closely her appearances in the comic book source material. Sure, it's mostly all-black tactical gear, but the gadgets are where this really stands out.
In 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Widow's suit gets an upgrade, with blue neon tracing much of the suit. She also has her shock gauntlets and batons, allowing the Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation of the character to inch closer to the comics. This goes one step further in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, where she uses those gadgets to stop Black Panther in his tracks and to face off against some of the strongest and fiercest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For a costume that hinges on simplicity to be accurate, the MCU does wonders by keeping things interesting while staying totally true to its roots in the comics.
15 NOTHING LIKE IT: MALEKITH
There are a lot of things to be said about the characters of 2013's Thor: The Dark World. For the sake of our collective sanity, we're just going to focus on Malekith here for a minute. The main villain of the Asgardian's sequel film, Malekith is the leader of the disgraced Dark Elves, and his appearance in the film is only matched by oddly-placed motives and his lackluster soapbox. In the comics, Malekith the Accursed is kind of like a cross between Loki and the Joker. He's maniacal, but calculating, and often succeeds in pulling a surprise betrayal on allies late in the game. He wants to control the Nine Realms and seek retribution for his people.
Malekith usually has a more colorful, frightening look than he did on screen.
In Thor: The Dark World, Malekith feels tired, and his ghastly, clown-like appearance from the source material is replaced by prosthetics and masks. Although the final fight of the film goes a long way to end on a high note, it doesn't forgive the weird use of Christopher Eccleston in a role that he could have made so much more. Gone is the appearance of his bright blue visage split down the middle, replaces by a battle wound and the only real Dark Elf face we see. Which is weird, since they seem pretty normal under the masks.
14 ACCURATE: WAR MACHINE
OK, so maybe we're cheating a little bit by including another armored superhero on this list, but hey, they could have messed this one up. Fortunately, James Rhodes made the transition to live-action seamlessly, taking that era's Iron Man armor one step further by customizing and personalizing it for the military-trained, armored alter-ego. The first appearance of War Machine might still be the best, where his long-awaited arrival pays off with a side-mounted mini-gun and all. As far as things in Iron Man 2 go, War Machine might be the best part of the film, and his back-to-back team-up with Iron Man remains a standout of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And sure, even though there was that one time he donned the Iron Patriot armor instead of the War Machine armor, that was pretty accurate too! Subsequent appearances of War Machine have just amped up the payload, giving us things like an electrified war-hammer and lots and lots of explosions. His most recent showing in Avengers: Infinity War showed his latest suit, complete with back support since his grueling injury in Captain America: Civil War. We can only imagine this positive trend will continue as we see more of him.
13 NOTHING LIKE IT: THE INHUMANS
We have to give Marvel's Inhumans a slight pass for what it tried to do. For the most part, it's extremely hard to make good on a big, expanding story with a smaller budget than usual. This could have been a Game of Thrones-level epic, but it ended up falling short of almost all expectations. But all that aside, the show's costumes left plenty to be desired. When some costumes lacked any individuality or personalization at all (looking at you, Karnak and Maximus), others failed to commit to their comic book counterparts.
On TV, the Inhumans had costumes that were like half of their comic book looks.
Medusa's hair may have just been better suited as a realistic-looking wig, not ill-placed, brightly-colored CGI. Black Bolt's costume felt nondescript, and even a hood with a tuning fork on it could have helped. Crystal, Gorgon and the others all had bits and pieces of costumes from the books but were unable to bring them out in full force. Even Gordon's goat-like legs seemed odd. Do the Inhumans deserve a chance to be made right? Absolutely, but the costume design will need to be on point should Marvel try again. For now, at least we'll always have live-action Lockjaw.
12 ACCURATE: LOKI
Asgard in the Marvel Cinematic Universe could have been a hard sell to general movie-goers. Its glam is somewhere between Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, but full of additional magic and whatnot. It helped that despite its flaws, the first Thor film had a compelling villain, one who would create a thread through all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and continues to resonate even today. Of course, we're talking about the God of Mischief, Loki, and more specifically, his live-action appearance and costume in Thor.
Everything was there, from the green, gold and black garb to the horned helmet, which he continued to sport through his appearances in subsequent films. Fans' dissatisfaction at Thor not having his helmet for long was seemingly made up for by Loki (and Thor: Ragnarok,) and it surely helped that Tom Hiddleston was devious and charismatic in the role. Loki's costume helped to sell the royalty of Asgard and set the tone for future run-ins with beings from other worlds. It's good to know that the MCU, for the most part, took Loki's lead and accurately adapted more and more iconic characters from Marvel Comics, from some of the Guardians of the Galaxy to the Avengers themselves.
11 NOTHING LIKE IT: BARON ZEMO
Let's make this clear from the jump: Helmut Zemo was an incredible villain in Captain America: Civil War. From a character standpoint, his motives were sound, given the events of previous films, but it was a bit disappointing to not see him dressed in full-on Hydra garb. And we didn't get even a little bit of that. Helmut Zemo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a man wrecked by tragedy, looking for revenge on the Avengers for that time they almost dropped Sokovia on a whole mess of a people. He was dressed just like a normal guy, but in a way, that was part of the character's plot.
Civil War's normal-looking Zemo was a big change from Marvel's colorful comic book villain.
Zemo in Civil War was actually more menacing than the Zemo we've come to know in the comics. Sure, he's missing a purple ski mask, furred, golden coats and costumes and an actual sword, but this version of Zemo is much more believable. And honestly? We think this incarnation makes the idea of him leading the Thunderbolts, a group of villains who become anti-heroes, much more of a reality. And you can bet we're game for a semi-accurate depiction of that team in live-action, especially if that comes with Thunderbolt Ross as the Red Hulk.
10 ACCURATE: WINTER SOLDIER
If you're thinking that it'd be harder to not adapt The Winter Soldier to film properly, well, you'd probably be right. Fortunately, that wasn't the case when it came to bringing James "Bucky" Barnes into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and following to his eventual role as the Winter Soldier, who assassinated baddies for whoever controlled him, which was usually Hydra Bucky's costume is simple: mostly black tactical gear, a partial face mask sometimes and a big metal arm. That last part is important, but in a universe full of Iron Man armors and vibranium shields, it wasn't much of a stretch to go all the way and include it.
And when the Winter Soldier is released from the thrall of his evil master-of-the-week, he really comes into his own as a hero, spending even more time with his iconic metal arm before having it blown off at the end of Captain America: Civil War. Fortunately, Bucky Barnes bounced back with help from Shuri in Black Panther and now sports a black and gold vibranium arm. Yeah, we'd probably trade a boring metal one for the new model too. Now, it just remains to be seen if we'll be talking about how accurate Bucky's Captain America costume might be in a few years.
9 NOTHING LIKE IT: IRON FIST
For this bit, let's set aside all of the feelings we might have about how the first season of Marvel's Iron Fist was handled, and instead focus on the costume of the titular hero, or rather the lack thereof. Iron Fist's debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe could have been something special, with a focus on the spandex-adjacent equipment most of our MCU heroes use, just with a bit less flair. It could still look homemade, but the real addition could be just a bit of consistent CGI that wasn't just a glowing hand that's used twice in the season.
Iron Fist needs a flaming fist, a green or white costume and a mask with a sash.
Instead, what we got was basically normal clothes, which were sometimes ripped, and a focus on the large dragon tattoo on Danny Rand's chest. The latter part of that is mostly accurate, but the rest of the look was sort of lazily committed to. It also led to a bit of an awkward situation during The Defenders, when the only person wearing a costume ended up being Daredevil. And say what you will about the Devil of Hell's Kitchen's costume, but at least he has one.
8 ACCURATE: RONAN THE ACCUSER
Despite a lack of focus in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ronan the Accuser was actually pretty accurately depicted in the film. He sported his Kree judge garb, including armor and markings, a pseudo-helmet and a big hammer. Yeah, the last bit might be the most important, but they could have gone a weird route with it if they wanted to do. Ronan in this film might not be as huge as he is in the comics, and his motives might be a little bit skewed with the introduction of Thanos, but he's still there in all of his live-action glory.
In the comics, though, Ronan is characterized more by his stance as a protector and bastion of his people than as a murderous judge. His armor is similar, though it is typically green or silver in the books, and it still sports Kree markings on the chest. His hammer has also ranged in size, so it fits in with what the Marvel Cinematic Universe film used. With his return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe imminent with 2019's Captain Marvel, it'll be interesting to see if Ronan looked any different before the demise of a good portion of his people in that upcoming MCU prequel.
7 NOTHING LIKE IT: GAMORA
Gamora has had a few different incarnations in the comic books over the years. She's been clad in modern space armor more recently in the pages of books like Guardians of the Galaxy and has previously worn everything from a large, long cloak to a gold and green warrior costume. In the films, she's basically just wearing normal clothes, or at least normal for what you'd expect from an alien assassin living in space. What may be the most iconic part of her adaptation to live-action is her sword, which definitely comes in handy when fighting against some of the toughest baddies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Gamora's movie costume is better than most of her comic book looks.
Many of Gamora's comic iterations have her in a scantily-clad uniform, one that doesn't seem all that conducive to hunting down evil in the Marvel Universe. But there are bits and pieces of each suit that would have made a stellar transition to live-action, like her cloak or cape seen in events like "Annihilation." The former was in concept art for the first Guardians of the Galaxy film from James Gunn, so maybe there's a chance that design will return in the future.
6 ACCURATE: VISION
So many things could have gone wrong with bringing Vision to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fortunately, the MCU crafted a believable, fairly accurate depiction of the fan-favorite character. In the comics, Vision has worn everything from neon green and yellow bodysuits to a green and red costume, However, the Marvel Cinematic Universe committed to a purple, grey and gold look that takes its influence from the comics and from the history of the MCU leading up to his creation.
And in turn, his MCU appearance has influenced his looks in comics, mostly for the better. Vision is a key component of the Avengers machine, and having him sport an iconic look in both places is stellar synergy. We could have gotten an android who tried to dress like a human, but instead, we got a believable android with a new, iconic suit that heavily draws from its comics counterpart. With Vision testing out camouflage in Avengers: Infinity War, it remains to be seen if his look will change in the future. For now, let's revel in the fact that we've gotten a comics-accurate depiction of Vision in not one, but a handful of live-action films. We'll take it.
5 NOTHING LIKE IT: NOVA CORPS
One of the most anticipated parts of 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, aside from the live-action debut of deep cut comic book characters like Drax the Destroyer and Rocket Raccoon, was the debut of the Nova Corps in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The team, which has long been seen as an analog to DC Comics' Green Lantern peacekeeping force, could have made a big impact on the galaxy at large in the films. Instead, the Nova Corps were relegated to the butt of a joke, clearly outsmarted by the ragtag Guardians at every turn. In Avengers: Infinity War, we learn that their home planet of Xandar has been totally decimated.
In comics, the Nova Corps has sleek, iconic costumes with their trademark helemets.
But maybe better costumes could have helped sell them better? OK, so it wouldn't have changed the outcome, but it would keep fans hopeful for what an inevitable MCU debut for Richard Rider would look like. In Guardians of the Galaxy, the Nova Corps looked like regular humans clad in big suits with yellow LED lights. It didn't help that their helmets just looked like buckets and very difficult to see out of. If Rider makes his debut in the near future, we hope there is a drastic change to the Nova Corps' look.
4 ACCURATE: CAPTAIN AMERICA
Alright, we'll address your "scale-mail" concerns up front. No, Captain America hasn't sported the iconic suit of armor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But hey, we're still holding out hope. For now, let's talk about how direct of an adaptation the live-action costumes really are. Captain America is the moral center of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it only makes sense that his costumes should reflect who he is. He's bright, bold and morally sound. Except for his suit in The Avengers, his costumes are equally classic, but we'll let him slide for that one, though.
Everything from the muted, stealth suit in Captain America: The Winter Soldier to the iconic, classic suit from Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America's costumes in the MCU have usually been on-point. His shield, up until the point where he abandons it, was also a near-identical adaptation of his comic book shield. As we trek forward following the events of Avengers: Infinity War, it remains to be seen just how Captain America's look will change. Will he ever get his original shield back? Will he call himself Captain America again? Who knows, but we can say he'll look accurate either way. And hey, maybe there's still a chance for that iconic scale-mail to make an appearance on the silver screen.
3 NOTHING LIKE IT: STAR-LORD
Let's start this entry by saying that Star-Lord's Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation is, in a lot of ways, better than how he has been depicted in the comics. Of course, we are talking about the costume here, which opted for a simpler, more stylish take in the films. Since Guardians of the Galaxy, we've known Peter Quill as a lovable, kind of dense leader with a cool space mask and a red jacket.
In comics, Quill looks different when he's on a mission with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
In his most prominent appearances, Star-Lord sports a blue and red military-esque uniform, as do most of the other Guardians. The closest comparison to the films would be the Ravager gear that Rocket Raccoon sports in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Star-Lord also has a mask, but it's adorned with a helmet of sorts, which makes him look a lot scarier than his movie counterpart. It's a simple change, but one we think worked out better for the films. But hey, it's not totally accurate, now is it? There's really not much else to say about Guardians not getting it totally right. Rocket and Groot are still there in live-action, what else could you want?
2 ACCURATE: BLACK PANTHER
There was a lot to love about 2018's Black Panther film. The beauty of Wakanda and its technology is only closely matched by how sweet everyone's battle gear looks. Shuri sports arm cannons that might be some of the coolest weapons since Iron Man debuted, and Nakia has some pretty amazing ring-blades. And of course, there's T'Challa himself, the Black Panther. We first caught a glimpse of him in Captain America: Civil War, where his costume already looked great. So call us surprised when we found out that it would be getting an upgrade in the opening moments of Black Panther. Yep, all of the bells and whistles from the comics are basically there, and they look incredible.
The only slight complaint we have isn't really much of a complaint at all. In fact, we could imagine it making some sort of appearance in a future Black Panther film. That's right, we're talking about the cape. As the king of Wakanda, T'Challa has sported a cape in the past, one that makes him look way more like a cheesy version of Dracula than a Batman-esque vigilante. Should they decide to go this route in the future, we are totally here for it.
1 NOTHING LIKE IT: THANOS
We're not totally sure where to fall on this one. On one hand, Thanos' appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been incredibly menacing, as the villain has loomed over every film since The Avengers. But in bringing Thanos to the forefront of an MCU film, he lost a bit of his flair. No, not in terms of his personality, but his costume. We catch a glimpse of something at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, but then it's gone like a fleeting memory. Thanos has no armor in the films now, aside from his trusty Infinity Gauntlet.
Thanos usually has a more imposing look with armor and a helmet in comics.
But in the comics, Thanos has been adorned with everything from a helmet, to full body armor with the occasional cloak. His imposing frame is only made more terrifying by sharp, rigid pieces of armor that simultaneously show his ego and his strength. We can't say we'd be totally sold to have the armor in the films for good, but as far as accuracy goes, this keeps Thanos from the top of the list. And if there is a future for it, there should be no tip-toeing around. We want the full blue and gold on the big screen, take it or leave it, but to be honest, we're cool either way.