Though the Marvel Cinematic Universe is arguably lacking in girl power as it is, you can’t deny that what it has is pretty incredible. Each film features strong female characters, presented as independent women who are capable of holding their own without the help of their male counterparts. Be it the black ops spy action of the Black Widow or the no-nonsense-ness from Jessica Jones, the MCU’s female characters are incredibly important. Though we’ve yet to get a female-helmed MCU film, that’s slated to change in 2019 with the long-awaited arrival of Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel to the big screen.
The films just wouldn’t be what they are today without these characters included, and they definitely deserve that recognition. We’ve put together our favorite MCU females that we think were the fiercest around. Be they strong-willed, independent, or just an all-around ass-kicker, we wanted to celebrate the MCU’s most impressive women. By no means is this list a statement that any of these characters are awful, we love all of these characters. This is simply a collection of the ones we think to be the most notable to have appeared to date.
15 BLACK WIDOW
When Natasha Romanoff first appeared in Iron Man 2, fans weren’t really sure what to think. Originally cast as Emily Blunt, Scarlett Johansson stepped into the role at the 11th hour, a casting choice that a lot of fans were initially skeptical about. But through the course of the film, the MCU iteration of Black Widow handily won over the detractors.
If the Iron Man 2 appearances didn’t win you over, she almost certainly did with her turn in the follow-ups Her most notable appearance, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, saw Nat’s allegiances tested as S.H.I.E.L.D. fell apart around her. The film even ended showing off just how daring she was, as she willingly knocked herself out with her own widow stinger to save the day.
14 JESSICA JONES
Amidst the male-dominated Netflix wing of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jessica Jones proved to be a fan favorite series. With a down to Earth story and relatable characters with engaging yet tragic backstories, it’s no wonder that viewers were so engrossed in the story. Jessica’s natural, aloof personality proved to be a large part of that as well.
Jessica had a down-to-Earth, take no guff attitude, despite being held against her will by Kilgrave, where she was enslaved for months before finally breaking free. It obviously took a toll on Jessica, ultimately costing her some of her relation to humanity in general, but it never slowed her down. It was hard to convince Jessica to get motivated to do much when she didn’t want to, but once she set her eyes on a goal there was no force on Earth capable of stopping her.
13 MISTY KNIGHT
Misty Knight came out of nowhere. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had more than its share of strong, powerful woman, but Misty Knight was like no other. Cool as ice and tough as nails, Misty quickly cemented herself as someone to be reckoned with if you weren’t on her side, fearlessly standing up to the likes of Cottonmouth and Mariah Dillard.
True to her comic book origins, Misty was fearless and unstoppable. In the final moments of The Defenders, despite the odds being against her and losing her arm. Misty still proved a critical part of the successful effort to put down The Hand, even if she didn't have the super-powers to do it... yet. It’s certainly going to be exciting seeing how Misty copes with her new, high tech arm in Luke Cage’s upcoming second season.
We learned a lot about The Hand in The Defenders, specifically the so-called Five Fingers of The Hand. Exiles from K’un-Lun, the five were perceived as partners but appeared to be led largely by Alexandra in their ultimate goal, to access the dragon skeletons hidden deep beneath New York and obtain immortality.
Alexandra was cold and calculating, and definitely a force to be reckoned with. But she fell prey ultimately to her own humanity. Motivated by her rapidly approaching end, Alexandra’s desire to speed up The Hand’s operations ultimately drew the attention of The Defenders, jeopardizing their plan. To make matters worse, her own lack of foresight blinded her to the dangers right under her nose, leading to her death at the hands of Elektra, as well as the fall of The Hand.
11 COLLEEN WING
Iron Fist had a lot of problems, but they managed to mostly service fan favorite Colleen Wing for the best. Retaining her history as a master of Bushido, Colleen became a steady companion for Danny, as well as girlfriend in the latter half, but she never once lost her edge. A capable fighter, Colleen more than held her own even alongside the Immortal Iron Fist.
This has a lot to do with Colleen’s ties to The Hand and her training with them, but much of it is Colleen’s own innate abilities. Early episodes which showcase a desperate and cash-strapped Colleen participating in an underground fight club more than showed how skilled she was, and her alliance with Danny only served to make her stronger. She showed how much she’s grown in The Defenders, and remains one of the series’ greatest characters.
10 TRISH WALKER
Presented initially as a radio DJ and Jessica’s adoptive sister, it became quickly apparent to fans that she was more than that. Trish was in the process of a training regiment that would make Goku jealous, radically reinventing herself as someone who could fight to defend herself or anyone she cared about.
Though we never saw Trish adopt her comic book identity of Hellcat (at least not yet), the seeds were clearly planted. Trish’s determination was put on clear display, and especially when combatting Will Simpson. Despite spending most of the series as lovers, when Will returned fueled by his mysterious stimulant pills, Trish put her life on the line taking them herself to fight on his level. Trish damn near died, only being saved by Jessica’s return, but proved to be one hell of a fighter herself.
She’s not called the most dangerous woman in the galaxy for nothing. A master of all weaponry, bred to be a literal killing machine, Gamora is a force to be reckoned with. And when you throw in that she’s the adopted daughter of the Mad Titan, Thanos, it really highlights just how deadly she can truly be.
Raised to do Thanos’ bidding, Gamora proved to be too much even for him and broke free of his grasp. As a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, she’s proven to be a stalwart companion and trusted fighter, though she remains closed off in many ways. Though recent films saw her patch things up (as best as one could) with her estranged sister Nebula, it’s unlikely Gamora is ever going to lose her status as an incredibly dangerous and capable fighter.
8 SCARLET WITCH
Much like her comic counterpart, the MCU’s Wanda Maximoff displays a set of critically unstable powers. Debuting in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Scarlet Witch proved a formidable match for the team. With a powerset simplified for the film franchise as simply hypnosis and telekinesis, Wanda planted seeds of fear in Tony Stark’s mind that nearly destroyed The Avengers.
Earning her redemption following the Sokovia incident and the death of her brother, Wanda became a member of The Avengers. Though her powers were still largely out of control (as demonstrated by her accidentally destroying a building trying to contain an exploding Crossbones), Wanda proved she wasn’t someone you’d want to cross. Even the perpetually, impossibly strong Vision fell victim to this, being thrust several stories into the Earth when he tried to keep Wanda from leaving the Avengers base.
Loki was an interesting threat, and Malekith was somewhat banal, but Hela may have redefined what it means to be a Thor villain. The forgotten daughter of Odin, Hela returned to wreak havoc on Asgard. Shattering Mjolnir and casting Thor and Loki to the far-off planet Sakaar, Hela made short work of Asgard, killing numerous soldiers and even the fabled Warriors Three soundly.
Hela’s power was shown to be near incomparable to anything seen in the MCU to date. Even at his strongest, Thor wasn’t a match for her. The only thing that stopped Hela was Thor kickstarting the Asgardian apocalypse. Even as Surtur laid waste while the remaining Asgardians fled, it was up in the air as to whether or not Hela even died or if she’ll be turning up again.
It’s easy to forget about Frigga’s presence in the first Thor movie. Despite being portrayed by Rene Russo, Frigga’s role was fairly drastically reduced in the film, turning her into more of a doting mother than actually building her as a character as the story shifted to focus on the relationship between Thor and Loki.
But for Thor: The Dark World, that got changed up as we were reminded just how relevant Frigga was. It was her portrayal as someone who refused to give up on Loki that really struck home for most fans and one that defined how she’ll ultimately be remembered in the franchise. A fighter to the end, Frigga’s death defending Jane Foster proved to be the emotional charge for a film that was otherwise fairly dull, and a moment that the Thor series of films sorely needed.
5 CLAIRE TEMPLE
Since her debut in the first season of Daredevil, Claire Temple has been the glue that kept the MCU’s Netflix branch together. Appearing in every Netflix series that wasn’t The Punisher, Claire was a common thread to help link these characters and locations together, and even proved to be a critical ally on more than one occasion.
Whether it be up against the resurrected members of The Hand or following Luke Cage into the deep south to chase his origins, Claire arguably did more to inspire the team to unite than Stick ever could have. She also proved she wasn’t anyone who needed to be saved, more than holding her own, even against the likes of trained Hand assassins like Bakuto or when being chased down by thugs working for Willis Stryker.
4 HOPE VAN DYNE
Hope Van Dyne’s story in Ant-Man is honestly pretty sad when you think about it. Losing her mother at an early age to circumstances she didn’t understand, Hope spent the majority of her life living in the shadow of her parents' history as Ant-Man and The Wasp, but had no real capability to get out of it under her own means.
Throughout the course of the story, Hope proved she didn’t need that legacy. Though she was capable of utilizing Hank’s ant communication technology in ways that few could have guessed, she didn’t necessarily need it. Hope was incredibly intelligent, and as a fighter was more than capable of holding her own. Seeing her take on the mantle of The Wasp is long overdue, and something that makes the wait for Infinity War all the more difficult.
3 MELINDA MAY
A character created for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., agent Melinda “The Cavalry” May might be the most impressively independent character Marvel has created to death. A fierce fighter, an ace pilot, and a tactical powerhouse, May takes no crap and has no qualms about dishing out the hurt when the situation arrives, whether it be a foe or an ally who betrayed the team.
From Hydra betrayals to virtual reality imprisonment, May’s been a foundation of Coulson’s team since day one, but May’s specific degree of incredible isn’t just writing. Actress Ming-Na Wen definitely brings an edge to the role that no one else could. With a fierce edge and a natural toughness, she might actually be a real-world approximation to the character, even performing recent fight scenes and stunts while recovering from knee surgery.
2 PEGGY CARTER
First appearing in Captain America: The First Avenger, Haley Atwell’s Peggy Carter proved to be the MCU’s first truly astonishing female lead. Sure, Pepper Potts and Jane Foster were impressive, independent characters, but they were both largely reacting to what was happening in their respective films. Peggy Carter got stuff done no matter what the odds stacked against her were.
A founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D., the woman who stole Captain America’s heart and a recognized war hero, Peggy probably could have stopped World War II by herself if they’d just given her a shot. Peggy had to combat Hydra allies and rampant sexism but still came out on top. The Marvel Cinematic Universe will probably never have anyone as fierce as Peggy Carter in it again, and that’s a real shame.
1 SHARON CARTER
The Carter women definitely carry a certain gene in them that makes them fierce, and it was passed on to her niece Sharon. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s mysterious Agent 13 initially kept her identity a secret from Steve, assigned to keep watch over him by posing as a neighbor while he tried to adjust to his new life in the modern age.
During the Hydra infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. and its subsequent fall, Sharon proved to be an invaluable asset, even attempting to fight back against rogue agents who revealed their allegiance to Hydra. With S.H.I.E.L.D. having fallen, Sharon turned to the CIA but remained in contact with Steve, even flying under the radar to help him with finding Bucky and escaping the country in Captain America: Civil War. Though a proper Cap and Sharon romance has yet to manifest, it’s only a matter of time.