With 10 years of films and television under their belts, the MCU has developed a great lineage, and with that comes plenty of actors taking on roles of iconic characters. In the beginning, it was likely hard for many fans to see various actors preparing to step foot into the roles of beloved characters that have stood the test of time, and it is not surprising that when the first casting whisperings began to happen when Iron Man became the first MCU property to hit the big screen, many fans were offering suggestions on who could play the billionaire, Tony Stark. Ultimately, the role ended up going to Robert Downey, Jr. and he has now become synonymous with one of Marvel’s most popular characters.
Castings for superhero films and television shows are almost always met with criticism by both fans of the original comic book characters and a variety of cinephiles. However, for the most part, the studios stick to their guns and hire who they believe is best for each role. Of course, while there are always some risks that are taken by the studios during the casting process, and some choices work out for the best, the same can't be said for some other casting decisions that have left fans and movie goers scratching their heads in confusion and/or disbelief. However, that being said, for the most part, the MCU has great actors portraying some of their most iconic characters, with only a few bad casting choices peppered throughout. Not too shabby for its first 10 years. So, without further ado, here are the 10 Best Castings in the MCU (and 10 of the Worst).
20 BEST: CHRIS EVANS AS STEVE ROGERS/CAPTAIN AMERICA
When Chris Evans was first cast as Captain America, many were unsure how he’d fit into the role of Steve Rogers after previously starring as Johnny Storm in Fox’s ill-received Fantastic 4 films. It was hard for many to see the actor in another superhero role after the disappointment of Fantastic 4, but Evans certainly delivered as Cap.
Not only did Evans prove the naysayers wrong, but he also brought a new life to Captain America with his portrayal. Evans continues to prove time and time again why he was made to play the iconic Marvel Comics character. With three Captain America films and three Avengers films under his belt, with one on the way early next year, Evans’ name is now synonymous with Cap.
19 WORST: FINN JONES AS DANNY RAND/IRON FIST
From the moment Finn Jones was announced to play Iron Fist, many were opposed to the announcement. While some of it was sheer skepticism over Jones in the role, part of it was due to the fact that many believed an actor of a different ethnicity should portray Rand, especially since Lewis Tan had auditioned for the role. However, what the MCU got was Jones with a wishy-washy rendition of the character.
Not only was the series reviewed as the worst of the Marvel Netflix television shows, many critics were in agreement that Jones’ portrayal of Rand was lackluster. However, with the news that Iron Fist was cancelled, we won’t have to suffer from another dull line delivery of: “I am the immortal Iron Fist” again.
18 BEST: HAYLEY ATWELL AS PEGGY CARTER
Cap’s best girl, Agent Peggy Carter, is portrayed in the MCU by Hayley Atwell. Atwell might have only made a full appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger, as well as some cameos in a few other MCU films, like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, but Peggy’s popularity was enough to warrant her own short-lived series, Agent Carter.
As a total badass and founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D., Atwell’s rendition of Peggy was great. She was easily believable in the role in both the films and the television series, and despite having less appearances than many of the other characters on the list, Atwell as Agent Carter is one of the best book-to-screen versions of the characters in the MCU.
17 WORST: TILDA SWINTON AS THE ANCIENT ONE
Yet again, the MCU cast an award-winning actor in a role that likely wasn’t the best fit for them. As the Ancient One, Tilda Swinton was alright. There was nothing special about the performance, which is opposite of Swinton’s past performances, and it also didn’t go over well that the character, who is canonically a foreign man, was now being portrayed by a Caucasian woman.
However, it is possible that the amount of wrong attached to the character would have overshadowed anything good about the new entity and its portrayal.
16 BEST: SAMUEL L. JACKSON AS NICK FURY
Considering the Ultimate version of Nick Fury was created in the likeness of Samuel L. Jackson, it was inevitable that the actor would be donning the eyepatch and trench coat at some point in the MCU. Not only was Jackson fun to watch in the role, Nick Fury is like the piece that holds much of the universe together. With appearances in the majority of the MCU movies since Iron Man, Jackson’s Nick Fury is a staple in the MCU.
Fury is definitely one of the most recognizable faces in the MCU and it will be exciting to see his younger self in the upcoming Captain Marvel. Of course, any excuse to watch Samuel L. Jackson battle it out in the MCU is a good thing.
15 WORST: SIR BEN KINGSLEY AS MANDARIN
Another great actor who had the misfortune of playing a poorly-written and changed Marvel Comics character was Sir Ben Kingsley. In the comics, the Mandarin is said to be an ancestor of Genghis Khan, so it was a bad choice from the beginning by the casting directors to choose Kingsley. Of course, he has the acting chops to pull off most characters, but much like many of the MCU villains, the Mandarin suffered from the same poor writing.
Unlike his past roles, the character of the Mandarin never allowed him to use his full range, leaving the audiences with a mediocre performance at best. Thankfully, there won’t be any more appearances by the Mandarin and movie goers won’t have to suffer from another poor performance.
14 BEST: ROBERT DOWNEY, JR. AS TONY STARK/IRON MAN
Being a part of the film to start off the MCU, Robert Downey, Jr. had to make sure his portrayal of “billionaire philanthropist,” Tony Stark, was on point, and Downey, Jr. certainly delivered. Not only did Downey, Jr. look the part, but he definitely took on the role and characteristics of Stark with ease.
With the Iron Man trilogy, three Avengers films, and a part in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Downey, Jr. solidified himself in the role of Stark, and although we don’t know what will happen with the character by the end of Avengers 4, it’s safe to say that Downey, Jr. has done Tony Stark justice during his time in the MCU.
13 WORST: JEREMY RENNER AS CLINT BARTON/HAWKEYE
Clint Barton is great in the comics, but within the MCU, Hawkeye falls flat. Portrayed by Jeremy Renner, it would have been nice if the performance had a bit more life to it. Of course, the blame doesn’t rest solely on Renner’s rendition as Barton has largely been unfairly placed on the back-burner in the MCU. It’s unfortunate because Hawkeye is a fun character and it would be great to see more of him on-screen.
While we didn’t get to see the bow and arrow wielding hero appear in Avengers: Infinity War, Barton is meant to make an appearance in Avengers 4. There’s no saying how big the role is, but hopefully, it will be something strong enough to redeem Hawkeye’s portrayal in the MCU.
12 BEST: LETITIA WRIGHT AS SHURI
Over the years, Shuri, sister of the Black Panther, has become a fan favorite in the comics. So, it was important for Marvel to cast someone who did the role justice and Letitia Wright was thankfully up for the challenge. Not only did she do a great job as the smart, funny sister of T’Challa, but she brought her own personality to the character.
Due to Shuri’s likeability, it is safe to assume that the character will be in the Black Panther sequel whenever it happens, and as we still don’t know the Princess of Wakanda’s fate after the end of Avengers: Infinity War, hopefully, she will still be in action and perhaps even don the suit of the Black Panther.
11 WORST: MICHAEL B. JORDAN AS ERIK KILLMONGER
While Killmonger was one of the MCU’s most compelling villains thus far, the performance by Michael B. Jordan was certainly not the greatest. With his past performances in films such as Fruitvale Station and Creed, his performance as Killmonger wasn’t on par with those past roles. Save for Killmonger’s vulnerability, there was something that seemed forced with Jordan’s Killmonger; it was almost extra in a way.
Not only that, but Jordan’s performance was overshadowed by some of the other characters in the cast with small roles, including Winston Duke as M’Baku and Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi. Considering Jordan said he wanted his performance to be on par with that of Heath Ledger's Joker, his Killmonger didn't live up to the hype.
10 BEST: VINCENT D'ONOFRIO AS WILSON FISK/KINGPIN
One of the best villains in the MCU, Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin, is one of the portrayals on this list that truly needed to be perfect, and with Vincent D’Onofrio in the role as Daredevil’s most frightening villain, fans of the character definitely got a great version of the character. D’Onofrio brought new life to the character on-screen, and perfectly showed both Fisk’s vulnerabilities and dangerousness.
D’Onofrio’s Kingpin is definitely a highlight of the MCU as it pertains to its villains. Having spent a few seasons in the role of Wilson Fisk, the idea of someone else is unimaginable. But with the recent news of Netflix’s cancellation of Daredevil, here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of D’Onofrio as Fisk.
9 WORST: CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON AS MALEKITH
The casting of Christopher Eccleston in anything is usually a great idea, but when the actor took on the role of Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, it certainly wasn’t the brightest moment of his filmography. Playing Malekith seemed as though it was more of a chore, and of course, the script Eccleston had to work with wasn’t great and likely hindered his typically great range. However, it was still disappointing to see the villain wasted like he was.
There was certainly nothing in the script or performance that demonstrated Malekith’s dangerousness and need to eliminate the world. Once again, the MCU wasted another villain and it was unfortunately at the expense of Eccleston.
8 BEST: CHRIS HEMSWORTH AS THOR
Perhaps one of the nicest casting surprises in the MCU was Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Not much was known about the actor prior to taking on the role of the Norse God, other than his small role in 2009s Star Trek as George Kirk. However, it’s clear the casting directors knew what they were doing when they cast Hemsworth as Thor.
With the Thor trilogy and multiple Avengers films, Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor has gotten better and better in each film, with Thor having experienced some of the best character growth of any of his MCU comrades. Having played a huge part in Infinity War, it will be exciting to see what’s next in store for the Asgardian.
7 WORST: NATALIE PORTMAN AS JANE FOSTER
Natalie Portman is a great actress, and while her role in the Thor films were not her first foray into the realm of comic book-based movies (she appeared in V for Vendetta back in 2005), her portrayal of Jane Foster was definitely one of her weakest performances to date. Chemistry was definitely lacking between herself and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, and while Foster had some decent comedic moments, there was nothing great about Jane beyond that.
Foster was generally unlikeable and the reviews of Portman’s performance in the role were lukewarm. As it stands, it’s rather unlikely that fans will ever see Portman return to the MCU as Jane, which is probably for the best.
6 BEST: KRYSTEN RITTER AS JESSICA JONES
Jessica Jones is a character that joined the MCU and had most people excited about seeing in a live-action capacity. Perhaps not as old and iconic as some of the other comic book characters on this list, Jones’ portrayal by Krysten Ritter has been great. Three seasons into her standalone Netflix series, Ritter has made her mark as the intense and temperamental private investigator.
Not only did Ritter portray the superhero in Jessica Jones, she reprised her role in The Defenders, teaming up with the other Netflix characters Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Iron Fist; holding her own amongst those classic Marvel heavyweights. Ritter has done a great job with the character, bringing in what fans love about Jones, while bringing in her own unique spin.
5 WORST: AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON AS PIETRO MAXIMOFF/QUICKSILVER
With Pietro Maximoff making his debut as Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron, many fans were hoping for a fun and entertaining character. However, what they got was someone who was one-dimensional and really, just boring. Taylor-Johnson’s version of the speedy character generally seemed a bit pointless, other than serving as another character who attempted to put a wrench in the Avengers’ plans.
Due to this, his end didn’t exhibit the emotional impact it was meant to (aside from Olsen’s Scarlet Witch reacting to the demise of her twin), but audiences just ended up with another lackluster performance and a character that didn’t warrant caring.
4 BEST: TOM HIDDLESTON AS LOKI
While Tom Hiddleston initially auditioned for the role of Thor when the Norse god was being added to the MCU’s film roster, the actor instead landed the role of Thor's brother, Loki, which was certainly a great decision by the casting directors over at Marvel Studios.
Not only did Hiddleston make a great Loki, he quickly solidified himself as a fan favorite within the MCU, with many fans enjoying Hiddleston's take on the trickster. Recently, it was confirmed by the Russo Brothers that Loki was indeed gone after the events of Infinity War, but fans will still be able to see Hiddleston's awesome performance when Loki's show on Disney's streaming network begins.
3 WORST: ELIZABETH OLSEN AS WANDA MAXIMOFF/SCARLET WITCH
Yet again, we have another character in the MCU who has succumbed to poor writing. Upon Scarlet Witch’s introduction into the MCU, Elizabeth Olsen took up the role of Wanda Maximoff, and while the performance wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great either. Again, much like some of the other “worsts” in this list, Scarlet Witch really didn’t come into her own until Avengers: Infinity War.
Of course, there was definitely growth between Avengers: Age of Ultron and Infinity War, but it was still nothing to really write home about. Here’s hoping that Olsen’s Scarlet Witch will be better in future MCU films and in the Disney+ streaming service series.
2 BEST: DANAI GURIRA AS OKOYE
When Black Panther hit theaters nearly one year ago, most people were excited to see T’Challa on the big screen. However, there were many characters in the film who also stole the show, including General of the Dora Milaje, Okoye. Superbly played by Danai Gurira, Okoye was one of the most fun characters to watch in Black Panther.
Gurira’s fierce portrayal was great to see. She was quite capable of holding her own with T’Challa in combat and even with her husband, W’Kabi, during the final battle. After Okoye’s appearance in Avengers: Infinity War, and knowing she wasn’t one of the characters that turned to ash, it will be great to see what Gurira brings to Okoye next in Avengers 4.
1 WORST: SCARLETT JOHANSSON AS NATASHA ROMANOFF/BLACK WIDOW
So, this must be prefaced with the fact that while Scarlett Johansson is a decent actress, she is just serviceable as Black Widow, and there are certainly a few other actresses that come to mind that could have been better in the role. Black Widow’s first appearance in Iron Man 2 was decent, and while she was actually great in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Johansson's appearances as Natasha since then have been pretty unmemorable.
Hopefully, by the time Avengers 4 comes around, Black Widow will have some better writing that will truly allow Johansson to make us remember what made her so great in The Winter Soldier, and remind us why she deserved to snag the role of Black Widow.