Whether you love them or hate them, superhero films are dominating the box office and don’t look to be stopping. Leading that charge is none other the Marvel Cinematic Universe, whose ten years of delivering blockbuster hit-after-hit has made them the one to beat. This summer alone they’ve released two movies that have made nearly $1.5 BILLION dollars in the Box Office combined. Though, with the lineup of movies Marvel Studios has for the next few years, it doesn’t look like anyone will be able to knock them off the top — though DC Comics is certainly giving them a run for their money.
For every great hero, there’s an equally (if not more so) amazing heroine by their side waiting to save the day. While the MCU may not have a Wonder Woman, the comic book giant certainly does have a lot of superwomen rounding out their cast and kicking butt along with the boys.
1. Gwyneth Paltrow
All the way back in 2008 the world was introduced to the first MCU superhero film, Iron Man, which launched Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel Studios right to the top of the box office. Yet, RDJ wasn’t the only A-lister involved. Right by his side was none other than Marvel’s first leading lady, Gwenyth Paltrow. In the role of assistant-turned-love interest (typical), Pepper Potts, Paltrow’s character is integral to the Iron Man story.
While she may have only begun as his assistant, Pepper’s story arc is one that not only sees her character breaking through the glass ceiling, but also saving the day. Gweneth’s character becomes CEO of Stark Industries in Iron Man 2 and gets powers of her own to finish off the bad guy in Iron Man 3
2. Scarlett Johannson
While it may have taken Pepper Potts three films to kick some serious butt, Marvel wasted no time letting Scarlett Johansson in on the action. Another female character that got her start in an Iron Man movie is Black Widow. Scar’s character showed up in Iron Man 2, but this deadly Shield agent has gone on to star in multiple films and has been right in the thick of the action in every single one. Also, she was our first female Avenger, setting the stage for all the others to follow.
Beyond simply her action skills, Natasha Romanova is important for her duality. As a strong and intelligent character, Scarlet’s portrayal of one of the more developed female heroines has to lead the charge to add more powerful women into the MCU. Thanks to her, the MCU is no longer a boys’ club. Now there are a slew of females who not only hang with their male counterparts but outshine them regularly, too.
3. Zoe Saldana
It’s not easy being green, and Zoe Saldana can attest to that. Almost unrecognizable, the Crossroads actress has come to play one of the most badass women in a Marvel film. As the main heroine in Guardians of the Galaxy, Zoe plays the ex-assassin Gamora, a green alien who is one of the adopted daughters of the biggest villain in the MCU, Thanos (played by Josh Brolin). With a reputation that proceeds her, she is the first female alien superhero of the MCU and she kicks butt.
Whether she’s saving the galaxy or fighting her family, it’s always fun to watch her attempt to be the voice of reason with her miscreant companions. Everyone will surely be excited to see her face off against her mad titan father in Infinity War, and really become the hero she was meant to be.
4. Elizabeth Olsen
The eldest of the Olsen clan used to stay in the shadows of her sisters’ fame, but recently she’s surpassed them in Hollywood. One such role that shot her into the realm of A-list actresses is her portrayal of Scarlett Witch in The Avengers, and her character’s continuation in other Marvel films.
First debuted in a post-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, her character, named Wanda Maximoff has continued to make a huge impact in every film she’s in. With her super abilities and her fancy hand magic, Wanda is a force to be reckoned with. More importantly, Olsen brings a grace and innocence to the role that cannot be matched. As one of the most interesting characters in the MCU to date, Marvel couldn’t have picked a better actress to bring this woman to life.
5. Evangeline Lily
While she may have been Lost before, Evangeline Lily has definitely found her stride in the MCU. Appearing in Ant Man as Hope Pym, the main female lead and love interest, it is the sequel that will really put Evangeline to the test. In the next installment of the Ant Man saga, audiences will see Hope transition into another known female superhero: the Wasp. As the female counterpart to Ant Man, it will be great to see a female hero not only challenge her co-star, but likewise prove that women can pull off the intricate costumes and missions just as well.
6. Cobie Smulders
Though most know her as Robin from How I Met Your Mother, a whole new generation has come to know her as Maria Hill, one of the best Shield agents around. As the right-hand woman of Nick Fury (played by Samuel Jackson), Cobie has become an important character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Always in the know, Maria isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty when she needs to. Likewise, she is one of the few people who everyone can fully trust. Though she isn’t one of the characters that gets the most screen time, when she does make it center-screen, it’s obvi that the Avengers couldn’t save the world without her.
7. Natalie Portman
Though she may be Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) love interest, don’t mess with Jane Foster. In this role is acclaimed actress, Natalie Portman, who is no stranger to dealing with trouble out in space. One of the best aspects of this character is just how smart she is. As a scientist, her extensive research leads to her encounter with Thor. Despite the fact that their main story arc involves him saving her (which like, annoying), but it is her incredible mind and determination that makes this character a hero.
8. Emily VanCamp
While she may have been busy destroying lives on Revenge, Emily VanCamp was focused on protecting them as Agent 13. First appearing in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, her character grew a close friendship and eventual romantic relationship with Chris Evans‘ Captain America himself.
As an agent of the government agency Shield, she found herself right in the action in both this and 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Though it is unclear what her future in the MCU will look like in the future, we can all assume that she’ll continue to fight the good fight alongside her superhero bae.
9. Karen Gillan
If it’s not easy being green, it’s even harder to be blue. Karen Gillan, who came to fame as one of the assistants on Doctor Who, is the adopted sister of Zoe Saldana’s Gamora. Known as Nebula, it takes her a while to come around to the good side. Starting out as a villain in Guardians of the Galaxy, she turns herself around in the sequel, which finds Nebula teaming up with the Guardians and her sis.
It seems that her good streak doesn’t stop there. She will be returning in Infinity War to help out her fellow Marvel heroes take on her adopted father, Thanos, in a battle that is sure to be epic.
10. Marisa Tomei
Trust me, Tony Stark wasn’t the only one impressed with who they cast as Aunt May in the latest edition of Spiderman. In Marvel’s version of the web slinging hero, they really brought out the big guns with this casting choice. As one of the coolest Aunt May’s we’ve seen yet, Marisa Tomei, known for her work in several ’90s and early 2000s rom-coms, plays the loveable widow. Ironically, the film did its best to dress down her character in an attempt to make her more aunt-esque. Good try, guys, but Marisa always looks stunning.
11. Tilda Swinton
As the best shapeshifter in Hollywood, its no suprise that Marvel would look to Tilda Swinton for one of their most mysterious characters yet. In the role of the Ancient One, Swinton helps Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) learn his powers in order to save the world.
Despite doing a great job in the role, Swinton found herself in a position of criticism for accepting the role. Accused of “whitewashing,” many believed that the role should have gone to someone of Asian descent, more like how it was depicted in the comics. Though she was still able to make the role her own, the backlash around her casting must have made things a bit more difficult.
12. Glenn Close
Guardians of the Galaxy found itself with a bunch of strong leading ladies. Glenn Close is no exception. As Irani Rael, Close plays the leader of what it called the Nova Corp. When this peaceful society comes under attack, Irani isn’t afraid to defend her home or her people. Though she may not always get along with the Guardians, the character does end up aiding them in their mission to save the day.
Singer, dancer, actress — it seems like there is nothing this Disney star can’t do. As one of the newer additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Zendaya stood out as an interesting and funny character, playing Michelle in Spiderman: Homecoming.
While her character may not have gotten as much screentime as people would have liked, the ending certainly set up big things for the character’s future. Keeping any spoilers to myself for those who still have yet to see the newest MCU film, just know that Zendaya’s future in the MCU is only going to get bigger and better.
14. Brie Larson
Ever since making waves with her Oscar-winning performance in Room, Brie has been on top of the world. Now it appears that she will be saving it. In 2019, Larson will be taking to the screen in the role of Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. While not too much is known about the film, it has been confirmed that it is set in the ’90s and she will be battling evil creatures called Skrulls.
The importance of this character’s entrance into the MCU is not lost on any longtime fans. As possibly Marvel’s biggest female superhero, Captain Marvel will be the first incarnation of a female superhero in the MCU that has the same traditional status as any of the male superheroes. AKA this is a huge freaking deal. While the majority of female characters have either been smaller parts, love-interests and somewhat untraditional depictions of a hero, Captain Marvel will be coming in strong, costume and all. Can she compete with DC’s Wonder Woman? The only person who possibly could would have to be Brie, and we can’t wait to see it go down.
15. Lupita Nyong’o
Another Oscar-winner added to the Marvel ranks is none other than Lupita Nyong’o. Much like Brie Larson, we have still yet to see her on screen but we won’t have to wait much longer now. Lupita will be a part of the upcoming film, Black Panther. Set in the secret country of Wakanda, Nyong’o will be playing a character named Nakia (better known as Malice). She’s a badass woman fronting Black Panter’s personal guard. While we may not know that much about her character yet, we can only assume that she will be someone you do not want to mess with.
16. Jamie Alexander
Finally, one of the most boss ladies in the MCU is that of Jamie Alexander’s Lady Sif. As Thor’s right-hand woman, this warrior is one for the books. Though most can agree that her character has obviously deserved more recognition than she’s received so far, it’s her fighting skills and her unabiding loyalty that makes her memorable. While we haven’t seen Lady Sif for a couple films, one can only hope that we will see her again in the upcoming third installment of Thor’s story, Thor: Ragnarok.