Who doesn’t love Marvel movies? The MCU has quickly become a household staple for people around the world, and its films have included quite a few notable actors over the years. And then, there are some notable actors who want to be in the MCU, but still haven’t gotten their chance yet. But really, the MCU is a cast effort, with no single actor entirely stealing the show for themselves.
That said, there are definitely some notable moments that fans can point to when specific actors really got to show off their acting chops. Some of these actors had really long arcs in multiple movies, while others only got one chance to flex their acting ability. Either way, these are the ten best performances in Marvel movies so far. We can't wait to see what phases 4 and 5 have to offer.
10. Dave Bautista
Best performance: Guardians of the Galaxy
When people think of wrestlers-turned-actors, most people's minds immediately jump to Dwayne Johnson or John Cena. But one actor who often gets forgotten is Dave Bautista, who was great in Stuber and even better in Guardians of the Galaxy where he plays the always literal Drax the Destroyer. His version of Drax is tough, but a softy. Has great anger bubbling beneath the surface, but isn't aloof. In other words, he's nothing like you'd expect him to be.
Which is why he's become such a fan favorite. He has many great scenes, but his best moment is probably in the first Guardians movie where he just spouts a string of word vomit (All of it making sense, but still, word vomit) and Star Lord calls him a "walking thesaurus" to which Draw gives him a cold stare and says, "Don't ever call me a thesaurus" as if he was genuinely offended. Is it any wonder why everybody loves the big guy?
9. Cate Blanchett
Best performance: Thor: Ragnarok
Cate Blanchett only got one shot in the MCU, but she definitely made it count. Playing Odin’s daughter, Hela, she is one of the most menacing villains in the history of the MCU, but also so full of character. You can see how she and Loki could be in the same family.
Her best moment was probably when she first arrives and tells Thor that he doesn’t look like Odin, but that Loki sounds like him. And then, she obliterates Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, without so much as flinching. It takes a lot to make a grand entrance like that, but Cate Blanchett nailed it.
8. Michael Keaton
Best performance: Spider-Man: Homecoming
Michael Keaton, a.k.a. Batman, a.k.a. Birdman, a.k.a The Vulture is a man of many stripes (like black and white), but each one of them is compelling and badass. Michael Keaton is another actor who only appeared once in the MCU, but he made every second count in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Playing a man who is fed up with everybody—including Tony Stark—getting away with everything while the little man gets crapped on, Michael Keaton plays a villain you can relate to, even though he’s super sinister (six?). His best moment is when he finds out that Peter Parker is Spider-Man and turns around casually to him to say, “I’ll kill you dead." That’s a creepiness factor dialed up to 11!
7. Elizabeth Olsen
Best performance: Captain America: Civil War
Elizabeth Olsen has turned out to be one of the best additions to the MCU. Arriving first in a major way in the second Avengers movie, she has quickly become one of the most versatile and interesting characters in the MCU. It doesn’t hurt that she is also probably the most powerful.
But what makes her so interesting is her restraint, which Elizabeth Olsen deftly pulls off. Especially in Civil War, where you get a sense that Scarlet Witch is almost ashamed that she has so much power and could be so dangerous. Her best moment is actually in Civil War when she protects Captain America from being blown up by Crossbones, but accidentally throws Crossbones’ body into a building, possibly killing dozens of people. Her look of shock is one that sticks with you. We’re really looking forward to seeing what she can pull off in Wandavision.
6. Michael B. Jordan
Best performance: Black Panther
As far as bad guys go, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger may be the best in the entire MCU. Either him, or Thanos. But what Michael B. Jordan brought to the table was the human element that the purple-faced alien Thanos lacked. And every scene Michael B. Jordan was in, he dominated. How he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar is beyond us.
The fact that so many people who watched the movie sympathized with Killmonger's rationale of why he was doing what he was doing is proof that Michael B. Jordan pulled off the role successfully. And his best moment was when his character goes into his past and meets his slain father. It’s probably one of the most powerful scenes in the entirety of the MCU, and it solidified Michael B. Jordan’s character as an unforgettable presence.
5. Tom Hiddleston
Best performance: Avengers: Infinity War
The O.G. Avengers villain, Tom Hiddleston has always been everybody’s favorite bad guy, which is evidenced by the fact that he’s soon getting his own series on Disney+. Tom Hiddleston has always had charm to spare as the god of mischief, Loki, and even when he’s “dead,” he’s never really dead for long.
Which is why his character is so effective, since we don’t ever want him to be gone forever. So even when it’s an alternate dimension/timeline of Loki, we’re still satisfied as fans that Tom Hiddleston is in the MCU. His best moment was in Infinity War, when he was the first major character to bite the dust. And yes, of course, that “dust” pun was intended.
4. Scarlett Johansson
Best performance: Avengers: Endgame
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow hasn’t had the best arc in the MCU. In fact, it’s been kind of terrible. From her intro with that awful wig in Iron Man 2 to her ultimate sacrifice in Endgame, her character has more been defined by what she hasn’t done, then what she has. In fact, she’s been such a background staple of the MCU for so long, that we’re hoping her overdue solo project will flesh out the leading character we always knew she could be.
That said, Scarlett Johansson has done the best with the material she’s been given. Especially in The Winter Soldier, Civil War--where she was torn on which side she stood on--and in Endgame, where she has her best moment when she takes Hawkeye’s place off the cliff. We knew Scarlett Johansson sneakily made herself one of our favorite characters in the MCU when we were heartbroken after her death.
3. Chris Hemsworth
Best performance: Avengers: Endgame
Somehow, Chris Hemsworth has become one of the MCU’s most valuable players. It’s Thor's story arc. It’s one of the best. Starting out as the most arrogant character since he’s literally a god, and becoming so humble that he entirely lets himself go after he failed the universe, Chris Hemsworth has shown his acting ability time and time again with his characterization of Thor.
Plus, his range is enormous. Hemsworth can do humor, he can do serious, he can do somber, he can do whatever, and often all in the same scene. It’s hard to pick a best Chris Hemsworth moment since there are so many, but we’re going to go with his “I’m still worthy!” scene in Endgame, since it really did look like all the doubt had truly lifted from Thor's face when Mjolnir came back to his hand. It was subtle, but it was probably one of the greatest moments in the entire film, and it was all because Chris Hemsworth is such a great actor in the role.
2. Tom Holland
Best performance: Avengers: Infinity War
“Mr. Stark. I don’t feel so good.” With those seven words, Tom Holland utterly wrecked us. Besides that scene, though, which is definitely his best since it brought genuine tears to our eyes (Shut up!), Tom Holland IS Spider-Man. This is no small feat since we’ve already had two cinematic representations of the web head, one from Tobey MaGuire, and another from Andrew Garfield.
But most will argue that Tom Holland’s interpretation is the best since he makes for both an excellent Spider-Man, and an excellent Peter Parker. His gee-whiz approach to everything is endearing and hasn’t gotten stale yet. Plus, the fact that people were up in arms after it was announced that Sony was taking Spider-Man back, only for him to return to the fold in the MCU just shows how much we love Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Please don’t put us through that again Sony/Disney.
1. Robert Downey Jr.
Best performance: Iron Man 3
This might be a hyperbolic statement, but there would be no MCU without Robert Downey Jr. Back in the day, Iron Man was always more of a B or even C level character in the comics. But when Robert Downey Jr. infused his charm and talent into the role, it created a character that people around the world fell in love with. In all honesty, we can’t think of Tony Stark as a character without thinking about Robert Downey Jr. first.
He also has one of the best arcs in the MCU, and he should, since he was there from the very beginning of Phase 1 all the way to the end of phase 3. He went from being smug and arrogant, to sacrificing himself for all of humanity. And he’s convincing throughout. His best moment was in Iron Man 3 when he was suffering from PTSD following the events of the first Avengers. It was impossible not to feel for him, as it looked like he was really struggling.
We know, we know. What about Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One? What about Chris Evans as Captain America? What about Josh Brolin as Thanos? Yes, yes, all great performances, and there are a whole lot more that we haven't mentioned. But that just goes to show that the MCU is full of talent, and we're all the luckier for it.