Since long before it was officially a cinematic universe, Marvel has been a pillar of pop culture, not simply telling stories (some well-established, others wholly original) that entertained audiences across the globe, but inspiring them through characters, ideas, and even values. Given Marvel’s expansive pantheon, picking out favorite characters—at least since the company’s canon started getting translated into films and TV shows—requires a careful triangulation of casting, filmmaking creativity, and in some cases, sheer longevity.
For example, everyone loves Spider-Man, but which Spider-Man? The same applies to Daredevil, Hulk, and a variety of X-Men characters, each of whom has offered different dimensions of iconic comics characters that many of us have worshipped since we were in short pants.
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the launch of the MCU, The A.V. Club has assembled our ranking of the top 100 Marvel characters on screens big and small. Some are Marvel favorites who aren’t officially part of the MCU, some are cornerstones for the evolution of the MCU—highly active across multiple storylines and platforms—while others simply made an immediate and unforgettable impression, exemplifying a heroism or villainy that’s complex, believable, even sympathetic. There are also those characters we just thrill at seeing on the screen, creating a fun, unforgettable moment, TV show, or movie that stands out in Marvel’s ever-increasing canon.
You might not agree with our placement for some of these beloved heroes, sidekicks, supporting characters, and villains—and that’s OK. These fictional beings resonate with each of us in different ways. And while the placement is subjective, based on our big nerdy hearts, it also figures to change as new Marvel projects arrive.