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 that end, The A.V. Club has assembled our ranking of the top 100 Marvel characters on screens big and small. Some have served as de facto 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.
Our countdown kicks off with the characters who ranked from 100–81 (come back tomorrow to see who superhero-landed in our 80–61 section). You might not agree with our placement for some of these beloved heroes, sidekicks, and villains—and that’s OK. These fictional beings resonate with each of us in different ways. And while the placement subjective, based on our big nerdy hearts, it also figures to change as new Marvel projects arrive.