Who Should Lead The Avengers? Captain America vs. Iron Man vs. Thor

Published 4 years ago by , Updated June 27th, 2013 at 3:11 pm,

Thor Captain America Iron Man Avengers Who Should Lead The Avengers? Captain America vs. Iron Man vs. Thor

It’s hard to believe, but we’re officially less than nine months away from The Avengers, perhaps the most ambitious superhero movie in cinematic history, and the one film that will definitively prove whether or not Marvel Studios’ ambitious plans to weave multiple films together over several years will work with mainstream audiences.

With the recent releases of Captain America (see our 4/5 star review) and Thor (see our 3.5/5 star review), there are no more lead-in films to Joss Whedon’s epic superhero team-up. While that may be a bummer to fanboys who have enjoyed one of the better superhero movie summers in recent history, there is some consolation.

Now that all the solo films have been released, we’ve learned all there is to know about each individual member of The Avengers. In other words, we can finally start debating The Avengers in earnest, and I’m going to kick off the conversation!

In the comic books, Captain America has more-or-less always served as the leader of The Avengers. As such, Steve Rogers will also be the leader of the team in The Avengers film. However, as any fanboy knows, movies are a different animal than comic books, which begs the question: should Captain America be the man who gets to yell “Avengers Assemble!” on the big screen?

In the Marvel movie universe, there are really only three viable leaders for The Avengers: Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. At the risk of starting a massive argument in the comments, we’re putting each of the heroes to the test to see who would be the best leader for the team.

Here are the rules. Each hero will be rated in five categories: Character, Leadership Skills, Weapons, Style, Intangibles. The winner of each category gets three points, the runner-up gets two points, and the loser gets one point. After five categories, we add up each hero’s points to determine a winner. (Remember: This is just hypothetical. Captain America will more than likely be the leader of The Avengers when the movie hits theaters next year, but let’s not keep that from spoiling the fun!)


Skinny Steve Rogers in Captain America First Avenger Who Should Lead The Avengers? Captain America vs. Iron Man vs. Thor

Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man are all great characters, but which one of the three has the greatest moral character? Let’s break it down.

As another famous Marvel hero once taught us: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” While all three of our would-be leaders have great power, not all of them exercise great responsibility.

In the Iron Man films, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark as a hard-drinking, womanizing, and aggressively sarcastic man whose genius is only rivaled by his ego. While Iron Man acts heroically, he doesn’t seem to act out of an innate goodness, but rather to inflate his celebrity and improve his family’s legacy (especially in Iron Man 2). Iron Man is undoubtedly a great hero, but he doesn’t always demonstrate great integrity, which is why he’s at the bottom of the list.

Like Iron Man, Thor is another hero whose ego sometimes kept him from doing what is morally right. Instead of fighting for something worthwhile, Thor simply fights because he’s bored, putting his entire civilization at risk in the process. Unlike Iron Man, however, Thor learned from his mistakes after his powers were taken away. Maybe if somebody stole Iron Man’s suits, he would have had the same epiphany. Despite his redemption, Thor’s initial arrogance keeps him out of the top spot.

The clear winner in the Character category is Captain America. As played by Chris Evans, Steve Rogers is a brave and selfless soldier with an unshakable desire to do what’s right (even though his 90-pound frame refused to cooperate with him). When he takes on the mantle of Captain America, Steve doesn’t let his newfound powers go to his head, instead showing that his greatest strength was always his integrity.

VERDICT: Captain America (3), Thor (2), Iron Man (1)

Leadership Ability…


Leadership Ability

The Avengers Captain America Who Should Lead The Avengers? Captain America vs. Iron Man vs. Thor

Whoever leads The Avengers has to, you know, be a good leader. So which one of these three Marvel heavyweights has the best leadership skills?

With his dizzying array of weapons and high-tech tools, Iron Man is undoubtedly a powerhouse, but when it comes to leading a team of fellow heroes, Tony Stark just doesn’t have the right temperament. As shown in Iron Man 2, Tony prefers to work solo. It’s true that he eventually teams up with War Machine, but that was the exception, not the rule. It’s hard to imagine Tony swallowing his ego enough to lead a team into combat and demonstrate the tactical skill necessary to guarantee victory. Again, old Shellhead comes in at the bottom.

Although his arrogance occasionally proves to be a problem, Thor definitely is a stronger leader than Iron Man. As an Asgardian warrior, Thor is battle-tested and even leads his own band of warriors (the Warriors Three). Though Iron Man might be more fun to go into battle with, I’d rather have Thor telling me what to do on the battlefield.

Of course, when it comes to true leadership, Thor can’t hold a candle to Captain America, and that’s why Cap wins this category as well. Through his extensive military training, Steve Rogers is well-equipped to handle a wide range of battlefield scenarios. He’s also proven that he can lead men into battle, successfully leading his Howling Commandoes squad to numerous victories against the far more powerful armies of Hydra. With his humility and military expertise, Cap is the best man to lead a team of superheroes into battle.

VERDICT: Captain America (3), Thor (2), Iron Man (1)


The Avengers Thor Who Should Lead The Avengers? Captain America vs. Iron Man vs. Thor

When The Avengers hits theaters next year, we’re not going to see Cap, Iron Man, and Thor sitting around playing patty cake, we’re going to see huge action scenes with outrageously awesome special effects. As such, it’s important that whoever leads The Avengers is packing some major powers. So, which one of our three heroes brings the best weapons and/or powers to the table? (NOTE: This category is going to start some serious arguments.)

After undergoing his transformation from 90-pound weakling to shield-wielding super-powered soldier, Captain America becomes a true force of nature. Unfortunately, while his super-strength, enhanced durability, and endlessly useful shield are impressive, they’re not enough to win him this category.

With his always-evolving suit, Tony Stark is a one-man weapon of mass destruction. Thanks to the Iron Man armor, Tony can fly out of our atmosphere; shoot lasers, missiles, and energy pulses with pinpoint accuracy; and make incredibly intricate calculations with ease. Granted, when his suit is off, Tony is just as fallible as you or me, but his amazing armor still places him firmly in second place for this category.

Very few Marvel superheroes can rival Iron Man when it comes to power, but one of them is definitely Thor. As a God, Thor is virtually invulnerable, and with his mighty hammer Mjolnir, he can do practically anything the situation calls for. I’m not usually a fan of superheroes with every power (ahem, Superman), but Thor’s unique combination of strengths is more than enough to win him this category.

VERDICT: Thor (3), Iron Man (2), Captain America (1)

Style, Intangibles…



If you’re going to lead the world’s premiere superhero team, you can’t be some bum off the street. For such a high-profile position, you need someone who is as comfortable talking with Jay Leno as they are fighting to save the world. So who has the style to lead The Avengers?

Though Captain America showed off a knack for choreography during his stint as a USO performer, it’s hard to imagine the humble Steve Rogers gracing the cover of GQ or Esquire magazine. Cap is an old-fashioned kind of guy, and the bright lights of our modern 24-hour media might be too much for him to handle, which is why he comes in last for this category.

As a member of Asgard’s royal family, Thor is used to the spotlight. Throw in his rock star looks and unique wardrobe, and it’s easy to imagine Thor leading The Avengers into battle (or onto the red carpet). That being said, Thor does come from an entirely dimension, which probably means he’d have to overcome some cultural blocks before the world would embrace him. All things considered, Thor is a stylish superhero, but not stylish enough to win the category.

When it comes to style, nobody can top Tony Stark. As a billionaire playboy and the CEO of a globally recognized corporation, Tony is well-acquainted with the demands of the media and of the difficulty of living a dual life. Also, this category is where Tony Stark’s cockiness finally helps him. To lead a superhero team, you’ve got to have a little bit of swagger. Tony’s outsized ego might make things difficult on his teammates, but there’s nothing the public loves more than Iron Man.

VERDICT: Iron Man (3), Thor (2), Captain America (1)


Chris Evans as Captain America in The First Avenger Who Should Lead The Avengers? Captain America vs. Iron Man vs. Thor

Sometimes, the thing that makes a good leader isn’t easily defined or measured. Each one of these characters brings something unique to the table, but whose intangible element makes them the best choice to lead The Avengers?

Thor’s intangible quality is two-fold. One, Thor is royalty. That might not seem like a big deal, but it’s impossible to qualify the kind of impact that being raised in Asgard under the tutelage of Odin would have on a warrior. Two, Thor is a God. Presumably, having God-like power can manifest itself in a number of useful ways (though perhaps none which would necessarily make him a better leader). Despite his impressive intangibles, however, Thor comes it at the bottom of this category.

Tony Stark’s intangible quality is that he’s a certified genius. Whether he’s reprogramming his Iron Man suit on the fly, hacking into an enemy’s network, or devising new and better weapons, as one of the world’s greatest inventors and engineers, Tony is able to impact battles in a number of ways. While you can probably measure Tony Stark’s IQ, you can’t measure the kind of impact his technical brilliance might have on the battlefield, which is why Tony gets runner-up in this category.

Last, but certainly not least, you have Captain America. Though I’m certain I’ll get some negative feedback for this, I think Steve Rogers has a much greater intangible asset than Thor and Iron Man. Put simply, he’s just a kid from Brooklyn. Thor is, for all intents and purposes, an alien to our world. Likewise, Tony Stark, with his brilliant mind and billions of dollars, is completely disconnected from the everyday world. Captain America on the other hand understands what’s at risk when the world is under attack, because when it comes down to it, he’s just a regular guy. While that might not sound impressive, it’s hugely important to his character and something that greatly enhances his leadership potential.

VERDICT: Captain America (3), Iron Man (2),  Thor (1)

And The Winner Is…


Final Tally and Final Thoughts

The Avengers Teaser Trailer Who Should Lead The Avengers? Captain America vs. Iron Man vs. Thor

After adding up the scores, Captain America comes out on top with 11 points, while Thor follows close behind with 10 points, and Iron Man, who kicked off The Avengers hoopla in the first place, comes in last with 9 points.

While this article clearly contains personal opinion, it’s interesting how our scores seem to confirm Marvel’s most likely creative decisions for The Avengers. From a movie perspective, it makes the most sense to have Captain America as the leader of the team. Of all the characters in The Avengers, Captain America is the one that audiences can identify with the best and is also the easiest character to build a narrative around.

Thor could also be a viable protagonist, especially since Loki is the primary villain in the film, but his otherworldliness makes him a better supporting character than a lead. Likewise, Iron Man is a fine character to carry his own movies, but in The Avengers, his personality would be better utilized as a comic relief type character. Presumably, that’s why Iron Man is asked by Nick Fury to be “The Consultant” to the team rather than a full-fledged member.

What do you think of our scores, and how would you change them? If you had your choice, who would you like to see lead The Avengers?

The Avengers hits theaters on May 4th, 2012.

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  1. I think Captain America because in “Civil War”, at the end Cap realizes that they’re fighting for nothing and does the right thing and surrenders to make sure the people still believe in heroes. This is why he is the chosen leader. Oh yeah, Spoiler alert Iron man 3 is coming out in April 2013, Thor 2 is coming out in November 2013, Captain America 2 is coming out I think in March 2014 and Avengers 2 is coming out May 2015.
    Ask me any questions… I will answer them. MWA Ha HA HA HA!!!

  2. To me, leaders must be intelligent. No point having a physically strong and brave leader when you ain’t got no brains. Thus I choose iron man

    • U r completely right

    • Captian America isn’t smart???? I know he’s no book worm but when it comes to wars he is obviously smart. Being a genius doesn’t make you a leader

  3. I always thought iron man would be a great leader. plus you need someone smart to be in charge so tony should be in charge

  4. I love spongebob ok

    • What.

  5. The one i think should lead is iron. I say iron man because he is smart and well he is iron man. Captain America really doesn’t have any powers which doesn’t matter but he’s to demanding. And Thor will he needs to learn how to control him self. Iron man would be a ideal leader.

  6. Wow, really? How could you not give the weapons category to Iron Man? Thor is invulnerable? No he’s not, if he was then why didn’t he take down Loki and his army by himself? He’s a demigod, nothing more. He can do anything with his hammer? No he can’t. It can deliver some pretty heavy blows, but it can’t smash everything (it couldn’t smash the portal generator with the Tesseract in it).

    Among Iron Man’s huge assortiment of weapons, there’s definitely more then one that could easily tear Thor apart.

    Having said that I have to call b******* on this whole article which clearly has an anti-Tony and a pro-Captain America bias.

    • You’re entitled to your opinion, but Iron Man cannot “easily tear” Thor apart.

      More importantly, Cap is recognized as the one of, if not the most inspirational figure in the Marvel universe. On top of that, he is acknowledged as the best leader and tactician there is, to the point where in JLA/Avengers, both Superman and Batman concede that Captain America is the best choice to lead the final battle against Krona.

      Again, you’re entitled to what you think, and you make valid points about Tony and the advantages he brings to the table. But Cap is the man. No one else is as good a leader, period.

      Last thought: what is with the whole, “Cap has powers” thing? Cap has no powers, he’s enhanced to the best a human can be, but not “beyond” human, i.e., he’s no meta-human. No superhuman strength when compared to, say, Spidey, Thor, heck, anyone with actual powers.

      The movie cap, to me, is much closer to the 616 cap than Ultimate Cap, who does have superhuman powers.

      This is what makes Cap such a great character. He’s woefully underpowered, but almost every character fears and respects him for his fighting and leadership abilities, and the fact that he always does what is right, not matter the cost.

      So, I think I’d have to call bull(spit) on your bull(spit) call. I don’t perceive an anti-Tony bias, it just seems like the writer is telling it like it is: Tony has fancy gadgets, but Thor and Cap make better military leaders.

      - from a big fan of all three.

  7. I was curious if you ever considered changing the structure of your website?

    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way
    of content so people could connect with it better.

    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or
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  8. Face it Captain America should lead the avenger. Being a leader does not require intelligence or supernatural power. Leadership is the art of leading others to deliberately create a result that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Iron Man is very aggressive, Thor is young and has temper. Iron Man even refer Captain America as “The Jury” in the movie.

  9. If your judging leadership base on power then THOR is the one. He is the son of Odin a major god and the ruler of Asgard…so that makes THOR a real god with natural power.

  10. This is a USA movie. If you make iron man the leader of avengers, do you really think Obama would like it to see Captain America “wearing american flag suit” follow orders and be dictated? lol

  11. look iron man has an ego and captain is like grandpa from ben 10 but like ben 10 when the team needs a leader and the world needs a hero tony will rise

  12. Iron Man. Duhh. He is obviously the smartest one so that’s what matters.

  13. I like how people are like “Iron Man should be the leader because he’s smart”. Yeah, he’s smart but that doesn’t make a leader. He has a HUGE ego and his cockiness makes him not an ideal leader at all. Besides he’s more science smart.
    Captain America has the charisma needed for a leader, without the cockiness. Besides he has war/battle experience and LEADING experience. He fought in WW2 and led men against Hydra successfully I might add. That kind of “smart” is more import than Stark’s.

  14. Rogers is a good leader for the avengers but he would eventually have to step down. For the main reason that the super soldier formula would eventually destroy his body. I hope that this weakness is adressed before Avengers III.

  15. So many people calling bulls*** on this article because of a lack of Tony Stark, not so many understanding why. One even claimed it had a pro-Captain bias. Perhaps. But do you know why?

    If you’re in the military as a private – a minor member of the team – which would you have a bias for? A general, or another private? If you pick the answer incorrectly, you’re likely an imbecile.

    Tony Stark is by far one of the most enjoyable Marvel characters, in both comics and films. He’s an extremely intelligent individual, with an arsenal of weapons that would make the DoD jealous (and it has). He’s hilariously sarcastic, and works great as a comic (punny) relief. He’s definitely worthy of being an Avenger. Aside from, of course, being a “playboy billionaire philanthropist”. With that much brains comes an ego. And there’s nothing worse then a man that is all too sure of himself and willing to put people in danger to prove it. He’d make a good leader if and ONLY if he was willing to drop all of the party-phase nonsense.

    Thor is self explanatory. He shouldn’t be made leader for the same reasons he shouldn’t be king of Asgard. He’s got a good heart, but not necessarily always a good head. He’d much rather headbutt someone then actually consider a more peaceful alternative.

    Hulk wasn’t mentioned, but just for note: Ha.

    Captain America was a born leader. He was created for the PURPOSE of leading (hence “Captain” America and not Private America), it’s simple common sense. You put the person with military strategics and understanding in the front, and have him direct people. Because considering his powers are (for this argument) the least significant, it makes sense to give him a job where he orders people into the field instead of being in it himself.

  16. I think Iron Man should be tha leader. It air fare!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Well… its obvious that captain America would be a leader cause its part of his name REMEMBER:CAPTAIN America sooooooo…. Go captain

  18. Spiderman

  19. Iron Man he’s the smartest richest and the best avangers has to offer at the moment yeah thor is a god but he’s iron man