News recently broke that Brie Larson, perhaps best known for her Oscar winning performance in Room, is the front runner to play Captain Marvel in the Marvel Studios movie of the same name. This would not be the first time that Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, and company has looked to past Academy Award winners to fill some of the more pivotal roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the “MCU”).
In fact, so far there have been thirteen movies in the MCU, and only one of them, Avengers: Age of Ultron, did not feature at least one former Oscar winner. It looks as if Marvel will be continuing this trend, as the next four movies set to be released in the MCU will all feature at least one Oscar winner. Kevin Feige has turned creating critically acclaimed box office hits into a science, and part of that formula is no doubt the inclusion of as many talented stars as possible. It seems that Marvel Studios is doing its best to make sure Oscar winners do not suffer from the career downturn that can often happen, paradoxically, after winning their first award.
With that in mind, please check out these 10 Oscar Winners Who Starred in Marvel Superhero Movies.
10. Jeff Bridges
Character: Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger
Appearances: Iron Man
Oscar: Best Actor for Crazy Heart
If Jeff Bridges is best known to you as Obadiah Stane, Tony Stark’s jealous and power hungry business partner, from the first Iron Man movie, then you are missing out on some incredible individual performances. While Iron Man was the critical and box office hit that launched the MCU, Jeff Bridges has been making high quality movies for longer than many of us have been alive. In fact, he has been nominated for an acting Oscar in four of the last five decades. While he came up short in his first four nominations, he finally struck gold as the down and out country music star, Otis Blake, in the 2009 film Crazy Heart – released just one year after Iron Man.
9. Gwyneth Paltrow
Character: Pepper Potts
Appearances: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Avengers, and Iron Man 3
Oscar: Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love
Gwyneth Paltrow won her first, and so far only Oscar, nearly twenty years ago for playing the fictional lover of William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love. Subsequently, Paltrow suffered from that aforementioned career downturn. After appearing in The Royal Tenenbaums and The Talented Mr. Ripley, she failed to appear in virtually any noteworthy films for nearly five years. Ms. Paltrow’s luck changed when she was cast as Pepper Potts, Tony Stark’s love interest in the Iron Man films. She has since appeared as the character in all three Iron Man films, and made a brief appearance in the first Avengers movie.
8. William Hurt
Character: General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross
Appearances: The Incredible Hulk and Captain America: Civil War
Oscar: Best Actor for Kiss of the Spiderwoman
For a long time The Incredible Hulk was largely ignored as the second installment of the MCU. However, in that film, we were introduced to the MCU’s iteration of one of Hulk’s greatest adversaries, General “Thunderbolt” Ross. Nearly a decade later, William Hurt returned to the role in the recently released box office smash, Captain America: Civil War, as the current Secretary of State, and government face of the Sokovia Accords.
However, long before William Hurt took the screen as General Ross, he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Luis Molina, an imprisoned homosexual, in Kiss of the Spiderwoman. Want to know how good of an actor William Hurt truly is? He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in A History of Violence, where he was on screen for less than ten minutes! Hopefully we will see more of William Hurt and General Ross in MCU movies to come.
7. Sir Anthony Hopkins
Appearances: Thor and Thor: The Dark World
Oscar: Best Actor for The Silence of the Lambs
While we are on the subject of actors who can do a lot with little screen time, let’s talk about Sir Anthony Hopkins. Perhaps best known to comic book fans as Odin from Thor, Hopkins is most widely known for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic serial killer from The Silence of the Lambs – a role he went on to reprise twice more. What is most impressive regarding his appearance as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, the movie in which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, is that he appeared on screen for less than twenty minutes. And boy did he make quite the impression.
6. Natalie Portman
Character: Jane Foster
Appearances: Thor and Thor: The Dark World
Oscar: Best Actress for Black Swan
The Thor films are generally considered the weak links in the MCU, though that might change with some of the recent news regarding Thor: Ragnarok. However, one thing that for sure, is that the Thor franchise is not lacking incredible actors. Prior to playing Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, in Thor, Natalie Portman won an Academy Award for Best Actress. That award was earned for her starring role in Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller, Black Swan.
It looks as if Natalie Portman may be finished with the MCU, but we sure hope that this turns out to be untrue.
5. Tommy Lee Jones
Character: Col. Chester Phillips
Appearances: Captain America: The First Avenger
Oscar: Best Supporting Actor for The Fugitive
Tommy Lee Jones is no stranger to superhero movies. Prior to appearing as Col. Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger, he portrayed Two-Face in the largely despised Batman Forever. However, prior to both of these films, Tommy Lee Jones took home an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of U.S. Marshall Samuel Gerard in the 1993 thriller, The Fugitive. While this is his only Oscar win to date, Tommy Lee Jones has been nominated three other times for Academy Awards. Unfortunately for us, it is unlikely we will see him in any future MCU installments, as Col. Chester Phillips was fighting with Captain America in World War II.
4. Sir Ben Kingsley
Character: Trevor Slattery
Appearances: Iron Man 3
Oscar: Best Actor for Gandhi
Sir Ben Kinglsey’s Marvel appearance may be the most controversial of anyone on this list. In promotional material leading up to the release of Iron Man 3, it sure seemed like he would be portraying one of Tony Stark’s greatest enemies, The Mandarin. And if you’ve seen the movie, you thought that as well – at least for the first half or so. In what could only be described as shocking, we found out that Ben Kingsley was not The Mandarin, but rather a British Actor by the name of Trevor Slattery, who was hired to play the aforementioned terrorist.
Well, they couldn’t have chosen a better actor. Kingsley won a Best Actor for his portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi. Oh yea, it was only the second movie he had ever appeared in as an actor. Sir Ben Kinglsey shows no signs of slowing down, as he has been nominated for three more Academy Awards. Additionally, he appeared in a funny Marvel One-Shot, reprising his role of Trevor Slattery.
3. Benicio Del Toro
Character: Taneleer Tivan/The Collector
Appearances: Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy
Oscar: Best Supporting Actor for Traffic
Before Benicio Del Toro was playing The Collector (aka the Liberace of the galaxy), he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Mexican police officer, Javier Rodriguez, in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic. Benicio Del Toro has continued to appear in a variety of box office hits and critically acclaimed movies. He most recently appeared in another widely revered movie, Sicario, and fans around the world wait in anticipation to learn more about the movie he is currently filming – Star Wars:Episode VIII.
2. Robert Redford
Character: Alexander Pierce
Appearance: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Oscar: Best Director for Ordinary People
Robert Redford is unique in that he is the only person on this list to not have won an Academy Award as an actor. Despite being nominated for his acting in The Sting, Robert Redford’s lone Academy Award (other than a much deserved Honorary Award) was for his work as a director on Ordinary People. Despite never winning an Oscar as an actor, Robert Redford is nothing short of iconic. He was cast as Alexander Pierce in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where he turned out to be playing a senior Hyrda official, and the movie’s big bad. Robert Redford is a selective actor, and boy are we glad he decided to join the list of Oscar winners who appeared in an MCU film.
1. Michael Douglas
Character: Hank Pym
Oscar: Best Picture for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Best Actor for Wall Street
Despite being a founding member of the Avengers in the comics, Hank Pym did not show up in the MCU until last year’s Ant-Man. In that film, Hank Pym was played by none other than Michael Douglas. Rather than playing the current iteration of Ant-Man, he played an older Hank Pym, who was searching for a replacement to save the world from his former protegé. But before playing Hank Pym, Michael Douglas was busy winning awards.
Perhaps surprisingly, given the incredible talent on this list, only Michael Douglas holds more than one Academy Award. Some may be surprised to learn that Michael Douglas won his first Academy Award not as an actor, but as a producer on the 1976 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starring Jack Nicholson. What is a surprise to probably nobody, is that Michael Douglas won his first Oscar as an actor for his portrayal of Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.
Hopefully, we will see more of Michael Douglas and Hank Pym in future installments of Ant-Man. And it would be silly for us not to, because Marvel knows good business, and Michael Douglas knows that “greed is good.”
Kevin Feige and company are showing no signs of stopping when it comes to casting high profile award winning actors in their movies. In fact, the next three movies in the MCU all star at least one Oscar winner. In somewhat of a controversial casting, Tilda Swinton will be playing the Ancient One in the 2016 film, Doctor Strange. Ms. Swinton took home an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the 2007 film Michael Clayton, starring Academy Award winner, and former Batman, George Clooney.
In another somewhat controversial casting, mostly because of how young she is, Marisa Tomei will be appearing as the third Aunt May in ten years, in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The role was previously played by Rosemary Harris and Sally Field, and Tomei appeared briefly in Captain America: Civil War, where Tony Stark was lucky enough to flirt with her. Marisa Tomei won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1992 for her role in My Cousin Vinny.
Finally, Cate Blanchett has been announced as playing Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. Hela is the Asgardian Goddess of Death, and will no doubt be brought to life in the best way possible by a tremendously talented actress. It seems that all Cate Blachett does is get nominated for Oscars – she’s been nominated for six! She has also won two for her roles in the Aviator and Blue Jasmine.
We can only assume that future installments of the MCU will continue to make use of talented directors and actors, and there will no doubt be more Oscar winners looking to join the Marvel Universe. Please let us know in the comments which Oscar winners you would like to see appear in future Marvel movies.