One of the benefits of having the most successful franchise the world has ever seen is the ability to expand, and in the nine years since its inception, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done just that. It has taken audiences all across Earth, visited different galaxies, a few of the nine realms, the quantum realm, and even different dimensions. The greatest expansion the MCU has undergone so far, however, is simply in its number of heroes. In its fourteen films, Marvel has introduced well over a dozen superheroes, each with a plethora of unique abilities.
With so many superheroes on display, it's only natural to ask who's the most powerful of them all. If Earth's Mightiest Heroes came to blows in a knock-down-drag-out fight to the death (and not the quip-filled one we got in Captain America: Civil War, which was awesome, but lacked any real stakes), then who would come out on top? To answer this question, we looked at each hero's physical abilities, fighting skills, and weaponry, and ignored any long-standing friendships (so Captain America won't be going easy on the Winter Soldier, and Black Widow won't be pulling any punches on Hawkeye). We kept the focus on heroes who have interacted with each other on Earth (so the Guardians of the Galaxy were not included), then omitted those from the television series and, sadly, those that are dead (sorry, Quicksilver).
Someone had to be ranked lowest, and that someone, unfortunately, is Hawkeye. Honestly, how could he rank any higher when he openly mocked his presence in the Avengers while giving a pep talk to Scarlet Witch during the climax of Avengers: Age of Ultron? While Hawkeye is a likable character, he doesn't have much going for him in terms of offensive capabilities. Yes, he is good (okay, make that great) with a bow and arrow, but at the end of the day he is just a man without any powers who lacks powerful technology, and that won't help him much against the rest of the heroes on this list.
The only real question when it comes to Hawkeye is where he ranks with regard to Black Widow, the only other non-enhanced, mostly tech-less superhero on Earth. The last time they went one-on-one in a legitimate fight (excluding their ultimately friendly brawl in Civil War) was during The Avengers , when Black Widow knocked a mind-controlled Hawkeye out cold, giving her the slight edge.
14 Black Widow
In terms of pure fighting skills, Black Widow is without a doubt one of the most dangerous people on Earth. This is why nearly every MCU film in which she appears seems to have the obligatory "Black Widow kicks the crap out of a small squadron of enemies on her own" scene. Simply put, when it comes to punching and kicking people in the face, and dishing out the occasional tilt-a-whirl head-scissors takedown, Black Widow is number one.
She ranks low on the list, however, for the same reason as Hawkeye: at the end of the day, she is just a human with no special enhancements or tech of any kind. Yes, she has access to some unique weapons (like the electroshock batons she used to take out a few of Ultron's robots in Age of Ultron, and the metal disc she used to temporarily short-circuit Bucky's arm in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), but these will do her little good against the rest of the MCU's heroes.
13 The Winter Soldier
The Winter Soldier's placement on the list may at first seem low, but the fact of the matter is he doesn't have much on his side when compared to the MCU's other heroes. Yes, he is a super soldier with exceptional hand-to-hand combat skills, extensive weapons training, and (to paraphrase Peter Parker) an "awesome" metal arm, but that's about it. So while his metal arm does give him an advantage over Hawkeye and Black Widow (and it does protect him from people who for some reason shoot directly at it instead of, you know, the rest of him), it does very little to raise his stock above the other entries on the list.
Some might argue that he should rank higher than Falcon and Captain America due to the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when Bucky seemed to get the better of both men in their respective fights. And while he did rip off one of Falcon's wings and kick him off a helicarrier (more on that below), he and Cap were actually well-matched throughout each of their fights. Cap gets the edge, however, since he had several opportunities to kill Bucky during their climactic battle but ultimately held back.
As stated above, an argument can seemingly be made for Falcon ranking lower than the Winter Soldier because the latter got the better of him when they fought in The Winter Soldier, but that is balderdash. Had this list been written immediately following that film, Bucky might have gotten the edge. Since then, however, Falcon's weaponry has seen some significant upgrades while the Winter Soldier's arm has, well, not. (It kinda sorta got ripped off, actually.)
Falcon's enhanced weaponry can best be seen in the battle at the CDC at the beginning of Civil War. In this scene, Falcon stands with his back to three of Crossbones' henchmen and, while shielded by his wings (which are folded behind him), Sam taps a few buttons on the screen on his wrist and launches two missiles that eviscerate the henchmen instantly. This new weaponry, combined with his power of flight and Redwing (which, literally allows Falcon to fight while safely hidden hundreds of yards away) make Falcon far more dangerous than Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Bucky.
11 Black Panther
It's safe to say that at this point in the MCU, Black Panther's abilities are a bit muddled. This is sure to be cleared up when he gets his own film next year, but based on what we saw in Civil War he seems to be on par with the Winter Soldier and Captain America in terms of speed, strength, and fighting skills. He easily keeps pace with both men during the film's chase scene, gets the better of the Winter Soldier during the airport battle (before Scarlet Witch intervenes), and he even lands a few good shots on Cap.
The main reason Black Panther is ranked higher than Bucky and Sam is his suit, which is made out of vibranium, the same material used to make Captain America's shield. Since it's bulletproof (as evidenced by the scene in Civil War when he is shot multiple times by a helicopter and just stands there looking only mildly annoyed), it gives him a distinct advantage over both men. With their weapons neutralized, T'Challa can use his strength, speed, and nails to make quick work of them, as well as most other who would dare to oppose him.
10 Captain America
Considering Captain America's status as one of the founding members of the Avengers, it's tough ranking him so low, but this is precisely where he belongs. Considering his enhanced speed, strength, and agility, Cap has plenty of offense, and his shield can be used on offense and defense. He has already bested Bucky one-on-one, and his shield would likely be the difference-maker in a fight with Falcon and Black Panther.
When it comes to fighting everyone else on the list, however, Cap doesn't stand much of a chance. His fights in Civil War with War Machine and Spider-Man don't carry much weight, since both were trying to detain Cap (as opposed to kill him), and even Iron Man was much more interested in killing Bucky. We've got to believe that if any of the three were out for blood, Cap would be toast. War Machine and Iron Man could launch a few missiles at Cap's feet and blow him sky high, and Spidey could easily web him up.
9 War Machine
James Rhodes doesn't have any enhanced abilities, but his War Machine armor gives him more than enough weaponry to take out everyone he outranks on our list -- and yes, that includes Captain America. The main difference between Rhodes and Falcon is the fact that War Machine is encased in a protective suit, while the latter simply seems to be sporting some nifty but comparatively unimpressive military gear. While Falcon would certainly be able to evade Rhodes for a bit, he doesn't have enough weaponry to really damage the suit, whereas War Machine could seemingly blow him to bits in an instant.
Black Panther and Captain America pose a bit of a problem, however, as both T'Challa's suit and Steve's shield could potentially protect each man from War Machine's long-range attacks (and yes, they would be long-range attacks. War Machine would not be engaging the two men in a fistfight using a stick that "ain't gonna tickle" in this situation). In a worst case scenario, however, War Machine could easily lift a car and drop it on either man, or simply swoop down, scoop them up, fly a few thousand feet in the air, and drop them. Splat!
Ant-Man's rank over entries 9 through 15 is a no brainer, since his suit is one of the more powerful the MCU has seen thus far. Not only does it give him (moderate levels of) superhuman strength, but it also provides a distinct advantage over everyone he engages in hand-to-hand combat by making him nearly undetectable. Black Panther and Captain America will find it quite difficult fighting something they can't see.
As if his superhuman strength and near-invisibility isn't enough, Ant-Man also has the ability to turn in Giant-Man (or GiAnt-Man, if you will). And once Lang is in his giant form, he is nearly unstoppable. For evidence of this, look no further than the airport battle in which he takes on virtually every member of team Iron Man without breaking a sweat. He nearly kills Black Panther with a bus (before Vision rescues his comrade) and is seemingly unharmed by War Machine's entire arsenal. In fact, Scott probably could have ripped War Machine (and every other member of team Iron Man with the exception of Vision) in half if he really wanted to/could get ahold of them.
Spider-Man shocked the world when he finally turned up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the end of the second trailer for Civil War. The moment Spidey showed up, he instantly became the seventh most powerful superhero in the MCU today. Between his radioactively-enhanced strength, speed, agility, web-slinging abilities, and spider sense, he has more offensive and defensive weapons than every hero ranked beneath him on our list.
He even has a slight edge on Ant-Man due to his enhanced senses and evasiveness. (He was able to sense Ant-Man crawling on Cap's shield, and evade GiAnt-Man [we're sticking with it] during the battle, continually crawling on and swinging around him with ease.) Plus, he would have bested Captain America in that same fight had it not been for a small cheat on the part of the filmmakers. At one point, Cap flips in the air and essentially wraps himself in Spider-Man's web. This results in Captain America somehow freeing himself from his restraints. Instead, this should have led to Cap being completely tied up and left at Spidey's mercy, but we'll let it slide.
The big guy finally makes an appearance at number six on our list. Now this may seem pretty low, considering he took down one of those giant, Chitauri flying whale things with a single punch, but the fights he has had with the MCU's other heroes suggest otherwise. Hulk gets the slight edge over Spider-Man because he is much quicker than GiAnt-Man and will easily be able to keep up with the wall-crawler. Everyone knows Spider-Man can swing, but Hulk can leap with the best of them. Plus, Hulk has considerable more strength. Once he lands a solid blow on Spidey, the fight is over.
Hulk has also already fought two fellow Avengers in previous films, the outcomes of which help us to see precisely where he should rank. Hulk and Thor went toe-to-toe in The Avengers in a fight where Hulk was trying to kill and Thor was trying to detain. Thor was nearly able to match Hulk's quickness and strength, and would surely come out on top in an all-out brawl. Iron Man, meanwhile, knocked Hulk completely unconscious during their fight in Age of Ultron, which dropped Hulk a few slots.
The god of thunder comes in at number five because of his aforementioned fight with Hulk on the helicarrier in The Avengers, throughout which he shows off his strength and quickness. At one point, he even knocks Hulk squarely on his behind with a shot to the face from Mjolnir. And, as stated above, all of this occurred at a time when Thor was simply trying to detain Bruce Banner's alter-ego. Had Thor swung Mjolnir a few more times, or thrown some lightning into the mix, odds are high he could have killed the incredible one.
In his fight with Iron Man in The Avengers, however, Thor did not fare as well. Yes, the fight ultimately ended in a draw when Captain America showed up and cooler heads prevailed, but everything we saw in the fight suggests Thor may have been on the losing end had Cap not intervened. During the fight, Thor throws everything he has at Iron Man and it does practically nothing. A shot from Mjolnir knocks Iron Man about fifty feet, but leaves him mostly unscathed, and even a shot of lightning does nothing but energize his suit. And that's not even taking into consideration Iron Man's other offensive weapons (more on that below). But still, number five is a respectable position for the son of Odin.
4 Iron Man
The founding member of the Avengers (who technically wasn't the founding member, since he was deemed unqualified, but he was the first superhero to get his own MCU movie so screw it) is also the fourth most powerful. What makes Iron Man so dangerous is his intellect. Not only did he create an armor strong enough to go one-on-one with Thor (a god), but he has made significant improvements since then, and is more than capable of crafting more upgrades in the future.
Not only has he since built the Hulkbuster, which is capable of, well, busting the Hulk, but he also created the Iron Legion, which is basically his own small army. And then there's the delightful little weapon that he introduced at the end of Iron Man 2 that has not made an appearance since. While fighting Whiplash's drones, Iron Man yells for War Machine to get down before shooting two small lasers out of each of his fists, instantly slicing in half everything that stands around them. Tony describes this weapon as a "one-off", but surely he can build another one if he needs to. And everyone ranked below him on our list better watch out when he does!
So Vision is basically a god, right? Considering the fact that he has more impressive abilities than the actual god of thunder, he's got to be. Let's run through his attributes: he has super strength (as he shows in the Age of Ultron climax when he tears apart Ultron's robots like tin foil), he can fly, he can use the Mind Stone to blast other heroes out of the sky, and can control his own density, allowing him to literally solidify himself or pass through solid objects or people. Seriously, what would have happened in Civil War if he had increased his density while inside of GiAnt-Man?
There is simply no one in entries fifteen through four who can compete with Vision. For proof of this, look no further than his brief fight with Hawkeye in Civil War. After being briefly paralyzed by some sort of electric pulse from Hawkeye's arrows, Vision frees himself by blasting the arrows with his mind stone (which he easily could have done to Hawkeye himself) and then simply toys with the man during their hand-to-hand fight. By altering his density, he becomes impossible to hit, making him all-but impossible to defeat, and the clear choice for third most powerful MCU hero.
2 Scarlet Witch
If Vision is essentially a god, and Scarlet Witch is, well, a witch, then witches are apparently stronger than gods in the MCU, because Scarlet Witch completely owns Vision in Civil War, thus firmly solidifying her place as the second most powerful superhero in Marvel's Cinematic Universe. Her abilities have not been thoroughly explained in any MCU film to date, but thus far, we have seen her use her telekinesis to: rip Ultron's robots apart, pull Ultron's heart out of his chest, throw Captain America through a second story window, pull poisonous gas out of the CDC building and dispose of it in the air, and throw Black Widow and Black Panther at two separate points during the airport battle.
We have also seen her create force fields strong enough to stop bullets and even contain an explosion long enough for her to move it elsewhere. Plus, she can fly and has the ability to control Vision's density, which she displayed when she completely immobilized him in Civil War before launching him several stories beneath Tony Stark's compound. Let's just say if she wanted every other hero on Earth dead, then there would be only one person strong enough to stop her.
1 Doctor Strange
The Sorcerer Supreme himself gets the top spot of the MCU's most powerful superheroes because he has it all. Flight? Check. Ability to conjure shields? Check. Ability to create portals? Check. Ability to place himself and others within the mirror realm and then abandon them there if he so chooses? Check. Ability to enter the astral realm for extended periods of time so that he can slow down time and figure out the best strategy for killing another hero? Check. Ability to steal energy from the dark realm to make himself and whomever else he wants immortal? Check. Possesses a cloak that can literally come to life and fight his battles for him? Check.
For these reasons and more, Doctor Strange has earned the title of the MCU's Most Powerful Superhero. And to tip the scales even further in his favor, he also happens to be in possession of the Eye of Agamotto, which gives him the ability to turn back time. So if another hero ever got the better of him, he could easily turn back time and try again.
What do you think of our list? Should Earth's Mightiest Heroes be ranked differently? Let us know in the comments.