They say that being a superhero is a tough job, but imagine repeatedly putting your life on the line without powers or unlimited resources behind you. It’s time for the superheroes to take a step back, and give the spotlight to the folks who put in the same amount of work for none of the fame and fortune.
We’re looking at specific portrayals of sidekicks and allies, meaning that Robin as a single character is not an option, but Chris O’Donnell’s Robin from Batman and Robin, for example, qualifies for consideration (though it should go without saying that this particular version of Robin didn’t make the cut). When an actor has played the same character over multiple films and shows, all of their appearances will be taken into account.
The rest of our candidates can’t have superpowers of their own, and whether or not they are directly involved in the action, their ranking is based on how essential they are to the success of their respective superhero. While some have spun-off into their own movies and TV series’, as long as they don’t wear the mantle of superhero, they will also qualify.
So here are the 15 Best Powerless Sidekicks In Superhero Movies And TV.
15 Felicity Smoak – Emily Bett Rickards (Arrow)
It’s fair to say that Arrow fans have had mixed feelings about Felicity in recent years, but as an ally to Oliver Queen and Team Arrow, she is just as effective as ever. An original member of the team, alongside Ollie and John Diggle, Felicity has saved multiple lives simply by watching over the vigilante pair from the Arrow cave. A computer genius and expert hacker, Felicity has since adopted the appropriate codename Overwatch.
But Felicity is more than just tech support; she also provides a moral compass for the various members of Team Arrow. More specifically, she is able to keep Oliver, who is consistently toeing the line between hero and flat-out murderer, just about in check. Their relationship has offended Green Arrow purists since its introduction in the season 2 finale, but most can agree that her influence has been pivotal to Ollie’s crusade.
14 Lois Lane – Amy Adams (DCEU)
The most recent DC movies have been a little hit and miss, but Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is a definite case of the former. There have been several incarnations of Lois over the years, in the original Superman movies right through to Smallville, but Adams is developing into one of the best we’ve ever seen, and the DC Extended Universe has plenty of story still to tell.
Lois is an ally to Superman both personally and professionally, and her DCEU incarnation encompasses the full extent of her impact on the Man of Steel. While her debut focuses more on her relationship with Clark Kent, her role as a journalist is key to Batman v Superman, and she finds herself in the thick of the action in the finale of both movies.
13 Weasel – TJ Miller (Deadpool)
Ryan Reynolds deserves all the praise he receives for bringing Deadpool to life, but TJ Miller’s portrayal of sidekick Weasel should not go unnoticed. Weasel plays his part in the outcome of the film, supplying Wade Wilson with the weaponry he needs to defeat Ajax. He also runs the bar in which Wade meets Vanessa, and lends a hand in giving Wade his superhero name, but it’s his “moral support” that separates him from your generic superhero sidekick.
There’s being unafraid to say exactly what you think, and then there’s likening your best friend’s new face to the offspring of two sexually frustrated avocados. Weasel is outright cruel at times, but it so happens that his bluntness is exactly what Wade needs to keep both feet on the ground, which is why the pair work so well together.
12 Joe West – Jesse L. Martin (The Flash)
Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen has a whole team of allies to choose from on The Flash, but Cisco and Caitlin have powers of their own, and Iris has often been the victim of poor writing (though her character has improved this season). That leaves only one candidate, but that’s not to say he doesn’t earn this place on merit alone.
Joe West, detective at CCPD and Barry’s surrogate father, was the first member of the team to learn of Barry’s secret identity. Rather than lose his mind at the prospect of metahumans, Joe’s first instincts were to protect Barry at all costs, and he uses his position to divert the police and assist in Barry’s own investigations. It doesn’t hurt that he also provides weekly motivational speeches to anyone who will listen.
11 Misty Knight – Simone Missick (Luke Cage)
The Misty Knight of the comic book universe is better known as one half of the Daughters of the Dragon (alongside Colleen Wing); a martial artist in her own right and complete with a bionic arm. Luke Cage takes Misty in a slightly different direction, presenting her as a talented detective and taking a risk in pitting her against Luke for the majority of the first season.
Fortunately, this change works in the show’s favor. Misty initially puts her faith in the wrong people, and she undergoes a heroic transformation of her own as she begins to uncover the truth about Luke. By the end of the season, she is concerned more with justice than her own safety, risking her life to ensure Luke’s innocence and becoming one of his most important allies in the process.
10 Phil Coulson – Clark Gregg (MCU)
Agent Coulson may be headlining his own show these days, but he originally made his name as an ally to the Avengers. After brief appearances in Iron Man and Thor, Coulson played his first major role in The Avengers, where he represented superhero fans all over the world.
When his beloved heroes threaten to abandon each other, Coulson's (retconned) sacrifice is what finally brings them all together. Coulson provides the most heroic moment in a movie about the Avengers, and he gives the team something to avenge in the first place by standing up to Loki despite having no chance of winning.
As suggested by Joss Whedon, his television resurrection somewhat undoes the impact of his death, but nothing takes away his part in forming the Avengers.
9 Pepper Potts – Gwyneth Paltrow (MCU)
Though she's been missing from the MCU for a while, Tony Stark himself would admit that he would be absolutely nowhere without Pepper Potts. The pair are rarely seen as a couple in the comics, but Gwyneth Paltrow has helped to elevate Pepper into Tony’s equal in both intellect and wit.
As if it wasn’t hard enough being in a relationship with a superhero who openly reveals his address on live television, Pepper has the added responsibility of running Stark Industries. She takes it all in her stride, dominating as a powerful businesswoman, and allowing Tony the time and resources required to maintain his duties as Iron Man.
She even gets in on the action towards the end of Iron Man 3, briefly acquiring powers of her own and defeating the “Mandarin” single-handedly.
8 Karen Page – Deborah Ann Woll (Daredevil)
Karen Page is an ally to Daredevil without even knowing his true identity (at least until the end of season 2). She investigates behind her bosses' backs, in the full knowledge that neither would support her activities, which leads to her murder of Wesley and the ultimate defeat of Kingpin in the first season.
Her focus in the second season shifts from Daredevil to the Punisher, as she breaks into Frank Castle’s home in order to fully understand his perspective. Again, this leads indirectly to the Daredevil’s defeat of the Hand come season’s end.
Karen supports both Daredevil and Punisher where no one else will, even going so far as to commit murder for what she thinks is right. While Matt Murdock is consistently at war with himself over his sense of justice, Karen takes matters into her own hands, and it will be interesting to see the influence she will have on Matt now that she knows his secret.
7 Luis – Michael Pena (Ant-Man)
Ant-Man is widely acknowledged as one of the MCU’s most comedic movies so far, with Paul Rudd leading the way as Scott Lang. But Lang is not the funniest reformed criminal in the movie. That honor goes to Luis, Lang’s old cellmate and fellow thief. Ironically, Luis steals every scene in which he appears, from his opening monologue as to how he came to own the family van, to his last of several overblown montages.
As played by Michael Pena, Luis isn’t the most traditional of sidekicks, but sometimes a criminal is what you need to get the job done, and he helps to keep the movie from ever taking itself too seriously. During his infamous montage sequences, we also get a surprising insight to his personal life, which includes wine-tasting and visiting art galleries. We can’t wait to hear his latest stories in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
6 Jim Gordon – Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Trilogy)
Commissioner Gordon’s balancing act between his own police force and Batman’s crusade often winds up putting the lives of his family at risk, but his commitment to Gotham and its justice system is what earns him the trust of the Dark Knight. The pair eventually recognize that neither can protect the city without the other, and they form a mutual respect that both Gary Oldman and Christian Bale capture wordlessly.
Bruce Wayne tends to keep his cards close to his chest, but of his few non-superhero allies, Gordon is the only one to aid Batman in the field. Their relationship may be a complicated one, as neither is particularly good at following orders, but its portrayal in the Dark Knight trilogy is arguably the best we’ve seen in live action.
5 Peggy Carter – Hayley Atwell (MCU)
Before she had her own series picked up and then (unfairly) canceled by ABC, Agent Carter was an MCU regular over the course of several different time periods. She first appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger, where she is established as a love interest to Steve Rogers. Her research helped develop the super soldier serum that would eventually turn him into Captain America, but the pair fell for each other even before that, leading to one of the MCU’s most touching and subsequently heart-breaking romances.
After Steve’s apparent death, Peggy goes about forming S.H.I.E.L.D. with Howard Stark (as seen in Ant-Man), for which the Avengers owe her a debt of gratitude. Her reappearance in modern times and death in Civil War is a gut-punching reminder of what else we might have missed from Peggy in the years between The First Avenger and the present day.
4 Colleen Wing – Jessica Henwick (Iron Fist)
Colleen Wing is essential to Iron Fist, and not just for ensuring Danny Rand’s safety upon his return to New York. She is actually drives the show itself in the first half of the season, as she undergoes character development that Danny himself struggles to live up to.
Danny instead monologues his way through one-note exposition and several corporate meetings, while Colleen supports her failing dojo by fighting men twice her size in a cage. Her story is significantly more interesting, and for the most part, she is one of the rare allies to consistently outshine the titular lead.
When she joins Danny for the run-in, after it is revealed that she is Hand, she comes full circle and defeats her former master in one of the show’s better action scenes. It’s an arc better suited to a protagonist, but for now, she remains an ally (until she gets her own spin-off).
3 Alfred Pennyworth – Michael Caine (The Dark Knight Trilogy)
While Lucius Fox provides Batman with his equipment, and Commissioner Gordon helps him clean up the city, no character in the Dark Knight trilogy has more of an impact on Bruce Wayne than Alfred Pennyworth
When Rachel is killed midway through The Dark Knight, Alfred is the only source of emotional support Bruce has left in the world, and the one remaining connection to his parents. His is the only advice Bruce is willing to take, and he carries what he learns from his butler/father figure forward when he puts on the suit.
Bruce’s final act in the trilogy is to repay Alfred for keeping him from flying off the handle on a consistent basis. Alfred is just as important to Batman’s crusade as Bruce is himself, and Michael Caine will forever remain the definitive version of the character.
2 Edna Mode – Brad Bird (The Incredibles)
Edna Mode, voiced by The Incredibles director Brad Bird, assists both the animators of the movie by renouncing technically difficult capes as decidedly impractical, and the Incredibles themselves, designing each of them a sleek costume to suit their personal needs.
Her complete indifference to talking down to superheroes twice her size also sets in motion the second half of the film. With her unique brand of sharp wit and smack talk, she simultaneously convinces Elastigirl to rescue her husband, and wakes up the audience after a slow (but necessary) opening act.
As superhero allies go, it’s hard to know where the Incredibles family would be without Edna. First, you have to imagine that they’d have been strangled or otherwise horrifically maimed by their self-designed capes, and frankly, they’d look atrocious.
1 Claire Temple – Rosario Dawson (The Defenders)
Like any superhero ally, Claire Temple always seems to find herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, but without her inescapable habit of falling in with costumed vigilantes, there would be no Defenders at all. Her medical expertise is the only reason Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist are around to defend anything in the first place, and she is responsible for the lives of several characters on this list, including Misty Knight and Colleen Wing.
But more than that, she provides some levity to Marvel’s overly dark Netflix Universe. She is the only source of comic relief in Iron Fist, the love interest to Luke Cage, and the string that ties all four lead characters together. Rosario Dawson gets better in the role as time goes on, and as she gears up for a major role in The Defenders, she remains a huge factor in the continuing success of the MNU.
Who did we miss? Leave your favorite superhero allies in the comments!