Between Iron Man and Avengers: Endgame – a 22-movie gargantuan that has been termed “the Infinity Saga” – we’ve been introduced to Earth’s mightiest heroes, gotten to know what makes them tick, and seen them evolve over time. Despite the fact that they’ve all crossed over into each other’s movies and clashed in ensemble pieces, every Avenger has had a very distinctive character arc throughout the MCU.
There are wider story arcs like the rise of Thanos and the Sokovia Accords, but through those story arcs, fans can track meticulously crafted, long-running character arcs. So, here is Every Avenger’s MCU Character Arc, Ranked.
Hawkeye has always been sort of a joke in the MCU fan community. He’s just the archer, so he has little to contribute in a team that literally includes a god. Every attempt the filmmakers have made to make this character more interesting has fallen flat. In Age of Ultron, we discovered that he lived on a farm with a wife and kids.
In Endgame, when he lost that family, he became the dark vigilante known as “Ronin,” who goes around Japan taking out the criminals who were spared by Thanos’ finger-snap when his family wasn’t. Jeremy Renner has always played Hawkeye well, but his character arc has been pretty weak.
9 War Machine
War Machine is basically Iron Man with a gray color scheme, which is the perfect symbolism for his characterization: he has the same tech, but he’s not written with the same red-and-gold attitude. Don Cheadle has done a great job of taking the character from Terrence Howard and making it his own, but War Machine has rarely captivated audiences.
It was fun to see Rhodey pair up with Nebula in Endgame, with the two connecting on being part-machine and having a sarcastic sense of humor, but it was a little late to make a character who had been there from the beginning engaging.
8 Black Widow
Natasha Romanoff didn’t have much of an arc of her own. She started out as a highly skilled spy working for S.H.I.E.L.D., and her character’s evolution revolved around other characters. She never got her own solo movie and was instead delegated to a sidekick role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, then she became Bruce Banner’s love interest.
She was always a badass, but she didn’t evolve in the same way the other characters did. In Avengers: Endgame, her sacrifice on Vormir was pretty heroic, but it totally failed the character. This was the second Avenger we ever met (not counting Edward Norton’s Hulk), so she deserved a huge moment and never got one.
7 The Falcon
The Falcon has never been a particularly interesting character. Sam Wilson was introduced as a likable guy in The Winter Soldier – he developed that fun, heartwarming “On your left” thing with Cap that got paid off in a major way in Avengers: Endgame – but as he’s become an Avenger with nothing more than a pair of robotic wings, he hasn’t been the most enchanting member of the team.
Hopefully, this was all change now that Steve Rogers has bequeathed the “Captain America” title and the shield that goes with it unto Sam, and we’ll see him have a much better character arc in the next batch of MCU movies.
We’ve seen Thor evolve a lot over the course of the Infinity Saga, but it wasn’t necessarily organic to the progression of his story. For his first couple of solo movies, he was a solemn, serious, quasi-Shakespearean character. It wasn’t until 2017 that he really began to change. MCU fans – and even Chris Hemsworth himself – had gotten bored of the same old Thor, so Taika Waititi came in to play on the God of Thunder’s arrogance and turn him into a comedy character.
In the last two Avengers movies, we’ve seen Thor deal with the loss of Asgard and his failure to kill Thanos in time in interesting ways, establishing New Asgard in Norway, falling into alcoholism, and gaining a bunch of weight. It’s been fun and interesting to watch Thor develop recently, but some of the changes don’t seem congruous.
Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has had one of the most important arcs in the MCU, because he was the hero to whom Iron Man passed the torch. If the Infinity Saga was Iron Man’s story, then the next saga, starting this summer with Spider-Man: Far From Home, could be Spider-Man’s story.
We’ve seen Spidey get a cool new suit, lose that suit, and learn to be a hero without the suit, thus earning the suit. We’ve seen orphaned Peter Parker develop a touching father-son relationship with Tony Stark. He also died and came back to life, which gave his character arc some poignancy. Now, we’ll see him move on without the guidance of Tony Stark, which will certainly be interesting.
4 Black Panther
T’Challa might be the only hero in the MCU to have learned an actual lesson from their arch nemesis. In his solo movie, we saw his power struggle against Erik Killmonger, only to discover that they had much more in common than he initially thought.
Killmonger simply wanted to take T’Challa’s throne and use Wakanda’s resources to destroy colonizers, which is something we can all at least understand. This taught T’Challa to not ignore the plight of the wider world. When we first met Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, he lost his father in a bombing. Since then, we’ve seen him open up in his attempts to do his father proud, helping the Avengers and eventually joining the battle to save Earth.
3 The Hulk
Despite the fact that Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk has never been given a solo film, we’ve gotten to know him very well over the years. Ignoring the Edward Norton movie, we first met a self-exiled Bruce Banner who was struggling to get the Hulk under control. Then he revealed that he could control his powers because he was “always angry.” Later, he struggled to get it under control again and needed a lullaby to come back down to Banner.
Then, the Hulk refused to do that and flew off to become a gladiator on Sakaar. When Thanos defeated him, he went back into Banner and refused to come out. Finally, Banner and the Hulk have settled their argument and become one in “Professor Hulk.” It was a terrific arc with a much-deserved happy ending.
2 Iron Man
Iron Man is the hero that introduced us to the MCU in the first place back in 2008. He started off the whole franchise when he announced to a room full of reporters, “I am Iron Man,” and when he repeated that line at the end, all those years later, as he sacrificed himself to save the world, the Infinity Saga came full circle and we got a sense of closure.
We’ve seen this genius billionaire playboy philanthropist go from a care-free bachelor to a family man, and from a self-centered arms tycoon to a genuine hero. He wasn’t a perfect guy, but the sacrifice he made absolved any past wrongdoing.
1 Captain America
The plot holes created by Captain America’s Endgame ending have left some fans disappointed, but from a dramatic standpoint, Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers had the most perfect story arc in the MCU. When we first met Rogers, he was a dedicated soldier who sacrificed himself to save the world, leaving behind Peggy Carter without having their planned date.
Since then, he’s been characterized as a man out of his time who left behind the love of his life and hasn’t felt complete since losing her. So, it was the perfect ending to have him go back to that time and spend a happy, married life with her. In between, we’ve seen him regain his best friend, get betrayed by the government he served, betray that same government, and go on the run, ultimately redeeming himself in the fight against Thanos.