6 Marvel Actors Featured on TIME’s 2022 Most Influential People List

By Aeron Mer Eclarinal Updated:
Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, Taika Waititi, Zendaya, Marvel Studios logo

The influence of Marvel movies has been amplified since the Marvel Cinematic Universe debuted back in 2008. The franchise's concept of a shared universe leaves fans yearning for the rest of the story, leading the audience to the edge of their seats for what comes next. As a result, the movies have directly impacted pop culture, and one of the main reasons why is the actors and actresses involved.

MCU veterans such as Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth greatly defined the Infinity Saga with their incredible performances on screen. As the franchise enters a new chapter, Marvel Studios pushed for more representation on screen, adding Asian actors such as Simu Liu (Shang-Chi), deaf actresses Lauren Ridloff (Eternals), and Alaqua Cox (Echo, Hawkeye), and LGBTQIA+ portrayals on-screen (Phastos from Eternals and America Chavez from Multiverse of Madness).  

Now, some Marvel actors are being recognized due to their influence on the viewing public. 

Marvel's Influence is Being Recognized 

Zendaya, Andrew Garfield

TIME Magazine officially unveiled its list of the 100 most influential people of 2022, and it includes six Marvel stars. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings lead actor Simu Liu joined the list, with Canadian-American actress Sandra Oh paying tribute to the MCU newcomer. The Grey's Anatomy star offered high praise to the actor, saying "he’s part of the first generation of Asian Americans and Canadians to reach true stardom:"

"As a fellow Ontarioan, I was already excited about Simu Liu when he was having “Canada success” on Kim’s Convenience. But since then, he’s been on a path that no Chinese Canadian has walked before. He’s part of the first generation of Asian Americans and Canadians to reach true stardom. It’s been amazing to see how beautifully he’s balancing representing our community and staying true to himself. I saw Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings three times. I was so pleased to see Simu exercise his comedy chops, his fighting skills, his gravitas. I love his ability to poke fun at himself. And, of course, the guy looks great in a suit.Simu has been working hard to get through closed doors, and now he wants to hold those doors open for others. You see him doing that through the way he speaks out against hateful violence, his openness about his own experiences of isolation and discrimination, his professional choices. He’s our superhero."

Liu's Shang-Chi co-star Michelle Yeoh, who portrays Ying Nan in the movie, is also included in the list. Crazy Rich Asians writer Kevin Kwan described the actress as "an aristocratic Malaysian beauty becoming the queen of Hong Kong’s male-dominated action cinema:"

"She achieves the impossible again and again. Simply put, that is what Michelle Yeoh has been doing for decades. An aristocratic Malaysian beauty becoming the queen of Hong Kong’s male-dominated action cinema? Michelle Yeoh did it. Subverting stereotypes in a Bond movie and breaking into the global consciousness with an Oscar-winning kung fu epic? Michelle Yeoh did it. Leading the first Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast in 25 years to become the highest-grossing romantic comedy in over a decade? Yes, Michelle Yeoh did it. We all delighted in watching her turn a would-be villain into a sympathetic portrait of maternal strength and sacrifice in Crazy Rich Asians. And now, with Everything Everywhere All at Once, she truly blows our minds. Without vanity, without fuss, Michelle Yeoh astonishes us with her honesty, humor, and grace, and we realize we will never get enough of her achieving the impossible."

The Amazing Spider-Man star Andrew Garfield is also part of the list. The actor, who returned in last year's Spider-Man: No Way Home, was described by veteran director Martin Scorsese as a "remarkable artist, one of the greats of his generation:"

"Casting the lead in my adaptation of Silence was not easy: the role was demanding on every level. When Andrew Garfield came to audition, I could see right away that he understood the character of Rodrigues. He gave all of himself to the role. In preparation, he actually completed the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, which is quite an undertaking. Once we started work, I understood that Andrew could get to any emotional level the story called for, sometimes immediately. I developed a sense of confidence and trust in him that I’ve found all too rarely. Quite often, when we were getting ready to shoot one of the many emotionally difficult scenes that Andrew and I had painstakingly worked on for months, I found myself checking in with him, seeing that he had gotten himself into the zone, and then just leaving him be. Sometimes I just listened. I knew that he was giving the moment exactly what it needed. He’s a remarkable artist, one of the greats of his generation."

TIME also included No Way Home lead actress Zendaya in its most influential list of 2022, with Dune director Denis Villeneuve praising the actress as someone who is "timeless, and she can do it all:"

"To me, Zendaya is a thousand years old. She has already lived many lives before this one. And yet, she is as young as springtime. By some inextricable paradox, she also gives the impression of having been born sometime far into the future. She is timeless, and she can do it all.In just the past year or so, Zendaya has radiated like a shooting star captured on celluloid in Sam Levinson’s Malcolm & Marie. She emotionally exploded as her teenage years disintegrated in Levinson’s cultural phenomenon Euphoria. She shone in Spider-Man: No Way Home, a movie that dominated the box office in a year when she became the muse of extremes.But Zendaya is much more than that. She is an autonomous creative force herself. A cultural icon in the making. A person driven by pure inspiration, empathy, and respect for her craft, who uses authenticity as a new superpower. She seems fearless, her roots run deep, and I love that she still laughs like a kid. Zendaya is the future. And there is nothing more comforting to me. This is only the beginning." 

Thor: Ragnarok and Thor: Love and Thunder director Taika Waititi is also part of the list, with actor Sasha Baron Cohen describing the director's work as "a piece painted by Picasso:"

"You can tell that a film was made by Taika Waititi the same way you can tell a piece was painted by Picasso. Not in that he doesn’t know where on the face the eyes go, but in how he expresses his unique voice. The first work of Taika’s I saw was the 2014 mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows—a movie that could have been a disaster, but was amazing. It was brilliantly comic yet somehow made me care passionately about the fate of a bunch of murderous vampires. So I set about trying to meet Taika and convince him to work with me, which he obviously refused to do.Now, having watched all his work, from Hunt for the Wilderpeople to Reservation Dogs, I’m really bitter. Taika has won an Oscar and made successful, hilarious, heartfelt movies. Yet he always brings to his work a light touch. He tells stories that are utterly watchable, even when they’re sad, or satirical. And they are always funny.He represents the best of the bygone era of wild, rock-star Hollywood types, mixed with the brilliance of a top auteur … Actually, sorry, but this guy’s really starting to piss me off. Mr. 'I’m a bloody genius but I’m still fun.' Can someone else write this piece?" 

Zoë Kravitz, who starred in X-Men: First Class and Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse, wraps up the list of Marvel stars in the list. Veteran actress Reese Witherspoon described Kravitz as someone who "contains multitudes and stands fully formed in her beauty, her intelligence, her grace, her humor, her strength:"

"Zoë Kravitz defies definition. She contains multitudes and stands fully formed in her beauty, her intelligence, her grace, her humor, her strength. Part maverick, part savant, mostly just … cool. Cool like Dylan. Cool like Cash. Cool like Nina Simone. Forged by the strength and grace of two incredible artists, but made whole by her own grit and intellect. In her performance as Catwoman, you can see it all. She draws in Batman, and the whole audience, as they wait to see if this mysterious creature will show her claws. She does—and they are sharp!Working with Zoë on Big Little LiesI discovered her hidden talent: her humor. She made me laugh during endless night shoots and always pushed the comedic tension between our characters onscreen. She brings an edgy humor to all her work—and to dinner parties, if you’re looking for a perfect guest.It would be very easy for Zoë to walk through the world in a different way, entitled and accomplished. But that’s not her style. She chooses the path of hard work, constantly innovating and pushing the status quo. She hustles, writes her own scripts, stays up all night until the job is done. I’ve watched it up close, and it never ceases to amaze me.Zoë has done so much in her career thus far, but what I’m most excited about is all that is coming next. Directing, producing, cutting her own path. But always her way. Always cool."

The Major Impact of Marvel Stars 

Aside from Zoë Kravitz, the Marvel stars included in the list are a mix of new and old actors from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Andrew Garfield and Kravitz are the Marvel veterans from the group, with the actor joining the franchise as Spider-Man in 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man while the actress portrayed Angel Salvadore in 2011's X-Men: First Class

Meanwhile, Taika Waititi and Zendaya are the stars of the Infinity Saga, with the Love and Thunder director making his MCU debut as Korg during 2017's Thor: Ragnarok while the award-winning actress first played MJ during the same year in Spider-Man: Homecoming. To wrap up, Shang-Chi co-stars Simu Liu and Michelle Yeoh made their debut during Phase 4. 

Of course, it goes without saying that the Marvel-related achievements of this stellar group are not the only reason why they were included in the list. Still, it's reasonable to assume that their Marvel roles left a huge impact on the audience. 

As the MCU moves forward, the franchise's stellar group of actors and actresses is expected to grow. Even though some may not be included in the list of most influential people, it's safe to say that the on-screen heroes have at least impacted a good chunk of the audience in more ways than one. 

Release Date
September 03, 2021
- About The Author: Aeron Mer Eclarinal
Aeron is a news/features writer and Content Lead for The Direct who has been working for the site since March 2020. From writing about the inter-connectivity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to having an extended knowledge about DC TV's Arrowverse, Aeron's expertise has since expanded into the realm of reality TV, K-drama, animated, and live-action shows from Netflix,  Disney+, Prime Video, MGM+, Peacock, Paramount+, and Max. When he isn't writing and watching all things MCU, Aeron is heavily invested with the NBA (go Celtics!) and occasionally watches thrilling matches in the WWE.