The Marvel Cinematic Universe is chock-full of fan favorite characters. With there being so many to choose from, everyone is bound to have a different go-to character that they most closely identity with. Fans will often debate which Avenger is the strongest, who the best villain of the MCU is, or which variant of Groot is the best (it's Baby Groot).
But this article is not about them.
This article is for the underdogs, the little guys and gals, the people in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that don’t necessarily marvel us with any powers, but still manage to marvel our hearts all the same.
There are strictly no powers allowed here, and this also discounts characters who are being confirmed to get powers soon. Sorry Jane Foster, but you becoming the next Thor makes you way too interesting for this list. So, let's dive into the 10 best non-powered characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Thor films have a plethora of side characters, ranging from Asgardians to regular old humans. Because of that, a lot of characters are unfortunately thrown to the side. Erik Selvig and Lady Sif have been MIA since Thor: The Dark World, The Warriors Three were killed off in Thor: Ragnarok, and Jane Foster had not been seen until she was confirmed to return for Thor: Love and Thunder. But no Thor character has been wronged as much as one Darcy Lewis.
Darcy has had a couple of standout moments in the MCU, providing much needed comedic relief and levity amongst the high fantasy lore exposition dumps. She managed to bring down Thor, the mighty God of Thunder, with a taser, inherently using his own power of lightning against him. She initially worked as an intern for Jane and Erik in Thor, but turned the tables when she got an intern of her own in Ian Boothby. Despite all this, Darcy has had quite a limited role in the MCU, never really getting a chance to do much beyond her occasional quips.
Luckily for Darcy fans everywhere though, Darcy is back in a big way. Although one would have to pause the trailer and squint really hard to make her out, Darcy is very much so in the recent WandaVision trailer. It is currently unknown what she'll get up to in the series, but rumors suggest that Darcy may have a much bigger role than in prior MCU projects. If true, this development will be a much larger career move than her promotion between the first two Thor films, which some may not have expected. The rest of us know that Darcy was always meant for greatness - she was just never given the chance until this very moment.
Jimmy Woo made his grand appearance in the MCU in Ant-Man and the Wasp, being played by Randall Park. The character only cropped up a few times in the film, but provided some signature Randall Park comedic flair with his banter with Scott Lang. While Jimmy is a man of stature being part of the FBI, it was clear that he was still trying to find his footing and assert himself amongst his awkward interactions with Scott. Woo can recount lengthy explanations of the Sokovia Accords, but struggles in social situations, like when asking to grab dinner. But that's part of the reason Jimmy Woo is such a fun and lovable character, and hopefully he'll be able to find some confidence within himself in future appearances.
Similar to Darcy, Jimmy Woo has had a limited role in the MCU, but his future prospects may be a lot more fruitful. Jimmy has yet to be seen in any promotional material, but he indeed has a role in the upcoming WandaVision series. His role is still unknown, but, given his FBI links, it is safe to say that he may be crossing paths with Darcy Lewis during his appearance.
Beyond this upcoming role, it is unknown where Jimmy may end up, but the comics may have an answer. Jimmy Woo is perhaps best known in the comics for being a member of the Agents of Atlas. Since its recent reboot, the group has been made up of pre-dominantly Asian and Asian-American actors. Marvel Studios is set to introduce another member of the group already, that being Shang-Chi.
Also part of the rebooted lineup are Silk and Amadeus Cho's Brawn. Silk already has a few Marvel connections, with Cindy Moon, Silk's alter ego, having appeared in the MCU already, as portrayed by Tiffany Espensen. An Amazon Prime series based on the character is also in development at Sony Pictures, though it is unclear whether this will connect to the MCU at all. Amadeus Cho's mother Helen Cho was briefly introduced in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron as well. With how long it has been in-universe since her first and only appearance, could enough time have passed for a young Amadeus to be running around?
Perhaps Jimmy will have a bigger role to come as a Nick Fury-type recruiter, linking up with Shang-Chi and potential other characters to start their own team.
For what Luis lacks in powers, he makes up for in his stellar personal attributes: being dependable through and through, a bit of a joker, and an incredible wordsmith. These traits coalesce to inform his trademark fast-paced stories, in which he quickly recounts rumors and hearsay that he's accumulated from a long list of individuals, all of which are joyously impersonated by himself. The trick even bought him some time during an interrogation by Walton Goggins' Sonny Burch, allowing Luis to evade the truth while explaining Ant-Man's MCU journey up until that point.
Luis and his van have been through a lot, and his automobile has had a surprising amount of impact on the MCU as a whole. Luis' 1972 Ford Ecoline was first seen in Ant-Man, where Luis revealed it was the sole remaining constant in his life following his loved ones leaving him in different ways. After being used in conjunction with several heists and escapes during Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp, the van was eventually fitted with Quantum Tunnel technology.
This led to Scott being stuck in the Quantum Realm, allowing him to be the ace in the hole that the Avengers needed to reverse the Snap and restore the Earth's population in 2019's Avengers: Endgame. In other words, Luis' van may have single-handedly saved the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The van met its demise when Thanos threw his blade into it, destroying the vehicle entirely. A single van proved so formidable that the Mad Titan himself saw it as a threat. That is the power of Luis and his van.
William Hurt played a stern yet imposing Thunderbolt Ross in The Incredible Hulk, which should come as no surprise considering he and his son are massive Hulk fans. On this, Hurt said that "[Hulk] was always my favorite. I keep asking my son why he's both of our favorites. I read the comic books, but he's a real fanatic." The character's presence in the MCU remained dormant until Ross made a surprise reappearance in Captain America: Civil War to deliver an ultimatum to the Avengers. Zemo is often praised for his schemes in Civil War, but Ross deserves some credit for delivering the initial punch to the gut that caused friction between the team.
Thunderbolt Ross has continued to return since then, showing up briefly in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War to tell the Avengers off, and in Endgame to attend Tony's funeral. The character is even making a return for the upcoming Black Widow, although his role is currently unknown. It is likely that the character will be used as an enforcer of the Sokovia Accords, trying to crack down on Natasha's escapades in the film. But, who knows, maybe he'll have to Hulk out to get the job done.
Thunderbolt Ross is best known for his transformation into the Red Hulk in the comics, and there have been many attempts to get an MCU Red Hulk appearance to happen. Red Hulk was considered at one point for Captain America: Civil War, but the film was already too busy with other plot points to allow this to happen. Red Hulk was even considered for an appearance in Avengers: Endgame, but again did not end up moving forward. Even Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn proposed the idea of a Hulk and Red Hulk film, but Universal rights prevented the project from ever entering development. William Hurt expressed in exploring this side of the character, saying "I created Thaddeus’ ego with the same size as the monster's. With the same degree of messed op-ness. I'd take a shot at it."
Fate seems to have spoken for itself, so let Ross stay a regular man! Or don't. Red Hulk would be pretty cool.
Iron Man 3 is a divisive film. Many people love it for its slick action and character-focused story, whereas some were disappointed by the lack of a Mandarin that they were expecting to tie the film together. Fans can rest assured that the true Mandarin will make his debut in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but meanwhile, Iron Man 3 did introduce a fun character into the mix. Enter Harley Keener, Tony Stark's sidekick in the film.
Harley played an interesting parallel to Tony's 'Mechanic,' being a smart and curious kid with daddy issues. Tony acted as somewhat of a father figure to Harley throughout the film, fostering his interests in science and engineering when his parents wouldn't give him the time of day. Harley is shown to be capable in his abilities, being able to construct a potato gun on his own, but just needs a little push from Tony to help him along his way. But this help is mutual too, with Harley providing emotional support for Tony as he struggles with anxiety attacks throughout the film.
One of Tony's few discussed character traits that originally stems from this character interaction is how good he is with kids. This character quirk continues into other relationships that Tony has, including being the mentor figure for Peter Parker in Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming. This is again seen with his daughter Morgan, with whom he has a few notable heartwarming interactions with in Endgame. Despite Tony's often frequent sarcasm, he truly cares for the kids that he inspires. After feeling somewhat wronged by his father, Tony hopes to make amends with this by being the dad that he always wanted.
Harley made a surprise return in the MCU, but many (including myself) did not even realize it was him. An unknown person was in attendance at Tony's funeral at the end of Avengers: Endgame, leading to a collective “Who is that?” from the audience. Upon watching several 'Ending Explained' and '10 Things You May Have Missed' videos about the film, people realized that it was actually Harley Keener all grown up. Knowing this, it was nice to see him have a connection to Tony all those years later, showing the impact that was left on Harley by his short-term mentor.
Black Panther introduced a multitude of Wakandan residents into the MCU. Nakia has adept fighting abilities and headstrong attitude. Shuri possesses an aptitude for Vibranium technology and is a whiz with creating new gadgets, gizmos, and garments for her brother. M'Baku proved a formidable foe for T'Challa, but showed that he was willing to overlook their differences.
But then, there's Okoye. Strong, fierce, and with her own sense of humor to boot, Okoye is a powerful non-powered character that you don't want to be on the wrong side of.
Okoye possesses one of the more unique fighting styles in comparison to other heroes, utilizing her spear, and her wig, to overcome her opponents. Danai Gurira's choreography in South Korea is nothing short of superb, expertly flailing her weapon and using her surrounding environment to her advantage.
Loyal to T'Challa, Okoye saw it as her duty to protect her king at all costs alongside the Dora Milaje. When he was gone, Okoye was forced to handle Wakanda on her own, leading the country in his stead. With Wakanda opening up to the world in that time, it can almost be said for certain that Okoye's demand for a Wakandan Starbucks was a priority.
Okoye's future may be unclear, but her future journey will undoubtedly honor her king's legacy.
Everybody's got a best friend. Someone they can joke around with. Someone they can count on in tough times. Someone they can trust their secret identity with. You know, best friend stuff. Well, no MCU character exemplifies a best friend more than Ned Leeds.
Ned replaced the typical Harry Osborn inclusion as Peter's best bud, taking more inspiration from the character of Ganke from the Miles Morales run of Spider-Man. This was ultimately a wise decision, making for a fresh take on Peter's circle of friend(s). Ned's inclusion creates a more grounded dynamic between the two, seeing them be able to actually geek out and goof around like typical high-schoolers do.
Ned also adds an extra layer to Peter's character in knowing his identity early on. Typically, major identity reveals are saved for grand finales or even future films in the franchise for Spider-Man. But here, Ned is given the ability to have more interplay with Peter, being even more excited about his Spider-Powers than Peter himself. Spider-Man typically carries the burden alone in his films, but the MCU allows him to share the weight of his responsibility with his friends.
Similar to Luis, Ned is incredibly loyal to Peter, jumping at any opportunity to help his best bud with hacking Spider-Suits or providing recon from the school IT lab. Unlike Luis though, Ned is shown to be fully capable of having his own solo adventures separate from Peter, forming a fleeting romance with Betty Brant during their trip to Europe. Maybe this independent jaunt in Far From Home will inspire Ned to go his own way in Spider-Man 3. It is unlikely that we'll see Ned turn into his comic book counterpart of the Hobgoblin, but perhaps there is more to Ned that audiences have not been privy to.
Some people may forget Phil Coulson’s impact on the early years of the MCU, being one of the few connective elements between Phase 1 entries prior to The Avengers. An original creation for the MCU, Clark Gregg's Coulson quickly became a favorite for his frequent appearances between films. Outside of the films, Coulson even scored two shorts centered around him, affectionately titled The Consultant and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer. Coulson would bring his dry wit everywhere he went, always having a quip to soften the blow of his more calculated comments to other characters.
One of his greatest hits comes moments before his death, where he uses the Destroyer Gun against an unsuspecting Loki. Even when knocking on death's door, Coulson was able to go out with a literal bang and deliver a cold one-liner as the cherry on top. But Coulson's impact lasted even beyond his death. Without his influence and bloodied baseball cards, The Avengers Initiative may have never been fulfilled.
Though Coulson seemingly met his end in The Avengers, the character lived on through his resurrection on Agents of SHIELD. Coulson went through a lot on the show, uncovering the secrets of TAHITI, leaving the series only to return as a Life Model Decoy, and losing and gaining a hand that has the ability to create an energy shield. But since Agents of SHIELD's canon status in the MCU is shaky at best, we won't take those newfound powers as marks against Coulson's character. Coulson also made a brief return in Captain Marvel, which was a pleasant surprise seeing the agent a bit earlier in his career.
While it is unlikely that Coulson will appear again in the MCU, we should be thankful for his efforts in spearheading SHIELD's search to bring together Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Where Coulson was the hands-on operative, Nick Fury was the mastermind behind it all. Nobody can deny the inherent coolness that Samuel L. Jackson brings to a role, and Nick Fury is no different. He doesn't need a super suit to look the part, he does that all by himself. Fury exudes an air of mystery while also letting out a sense of personality every now and then.
Fury's influence on the MCU is staggering, having appeared in 11 films already with even more appearances still in the pipeline. Nick Fury's cameo at the end of Iron Man sent chills down comic-book fans spines, setting up for what was to come for the remainder of the MCU. Fury returned in a more substantial role in The Avengers following several cameos, orchestrating the formation of the team and aiding their efforts by grounding a nuke-carrying aircraft with a rocket launcher. Even a man as meticulous and distrustful as Nick Fury can be deceived though. Captain America: The Winter Soldier saw Fury at his lowest point, with SHIELD taken away from him right before his eyes.
After being absent from MCU films for a few years, Nick Fury would then make a triumphant return in Avengers: Infinity War, only to leave again on a bittersweet "Motherf--". Since then, it seems as though Nick Fury has been more present in Marvel films than ever, having significant roles in Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home. The character's role is far from over too, with Nick Fury set to appear in a new Marvel series on Disney+.
Nick Fury ultimately represents the possibility that interconnectivity allows in the MCU, showing how crossovers are able to work so seamlessly between films. Fury has appeared in a variety of genres, from an espionage thriller, to a sci-fi epic, to a grounded holiday film. And yet, somehow, he slots in perfectly wherever he goes, despite the vast range of different characters he has to interact with. Nick Fury is somehow an incredibly malleable character, and him being able to traverse different films so easily speaks to how well the Marvel Cinematic Universe maintains a tonal consistency amongst its various genres.
Smart, resilient, and resourceful, Peggy Carter is the archetype that all non-powered MCU characters hope to follow in the footsteps of. Peggy is not afraid to speak her mind, or, alternatively, voice her frustrations in a quick sock to the mouth. She often has a quick-witted response to dim-witted comments, most frequently seen in her solo series. Though her MCU appearances have been sparse, whenever she comes on the scene, she always delivers. And without Peggy Carter, there is no Captain America.
Peggy and Steve's relationship in Captain America: The First Avenger set the groundwork for Steve Rogers finding himself on his return to modernity, waking up to a bizarre new world without his friends around to guide him. More tragedy would be added to Steve's life after finding out that Peggy was in fact alive, though suffering from Alzheimer's. On a brighter note, Peggy and Steve finally got the dance they deserved in Endgame, bringing some much needed resolution to both of their stories.
Despite how heavily Peggy is tied to Captain America, she was able to stand on her own two feet when he wasn't around by becoming one of the founders of SHIELD. Peggy is also the only character on this list that was able to secure an MCU entry dedicated solely to her character. Sorry, Coulson, you're part of an ensemble - Agent Carter's got the whole show to herself. And unlike Agents of SHIELD, Endgame seems to suggest that Peggy's adventures in Agent Carter are canon to the MCU. Agent Carter would find Peggy teaming up with Edwin Jarvis to secretly help old friend Howard Stark. Peggy would have to do this while maneuvering her day job at the SSR (the precursor to SHIELD), and proving herself in a male-dominated world.
The show has not been forgotten by its creators either, with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely not entirely shooting down the possibility of an Agent Carter revival on Disney+, but acknowledging that it is unlikely due to its cost. Disney is seemingly pumping a sizable amount of funds into its streaming offerings, judging from the production value and star power of The Mandalorian and WandaVision. So perhaps there is a slim chance that Agent Carter can find a new home and a new fanbase on Disney+.
To celebrate the characters in the MCU that don't have powers, I decided to give them their very own poster. Avengers 5 can wait, Marvel's going to want to fast track this film pronto:
There are, of course, plenty other candidates for great non-powered characters that didn't quite make the cut. Zemo, M.J., M'Baku, Sharon Carter, Erik Selvig, Happy Hogan, Shuri, and Laura Barton are just a few honorable mentions that deserve some more attention. So, let us know which non-powered characters you think are in need of a bit more of the spotlight!