After Avengers: Endgame, there are 22 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These films, which started out as a crazy experiment, have since morphed into a world-conquering success story for everyone involved in them. Along the way, we've met dozens of characters. These movies have come out over the course of 11 years, and some of those characters have been forgotten. Others have amassed quite a bit of screen time.
This list totals the screen time of the 15 most prominent characters in the MCU across every movie. Some entries won't be very surprising. Lower down, though, there are some interesting inclusions and exclusions that might astonish you. Screen time is one of the best ways to figure out what the priorities of this series really are. They also speak to what its future might look like. Here are
There's no huge surprise here. Tony Stark is the heart of the MCU, and his story is central to almost every movie we've seen so far. He's one of the chief reasons the Avengers come together, and his feelings of responsibility to protect the world are what keep him coming back to superheroism time after time.
Playing Iron Man has given Robert Downey Jr. a hefty payday over the years, but it's one he very much deserves. Few actors have dedicated themselves to a role so fully, and that dedication has definitely paid off. Tony Stark is this universe's leader, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
If Tony Stark is number one, Steve Rogers always had to be in the second position. Alongside Tony, he's come to define much about what makes these movies great. He's dedicated to the idea of the greater good, even if it means sacrificing himself. He's a truly noble person, and he also happens to be a lot of fun to watch.
Chris Evans's performance in the role is what makes that balance work. Not many people could play someone so good and wholesome without making them dull. He can, though, and he's made Captain America the soul of the MCU. Tony may be its leader, but Cap is the voice of morality in all of these films.
Honestly, Thor was not a fan favorite for years. The first two Thor movies were kind of dull, and that's in part because Chris Hemsworth was kind of miscast. Eventually, though, Marvel figured out what to do with Thor, and now he's consistently one of the best parts of these films.
In Thor: Ragnarok, the character finally got to reach his full comic potential, and he's been coasting on that charm ever since. Although Endgame represents the end of an era for many of these characters, the future for Thor is clearly pretty bright. May he keep saving the day in ridiculous fashion for years to come.
Although Hulk has only had one movie of his own, he's shown up in plenty of films since then. He has prominent roles in all of the Avengers movies, and he also has quite a bit of screen time in Thor: Ragnarok. This is one of the only characters on this list to be played by two actors, but since we're counting the time the character spent on screen, we're combining Mark Ruffalo's performance with Edward Norton's.
Although the future of the Hulk is slightly unclear, this is another character that seems to be finding their groove in more recent films. Hulk is funny and terrifying, and his appeal is in the way that he balances those two things.
It may be slightly surprising that Scott Lang pops up on this list ahead of several fairly prominent Avengers, but that's what happens when you get two of your own movies. Ant-Man also gets quite a bit of screen time in Endgame, where he proves to be more crucial to the plot than you might expect.
Although Paul Rudd is a veteran actor, he's still fairly new to the MCU. In the time he's been with the team, though, he's managed to inject plenty of life and energy into movies that might feel pretty stale or overly dramatic without him.
Natasha Romanoff's presence this high on the list is fairly impressive, especially considering the fact that Marvel has not yet given her a solo movie of her own. It's notable, of course, that women are in a definite minority on this list, and over the years, Black Widow has often been the lone man in a club filled with boys.
Even so, Scarlett Johansson's fierce performance has proven that the character can hold her own with all the men around her, even though she doesn't have any extraordinary powers. She's set to get a movie focused on her sometime soon, although the events of Endgame have made the shape that movie will take unclear.
Although Peter Quill has been the ostensible lead of two Guardians of the Galaxy films, his screen time outside of that series has been pretty low. He's in Infinity War a bit, but otherwise, he and the rest of the guardians don't cross over with the rest of the MCU much.
In recent years, though, the Guardians have had some of the better adventures in any of the standalone movies in the MCU. It seems safe to say, as the future of the universe looks toward space, the Guardians will play a pretty prominent role in the films that come next.
Tom Holland has only been playing Spider-Man for three years, but he's already played Spider-Man in more movies than any other actor to take on the character. Since joining the MCU in Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker has accumulated quite a bit of screen time despite only starring in one solo project.
He's sure to be a huge piece in the future of this universe, so while he may only be in eighth place now, he'll likely jump up the rankings as he becomes an increasingly central figure in the Marvel universe in its plans post-Endgame. He's young, so don't expect him to go anywhere anytime soon.
Doctor Strange was a mild hit, but the character it centers on is sure to be another element of the stories the MCU wants to tell moving forward. He had a pivotal role in both Infinity War and Endgame, and his mystical abilities are sure to play a role in whatever the MCU does next.
It's telling that a lot of the characters further down this list are ones that likely speak to the future of Marvel's plans. These are the characters who define the future, and they've already made solid claims as to their importance to this universe. Where would we be if Doctor Strange didn't know exactly which timeline allowed them to beat Thanos?
Gamora may be a surprising entry on this list, but her presence is less shocking when you consider how central she is to Thanos's story in Infinity War, and her prominent role in both of the Guardians of the Galaxy films. Her death in Infinity War could have meant the end for her character, but given the nature of the time travel in Endgame, it could also offer a new beginning.
Whatever the future holds for her, Gamora has already made her presence firmly felt in this universe. She comes in ahead of some major characters and is the MCU woman with the second-most screen time.
The only villain to make this list is Loki, and that's incredibly fitting. Of course, Loki isn't really a villain, at least not in the strictest sense of the word. He does a lot of bad stuff, but he's really more mischievous than outright evil. He's also more fun to watch than basically any other Marvel baddie.
Thor's brother's future is also somewhat uncertain, but Marvel fans are immensely grateful for the portrayal of the character that they've gotten thus far. In a sea of villains that didn't make the cut, Loki was truly exceptional. When Thor was a dull character, the movies were worth watching because of the scheming, manipulative brother of his.
Captain Marvel is one of the newest characters on this list, but getting your own solo movie really bumps you up in these rankings. She also has a little bit to do in Endgame, which further bolsters her screen time.
For the most part, though, this character made the list because of her incredibly successful origin story. Captain Marvel is sure to be one of the guiding lights of the Marvel franchise as it moves forward. She also might be the strongest character in this universe? It's hard to imagine anything stopping her, but that's just fine. She likes beating people up, and we like watching her do that.
Nick Fury has never gotten his own movie, but he's been in the MCU since the first Iron Man. His screen time is not always significant in these movies, but the combined total was more than enough to earn him a spot on this list. Interestingly, Nick Fury is actually in Captain Marvel more than he's in any other Marvel movie.
Elsewhere, he's had a large presence in the Avengers films, and he even manages to make himself useful by calling for Captain Marvel before he gets snapped away. Nick Fury helped build this universe, so it makes sense that he'd show up on this list.
Pepper Potts has been in this universe just as long as Tony Stark has. In that time, she's been in three Iron Man movies, and she's also made smaller appearances in a variety of other films. Although it seems like Gwyneth Paltrow may be done with this universe after Endgame, her presence has always been a perfect counterbalance to Robert Downey Jr.'s incredibly sharp tongue.
Thankfully, Endgame gives her quite a bit to do. It's only fitting if this should be her send-off from this universe. As Tony Stark's right-hand woman, she was as important to this story as any character could be.
Black Panther is also a fairly new hero in this universe, but given the success of his first solo effort, he's likely to be around for years to come. It's slightly surprising that he doesn't have a stronger presence already, but Black Panther is actually fairly divided between T'Challa and Erik Killmonger, one of the best villains the MCU has ever produced.
As the MCU moves forward, Black Panther is likely to play a larger role in shaping the stories that get told. What's more, if those stories are as good as the first Black Panther, people will be lined up for miles to see them.