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The Best Films Starring The Avengers Cast (That You've Never Seen)

The cast of Marvel Studios' "The Avengers" is one of history's most famous Hollywood ensembles. From their 2012 debut to their multi-billion dollar finale, this group of performers is likely what comes to most people's minds when they think of A-List stars, and out of the top ten highest-grossing actors of all time, eight of them have appeared in multiple "Avengers" films (hats off to Toms Cruise and Hanks).

Suffice it to say, the general public is very familiar with the cast of "The Avengers" — and yet, some of their best work remains buried beneath a decade in tights. From thrilling biopics to hard science fiction and chilling horror films, these hidden gems are well worth hunting for — no Infinity Gauntlet required. So before you dive back in for your ninth rewatch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you may want to check out what these actors can do outside of it.

Rush sees Chris Hemsworth as a real-life Formula One driver

A year after joining "The Avengers" as the Asgardian God of Thunder, Thor Odinson, Australian actor Chris Hemsworth was rumbling screens in an entirely different way — on the race track.

In 2013, Hemsworth starred in the biographical sports drama "Rush" as British Formula One driver James Hunt. Following Hunt's infamous 1976 rivalry with Austrian racer Niki Laura (played by fellow MCU alum Daniel Brühl), the film was directed by Ron Howard. It featured a script by Peter Morgan — the latter of whom would go on to create, write, and produce the critically acclaimed series "The Crown" for Netflix. Though "Rush" grossed nearly $100 million worldwide, it made less than $30 million in the U.S.

Hemsworth's portrayal of Hunt was lauded by critics around the globe, who felt it was convincing both dramatically and historically. Even British Lord Alexander Fermor-Hesketh — the founder of Hesketh Motors and Hunt's boss — described his performance as "uncanny," telling "Beyond the Grid" host Tom Clarkson, "You couldn't do better... it practically was James Hunt." Howard hired Hemsworth to lead his very next film, "In the Heart of the Sea" just two years later.

In Good Night, and Good Luck., Robert Downey Jr. plays a Red Scare-era journalist

Nearly 20 years before Robert Downey Jr. would play anti-communist career politician Lewis Strauss in Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer," he ventured into similar historical subject matter from a much different angle — though the "Iron Man" star still appeared in black-and-white.

Directed by and starring George Clooney, "Good Night, and Good Luck" follows CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn, who ironically played J. Robert Oppenheimer in the BBC's "Day One") as he attempts to counter U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy's culturally defining (and destructive) crusade against whom he perceived to be communist infiltrators. 

Downey played Joseph Wershba, a writer and editor for CBS News who worked with Murrow on the show "See It Now" during the 1950s. His performance is all the more impressive when you realize "Good Night, and Good Luck" was released in the same year as Shane Black's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (though the latter film ultimately overshadowed his work in the former). 

Sunshine stretched Chris Evans' range as a militant aerospace engineer

Before joining the MCU as Steve Rogers in "Captain America: The First Avenger" (and during his brief but memorable tenure as the Human Torch), Chris Evans starred in "Sunshine," a mid-budget sci-fi drama with a cast so stacked with talent it would cost well over $100 million to finance in 2023. Alongside "Oppenheimer" star Cillian Murphy, Evans led an ensemble that included Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Hiroyuki Sanada ("Avengers: Endgame"), Mark Strong, Michelle Yeoh ("Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"), and the Sorcerer Supreme himself Benedict Wong. Despite receiving near-universal acclaim, "Sunshine" was a decisive box office bomb.

Set just a few decades in the future, "Sunshine" follows an international team of engineers and scientists working together to create and detonate a massive bomb (it's like space "Oppenheimer," but more or less existentially terrifying depending on the viewer). 

Evans stars as James Mace, an American engineer. "He's from a military background," the actor explained in a 2007 featurette. "He's very cut and dry, he's morally uncomplicated." As a government soldier who almost compulsively puts his duty over what others may perceive to be the "right" thing, it may be the role most opposite to Evans' star-spangled soldier.

Mark Ruffalo played a wrestling coach in Foxcatcher

The Du Pont family is one of the oldest and wealthiest families in America. In the last decade, two major films have been produced about dark chapters in their history — and Mark Ruffalo starred in both of them. Either one would be worth watching, but while "Dark Waters" (a grim legal drama about the DuPont chemical company's contamination of Parkersburg, West Virginia's water supply) is a necessary and harrowing story, "Foxcatcher" arguably boasts the most ambitious performance from Marvel's favorite Hulk.

Ruffalo and Channing Tatum play brothers and Olympic wrestlers who become the fascination of John du Pont (an unrecognizable Steve Carell). The three men work together in tense and often disturbing conditions to see Mark Schultz (Tatum) lead du Pont's titular wrestling team to its first Olympics. We won't spoil more than that here. While it's a (relatively little known) true story, the movie's chilling twists and turns are best experienced with little expectations. For his work, Ruffalo earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Under The Skin is a rare Scarlett Johansson horror movie

The year after "The Avengers" was released, Scarlett Johansson starred in "Under the Skin," a science fiction-horror film about an extraterrestrial being terrorizing people in Scotland. Like "Foxcatcher," this is one of those movies that you want to just turn on and experience without a ton of information going in.

It premiered at Venice Film Festival, where outlets reported a distinctly — and passionately — divided response from the audience. Speaking to The Guardian, Johansson admitted that the vocal reaction staggered her in real time, clearly subverting whatever expectations she had going into the screening. "...[T]here was this sound of people cheering and booing at the same time, but with equal gusto," she recalled. "I didn't know how to react to it. I think I was just... I wouldn't say disturbed but I was sort of shocked."

Director Jonathan Glazer was thrilled to have provoked such varied and strong emotions within the crowd. With some distance from the overwhelming moment Johansson seems to feel similarly, content to have made an impact of any kind. "I would way rather not have middle ground," she shared. "I would way rather fail in someone's eyes than be that sort of tepid... that's the worst." In 2016, the BBC named it one of the 100 best films of the 21st century.