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MCU: Best Infinity Saga Character Arcs Ranked

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for a lot of things. Super-powered swashbuckling, galactic geography, and earth-shattering showdowns have all kept the masses of Marvel fandom satisfied over the years, but one of the main ingredients that's made the MCU so successful is the fact that its occupants have such incredibly complex, interwoven character arcs. Many of the faces that fans have come to know and love have appeared numerous times over the course of multiple films. This ability to have characters show up more than once in multiple settings, and throughout various storylines, has fueled dynamic, powerful stories.

With that in mind, we've rounded up the best character arcs from the Infinity Saga. These are the cream of the crop when it comes to character-focused storylines that take place within the first three phases of the MCU. This naturally means several interesting characters (like Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, and Falcon) didn't make the cut — the best parts of their stories are likely still ahead of them.

In the meantime, here are the best Infinity Saga character arcs ranked from worst to first.

Gamora's arc is confusingly compelling

Gamora, daughter of Thanos, makes her first appearance in the first Guardians of the Galaxy , released late in phase 2. She begins her MCU career as a bona fide baddie, known for helping her father enforce his nefarious population-halving will across the far reaches of the galaxy.

However, not long after her MCU debut, Gamora switches sides, joining forces with the Guardians and helping them stop Ronan the Accuser and Star-Lord's father, Ego the Living Planet. From there, she crosses paths with Thor and gets sucked back into her father's quest, leading to her own death in exchange for the Soul Stone.

Even if that was it, the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy's arc is already pretty impressive, but it goes even further. In Avengers: Endgame, 2014 Gamora travels forward in time, helps stop her father yet again, and then heads off into parts unknown, laying the seeds for the Guardians of the Galaxy threequel. From her heroic exploits to her mysterious journey through time, Gamora certainly ranks as one of the more compelling characters in the MCU.

Scarlet Witch & Vision have a tragic time

Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch, and the heroic android known as Vision are MCU lovebirds who were attached at the hip after Avengers: Age of Ultron, and their journey is undoubtedly one of the more dramatic in the Infinity Saga. Wanda comes from war-torn Sokovia, where she and her brother were given superpowers due to HYDRA experiments. In Age of Ultron, she both loses her brother and ditches Ultron to become an Avenger. During this time, Vision also comes into existence.

Wanda and Vision are set up as long-term members of the team from there. They're divided during Captain America: Civil War, but by Avengers: Infinity War, it's clear that the pair have managed to keep their growing romance alive and well. At this point, their parallel stories, which were already compelling enough, veer into tragedy. By the end of the film, Wanda is forced to destroy the Infinity Stone in Vision's forehead only to watch Thanos rewind time, undo their sacrifice, and rip it out himself. In Endgame, Wanda manages to nearly defeat Thanos in a moment of pure rage — which led Marvel chief Kevin Feige to dub her the strongest hero in the MCU, by the way. Their story is epic — and epically sad. Fortunately, the pair have a brightly warped future ahead of them in the form of Phase 4's WandaVision.

King T'Challa's Infinity Saga time is precious

King T'Challa doesn't get much screen time during the Infinity Saga outside of his own standalone film. Sure, he joins in Civil War and helps contain Thanos in Infinity War and Endgame. However, it's in Black Panther that T'Challa truly shines. That movie provides fans with a close-up view of the King of Wakanda's rise to power, chronicling his path to the throne, his early days as king, his temporary toppling by his cousin Killmonger, and his restoration to his kingship.

Up until recently, T'Challa's story was one that burned brightest for the future, with the Infinity Saga serving as more of a warm-up act than anything else. However, the tragic passing of actor Chadwick Boseman in August of 2020 brought an abrupt and unforeseen ending to his character's MCU journey. Suddenly, T'Challa's days were confined to the Infinity Saga, where his memory has become exponentially cherished as one of the greatest heroes to ever leave his stamp on the Marvel Universe.

Groot goes through the life cycle

While most of the characters in the MCU go through a significant amount of character development and inner awakening, only one personality literally grows into a new version of themselves. We're talking about Groot, of course. The arboreal Guardian of the Galaxy starts off as little more than Rocket's nearly non-verbal sidekick. However, over the course of the first Guardians film, Groot puts down roots with his new family — to the point where he literally sacrifices himself for their survival.

Resilient as any MCU hero, Groot manages to survive the Battle of Xandar — sort of — though only as a tender sapling. By the film's end-credit scene, though, he's already grown into a Bonzai-sized shrub that loves to get its groove on. In the second Guardians film, that twig is seen in the toddler stage, and by Infinity War he's a video game-obsessed teenager that gives Thor a handle for Stormbreaker before he's snapped into dust by Thanos. Hulk's reverse snap brings him back in Endgame, at which point he helps topple the Mad Titan once and for all. His MCU journey has been fabulously transformative (literally) thus far, and it'll be interesting to see where his path leads now that the Infinity Saga has ended.

Spider-Man is thrust into the spotlight

Peter Parker gets his retconned start in the MCU in Iron Man 2, when he faces down Whiplash's android with the fear of, well, a superhero. We don't see Parker again until several years later, when he swings onto the scene in Civil War. From there, he proceeds to embark on a tumultuous character arc that has him bouncing between very down-to-earth enemies and universe-threatening cosmic peril.

His own personal ambition to become an Avenger is eventually realized when he hitches a ride on the flying donut bound toward Titan during Infinity War. From there, he's snapped away, restored to life, and helps defeat Thanos. As if that wasn't enough, the Crime-Stopper from Queens also gets the honor of hosting the after-party for the entire Infinity Saga with his second standalone film, Spider-Man: Far from Home. In it, Parker officially comes into his own as a superhero in his own right — and is set up to continue his impressive arc into the future.

Black Widow has a complete arc, but something is missing

It's no surprise that Natasha Romanoff would end up on this list. However, she doesn't rank as high as she might have due to one glaring fact: the largest part of her story — her first standalone film, Black Widow — isn't reaching audiences until well after the conclusion of the Infinity Saga. Sure, the story may largely be set between the events of Civil War and Infinity War, but it doesn't change the fact that Black Widow's first solo adventure falls outside of Phase Three, and thus the Infinity Saga itself.

With that said, Nat still manages to tell an impressive story during her first eight MCU appearances. The super-spy infiltrates Hammer Industries headquarters in Iron Man 2 before she moves into her ongoing role with the Avengers by helping them assemble for the first time to stop Loki. She's also an integral part of the events of Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron, and Civil War. During the third and fourth Avengers films, Black Widow takes center stage as she steps up to the plate to fight for her new family, not to mention the entire universe. Her eventual sacrifice in Endgame ends up playing a pivotal part in thwarting Thanos' ambitions, leaving her with a complete and deeply meaningful arc, especially for a character who took this long to get her own movie.

Thanos gets greedy with his arc endings

Next up, we have the Mad Titan himself. Thanos is a unique and fascinating part of the MCU. In his own way, Thanos does just as much to weave the fantastical fabric of the universe together as beloved characters like Captain America, Black Widow, and Iron Man. The earliest rumblings of the approaching villain start way back in the fading moments of Avengers, after which the Dark Lord's arc quietly continues to rise, albeit offscreen. He plays a terrifying yet ancillary role in Guardians of the Galaxy and gets ready to "do it himself" at the end of Age of Ultron.

From the moment he finally steps onscreen in Infinity War, his character arc shoots off the charts. The third Avengers installment, in particular, does a great job of following his inner crusade to "save the universe" — arguably establishing the villain as more of a protagonist than anything else. By Endgame, Thanos becomes more of a pure antagonist, even admitting toward the end that his battle against the Avengers has become personal. Nevertheless, Thanos' ultimate demise in Endgame's final act marks one of the most epic moments of the MCU thus far.

Yondu goes from zero to hero in the best way

The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise spends a decent amount of time tracing Star-Lord's backstory. While the second film focuses on his celestial father, Ego, there's another paternal candidate to consider. Present in both of the first two Guardians films, the exiled Ravager captain Yondu Udonta starts his MCU career as a bit of a rough-and-tumble villain. He's marked as the guy who raised Star-Lord in a less-than-savory manner and spends a decent amount of the first movie trying to hunt down his adopted slave of a "son" and punish him.

However, over the course of the Guardians narrative, Yondu gradually changes his tune — or more likely reveals his true colors — showing a marked affinity for Peter Quill in the process. By Guardians of the Galaxy 2, the villain-turned-hero captures the hearts of fans through a mixture of badass behavior (including recapturing his entire ship from mutineers with his Yaka Arrow) and mushy fatherly stuff (i.e. helping the Guardians defeat Ego and then sacrificing himself to save Star-Lord.) While shorter than others seen during the Infinity Saga, there's no doubt that Yondu's arc is one heck of a ride.

Bucky Barnes has the most tragic arc of them all

Bucky Barnes starts his MCU story as the happy-go-lucky best friend of Steve Rogers. However, it doesn't take long for his story to take a dark turn, as he's captured by Hydra, becomes the Winter Soldier, and proceeds to be tortuously employed against his will as an assassin for decades. During that time he conducts numerous murders — including killing Tony Stark's parents — while under the mastery of Hydra's agents and their control triggers.

Fortunately, Bucky's story doesn't end in despair. He's eventually saved by Rogers, who refuses to give up on his friend. Eventually, the White Wolf finds healing in Wakanda and is even rehabilitated enough to help stop Thanos when the time comes. Bucky's story is a tragic one, for the most part, but it's also one of resilience, friendship, and an indomitable will that sets the character up to make a triumphant return as he takes the co-lead in the MCU miniseries Falcon and the Winter Soldier going into Phase 4.

Nebula both fails and succeeds in her own two-part arc

Nebula has had an interesting time in the MCU. The conflicted character has played both antagonist and villain as she's flipped and flopped her way across various franchises. Gamora's vengeful sister spends most of her time in the first two Guardians of the Galaxy films playing the yin to Gamora's yang. Eventually, though, she manages to break away from her unhealthy devotion to her tortuous adoptive father, Thanos, and ends up trying to hunt down and assassinate him.

During Infinity War and Endgame, a reformed Nebula attempts to help the Avengers stop Thanos and then undo his Infinity Stone-fueled act of galactic genocide. All of this is enough to get Nebula a decent spot on the all-time arcs list. However, once you layer in the pitiably antagonistic 2014 version of Nebula in Endgame — and the fact that current Nebula ends up killing her other self to save the day — her complex, heart-breaking character arc becomes one of the most compelling of them all.

Hulk gets his own trilogy in the background

Hulk and Bruce Banner have a heck of a time throughout the Infinity Saga. Their storyline begins with the moody Incredible Hulk, only for the (recast) Jade Giant to begin a whole new story arc when he returns in Avengers. From there, Hulk goes on a rollercoaster of a ride, sending himself into self-imposed exile at the end of Age of Ultron. At this point, Hulk seizes the reins, repressing Banner and staying in control while living on the planet Sakaar for two years.

That stretch ends in Infinity War, when Hulk is defeated by Thanos and refuses to emerge again until Endgame, when we see that Hulk and Banner have made peace and joined to become Professor Hulk. Together, they help with the Infinity Stone time heist and then personally reverse the Snap. Hulk and Banner's time in the MCU isn't just fascinating, it's also a unique story arc, much of which is told in the background throughout Ragnarok, Infinity War, and Endgame.

Loki sneaks his way into everyone's admiration

During Thor, Loki is little more than a mischievous brother to the God of Thunder. Much like his mythical Norwegian counterpart, he isn't quite a hero or a villain, though he generally falls on the antagonistic side of the scales. However, as Loki continues to make appearances throughout the Infinity Saga, he slowly begins to morph into something no one really expected: a bona fide hero.

After wielding the Mind Stone in Avengers, Loki proceeds to play a critical part in stopping Malekith, helps unleash Ragnarok, and finally stands up to Thanos himself, losing his life in the process. After that, his arc gets a little complicated since, by the end of Endgame, we meet another version of the God of Mischief, who steals the Tesseract and heads off to start his story arc anew. Nevertheless, whatever lies in store for him in Phase 4, it doesn't change the fact that his zero-to-hero Infinity Saga arc is gosh darn spectacular.

Captain America's arc goes full circle

Steve Rogers is the heart and soul of the Avengers and, by extension, the entire MCU. Over the course of his appearances in the Infinity Saga, Rogers' arc is so complete that he literally comes full circle. Staring in the 1940s, he becomes an iconic national hero only for his story to be put on hold when he's frozen in arctic tundra and disappears for 70 years.

Once he's found and revived, the action picks up pretty quickly. He stops multiple galactic threats with the Avengers, uncovers a 21st-century Hydra plot, saves Bucky from his mind control, and ultimately leads the charge as the team rescues half of the life in the universe from Thanos' gauntleted clutches. While his arc has enough action for a dozen heroes rolled into one, though, it's his story's final act that truly makes it complete. When Rogers goes back in time to return the Infinity Stones at the end of Endgame — and finally gives himself the life with Peggy Carter he sacrificed in World War II — it serves as the perfect epilogue for a hero who gave everything to protect those around him.

Thor has a downright insane story arc

There are few characters who have had a more tortuous time in the MCU than Thor Odinson. The Asgardian's story starts out when he's a musclebound princeling without a care in the world. Over the course of several films, he loses his family, his homeworld, his eye, his hammer, and his way. By the time he gets to Endgame, Thor's narrative has been turbulent, to say the least. Ironically, his time spent fighting Loki and Ultron as an Avenger stands out as some of his happiest MCU moments.

Nevertheless, the God of Thunder mostly maintains an upbeat attitude throughout his adventures, always managing to rise to the occasion and help wherever he's needed. While his days in the MCU appear far from over, it doesn't change the fact that, during the Infinity Saga alone, he goes through a character arc that's packed with sorrow, loss, pain, suffering, action, excitement, and tons of thunderous fun.

Iron Man snaps his way to the best arc of them all

Tony Stark is the beginning and the end of the Infinity Saga. His story kicks things off and wraps things up. His personal development shapes the course of the Avengers and even spills over into other franchises, as seen in Captain America: Civil War. He's also the one who first sees Thanos' impending threat through a prescient vision from Scarlet Witch and then spends the rest of his time, both on Earth and off it, trying to ward off the inevitable.

Stark's rambunctious, transformative, and moving storyline is, without question, the pièce de résistance of the MCU. From day one, his struggle with fate is palpable as he learns to sacrifice his comfy life for one of superhero-level responsibility. Along with this ongoing sacrifice, his final act of "laying down on the wire" to save everyone he loves — and the rest of the universe, to boot — puts him squarely at the top of the ranking. No questions asked. 'Nuff said.