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Most Underrated MCU Characters

Over the course of many years, dozens of movies, and a number of TV shows, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has introduced global audiences to countless unforgettable characters. Many have entire trilogies dedicated to them, outside the epic team-up movies that anchor the franchise. Others have TV shows of their own, which explore their stories in fascinating new ways.

Sadly, though, not every MCU character ends up slapped on lunchboxes across the world. Forget a production of their own — these overlooked heroes and villains are lucky to get a single shout-out. But that doesn't mean they don't deserve our attention. Everyone loves to talk about Iron Man and Captain America, and for good reason. But what about the characters who flesh out their stories? These figures make us laugh and cry, and often enough, they're the ones who make it possible for the big, headlining heroes to win in the end. We've taken the liberty of assembling a (definitely not exhaustive) list of the most underrated characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Jimmy Woo

Originally a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, James "Jimmy" Woo was recruited by the FBI before eventually serving as Scott Lang's parole officer in 2018's "Ant Man and the Wasp." Woo strongly suspects Lang is stepping out on his parole, and indeed he is, although he always manages to cover it up. Regardless, Woo tries to catch him, as well as Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne, for violating the terms of the Sokovia Accords. In the end, he nabs the real bad guy of that film, Sonny Burch. Years later, as seen in "WandaVision," Woo and Darcy Lewis are instrumental in unraveling the mystery of Westview, which has been besieged by Wanda Maximoff's reality-warping powers.

We'll admit, that write-up makes Woo sound like something of a battle-hardened, no-nonsense detective, which he definitely isn't. He's good at what he does, but he's also a delightfully funny and charming character, who, thanks to actor Randall Park, even manages to stand out in scenes full of other funny characters played by equally funny people. Here's hoping we haven't seen the last of this gem.

Ulysses Klaue

If you're looking for definitive proof that Andy Serkis (known for playing Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" and "Hobbit" trilogies and Caesar in the "Planet of the Apes" franchise) can do more than just motion capture, look no further than his performance as the evil Ulysses Klaue, a black market arms dealer who appears in 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and 2018's "Black Panther."

In a nutshell, Klaue steals vibranium from the Wakandans (who his family has hated ever since his grandfather was killed by a 19th century Black Panther) and sells it to Ultron, who needs it for his robot body. Klaue then unwisely compares Ultron to Tony Stark, resulting in the genocidal A.I. cutting off his arm in a fit of rage. Later, Klaue acquires a vibranium prosthetic and teams up with Erik "Killmonger" Stevens to take down Wakanda. Unfortunately for Klaue, Killmonger betrays and kills him before his own plan fails at the hands of T'Challa.

On paper, this is all pretty standard fare for a minor recurring villain. But Serkis just brings so much chilling, lunatic energy to his performance that we had to give him his due. Can someone give this man an Oscar already?

Skurge

Like most amoral opportunists, Skurge isn't good enough at anything to make it on his own, and thus ends up playing sidekick to various villains who demand loyalty above competence. He sides with Loki and Hela, both of whom take over Asgard with villainous intent. In the end, after repeatedly shying away from moral responsibility, he has a change of heart and sacrifices himself to cover the escape of the other Asgardians as their home burns.

On paper, this is a rich, almost Shakespearean dramatic arc. Moreover, the fact that such a minor figure gets a story like this is a testament to how deeply and lovingly crafted the characters of 2017's "Thor: Ragnarok" are. But, like everything else in the movie, the character is also hilarious to watch, thanks to sharp comedic writing and a knockout performance from Karl Urban. Who can forget Skurge's Shake Weight, or "Des" and "Troy," the M16s he stole from Texas? His out-of-breath declaration, "Behold! Thor!" delivered long after the God of Thunder has already publicly returned to Asgard is one of the biggest laughs in the movie. It's all just hysterical stuff.

We doubt we'll be seeing any more of this minor redeemed villain. But "Thor: Ragnarok" squeezes plenty out of him in the time it has, which leaves us satisfied.

Mantis

It's weird that we meet Mantis, a naively sweet, mind-reading alien empath, as the personal assistant to a genocidal maniac. But the more you get to know her, the more you realize she probably didn't know any better. All her interactions are colored by her perpetual state of innocent confusion. Like certain other members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, she doesn't really get subtlety, nuance, or the intricacies of metaphor. Heck, she doesn't even understand when she's being directly insulted. When Drax suggests he likes spending time with her but that she's "horrifying to look at," she takes it in stride, as if it were an objective fact and not a mean comment lobbed at her by a buffoon. 

Beyond her oblivious nature, Mantis is impressively powerful, and ends up becoming a major asset in the fight against Thanos. She even puts the big purple bad guy himself into a trance while other Avengers hold him down. She's certainly not the most important Avenger, or even the most important Guardian, but actor Pom Klementieff makes Mantis so fun and memorable that we had to put her on this list.

Red Guardian

Much praise has been given to Florence Pugh's performance as Yelena Belova, Natasha Romanoff's "sister" in 2021's "Black Widow." There's a reason for that — she's excellent. Comparatively less praise has been directed towards their "father" figure, however, David Harbour's hilarious, brutish, and definitely past his prime Alexei Shostakov, otherwise known as the Red Guardian. Alexei's backstory, filled in sporadically over the course of the film, is a bit murky. We know he was a Cold War-era Soviet spy who was injected with  super-soldier serum to compete with the U.S.'s own Captain America. He claims the two fought in their heyday, but as another inmate points out, Cap was under the ice when Alexei says this happened. The issue is raised again, but never properly resolved, and answers are in short supply.

What might well have been a screenwriting oversight doesn't detract from Harbour's performance here. He's an absolute delight to watch in every scene he's in, and we hope we see more of this character (and get more answers, please).

Ego

While Ronan the Accuser has "bad guy" written all over him, the Guardians of the Galaxy's second major villain, Ego, initially comes off as a pretty nice guy. After all, he is Peter Quill's dad. The godlike, planet-owning Celestial is just thrilled to see his son and rope him into the family business. Which is — let us check our notes here — oh, right, killing all life and absorbing it into himself. Yikes. There seems to have been a lot of that going around the MCU at the time. Naturally, Quill and the Guardians have to take him down. It's no easy task, and they suffer some heartbreak along the way, but they get it done.

That being said, Kurt Russell is simply great in this villainous one-off role. Even when he's describing what it's like to be a lonely god or his genocidal intentions, he comes off as a good ol' fashioned dad who just wants to include his son in a project. The character's memorability suffers a bit, due to the oversaturation of universe-ending alien threats in the MCU, but Kurt Russell and director James Gunn make it work, and then some.

Wong

In the comics, Wong is Doctor Strange's manservant. Especially in the first few decades of his existence, the character is freighted with tired stereotypes regarding Asian people. But in 2016's "Doctor Strange," Benedict Wong's performance as the character who shares his last name is easily one of the best and funniest parts of the movie. This Wong is certainly secondary to Strange, but he's definitely not a butler. He's a Master of the Mystic Arts in his own right, who helps Strange run and protect the New York Sanctum and the Time Stone housed within it. He's funny, quick-witted, and very, very good at what he does, as Thanos' goons find out the hard way in 2018's "Avengers: Infinity War" and 2019's "Avengers: Endgame."

We haven't seen too much of Wong overall. He plays a decent-sized part in "Doctor Strange," but only bit roles in the last two "Avengers" movies. Luckily, he and Doctor Strange will almost certainly have a mighty role to play in upcoming multiversal storylines, which are only now beginning to unfold.

Darcy Lewis

Played inimitably by Kat Dennings, Darcy Lewis is a bit of a stand-in for the audience. She's by Jane Foster and Erik Selvig's side when Thor crash-lands on Earth, and while she's not yet a scientist like they are, in many ways, she's more observationally adept. While they take these outrageous, extraterrestrial events in stride, she's always around to hilariously remind them (and us) that no, this is not normal. These are alien gods who arrive on Earth via a rainbow space bridge, and the hunky blond one with the hammer almost eats a restaurant out of business! The best parts of 2011's "Thor" are undoubtedly the funny ones, and she provides more than her fair share of those. Sadly, other than a minor appearance in 2013's "Thor: The Dark World," we barely see her again on the big screen.

Luckily, the MCU rehomed her in Marvel's first show on Disney+, "WandaVision." In this series, she's finally gotten her doctorate in astrophysics and is instrumental in unraveling the mysteries of Westview, a town trapped by the sitcom-centric magic of one Wanda Maximoff. It's a story rooted in profound grief, but Kat Dennings always brings some much-needed quirky humor to the table when she's onscreen. Hopefully we haven't seen the last of her.

Heimdall

Thor's galaxy-spanning, universe-saving adventures are the stuff of legend, and for good reason. But his good buddy Heimdall, played as epically as you'd expect by Idris Elba, who sees and hears all in the Nine Realms and operates the Bifrost, is just as much of a hero. His is a lonely job, which undoubtedly involves hours or days, if not longer, standing in a lonely chamber, waiting for a call. But without him, Asgard would be cut off from the outside world and the universe would be a much more dangerous place because of it.

In "Thor: Ragnarok," Heimdall gets his chance to shine. He is removed from his position by Loki, who's posing as Odin. But when Hela attacks, the situation becomes even more grave. Heimdall ends up leading Asgardian refugees into the mountains to escape Hela's murderous forces. Later on, when they're escaping on the bridge, he defends his people again, and is instrumental in helping them escape as the place is destroyed behind them. Sadly, he never does get the credit he's due, dying unceremoniously at the hands of Thanos — but not before using the last of his magic to transport Hulk to Earth. Even in death, Heimdall remains noble.

Luis

It's a shame this gem of a character is buried in the "Ant Man" movies, likely the most underappreciated entries in the MCU. He is, without a doubt, one of the funniest characters in the franchise. Played by Michael Peña, Luis meets Scott Lang in prison. After getting out, Scott becomes Ant-Man, and Luis is right by his side, supporting him in the background. In 2018's "Ant Man and the Wasp," Luis and some other prison buddies, trying to make a living with felonies on their record, start X-Con Security Consultants, which Lang struggles to keep up with because of his superhero duties. In "Avengers: Endgame," Luis' van is instrumental to the Avengers' time-traveling exploits.

In every appearance, Peña plays Luis as a rapid-fire motormouth with a heart of gold and a penchant for boring people with long-winded monologues that have little to do with the subject at hand. He also never seems to truly grasp what's going on, but always manages to pull through for his buddy Scott. Ant-Man and all his friends survive the events of "Avengers: Endgame," so here's hoping we'll get to see more of Peña in this role.

Obadiah Stane

It's been quite a while since we last saw the MCU's original bad guy all the way back in 2008's "Iron Man." In this inaugural movie, Stane, who wants to control Stark Industries himself, organizes a hit on Tony Stark. When that fails, he tries to finish the job himself by building a hulking behemoth of a suit and becoming Iron Monger. In the end, his climactic fight with Tony leads to the latter man's iconic announcement at the press conference that ends the film.

That's just about where Stane's role ends. He certainly isn't as important to the saga as, say, Loki or Thanos. But he doesn't have to be. He's a perfectly frightening baddie played to menacing perfection by Jeff Bridges, who deftly sells both the smooth-talking, smile-for-the cameras corporate side of his character and the villain beneath. Plenty has been written about Robert Downey Jr.'s lightning-in-a-bottle performance as Tony Stark, and for good reason. But Bridges' Stane is a huge part of the movie's success too, and he deserves more attention for that than he often gets.

Valkyrie

We didn't know what to think when we first saw Valkyrie in "Thor: Ragnarok." She's a stumbling drunk who saves a hammerless Thor from scavengers, only to kidnap him and sell him into slavery. As Thor eventually discovers, she used to be a powerful Asgardian warrior who was defeated by Hela and now drinks herself into a nightly stupor. But eventually, she's persuaded to join Thor and Bruce Banner on their trip back to Asgard to face this foe. In "Avengers: Endgame," she's one of the few survivors of Thanos, running a dumpy looking New Asgard somewhere in Scandinavia. At the end of the movie, Thor appoints her ruler of the Asgardian people.

It's a surprising decision, but she definitely deserves it. After all, she's a fierce warrior who's fights through pain and addiction, much like Thor ends up facing. She comes out of this battle stronger, and we hope Thor follows a similar path. For now, though, we get to enjoy Tessa Thompson's wickedly funny, nuanced performance as the one and only Valkyrie.

Justin Hammer

This minor, dorky bad guy from 2010's "Iron Man 2" almost never gets talked about. We kind of get it: He's primarily used for comic relief in one of the franchise's most overlooked movies. In the broader scheme of things, he only plays a small role in James Rhodes acquiring the War Machine suit.

But his larger narrative insignificance doesn't matter. Sam Rockwell's performance as this nerdy, ankle-biting corporate competitor to the vastly cooler and smarter Tony Stark is too delightful not to mention here. Every line of dialogue he delivers is dripping with cringey, dad-humor-ish sleaze. Whether he's at the Senate hearing, meeting Whiplash (who he unsuccessfully recruits to murder Stark), selling guns to the military, or doing his unforgettably goofy dance at the Expo, he's always pitch-perfect.

Sadly, we haven't seen the character since. But in the comics, he does pop up from time to time in Spider-Man stories. Listen, Marvel — Iron Man's role in the MCU might be done, but Spidey's is not. We don't care what you have to do. Just bring back Rockwell's Hammer!

Happy Hogan

From Pepper Potts to Peter Parker to James Rhodes, Tony Stark has no shortage of allies. But his dependable, fiercely loyal old pal, former chauffeur, and Stark Industries security chief Happy Hogan, played delightfully by Jon Favreau (who also played a huge role in developing the "Iron Man" movies and the early MCU as a whole), deserves a mention here. Simply put, he's just so much fun to watch.

When Tony is being Tony, Happy's always around to reign in his excesses and keep him focused. When Iron Man is off saving the world, Happy can be found on the ground, working tirelessly to protect everything his boss holds dear. In "Iron Man 2," he helps Black Widow infiltrate the building where Whiplash is remotely controlling murderous flying robots. In 2013's "Iron Man 3," he's one of the first people to distrust the villainous Adrian Killian. He goes on to become Peter Parker's go-to contact in the "Spider-Man" films. Finally, in "Avengers: Endgame," he touchingly comforts Tony's young daughter, letting her know everything will be okay in the wake of her dad's death. Happy Hogan might be a comic relief character before he's anything else, but his support of Iron Man and Spidey makes all the difference. We'd all be lucky to have such a true friend by our sides.

Nebula

A vicious cyborg warrior and Thanos' younger daughter, Nebula takes out her rage on her battlefield foes. For a time, she makes killing Gamora, her elder sister, a priority, in the hopes that their abusive father with approve and recognize her abilities. But she never manages to pull it off. Much to her fury, Nebula is no match for Gamora and her new friends, and she's soon captured by the Guardians and held against her will. While in their custody, though, she has a change of heart, and ultimately sides with them against Ego and, eventually, her own father. Nebula fights Thanos on Titan before becoming an instrumental participant in the time-travel plot central to "Avengers; Endgame." She even runs into her past self, who's unwilling or unable to change as she has. Nebula puts her down in the final battle.

It's an incredible story, brought to life by Karen Gillan's powerful performance over the course of multiple movies that star other people. For that reason, Nebula never gets the respect she clearly deserves. But it's time that changes. Here's to many more MCU movies featuring our favorite blue meanie.