Summary

  • Many smaller characters in the MCU managed to give impactful performances that have gone underappreciated in the franchise’s history.
  • Even some larger characters don’t get their full dues in terms of appreciation for their arcs or characterization.
  • Many underappreciated MCU performances comprise vital roles in the series that create the backbone of the franchise.

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe is full of amazing performances, including many undersung characters whose actors don’t get enough credit. The flagship characters of the MCU have all been held down with career-defining performances that helped prop up the legendary franchise. But a notable few stellar showings from lesser-known names have flown under the radar throughout the MCU’s 33 films, deserving of far more acclaim than they currently receive.

Many of these underappreciated stars only make brief appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, being killed off just as quickly as they’re introduced, even if they do leave a lasting impression. In a rare few other cases, however, supporting cast members have spanned multiple films turning in the same excellent portrayal of a given character, somehow never getting the acclaim as the likes of Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord or Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange. Whatever the case, it’s crucial to give credit to these impressive actors whose characters might not be quite as prominent.

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10 Andy Serkis As Ulysses Klaue

Last Appeared In Black Panther

Andy Serkis speaking as Ulysses Klaue in the MCU's Black Panther

Though Andy Serkis’ motion capture work is more well-known than his live action appearances, the British actor is still capable of bringing much more to the table than a mere skeleton for a CGI character to inhabit. As Ulysses Klaue, Serkis turned in a delightfully evil performance, presenting a rare Marvel villain that knew how despicable he was and enjoyed every second of his vile behavior. Next to Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, Klaue may be somewhat forgettable, but he was an entertaining and threatening villain that was hard not to root for.

9 James Spader As Ultron

Last Appeared In Avengers: Age Of Ultron

One of the most dangerous villains from Marvel Comics, James Spader’s depiction of Ultron made it all the more frustrating that the murderous A.I. was introduced and killed off within the span of one film. Spader’s smooth, cold, and calculating voice made Ultron feel like a big deal from the very beginning, accentuating his character beyond a straightforward killer robot with a dry sense of humor. Despite being somewhat more of an irritated pessimist than a megalomaniac world conqueror, James Spader’s Ultron deserves more credit as one of the MCU’s better villain performances.

8 Sterling K. Brown As N’Jobu

Last Appeared In Black Panther

Sterling K. Brown as N'Jobu and Denzel Whitaker as Zuri in Black Panther.

Long dead before the events of the “modern day” in the Black Panther timeline, Sterling K. Brown’s N’Jobu gets only a few brief moments to shine in the film. In those few scenes, however, he makes a big impact, truly coming across as a tragic figure desperate to convince his brother to act on the injustices around the globe Wakanda has been ignorant of. His scene in the ancestral plane with Killmonger is one of the most heartbreaking moments in the MCU, witnessing how callous his son has become in the wake of his death from the afterlife.

7 Randall Park As Jimmy Woo

Last Appeared In Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania

Randall Park as Agent Jimmy Woo holding up a piece of paper in WandaVision

Known better for his work in comedy series like Fresh Off the Boat and Veep, Randall Park fit right in within the more humor-oriented cast of the Ant-Man films. Having also made an appearance in the latter half of WandaVision, Jimmy Woo is quickly becoming a fan-favorite everyman, affably making sense of the larger-than-life antics of the super-powered world around him through the lens of an F.B.I. agent. Comedic and somewhat clumsy while still being capable, Jimmy Woo deserves more recognition as one of the MCU’s best supporting cast members.

6 Stanley Tucci As Abraham Erskine

Last Appeared In Captain America: The First Avenger

dr abraham erskine in captain america the first avenger

Without Dr. Erskine, Steve Rogers would’ve never become Captain America, making the scientist one of the most impactful characters in the entire MCU compared to his screen time. Stanley Tucci manages to embody the earnestness with which Abraham Erskine saw the world, correctly assessing the goodness lying within Steve Rogers and bringing it out with the use of his ground-breaking serum. It was easy to become attached to the character, making his ultimate death in Captain America: The First Avenger among the most devastating in the early MCU.

5 Shaun Toub As Ho Yinsen

Last Appeared In Iron Man

Whereas Captain America had Dr. Erskine as an early mentor, Tony Stark had Ho Yinsen, a brilliant scientist and surgeon captured by the Ten Rings. In just a few brief moments, Toub manages to convey a man who could believably influence the egotistical Tony Stark in his lowest moments. Seeing Yinsen’s humble, unassuming personality clashing with Stark’s, only to tragically sacrifice himself after helping build the first Iron Man armor, was one of the most heart-wrenching character arcs in the entire series.

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4 Karen Gillen As Nebula

Last Appeared In Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 3

Karen Gillan's Nebula looking serious in 2022's The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Few characters in the MCU have had an arc quite like Nebula, going from rival to villain to reluctant Guardian of the Galaxy. Karen Gillen brilliantly portrayed the slow change in perspective and building of trust in Nebula’s personality over time, earning herself a place on the intergalactic team piece by piece. Gillen was even able to re-enter the mind of an early Nebula still heavily influenced by Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, successfully acting as a younger version of herself acting as an older version of herself – a concept that is definitely no easy task to pull off.

3 Tony Leung As Xu Wenwu

Last Appeared In Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings

Xu Wenwu leading the Ten Rings in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

One of the many MCU villains killed off too soon, Tony Leung’s Hollywood debut as Xu Wenwu offered a lot of promise to the long-teased supervillain The Mandarin. Despite remaining relatively stoic, Leung is still able to convey Wenwu’s genuine desire to reconcile with his son while also never quite losing the edge of a true warlord. Without over-explaining or over-acting, Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu was able to demonstrate a lot, from his reprehensible actions to his last-minute redemption.

2 Hailey Steinfeld As Kate Bishop

Even if the Hawkeye miniseries takes the name of Jeremy Renner’s character, Kate Bishop was the true star of the show. Hailey Steinfeld managed to balance a young new heroine that was clearly impulsive and reckless without being overly annoying, walking the fine line between a believable young adult and a capable prodigy. In just six episodes, Hailey Steinfeld was able to take the character from a relative unknown to a hopeful member of Kamala Khan’s new young Avengers team.

1 Richard Madden As Ikaris

Last Appeared In Eternals

Richard Madden's Ikaris with glowing eyes in Eternals

Even if The Eternals was one of the MCU’s less-successful movies, whatever criticisms can be said of it can’t be leveled at the stellar cast. Some of the best moments came from Richard Madden’s Ikaris, a conflict soul unsure of his place in the Celestial’s cosmic plans. Though Madden’s character arc was among one of the most tragic in the MCU, he managed to steal the show with some of the best moments of levity as the Eternals bickered with one another on Earth.

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