Summary

  • The MCU has a small number of female-led feature films, but it has recently increased with the introduction of Captain Marvel.
  • Female Avengers have received less solo screen time compared to their male counterparts, but the MCU has introduced numerous women who could lead a feature film.
  • The MCU TV shows are diversifying their leads better than movies, with a better female-to-male lead ratio and the addition of more female-led shows.


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Despite additions such as The Marvels, the MCU still has an astonishingly low number of female-led feature films. That small number has also only recently increased; early in the MCU Timeline, women leads were nearly nonexistent. In Phase 1 of the MCU, the first five films were all male leads, culminating in Marvel’s The Avengers, which was an ensemble cast with just one woman. Phase 2 was the same, with all six films other than Age of Ultron being male-led. It wasn’t until nearly the end of Phase 3 that Captain Marvel (2019) introduced the MCU’s first female-led film.

There’s no arguing that the MCU’s female Avengers haven’t gotten as much solo screen time as their male counterparts; characters like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have had multiple films, with Doctor Strange recently joining those ranks. That may be because the original Avengers were mostly composed of men; Black Widow was the only woman in the crew in the first film. Even so, the MCU has since introduced innumerable women who could lead a feature film. The issue also isn’t about replacing, either; it’s about balance. A Scarlet Witch movie before Wanda’s appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness may have worked, for example.

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The MCU Still Only Has 4 Female-Led Feature Films

Of the current 33 MCU feature films, only four are female-led: Captain Marvel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Black Widow, and The Marvels. This number could be slightly stretched when accounting for Ant-Man and the Wasp and Quantumania, but in those films, Wasp is at most a co-lead, and Ant-Man remains a main focus. Other examples are a bit more blurred; Eternals could be considered female-led, with Sersi as the narrative focus, but both Eternals and the Avengers movies are really ensembles that frequently have many more men in the group than women. Even when removing the Avengers films from the equation, the ratio remains just four out of 29.

MCU Films With Female Leads And When They Were Released

Movie

Release Date

Captain Marvel

March 8, 2019

Black Widow

July 9, 2021

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

November 11, 2022

The Marvels

November 10, 2023

Disappointingly, the MCU has also had a recent pattern of killing off major women from Phases 1 to Phase 3 of the franchise, either in Avengers: Endgame or fairly soon after. The first two to fall were Gamora, who died in Avengers: Infinity War, and Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, who died in Endgame. In Thor: Love and Thunder, Jane Foster gets some screen time as Mighty Thor, but she dies by the end of the film. Although suspected of not truly being dead, Wanda also seemingly dies at the end of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Others include Queen Ramonda, Maria Hill, May Parker, and Maria Rambeau.

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MCU TV Shows Are Diversifying Their Leads Better Than Movies

Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) manifesting a red crown in WandaVision

In the MCU TV shows, the number of female leads compared to male leads is better, at least in terms of ratio; although there are still only 4, the 4 are out of 10. Beginning with WandaVision, which is Wanda’s story despite the title sharing Vision’s name, the MCU then added Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and, most recently, Echo. As the next show is slated to be Agatha: Darkhold Diaries, that number should soon be five. This turn does suggest that, ultimately, the MCU might start to feature women as leads more often, although it will be interesting to see how much that translates to feature films.

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