In Avengers: Infinity War, the Avengers weren’t just fighting the swole Barney/alien titan Thanos, they were fighting time. Even with a lengthy 160-minute run time, the sheer number of superheroes and sidekicks who appeared in Infinity War meant that some characters who typically command the spotlight were shortchanged by plot machinations and screen-time restrictions. Some heroes, like Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, didn’t even appear at all!
As a result, the Avengers deck has been shuffled. Certain heroes who felt integral to the team are now peripheral members who were basically useless against Thanos, while other characters have become central to stopping the menacing new villain and, quite possibly, reversing the rapture-like event that occurs at the end of Infinity War. And on a more macro level, Infinity War made it evident which heroes the MCU is favoring as it moves to “Phase 4,” and which characters—[cough, Iron Man]—might be put out to pasture, if only because of contractual obligations.
Because the scales have shifted so greatly, it feels like the perfect time to rank the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the rest of the saga’s many sidekicks in terms of relevance, to see whose stock has risen and whose has dropped. To give all the Avengers a fair shake, we’ll still consider the ones who got raptured at the end of the movie—because presumably some like Black Panther will come out on the other end of this just fine, unless Disney and Marvel have decided they hate making money. We are, however, cutting out of contention the characters who died before Thanos went all Leftovers on us. They more than likely are going to stay dead and won’t be a part of the MCU’s future plans (RIP, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Paul Bettany’s Vision, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and Idris Elba’s Heimdall.)
Let’s begin, starting with the least relevant Avenger and working our way up.
23. Hawkeye (Stock Remains Steady)
22. Peter Parker’s Friend Ned (Stock Up)
Excellent job distracting your classmates so Peter could change into his Spidey suit, Ned! You are this much closer to becoming the full-time Guy in the Chair sidekick you’ve always dreamed of being.
21. Wong (Stock Remains Steady)
Was hanging out at the Sanctum Sanctorum so important that you couldn’t teleport to Wakanda at the end of the movie? Thanks for nothing, buddy.
20. Nebula (Stock Rising)
Nebula is, surprisingly, one of the surviving characters at the end of Infinity War, and the sequel could set her up for a revenge arc against Thanos for killing her sister, Gamora (on top of all the other extremely disturbing acts he’s committed against her). As with Loki, every MCU installment Nebula’s appeared in has made her increasingly sympathetic; the next Avengers movie could see her become a full-fledged member of the team.
Still, if we’re taking early odds on who could die in Avengers 4, Nebula’s a safe bet. Imagine her making a noble sacrifice in honor of her sister—or doing something similar to reverse Gamora’s death. In the meantime, though, her stock is pointing north.
19. Groot (Stock Down)
While it is extremely cool that Groot used a branch from his own body to help create Thor’s new weapon, Stormbreaker, that was the only thing of consequence Groot did in Infinity War. I spent the rest of his scenes yelling, “PUT THE VIDEO GAMES AWAY AND PARTICIPATE, ANGSTY TEEN GROOT,” like a disgruntled parent.
18A. War Machine (Stock Down)
18B. Falcon (Stock Down)
Sorry guys, carpet-bombing Thanos isn’t going to work.
17. Mantis (Stock Rising)
Mantis temporarily subdued Thanos using her empathic abilities to put him to sleep, which is more than most Avengers can say after getting pummeled throughout the film. Drax, stop calling her ugly.
16. Shuri (Stock Remains Steady)
Shuri has more technologically advanced gadgets than Tony Stark, and she’s probably the funniest Avenger—remember when she called Martin Freeman “colonizer” in Black Panther? Those were good times.
If only she got to flash those qualities in Infinity War for more than a few minutes. When Tony maybe, hopefully retires after Avengers 4, Shuri ought to take the Resident Gadget Hero mantle she rightly deserves.
15. Bucky Barnes (Stock Down)
The good news: Bucky and Cap’s sexual chemistry remains electric, even after having to do the long-distance thing with Bucky healing up in Wakanda and Cap growing out his beard somewhere else. It was like they hadn’t lost any time when they were fighting side-by-side in the third act of the movie, and of course it was Steve’s name that Bucky called out just before he turned to dust.
The bad news: Bucky does very little in Infinity War. This was a guy who looked virtually unstoppable as the villain of his own movie, and now he’s just punching random alien goons before getting vaporized? #JusticeForBucky. (#BuckyAndCapForever.)
14. Star-Lord (Stock Down)
[Tries not to think about Star-Lord ruining his own carefully constructed plan to remove the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos’s hand by getting overly emotional and PUNCHING THANOS OUT OF MANTIS’s SLEEP SPELL.]
13. Okoye (Stock Remains Steady)
In Infinity War, Okoye delivered killer side-eye (an iconic glare at Bruce Banner tripping in the Hulkbuster armor) and continued to prove that she knows her way around a staff. She’s still an ancillary character, but between her and Shuri, Wakanda’s in good hands until T’Challa returns from limbo.
12. Black Widow (Stock Remains Steady)
A spy with no superpowers isn’t going to take Thanos head on, but Black Widow handled herself against Proxima Midnight, the titan’s henchwoman, voiced by acclaimed thespian and my personal Avenger, Carrie Coon. Black Widow played a quintessential sidekick role ... and also was very respectful of Wanda Maximoff’s choice to date a robot.
11. Black Panther (Stock Down)
Coming into Infinity War, T’Challa was (justifiably) riding the wave of his own movie’s success. Unfortunately, Infinity War didn’t get the memo that Black Panther was one of the most successful movies in history and that its main character was now the centerpiece of Marvel’s new young crop of heroes.
Marvel didn’t anticipate Black Panther becoming this big; otherwise T’Challa would’ve had a meatier role and a more emotional “death” scene in the crossover. Instead, he was more like a begrudging Airbnb host, inviting all the characters to stage their Generic Third-Act Superhero Fight in the Wakandan countryside. But even if Avengers 4 doesn’t have much T’Challa screen time—you’d imagine most of the movie will focus on the surviving heroes reversing time for the characters who perished—a Black Panther sequel is, at this point, a foregone conclusion. T’Challa will rise up the rankings in no time, and perhaps one day even claim the Marvel relevance throne.
10. The Incredible Hulk (Stock Down)
Bruce Banner’s Hulk persona has the maturity level of a small child, so when Thanos beat the ever-living crap out of the green guy at the beginning of Infinity War, the Hulk refused to come out and play for the rest of the film. It made narrative sense, but it was no less infuriating to go through an entire Avengers movie without a single Hulk smash. It’s just not as fun watching Mark Ruffalo try to learn his way around Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor.
This should set up a redemptive Hulk arc in the sequel; until then, though, the character’s a middling Avenger.
9A. Rocket (Stock Up)
Though he was called “rabbit” for most of the movie, Rocket played an important role in Infinity War, wingman-ing for Thor and helping him create Stormbreaker. Rocket is also more empathetic than we give him credit for: He’s the only character in this movie who asks Thor how he’s feeling. (He’s not feeling great, having lost all his family in the last two films, a tragedy Rocket admits “can be annoying.”) Rocket also gets some screen time to do some mourning of his own, since all of his Guardians pals are either killed or raptured. He’s gonna be looking to do damage in Avengers 4.
(Imagine the grass is Thanos.)
9B. Drax (Stock Up)
Considering that the Avengers’ dialogue is mostly made up of one-liners, being funny is just as important as super-strength, and nobody had a better Joke-to–Screen-Time Average (JSA) in Infinity War than Dave Bautista’s Drax. I’m still cracking up that the dude thought he’d be invisible if he stood very still while also eating space snacks.
8. Captain America (Stock Down)
Cap is a member of the old guard who seems outclassed by Thanos. That shot of him holding his own against Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet in the second Infinity War trailer was misleading; Thanos wasn’t stopped by Cap’s emotional show of strength, he was amused by a pitifully weak (but brave) human standing in his way.
Steve Rogers is still a good veteran presence who can mentor the newer members of the team, but he’s not strong enough to carry the load anymore.
7. Ant-Man (Stock Up)
Ant-Man’s absence in Infinity War amplifies the character’s value and puts him in a position to undo the calamity Thanos wrought.
See, there’s this thing called the Quantum Realm, a place that is “between molecules” and where time has no meaning. If the surviving Avengers can’t get their hands on Thanos’s Time Stone, relying on Ant-Man’s understanding of the Quantum Realm might be their best bet. (Captain Marvel is also going to explore the Quantum Realm, by the way, which does not feel like a coincidence.) To stop Thanos, the Avengers will need the little guy.
6. Scarlet Witch (Stock Up)
Simple rule: If you have the power to destroy an Infinity Stone—and to convince a group of superheroes that your relationship with your AI boyfriend is as important as the lives of half the people in the universe—you are important and strong.
We should deduct some points for Scarlet Witch’s refusal to kill her AI boyfriend in order to save half the population of the universe—but hey, that’s what makes her human. What’s less excusable is that she sat on the sidelines for much of the fight in Wakanda, when her psychic powers could have been useful against Thanos’s army of alien dogs.
5. Iron Man (Stock Down)
Tony Stark might’ve began the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, but seeing the character hog the spotlight in Infinity War was a lot like watching Kobe’s final few years with the Lakers. This dude’s losing value, and fast.
What does Iron Man do in Infinity War? Well, aside from thinking about starting a family with Pepper Potts (don’t let her share Goop insights with the kid, Tony!), he was thrust into space while saving Doctor Strange’s skin and knocked around like a rag doll by Thanos on the planet Titan. Being one of the richest guys on earth in a metal suit isn’t all that important when your opponent can hurl literal moons at you from outer space. If Strange didn’t trade the Time Stone for Tony’s life, the guy would be dead and ineligible for this list.
4. Spider-Man (Stock Up)
For a kid who was officially declared a member of the Avengers by Tony only in the middle of Infinity War, Spider-Man’s racked up an impressive résumé. It was his plan that stopped Thanos’s telepathic henchman Ebony Maw from delivering Doctor Strange straight to Thanos. (Good thing he watched Aliens!)
We also have to give Spidey points for his assault on our tear ducts—even though he’s definitely getting revived, when he said, “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good” before vanishing, it was the most heartbreaking moment of the movie. If that’s not a sign of superhero relevance, I don’t know what is.
3. Captain Marvel (Stock Just Hit the Market)
Sure, we still haven’t seen Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, but that’s going to change next year. Not only will Captain Marvel have her own movie, but what’s surely going to be a crucial role in stopping Thanos in Avengers 4. You don’t tease the introduction of a new superhero—like Infinity War did in its post-credits scene with Nick Fury’s beacon flashing Captain Marvel’s star-shaped logo—without giving them something important to do. Expect Captain Marvel to have a huge role in stopping Thanos; after all, she’s basically Marvel’s equivalent of Superman and might even be stronger than the Man of Steel.
2. Doctor Strange (Stock Rising)
Your stoner friend’s favorite superhero was inherently important in Infinity War because he had the Time Stone—one of the six Infinity Stones that Thanos needed to pull his Leftovers maneuver—and could bend reality with his psychedelic powers when needed. Turns out he also has chemistry with Peter Parker, too? By next year’s sequel, Strange could be the Avengers’ MVP because he’s the only one who knows how to stop Thanos. The guy ran through more than 14 million simulations for the Avengers’ clash with Thanos, and only one timeline had a positive ending. We don’t know what it involved, but Strange’s lackadaisical reaction to being disintegrated implies that we’re in the one good timeline. Strange is now one of the most important characters in the MCU, which you never would’ve said a week ago.
1. Thor (Stock Rising)
What a difference a year can make for the God of Thunder! After languishing through two sluggish, overly Shakespearean solo films, Thor’s stock had already risen before Infinity Wars with November’s Thor: Ragnarok. Ragnarok proved that not only is Thor just as impressive a hero without his trusty hammer, he’s got the chops to join an intergalactic comedy troupe on the side. Infinity War only added to Thor’s overall importance (and ability to drop one-liners). He shouldered the emotional weight of the film—mourning his brother, Loki, and his best friend, Heimdall—and also led the charge in imbuing Infinity War with a needed dose of comedic relief. And not for nothing, but if Thor didn’t reenergize a dying star and create a new all-powerful weapon—with the aid of the dwarf king Eitri, of course—the Avengers wouldn’t have come close to nearly defeating Thanos. If only he had aimed for Thanos’s head when he got to Wakanda.
Thor isn’t just the most jacked, aggravatingly attractive Avenger. After nearly defeating Thanos himself and carrying Infinity War, he’s also the emotional center, and the most important part, of this superhero universe.