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Most powerful Marvel Cinematic Universe characters, ranked

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe has continued to expand, so too have the powers of the people inside of it. What started out with Tony Stark in a mechanized super suit has slowly but unmistakably transformed into a universe filled with beings who are basically and sometimes literally gods. Even so, there are certain characters in the MCU canon who represent the cream of the crop.

These are the super-powered beings you would never want to square off against in a fight. This list does include some heroes but also features a few baddies and a number of beings that don’t fall neatly into either category. Whatever their motives are, though, there’s no denying that they’re immensely powerful.

11. Hela

A close-up of Hela looking serious in Thor: Ragnarok.
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At his peak, Thor is more powerful than his sister, but only slightly. Hela’s time as the villain in Thor: Ragnarok begins with a bang when she completely obliterates Mjölnir, and then proceeds to completely take over Asgard. Thor manages to stop her, but only by destroying Asgard completely and finding the power within him that he didn’t know he had.

If you want a sense of how powerful Hela is, just consider how unimpressed she is by the important artifacts that are residing in Asgard. The Tesseract? A child’s toy. The Infinity Gauntlet? It’s a fake one she senses in Odin’s trophy hall. Hela’s so powerful, she can take on Thor and Hulk at the same time, and not even bat an eyelash. Now that’s power.

10. Doctor Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Doctor Strange is just a wizard, but he’s a pretty darn good one. Even after he lost the time stone and the title of Sorcerer Supreme, he still proved that he had the magic he needed to help America save herself from Wanda.

He also took on Thanos, and while he wasn’t able to beat him, he was one of the only heroes who stood a chance in a one-on-one battle. Strange is also incredibly smart, and without his foresight, the Avengers would have never taken down the Mad Titan and brought everyone back from the Snap.

9. Thor

Thor in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
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Thor seems like a pretty fun hang, which can obscure the fact that of the original core Avengers, he was by far the most powerful. His hammer lets him fly, for one thing, and on top of that, he is imbued with the power of lightning.

He’s fallen in the rankings as the MCU has continued to develop, but only because we keep on discovering more and more powerful heroes and villains. Thor remains in the top tier, power-wise, which means the villains that he goes up against also have to be pretty powerful.

8. Captain Marvel

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Captain Marvel is so powerful that she can essentially change the dynamic of any fight she’s a part of. When she shows up at the end of Endgame, her arrival single-handedly turns the tide.

She may not take on Thanos for an extended period, but it’s also clear that his strength doesn’t have the same effect on her that it does on most of the Avengers. How she’ll be used in the MCU moving forward remains to be seen, but she’s definitely one of the more powerful heroes in their arsenal.

7. Scarlet Witch

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Only a few characters seem like they could do much damage to Thanos on their own, and the Scarlet Witch is one of them. Things get even wilder when, in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, she really delves into her grief and begins killing members of the Illuminati across the multiverse.

Wanda at the height of her power is really a force to be reckoned with, and while her future in the MCU is uncertain, she’ll undoubtedly be an asset to whoever’s team she happens to be on. As Okoye famously said after she sat out most of the Battle of Wakanda: “Why was she up there all this time?”

6. Thanos

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Thanos was teased for more than half a decade before he finally took center stage, but when he did show up, his arrival was far from disappointing. He already had a couple of Infinity stones by that point, but it was clear that he was incredibly powerful, stones or no stones.

When Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man took him on together, they were about to lose before they were bailed out by the entire MCU. Thanos delivers the most crushing blow we’ve seen our hero take yet and only gets more powerful once he has the stones.

5. Infinity Ultron

Infinity Ultron in "What If...?."
Disney+ / Disney+

This variant of Ultron succeeded in uploading himself into Vision’s body, which allowed him to defeat the Avengers, annihilate humanity, steal the remaining Infinity Stones from Thanos, and subsequently destroy all life in his universe. But even that didn’t stop him, as he was able to hear the Watcher’s voice and discover the existence of the Multiverse, showing there’s seemingly no end to how high he can ascend.

With all six Infinity Stones, this Ultron variant is able to overwhelm the likes of Thor, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, Strange Supreme, and even The Watcher. He can also create an entire robot army out of thin air and take a bite out of an entire galaxy. If the Guardians of the Multiverse didn’t stop him when they did, who knows what kind of destruction this Ultron could have unleashed?

4. Kang the Conqueror

Jonathan Majors as Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This version of He Who Remains showed just how frightening the MCU’s latest big bad really is. Throughout his years of conquest, Kang the Conqueror destroyed entire timelines and defeated countless Avengers, including Thor, to the point that he forgot their names. He was such a huge threat that the Council of Kangs had to banish him to the Quantum Realm.

With his Time Chair, Kang is able to travel to other times and other realities. But he was able to dominate the Quantum Realm with his armor alone. Such a high-tech suit can protect him and annihilate almost any threat without breaking a sweat, making Iron Man’s suit look like a tinker toy. Ant-Man and the Wasp may have killed him, but the fact that there is still an infinite amount of Kangs left in the Multiverse ready to strike back is a cosmic nightmare.

3. Dormammu

Dormammu Doctor Strange
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Doctor Strange only stops Dormammu’s arrival with some help from time travel, and that’s not an ability he would be able to leverage without the Time Stone. As an inter-dimensional being who rules over the Dark Dimension, though, it’s clear that Dormammu is one of the more powerful entities to ever enter into the MCU. He’s always looking for creative ways to expand his area of control, so it only makes sense that he would eventually clash with the heroes.

2. Eternity

Christian Bale in Thor Love and Thunder
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Because of his status as a deity, Thor’s movies tend to see him facing off against the most existential foes. In Thor: Love and Thunder, he gets a peek at Eternity, a force so powerful that it is capable of granting any wish regardless of what it might be.

Thankfully, Eternity is so all-powerful that it doesn’t seem to have much time to worry about the affairs of the mortals that may occasionally show up asking for their heart’s deepest desires.

1. Arishem

An image of the celestial Arishem from Marvel's Eternals.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

One of the Celestials, Arishem the Judge is a being of such immense power that humans can only vaguely grasp what he’s actually capable of. Arishem is so powerful that he created the Eternals, a race of beings that, in and of themselves, are also incredibly powerful. His intentions may not always align with what’s good for the Earth, but Arishem is probably the most powerful being we’ve met in the MCU, at least to date.

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Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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