Skip to main content

The 7 best female characters in the MCU

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to turn 15, and it’s finally slowing down. However, before taking a much-needed hiatus, it will premiere James Gunn’s highly-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the final send-off for everyone’s favorite cosmic a-holes. The Guardians movies are among the best MCU projects for many reasons, including their abundance of incredible female characters. From Gamora to Nebula and Mantis, Guardians has some of the most complex and well-defined female figures in the ever-expanding MCU.

It’s not like other corners of the MCU don’t have great female characters, but it’s undeniable that the world’s biggest franchise has a problem creating three-dimensional figures, not just female but overall. Luckily, not all is lost, for Marvel has introduced several memorable and layered females throughout its numerous movies and shows. From space warriors to scarlet witches, these characters have considerably elevated the MCU’s profile, becoming fan favorites as well as critical darlings.

Peggy Carter

Peggy Carter looking serious in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Peggy Carter is the first lady of the MCU. More than Pepper or Natasha, Peggy laid the in-universe foundation for everything that made the MCU huge — from creating SHIELD to pointing Captain America in the right direction. Thanks to several minor appearances throughout the years and a memorable, canceled-too-soon series, Peggy cemented her place as one of the MCU’s most prominent female characters.

Huge props should go to Hayley Atwell for being such a team player. Whenever needed, she was there, even if only to deliver a couple of lines in one or two scenes. More importantly, Atwell built a cohesive journey for Peggy with all the tiny bits she received throughout the years, an impressive feat considering the material. Recently, Peggy got the chance to step into the spotlight thanks to What If…? and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, finally getting the praise she should’ve always received.

Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan, played by Iman Vellani, imagines confetti and a party around her in a scene from Ms. Marvel.
Marvel Studios

The Disney+ show Ms. Marvel is among the MCU’s best television efforts, largely thanks to Kamala Khan’s contagious and iridescent energy. Newcomer Iman Vellani deserves all the flowers, delivering an endearing and relatable performance that turned Ms. Marvel into one of the most likable and compelling characters in the massive and ever-changing MCU.

Ms. Marvel is relatable, spunky, and dynamic, arguably the most instantly sympathetic character in the MCU and a breath of fresh air in a franchise that has never stood out for its originality. The MCU needs more Kamala; luckily, audiences won’t have to wait too long to see her on-screen again, for she will play a substantial role in this year’s highly-anticipated event, The Marvels.


Shuri standing and looking to her right in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

2018’s Black Panther introduced Shuri, T’Challa’s highly intelligent younger sister, who was an immediate scene-stealer. Shuri stood out among the MCU’s crowd of geniuses — she was neither a show-off like Tony nor a bumbling klutz like Peter. Instead, Shuri was confident but understated, someone aware of her intelligence but without the need to either undermine or overstate herself.

Following Chadwick Boseman’s tragic passing, Shuri leveled up as the protagonist of 2022’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Her storyline finds her grieving her family’s death while grappling with her responsibilities as Wakanda’s sovereign and the new Black Panther. Emotional and raw, Shuri’s journey in the film is among the MCU’s most complex, and Letitia Wright does a beautiful job portraying the character’s anger and grief. Wakanda Forever is far from perfect, but its portrayal of Shuri is brilliant and among the most thoughtful and emotional things the MCU has ever done.

Black Widow

Natasha Romanoff looking to the distance with a pensive expression in Black Widow.

Scarlett Johansson carried the MCU’s female representation duties for years. Her character, deadly super-spy Natasha Romanoff, went through several stages, starting as eye candy in Iron Man 2 and ending as one of the franchise’s most nuanced and three-dimensional characters. Johansson deserves all the praise in the world for being the only woman in a room full of men for years, fighting to keep Natasha real and compelling despite being saddled with ridiculous plots while constantly ogled by the camera.

Through thick and thin, Natasha stayed interesting and engaging. Johansson made the most out of her moments in the sun, building Natasha’s friendship with Steve, shining in many of the MCU’s best fights, and using her ambiguous past to keep her as intriguing as she was alluring. Avengers: Endgame was a good send-off for Natasha, finishing the character’s journey in a suitable albeit anti-climactic fashion. And while Black Widow was less than a stellar showcase for her, it was a much-deserved victory lap for the female character that carried the MCU for years.


Gamora looking surprised in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Guardians of the Galaxy is the MCU’s best trilogy. James Gunn’s love letter to dysfunctional found families is a bright spot in the darkness, especially with the MCU’s current mediocre state. The Guardians are fun, funny, and always compelling, especially its leading ladies. From the get-go, Zoe Saldaña’s Gamora has been a highlight of the series, the straight man — ehm, woman — to the group’s hectic band of stupid but well-meaning men-children.

Saldaña’s performance is the glue that holds the Guardians together, especially as new and wackier characters join the mix. The actress has kept Gamora grounded throughout the series’ zanier moments, portraying her trauma and heartbreak with expert nuance. Her storyline with Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War is a narrative peak the MCU has yet to match, leading to her much-discussed sacrifice, one of the franchise’s ballsier moves. And while her death was undone by the MCU’s usual antics, Saldaña and Gunn will certainly find a way to give the character a fitting and satisfying ending.


Nebula looking intently at something off-camera in Avengers: Infinity War.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Gamora isn’t the Guardians’ only great female character. Her sister, the troubled and complicated Nebula, is also among the MCU’s best-written and portrayed roles. The ultimate tragic figure in the MCU, Nebula is a deeply traumatized woman haunted by the ghosts of her painful and violent past. Throughout her journey, Nebula pursued vengeance and redemption, ultimately earning it by literally killing her past self while embracing the pain that made her who she is.

It’s a testament to Karen Gillan’s incredible performance that Nebula is such a fascinating and compelling character. Even when hidden beneath layers of make-up, Gillan’s work remains deeply humane and heartbreaking, conveying Nebula’s terror and longing for sympathy and understanding. Few Marvel characters have as much depth as Nebula, and it’s all thanks to Gillan’s stellar performance and Gunn’s uncompromising writing.

Scarlet Witch

The Scarlet Witch looking intently in WandVision.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It isn’t an overstatement to say the Scarlet Witch is the MCU’s best character. Wanda Maximoff is great in the comics, a tragic and ever-changing figure that has been front and center in many of Marvel’s most important events. However, the MCU makes her even more absorbing, exploring her enormous sense of loss and her constant struggle to handle her overwhelming power.

Elizabeth Olsen delivers an incredible performance as Wanda, especially in WandaVision, the MCU’s best show by far. Exploring grief, acceptance, and trauma, WandaVision was a showcase for Olsen’s acting and a pivotal moment for Wanda’s characterization. And while Multiverse of Madness almost undid all that hard work thanks to some questionable choices, Olsen’s understanding of the character saved her from what could’ve been a trainwreck. It’s unclear when and how the Scarlet Witch will return, but it’s good that she’s taking some time off. Her loyal fans will be eagerly awaiting her glorious return, ready to welcome her as the goddess she is.

Editors' Recommendations

David Caballero
Freelance Writer
David is a Mexican freelance writer with a deep appreciation for words. After three years in the cold world of Marketing…
7 Marvel movies that should have ended differently
Andrew Garfield as Peter-Parker with his mask off in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Despite being one of the most successful film franchises in cinema history, Marvel has released some movies that many fans felt could have had much better endings.

Considering the number of films the comic book giant has released over the years, chances were that it would miss the mark at some point. But this hasn't stopped fans from wondering what could have been with these seven films.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Read more
The best MCU shows, ranked
Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen in a scene from WandaVision.

Phase 4 has ended, and fans have mixed feelings about it. For one, it was the most experimental chapter of the MCU thus far, with the franchise blending genres and entering a more inclusive space with its characters and stories. However, it was also uneven and somewhat aimless, clearly suffering from a lack of direction following the massive success of Avengers: Endgame. Still, Phase 4 might be best remembered as the chapter that led the MCU into uncharted territory: television.

The ever-expanding franchise entered the already crowded television landscape, partly to support Disney+ and partly because the film medium was no longer enough to fulfill its lofty ambitions. Like Phase 4 overall, the MCU's TV efforts were all over the place and constant enough to finally turn the much-doubted "superhero fatigue" term into a reality. Still, they were far from awful; in fact, some projects were inspired additions, with a few flashes of brilliance here and there. And while the MCU's entrance into television was bumpy indeed, these projects prove that when Marvel is good, there's nothing quite like it.
5. She-Hulk: Attorney At Law (2022)

Read more
The best MCU quotes, ranked

Over the course of more than 30 films and TV shows, Marvel has lodged a number of truly iconic pieces of dialogue into all of our brains. Some of the best quotes in the MCU stand up with the all-time great lines of dialogue from the world of blockbuster movies.

These lines can be funny, profound, or both, and what makes them endure is not just their brilliance, but the role they play in evolving what the MCU would ultimately become.
5. 'You should have gone for the head' -- Thanos, Avengers: Infinity War
You Should Have Gone For The Head Scene (HD) | Avengers: Infinity War

Read more