In the world of superheroes, the MCU is basically akin to the Wild West. For several years, the MCU has been bolstered by the adulation and support of adoring fans. And during that same period, new heroes (and villains) continue to enter the grand picture that is the MCU all vying for relevance. Marvel’s ever-growing roster of heroes and villains features an eclectic array of metahumans, gods, and geniuses capable of upsetting the world order – or protecting it.
Whether a major player in the MCU has been gifted with some sort of divinity or a fictional metahuman alteration that offers near-omnipotence (such as The Marvels‘ Captain Marvel), there are specific heroes and villains who harbor a true fighting spirit. In fact, some of the most powerful agents in the MCU don’t even have powers. They use their intellect, honed martial arts crafts, and peak human physique to win the day. These fighters often use the most brutal tactics due to the very necessity of keeping up with powered beings.
For a time, Clint Barton was often viewed as the lesser Avenger — at least among the fans. When stacked up against Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and Black Widow, a guy with a bow and arrow hardly seemed interesting. In fact, the original inspiration for his design was Robin Hood, who isn’t exactly remembered as being an intimidating warrior.
But Hawkeye ultimately underwent a transformative period after the death of his best friend, Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow). Just like his resurrected comic book counterpart, Clint Barton became the brutal assassin Ronin. In the five years following the devastating snap that zapped half of all life out of existence, the Ronin viciously murdered criminals in the streets. He gained a reputation for his combat prowess and merciless behavior. Later, in the Disney+ Hawkeye series, we see a remorseful Clint Barton who once again adopts the mantle of the heroic Hawkeye and disavows his killer ways. Still, those without a thorough knowledge of Clint’s comic book legacy likely didn’t know he had that killer instinct in him.
6. Black Widow
As far as being an Avenger is concerned, Natasha Romanoff has seen it all. She’s gotten into scrapes with the Hulk, Taskmaster — a villain capable of replicating and anticipating her fighting style, the hulking Proxima Midnight, and, of course, an army of Chitauri. She’s constantly had Steve Rogers’ back, and she always makes it out of a dicey situation. In fact, her death didn’t come as a result of any failure, but by choice. And she fought like hell against her best friend Clint to be the one to make that sacrifice.
Black Widow may be deceased according to the most present MCU timeline, but her legacy is continuously honored in some shape or form. Most notably, her sister Yelena Belova carries on the Black Widow torch and continues to show us why the heroine was such a formidable combatant.
How could Thanos’ chief assassin not make it on this list? Thanos was surely a force to be reckoned with. But he didn’t need any significant combat experience. As the Mad Titan, he could simply toss his weight around. His adoptive daughter, on the other hand, would train to become an assassin from a young age. Her drive for combat and aggression is rooted in the deaths of her parents which ultimately came at the hand of Thanos. Becoming an interstellar assassin really ups the ante from Black Widow’s more simplistic domain on Earth.
In another parallel to the Black Widow, Gamora was forcibly sacrificed by Thanos for the same stone Black Widow’s death retrieved. Though with a bit of time travel magic, Gamora is once again among the living. Still, she’s calculating, deadly, and brutal in hand-to-hand combat. She is likely the deadliest member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, all things considered.
Born as a consequence of the seedier side of Hell’s Kitchen, Matt Murdock put his fists to work. After being blinded at a young age, he was trained by his mentor, Stick, to hone his other senses and use them to exact a fatal toll on his enemies. Though, Daredevil chooses to restrain himself from killing his opponents in cold blood making him more of a hero than a vigilante. Still, the Netflix series that debuted the MCU’s brand of Daredevil didn’t tread lightly. It was visceral, bloody, and downright dark.
But if there’s one thing that is highly impressive, it’s that Matt Murdock can see far better than any average person with actual sight. He is comparable to Bruce Wayne of DC lore in that his training and intellect have been refined through trials by fire, making Matt Murdock a peak crime-fighting machine.
3. Winter Soldier
What will decades of Soviet torment, experimentation, physical training, and brainwashing do to a person? Well, whatever your thoughts might be, the Winter Soldier is the end result. When unleashed on Captain America and his unsuspecting comrades, he proved to be a quick and merciless fighter. His robotic metal arm only heightened his ability to clash with the opposition.
Eventually, the Winter Soldier regained his memories of his life as Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers’ best friend. Despite his transformation from a lifetime of coerced villainy to becoming the hero Captain America always knew he could be, his skill as an expert combatant hasn’t faltered. He’s also proven to not only be a valuable ally to Falcon (aka the new Captain America) in the Disney+ show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but a trusted friend and confidant capable of bringing out the best in Sam Wilson on the sidelines.
Like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3‘s Gamora or Black Widow, Shang-Chi never had a shot at a real childhood. His villainous father forced him to brutally train as an expert martial artist from the ripe age of seven. By the time he is just 14 years old, Shang-Chi’s father sends him on a clandestine mission to assassinate the leader of the Iron Gang. Instantly following the endeavor, he hated what his father turned him into and fled to begin a new life a world away in San Francisco.
Eventually, he returns only to confront his father, the true Mandarin. After dear old dad unleashes the Dweller-in-Darkness, it’s up to Shang-Chi to don the power of the Ten Rings and stop the Immortal beast from ravaging Ta Lo. With the help of the dragon known as the Great Protector, Shang-Chi becomes Ta Lo’s savior. Even before Shang-Chi acquired the Ten Rings, he was a real powerhouse in hand-to-hand combat. The Ten Rings only make him incredibly more formidable.
1. Captain America
Steve Rogers may be out of the hero game these days, but his legacy as an unstoppable fighter is unshakeable. Sure, he was gifted the super soldier serum. But he ultimately put in the work to train and maintain his muscular physique. What’s more important, however, is that he proved before he ever took the serum that he wouldn’t back down from a fight. Even when the odds were stacked against him, he’d pick himself up off the ground and continue fighting. This character trait is ultimately the heart and soul of Captain America as a hero.
Aside from his shield, Captain America largely relied on his physicality to bring down the opposition. He squared off against the Chitauri, the Winter Soldier, and even Black Panther and Iron Man. He even held his own against the Mad Titan himself. There isn’t any doubt that Captain America is a capable fighter and, perhaps, the most legendary in the entire MCU strictly for his achievements.