MCU: 10 Best Spies & Covert Agents, Ranked

Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand into the far reaches of the vast cosmos as Ms. Marvel explores Kamala Khan’s new powers. This exploration will be enhanced even more when Thor: Love and Thunder arrives in theaters but there's something still worth appreciating about the more grounded area of the franchise.

Some of the best MCU stories have been centered on the many spies and agents also operating as heroes. Within numerous organizations like S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Black Widows, there are many adept and deadly spies. Taking in their talents and responsibilities, a few stand out as the best.

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10 Nakia

Lupita Nyongo as Nakia in Black Panther poster

Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o played Nakia, a Wakandan covert agent and T’Challa’s ex-lover, in Black Panther. Nakia is different than her friend, Okoye, or the members of the Dora Milaje as shown in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Her missions as a War Dog have sent her all over the world, allowing her to secretly witness the hardships life has dealt with so many.

Interestingly, she shares the same goals as Killmonger as she also wants to use the technology and advancements of Wakanda to help the weak and poor, though they differ greatly in their method for achieving this. Her Wakandan technology helps solidify her as one of the best spies in the MCU along with her wits and talents as a fighter – however, her role might change in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, since she is based on a Black Panther villain.

9 Quake (Daisy Johnson)

As would be assumed from a show called Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it introduced numerous great spies, including Phil Coulson, Bobbi Morse, and Grant Ward. However, beating them out is Daisy Johnson aka Quake, played by Chloe Bennet. Over the course of the series, she evolved immensely – going from a hacker to a powerful inhuman to a seasoned spy traveling across time and space.

She gains her earth-shaking powers through terrigenisis in season 2, and while that makes her very formidable, her inherent ingenuity and hacking abilities mark her as a great spy even more. Like several of her fellow agents, she is a character from the disbanded Marvel Television who fans would love to see again in the MCU – perhaps Secret Invasion holds a surprise for said fans.

8 Black Widow (Yelena Belova)

Yelena Belova From Black Widow Standing

The Black Widow program was all about training the next generation of assassins and spies, thus making Yelena Belova extremely dangerous. She would rank higher if it wasn’t already so stacked with more-experienced veterans. However, that will surely change since Yelena can continue to showcase her talents in Thunderbolts and other MCU properties.

She does have a slightly different approach to espionage than her sister, Natasha, which is what makes her such an exciting character to watch going forward. As shown in both Black Widow and Hawkeye, she is a very adept fighter, often exploiting her opponent’s weaknesses against them – plus she has the upgraded gear provided by The Contessa now.

7 Sharon Carter

Years of training in SHIELD, then the CIA, and now on her own as the mysterious Power Broker guarantees Sharon Carter her spot in this ranking. Like her great-aunt Peggy, one of the founders of SHIELD, she has a knack for espionage – as shown in Captain America: The Winter Soldier when she poses as his nice neighbor without his knowledge even though he’s a high-ranking official in SHIELD.

The events of the Blip, which she took advantage of to seemingly disappear like half and the world’s inhabitants, changed her. While in Madripoor, she became the Power Broker and adopted an unexpectedly antagonistic role. However, these events only made her a better covert agent, as she is more ruthless and resourceful. She was able to hide her true identity and is infiltrating the system to profit from it.

6 Hawkeye (Clint Barton)

Jeremy-Renner-as-Clint-Barton-Hawkeye-in-Avengers

Like many on and off this list, Clint Barton was not only a spy before he became the superhero Hawkeye, but he was also an assassin. He was hand-picked by Nick Fury to join SHIELD, and since then became one of the organization’s most prolific special agents, along with his wife, Laura aka Agent 19. Of course, his proficiency with the bow and arrow is what set him apart, and made him so deadly.

Hawkeye was instrumental in recruiting Natasha Romanoff from the KBG to SHIELD, giving her the benefit of the doubt – a decision that ended up saving the world. Together, the two of them were a practically unstoppable force. Should he also train Kate Bishop in espionage along with how to be a superhero without powers, he could help get her ready to be part of a Secret Avengers team.

5 Maria Hill

Maria Hill promo image for The Avengers

Maria Hill has been consistently disregarded throughout much of the MCU. While she’s not an avenger like Black Widow, she is clearly an extremely talented spy and leader. Otherwise, Nick Fury wouldn’t have selected her as his second-in-command and likely successor, if SHIELD hadn’t fallen apart.

Her actions in Captain America: The Winter Soldier -  her rescue of Steve, Nat, and Sam from HYDRA agents in particular – perfectly showcase why she is deserving of her placement here. Her upcoming involvement in Secret Invasion and more projects down the line will hopefully reinforce this.

4 Melinda May

Melinda May Promo

From Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there is no agent better than Agent Melinda May, played by Disney all-star Ming-Na Wen. In the pilot episode, she has moved on from her life – shown later to be due to a mission gone terribly wrong – and she then works in administration for SHIELD, but Coulson dragged her back from retirement. Quickly she establishes herself as a formidable foe, but as the show progresses she gets better and better.

In terms of hand-to-hand fighting, May is one of the best in the franchise, probably rivaling Hawkeye in his prime and the Black Widows. She could even give some superpowered agents a run for their money. What makes her even more deadly is that she is so calm and collected, not letting things frazzle her too much.

3 Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes)

Winter Soldier Poster from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Bucky Barnes has received some of the best training in the world to help make him one of the best spies. Following his fall and supposed death in Captain America: The First Avenger, he spent nearly 70 years as a test subject and assassin for the KGB, trained and enhanced to be their best. Even in Wakanda following Captain America: Civil War, he received more training while they helped him escape his Soviet conditioning.

All this and his nifty metal arm have solidified him as one of the deadliest people on Earth. Thankfully, he is now using his talents to do good as a hero – although his name being dropped for Thunderbolts might suggest a more anti-heroic characterization returning.

2 Nick Fury

Nick Fury in promo for The Avengers

Samuel L. Jackson got his start as Nick Fury in Iron Man back one of the best cameos in the MCU. He is not the typical spy in comparison to Black Widow or Agent May – who can really blend in with a crowd with an eye patch – but he makes it work better than anybody. Even after the fall of SHIELD and his faked death, he is still finding ways to control things from the shadows.

What might make him one of the best spies is actually his untrusting nature. Due to that, he investigates everyone and everything thoroughly and relentlessly. That helped him develop a strong circle of trust to rely on. Furthermore, his connections have helped him get some of the best and most powerful techs. Secret Invasion will surely showcase how great a spy Nick Fury is on a newer scale.

1 Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff)

Natasha Romanoff promo for Black Widow

There can be no spy at this point better than Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow. While Coulson would be recognized as the first spy introduced in the MCU, she would certainly come to be known as the most important. Her training in the Red Room perfected her as an assassin and covert agent, and when she was given the opportunity, she took her talents to SHIELD.

Natasha was extremely resourceful, diligent, and secretive – the markings of both a great spy and superhero. She could even go toe-to-toe with some of the best fighters and she’d never give up, regardless of if they were a normal human like her or a mad Titan like Thanos. Although she is gone, she still stands tall in first place.

NEXT: Thunderbolts: 10 Best Superhero/Supervillain Teams Not Yet In The MCU

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About The Author Bradley Prom (124 Articles Published)

Bradley Prom is a senior writer and alumna of University of Minnesota – Twin Cities currently living in Los Angeles with a deep love and appreciation for the movies, television shows, video games, books, and stories that have inspired and provoked him throughout his life. He grew up on Star Wars, Justice League, Jurassic Park, Pokémon, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, and Avatar the Last Airbender – to name a few or seven. Now inn adulthood, his passions and tastes have evolved to include other fantastical tales, reality tv, and comedy. He enjoys engaging with fellow fans through theorizing, instant reactions online, and different deep-diving podcasts.As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Bradley has a great appreciation for queerness in all forms throughout all facets of entertainment and modern culture. He hopes in developing his own stories and shows, he will help see such representation grow and evolve beyond boxes to check.

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2022-07-11T02:28:55.000Z

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