One of the greatest joys of going to see a comic book movie is getting to watch how these characters’ unique superpowers play out in a fight. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has gone to great lengths to show us that bigger doesn’t always mean more powerful, as characters like Black Widow and Ant-Man have been able to take down enemies that have towered over them. But while someone like Ant-Man gets to lean heavily on his supernatural abilities, someone like Black Widow has nothing to draw on but her sheer strength and decades of training. It makes one wonder what would happen if these characters were stripped of their supernatural powers and forced to square off. The only things in play here is a character's raw strength and fighting abilities. That being said, some characters still have a massive leg up in this arena, as there are numerous heroes and villains who inherently have enhanced strength, speed, and durability. So while someone like Thor may have to go without his lightning powers for this particular fight, he still gets to keep his physical strength.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
Updated on August 13th, 2022 by Amanda Bruce: There's always debate amongst MCU fans as to just who the strongest Avengers or villains are in the MCU. There's also long been debate about just which Marvel projects on television and streaming were considered canon before the launch of Disney Plus. Given the expansion of the multiverse in the MCU, and the inclusion of characters from the Netflix series in the current MCU timeline, characters from the Marvel Netflix series are fair game for contention amongst the strongest and weakest fighters. The audience will have to wait and see if Agents of SHIELD, Cloak and Dagger, or the Runaways reappear in the MCU though.
Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Marvel Cinematic Universe through the events of Thor: Love And Thunder.
The Strongest Physical Fighters In The MCU
Thanks to his extensive military background, Sam Wilson is certainly no slouch when it comes to fighting. Unlike both Tony Stark and James Rhodes, not all of Sam’s abilities come courtesy of his suit. He’s still largely exposed when he dons his Falcon wings. While he certainly uses these as an asset, Sam still has to accomplish a lot of his fighting using nothing but his own strength.
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Prior to the events of Falcon And The Winter Soldier on Disney Plus, fans might have thought Sam couldn't match up against enhanced individuals on his own, but he managed to repeatedly hold his own in fights against those using the super soldier serum alongside Bucky Barnes.
The audience reception to Eternals is decidedly mixed, but even those who didn't walk away loving the movie can't deny that Angelina Jolie's Thena demonstrated some serious fighting skills. Granted, the Eternals are a race of beings that are stronger, faster, and more agile than humans, so they already have an advantage over some of the other characters in the MCU.
Thena, however, is certainly the most skilled of the group. Her power doesn't actually aid in her fighting skills as her power is to create weapons. The fact that she can use pretty much any weapon presented to her, and that she can take down multiple opponents in the time her Eternals family can only take down one or two made it clear how adept she is in physical combat. Of course, she did always have a willing partner in battle as Thena and Gilgamesh were almost never separated in Eternals.
When Black Widow finally got her own solo movie, the audience got a look at more Widows than just Natasha Romanoff. Her little sister Yelena Belova is the pride of the Red Room before she defects. The youngest assassin in their midst, Yelena has all of the same training as Natasha, but stays in the program much longer.
As a result, there are very few opponents Yelena seems incapable of taking on in a fight. Even when the audience sees her go up against Kate Bishop, it's almost like Yelena is just there to have a good time, not giving her all against someone who has also had extensive martial arts training.
Shang-Chi is raised to be a fighter. His father has him train alongside his Ten Rings army, so by the time he's a teenager, he's pretty lethal, even if he doesn't want to use those skills. His mother, however, also trains him in a very different style of fighting than his father does, making him a very well-rounded fighter compared to some of the other MCU characters, who only use brute strength against their opponents.
It's also clear that Shang-Chi is a versatile fighter, able to turn any object into something that can aid him in a brawl, like his own jacket on a moving bus.
The audience knows that Jane Foster isn't exactly an amazing fighter. She doesn't have combat experience. When she gains the power of Mjolnir, however, that changes. Mighty Thor is still Jane Foster, but she's a stronger version of her.
Even discounting the fact that Mighty Thor can channel lightning and thunder the same way Thor can, she makes for a fierce opponent in battle with very limited experience. Jane is a fast learner, knowing exactly how she can wield Mjolnir for the most effective damage, and knowing how to use an opponents strength against them as she barrels her way through shadow monsters.
While guns may be his preferred means of combat, Frank Castle has proven countless times that he can manage perfectly well using nothing but his hands. When the former Marine squares off against Daredevil, he’s able to hold his own for a lot longer than expected, greatly impressing Matt Murdock.
These fighting skills no doubt come thanks to Frank’s extensive military training. He enlisted in the Marine Corps when he was just 18-years-old, where he trained for years in various forms of hand-to-hand combat in addition to his weapons training. Of course, it's also important to note that Frank can take quite a beating in combat as well. Not many heroes can withstand the attacks he does and keep going with his single-minded focus. That's part of what makes him a good fighter as well.
With a lifetime’s worth of training under her belt, Elektra is without a doubt one of the strongest fighters across both the big and small screen of the MCU. She's a master of many fighting styles, which were taught to her by Stick before she went on to join the Chaste.
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However, after Elektra is brought back to life with the Resurrection Elixir, she is granted a number of supernatural abilities. These grant her additional strength, speed, and durability, putting her well out the league of the Defenders.
Being the General of the Dora Milaje, it’s no wonder that Okoye is one of the best fighters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even in the short time we’ve known her, Okoye has stood her own against many enemies, often taking on swarms of them at a time.
While she prefers to fight with a spear, Okoye is also a master martial artist. T’Challa is said to be the only Wakandan who could best her in hand-to-hand combat, which is really saying something.
The Winter Soldier
While he didn’t receive the same serum that was given to Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes underwent a number of procedures under the hands of HYDRA. These greatly increased his strength and durability. While the extent of these procedures is never fully revealed, all one has to do is watch the Winter Solider in action to know that he’s a force to be reckoned with.
While his baseline strength might be less than Cap’s, Bucky was subjected to intense training that turned him into one of the most formidable assassins in the world.
T’Challa’s super strength is granted to him through the Heart-Shaped Herb, which lasts a lifetime unless that power is diminished through the consumption of another substance. While it’s ultimately the herb that makes Black Panther able to square off against the likes of Captain America and Bucky Barnes, T’Challa has also proven himself more than capable without these additional powers.
In order to take up his father’s mantel, T’Challa has been training since he was a child in various forms of hand-to-hand combat. He is the strongest fighter in Wakanda, whose raw strength rivals many of the Avengers.
As a member of the Luphomoid race, Nebula already possesses more strength and stamina than that of the average human. This, coupled with the many enhancements that Thanos has granted her over the years, have made Nebula an intimidating fighter to square off against.
Since she may have lost many of the bouts against Gamora as a child, Nebula has undergone a number of modifications, all of which have increased her strength and durability. Much like her sister, she’s also been trained to be an expert assassin since she was a child.
Heimdall’s most impressive powers may be his omni-senses, which allows him to see and hear pretty much anything that happens within the nine realms. But Heimdall has also demonstrated that he is amongst the greatest fighters throughout all of Asgard.
When he’s not using his sword to open the Bifrost Bridge, Heimdall uses it to slay a number of enemies. However, the audience has no reason to believe that he wouldn’t be nearly as effective in a fight if for some reason he had to go without Hofund.
In the comics, Captain America is meant to represent the pinnacle of human physicality. But in the MCU, it’s clear that Cap’s powers have reached beyond peak physical condition, as he’s been able to do everything from bicep curl a helicopter to jump out of a plane without a parachute.
While Cap is undeniably strong, these abilities are only amplified by his fighting skills. While Steve may have only gone through basic training back in the ‘40s, it’s clear that the soldier has kept up his combat training ever since becoming Captain America.
In the comics, Gamora is often described as the most dangerous woman in the galaxy. In the MCU, however, her powers have been significantly nerfed. But that doesn’t mean she’s still not a formidable fighter who's able to stand toe-to-toe with some of the best.
Under the guidance of Thanos, Gamora spent much of her life training to be an assassin. While she may favor her sword when going into battle, she’s still no slouch without it. Not to mention that her Zehoberei heritage already granted her increased strength and stamina before Thanos ever got his hands on her.
Black Widow may lack the superpowers of her fellow Avengers, but when it boils down to raw fighting ability, Natasha’s skills are nothing to be scoffed at.
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While many of the heroes in the MCU have only been learning how to fight since they gained their powers, Black Widow has trained since she was a child. She’s proven many times over that she can hold her own against enemies who are far more powerful than her, all thanks to her years of working as a spy and an assassin.
Seeing as Thor came closest to defeating Thanos in Infinity War, it should be no surprise here that he ranks amongst the strongest fighters in the MCU. While his Asgardian physiology grants him a number of supernatural abilities, even without the use of his elemental manipulation, Thor has no shortage of strength, stamina, and durability to bring into a fight.
Being able to take the brunt of a dying star, Thor seems pretty much indestructible. The God of Thunder has also enjoyed over 1,000 years to hone his abilities in the battlefield.
A newer MCU addition, Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie has become a fan favorite. Thanks to her Asgardian blood, Valkyrie is already far stronger than most other beings in the MCU. This is even more notably now that the vast majority of Asgardians have been wiped from existence.
In the comics, this character, whose real name is actually Brunnhilde, goes by the name Valkyrie because she was once tasked with leading the elite group of Asgardian warriors that went by the same name. This alone establishes Valkyrie as one of the best fighters in Asgard, and therefore, the MCU.
Thor and the Hulk have fought numerous times throughout the pages of the comics. And more often than not, the God of Thunder emerges victorious. That being said, if one were to strip Thor of his supernatural powers and boil everything down to strength and fighting abilities, Hulk would most likely take down Thor in the vast majority of fights.
What the Hulk may lack in training and discipline he easily makes up for in raw strength. Not to mention that the angrier he gets, the more his strength increases – making any fight against the Hulk an upward battle.
While it’s ultimately Hela’s supernatural powers that put her a cut above the likes of Thor and Loki, the eldest child of Odin has also proven herself to be a very formidable fighter – one that almost seems nearly invincible throughout the course of Thor: Ragnarok.
In the film, we watch Hela single-handily defeat swarms of Asgardian soldiers, including the Warriors Three, who were up there with the greatest fighters in the entire realm. Since Thor and Loki had no chance of beating Hela in a fight, they ultimately resort to enacting Ragnarok to take her down.
Even before she was able to tap into the energy of the Space Stone, Carol’s Kree blood made her far stronger than any human in the comics. Throughout the course of Captain Marvel, the audience also watches the superhero take on a number of enemies, often without the use of her cosmic abilities.
That being said, it can’t be denied that Carol has amazing durability. Even if she lacks the extensive training that many other heroes have been put through, the fact that she is practically invulnerable would mean she could outlast even the most intimidating of fighters.
MCU Fighters Who Are Physically Weak
Sharon Carter, as a former SHIELD agent, is a very capable fighter. There's no denying that she knows how to use her environment to her advantage and that she's good with a gun. When she's compared to the other fighters in the MCU though, she's just not the strongest.
Of course, the audience has been limited to only seeing her in action a handful of times. Her most impressive fight scene happened in Falcon And Winter Soldier as she was forced to take on several opponents alone. It's entirely possible she could eventually prove herself to be much physically stronger than she's appeared so far.
Kamala Khan is one of the youngest heroes in the MCU. That doesn't just mean she has the least amount of experience using her powers, but she's also got the least amount of experience in hand-to-hand combat.
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It's only natural that, despite her quick thinking and adapting to using hard light, that she wouldn't be a particularly strong physical fighter. Kamala will need a lot of practice before she can ever be at the level of any of the other heroes in the MCU.
Hawkeye is a great team player. In fact, Hawkeye is a member of some of the best superhero duos in the MCU thanks to his friendship with Black Widow and his mentoring of Kate Bishop. He's a smart fighter, knowing his exits, understanding his opponents' weaknesses, and having a great arsenal of trick arrows. None of that means he's a physically strong fighter.
Hawkeye has to rely on strategy a lot more than brute strength in a fight. That's what allows him to keep up with enhanced individuals, and what allows him to go toe-to-toe with Yelena Belova. He knows Yelena's moves because they're the same ones Natasha would have used against him; he doesn't get to a stalemate with her because he's stronger, but because she's emotional and he knows how to talk someone down.
Sersi is easily one of the most powerful people in the MCU. She's able to transmute any substance into another, changing dangerous items into flower petals, bringing water to a dry desert, and more. That being said, Sersi is not a fighter.
She's the heart of her team, the one kept back while others fight, meant to connect with the humans she meets after the fight. There's no shame in that at all. She's a great character with amazing mental strength instead of physical.
As a military man, James Rhodes has certainly had his fair share of combat training. But with the rank of Colonel, Rhodey has likely been a long time removed from his days as a fighter.
Fans have seen him hold his own against a few adversaries using nothing but his hand-to-hand skills. But the fact remains that Rhodey’s most impressive powers come courtesy of his War Machine suit. Without it, he would become a liability during most fights – especially at this stage in the MCU.
All abilities considered, Doctor Strange is by far one of the strongest characters in the MCU. But because he can rely so heavily on the Mystic Arts, fans never really got a sense of what kind of fighter he is.
While he learned martial arts under the guidance of the Ancient One, keeping up on this training would seem like a waste of time once one is able to do everything from teleport to manipulate time. But if these magical abilities were stripped from Strange, he likely wouldn’t be able to hold his own against many other experienced fighters.
Star-Lord is likely a far better fighter than many give him credit for. He’s able to take down Gamora when the two first cross paths on Xandar, after all. But he’s also a fighter that leans very heavily on his equipment.
It’s hard to imagine Star-Lord going into a fight without his Quad Blasters and boot jets. Once again, Peter isn’t an incompetent fighter by any means, he just doesn’t have the super strength and extensive training that other characters enjoy.
Tony Stark is likely another hero whose physical abilities are often overshadowed by his suit of armor. Tony has proven himself to be a competent combatant a number of times without the full use of his Iron Man suit. It’s also abundantly clear that he’s gone through his fair share of martial arts training.
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But that being said, Stark is easily overshadowed by many who haven’t had a suit of armor to lean on. He’s also been in the game longer than most, meaning his body has certainly seen better days.
With his distinct knowledge of the Quantum Realm, Ant-Man will likely be one of the Avengers greatest assets moving forward in the MCU. So long as Ant-Man doesn’t get cocky and physically try to square off against villains stronger than him.
The audience has seen Scott Lang go through a bit of combat training under the guidance of Hope van Dayne, but this pales in comparison to the heroes who have had a lifetime of martial arts training. Not to mention that he largely relies on his suit to accent his fighting abilities.
As fans got a chance to see in Captain Marvel, there was definitely a time when Nick Fury wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. While Fury may be a lot better at sending others into the fray, he is able to hold his own against Talos during a brief fight, likely thanks to his extensive training in the CIA.
That being said, Fury is a much better marksman, tactician, and spy than he is a fighter. He's held his own against a number of enemies throughout the MCU, but he usually does it with a weapon in hand.
In the MCU, Wanda Maximoff is known as much for her fierce lines as her fierce magic. Much like Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch’s magic abilities are so powerful that she’s never really needed to rely on brute force to get the job done. When she’s first taken in by the Avengers, it’s clear that Wanda has had little to no training as a fighter.
By the time fans see her in Infinity War, it's clear that Wanda has been practicing her hand-to-hand combat with her fellow Avengers. However, she still lacks the overall physical strength and experience that many others have enjoyed. By the time Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness roles around, Wanda doesn't need those skills because her magic is so much bigger than she ever knew.
Not even a villain as cold-hearted as Thanos can escape having his emotions manipulated. This ability to influence others' feelings is one of the most unique (and potentially game-changing) powers in the MCU. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything to enhance Mantis’s abilities as a fighter.
While she's demonstrated increased durability, there is no reason to believe that Mantis is a skilled martial artist. In fact, she's probably had next to no combat training as a result of being held hostage by Ego for most of her life.
There’s such a distinction between Bruce Banner and the Hulk that they really need to be assessed separately when it comes to their fighting abilities. Because while the Hulk is undeniably one of the physically strongest characters in the MCU, Bruce Banner might just be one of the weakest.
Ironically, what keeps Bruce from being a competent fighter is his fear of turning into the Hulk. Fighting is something that accesses his rage, and Bruce spends a long time afraid of losing himself to that rage.
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