There is no denying that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (referred to as MCU from this point on) is the single biggest cinematic event since the invention of the moving picture itself. They have collectively amassed several billion dollars, with the franchise as a whole being the second highest grossing franchise of all time, just behind the Harry Potter films. Many of the films in the current phases of the MCU have ranked as some of the highest grossing stand-alone films of all time. The Avengers and Iron Man 3 are both within the top ten highest grossing films. Many studios won’t even release a movie against a Marvel opening weekend, and now that DC Comics has started their own shared universe of films with their own characters, they too have seemingly decided to avoid going up against a Marvel film.
One thing that is apparent with the Marvel movies: if they don’t sign on a big name, you will most definitely be turned into one as a result if being in a Marvel flick. Before Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt was a television star. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth were both fairly recognizable before their Marvel films, but they definitely blew up after appearing as Captain America and Thor, respectively. Tom Hiddleston went from being a relative unknown in cinema to starring as Hank Williams in a biopic about the prolific country musician after his turn as the villainous Loki.
Before we start the list, it’s important that we point a couple things out:
1. Chris Pratt and Tom Hiddleston have been omitted from the list. Their skyrocketing success has relegated their net worth to an “under review” status. It can’t be said with full certainty what these two are worth at this point.
15. Glenn Close – Net Worth: $20 Million
Glenn Close is a highly decorated actress with six Oscar nominations (though no wins), but she has earned over 40 wins in other awards ceremonies, notably a number of Golden Globes. Close is probably best known for her roles in the films Dangerous Liaisons, Fatal Attraction, The Big Chill, and the more recent Albert Nobbs. In 2014, Close joined the MCU with her appearance as Nova Prime in this year’s James Gunn directed Guardians of the Galaxy.
Nova Prime is the leader the Nova Corp, a group of intergalactic police that initially imprison the film’s titular characters.
14. Hugo Weaving – Net Worth: $30 Million
Hugo Weaving has had his hands in a number of popular fandoms. It all started with his role as Agent Smith in the popular The Matrix film series. Shortly after and during his roles in The Matrix films, Weaving would play Elrond, a high elf in the Lord of the Rings films. Next, he would play V in the film V for Vendetta, based on the DC comic book by Alan Moore. After this he would do voice work for the Decepticon known as Megatron in the Transformers films. Then, as if he hadn’t racked up work in enough highly successful films and franchises, Weaving would join the MCU as The Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger.
13. Don Cheadle – Net Worth: $30 Million
Don Cheadle isn’t the kind of actor who just does one thing. His roles are varied, numerous, and go across both film, television, and the internet with no real direct pattern. He is probably best known for his roles in the Ocean’s 11 films and for his roles in serious films like Hotel Rwanda and Crash. He also has some notoriety for his role as Captain Planet in a number if hilarious internet shorts.
Cheadle joined the MCU when he took over the role of James Rhodes when Marvel decided that Terrence Howard was no longer a good fit for the role. Rhodes dons a suit of armor much like Tony Stark’s in Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, and the upcoming Avengers 2.
12. Josh Brolin – Net Worth: $35 Million
For 80’s kids, Josh Brolin will always be a Goonie, but let’s not let that take away from his remarkable acting ability.
Brolin has actually done a number of comic book films before he joined the Marvel Universe as the voice behind Thanos in this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Prior to joining the MCU, Brolin’s comic book based roles consisted of playing Dwight (prior to the character’s plastic surgery) in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, a young Agent K in Men in Black 3, and as the titular character of DC Comic’s Jonah Hex film.
Playing powerful men is also nothing new for Brolin – he played ex-President George W. Bush in Oliver Stone’s W.
11. John C. Reilly – Net Worth: 45 Million
John C. Reilly’s career has run the gamut from darker independent film like Fargo, musical work as seen in the film Chicago, major release comedies like Step Brothers with Will Ferrell, to voice work in children’s movies like Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph. Despite being such a versatile actor, it can safely be said that nobody thought they would see John C. Reilly in a Marvel movie. Then again, nobody expected Marvel to turn one of their most obscure and largely forgotten comic book properties into one of their biggest films in the MCU franchise to date. Guardians of the Galaxy came entirely out of left field and brought a lot of elements to the franchise that hadn’t been seen in other Marvel films. Despite this, Guardians still felt like a Marvel movie. Reilly portrayed Nova Corpsman Roman Dey in the film.
10. Chris Evans – Net Worth: $40 Million
Chris Evans taking on the role of Captain America is absolutely perfect. Evans just has the look of the “All-American guy.” Despite being perfect for the role, the choice to use Evans did come as a little bit of a surprise. The Captain wasn’t Evans first role in a film based on a Marvel property. Prior to joining Marvel and Disney’s MCU, Evans played the Human Torch in the two Fantastic Four films from Fox Studios. These films were not a part of the MCU proper, but it was a little surprising that one man would be the face of two highly recognizable Marvel A-list characters.
Evans has quite a legacy with comic book films outside of Marvel. He was the voice of Casey Jones in the animated TMNT film, he played Lucas Lee in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and he also had roles in The Losers and Snowpiercer.
9. Natalie Portman – Net Worth: $54 Million
It came as no surprise that Portman would land a role in a Marvel film. She’s a very versatile actress and she already had experience with being a part of a major film franchise after playing Queen Amidala in the Star Wars prequels. Portman was also no stranger to comic book films due to her role in V for Vendetta alongside Hugo Weaving, who also made the list.
Portman doesn’t suit up as a hero in the Marvel films, but she does play Jane Foster, a scientist who discovers Thor, the love interest of Thor, and Thor’s main reason for keeping planet Earth under his protection.
8. Scarlett Johansson – Net Worth: $55 Million
Out of all the wonderful things that tie these different MCU movies into one seamless whole, perhaps Marvel’s spot-on casting is the best one. There isn’t a single character that hasn’t been cast right, except for maybe Hulk (but hey, third time seems to be a charm). These excellent casting decisions do not start and stop with the titular characters themselves, but to the supporting cast as well. Scarlett Johansson has been perfect as Black Widow and has only gotten better as we’ve followed the character from Iron Man 2, to The Avengers, and into Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
7. Bradley Cooper – Net Worth: $60 Million
Granted we don’t actually see Bradley Cooper on screen, he does serve as the voice of Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. The success of Guardians was so huge that it appears Rocket Raccoon has effectively become one of Marvel’s top tier flagship characters. This is amazing considering the fact that virtually no one besides the most avid and hardcore comic book fans even knew who the character was before the release of Guardians of the Galaxy.
The idea of Marvel’s flagship characters is an interesting one considering at one time their flagships were easily Spider-Man and The X-Men. Not having these two properties in house prompted them to dig deeper into their library, giving some other characters their moment in the sun.
6. Gwyneth Paltrow – Net Worth: $60 Million
Gwyneth Paltrow has actually been with Marvel since the first Iron Man film truly kicked off the MCU. Paltrow plays Pepper Potts, the love interest and business partner of Tony Stark. Unlike a lot of the love interest characters in the MCU, Paltrow has actually donned an Iron Man Mach Armor and she also gained super-powers as a result of the Extremis Virus in Iron Man 3. In addition to all three Iron Man films, Paltrow also appeared in The Avengers film. This makes her character of Pepper Potts one of the biggest players in the MCU, right next to Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Iron Man, and J.A.R.V.I.S.
5. Chris Hemsworth – Net Worth: $71 Million
We’ve already stated that all of the casting decisions in the MCU have been superb, but none have been more spot on than Chris Hemsworth in the role of Thor. Hemsworth has both the look and the right demeanor for the character. You almost actually believe the man is an Asgardian as opposed to a regular human wearing a costume on a sound stage.
Hemsworth is one of a number of actors and actresses that saw a huge boost in their career after their participation in the MCU. He can also be seen in another huge franchise as Hemsworth played the father to a young James T. Kirk in director JJ Abrams Star Trek series.
4. Vin Diesel – Net Worth: $75 Million
You have to hand it to Vin Diesel; he has easily become one of the single most popular characters in the MCU and he’s had to do the very least amount of work to achieve it. As the voice of Groot, another character that quickly became a Marvel flagship character after the success of Guardians of the Galaxy (there’s that name again), Diesel only had two lines:
“I am Groot.”
“We are Groot.”
To Diesel’s credit he was the perfect choice for the voice of Groot. He also recorded the two lines in several languages to do his own dubbing for overseas releases.
3. Anthony Hopkins – Net Worth: $90 Million
Hopkins hasn’t had much screen time in the Marvel films, but when you’re looking for someone to play a figure as powerful as Odin you need to go with a top notch actor.
Mr. Hopkins plays the father to Thor and the adopted father of Loki in the Thor films. Though Thor was one of Marvel’s earliest ventures, it was a great decision to splurge on a top tier actor for the role. Some believe you should go with no-names for these films to make the character seem more real to help assist in suspending disbelief. The MCU has seemed to prove that with the right talent, this is not an issue.
2. Robert Downey Jr. – Net Worth: $150 Million
Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Iron Man helped Marvel and Disney accomplish a number of things. The film was a spring board for the entire MCU. Iron Man becoming a huge hit would determine if more films would even be made. It also took a character that wasn’t very popular (yes, there was a time when nobody cared about Iron Man) and turned him into Marvel’s new flagship and knocking Spider-Man down a notch.
In addition to launching the MCU as we know it, the Iron Man films rekindled the career of Robert Downey Jr. It’s hard to imagine it now, but his career had actually been in a bit of a slump after some bad publicity involving drugs and alcohol. It’s interesting that Marvel used Downey to play a character that had problems with alcohol in the comic books.
1. Samuel L. Jackson – Net Worth: $170 Million
To someone who isn’t entirely in the know about comic books, the casting of Samuel L. Jackson may have seemed odd at first considering the character is white and had previously been played by David Hasselhoff in other media. The story to this casting decision is actually pretty interesting.
Marvel had noticed that their comic books were getting a little convoluted. You had characters that have been around for 40+ years but never seemed to age, yet the world and technology around them progressed as it did in the real world. Marvel decided to create a second line of comics called Ultimate that would take place in its own universe and rebooted a number of characters in a more modern setting. It was in these books where the Avengers would have their origins tied to Nick Fury. When rebooting the Fury character, artist Bryan Hitch actually modeled the character directly after Samuel L. Jackson. These comics were very popular, as was this new iteration of Nick Fury. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate choice for the role.