Cate Blanchett, who memorably ate all the Asgardian scenery as Thor and Loki's sister Hela in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok, is two for seven at the Oscars. She took home Best Supporting Actress for The Aviator (2004) and Best Actress for Blue Jasmine (2013), making her one of six women to have won both lead and supporting Oscars. She was also nominated for her work in Elizabeth (Best Actress, 1998); Notes on a Scandal (Best Supporting Actress, 2006); Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Best Actress, 2007); I'm Not There (Best Supporting Actress, 2007); and Carol (Best Actress, 2015). Blanchett is also one of 12 people to receive two acting nominations in one year and one of six to be nominated twice for playing the same character (Queen Elizabeth I) in two different films.
Kevin Feige closed out Marvel's 2019 San Diego Comic-Con panel with an announcement no one was expecting: two-time Oscar champ Mahershala Ali will star in the Blade reboot. Shortly afterwards, Feige revealed that Ali, who played Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes on Marvel and Netflix's Luke Cage, asked for a meeting with the producer following his Best Supporting Actor victory for Green Book (2018), at which the star declared he wanted to play the vampire hunter. This is the same energy as fellow two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters famously plonking down her statuettes on an ignorant director's desk after he asked her to audition. Ali, who scored his first Oscar for his supporting turn in Moonlight (2016), is one of seven men to win that category twice and one of seven performers with a two-for-two Oscar record.
Michael Douglas portrayed Dr. Hank Pym in Ant-Man (2015), its follow-up film, Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019). He is two for two at the Oscars: As a producer of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), he took home an Oscar when it won Best Picture. For his thespian pursuits, he won Best Actor for Wall Street in 1987. With his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones' Best Supporting Actress win for Chicago (2002), they are one of four married couples to have won acting Oscars.
Jeff Bridges is an accomplished actor who might still be best known as The Dude from The Big Lebowski, but in 2008's Iron Man, he played the villainous Obadiah Stane, aka Iron Monger. He has been nominated for seven Academy Awards throughout his long career, winning the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Crazy Heart (2009). He was also nominated for The Last Picture Show (Best Supporting Actor, 1971); Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Best Supporting Actor, 1974); Starman (Best Actor, 1984); The Contender (Best Supporting Actor, 2000); True Grit (Best Actor, 2010); and Hell or High Water (Best Supporting Actor, 2016).
It's kind of crazy that Sir Anthony Hopkins, who brought to life Odin, father of Thor and (adopted father of) Loki, in all three Thor films, has won just once at the Oscars. He took home the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and received three more nominations in quick succession: The Remains of the Day (Best Actor, 1993); Nixon (Best Actor, 1995); and Amistad (Best Supporting Actor, 1998). This year, 21 years later, he was nominated for his supporting turn in The Two Popes (2019). At 82, he was the seventh oldest nominee in the category's history. If he had beaten his two-time co-star Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), who swept everything, he'd have been the second oldest acting winner ever, behind Christopher Plummer, who was a slightly older 82 when he prevailed for Beginners (2011).
William Hurt has (thus far) portrayed Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, currently the Secretary of State, in four Marvel movies -- The Incredible Hulk (2008); Captain America: Civil War (2016); Avengers: Infinity War (2018); and Avengers: Endgame (2019). He is also set to reprise the role in the upcoming Marvel film Black Widow (2020). He's also been nominated for four Academy Awards, winning once for Kiss of the Spider Woman (Best Actor, 1985). His other nominations were for his work in Children of a Lesser God (Best Actor, 1986); Broadcast News (Best Actor, 1987); and A History of Violence (Best Supporting Actor, 2005).
The one and only Tommy Lee Jones lent his talents to the MCU when he appeared as Colonel Chester Phillips in 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger. He took home his one and only Oscar (so far), for Best Supporting Actor in The Fugitive, in 1993. He was also nominated for JFK (Best Supporting Actor, 1991); In the Valley of Elah (Best Actor, 2007); and Lincoln (Best Supporting Actor, 2012).
Sir Ben Kingsley played Trevor Slattery/Mandarin, the villain in Iron Man 3 (2013) who -- spoiler alert! -- turned out wasn't really Mandarin. Don't ask, it's not important here. Kingsley made Oscar history as the first and thus far only actor of Asian descent to win best actor, which he accomplished with Gandhi (1982). He has three more nominations for Bugsy (Best Supporting Actor, 1991); Sexy Beast (Best Supporting Actor, 2000); and House of Sand and Fog (Best Actor, 2003).
Robert Redford brought a whole lot of gravitas and his trademark charisma to Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), aka the best MCU film, as S.H.I.E.L.D. brass Alexander Pierce. Believe it or not, Redford, who retired from acting with The Old Man and the Gun but whose last onscreen appearance came in Avengers: Endgame (2019), only has one acting nomination to his name, for Best Actor for The Sting (1973). His ventures behind the camera proved to be more fruitful with the Academy, earning him a best director statuette for his directorial debut Ordinary People (1980). He also received Best Picture and Best Director nominations for Quiz Show (1994).
If you forgot Natalie Portman was in the MCU, it probably means you were never into the Thor films. After sitting out Thor: Ragnarok (the best Thorfilm), she'll be returning for the upcoming fourth film, Thor: Love and Thunder (2021). Portman portrays Jane Foster, a leading scientist who falls in love with the hunky Asgardian, but in the new film, she'll actually take up the mantle of Mighty Thor. She has been nominated for three Academy Awards, taking home the shiny statuette for Best Actress for her performance in Black Swan (2010). She was also nominated for Closer (Best Supporting Actress, 2004) and Jackie (Best Actress, 2016).
Fun fact: All three big-screen Aunt Mays have been nominated for Oscars. Rosemary Harris, Aunt May to Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker, was up for Best Supporting Actress for Tom & Viv (1994); Sally Field, Andrew Garfield's Aunt May, won bookend Best Actress statuettes for Norma Rae (1979) and Places of the Heart (1984); and Marisa Tomei, Tom Holland's Aunt May in Captain America: Civil War (2016), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), won Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny (1992). Her surprise victory had long been the target of a very dumb conspiracy theory that posited that Tomei, who earned two more supporting bids for In the Bedroom (2001) and The Wrestler (2008), didn't really win and presenter Jack Palance read the wrong name, but no one ever corrected him. Thanks to Envelopegate, we now know what happens when a wrong winner is read, so she is finally vindicated.
Angelina Jolie will make her Marvel debut alongside fellow newbies/Oscar nominees Kumail Nanjiani and Salma Hayek in the upcoming film The Eternals (2020), in which she plays Thena. Jolie has been nominated twice for the Oscar but only walked away a winner one time. She took home the award for Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted (1999), and was nominated for Best Actress for Changeling (2008). However, she does have an honorary Oscar, awarded in 2013, in recognition of her humanitarian work.
In an alternate universe, Sam Rockwell could've been Tony Stark. Alas, he was Stark's weapons rival Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2 (2010), a spiffily dressed smooth-talker who could probably sell you three used cars without you realizing it. Just one year after winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), Rockwell was nominated in the same category for his turn as George W. Bush in Vice (2018) but lost to fellow Marvel actor Mahershala Ali.
As Taneleer Tivan/The Collector, Benicio del Toro was tasked with being Exposition Guy and had to explain the Infinity Stones to us in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). Del Toro, who also appeared in Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018), won Best Supporting Actor for Traffic (2000), becoming the third Puerto Rican performer to win an acting Oscar after Jose Ferrer (1950's Cyrano de Bergerac) and Rita Moreno (1961's West Side Story). He bagged a second nomination in the same category for 21 Grams (2003).
Fun fact: Rachel Weisz, who is not in any of the Black Widow (2020) trailers nearly enough, is one of five women to win an acting Oscar while pregnant. She nabbed the Best Supporting Actress statuette for The Constant Gardener (2005) nearly three months before she gave birth to her son. 13 years later, she finally received a sophomore bid in the same category for The Favourite (2018). Had Weisz won, she would've tied Shelley Winters and Dianne Wiest as two-time champs in the category, a record. She also would've been one of eight performers with a perfect two-for-two record. In Black Widow, she plays Melina Vostokoff, who's been "cycled through the Black Widow Red Room program five times," opposite current Best Supporting Actress nominees Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh.
While her husband Paul Bettany voices J.A.R.V.I.S. and portrays Vision in the MCU, Jennifer Connelly lends her vocal talents to Karen, aka Suit Lady, in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). Connelly was named Best Supporting Actress for A Beautiful Mind (2001), where she met her future hubby on set. Look, we know Vision and Scarlet Witch are canon, but someone please let Vision and Suit Lady have a moment at some point.
Brie Larson portrays the part-Kree Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, in Captain Marvel (a 1990s-set origin story) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). The former movie was Marvel's first female-led film, which was truly ridiculous when Black Widow was right there all along. Larson won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Room (2015), and some critics believe she was completely snubbed for her 2013 performance in Short Term 12.
Before she kicked ass as Nakia in Black Panther (2018), Lupita Nyong'o won Best Supporting Actress for her breakthrough performance as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave (2013). The film, which won Best Picture, was Nyong'o's first film out of the Yale School of Drama, and she became the ninth person to win the category for her feature film debut. Others include Jennifer Hudson (2006's Dreamgirls) and the two youngest Oscar winners ever, Tatum O'Neal (1973's Paper Moon) and Anna Paquin (1993's The Piano).
One-half of the first couple of the MCU, Pepperony, Gwyneth Paltrow has played Pepper Potts in Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), The Avengers (2012), Iron Man 3 (2013), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019) -- a role she only agreed to after her pal Robert Downey Jr. asked her if she wants to be in movies people actually pay to see. Harsh but true. Paltrow defeated future MCU actor Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth) to win Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love (1998), aka the film that beat Saving Private Ryan for best picture.
It wasn't a great idea for Doctor Strange (2016) to cast Tilda Swinton -- you know, a white woman -- as the enigmatic mystic Ancient One, who is a Tibetan man in the comics but was reimagined as a Celtic woman for the film. But Swinton was her predictably excellent self in it and Avengers: Endgame (2019), and she already had experience working with a former superhero: She won Best Supporting Actress for Michael Clayton (2007), in which she starred opposite one-time Batman George Clooney, and made sure to mention that in her speech.
Forest Whitaker played Zuri, who knew the truth behind N'Jobu's death and was apparently the only person who could grow that heart-shaped herb, in Black Panther (2018). A Best Actor champ for The Last King of Scotland (2006), Whitaker is the most recent of five people to win that category as his film's only nomination. Another one of those five? His fellow MCU star Michael Douglas (1987's Wall Street).
The artist formerly known as Will Tippin, Bradley Cooper channeled his inner Gilbert Gottfried to voice Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019). In a span of eight years, Cooper has accrued eight Oscar nominations across three disciplines, including three acting bids in a row: Best Actor for Silver Linings Playbook (2012), Best Supporting Actor for American Hustle (2013), and Best Actor for American Sniper (2014). He has also earned a best picture nomination as a producer on American Sniper. Cooper also nabbed a hat trick of nominations for his directorial debut, 2018's A Star Is Born: Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. This year, he was nominated as a producer on Best Picture nominee Joker (2019).
The legendary Glenn Close played Nova Prime, the leader of the Nova Corps, in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and has said she's open to returning for more, so let's hope James Gunn is bringing her back in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Close was widely expected to finally win her maiden Oscar last year, for Best Actress for The Wife (2018), but she proved to be no match for the queen, Olivia Colman (The Favourite), who was as stunned by her upset as you were. With seven nominations, Close is the most nominated living actor without a win. She earned three consecutive supporting bids for her first three films (your fave could never): The World According to Garp (1982), The Big Chill (1983) and The Natural (1984). She then scored leading nominations for Fatal Attraction (1987), Dangerous Liaisons (1988), and Albert Nobbs (2011).
Bening was the Supreme Intelligence to the Kree people and Dr. Wendy Lawson/Mar-Vell to Brie Larson's Carol Danvers/Vers/Captain Marvel in 2019's Captain Marvel. A four-time nominee, Bening received her first Oscar nomination for her supporting turn in The Grifters (1990). She has three Best Actress bids -- American Beauty (1999), Being Julia (2004) and The Kids Are All Right (2010) -- losing twice to Hilary Swank (1999's Boys Don't Cry, 2004's Million Dollar Baby).
Edward Norton's involvement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was brief. The actor originated the role of scientist Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, in the 2008 Marvel movie The Incredible Hulk. Although he was supposed to portray the character in future films, he was eventually replaced by fellow Oscar-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo, who took over the role beginning with the first Avengers film. But maybe Norton didn't need the MCU; he has been nominated for three Academy Awards over the course of his career. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Primal Fear (1996); Best Actor for American History X (1998); and Best Supporting Actor for Birdman (2014), in which he starred opposite fellow Marvel actor and Oscar nominee Michael Keaton.
After a long hiatus, Michelle Pfeiffer has returned to the big screen in the past couple of years with roles in 2017's Mother! and Murder on the Orient Express, and as Janet Van Dyne in Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). She received her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and followed up with two Best Actress bids for The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) -- for which she should've won, tbh -- and Love Field (1992).
Mark Ruffalo, who took over playing Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, aka the Strongest Avenger (don't tell Thor), from Edward Norton beginning with the first Avengers film, has been nominated for three Oscars over the course of his career. In 2010, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Kids Are All Right. He then followed that up with back-to-back nominations for Best Supporting Actor in Foxcatcher (2014) and Spotlight (2015).
Sylvester Stallone joined the MCU with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), in which he played Ravager Stakar Ogord, who reconciles with Yondu before it's too late. Stallone garnered two Oscar nominations, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor, for creating and playing his most iconic role, Rocky Balboa, in Best Picture winner Rocky (1976). Thirty-nine years later, he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for reprising Rocky and not knowing what a cloud is in Creed (2015). Like MCU star Cate Blanchett, he's one of six people to earn multiple nominates for playing the same character in different films.
Long before Taika Waititi rebooted Thor as the director of Thor: Ragnarok (2017), he was nominated for an Oscar for Two Cars, One Night (2004), a live-action short film. At this year's Academy Awards, he was nominated in two categories: Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture for Jojo Rabbit (2019), a film in which he also starred. He took home the Oscar for the former, but the latter went to Parasite. As an actor, Waititi has portrayed Korg through motion-capture in both Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame, and we are holding out hope he will reprise the fan-favorite character again now that he's also attached to write and direct the film's sequel, Thor: Love and Thunder (2021).
Would there even be an MCU without Robert Downey Jr.? (No.) He got this whole thing started with his comeback role as Tony Stark/Iron Man in Iron Man (2008). Besides the two sequels and the four Avengers films, RDJ has also played Tony Stark in The Incredible Hulk (2008), Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). A two-time nominee, he was up for Best Actor for Chaplin (1992) and Best Supporting Actor for his other 2008 hit Tropic Thunder. In the latter, he was nominated alongside future MCU foe Josh Brolin (Milk) and lost to another comic book character, the Joker (the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight).
After originating Korath and getting one of his head implants torn out by Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Djimon Hounsou played a younger version of the Kree warrior and Starforce member in the '90s-set Captain Marvel (2019). He's received two Oscar nominations for his supporting performances in In America (2003) and Blood Diamond (2006).
After getting snubbed for her breakout performance in 2003's Lost in Translation 16 long years ago and a handful of worthy turns since then, Johansson made up for lost time this year by receiving two acting nominations for two of her three 2019 projects: Best Actress for Marriage Story and Best Supporting Actress for Jojo Rabbit (she sadly went home empty-handed). She is the 12th performer and the first in 12 years -- since fellow MCU-mate Cate Blanchett -- to earn double nods in a single year. Long waits are nothing new for her, though, because despite fans clamoring for a Black Widow solo movie since Johansson first appeared as Natasha Romanoff in Iron Man 2 (2010) -- reprising the role in The Avengers (2012), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Captain Marvel (2019) in a cameo, and Avengers: Endgame (2019) -- Marvel didn't green-light one until post-Phase Three -- you know, after she died in Endgame. Black Widow, on which Johansson also serves as an executive producer, takes place after the events of Civil War, with Nat on the run and confronting her past.
Before accepting a role in Captain Marvel (2019) as Carol Danvers' mentor, Jude Law consulted his Sherlock Holmes co-star/MCU godfather Robert Downey Jr. about life in the MCU, who told him to go for it. Law earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his breakthrough performance in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and upgraded to a Best Actor nomination for Cold Mountain (2003). His Captain Marvel role means the main four Oscar-nominated or -winning Mr. Ripley stars have appeared in the MCU, following Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Matt Damon, who had a cameo as Actor Loki in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), which he did as a favor for his BFF/vacation buddy Chris Hemsworth (look, he's never done this for Ben, just saying).
Before he was Arrow Guy, aka the Avenger known as Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton, or curated an Amazon storefront or made riveting Jeep commercials or had a short-lived app (RIP Jeremy Renner App, 2017-19), Jeremy Renner was probably best known for his Oscar-nominated performances. He earned a Best Actor nod for The Hurt Locker (2009) and then quickly followed it up with a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance in one of Ben Affleck's many Boston-set movies, The Town (2010). Although Renner's Barton was absent from 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, he returned for Avengers: Endgame (2019), but if we have our way, maybe he'll somehow appear in Back in Town, a Town sequel we're pitching to Ben on Instagram.
Adriana Barraza has one scene in Thor (2011) as Isabella Alvarez, a diner owner, but she was supposed to have a whole lot more. Originally a supporting role, Barraza learned via a letter from director Kenneth Branagh that the majority of her scenes would be cut. Barraza received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Babel (2006), in which she starred alongside future Thor player Cate Blanchett.
The original choice to play Storm in the X-Men films, Angela Bassett finally found her way to a Marvel film with Black Panther (2018), in which she played Queen Mother Ramonda, a role she briefly reprised for Avengers: Endgame (2019). Bassett earned a Best Actress nomination for her tour-de-force performance as Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It (1993), losing to Holly Hunter (The Piano). Was she robbed? Bassett herself thinks so, because Hunter "just" played a mute. Look, that was a super tough race and Bassett probably would've won any other year, but no need to dismiss a mute performance as "less than" or "easier," which it most definitely is not.
Josh Brolin, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Milk (2008), has an interesting relationship with Marvel. The actor has played two different Marvel characters on-screen: Cable in Deadpool 2 and the big bad Thanos in multiple MCU films. Thanos was a giant purple jerk responsible for destroying half of the universe, but thankfully Cap and the rest of the OG Avengers were able to bring everyone back. Brolin portrayed the character in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Don Cheadle is the Mark Ruffalo to Terrence Howard's Edward Norton. Like Ruffalo, he inherited an MCU role, James "Rhodey" Rhodes/War Machine, after the original star, Howard, who appeared in Iron Man (2008), bowed out. Cheadle, who has a Best Actor nomination for Hotel Rwanda (2004), made his Rhodey debut in Iron Man 2 (2010), and has since appeared in Iron Man 3 (2013), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch might have once been best known for his role as the iconic detective Sherlock Holmes on the TV series Sherlock (not to be confused with RDJ's Sherlock Holmes), but the Brit, who was nominated for Best Actor for The Imitation Game (2014), has a whole new set of fans thanks to his role as Dr. Stephen Strange. The character first appeared in 2016's Doctor Strange before making a brief and unnecessary, but also quite funny appearance in Thor: Ragnarok. Doctor Strange and the time stone also played a major role in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). He'll reprise the role again in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021).
Ejiofor co-starred in 2016's Doctor Strange as Karl Mordo, a Master of the Mystic Arts and one of Doctor Strange's mentors who becomes disillusioned with sorcery and turns into a big fat traitor. Ejiofor snagged a Best Actor nomination for 12 Years a Slave (2013), in which he starred alongside fellow MCU player and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o.
One of the few stars to have appeared in DC and Marvel films, Laurence Fishburne, who played Perry White in Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), fulfilled his dream of appearing in an MCU movie when he landed the role of Dr. Bill Foster in Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018). And once you go MCU, you can't go back to DCEU. Fishburne has a Best Actor nomination under his belt for his performance as Ike Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It (1993) opposite Black Panther's Queen Mother and Oscar nominee Angela Bassett.
Jeff Goldblum playing the Grandmaster, the colorful hedonistic ruler of Sakaar who relishes gladiatorial battles and owns lots and lots of spaceships, in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) is a case of the perfect marriage between an actor and a part. Goldblum, who also made a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), received an Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short Film for Little Surprises (1995), which he directed. No, he has never been nominated for acting, which is a crime because he was robbed for The Fly.
Although Jake Gyllenhaal concerned his fans when the first full-length trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) hit the internet and his character, Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio, looked like he might be stuck in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, in the end, both Gyllenhaal and the film were great. But it still isn't the movie for which he received his lone Oscar nod. No, that would be Brokeback Mountain (2005). He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor but did not win.
Salma Hayek joins fellow Marvel newbies Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani in the upcoming film The Eternals (2020). She portrays Ajak, an Eternal who fought in the Trojan War in the comics, in the film. Hayek became the first Mexican Best Actress nominee when she was shortlisted for her performance as Frida Kahlo in Frida (2002) and is currently one of just two total.
Like Edward Norton, Terrence Howard appeared in exactly one Marvel movie before being replaced by someone else for all subsequent appearances. The actor, who was nominated for Best Actor for Hustle & Flow (2005), originated the role of Tony Stark's friend James "Rhodey" Rhodes, the man destined to become War Machine, in the first Iron Man (2008) film. Although Howard was signed for three films, he claims Marvel wasn't going to pony up the cash for his role in Iron Man 2, and the role has been played by fellow Oscar nominee Don Cheadle ever since.
Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury appears in more Marvel films than any other character, but he is not a member of the Avengers. The former head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fury made his first appearance in Iron Man (2008) and has been the connecting tissue of the MCU ever since, appearing in Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), The Avengers (2012), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Captain Marvel (2019), Avengers: Endgame (2019), and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). But even though we now closely identify Jackson with this iconic comic book role, many still know him best for his performance in Pulp Fiction (1994), for which he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
Daniel Kaluuya has had two pretty fantastic Februarys. In February 2017, we watched him fall into and escape the Sunken Place in Get Out, for which he earned a Best Actor nomination. A year later, he played W'Kabi, T'Challa's BFF and the head of the Border Tribe, in Black Panther. Yes, that means he's been in back-to-back Best Picture nominees, which is pretty awesome, but not as cool as fellow MCU star and Oscar nominee Michael Keaton having starred in back-to-back Best Picture winners (2014's Birdman and 2015's Spotlight).
Michael Keaton, who is still the best Batman (no, we aren't going to debate it), has a real thing for playing "winged" creatures, apparently. Nominated for Best Actor for Birdman (2014) -- he lost to Eddie Redmayne in what will be remembered in my house as the Worst Thing to Ever Happen at the Oscars -- Keaton memorably took on the role of sympathetic villain Adrian Toomes, aka Vulture, in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017).
When you think about the actors who have appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you might not immediately think of Rachel McAdams. But the Mean Girls and Notebook actress appeared as Dr. Christine Palmer opposite Benedict Cumberbatch's egotistical titular doctor in 2016's Doctor Strange. The year before that she earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Spotlight (2015), a Best Picture winner that also starred fellow Marvel actors and Oscar nominees Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Stanley Tucci.
Everyone made a huge deal when Kumail Nanjiani, a stand-up comedian and actor, most recently of HBO's Silicon Valley, got super buff for his upcoming role as Kingo in Marvel's The Eternals. But not only have we seen a more insane transformation (Chris Pratt for Guardians of the Galaxy), this is not the most impressive thing on Nanjiani's resume. No, everyone should have been making a big deal about the fact Nanjiani, alongside his wife, Emily V. Gordon, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for The Big Sick (2017), a film about their relationship in which he also starred.
Florence Pugh and Scarlett Johansson will face off not once but twice this year. As Yelena Belova, Pugh plays one of the other Black Widows who's like a "sis" to Johansson's Natasha Romanoff in May's Black Widow. The two also competed for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for their 2019 films, as Johansson was up for Jojo Rabbit and Pugh for her refreshing take on the youngest and historically most polarizing of the March sisters in Little Women. #Justice4AmyMarch achievement unlocked.
John C. Reilly, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Chicago (2002), brought his impressive comedic talents to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). As Rhomann Dey, a loyal member of the Nova Corps on Xandar, he often tangled with Star-Lord, much to our delight.
Tim Roth has appeared in just one MCU movie to date: The Incredible Hulk (2008). His character, Emil Blonsky, was a former special-ops commando brought in to capture Edward Norton's Bruce Banner, who had become the Hulk. Eventually injected with the Super Soldier Serum himself, Blonsky turned into the Abomination, reminding everyone why you should not just go around getting injected with serums all willy-nilly. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Rob Roy (1995).
After receiving a Best Actor nomination for The Wrestler (2008), Mickey Rourke took on the role of Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash, in Iron Man 2 (2010). Now, the first Iron Man film was great, and Rourke likely had no idea the second movie was going to be as bad as it was. But there's a reason we haven't watched Iron Man 2 since the first time we watched Iron Man 2.
Stanley Tucci has been in everything you love (probably), so it's no surprise that the talented actor, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Lovely Bones (2009), has also appeared in the MCU. He portrayed Dr. Abraham Erskine, the German scientist who created the Super Soldier Serum that turned Chris Evans' Steve Rogers into Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). He was great and it was a real bummer when he was killed by Hydra.
Alfre Woodard's appearance in the MCU might be brief, but it's memorable. In the third and final Captain America film, Civil War (2016), she portrayed Miriam Sharpe, the mother of an innocent young man who died during the Battle of Sokovia, and it was Miriam confronting Tony Stark about the actions of the Avengers that led to him signing the Sokovia Accords. While that was her only appearance in a Marvel film, she did star in the recently canceled Marvel's Luke Cage on Netflix as Mariah Dillard. Woodard earned her sole Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actress in Cross Creek, in 1983.