The 10 Most Badass Women in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Looking ahead to ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ WHO counts down the best heroines and villainesses of the MCU
Letitia Wright as Shuri in 'Black Panther.'

Since Iron Man flew into theatres 10 years ago, there have been 18 movies within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all leading up to the battle with big baddie Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War (out April 25). To celebrate, WHO has produced our 25-page definitive guide of the film, attached to our latest issue on newsstands now.


And since we’re in a festive mood, we wanted to celebrate the women of the MCU by counting down the toughest of the lot. Of course, there is value in the soft power of Pepper Potts, the untapped potential in Hope Van Dyne becoming The Wasp, and great possibility for Mantis, let alone the as-yet-unseen capabilities of Captain Marvel. Yes, there are more strong women in the MCU than we’ve listed here but we believe these rock the most. Let us know your favourites! 

Agent Peggy Carter
Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger.’ (Credit: © MARVEL STUDIOS)


Special abilities: code-breaking, leadership, marksmanship, scientific study

The no-nonsense agent provides love and tactical support to Steve Rogers after he becomes an enhanced soldier in the 1942-era Captain America: The First Avenger. So popular was Hayley Atwell’s character that she had her own TV series, Marvel’s Agent Carter, in 2015. 

Nakia Black Panther
Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia in ‘Black Panther.’ (Credit: © MARVEL STUDIOS)


Special abilities: Stealth, intelligence-gathering, combat, speaking multiple languages

The Wakandan spy has the right ear of leader T’Challa and the ability to get anyone in and out of a scrap.

The Ancient One
Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in ‘Doctor Strange.’ (Credit: © MARVEL STUDIOS)


Special abilities: Astral projection, command of magic, martial arts

The former Sorcerer Supreme would rank higher on this list had she been more forthcoming about violating the natural order of things, and, of course, survived her fight with Kaecilius in the 2016 film Doctor Strange

Valkyrie Tessa Thompson
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie in ‘Thor: Ragnarok.’ (Credit: © MARVEL STUDIOS)


Special abilities: Super-strength, piloting craft, fast healing

The Asgardian warrior helped Thor and Bruce Banner escape from Sakaar to battle Hela at home, all the while demonstrating a capacity for drinking that would be the envy of Australian moviegoers everywhere.

Scarlet Witch
Elizabeth Olsen as The Scarlet Witch in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron.’ (Credit: © MARVEL STUDIOS)


Special abilities: Telepathy, telekinesis, psionic power, levitation

Experimented on by HYDRA when she and her twin brother Pietro were captives in their native Sokovia, Wanda Maximoff gained the ability to manipulate minds and energy while Pietro became lightning-fast (yet now deceased, RIP) Quicksilver. She is still building up her confidence, so once she has that going for her, Scarlet Witch could prove more formidable. 

Cate Blanchett as Hela in ‘Thor: Ragnarok.’ (Credit: © MARVEL STUDIOS)


Special abilities: Being a goddess, super-strength, raising the dead

Not much can stop the Goddess of Death but, fortunately for Asgardians and humans, demon Surtur can. Still, Hela gets middle placement on this list because Cate Blanchett is clearly relishing rocking that eyeliner and crown and delighting in playing a tonal opposite to Galadriel.

Letitia Wright as Shuri in ‘Black Panther.’ (Credit: © MARVEL STUDIOS)


Special abilities: genius-level intelligence, combat, engineering skills

Not only is she a Wakandan princess and sister to T’Challa, Shuri is the research head of the most advanced scientific nation on the planet. If it’s got vibranium in it and it can do cool things, she designed it. When Bucky Barnes needed to wash off his Winter Soldier programming, T’Challa and Steve Rogers entrusted him to Shuri’s care. And when CIA agent Everett Ross needed medical aid, not only did Shuri provide it, she got him to pilot a plane via holographic projection to stop Eric Killmonger’s forces from taking weapons out of Wakanda while she was engaged in hand-to-hand combat on the ground. She multitasked saving the world!

Zoe Saldana as Gamora in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ (Credit: © MARVEL STUDIOS)
Pick up WHO’s 25-page definitive guide to Avengers: Infinity War, attached to our latest issue, on newsstands now.


Special abilities: Super-strength and reflexes, fast-healing, keen vision, combat skills

How can you not rate highly an assassin known as “the deadliest woman in the whole galaxy?” Gamora, the last surviving Zehoberei in the universe, spent years serving her adoptive father Thanos, killer of her entire alien race, before turning against him and joining the ad hoc Guardians to fight his growing power. She also had to fight against her sister Nebula until coming to a tentative truce with her in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As if she didn’t have any more on her plate, Gamora’s got to learn some more dance moves to get down with her main squeeze Star-Lord. She’s green, lean, mean and a fierce warrior queen.

Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow in ‘The Avengers.’ (Credit: © MARVEL STUDIOS)


Special abilities: Top-level combat training, acrobatics, computer hacking, piloting

Natasha Romanoff, a KGB-trained assassin considered the most elite and steely spy in the world, defected to join S.H.I.E.L.D. after Hawkeye was sent to kill her by Nick Fury and instead recruited her to the forces of good. She continues to prove tough and resourceful film after MCU film, a pal to Hawkeye and Captain America and a romantic foil for Bruce Banner. She can calm down the Hulk with a lullaby and can sass back other Avengers with a sarcastic put-down. She is the ultimate teammate, piloting cars and planes, hacking into mainframes, finding means of escape and battling foes in the field. She has revealed her struggle with having her ability to be a natural mum taken away from her and continues to find ways to value vulnerability along tenaciousness. She is a force.



Special abilities: Combat, martial arts, speaks multiple languages

No, Okoye is not a goddess, an alien, a mutant, a cyborg or even an enhanced human being. She has no mechanical upgrades to her body, is not a main member of the Avengers and rarely travels outside Wakanda. She would likely lose in a challenge to some of the other women on this list when those women are at the peak of their game. So why is Okoye on the top of our list? Because she commands the Dora Milaje, the elite, all-female bodyguards of Wakandan royalty, and she is general of Wakanda’s armed forces. She holds the moral high ground in Wakanda, serving the nation as her top priority by protecting the throne but also knowing when to challenge authority. She lead the ground forces to prevent civil war and even stood in front of a charging monster rhino to talk reason to W’Kabi. And most memorably, she ditched her scratchy wig to properly fight Klaue’s henchmen in a South Korean casino all while in a striking red evening gown. Her weapon is a sonic spear, which she uses with elegance and deadly force. She is fearless but not humourless, powerful and intelligent in equal measure. We wish Marvel and DC could (corporately) get together to have Okoye join forces with Wonder Woman and have the Dora Milaje and the Amazons, do … something—anything, everything. She just plain rules.

Related stories