For those who are out of touch or who've been living under a rock these last ten years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest movie franchise today. Based on Marvel's comic book superheroes, there are nineteen films so far (with more on the way). Out of this massively interconnected universe, the films provide opportunities to its large ensemble cast. Many of them go on to even great successes in their careers, while others don't do much better than their Marvel films. It really just depends on where an actor can go following the Marvel films, which are some of the biggest box office films of all time.
Robert Downey Jr., for example, has (probably) reached the highest pinnacle he could ever achieve. It's incredible considering where his career was just ten years ago. He, unlike some in the MCU, was able to find success outside of the Iron Man suit. Films like Sherlock Holmes and Tropic Thunder prove he's able to branch out of Marvel. While that's the story for many of the actors, not all have benefitted at this point from the Marvel boost. So which actors achieved success outside of Marvel? Which ones didn't? Find out in our list below. Beware of MCU spoilers throughout.
20 Movin' On Up: Mark Ruffalo Smashes Blockbuster And Critically Acclaimed Roles
Mark Ruffalo came into the MCU fold when he signed on for The Avengers, which released in 2012, according to IMDB. He had actually replaced Edward Norton who originally played Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk. While many wish Norton would've reprised his role in The Avengers, audiences soon adopted Ruffalo as their new Hulk. Although Ruffalo hasn't had his own solo Hulk film as Norton did, he's been in every Avengers film and even Thor: Ragnarok. But what about Ruffalo's career outside of Marvel?
Ruffalo is probably grateful to Marvel Studios for signing him on to join their comic book universe since he's certainly one of the actors to benefit from the Marvel boost.
Starring in more critically acclaimed films such as Spotlight and Foxcatcher, Ruffalo has toed the line between Oscar-worthy flicks and commercial blockbusters. Not many actors get the kind of sweet success Ruffalo has. We imagine it's every actor's dream to make a lot of money while also starring in serious roles. As per IMDB, he was nominated for both Foxcatcher in 2014 and Spotlight in 2015. Those films were in the midst of shooting and starring in Marvel films, so it's pretty safe to say comic book movies haven't held this actor back.
19 At A Halt: Gwyneth Paltrow's Marvel Roles Are All She's Got Anymore
Everyone knows Gwyneth Paltrow was already a star long before the Marvel movies. When she came onto the Marvel scene as the scene-stealing Pepper Potts, Tony Stark's assistant and eventual love interest, she already had an Oscar and plenty of Hollywood fortune. Although it might be hard to believe, IMDB lists this star as appearing in six Marvel films altogether! IMDB even has her listed to reprise her Marvel role next year in Avengers. With that many Marvel films under her belt, it's no surprise her other roles have taken a backseat.
Although she appeared in the TV show Glee, as per IMDB, there hasn't been much in the way of acting roles for this A-list star. She did star in Mortdecai alongside Johnny Depp, but that film wasn't received well by either critics or the box office. With the kind of career Paltrow had, she doesn't really need to star in anything else though to cement her legacy. She might just be going through a phase of taking on lighter roles at this time in her career. But it's no secret the Marvel films are carrying her for the time being.
18 Movin' On Up: Scarlet Johannsson’s Roles Get Under The Skin
Of all the actors in the Marvel movies, few have had as much success as Scarlett Johansson has. Not only has she managed to make it outside of Marvel but shows a range in her roles. Films like Lucy in 2014 and Ghost in the Shelling 2017 are action roles where she's the star as listed by IMDB. We're confident her turn as Black Widow in the Marvel films helped to get her cast in those. Beyond action films, she's done comedies like the Coen Brothers' Hail, Caesar! in 2016 and Rough Night in 2017, as per IMDB.
While many actors would be content to stop there, Johannsson didn't.
She showed her range, even more, when she took on several voice acting roles. Films like Her in 2013, The Jungle Book and Sing (both in 2016) show she's willing to branch out. Plus, she has a really great voice that translates well to animated films. Her wasn't even animated, but rather a live-action drama where she convincingly played an Alexa-like computer. Then there are independent films like Under the Skin she’s still willing to take on. If there's anyone that has nothing to worry about when the Marvel films are over, it's Johansson. She's proven that any role is within her reach. We don't doubt she'll go far.
17 At A Halt: Georges St-Pierre Grapples With Hollywood
Canadian-born UFC champion Georges St-Pierre proved he had acting chops in 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier by way of IMDB. In the film, he plays Georges Batroc, a mercenary who fights Captain America aboard a ship. Not only does he show his acting skills, but that he could translate his skills in the octagon over to feature films. Sadly, there hasn't been much on the actor's resume following his turn as Batroc in The Winter Soldier. He did have a major role in the Steven Seagal film Cartels, according to IMDB. He also had a role in Kickboxer: Vengeance in 2016 as reported by IMDB.
Aside from these two minor roles, St-Pierre hasn't had much to put on his acting resume. One of the reasons could be the limited number of roles out there perfect for his set of skills. Martial arts movies aren't as big as they used to be back in the days of Bruce Lee. Plus, St-Pierre isn't as young as he used to be back when he fought in the UFC. While he's made a smart move transitioning over to film, we hope he finds more movies to star in for years to come.
16 Movin' On Up: No Role Goes Over Dave Bautista’s Head—His Reflexes Are Too Fast
If there's one thing Dave Bautista doesn't have a problem with post-Drax, it's finding new film roles. After making a similar move like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Dave Bautista made a swift from pro wrestling to Hollywood. Now he's one of Marvel's breakout stars. Audiences have been quick to adopt Bautista's turn as Drax the Destroyer in the Guardians of the Galaxy films. With his fate in question after Avengers: Infinity War, Bautista has nothing to worry about if the studio puts a knife in his Marvel role.
Since becoming Drax with the first Guardians of the Galaxy film released in 2014, he's been a villainous henchman in the James Bond film Spectre in 2015, as per IMDB. He also had a brief but memorable role in the Sci-Fi sequel Bladerunner 2049.
With a string of films set to come out in the next two years for Bautista, this actor shows no signs of slowing down.
We're confident that his foray into Marvel films only helped Bautista's career, serving as a launching pad for other bigger roles. In just a matter of years, he's already shown his career can survive outside Guardians of the Galaxy. With his humor and chiseled muscles, we're sure these make the perfect combination to last in Hollywood.
15 At A Halt: Chadwick Boseman Hit It Out of the Park As Black Panther, But His Career Is A Foul Ball
Before taking on the monumental role as Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman starred in some major films. According to IMDB, he played Jackie Robinson in 42 alongside Harrison Ford. That was a breakout role for Boseman, who followed it up with Get On Up in a biopic about James Brown. Boseman showed that not only he had what it takes but could star in these major film roles. He even had a role in Ridley Scott's Gods of Egypt, as per IMDB. But it wasn't until his role in Marvel's Captain America: Civil War that Boseman got a taste of a real paycheck.
In just this year alone, he reprised his role as Black Panther twice. IMDB shows him in the role in both the self-titled Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. Do we really think Chadwick Boseman's career is over? No way. But if one considers his resume, he only has Avengers listed on the horizon. While we have no doubt that'll change soon, he's solely reliant on these Marvel movies to carry his career for the time being. Granted, he probably hasn't starred in anything outside Marvel because he simply hasn't had the schedule to allow it. Still, it looks like it's solely Marvel films for Boseman in the next couple years.
14 Movin' On Up: Jon Favreau Is Happy About His Career
For those who don't know, Jon Favreau played a critical part in jumpstarting the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After he already established himself as an actor, he made the transition over to directing. In the early days, he directed the holiday classic Elf starring Will Ferrell and the sci-fi film Zathura: A Space Adventure.
Those two films set him up to direct Iron Man, the first film to launch the MCU back in 2008.
He not only directed (and even starred in it as a small role, Happy Hogan, Tony Stark's personal bodyguard), but he convinced the studio to take a gamble of Robert Downey Jr. in the lead, according to Cinema Blend.
That decision ultimately paid off big time for the studio. At the time, Downey Jr.'s career was still in a questionable state after his struggle with substance issues.
After going on to direct Iron Man 2, Favreau still reprises his role as Happy throughout the MCU. But how's his career been post-Iron Man? Favreau didn't wait around before jumping into his next directing gig, taking on Cowboys & Aliens in 2011, as per IMDB. He also directed the Disney live-action hit The Jungle Book with a sequel on the way. According to IMDB, he's currently filming the live-action The Lion King, slated to come out next year.
13 At A Halt: Emily VanCamp Can’t Get More Movie Roles Outside Marvel
The star of Revenge Emily VanCamp had lots of success on TV in the years leading up to the Captain America franchise. Fans of VanCamp may remember her turn on the TV show Everwood before she made it to major feature films. It wasn't until she played Kate, or better known as Agent 13, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier until things began to change for the better. As is typical, she was also on hand for the popular sequel, Captain America: Civil War in 2016, as per IMDB. But since then, she hasn't starred in too much.
While there's no doubt she's getting a fat paycheck for the Marvel films, there doesn't seem to be much else of a pulse on VanCamp's career. It may just be a case of what roles are available out there. Proving she has the acting chops on the silver screen, maybe the Marvel movies hurt her chances more. Starring in a Marvel film can raise an actor's status and maybe even discourage others from wanting to hire her. After all, she's worth more starring in roles now that she's been in a couple of Marvel movies. It might just be a matter of pricing herself out now that she's in the Marvel club.
12 Movin' On Up: Anthony Mackie’s Hollywood Career Is Not In Crisis
Anthony Mackie's career was already doing just fine before signing up to play Falcon in the Marvel films. He had quite an extensive resume of films including Million Dollar Baby, the Clint Eastwood film about a female boxer. But one of his biggest roles came in 2008 when he starred alongside fellow future Avenger Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker. He played a Sergeant in that movie who's assigned to fight in the Iraq War. The film went on to rake up a lot of awards and garner critical acclaim.
Fast forward years later, and Mackie signed a massive contract with Marvel. The first film he starred in was Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014.
At present, he's been in five Marvel films total.
But according to IMDB, Mackie has managed to find work outside Marvel in films like Our Brand is Crisis alongside Sandra Bullock. He also starred in Detroit, which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who he worked with on The Hurt Locker, as per IMDB. He's even working on several films now still in production. We think the future looks pretty bright for this star, even if his fate as an Avenger is up in the air after the last film.
11 At A Halt: Sean Gunn’s Career Rockets To The Stars in Marvel Movies, Fizzles Elsewhere
Actor Sean Gunn has found huge success from starring in Marvel movies. His brother, James Gunn, directed both Guardians of the Galaxy films, according to IMDB. Not only does Sean play Kraglin, the funny and lovable Ravager, but also the stand-in for Rocket Raccoon on set. There's no doubt his performances have been integral to Guardians of the Galaxy. Before starring in the Marvel movies, fans likely recognized him as Kirk on the popular TV show Gilmore Girls. While that role changed his career, the Marvel films took things to a whole new level.
Sadly, he hasn't done too much outside of the Marvel movies. He did have a turn in The Belko Experiment alongside co-star Michael Rooker. As expected, he reprised his role as Kirk in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, according to IMDB. But he hasn't done much else outside of the Marvel movies. He appeared as the Rocket stand-in again for Avengers: Infinity War this past year though. It's a good thing he has those Marvel paychecks to fall back on. Otherwise, we don't know where his career would be at the moment. We think he's great in those movies though, so here's for holding out hope he'll strike a big role soon.
10 Movin' On Up: Karen Gillan's Career Is Just Beginning
Karen Gillan already had an established career as an actor for many years before signing on to Guardians of the Galaxy. But her turn as Gamora's temperamental sister, Nebula, has only given her acting career a boost. With recent hits, she's on her way to becoming a household name. Shortly before taking on Guardians of the Galaxy, IMDB logs in her turn as Amy Pond on the long-running hit show Doctor Who. The next year, she starred in the TV series Selfie, though it didn't quite get off the ground.
But a setback didn't keep Gillan from achieving Hollywood success.
She was in The Circle in 2017 alongside Emma Watson. That year would also bring one of her biggest roles in recent years. As per IMDB, Gillan starred in the major surprise box office hit of 2017 in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Her role as Martha, the bookworm who becomes a kick butt avatar, only elevated her status. We think that had a large part to play in green-lighting the sequel, which is already in development. IMDB also reports that she just wrote and directed a feature called The Party's Just Beginning. We think the future looks pretty bright for this young star.
9 At A Halt: Marvel Movies Have Put A Black Out On Breakout Black Panther Star Letitia Wright’s Career
Based on the box office receipts for Black Panther, we're pretty sure everyone on the planet saw the movie. If that's true, then they no doubt saw Letitia Wright in her breakout performance as Shuri. She plays T'Challa's bright and awesome sister. Although she had a turn in Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One, that technically shot around the same time as Black Panther, as per IMDB. Therefore, we can't really prove Marvel had much to do in helping boost her career. Although she had a huge year in 2018 starring in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, there's nothing else upcoming for this star.
We don't doubt her career is going places. But for now, she's not in any rush. She's perfectly content making appearances in Marvel films for the time being. With a couple of Marvel paychecks under her belt, we can't really blame her. She did have a turn in the Netflix series Black Mirror, so maybe there's a chance to come back there. Either way, we don't doubt there's a bright future for this star. We just can't guarantee it'll be in a role outside of the Marvel machine, which you can bet is going to want her back as Shuri.
8 Movin' On Up: Chris Pratt’s Career Is Far from Extinct
Ten years ago, Chris Pratt was just a small-time actor in films like Wanted and Bride Wars, according to IMDB. His turn as Andy Dwyer in the hit TV show Parks and Recreation would help give a much-needed boost to his career. He even started in some major films like Zero Dark Thirty and Her as IMDB reports. But it wasn't until 2014 that he turned into a leading man. With Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt's career launched into the stratosphere. But would he be able to thrive as an actor outside of his tenure as Star-Lord over at Marvel?
Not long after Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt proved he could be a household name.
He starred in Jurassic World, a reboot to a popular franchise. It already has a sequel which comes out this year. IMDB also reports he's expected to reprise his voice acting role from the hit 2014 The Lego Movie. He even starred in a remake of the classic The Magnificent Seven alongside Denzel Washington. It seems like Pratt transformed his low-level career to A-list stardom just overnight. There's not a doubt in our minds Pratt's career is secure and that he'll be making films for years to come.
7 At A Halt: Like Her Marvel Character, Pom Klementieff Feels Sad For Her Career
We love Pom Klementieff in the Marvel films. Her comedic timing and acting chops really rise to the surface in every role she's in. Although she's been in plenty of roles, none have been bigger than her turn in the Marvel films. Starring first in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, as per IMDB, she played the role of Mantis. Her character is very odd, but she brings a lot of charm to the role. Mantis can read minds and feel other character's emotions, which lends for some interesting dynamics throughout the series.
Before the Marvel films, she appeared in movies like Ingrid Goes West and Old Boy where she bumped into fellow Avengers co-star Elizabeth Olsen. After starring in both Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers, she's achieved a dream only some actors hope to reach. Klementieff is slated to reprise her role as Mantis in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3set for 2020. But what about roles outside of the Marvel movies? There doesn't seem to be much on the horizon for this star who just hit it big. For now, she's relying a lot on the Marvel films to carry her career. We think her career is just getting started though.
6 Movin' On Up: Natalie Portman Doesn't Need Marvel To Be Marvelous
Let's be real, Natalie Portman already had a successful career before starring in Marvel's first two Thor films. She probably just did the role for the money anyways. Unless she just really likes being in the worst on-screen romances of all time (we're looking at you, Star Wars).
Whatever the case may be, Portman proved she didn't need Marvel to keep making hit after hit.
According to IMDB, after her initial turn as Jane Foster in 2011's Thor, she followed it up with the sequel Thor: The Dark World in 2013. Then it was no turning back when she starred in the Terrence Malick film Knight of Cups. It seems to be an honor for many actors to act in one of his films in Hollywood today, Malick, who waits years before making each of his films.
IMDB reports that Portman starred in Jane Got a Gun and Jackie coming off the Thor sequel. In the latter, she even got an Oscar nomination playing Jackie Kennedy. As reported by IMDB, she even starred in the sci-fi film Annihilation this year, which received high praise from critics. We don't see Portman's career taking any hits in the coming years with each new film she stars in.
5 At A Halt: Chris Evans Is Going Out On His Shield
We might get some flak for this one, but hear us out. First of all, Chris Evans already made it as an actor well before he donned the stars and stripes. He's been in everything from comedies like Not Another Teen Movie and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, according to IMDB. He was also in another superhero franchise before joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In both Fantastic Four and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, he played Johnny Storm, better known as the Human Torn, as per IMDB. But it wasn't until hi turn as Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers that Evans' career got a major boost.
What's the actor done outside of Marvel since making it big? Other notable roles, as per IMDB, include Snowpiercer in 2013 and Gifted in 2017. But other than that, the resume looks pretty quiet. By general standards, Evans career is doing just fine. But when we take into account his career comparative to the fame and fortune Captain America garnered for him, we think his roles are a bit lacking. Shouldn't his turn as one of Marvel's best heroes land him more? With his Marvel contract ending soon, we expect more roles to come his way in the years ahead.
4 Movin' On Up: Elizabeth Olsen Goes West To Hollywood Stardom
Not too long ago, Elizabeth Olsen was pretty unknown. Since starring in Martha Marcy May Marline in 2011, as per IMDB, she found movie stardom. She's beyond her reputation as the Olsen twins' little sister now. Although she also starred in Old Boy, a Spike Lee film alongside Josh Brolin, she didn't hit it big until the Marvel movies. After appearing briefly in the post-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it wasn't until Avengers: Age of Ultron that she landed on the Marvel scene. Thus, her career at Marvel really began.
How's Olsen's career fared since? Shortly after Captain America: Civil War, she starred in the smaller film Ingrid Goes West, according to IMDB.
That film was received well by critics, where she plays a social media star. Again, Olsen proved she could take on any kind of role with Ingrid Goes West. She then went on to play an investigator in the intense Wind River alongside her Avengers co-star Jeremy Renner. A critical hit, Wind River proved Olsen's career still has plenty of life outside of Marvel. We don't expect Olsen's movie stardom to slow down any time soon.
3 At A Halt: Michael Rooker Hit The Ceiling With Yondu
Michael Rooker is no stranger to film roles. He's been acting for years. There's no doubt this guy has trouble landing roles. We just don't think he's going to match his turn as Yondu, the surrogate father to Star-Lord who redeems himself. He's got a memorable role in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 2017 as per IMDB. In that latter film, he even got to star alongside his former Cliffhanger co-star Sylvester Stallone. But when comparing Rooker's career with an A-list star's like Stallone, there's no question it pales in comparison.
Is it fair to compare Rooker's career with Stallone's? Not really. Stallone has a one in a million-movie career. But we're looking to make a point that Rooker just hasn't gone on to do anything bigger (or more interesting) since he played a guardian of the galaxy. We don't think that means Rooker's career is over. This guy has plenty of charm to take on another Yondu-like role in the near future. But there doesn't seem to be anything like that upcoming on his resume, as per IMDB. Whether Rooker finds that role or not, we'll always remember him as the Ravager turned guardian.
2 Movin' On Up: Tom Hiddleston Won't Need A Career As A Night Manager With His Acting Success
Tom Hiddleston was acting well before he starred as everyone's favorite Marvel villain Loki in 2011's Thor. IMDB reports his turn in films like Steven Spielberg's War Horse and Woody Allen's Midnight Paris. But it was The Avengers in 2012 that really catapulted the god of mischief into future successes. Not long after that, Hiddleston starred in the small Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. This film only showed his range as an actor that much more.
He would go on to make Thor: The Dark World in 2013, as per IMDB.
But a string of films following that showed he wasn't tied down to the Marvel machine.
Films like Muppets Most Wanted showed comedic roles were for him. According to IMDB, he starred as the leading man in I Saw the Light where he plays Hank Williams. That role showed he could not only act but sing as well, as per Billboard. With his turn as Jonathan Pine in The Night Manager and James Conrad in Kong: Skull Island, Hiddleston's career in Hollywood looked more secure than ever. We don't doubt this actor is going to have success for years to come.
1 At A Halt: Stan Lee Is Stuck In The Marvel Cinematic Universe
Aspiring actor Stan Lee just can't break out beyond the Marvel films he cameos in. In spite his dreams of making it big time in Hollywood after all these years and all these Marvel movies, he just can't land a big-time part. Something in which he's the leading man just seems to elude him at every turn. All joking aside, this entry is purely for laughs. Stan Lee isn't really an aspiring actor. If anything, he's a living legend who shows up in movies (mostly Marvel's) as a long-running gag of sorts.
For those who aren't aware, Stan Lee is one of the geniuses behind Marvel. He actually invented a lot of the characters we all see and love on screen. Only he did it on the pages of comic books, not movies all those years ago. He's been making cameos in the MCU since it started ten years ago. Usually, his scenes are blink-and-you-miss-it kind of parts. Although Marvel films aren't the only movies he shows up in, it's what he's most known for. According to IMDB, he's also showed up in TV shows like Fresh Off the Boat and The Simpsons. Poor guy. He just can't seem to break out beyond Marvel.