20th Century Fox; Netflix; Sony Pictures; Marvel Studios / Everett Collection

It’s hard to imagine this now, but there was a time when Marvel Comics had zero presence in film or live-action television. That all changed 25 years ago with “Blade,” released by New Line Cinema. Then came “X-Men” in 2000 from 20th Century Fox, then “Spider-Man” in 2002 from Sony Pictures, and then, in 2008, Marvel launched its own independent film company, Marvel Studios, with “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk.” By the 2010s, the Marvel superhero revolution began trickling onto TV.

To date, the major studios have released at least 68 feature films based on Marvel comics, plus another 21 TV shows on linear and streaming. They’ve given diehard fans hundreds of characters, quotes and fight scenes to, ahem, marvel at, and Variety has taken on the nearly impossible challenge of ranking the 40 best characters in the Marvel universe in film and on television.

For this list, nothing is off limits: the MCU, Sony’s “Spider-Man” series, Fox’s “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four” movies, New Line’s “Blade” trilogy and Netflix’s mini TV universe of street-level heroes — they all count. The criteria hinged on the actor’s performance and the character’s powers, pop culture popularity, story arc and overall importance to the past, present and future of the greater Marvel universe.

That means a lot of MCU characters will pop up in this list, but there are also many representatives from “Spider-Man,” “X-Men” and beyond. But our list does not take into account the Marvel comics themselves or any upcoming appearances — apologies in advance to the Fantastic Four, who did not make the cut after several lackluster films in the 2000s and 2010s, even though they’re set to appear again in the MCU in 2025. Also, this is the multiverse, so multiple versions of a character are fair game, so long as they are distinctive individuals (as opposed to younger or older versions of pre-established characters).

In descending order, here are all of the Avengers, web-slingers, mutants and more who are in the top 40 Marvel film and TV characters of all time.

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 We’ve ranked the best Marvel characters of all time, spanning the company’s movies and TV shows for Disney, Fox, Sony and Netflix.  Read More