No matter what film or franchise you're watching, you can't have great lead characters without a great supporting cast. That's just the truth of film. Comic book movies are no exception to this rule as superheroes' support systems often give them a grounding in the world, or universe, they exist in. Not only that, but they give them a sense of humanism and provide opportunities for friendship, romance, or reason to unfold.
Marvel has taken this to heart since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Iron Man back in 2008 and it's just been getting better as the years have rolled on. Not only do they provide that support the film and main heroes need, but they have even risen on their own and proven they are capable of being their own characters and not just dependent on the main heroes.
With this list, we will focus on the Marvel Cinematic Universe's top 10 supporting characters. These characters exist from 2008 to the present and do not include any main characters, so my apologies to those who still find characters like Black Widow and Hawkeye supporting characters. This also will not include any Marvel film from another studio, so again, I apologize to people looking for X-Men or previous Spider-Man characters. If you don't see your favorite supporting character here, leave a comment and let me know!
10. Yondu Udonta
Films: Guardians of the Galaxy
Actor: Michael Rooker
Guardians of the Galaxy was perhaps the first of the MCU to serve as more comedic relief than anything else and that was primarily due to the brilliant characters. One of these characters was Yondu, the leader of the Ravagers. He is neither a hero or villain and I think that was what resonated with audiences the most. His honesty and simple criminal behavior made his intentions clear and his quirky guilty pleasures even funnier.
9. Pepper Potts
Films: Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), The Avengers (2012), Iron Man 3 (2013)
Actress: Gwyneth Paltrow
You know the saying that behind every good man is a great woman? Well, that appears to be true regarding Tony Stark because without his trusted voice of reason Pepper Potts, he very well might not be with us anymore. Starting as Stark's personal assistant, she was quickly promoted to CEO of Stark Industries and was given the key to his heart romantically. Even after she gets into hot water regarding Aldrich Killian and the Extremis serum in Iron Man 3, Pepper proves herself to be more than a behind-the-scenes woman and shows she is a handy woman to have around.
Films: Ant-Man (2015)
Actor: Michael Pena
Ant-Man was funny enough on its own, but it was Scott Lang's criminal buddies that made the events even funnier. Considered by many viewers and critics to be the ultimate scene stealer, Luis was easily the funniest member of the group. His way to turn horrible situations, like his mom dying and dad getting deported, into just your every day conversation was close to perfection. Here's to hoping we will be seeing more of Luis in the future.
Films: Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Actor: Idris Elba
Heimdall serves as the all-seeing and all-knowing warrior God of Asgard and is the lone guard of the Asgardian rainbow bridge, the Bifrost. Heimdall was introduced to us in Thor and quickly resonated with audiences due to his ability to perform his duties as gatekeeper, but also his quickness to react when things go sour inside of his homeland. Not to mention he was basically the only one who knew Loki was responsible for his lack of vision and the mischief within Asgard. He also proves himself to be a trusted friend and ally of Thor as the films go on. We all want someone like Heimdall in our corner.
6. Howard Stark
Films: Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Ant-Man (2015)
Actor(s): John Slattery, Dominic Cooper
Howard Stark was referenced in Iron Man as the genius father of Iron Man himself, Tony Stark. We didn't get too much insight on Howard until Captain America: The First Avenger where we see Stark as a primary scientist in the Super Soldier program in which Steve Rogers in transformed. Another important contribution aside from the program itself is introducing Captain Rogers to his Vibranium shield. Basically, we wouldn't have Captain America or Iron Man without Howard, so let's give some respect where it's due.
5. Agent Maria Hill
Films: The Avengers (2012), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Actress: Cobie Smulders
Agent Hill was first introduced to us in The Avengers and along with Agent Carter and Agent Coulson, she quickly skyrocketed in popularity with audiences who demanded more of her. Originally Nick Fury's right-hand woman, she rose to the occasion and proved herself to be a great agent in assisting the defeat of Hydra in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. She has become such a hit with MCU audiences that she even was featured on the ABC television show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
4. Jane Foster
Films: Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Actress: Natalie Portman
Jane Foster's character has been tweaked a bit from the comics to the big screen, but in this case it's actually a good thing. She is known to be Thor's primary love interest, but the films have given a lot more importance and insight to the kind of capabilities Jane possesses. She serves as an astrophysicist who discovers the main connection between the expanded realms and becomes the leading expert on Asgard. She also knows first hand what the Infinity Gauntlet has in store for us as she wielded the power of the Aether (aka, the red stone) in Thor: The Dark World and without her intelligence and scientific mind, Malekith would have never been destroyed. You go girl!
3. Agent Peggy Carter
Films: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035) (2015)
Actress: Hayley Atwell
In the Marvel comic universe, Peggy Carter was a resistance fighter who fell in love with Captain America through the duration of WWII. However, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe she has become so much more than your average reistance fighter. She first debuted in Captain America: The First Avenger and made such an impression on audiences that she gained a one-shot short film attached to Iron Man 3. People still loved Peggy so much that she got her own ABC television series, Agent Carter. She went on to serve as a founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. and we saw her as an old woman in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
2. Dr. Erik Selvig
Films: Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Actor: Stellan Skarsgard
Erik Selvig is one of the few characters specifically created for the MCU, but that doesn't make him less relevant or less awesome. We are introduced to him in Thor as a premier astrophysicist with some clues and knowledge about the expanded realms and Asgard. It isn't until he is brainwashed by Loki in The Avengers that we see his full potential and brainpower, so he is definitely become an important asset within the film universe. Let's just hope his pantless days are over.
1. Agent Phil Coulson
Films: Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012)
Actor: Clark Gregg
Agent Coulson gave audiences a sense of reality in this massive universe filled with superheroes, villains, and Gods. Similar to Dr. Selvig, Agent Coulson is an original character specific for this cinematic universe and although he was introduced as a minor character back in Iron Man, his influence and fandom grew as the films went on. He has since been seen in four total films as well as in the ABC television spin-off, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where he serves as the new leader for the organization. What we can consistently count on is that Agent Coulson is fighting the good fight and he is definitely on the good guy's team.
Films: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3
Actor: John Favreau
Happy is one of those minor characters you can't help but love. Serving as Tony Stark's driver/bodyguard, Happy's character went from a small director's cameo to a full fledged character. Even though a fourth Iron Man film isn't on the upcoming slate, and he's not likely to appear outside of a small cameo in any future project, we will always be more than happy to welcome back Mr. Hogan.