19 Major MCU Couples, Ranked
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is, frankly, enormous. So far, it’s made up of 32 movies, plus a bevy of television shows. And while we’re happy to watch superheroes duke it out, we’re really romantics. We want kissing! We want love! We want romance!
The Marvel movies have a messier track record when it comes to serving that up. Sometimes – like with Wanda and Vision – they get it right, and sometimes – like with the Hulk and Black Widow – they get it extremely wrong.
The past year of Marvel shows and films had given us old and new couples to consider. “Thor: Love and Thunder” brought back Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, the ex-girlfriend of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who appeared in the first two Thor movies, and briefly in “Avengers: Endgame.” “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” checked in on the title heroes – who are also a couple. And this May’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is probably the last time fans will see Peter Quill and Gamora together.
So we’re revisiting every major couple the MCU has given us so far and ranking them. Yes, we’re only considering canon couples, so sorry in advance to shippers and fan-fiction-lovers everywhere – we also wish Stucky had happened. And though Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) were both juggling romantic interests in their Disney+ series “Ms. Marvel” and “She-Hulk,” we’ll keep them both off the list until they choose someone for more than an episode. Here’s our ranking of the MCU couples, from worst to best.
Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner
I love Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). I love the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). But Natasha and Bruce did not work together. It felt like Joss Whedon (who came up with this pairing for “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) had run out of ideas of things to do with Natasha, besides give her a man to comfort and console, so he came up with this relationship. It’s best to forget this ever happened.
Stephen Strange and Christine Palmer
Rachel McAdams‘s role as Christine in the first Doctor Strange movie gave her very little to do. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” tries its best to make us invested in this relationship – or, at least, how sad Stephen (Benedict Cumberbatch) is that it didn’t work out between them. Through the course of the movie, we find out that not only could they not make things work in their universe, but they also couldn’t make it work in literally any other universe. Christine seems much better off for having not ended up with this guy.
Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter
This one is just kind of gross. The MCU spends a lot of time setting up Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) as Steve’s one true love. Sharon (Emily VanCamp) is Peggy’s niece. Not even diving into the time-traveling ending “Avengers: Endgame” bestowed on Steve (Chris Evans), this is weird. The pair never really had chemistry, and this plot always felt a little perfunctory.
Clint and Laura Barton
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” hit us with the shocking reveal that Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) had a whole family waiting for him on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Until the “Hawkeye” Disney+ series, that was really all we got of them. Laura (Linda Cardellini) and the kids were more of a plot device to make Clint likable.
The “Hawkeye” series did try to invest this relationship with a little more oomph, but Clint and Laura weren’t even in the same state for most of the show. Eventually, we learned Laura used to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and maybe there’s a compelling backstory somewhere in there, but I don’t see it. So far, Laura has just been a waste of Cardellini’s talents.
Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne
Scott (Paul Rudd) and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) are fine. They don’t excite me, but they don’t make me roll my eyes, either. Their superhero aliases – Ant-Man and the Wasp – do flow together nicely, so that’s a point in their favor. But “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” which would have really cemented their partnership, seemed to evade every chance to give this couple depth.
Marc Spector and Layla El-Faouly
I think Mark Spector (Oscar Isaac) and Layla El-Faouly (May Calamawy) would rank higher on this list if literally anyone but Isaac played Marc. That’s not a dig at Isaac; it’s the opposite. Isaac has so much romantic and sexual potential, and “Moon Knight” does basically nothing with it. Assuming we get more Marc and Layla content in the future (which it seems like we will), maybe this relationship can really bloom.
May Parker and Happy Hogan
Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, who fortuitously cast himself in this role when he directed “Iron Man”) have a relationship that started out as a joke at Peter’s expense. But it’s fun, and it works. If you’re going to have a young, hot Aunt May, she should have a fun love life, and she does.
Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter
Here’s the rare relationship that got worse over time instead of better. Steve and Peggy work together during World War II. Their flirting is a highlight of “Captain America: The First Avenger.” But their romance is doomed – Steve gets stuck in ice, popping out in the 2010s and missing most of Peggy’s life.
On ABC’s “Agent Carter,” Marvel explored what Peggy’s life was like after the war and after she moved on from Steve. She carried grief with her but still lived a full life, even falling in love with Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj). Oh, but the MCU wouldn’t let her rest in peace.
Marvel decided the most important relationship in Steve’s life was with Peggy. This didn’t make sense, when his lifelong best friend Bucky Barnes was right there, literally propelling the plot of both Captain America sequels. And at the end of “Avengers: Endgame,” when Steve should have finally gotten to spend some time with his friend, Marvel yeeted him back in time to Peggy. This bizarre narrative choice hangs over Disney+’s “Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” and it makes you wish they’d just killed Steve off.
Both Peggy and Steve both deserved better.
Bucky Barnes and Sarah Wilson
Is this a “major” relationship? Technically no, but I so loved the very brief moments we see Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and Sarah (Adepero Oduye) flirt together. I’m ranking it here in hopes we’ll see more of them in the future.
Makkari and Druig
Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) and Druig (Barry Keoghan) are one of the more minor couples in 2021’s “Eternals,” but boy do they fill every second they get together with chemistry. Their relationship is filled with their literal centuries of shared history, and if “Eternals 2” happens, they should be at the center of it.
T'Challa and Nakia
T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) are wonderful together in 2018’s “Black Panther.” They feel like a duo who’ve been through a lot, and they leave you wanting more. Unfortunately, Boseman’s death meant we never got to see where they could have gone, but “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” found great ways to honor Boseman and T’Challa and to give their relationship a beautiful legacy.
Loki Laufeyson and Sylvie
If you’re out on this ship, I do not blame you. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) are technically the same person in different universes. It’s not a healthy relationship, really: in some ways, it’s the height of narcissism. But for Loki, that works, and hopefully, we’ll get to see more of their chemistry in season two.
Okoye and W'Kabi
Neither of these are main characters, but I’d be remiss not to mention the stunning chemistry Okoye (Danai Gurira) and W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) brought to the first “Black Panther” as a married couple who end up on opposite sides of an attempted coup. But since W’Kabi didn’t appear in the 2022 sequel – and it seems he won’t be returning to the MCU – this couple’s journey will always remain a “what if.”
Thor Odinson and Jane Foster
When this ranking was created for the first time in May 2022, I reserved the right to move Jane (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) when “Thor: Love and Thunder” was released. And I’m glad, because they’ve moved up toward the top of this list.
In the first two Thor movies, this relationship isn’t that special. They’re two very good-looking people who like each other because that’s what the movie dictates. But in “Thor: Ragnarok,” Thor gets to break out as a goofy weirdo on his own, and “Love and Thunder” uses flashbacks to retcon their relationship into something more interesting. Now they’re both goofy weirdos with very demanding jobs who love spending time together. It works! When the movie came to its lovely end, I had tears in my eyes because of these two.
Peter Quill and Gamora
Peter (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldaña)’s romance, as set up in the first two “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, ruled. She tragically died in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” only to come back to life in 2019’s “Endgame.” But this Gamora doesn’t remember the Guardians or her romance with Peter, and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” had the perfect opportunity to give this love affair a perfect, painful ending.
“GOTG 3” does not do that. I would be fine if the movie ended their relationship forever (Saldaña has been vocal she’s not planning on returning to “GOTG,” while Pratt seems to be continuing with the MCU), but it doesn’t really dive to the emotional core of their relationship and their grief about what once was and no longer is. Instead, they just fizzle out.
Tony Stark and Pepper Potts
Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) were our very first MCU couple, which gives them a running start. As a person who was once obsessed with the first Iron Man movie, I can’t forget how much I enjoyed their relationship in the character’s solo films. Over time, Pepper took a backseat and was popped out for sporadic cameos in other MCU movies, but the core of this relationship always made sense to me, and they sparkled together on screen in those early films.
Wanda Maximoff and Vision
This is the underdog story of this list. When we met Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) in “Age of Ultron,” she was saddled with a ridiculous accent. Vision (Paul Bettany) was an obnoxious robot guy. When we checked in on them in “Civil War,” they were flirty friends. In “Infinity War,” their relationship was supposed to be a major plot point, but it didn’t really hit because we’d barely seen them on screen.
And then 2021’s “WandaVision.” Wanda turns her grief at losing Vision into a creative, messy, painful force, building a whole life for them and causing incredible damage. You were invested in them. It felt like a magic trick.
The one thing that keeps them from the number one spot is Vision’s bizarre absence from “Multiverse of Madness.” He doesn’t even get a mention. It’s an odd choice when Wanda’s grief is still such a big character motivation.
Peter Parker and Michelle "MJ" Jones
Tom Holland and Zendaya had enormous shoes to fill. Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are probably the most famous couple in all of superhero-dom (no offense to Clark Kent and Lois Lane).
But the young actors pull it off in their three films together. They’re fun. They’re adorable. They have a genuine connection that pops off the screen. The end of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is devastating because of them – and I’m sure their relationship will animate the inevitable sequels. Peter and MJ forever.