Stars

Actors You Forgot Were In Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies

This is quite an impressive list.

25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Red Carpet
Getty Images | Mike Coppola

With more than 20 movies under its banner in 11 years so far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been home to countless actors. The stars who’ve played the various heroes and top villains in the franchise have become household names, forever linked with their characters, but plenty of performances have been forgotten due to the constant stream of new MCU adventures hitting theaters every year.

We’ve gone back through the casts of every MCU movie so far and picked out some of the most talented actors who you may have forgotten had roles in this blockbuster franchise. We’ve got Oscar winners, TV icons and art-house favorites in this list — all of whom played at least a small part in the MCU so far.

Liv Tyler


MCU Debut: “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)

With major roles in hit movies like “Armageddon” and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Liv Tyler stepped out of her father’s massive shadow long ago to earn herself a reputation as a legitimate actor. She even had a leading role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, playing Bruce Banner’s love interest, Betty Ross, in 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk.” Of course, that entire film became the forgotten son of the MCU when it was never followed up on and the title character was recast for 2012’s “The Avengers.” More on that in a bit.

Stanley Tucci


MCU Debut: “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

As you’ll see in this list, the MCU has used some heavyweight actors in very brief parts over the years. That was the case with Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci, who played Dr. Abraham Erskine in the first Captain America movie. Erskine was the doomed scientist who created the serum that turned skinny Steve Rogers into Captain America, so it was a pretty big role in terms of the MCU storyline — but not one that is immediately remembered by many fans.

Olivia Munn


MCU Debut: “Iron Man 2” (2010)

Unless you just rewatched “Iron Man 2” recently, there’s probably no way you remember Olivia Munn’s tiny role in the film. She played a TV reporter — not unlike her previous work on series like “Attack of the Show!” and “The Daily Show” — who was broadcasting from Tony Stark’s massive Stark Expo event. Munn only had a tiny bit of screentime in the film but she went on to have a major role in another movie based on Marvel comics, 2016’s “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

Lee Pace


MCU Debut: “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

Thanks to the heavy makeup and dramatic costume he wore, it’s possible that even Lee Pace’s closest friends didn’t recognize him in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The former star of the Hobbit trilogy and ABC’s “Pushing Daisies” played the villain, Ronan the Accuser, in that 2014 MCU favorite. As Ronan, Pace’s skin was colored blue and he wore armor with a hood that nearly covered his face for much of the film. Pace returned to the role in 2019’s “Captain Marvel,” which was set before “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Edward Norton


MCU Debut: “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)

For the most part, casting in the MCU has been rock solid since the franchise first debuted in 2008 — but Edward Norton’s time as Bruce Banner/The Hulk is the biggest exception. The acclaimed actor played the main role in “The Incredible Hulk,” which was only the second MCU movie ever made, and it was expected he’d return for all future outings of the character. But the studio parted ways with Norton in 2010 and replaced him with Mark Ruffalo, starting with 2012’s “The Avengers.” Don’t feel bad for Norton, though, because he’s had plenty of great roles since then and was apparently happy to be free of the commitment.

Ty Burrell


MCU Debut: “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)

As you’ve likely gathered by now, most people involved with 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” have been forgotten as parts of the MCU, including “Modern Family” star Ty Burrell. The ultra-likable actor played the unlikable Dr. Leonard Samson in that film, acting as a jealous wedge between Bruce Banner and Betty Ross. The fact that “The Incredible Hulk” came out nearly a year before “Modern Family” debuted on ABC made Burrell’s MCU appearance even more forgettable for audiences who watched it in theaters.

Garry Shandling


MCU Debut: “Iron Man 2” (2010)

The late, great Garry Shandling didn’t do a lot of movie work in his brilliant career but he found time to appear in two Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. His role wasn’t a huge one, but he stole pretty much every scene he was part of in both “Iron Man 2” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” He played the corrupt Senator Stern, who was eventually exposed as a covert member of the evil group HYDRA. Shandling’s role in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” hit the screen just two years before he died in 2016.

John C. Reilly


MCU Debut: “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

“Guardians of the Galaxy” has one of the biggest casts of any MCU movie, so it makes sense that there’d be a few great actors you forget about when you haven’t seen it in a while. That’s the case with “Wreck-It-Ralph” star John C. Reilly, who played a straight-laced Nova Corps officer in the film. Reilly’s character didn’t return for the sequel, so it was likely just a one-off thing. In a universe so filled with colorful characters, his was easy to let slip from your mind.

Wood Harris


MCU Debut: “Ant-Man” (2015)

Lovers of “The Wire” and “Remember the Titans” likely jumped out of their seats when they saw Wood Harris in 2015’s “Ant-Man,” but most people probably forgot he was in the movie after it ended. The talented actor played a police officer named Gale who tried to track down Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man) after he escaped from jail. Harris’s character was nowhere to be seen in 2018’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” not that it would’ve made much sense for him to return.

Terrence Howard


MCU Debut: “Iron Man” (2008)

The other major instance of recasting in the MCU came after 2008’s “Iron Man,” the movie that kicked off the whole movement. In that film, Oscar nominee Terrence Howard played Tony Stark’s best friend, James Rhodes. Howard was replaced by Don Cheadle in the role for 2010’s “Iron Man 2,” and he’s played the part in every installment since. It’s honestly difficult now to imagine anyone other than Cheadle playing the role of Rhodey. Howard did alright for himself after the change, though. He’s stared in Fox’s hit show “Empire” since 2015.

Chris O’Dowd


MCU Debut: “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

Not much about “Thor: The Dark World” was memorable — and Chris O’Dowd’s funny performance also gets lost in the shuffle, unfortunately. The Irish actor, probably best known for his role in “Bridesmaids,” played a hapless, regular guy trying to win the affections of Jane Foster, the love interest of Thor. O’Dowd’s performance was one of the better parts of the film, but it’s easy to forget he was even in the MCU at all.

Jenna Coleman


MCU Debut: “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

If you watch a lot of British TV shows, you’ve probably seen plenty of Jenna Coleman. She’s had big roles in shows like “Victoria” and “Doctor Who,” but her role in the MCU was much more fleeting. In “Captain America: The First Avenger,” Coleman played a woman named Connie who can be seen at the beginning of the movie as part of a double date with Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers in the 1940s. Connie was only around for a few minutes, giving Coleman one of the briefer roles in the MCU.

Christopher Eccleston


MCU Debut: “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

Speaking of “Doctor Who,” the former Doctor himself, Christopher Eccleston, had a pretty big role in the MCU in 2013. He played the villainous Malekith in “Thor: The Dark World” — but you probably didn’t recognize him. Like some others on this list, Eccleston’s role required heavy makeup and dramatic costuming, meaning you could go the whole movie without knowing who he was. It’s hard for an Emmy winner like Eccleston to be forgotten in a big role, but he pretty much has been lost in the MCU shuffle.

Natalie Dormer


MCU Debut: “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

How could anyone forget Natalie Dormer in anything? The always-striking star of “The Tudors” had a pretty small role in the massive cast of Captain America’s first MCU adventure. In “Captain America: The First Avenger,” Dormer played a U.S. Army private named Lorraine who flirted with Steve Rogers before being shut down by Peggy Carter. A year after her role in the MCU, Dormer would land a major part in “Game of Thrones” and would later appear in the Hunger Games movies, so it all worked out for her.

Glenn Close


MCU Debut: “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

OK, so it’s pretty hard to forget Glenn Close in anything, but her role in “Guardians of the Galaxy” may have slipped your mind after all the adventures that have followed in the MCU. In that movie’s ensemble cast, Close played Irani Rael, leader of Nova Corps who works alongside the Guardians to save her home planet. Despite being one of the most acclaimed movie stars of all time, Close’s role didn’t make it into any further MCU movies. But she’s had plenty to keep her busy in the meantime, including trying to win that elusive Oscar.

Powers Boothe


MCU Debut: “The Avengers” (2012)

Powers Boothe is probably the only person to appear in the MCU whose own name is actually cooler than any of the characters in the movies. He had a brief role as part of the huge cast of 2012’s “The Avengers,” so it was easy to overlook him when you were busy thinking about how cool it was to see Iron Man, Captain America and Thor fighting alongside one another. Boothe played Gideon Malick, a HYDRA leader that covertly infiltrated the World Security Council. Boothe would expand on the role in several episodes of ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” before his death in 2017.

Kate Mara


MCU Debut: “Iron Man 2” (2010)

Three years before she landed a career-making role in Netflix’s “House of Cards,” Kate Mara had a quick-but-memorable role in “Iron Man 2.” She played a nameless U.S. Marshal who served Tony Stark with a subpoena. If you were watching the movie when it came out, you probably had no clue who she was, but if you’ve watched it since she became a known star, it makes that short scene one of the movie’s best. A year after her part in “Iron Man 2,” Mara nabbed a great role in the first season of FX’s “American Horror Story.”

Jeff Bridges


MCU Debut: “Iron Man” (2008)

It’s probably unfair to say you’ve forgotten Jeff Bridges was in the MCU because he did a great job as Obadiah Stane, the unexpected villain of “Iron Man,” but it’s been a long time since that movie came out and plenty of actors have followed him. The Oscar winner quickly set the tone for future bad guys in the franchise, but he’s probably not one of the first actors you think of when you remember the MCU adventures.

Josh Dallas


MCU Debut: “Thor” (2011)

Yet another actor who was recast after a stint in the MCU was “Once Upon a Time” and “Manifest” star Josh Dallas. In “Thor,” Dallas played Fandral, an ally and friend of the Avengers hero. Despite the character popping up in both of the sequels that would follow, Dallas had no part in them after dropping out of the role. Speaking of his replacement …

Zachary Levi


MCU Debut: “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

When Josh Dallas had to drop out of the sequels to “Thor,” former “Chuck” star Zachary Levi stepped in to replace him as Fandral. Levi played the role in 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World,” which itself was a pretty forgettable film, before returning in 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok,” where the character met his untimely end. Even to fans of his, Levi looked nearly unrecognizable in the MCU movies because he was blond in them. Even if you forgot he was involved with the MCU, Levi made a bigger impression in the competing DC Extended Universe by starring in 2019’s “Shazam!”

Harry Dean Stanton


MCU Debut: “The Avengers” (2012)

We are wading into cameo territory in this one, but because of Harry Dean Stanton’s legendary status among cinema lovers, it’s worth reminding you that he was once in the MCU. Stanton popped up in 2012’s “The Avengers” in a role that only lasted a single scene but was pretty fantastic. He played a beleaguered security guard who has a chat with Bruce Banner after The Hulk crashes through the building he’s protecting. Stanton’s death in 2017 sadly means that lonely guard will never get to have another heart-to-heart chat with any other Avengers.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje


MCU Debut: “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

Whether you know him from his scene-stealing roles in “Lost” or “Oz,” it’s pretty tough to forget a performance from Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. The intense British actor played the villainous Kurse in “Thor: The Dark World” but was nearly unrecognizable for much of the movie thanks to rocking blond hair and eyebrows and a massive mask. While his role in the MCU wasn’t one for the ages, he landed a better one in the DC Extended Universe’s “Suicide Squad,” where he played Killer Croc.

Adam Pally


MCU Debut: “Iron Man 3” (2013)

When Adam Pally shot his part for “Iron Man 3,” he was already starring in ABC’s “Happy Endings,” which makes it seem strange that he had such a small role. Pally played the news cameraman who was obsessed with Tony Stark and let the superhero use his van in secrecy. After his bit part in the MCU his theaters, he landed another starring role on network TV, in Fox’s “The Mindy Project.” He was obviously capable of a much more memorable role!

Rebecca Hall


MCU Debut: “Iron Man 3” (2013)

Another skilled dramatic actor who you may have forgotten was in the MCU was Rebecca Hall. The British star of movies like “The Prestige” and “The Town” played a big role in “Iron Man 3” as Dr. Maya Hansen, a former lover and colleague of Tony Stark. Hall’s part was pretty juicy and she made the most of it, but it’s easy to forget her in a movie that was so full of larger-than-life performances by the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pierce and Ben Kingsley.

Julie Delpy


MCU Debut: “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)

Julie Delpy is one of the most acclaimed French actors and filmmakers of recent memory, earning two Oscar nominations so far in her career. That makes it kind of a bummer she had such a small role in the MCU. Delpy popped up in a flashback during 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” as Madame B., a menacing Soviet who worked to train Black Widow into the assassin she would become. She only had a few minutes of screentime in “Age of Ultron,” but with an upcoming movie expected to focus on Black Widow’s story, Delpy could be in for a bigger role in the MCU if she comes back.