June 25, 2024

By the end of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, it seemed like every single hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was an “Avenger,” as an endless multitude of warriors, wizards, aliens, space gods, and people with bug-based powers teamed up to take down Thanos (Josh Brolin), the ultimate big bad of the franchise’s Infinity Saga. But let’s not forget that the Avengers is traditionally a tightly-knit team with a locked-in roster and a clear chain of command. In the original Avengers movie, that amounted to six heroes (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and the Hulk) working for SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Avengers: Age of Ultron saw some turnover, with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) all bouncing by the end of the film. Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Vision (Paul Bettany) stepped up to take their place and work for team leaders Cap (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

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Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War threw the team into chaos, but with Marvel resetting the board somewhat for The Multiverse Saga (which just kicked off the second of its three phases with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania), it’s fair to assume that when the next two Avengers movies — Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars — are released in 2025 and 2026, we’ll at least start with a new core Avengers team that will likely consist of only a handful of heroes. But with many of the OG Avengers either dead or retired, that leads to an obvious question: Who’s going to make the roster? Well, we have some ideas on that and have decided to rank potential Avengers members based on the likelihood they will either officially be on the team or play a major part in the film’s narrative once The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars roll around.

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Sure Thing Avengers

Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange

Doctor Strange

With Tony Stark dead, Steve Rogers having lived out his life in the past, and Thor back off in space having his own adventures, the most seasoned and powerful hero the MCU has on Earth right now is the one-time Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Strange has been busy too, having recently appeared in one of the biggest film smashes of all time, Spider-Man: No Way Home, as well as headlined his own hit sequel last year, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It seems fair to say that no matter what the official Avengers line-up looks like when the next films arrive, Doctor Strange will be heavily involved in the proceedings.

The Hulk

Who would have guessed that after Bruce Banner got recast between his debut MCU movie (The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton) and his appearance in the first Avengers film (when Ruffalo took over the role) the big green lug would go on to become one of the MCU’s most reliable, long-term superheros? While most of those around him have died or retired, the Hulk just keeps on chugging, popping up recently in both a Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings credits stinger and as part of the cast of Disney+’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. It’s pretty clear at this point that while complicated contracts with Universal might prevent further Hulk solo movies, you absolutely can’t slow this guy down from guest-starring across the MCU. And the Avengers films are usually where he sees the most action.

Captain America (Sam Wilson)

With his first solo Captain America movie on the way, the one-time superhero known as Falcon seems primed to play a major role throughout The Multiverse Saga. It’s just not an Avengers movie without somebody named Captain America, and considering Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) was already a member of the team during his Falcon days, it feels safe to assume that he’ll take up the role now that he’s been promoted to Captain. Heck, he may even lead the team.

Captain Marvel

As one of the MCU’s most powerful heroes, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) played a big part in taking down Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. With The Marvels, the sequel to her $1.1 billion-grossing solo film now set for release this coming fall, there’s not much of a chance that Carol Danvers won’t play an even larger role in any Avengers-level events going forward.

Shang-Chi

There aren’t many newer Marvel characters we’d count as absolute locks for a new Avengers lineup. But considering Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings made $430 million at the box office while the COVID pandemic was still raging and that Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton has been hired to direct Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, we feel comfortable saying that Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is going to play a crucial role in the upcoming films. Further evidence: The guy is already on Bruce Banner and Captain Marvel’s radar, having hooked up with them during a Ten Rings credits stinger.

Probable Avengers

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Image via Marvel Studios

Thor

“Wait, wait, wait,” you’re saying. “How is Thor not a sure thing?” Well, Hemsworth has been in the MCU for a long time now. He’s way past his original six-film contract with Marvel and, with each Thor sequel that gets released, he seems a bit more reluctant to commit to returning for more. Could he be convinced to take a headlining role in another two Avengers films? Probably. But can we envision a version of these movies where Thor only drops in for a short cameo or maybe the final battle in Secret Wars? Yes, we can.

Spider-Man

Honestly, this all comes down to how well Marvel and Sony are playing together by the time these movies roll around. The agreement between the two companies to make Spider-Man films together reached its end after Spider-Man: No Way Home, and though studio chief Kevin Feige recently hinted that Marvel will still be overseeing ol’ webhead’s cinematic future, nothing has been made official. If you believe the reported details on the last deal that was made, Tom Holland still has one non-solo-film, MCU appearance left on his contract, regardless. Could that be one of these Avengers movies? We think it’s likely. (Also, if Sony would knock it off with the Morbius nonsense and finalize a new deal with Marvel, it’s not impossible we could see Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield show up too!)

Ant-Man

There are now three members of the Ant-Man family with bug-based powers running around the MCU. And while we suspect that both Evangeline Lilly‘s Wasp and Kathryn Newton‘s Cassie Lang will make appearances in The Kang Dynasty and/or Secret Wars, it’s Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who will remain the foremost member of the Ant-Man family when it comes to Avengers-related activities. The real question is whether someone in charge will finally let the notorious smart-ass officially join the team.

Ms. Marvel

While Ms. Marvel the series had its highs and lows, there’s no doubt that its biggest strength was Iman Vellani‘s infectious enthusiasm. To not eventually place Kamala Khan side by side with all the heroes she worships for an extended period of time would be downright criminal.

Hawkeye(s)

Oh, yeah, that’s right — there are now two Hawkeyes running around the MCU: Long-time Avenger Clint Barton (Renner), who really seems like he just wants to retire on his farm, and his young protégé, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), who took on the mantle at the end of Marvel Studios’ excellent Hawkeye TV series on Disney+. The odds of both showing up in any new Avengers movies seem decent (assuming Renner’s health continues to improve after his recent snowplow accident), but the chance of at least one of them being a full-fledged team number is much higher. And, if we had to bet which one, we’d put our chips on Bishop.

Maybe Avengers

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Yelena Belova

Considering Yelena (Florence Pugh) is the MCU’s reigning Black Widow after Natasha Romanoff’s death, it’s likely that Marvel has big plans for the Russian super spy. The problem is a large portion of those plans plans includes Thunderbolts, the upcoming film that will team up the MCU’s most notorious anti-heroes. Is Yelena a compelling enough character to be a full-fledged member of two different super teams? (We’d say yes because Pugh deserves all the movies. But we’re not Kevin Feige.)

The Fantastic Four

Marvel’s first family didn’t exactly set movie theaters on fire with its previous, non-MCU adventures, so Marvel is no doubt going to do all it can to make sure the MCU versions of these characters (which may or may not include John Krasinksi) resonate with audiences. If it works, expect to see them play a major role in any Avengers films going forward. If it doesn’t, they could get brushed aside in favor of the teams fans already like. Speaking of which …

The Guardians of the Galaxy

James Gunn will wrap up his space-adventure trilogy this coming May. We don’t expect all the Guardians to make it out alive, and we assume character arcs will be largely wrapped up for the ones who do. Still, you can make the case that the Guardians are just too beloved to keep any surviving members on the sidelines.

Scarlet Witch

It was a rough phase four for Wanda Maximoff, who got trapped in a nightmare of her own making in WandaVision before becoming a full-on villain in the Doctor Strange sequel (which ended with a mountain falling on her). Assuming she survived, it seems like the Scarlet Witch is due a redemption arc, and an Avengers movie would be a great place to give it to her.

Blade

Though many still think of Wesley Snipes when they think of Blade, Marvel’s vampire hunter will get fully rebooted when he joins the MCU in 2024 with Mahershala Ali taking on the role. The scheduling seems to suggest that Blade will be ready to play his part in the big showdown with Kang (Jonathan Majors), but we have concerns whether a character who traditionally patrols the darker corners of the Marvel universe can work in a big, colorful Avengers movie.

Moon Knight

Those same concerns are also in effect for Moon Knight, Oscar Isaac‘s broody superhero who battles not only bad guys but also his own dissociative identity disorder. Our guess is if Isaac says he’s game for an Avengers movie, Marvel isn’t about to tell him no. But Isaac also only famously signed a deal for just one season of Moon Knight. The big question here is: Does he want to be part of the Marvel universe at large?

She-Hulk

We had a blast hanging out with Bruce Banner’s Hulked-out lawyer cousin, Jennifer Walters a.k.a. She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany), in her self-titiled Disney+ show. But would her fourth-wall-breaking comedy antics make a good fit with a large-scale Avengers movie? We’re sure she’ll drop by for a quip or two, but making her a major player would require some serious tonal balancing.

Daredevil

For years, fans prayed that Charlie Cox would get to return to the MCU as The Man Without Fear. Their wish came true when he showed up briefly in Spider-Man: No Way Home. And then again when it was announced he’d be a part of both She-Hulk and Echo. Then Marvel revealed plans for a massive, 18-episode revival series — Daredevil: Born Again. It’s hard to predict that he’d be a major player in these upcoming Avengers films, but the current trajectory seems to suggest its possible.

Deadpool and Wolverine

We now know that Deadpool will be ported in into the MCU proper in 2024 and that he’s bringing Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine with him. Deadpool’s R-rated comic antics will make him a tricky fit, but it seems almost a certainty that Marvel will find a way to get Ryan Reynolds involved in the upcoming Avengers films. And if Reynolds is going to be involved — and if you’re truly looking to make a multiversal splash — you might as well put Jackman in there alongside the other Marvel heroes, too. The only thing we’re skeptical about is how big of a part they’d play, as just a little bit of Deadpool and Wolverine would go a long way.

Long Shot Avengers

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Image via Wētā FX

The Eternals

So, Marvel’s intergalactic team of god-robots didn’t exactly set the world on fire when their movie released last year, but Feige isn’t one to just give up on the characters he puts in play. Because of that, we expect to see at least some of the Eternals pop up again, likely in these Avengers movies. But in major roles? Oh, hell no. (Although if we had to pick one who deserves some break-out success, it’s Lauren Ridloff‘s Makkari.)

The Winter Soldier

Is it probable that Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) drops by a scene or two in one of these Avengers films? Absolutely. But is it likely that he’ll either be an Avenger or play a major role in the proceedings? Definitely not, especially since he’s already going to play a major role in Thunderbolts. We’ll just be happy getting a nice scene or two reuniting him with Mackie’s Cap.

War Machine

James Rhodes has been around since Iron Man, the very first MCU film, and has been a member of the Avengers before. But with his buddy Stark dead, we just can’t see Rhodey playing a major role going forward.

America Chavez

America Chavez’s (Xochitl Gomez) multiverse powers sure would come in handy against Kang, so we won’t be shocked if she gets roped into action at some point. But she just seems too new and too minor a character to expect Marvel to carve out a lot of screen time for her.

The X-Men

We know mutants other than Deadpool and Wolverine are coming to the MCU. A multiverse version of Professor X (Patrick Stewart) swung by in Multiverse of Madness, and Ms. Marvel revealed in a post-credits scene that its titular hero carries the mutant gene. But, as of now, no full-on MCU X-Men movie has been announced, and none are planned for Phase Five. Could Marvel fit in an X-Men team film in Phase Six and get more of those characters involved in the Avengers movies that will wrap up this saga? They could, but it would be a tight timeline. It’s also possible we’ll see Stewart and some of his friends make their way over from the old 20th Century Fox X-Men series, although we’d assume that would be extremely limited. (Possibly to just Stewart’s Professor X and Ian McKellen‘s Magneto?)

Captain America (Steve Rogers)

Hear us out. These Avengers movies are going to need something special that makes them feel like the can’t-miss events that Infinity War and Endgame were, and we’re a bit doubtful that just teaming up the current MCU heroes from screens both big and small is going to be enough. The easiest way to get butts back into seats is going to be to bring back one of Marvel’s biggest guns. Reviving Tony Stark would feel a bit cheap, plus Robert Downey Jr. will be 60 years old by the time these things come out. Reanimating Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is more likely, but if you really want to get Marvel fans salivating, there’s one clear hero to turn to: Steve Rogers. Yes, he’s an old man now, having lived out his days with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in the past. But it isn’t called The Multiverse Saga for nothing. Yes, it’s a long shot. But some multiverse shenanigans here, maybe a time-travel swerve there, and blammo — Chris Evans is back, baby. The audience would lose their minds, which is just the type of thing Marvel has been known to excel at. That’s why we can’t rule such a scenario out.

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