The 7 best and 6 worst couples in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ranked
The Marvel Cinematic Universe contains many couples, some worth rooting for and others who miss the mark.
Insider's Kirsten Acuna and Olivia Singh rounded up the MCU's best and worst couples.
Actor performance, chemistry, and character compatibility went into consideration.
Best, No. 1: Steve Rogers/Captain America and Peggy Carter
Singh: Steve and Peggy were always endgame.
Ever since Steve was put on ice in the '40s and woke up in the 21st century, he's always been a man displaced in time, constantly trying to catch up on the decades of history he missed out on.
Peggy was the constant in his life, both during war times and in modern-day America, when she had aged and her health was declining.
Because Peggy met Steve prior to him taking the super-solider serum, she's one of the few people who saw him for who he was.
Sure, Steve had no shortage of admirers after he got jacked, but Peggy knew him as the scrappy, 90-pound asthmatic who had a strong moral compass. She saw Steve for his determination to succeed in the face of adversity and his willingness to sacrifice himself for the safety of others.
Even though "Avengers: Endgame" was criticized for being three hours of fan service, Steve and Peggy's happy ending, and long-postponed dance, was so satisfying.
Acuna: Is there anything more romantic than going back in time to be with the love of your life?
I'm not sure if Steve's small act of selfishness ultimately resulted in timelines branching off, but seeing the two dance at the end of "Endgame" makes me misty-eyed every single time knowing that these two finally had their date that was 70+ years in the making.
Best, No. 2: Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and Vision
Singh: On paper, a witch and a synthezoid seem like an unlikely romantic pair. Wanda herself acknowledged they're "an unusual couple" on "WandaVision."
And yet, Wanda and Vision work on such a deep level, making them one of the best pairs in the MCU.
No other Marvel couple has a dynamic so deeply rooted in heartbreak and grief (remember when Wanda had to kill him in "Avengers: Infinity War" only to relive his death seconds later?) and it's what makes them stand out from the rest.
Wanda and Vision's relationship spawned some of the franchise's most memorable, profound quotes, namely: "What is grief, if not love persevering?"
And yet, even with all the tragedy, there were still moments of levity between them, like the paprika scene in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and the early episodes of "WandaVision" — before we learned Wanda was controlling an entire town and forged a new version of her twice-dead synthezoid lover using just her powers.
Acuna: I truly thought this was going to be the strangest MCU relationship, but four words in "Avengers: Infinity War" convinced me otherwise: "I just feel you."
Wanda and Vision became one of the most tender, healthy, and, ultimately, heartbreaking couples.
Vision helped make the most powerful Avenger feel confident and comfortable in her own skin when so few made her feel seen.
Perhaps they were drawn to each other because Wanda's powers came from the gem in Vision's head. Regardless, he was one of the few who took the time to get to know Wanda as more than a powerful weapon and who wanted everyone else to see and accept her the way he did.
I'll never get over the little palm kiss Vision gave Wanda in "Infinity War." Though he was an AI, Vision's love for Wanda often felt more human than that of most relationships.
Best, No. 3: Tony Stark/Iron Man and Pepper Potts
Acuna: Tony may be a self-claimed "genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist," but he's nothing without his ride-or-die secretary-turned-CEO of Stark Industries, Pepper Potts. HR nightmare aside, Pepper grounded this overgrown manchild and helped transform him into the hero who eventually sacrificed his life to save the world.
An inevitable love, Pepper and Tony tried to fight and deny their obvious attraction to one another for years. When it came down to it, Pepper understood and accepted Tony completely. Though he drove Pepper nuts, there wasn't anyone else she would rather go to the ends of the Earth for and vice versa.
There wasn't a dry eye in the theater when Tony recorded a video near the start of "Endgame" telling Pepper that when and if he drifts off to his forever slumber, he'll dream of her. Always her. Simp Tony was the best Tony.
Plus, they have the best MCU couple name: Pepperony. We love that 3,000.
Singh: When I think of Tony and Pepper, there's an adage that immediately comes to mind: "Behind every great man is a great woman."
A solid argument could be made for Pepper playing a large part in turning Tony into the self-sacrificing Avenger who risked it all. He probably wouldn't have had the same character arc in the MCU without her.
One of my favorite things about this couple is that they didn't stifle each other and instead allowed each other to become their best selves.
For Pepper, this meant turning into a total boss and fighting alongside Tony in her very own suit in "Endgame." For Tony, this meant using his tech genius for good (we all saw what happened in "Age of Ultron") in "Endgame."
They understood each other inside and out, and this was best summed up by Pepper in "Endgame," when she said: "Tony, trying to get you to stop has been one of the few failures of my life."
Best, No. 4: Peter Quill/Star-Lord and Gamora
Acuna: I've rooted for Gamora and Peter ever since he selflessly launched himself into space to save her from dying in the first movie without considering his own safety in the process.
There's something so relatable about the "unspoken thing" between the two that they danced around and refused to acknowledge for years. But the two didn't need to outwardly express their love. It was innate.
From the way Peter and Gamora looked at one another, there was never a question they'd risk anything and everything for each other without batting an eye.
It was horrifying to watch Gamora die at her dad's hands shortly after she and Peter were forced to finally speak their feelings for each other aloud. Their love served as a reminder to say how you feel for someone before it's too late.
Singh: I just love Peter and Gamora's first interaction, in which she beats him up in an attempt to acquire the power stone.
But on a serious note, Gamora and Peter bring out the best in each other. She amplifies his good qualities that are a little hidden underneath the surface of his cockiness, like his ability to be a selfless hero. And Peter's affinity for music slowly brings out Gamora's inner dancer and more vulnerable side.
It's also not easy for Gamora to open up considering that she's spent most of her life surrounded by her enemies.
But the Guardians, and particularly Peter, break through her tough exterior.
Acuna: Whenever I think of Peter and Gamora, I think of their sweet dance in "GOTG Vol. 2" to Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me" and how they were ripped apart too soon. Darn you, James Gunn, and your impeccable music selections. Starmora forever.
Best, No. 5: Clint Barton/Hawkeye and Laura Barton
Singh: Maybe you slept on this couple while watching the hot mess that was "Age of Ultron." Similar to Clint Barton being the underdog of the Avengers, his and Laura's relationship flies largely under the radar but may actually be one of the healthiest in the MCU.
Here, we have a superhero with an entirely separate personal life, comprised of a wife, kids, and a peaceful farmhouse. Even though there's so much mystery surrounding the couple, the standalone Disney+ series "Hawkeye" provided more context on Clint and Laura's relationship and solidified their place as one of the best, most underrated Marvel pairs.
If you thought Laura was simply an accommodating housewife based on her appearance in "Age of Ultron," think again.
The "Hawkeye" series demonstrated that she's more complex than that and her relationship with Clint is more balanced than others we've seen in the MCU.
Phone calls shared between the two on the show indicate that they have trust, understanding, and agency to do whatever they think is best for their family. The season one finale including the major reveal that Laura's S.H.I.E.L.D. codename was Agent 19, known as Mockingjay in the comics, added an additional layer of intrigue to her and her relationship with Clint.
Acuna: I'd happily watch a prequel season of "Hawkeye" where the two of them were a spy couple. They give off "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" vibes.
Everyone loved to pick on Hawkeye for being the "worst Avenger" or lamest Avenger, but it's pretty impressive that Clint was the only superhero who kept his work life completely separate from his family.
It turns out he was the hero who had it together the most.
Best, No. 6: Peter Parker/Spider-Man and MJ
Singh: Don't overlook Peter and MJ just because they're teens.
Despite their ages, these two have been forced to grow up much faster than their peers because of their unusual circumstances (aka world-threatening events happening far too frequently). They're young, but they've shown so much maturity, empathy, and understanding.
There's also just something so sweet and wholesome about how Peter and MJ's relationship evolved from casual acquaintances at school to partners trying to save the world together.
I love that MJ's lack of superhuman abilities doesn't make her any less capable of teaming up with Peter/Spidey. Gone is the passive, damsel-in-distress version of MJ.
Aside from loving each other for who they are, Peter and MJ are teammates and have each other's backs no matter what.
Here's hoping they find their way back to each other, even after the events of "Spider-Man: No Way Home."
Acuna: Once they got past their adorable awkward stage and revealed their feelings for one another, Peter and MJ had a more mature high-school relationship than most teens and adults in the MCU. (Peter and Gamora could've learned a thing or two from them.)
I mostly loved how these two balanced one another out. MJ's calm, cool demeanor relaxed Peter who could easily become overwhelmed or stressed at the littlest of things. That's the best thing a partner can do for you, anticipate your needs and be there for you.
Best, No. 7: Druig and Makkari
Acuna: The few fleeting moments between Druig and Makkari in "Eternals" contained more chemistry than any scenes between Gemma Chan with Robert Madden or Kit Harington's characters in the Marvel movie.
The two exchanged glances like smitten high schoolers, giggling and having googly eyes for each other. Even fans suggested the pair's flirtation across centuries felt more palpable than that of Ikaris and Sersi.
It was more impressive to learn the romance was only added to the movie after director Chloé Zhao noticed the natural chemistry between the stars and thought they should "play into it."
It makes me sadder to know that some Makkari scenes were cut from the final movie. Release them on Disney+!
Singh: Druig and Makkari's relationship was the best part of "Eternals," aside from Harry Styles' not-so-secret appearance as Thanos' hot brother in the end-credits scene. Their romance was so magnetic that they made Sersi and Ikaris feel like a snoozefest in comparison.
If this list was ranked solely based on chemistry, Druig and Makkari would be No.1, hands-down. "Eternals" didn't give enough screen time to explore this relationship, but Barry Keoghan and Lauren Ridloff portrayed their dynamic in such a tender and charming way in the moments that they were given.
Every time I saw Druig and Makkari's playful moments of affection, I felt butterflies in my stomach. Their relationship is even more endearing knowing that Druig and Makkari's relationship was featured more prominently than originally intended because of the actors' undeniable chemistry.
Worst, No. 1: Steve Rogers/Captain America and Sharon Carter
Singh: Does this pairing even need an explanation for why it's the absolute worst? Somehow Steve Rogers ended up being part of the best and worst ships in the MCU thanks to his short-lived romance with Peggy Carter's great-niece.
This was unforgivable and, frankly, inappropriate considering that it happened after Peggy's death in "Captain America: Civil War."
Even Hayley Atwell, who portrayed Peggy, agreed that it was unnecessary and said it "crosses an incestuous boundary."
"First of all, she'd be turning over in her grave," Atwell said of how her character would react to Steve and Sharon's kiss while at Dallas Comic Con Fan Expo in 2016. "She'd be like, 'No.' And she'd inject herself with the blue serum and become a supervillain. She'd break out of her coffin and ground [Sharon]. She'd ground her. Then she'd kick Steve's ass as well."
For her part, Sharon actor Emily VanCamp, was a bit more forgiving, telling Collider in 2021 that she did question if they were going too far and should have opted for an "amicable, friendly moment" instead.
"I mean, look, you have to laugh," she said of the backlash to the kiss in a 2021 interview with Variety. "Some of these storylines play and some of them don't."
Acuna: Everything about this pairing felt gross.
Steve Rogers comes off as this pure and righteous symbol of freedom in the MCU. It seemed to go against his character to show him thirsting after Peggy's great-niece. I get it. He originally didn't know they were related, but the writers knew what they were doing.
It was weird Steve continued to pursue her after he knew she was related to Peggy. It was like, 'Well, if I can't be with Peggy, I guess I'll be with the next best thing!" No thank you.
Worst, No. 2: Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Bruce Banner/Hulk
Singh: There are so many reasons why "Age of Ultron" was panned, and the romance between Natasha and Bruce was one of its biggest missteps.
The brief best-friends-to-lovers romance was born out of Nat being the only one who was able to calm Bruce's rage and de-Hulk him. That's a reasonable basis for two characters to form a connection, but it certainly didn't need to go in a non-platonic direction.
Nat and Bruce's short-lived romance felt too forced, as if writer-director Joss Whedon included it as a way to give the characters a joint subplot in the blockbuster sequel.
It's especially hard to rewatch the "Age of Ultron" scene in which Bruce told Nat she wouldn't have a future with him because he was viewed as a threat everywhere and was incapable of having kids.
In response, Nat revealed she too was unable to have kids because she was sterilized as part of the Black Widow Program.
"You still think you're the only monster on the team?" she said.
Ever since Nat's first MCU appearance in "Iron Man 2," it felt like those in charge of writing her character for the films couldn't land on a way to give Nat her own storyline that didn't involve a man.
Johansson herself criticized the "hypersexualization" of Nat in the aforementioned movie, saying that the character was "talked about like she's a piece of something, like a possession or a thing or whatever — like a piece of ass, really."
Acuna: I have a lot of issues with how the MCU depicted Nat. Her "Beauty and the Beast"-like pairing with Bruce is just one of them.
Any time I think of Nat and Bruce, I think of the awful Joss Whedon-directed scene in which Bruce unnecessarily — and grossly — falls directly into Black Widow's chest for a cheap laugh. The same scene was replicated in Whedon's cut of "Justice League."
Worst, No. 3: Ikaris and Sersi
Acuna: The most boring couple in MCU history, the Sersi and Ikaris pairing was so awkwardly forced that "Eternals" needed to show a sex scene between the two to prove they loved each other and I still wasn't buying it.
These two were supposed to have known each other for 5,000 years but surprisingly didn't have a foundation of trust.
Their relationship felt toxic once we learned Ikaris left Sersi because he couldn't be truthful with her about their duties to let the Earth be destroyed.
When she and the other Eternals discovered the truth, instead of talking things out, Ikaris immediately turned on his family and decided to kill everyone, including Sersi, just so he could carry out a job. Ikaris? More like Ick-aris.
If I was Sersi, I'd be embarrassed I couldn't figure out my centuries-long lover was a baddie.
Singh: This was just another nail in the coffin for one of Marvel's weakest entries, "Eternals." Despite a montage showing Sersi and Ikaris' centuries-long romance, and Gemma Chan and Richard Madden being friends in real life for more than a decade, their on-screen relationship just didn't feel believable.
Sersi and Ikaris' PG-13 sex scene being touted as the first sex scene in an MCU film was also an unnecessary major talking point of the movie.
Worst, No. 4: Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange and Christine Palmer
Acuna: I used to love this couple and rooted so much for Stephen to find his way back to Christine.
But after a back-to-back rewatch of the two "Doctor Strange" films, I came to an unsettling realization: Stephen Strange is a creep, trying to hold onto a love that doesn't exist and that never really existed outside of the rose-colored fantasy he conjured in his mind.
Stephen never treated Christine as an equal during their time together. Time apart made Stephen believe they shared something that wasn't really there.
The audience is expected to empathize with him as he evolves from a complete narcissist to a slightly more thoughtful human, but it doesn't change or excuse the way he treated Christine.
By the end of the first movie, it's clear Christine no longer has feelings of romantic love for Strange. It's transitioned into one of friendship.
Singh: Christine said it best in the 2022 sequel when telling Stephen, "You have to be the one holding the knife. And I always respected you for it, but I couldn't love you for it."
It was always obvious Christine and Stephen weren't a good match.
After mounting frustrations about his injury and recovery, this man bluntly said: "We are not friends, Christine. We were barely lovers." Yet, she was the one that he ran to for immediate help in keeping his physical body alive.
Then, Stephen chose Christine's wedding reception in "Multiverse of Madness" to tell her he wished he'd been different and that he never stopped caring about them, but had to make sacrifices to protect her. Like, buddy, this ship has sailed. She's married and over you. She was just being far too courteous by inviting him to her wedding, especially after they lost touch.
Acuna: I can't believe Stephen made Christine's wedding all about him. The moment a monster takes over New York City, he just had to make a showy exit off of a balcony in front of guests. Most Avengers would've made a subtle departure. How rude and unfair to someone he claims to love. Personally, I love Stephen, but the man's clueless.
Though he's an all-seeing master of the mystic arts, Strange simply can't see what everyone else does. Despite his dashing good looks, his know-it-all personality and penchant to correct someone the moment they're wrong isn't cute or desirable. It sucks.
Worst, No. 5: May Parker and Happy Hogan
Acuna: I couldn't have been the only person who thought the Happy and Aunt May pairing felt forced for no real reason other than comic relief.
From the moment May was introduced in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War," audiences were told to think of her as an "unusually attractive" guardian to a teenager (as if aunts aren't typically attractive or aren't supposed to be considered so).
Singh: We understand that May and Happy's fling functioned for laughs amid the weightiness of the larger stories in the "Spider-Man" films, but the MCU continuously reduced her to little more than Peter's unexpectedly hot aunt.
What began as an off-handed comment from Tony Stark in "Civil War" ("It's so hard for me to believe that she is someone's aunt."), escalated to a cheap running gag in 2017's "Spider-Man: Homecoming." Everyone from a deli owner (describing May unnecessarily as "a very hot Italian woman") to a waiter at a Thai restaurant, fawned over her.
By the time she and Happy began their summer fling in "Spider-Man: Far From Home," I was over it.
Acuna: Yeah, the personification of Aunt May as the "hot aunt" wasn't funny or cute. It was insulting, and, if you've been a woman in those situations, irritating. So many of May's scenes resulted in cheap or uncomfortable laughs. It seemed like Marvel and Sony Pictures didn't know what else to do with her.
Strong, independent women don't need to have a love interest to be happy. Just let women be attractive without treating them like eye candy. Aunt May deserved better.
Worst, No. 6: Scott Lang/Ant-Man and Hope Van Dyne/Wasp
Singh: Scott and Hope aren't a terrible couple, but it's the disappointing lack of evolution and development in their relationship that land them on this list.
Seeing them fight side-by-side as a duo in the second "Ant-Man" film was a joy and the franchise's title change to include Wasp felt warranted as the character moved to the forefront.
But Scott and Hope's partnership fell to the wayside in the third installment of the franchise, "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."
The movie felt more like a setup for Kang the Conqueror's reign, with Jonathan Majors taking the spotlight and characters like Hope feeling secondary within the story.
With Scott and Hope split into separate paths for most of the "Quantumania" (Scott with his burgeoning superhero daughter Cassie and Hope with her parents), there was little growth in their relationship.
Sure, Scott and Hope did eventually come together to fight Kang and somehow defeat him (for now) despite being completely underqualified for the task.
But "Quantumania" did nothing for their evolution, or Hope's for that matter.
Even actor Evangeline Lilly said that she struggles to understand Hope's identity.
"She's changed so much over the three films that I've often found myself a bit lost and uncertain that I'm really clear on who she is," Lilly told The Hollywood Reporter in February 2023.
Acuna: I felt nothing towards Scott and Hope in "Quantumania." The few scenes between them that were supposed to be sentimental (aka any time Hope entered the scene to save Scott) rang hollow.
Hope and Scott strike me as a boring couple in a loveless, complacent marriage. They're only staying together due to a shared trauma as a result of the Blip.
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