The Marvel Cinematic Universe is home to over twenty Academy-Award winning actors, with over thirty more having been nominated, showcasing the wealth of talent being attracted to Marvel Studios. With such a wide variety of diverse actors, it’s only obvious that many of them have worked on other great projects. Below are ten great movies starring one, or more, actors from the MCU.
1. Wind River (Jeremy Renner & Elisabeth Olsen)
Wind River was the directorial debut of Taylor Sheridan, most known for his screenplays – namely the Sicario movies and Hell or High Water. It is a crime thriller film and tells the story of FBI Agent Jane Banner (Olsen) investigating the murder of a young girl in the snowy Wind River Reservation. She enlists the help of Cory Lambert (Renner), who is an expert tracker and knows the area well. Both Olsen and Renner give great lead performances and the plot offers plenty of twists and turns. It leads to a rather violent finale but the action is good and with Sheridan’s purpose in raising awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women, it’s kind of hard not to offer a raw perspective.
2. Under the Skin (Scarlett Johansson)
Scarlett Johannson has been in a tonne of great movies outside of Marvel Studios but Under the Skin is the pick here, as it probably remains one of her more obscure films. Directed by Jonathan Glazer and featuring a cast of mostly non-actors, Johannson’s performance is the hook of the film. Johannson plays a humanoid alien who hunts and preys on men in Scotland. It may sound quite ludicrous, but the dreamlike, almost hallucinatory, state of the film is enthralling.
3. Dark Waters (Mark Ruffalo)
Todd Haynes directs one of Mark Ruffalo’s best performances in this dramatisation of the legal battle against the DuPont company. Ruffalo plays real-life lawyer Robert Bilott, who discovers the people of a small town have all been poisoned by chemicals distributed by DuPont. It’s a fascinating watch, especially if you don’t know the story in detail. Ruffalo is truly believable as a man stubborn in defiance against this huge corporation. Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins also star in good supporting roles.
4. The Party’s Just Beginning (Karen Gillan & Lee Pace)
As well as playing the lead and writing the script, The Party’s Just Beginning serves as Karen Gillan’s first directorial feature film. Also set in Scotland, Gillan plays Liusaidh, a young woman struggling to cope with her best friend’s suicide. However, when a mysterious man (Lee Pace) comes into her life, her outlook begins to change. It’s a surprising debut from Gillan and she’s not afraid to put Liusaidh through a lot of tough trials. However, the ending is hopeful and her performance is fantastic.
5. Natural Born Killers (Robert Downey Jr.)
Based on a Quentin Tarantino script (and being a movie he has now disowned), Natural Born Killers is a hyper-violent crime movie that follows characters played by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis. They kill a bunch of people in a diner before continuing their murder spree; one that is glorified by the press. Marvel breakout star Robert Downey Jr plays Wayne Gale, one of the reporters who has made the couple infamous. Downey is arguably the standout of the film – he seems to have a lot of fun with the character and it’s not often we see him in such a role. Although not for the faint-hearted, Natural Born Killers is worth it for the scene where Downey escapes during a brutal prison riot.
6. Snowpiercer (Chris Evans & Tilda Swinton)
Being a Marvel star, Chris Evans was an unlikely choice to lead Bong Joon-Ho’s first English feature debut, but he smashed it out of the park. Snowpiercer is set in the near future where the remains of humanity live on a constantly moving train. However, the train is set up with its own class structure – the poor are at the back of the train, whilst the rich are at the front. Evans plays Curtis Everett, who lives in the back of the train and leads a revolution with the intent of getting to the front. Standing in his way is Tilda Swinton’s excellent and dastardly Minister Mason, amongst others.
7. The Game (Michael Douglas)
Michael Douglas was a star long before Marvel cast him as Hank Pym. Although most well known from classic films such as Falling Down and Basic Instinct, Douglas’ work on The Game is worth watching. Directed by the legendary David Fincher as his follow-up to Seven, The Game follows banker Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas) as he participates in a game given to him as a birthday present. However, ‘the game’ becomes increasingly more dangerous and it’s not clear what the ultimate purpose is…
8. The Cabin in the Woods (Chris Hemsworth)
Produced by The Avengers’ Joss Whedon and directed by Daredevil’s Drew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods is full of Marvel connections. Chris Hemsworth is another addition to this genius play on horror tropes and stars as the generic jock of the teen group. However, in one of many subversions, Hemsworth’s character is also a Grade-A student and a genuine, nice guy all-around. The plot follows Hemsworth and his friends as they rent out the typical ‘cabin in the woods’ and become the targets of a bunch of horrible zombies. Yet, not all is what it seems. The many comical twists on the horror genre are what make this movie stand out and, even though Hemsworth is great, the film has much more to offer than his performance.
9. Black Mass (Benedict Cumberbatch & Corey Stoll)
Black Mass is a biopic about gangster Whitey Bulger, a man who controlled most of the crime in Boston back in the 70s. Johnny Depp stars as Bulger and Benedict Cumberbatch portrays his brother, William, who is a Senate President. Of course, being in office and having a crime lord as a brother doesn’t bode well for William and he struggles to keep his family life from his job. It’s an interesting gangster movie with stellar performances all round. Marvel villain Corey Stoll even appears as a tough prosecutor, as well.
10. Onward (Chris Pratt & Tom Holland)
Pixar’s latest release tells the story of two brothers (Marvel duo Pratt and Holland) who live in a fantasy world, full of pixies, centaurs and manticores. They play two elves who set off on a quest in an attempt to resurrect their dead dad. It’s not Pixar’s greatest offering, but it’s an enjoyable one. It relies mainly on the two lead performances and our Marvel superheroes do deliver. A particularly great scene involves the bravery of a rundown purple van.