Ten years ago today, Marvel Studios heralded its grand cinematic universe with the arrival of Iron Man. We’ve spent a decade watching the rise and fall of Marvel’s mightiest heroes and villains, but we’ve also spent a decade judging their fashion choices each movie. So, without further ado, here’s our favorite heroic fashions, ranked.
A few ground rules for this highly scientific and under-explained list: We’re covering movies only (sorry, Daredevil), primary costumed heroes only rather than supporting cast like Shuri and Okoye in Black Panther (which also means no villains, so sorry, especially to Hela), and “main” costumes only (sorry to the 70 billion Iron Man armors in Iron Man 3), if only to stop ourselves from completely losing it. But nonetheless, let’s get started with the ranking science!
Literally just underarmor. At least he got killed off so quickly we don’t have to put up with looking at this this travesty.
Oh, it’s so bad. That unfortunate-looking mask. The cheapness of it. This is really the best SHIELD could do after Steve was on ice for 70 years?
This isn’t even really a costume for any age of Groot, but I wanted to include just to really undercut how bad the costumes ranked below this are. Wearing nothing at all is better than them!
Serviceable, but just dull dull dull. The coat is at least a little more interesting, if a bit impractical for an archer. Also, the “purple” is more of a faded scarlet, which is so wrong for Hawkeye.
Literally just a pair of navy trousers and some boots, but even then: that’s better than the costumes ranked below this.
The ugliest Iron Man armor. Honestly looks like Tony just forgot to keep painting it halfway through.
Purple pants! Iconic. An upgrade to stretchable, breathable material. Simple design, executed well.
Flashy entrance, but still, looks unfinished. Too much silver, not enough of the good ol’ red-gold combo that makes Iron Man’s look.
Honestly, this might seem like low placement for high praise, but this is a really good militaristic take on the Cap aesthetic.
Good design, but once again, it’s the color scheme that dings this so low. Wayyy too much gold.
It’s pretty much his jumpsuit from Guardians, but in a much nicer shade of blue.
This is specifically not the costume from the first movie, but instead the rest of Star-Lord’s appearances, where he’s realized a shorter jacket cut works wonders for him.
This suit has a lot of rad tricks with all its nanotech enhancements, but from looks alone, it’s almost a little too fancy for its own good. There should be a little chunky roughness to a good Iron Man look, whereas this is a bit more Apple-ish.
Technically Mantis is the only Guardian with something that actually resembles a “superhero costume,” despite this just being her usual clothes, but still. Nice shades of green, good scifi sheen to it. Classy!
Sam’s design throughout his four appearances has barely changed, a testament to the overall quality of his designs. Practical, simple, and the wing/jetpack design is a great translation of how it works in the comics. Good example of a radical overall departure from the comics done well.
Often described as a “stealth” suit, the darker colors and minimal design work with the silver star offer a great modern take on the Cap design. Seriously, SHIELD helped design that awful Avengers suit and then came up with this what, a year later?
20) War Machine Marks 1 through 3 (Iron Man 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War)
Rhodey’s suits haven’t really actually changed that significantly in the ways Tony’s suits have, which is why they’re all bundled here (let’s ignore Iron Patriot, an ugly design for a good suit). It’s a good design that gets progressively sleeker but not too sleek, because, after all, you’ve got to slap more guns on it too.
Ditches the corset-like top from Guardians for a more casual assassin look, but really, it’s the coat that sells this—unlike Star-Lord, a longer coat works well for Gamora, style-wise.
Whether it’s the sleeveless or sleeved version of these looks, these are all solid interpretations of Thor’s classic comics appearances (sans his helmet, which barely appears in the MCU). Some iterations become a little too chunky for their own good, but they still work.
Finally, the proper shade of purple on Hawkeye! The one-sleeve look might look a bit odd at first, but it’s acceptable.
Simple, practical, and an excellent example of accessorising, in the form of a metal arm. The only real difference in the move to Infinity War is a new jacket and the Wakandan-enhanced arm, in a classy black and gold. Arms for all occasions!
Huge, chunky, and yet still all the classic design hallmarks of an Iron Man suit, a great take on a suitably hulked-up Iron Man. The Infinity War upgrade is a subtle difference, adding some sleekness, but it’s still mean-looking in a good way.
The suit itself is a little too overdesigned in its translation from comic page to big screen, but not enough to hamper it. The full helmet honors the classic comics look while also coming off much, much stronger.
Honestly, Natasha, you’re a spy. Why did you add a green vest to your costume? Nice hair, though.
Better than the comics version by a country mile, but still a little too Iron Man-ish for its own good. A metallic Spidey just feels wrong, inherently, but the deeper blue-and-red tones are gorgeous.
We’ve not even seen her in action yet outside of trailers, but this is still a great take on the Wasp’s costume from the comics, with the addition of a nifty helmet in the vein of Scott’s. Points off for the yellow being way too dark though.
Vision understands the power of a good cape. The cape itself has a lovely design, too, making up for the accurate but otherwise plain body.
It mostly works thanks to the cape, full of character itself whether it’s on Strange’s shoulders or not. Maybe one of the most faithful comics-to-movie designs in the MCU?
8) Black Widow (Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War)
Natasha Romanoff’s hair has changed more than her costume has over the years, but there’s been a ton of subtle tweaks to keep fresh what would otherwise pretty much just be a black jumpsuit. The Age of Ultron addition of silly neon strips, though, is a low point.
Although I’m on the record for being mad that the MCU gave Wanda a coat instead of her glorious comic cape, this is a huge bump up from the “Hot Topic Discount pile” aesthetic she was introduced with in Age of Ultron. The red is lovely. Agreed with Elizabeth Olsen though, in that the corset could probably do with being replaced.
Half cape! Seriously, it’s a good look, combined with the cool face paint and the sleek leather armor, this is a neat blend of Asgardian design sensibility and the sort of Kirbyian scifi befitting the planet Sakaar. The actual Valkyrie outfit she suits up for the final battle is also great, but it’s this outfit that’s the iconic look for the character—it’s even gone to the comics!
The only difference between these two is some unnecessary silver on the knee pads on the Mark 7, but otherwise this is the peak Iron Man look. Advanced enough from the original Mark 3 that it feels like a good upgrade on what was basically the “base” design, but it doesn’t go all the way in on sleekness, there’s still a few hard lines and rough edges to it that keep it from really straying too far.
Half cape. Exposed arms instead of the weird diamond-stitched armor. the added shoulder pad. Hair probably shouldn’t count as part of the costume, but considering it’s such a big departure from the rest of Thor’s previous aesthetic, it kind of does here (in a very good way). This is a rough-and-ready Thor that matches the God of Thunder’s looser personality in Ragnarok perfectly.
Plus, he can rock a mean eyepatch.
The best balance between the classic red/white/blue colors of Cap’s suit and the modernity of the Winter Soldier suit, this is a great take on an iconic comics hero. There’s a reason it’s actually lasted so many movies (even if it’s rather beat up by Infinity War).
Spider-fans may quibble about it being a Stark-made suit and things like the tiny emblem, but this is hands down the best cinematic Spider-Man costume. The colors are bold and bright, smart textural additions like the little belt pieces and shoulder armor break up the spandex a bit, and then there’s those glorious, emotive, telescopic eyes. Fantastic.
Hail to the King. Sure, Shuri mocks the old-school flavor of T’Challa’s Civil War design, but these are similar enough visually to be paired together. The base design is a wonderful take on Black Panther’s comics suit, adding little bits of detail where necessary. but not enough to make it too busy. The embedded necklace is a great homage to the comics too, and the Black Panther suit’s upgrade to a more feline-esque mask is a lovely touch. Wakanda (design group) Forever!