TV & Movies
Spoiler: Thanos doesn’t even make the top 30.
In the first three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thanos was revealed to be the greatest threat to the universe — and with good reason. After all, the guy did wipe out half of all life with a literal snap of his fingers. But in the wider world of the Marvel Comics, there are characters who are even more powerful than Thanos. Quite a few of them, actually. Ranked below are the 37 most powerful Marvel characters, and you may be surprised at some of the names on this list.
Perhaps the most unexpected thing about this list is the number of unrecognizable names on it. If you’re really into the movies or just a casual Marvel fan, you probably haven’t heard of a good number of these characters. That’s because many of the more popular figures, such as Iron Man, are plenty powerful — but only on a planetary level. The comics are littered with characters who possess universal or even multiversal-level power, some of whom are literally responsible for running all of existence. We’re talking cosmic abstracts, primordial inter-dimensional beings, gods, and demons. Real heavy hitters. So have a look at the below ranking of the 37 most powerful Marvel beings in the Marvel Universe, and see how many names you can recognize.
Some notes on the ranking: Obviously, this is largely subjective. Many of these characters are roughly equal in power, and most have not directly faced off against one another to prove who is more powerful. Criteria considered include established cosmic hierarchy, purported power levels, and feats — the latter to a somewhat lesser extent, as a character’s performance can vary greatly depending on who’s writing them at the time. Also, very powerful characters who essentially existed for one storyline — like Korvac, Protege, and Abraxas — were omitted from the ranking in favor of characters who have had more of a consistent presence. The list also mainly deals with characters from the Prime Marvel Universe of Earth-616 rather than other realities.
Right off the bat, here’s someone that you definitely know. The God of Thunder is unquestionably one of the most powerful conventional superheroes in the Marvel Universe, with his Asgardian physiology and godly birthright granting him some impressive abilities. Thor is physically one of the strongest characters in existence; he is nearly invulnerable to harm; and his hammer Mjolnir grants him control over the weather as well as access to massive amounts of destructive energy.
Another familiar face, Wanda Maximoff is one of the few Earth-born characters to make this list. In her earliest depictions, she was shown to be a mutant with the ability to cast probability-altering hexes, but as time went on, Wanda’s power and influence grew. She now is recognized as a wielder of chaos magic and a formidable reality-warper (she once erased nearly all mutants from existence with just a thought), and she’s been revealed as the Nexus Being of Marvel’s prime reality, Earth-616, making her a key figure in the functioning of the universe.
Another earthling (and MCU star), Doctor Strange holds the title of Sorcerer Supreme of Earth-616. As such, he’s a master of the mystic arts and one of the most powerful magic users in all of the Marvel Universe. His powers have varied greatly over the years and at times been difficult to define, but at his best, Strange can do almost anything. He frequently travels to other dimensions to do battle with ancient demons and cosmic beings, and has proven he can hang with just about anyone.
While Mephisto isn’t technically the devil, you’d be forgiven for thinking as much: He looks just like traditional Christian depictions of Satan, and encourages these comparisons himself. In reality, Mephisto is a powerful extra-dimensional demon who rules over a dimension called Hell. While he’s in his dimension, Mephisto is arguably unbeatable — but even when he ventures outside he’s extremely formidable, boasting inherent magical abilities, functional immortality, and reality-warping powers strong enough to create alternate universes. He also steals people’s souls, naturally.
The Elders are a disparate group of extremely ancient aliens, each of whom is the last survivor of their own race. These immortals been around since the Big Bang, and are among the oldest beings in the universe. Given their lineage, they have access to the Power Primordial, which is the leftover energy from the creation of the universe. Each Elder uses this power to their own effect, including two characters who’ve shown up in the MCU: The Collector, who uses his power to obtain objects, and The Grandmaster, who uses it to organize high-stakes competitions.
While Kurt Russell brought a certain amount of charm to this character in the MCU, the comics version is far more brutal. An anthropomorphized living planet, Ego has complete control over his entire planetary surface. He can create life from his biological material and command it to do his bidding, and he eats other celestial bodies for fuel. He also has vast psionic powers that allow him to do battle with cosmic entities and other powerful beings. He has sometimes been described as an Elder of the Universe, but unlike in the MCU, he is not a Celestial (more on them later).
Yep, Thanos doesn’t crack the top 30. (Kind of hard to believe, but it just goes to show how many incredibly powerful beings populate the Marvel Universe.) Thanos is a mutant Eternal from Titan, a moon of Saturn, and he naturally has incredible strength, durability, and powers of energy manipulation. His prowess alone makes him at least equal to someone like Thor, but what makes Thanos even tougher is his determination and cunning. Thanos has conquered the universe multiple times in the comics by gaining access to MacGuffins like the Infinity Gauntlet and the Heart of the Universe — and when he has those in his possession he is nigh-omnipotent, easily rocketing to the top five on this list.
Adam Warlock is basically Thanos’ mortal enemy, and these two have been going at it for decades. He was originally created by a team of scientists on Earth who were trying to build the perfect man — and ended up being a little too successful. Warlock became a cosmic being who has had to save the universe more than once. (An alternate-future evil version of him named Magus has also conquered the universe, but never mind that.) Warlock cannot die — at least not permanently — and he has loads of abilities tied to the universe, including matter manipulation, cosmic awareness, magical powers, and the capability to absorb and produce massive amounts of energy. He also is permanently bonded to an Infinity Stone, the Soul Gem, which grants further impressive ability.
Yes, that Zeus. In addition to the Norse gods, Marvel also taps into the pantheon of Greek gods (among others), making them into living, breathing characters. And sitting at the top of the Olympian hierarchy is Zeus. As one of the Skyfathers — the leaders of their respective pantheons — Zeus is a high-ranking cosmic being in the Marvel Universe. He possesses a high level of cosmic awareness, is absurdly strong and nearly impossible to hurt, and has vast magical abilities.
Surtur popped up in Thor: Ragnarok, and while he was nerfed in the beginning of the film by Thor, the climax of the movie showed the character’s true power. Surtur is a fire giant who rules over Muspelheim, one of the Nine Realms from Norse lore. He is the mortal enemy of Odin and Asgard, and is considered an equal to the Norse Skyfather. He is indescribably huge; he’s made of living fire’ he’s immortal; and he has complete control over fire. Naturally, he is capable of destroying Asgard, just as he does in Ragnarok.
You probably saw this one coming after the last two entries. While the Odin of the MCU has never really been shown to do all that much (save for banishing Thor from Asgard in the original Thor film), the comics version is a powerhouse. He is the leader of the Skyfathers and wields a considerable amount of power and influence in the cosmos. He basically has all of Zeus’ powers , but is even stronger, and has shown the ability to hold his own against cosmic entities like Galactus in combat. Odin also has access to the Odinforce, an incredibly powerful source of magic that allows the Asgardian God to do almost anything.
While Thanos is quite powerful, Dormammu is arguably the most powerful character to show up so far in the MCU. Dormammu is an extremely ancient and powerful magical being who is composed entirely of mystical energy. As such, his mastery over the mystic arts exceeds even that of Doctor Strange — even though Strange has used his cunning to defeat him on occasion, like in the film Doctor Strange. Dormammu is Lord of the Dark Dimension, and like other extra-dimensional beings, he is most powerful (and nearly unbeatable) in his home dimension.
Ranking just slightly above Dormammu is yet another magical creature whom Doctor Strange often faces off against — and one of the universe’s biggest threats. Zom is an extra-dimensional being who was created to destroy, but he was so powerful that he had to be bound by a group of other extremely powerful beings — including Dormammu. He has proven that he put down numerous Marvel superheroes at once, and has only shown weakness against some of the most formidable cosmic abstracts.
Chthon is one of the Elder Gods, and is arguably the strongest in their ranks. The Elder Gods (not to be confused with the Elders of the Universe) were the first intelligent beings on Earth, and they have access to considerable cosmic powers. Chthon’s power is so great that he is among the chief sources of magic in the universe (Scarlet Witch’s chaos magic powers derive from him), and he has some serious, universe-level reality-warping abilities. But, like other extra-dimensional beings, he is most powerful in his home dimension (which he created for himself).
Yet another extra-dimensional mystical being, Cyttorak resides in, and lords over, the Crimson Cosmos. There, he is omnipotent, and it’s unclear just how powerful he is outside it. But, at the very least, he can be described as “immensely powerful.” As he is confined to his own dimension, Cyttorak’s influence is mostly seen through objects that give users just a drop of his power — like the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak that gives the X-Men villain Juggernaut his tremendous strength and invulnerability, and the Crimson Brand of Cyttorak, which has been used by Doctor Strange to greatly augment his abilities.
Cosmic cubes, sometimes called tesseracts (not to be confused with the Infinity Stone-fortified tesseract of the MCU) are immensely powerful devices that offer universal-level reality-altering powers. The Shaper of Worlds is an evolved version of the very first cosmic cube, which was created by the alien race known as the Skrulls. Shaper is capable of altering reality and creating illusions that are indistinguishable from real life, and he has even been shown to craft entire alternate realities.
Rounding out our list of mystical extra-dimensional beings is the granddaddy of them all, Shuma-Gorath. Arguably Doctor Strange’s greatest and most dangerous foe, Shuma-Gorath belongs to an incredibly powerful, multiverse-dwelling race known as the Many-Angled Ones. He is one of the oldest beings in the multiverse and rules over an empire consisting of hundreds of dimensions. Inside his domain, he is immortal and nigh-omnipotent, and his mystical powers are so vast that he is capable of destroying entire realities.
In-Betweener is a cosmic abstract that was created to do the bidding of two other cosmic abstracts whom we’ll discuss later on, Lord Chaos and Master Order. As such, In-Betweener — whose appearance is half-black and half-white, split down the middle — represents both chaos and order equally, as well as basically all other diametrically opposed concepts (peace and violence, etc.). He possesses vast powers on a cosmic scale, but because of his signature dual nature, he has also been shown at times to be a more humble force.
Another cosmic abstract, Kronos was once one of the Eternals — a race of immortal, super-powered earthlings who evolved from human beings after they were experimented on by an ancient and all-powerful alien race known as the Celestials. A lab test gone wrong ended up destroying Kronos’ body and scattering his particles across the universe. The event bound Kronos to time itself, and he is able to use his universe-spanning powers to affect and control the flow of time.
Uatu, sometimes simply called “The Watcher,” is the most prominent member of a mysterious race of beings called the Watchers. The Watchers are believed to be the oldest living beings in the universe, and are tasked with observing the universe, but not interfering. Uatu, however, has interfered a ton over the years, using his vast powers to do so. He has access to untold amounts of cosmic energy, can read the mind of every being in the universe, and can travel anywhere instantly.
The Stranger is a cosmic entity who typically shows up alongside heavy hitters like Eternity, Galactus, and Lord Chaos and Master Order when big stuff is going down in the universe. He is mysterious and unknowable by design, and curious by nature. He is known for conducting experiments with his considerable cosmic power, and the result of one such experiment was Ego the Living Planet. He has incalculable strength and psychic powers, as well as cosmic awareness that borders on omniscience.
The Phoenix Force is an immortal, ageless, abstract cosmic entity that represents all life in the universe. It has a nearly unlimited amount of cosmic power at its disposal, is connected to all psionic energy in the omniverse (which includes every multiverse, pocket dimension, etc.) that has or ever will exist, and has the ability to create or destroy wide swaths of the universe. In most of its comic book appearances, the Phoenix Force performs its feats through the use of a host, with its favorite host being Jean Grey, the powerful, telekinetic X-Men member
David Haller, better known as Legion (star of the FX series of the same name) is an Earth-born mutant, and one of the most powerful mutants ever. That’s due in part to his lineage, as Legion’s father is the powerful telepath Professor X, the founder of the X-Men. Legion’s powers may be limitless, but since they manifest through different personalities (he has Disassociative Identity Disorder), he’s never reached his full potential. Still, Legion has been shown to control minds, manipulate time, and alter reality, among dozens of other feats, so that’s a pretty good start.
In the MCU, the Celestials have been briefly seen (remember the giant robot wielding the Power Stone in that Guardians of the Galaxy flashback?) and mentioned (Ego claims to be one, perhaps erroneously, in Guardians 2), but they’re a much bigger deal in the comics. Appearing as a race of massive armored alien robots, the Celestials’ existence predates the universe itself. For reasons known only to themselves, they have had a continued interest in mortal affairs; their ancient experiments on Earth created the Eternals, the Deviants, and the gene that led to mutants. Their access to cosmic energy is almost limitless and they’re nearly indestructible.
One of the most notorious Marvel villains in history — even if he isn’t technically evil — is Galactus. A cosmic abstract that is essential to keeping the universe in balance, Galactus must eat planets to sustain himself. Like the Celestials, he predates the current universe and is basically immortal. But Galactus is more powerful than a single Celestial, as he has unlimited access to the Power Cosmic, an awesome energy force that’s connected to everything in the universe. Galactus is able to use this power to do practically anything, and when he’s gotten in knock-down, drag-out fights with similarly-powered beings, the effects have rippled across all of reality.
As the mutant son of Fantastic Four members Reed Richards and Sue Storm Richards, Franklin was always destined for great things, but few could have predicted that the kid would become one of the most powerful beings in the multiverse. Franklin is, in a word, overpowered. Even as a kid he has shown the capability to restore a fractured reality and create entirely new universes, and a future adult version of the character displayed mastery over Galactus, battled and defeated multiple Celestials, and was considered an omniverse-level threat.
Rather than a single being, the Vishanti is a triumvirate of three incredibly powerful mystical entities. Together, they are nearly omnipotent and arguably the most powerful magic users in the multiverse. They are made up of Oshtur, an Elder God, Hoggoth, an ancient alien mystical being, and Agamotto, the original Sorceror Supreme and Oshtur’s offspring. The Vishanti frequently aid Doctor Strange in his quests and have shown themselves to be equal in power to at least some cosmic entities.
When it comes to feats, these two don’t really have a whole lot to show. But when it comes to reputation, well, that’s another story. The two cosmic abstracts are the embodiment of all of the love and hate in the multiverse, respectively, so you can imagine the amount of power that comes with that. In the cosmic hierarchy of the Marvel multiverse, Love and Hate are situated on the same level as the powerful Chaos and Order, and above such entities as Galactus and the Celestials. In other words, they’re extremely powerful, even if they don’t use their power often.
Sitting evenly with Love and Hate on the ladder of cosmic power is this pair of inseparable abstracts. Though they have no physical form, they are the literal embodiments of chaos and order, which govern all things — and unlike Love and Hate, the Lord and Master have shown a willingness to get involved in the matters of the multiverse. They have tried to gain more power for themselves and created The In-Betweener, a powerful cosmic being in his own right, to do their bidding.
Another cosmic abstract, Death, sometimes called Mistress Death, is the literal embodiment of Death. She has limitless cosmic power that allows her to manipulate time and reality, and she is immortal (if not technically actually alive). Every soul that dies comes under her control, and while she serves a key function in the universe, she has at times overstepped her bounds. The most notable was in the comics version of the Infinity Gauntlet saga. You see, it was her idea to wipe out half of all life in the universe to correct a cosmic imbalance, not Thanos’. He did it for her because he’s in love with her (not judging).
Two more cosmic abstracts that are inseparable are Eternity and Infinity, whom together encompass all that happens within the universe. Yes, you read that right. These are the literal concepts of reality and time, and they have unlimited power within this reality. Anything that exists they can manipulate and control, which naturally makes them just stupid powerful. But, as the pair are only ranked seventh on this list, things are about to get even more stupid powerful around here.
Yet another cosmic abstract, Oblivion is closely related to Death, Eternity, and Infinity, but there is evidence that Oblivion is more powerful than all of them. Oblivion is the manifestation of nothingness — the void. It existed before the multiverse and will exist after the multiverse dies. Its greatest desire is to see the end of all things, leaving it as the only thing there is. Oblivion has limitless destructive abilities, and has used avatars to conduct devastating feats. One avatar is Knull, the immortal King of the Symbiotes, while another is the Skyfather Amatsu-Mikaboshi, who became the Chaos King and destroyed around 98 percent of the multiverse with just a sliver of Oblivion’s power. That’s, uh, impressive stuff.
We have made it to the final human being on the list, and what a feat to make it to the top five! Let’s get a round of applause for the planet Earth. Molecule Man was a scientist named Owen Reece who suffered a lab accident that imbued him with powers of molecular manipulation. As everything is made of molecules, Molecule man can quite literally do anything, as he has complete control over all matter and energy that exists. Some cosmic entities fear him — and with good reason as he is wildly unpredictable.
The Living Tribunal is a multiversal being that sits atop the traditional cosmic hierarchy. Depicted as a towering golden humanoid with three faces each facing in different directions, the Living Tribunal is omnipotent and is tasked with acting as the chief arbiter over the multiverse. On matters of great import, he will cast judgment on other beings in order to protect the balance of the multiverse. He has passed judgment on beings as powerful as Eternity without batting an eye, and his cosmic powers are essentially limitless across the multiverse.
The Beyonder is an interesting character. So far, every figure discussed resides somewhere within the multiverse — but not the Beyonder. He comes from his own dimension located outside the multiverse, and he possesses complete omnipotence and can do anything. The character debuted in the 1980s storyline “Secret Wars,” in which he created a Battleworld where he pitted Earth’s heroes and villains against each other for his amusement. Recent ret-cons have revealed that the original Beyonder was merely a child of a race of Beyonders, and this race is so powerful that they were able to kill the Living Tribunal and had the capability to destroy the entire multiverse. Basically, Beyonders play by their own rules.
A newer character, having debuted just in 2018, The One Below All is the evil antithesis to the One Above All (more on that in a minute). It is the representation of all hate and destruction in the multiverse, and while it has no actual mind of its own, it seeks to become all there is. A portion of it exists within everyone, and its powers are limitless. The only thing keeping The One Below All from running roughshod over the multiverse is the fact that it is bound to the Below-Place, the lowest level of reality, by The One Above All.
Here it is, numero uno in the Marvel Comics universe. And frankly, it isn’t even close. The One Above All is basically the closest thing to the Judeo-Christian God in the Marvel Comics. It created the omniverse and everything in it — including the Beyonders and, presumably, the One Below All, and possesses complete omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. It rarely intervenes in events and has appeared in both male and female forms, but has most often been drawn to resemble Jack Kirby, the co-creator of many Marvel characters alongside Stan Lee. This suggests that The One Above All represents the Marvel writers themselves — the ones who truly decide what happens to the characters on the page.
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