Marvel’s Moon Knight is a show full of mystery. One part of the show that is not a mystery, however, is whether Ethan Hawke—appearing in only the second regular TV role of his career—is a captivating screen presence when playing a villain. Hawke, who based his performance as the spooky cult leader Arthur Harrow on a combination of Steve Jobs, Carl Jung, and David Koresh, gives one of the more unusual and hypnotic Marvel performances, and the result is one of the most interesting performances Marvel has put on a screen.
Hawke isn’t the first Texan to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however. While we’ve yet to see a Texan take the lead in the MCU (though Matthew McConaughey came close to playing Doctor Strange!), a vast array of some of the state’s most significant actors have appeared throughout Marvel’s projects over the years. We’ve created a full ranking of every Texas actor to have a significant role in the sprawling franchise, from the least memorable to the most.
Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Captain Marvel (2019)
Pace, the lanky Houstonian who came to fame in the Hobbit series and AMC’s criminally underrated Halt and Catch Fire, is a good actor. You’d be hard-pressed to know that based on his performance in Guardians of the Galaxy, in which he spends the entire movie caked in blue makeup and glowering menacingly about his need to obtain a doohickey from the fun characters in the movie. Despite being the primary villain in the film, Pace doesn’t get much to work with in Guardians of the Galaxy, and his limited screen time in a flashback in Captain Marvel doesn’t offer Ronan much opportunity for redemption. If he’s brought back for a more substantial part in the future, he could slide up this list—he’s a compelling performer and the character of Ronan has potential—but for now, he’s bringing up the rear.
Zachary Levi as Fandral, Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Levi didn’t originate the role of Fandral, who is one of Thor’s buddy gods in the somewhat-overstuffed Thor series—that was an actor named Josh Dallas, who (despite his name) is not a Texan and departed the series after 2011’s first installment. Levi, a newly minted Texan, stepped in for the second two films. Fandral’s a fairly significant character in the Thor comics, but he’s not on-screen much in the movies (two brief minutes in The Dark World), and the character meets an ignominious end in the aptly titled Ragnarok, which means there’s just not a lot to recommend about Levi’s time in the MCU.
Scoot McNairy as Jackson Norris, Marvel One Shot: All Hail the King (2014)
Dallas-bred actor McNairy, like Lee Pace, is a Halt and Catch Fire alum. He also gets more to do in his Marvel appearance, despite the fact that the film he’s in is only fourteen minutes long. He plays a reporter assigned to interview the villain of Iron Man 3 in a short released in 2014 as a DVD extra. That short now lives on Disney+, and McNairy does a fine job in it—but it’s a short film, and Sir Ben Kingsley, who reprises his Iron Man 3 role, is the real center of attention. Kingsley’s presence puts McNairy in the unenviable position of being fine but forgettable in a movie that only the hardest-core Marvel completists have even seen.
Thomas Haden Church as Sandman, Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Church, a proud alumnus of Harlingen High School, first played a Marvel character in the pre-MCU Spider-Man 3. He reprised the role in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which brought him—at least briefly—into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (It’s a whole multiverse thing. You probably saw the movie; it grossed more than a billion dollars.) Church is one of the more likable elements in the generally grim Spider-Man 3, but as a Marvel character, he’s kind of a dud. He’s tasked with delivering dialogue straight out of a cut video game scene, and his motivations are murky throughout. Church is a terrific actor—he’s the first Oscar nominee on this list—but in his only proper MCU appearance, he’s underutilized among an extremely crowded cast.
Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains, Loki (2021)
Majors, the Dallas native who appears in Disney+’s Loki, gives an intentionally awkward performance in the final episode of the show’s first season. He Who Remains arrives at the climax of the season, confounding the episode’s heroes and setting in motion a bunch of shenanigans that’ll bear fruit in later MCU projects. Majors’s interpretation of the character is nervy and uncomfortable, a more decisive and interesting choice than most would have made in a part that ultimately comes down to monologuing his way through a deliberate anticlimax. Majors is set for a significant role in the entire Marvel universe in the years to come—he’ll be reprising his role in next year’s Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, as a different, more villainous version of the same character called Kang the Conqueror (again: it’s a multiverse thing), and we’d expect him to shoot way up on this list based on Majors’s work in other films. For now, though, He Who Remains landed with a bit of a thud in Loki, more of a tease of future work than a fully fleshed character unto himself.
Emma Fuhrmann as Cassie Lang, Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Like Levi and McNairy, twenty-year-old Dallas native Emma Fuhrmann spends a brief amount of time on-screen, in her appearance in Avengers: Endgame, in which she plays Ant-Man’s daughter. She is, however, at the center of one of the movie’s core emotional beats (she learns her dad didn’t get blipped, he was just trapped in the Quantum Realm!), and she ably carries that moment, along with movie dad Paul Rudd. Fuhrmann is the second actor to play Cassie Lang—the character aged five years between 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp and Endgame—and while her appearance is brief, it’s more memorable than most of the glorified cameos that clock in before hers on the list.
Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif, Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2014–15), What If . . .? (2021), and Loki (2021)
North Texas–raised Jaimie Alexander has popped up in a lot of Marvel projects for someone who plays a relatively minor character. She gets more to do than Levi in both of her Thor films, and her absence from Thor: Ragnarok means that her character is still alive—she’ll be reprising the role in this summer’s Thor: Love and Thunder. She was also one of just a handful of characters to cross over from the Marvel films to TV in the MCU’s pre-Disney+ days, on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—but her most memorable time in the franchise was in a sequence in Loki, when she displayed deft comedic timing in repeatedly beating the heck out of the impudent god. Alexander is still a Marvel backbencher at this point, but she’s had more fun in that role than most.
Powers Boothe as Gideon Malick, The Avengers (2012) and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2015–16)
Few actors can successfully chew scenery as embodiments of scheming patriarchal menace like Boothe, the West Texas native who famously did just that in westerns such as Deadwood and Tombstone throughout his storied career. Boothe, who died in 2017, was thus at home in the MCU as Gideon Malick. He spends most of his brief-but-memorable time in The Avengers as a face on a screen telling Samuel L. Jackson to nuke New York. Because Marvel’s creative operatives aren’t dummies, they created more opportunities for Boothe in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., fleshing out his character and adding a villainous backstory. We miss him every day.
F. Murray Abraham as Khonshu, Moon Knight (2022)
Hawke isn’t the only Texan in Moon Knight. The venerable, El Paso–raised, Syrian American character actor F. Murray Abraham serves as the voice of the Egyptian moon god, Khonshu (while Khonshu himself is a big ol’ CGI beastie). Abraham’s work on the show thus far is entirely off-screen, and Khonshu is one of the weirder creations in the Marvel universe—a cranky, ill-tempered, belligerent god who seems like maybe he just torments people for fun?—so it’s hard to say that Abraham is giving a truly great performance. He’s definitely giving Marvel its money’s worth, though, and we doubt we’ll forget Khonshu’s world-weary reaction to pretty much everything Oscar Isaac does in the series anytime soon.
Tony Dalton as Jack Duquesne, Hawkeye (2021)
The Laredo-born, Mexico-raised Dalton has only starred in a handful of English-language productions, but his turn as Hawkeye nemesis Jack Duquesne was a good one. Dalton spends much of the series oozing equal parts charm and menace, (literally) fencing with series stars Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner, and serving up some serious moral ambiguity. Hawkeye was lucky to have him.
Forest Whitaker as Zuri, Black Panther (2018)
The entire cast of Black Panther is packed with heavyweights, and Longview native Whitaker is as good as it gets in the only Marvel movie to get nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It’s no surprise that Whitaker is good in Black Panther (he’s got an Oscar for best actor on a shelf somewhere), but it’s notable that he created such a compelling and memorable character in Wakandan elder statesman Zuri while also being tenth on the film’s call sheet. There are good actors who end up in forgettable Marvel roles because their parts are under-written, and then there are great actors who take small roles and turn them into something unforgettable. Whitaker, it should surprise no one familiar with his body of work, is in the latter camp.
Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow, Moon Knight (2022)
Hawke’s turn as the leader of a cult of worshippers of the Egyptian god Ammit is one of the most interesting Marvel performances we’ve seen. One of the more successful (or perhaps confounding, depending on where this all winds up) parts of Moon Knight is that Arthur Harrow’s motives and actions don’t really seem much worse than the title character’s, making it easy to believe that Harrow is, from his own perspective, the hero of the story. Hawke plays the character as both eerily aloof and also unusually warm—how many super-villains have gushed to the title character about a lentil soup recipe?—and serves up the sort of complicated villain that is the hallmark of the best Marvel projects.
Tommy Lee Jones as Chester Phillips, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Tommy Lee Jones plays Colonel Chester Phillips, the World War II commanding officer of Steve Rogers, exactly the way you would expect Tommy Lee Jones to play a World War II Army colonel. Which means he’s pretty much perfect, no notes; let’s cast Tommy Lee Jones in everything and just keep letting him play his cranky self.
Jamie Foxx as Electro, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Like Thomas Haden Church, Foxx started his tenure as Spider-Man villain Electro in a franchise set outside of the MCU, but when the multiverse business of Spider-Man: No Way Home went down, Foxx leapt into the franchise. Unlike Church, who was good in his first appearance and flat in his second, Foxx went from being one of the least watchable super-villains to ever appear on-screen to one of the best—the No Way Home Electro is genuinely menacing, but also charming, funny, and sincere, with a believable motive (he wants to stay in the MCU, where he’s powerful, instead of back in the Amazing spider-verse, where he’s dead). Toward the end of the film, he shares one of the better scenes in the film with Andrew Garfield, a stunning redemption for a bad performance in a bad movie just seven years earlier.
Owen Wilson as Mobius M. Mobius, Loki (2021)
The character Wilson plays in Loki is a bit part from a 1990s comic, created as an inside joke among Marvel creators at the time. Owen Wilson, by dint of being Owen Wilson, infuses his Mobius with an effortless charm and an exasperated weariness that plays beautifully against Tom Hiddleston’s devious title character. So many of the best scenes in Loki are just Wilson and Hiddleston trading dialogue around a poorly lit conference table—scenes that shouldn’t work but do, because Owen Wilson is a perfect foil for just about everyone he’s ever on-screen against.
Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, Black Panther (2018)
Like all former Friday Night Lights cast members, Michael B. Jordan is forever a Texan in our eyes. The formula for putting him at the top of this list is simple: His performance as Killmonger is high on the list of the most nuanced and memorable performances in any superhero movie by anyone. Which Texan could you possibly rank ahead of him?