In this ranking of the best Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’m looking at the most heroic characters the characters have to offer – except for the Guardians of the Galaxy, Daredevil, and Agent Carter. They’re worthy entries in a broader “hero” list but for my purposes, they need to be an Avenger or at least have a deeper affiliation with the group.

Everyone has personal preference but I’m going with through and through heroism. They need to contribute something great to the act of being a superhero. Who are the ones Superman would stand next to and proudly call an ally? That’s the mindset I’m headed for here. Like the Villains list, I’m ignoring minor characters. Let’s get started on the characters that allow me to still believe in heroes:

*SPOILERS FOR AGE OF ULTRON AHEAD.

12. Nick Fury

He’s made some mistakes along the way but Nick Fury was able to spin his morally grey ideologies into something bigger and better for humanity by assembling the Avengers Initiative. There’s a lot he has to answer for, but we’ve got to give Fury his props.

11. Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff)

 I loved this Quicksilver in Age of Ultron. The character is more than just a set piece and actually contains a wonderful story arc in the midst of all the action in the Avengers second outing.

10. Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff)

A total Whedon character, filled with the sort of looney goodness you get in a super powered character with loosely defined powers. The under-explanation of her powers doesn’t stop the character from proving to be one of the most powerful additions to the universe, all the while establishing herself as an emotionally powerful hero in her own right.

9. Vision

An artificial intelligence, functioning with a higher understanding of our own reality than we will ever achieve. The character could function as a deus ex machine plot device but there’s a celestial touch to it that helps the Avengers understand what they’re facing.

8. War Machine/Iron Patriot (James Rhodes)

We all love Rhodey! Terrence Howard was a fun presence in the first movie. He’s always willing to step into the line of duty and watch the back of Tony and hopefully other Avengers in the near future.

7. Thor

 The might Thor falls into a category of a hero being better than his own movies. I do love the first Thor movie with the heroes journey of self-discovery, but his standalones haven’t understood him quite like the Avengers movies have. When he’s written well, the character presents a regality and unwavering loyalty to his allies. Anyone would be lucky to head into battle with Odinson.

6. The Hulk (Bruce Banner)

 Poor Banner. It’s not his fault he has an uncontrollable rage monster living in his skin suit. Bruce Banner is the kindest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, an everyman who happens to be a brilliant scientist. He learns to keep his beast under control, but there’s always the potential for him to lose his cool at any given moment. When the Hulk is unleashed for a “code: green” situation, it’s Hulk at his most heroic. Unfortunately, we know that’s not always the case.

5. Iron Man (Tony Stark)

 If we could sum up Tony Stark in one phrase, it’d be “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.” But that’s not wholly what defines Stark. He’ll try and create a better world through his own means. They may not always work.

4. Falcon (Sam Wilson)

Sam Wilson is literally the best wingman. He doesn’t have a suit of armor or prior friendship to any Avenger. He knows Captain America needs help and answers the call. He’s a true soldier, looking to protect and serve in the best possible way.

3. Hawkeye (Clint Barton)

Clint Barton doesn’t have much to do in the first Avengers. We all know this. But his character’s story in Age of Ultron (no spoilers here) shows why Hawkeye is essential to the team. He may be just an ordinary guy in the line of duty, he’s the beating heart of the group.

2. Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff)

Natasha Romanoff had red in her ledger. She’s spent her time in the MCU trying to wipe it out. A dark past haunts the character but her perseverance to do better is a refreshing take to the “anti-hero” trope. I wouldn’t be surprised if we got to see her carry MJOLNIR at some point to prove how worthy she’s actually become.

1. Captain America (Steve Rogers)

This is a no brainer. He knows the price of freedom is high. It’s a price he’s willing to pay. When all the Avengers come under a single unit to stop worldwide threats, there’s a reason Captain Rogers is the one to lead the way. He’s THE Avenger. He’s not just a powerful soldier taking orders, he’s first and foremost a good man. Captain America is one of the definitive reasons kids look up to superheroes.