The Marvel Cinematic Universe has assembled the largest cast of any franchise in the history of cinema, spanning hundreds of actors who have appeared throughout the series’ fifteen-year history. In that time, Marvel Studios has become known for including various cameos and repeated appearances for its most notable characters, some of whom have shown up in a whopping number of projects since their debut. However, while almost any actor who has appeared in one MCU project has a chance of appearing in another, there are a few individuals who have solidified themselves as the most frequently recurring stars in the franchise (other than King of Cameos, Stan Lee, that is).
The MCU kicked off Phase 1 in 2008 with the release of Iron Man and hasn’t slowed down since. Over the course of the next eleven years, the series built what is now referred to as the Infinity Saga, which consists of twenty-three films and several loosely connected television series like Agents of SHIELD. The Multiverse Saga has only added to the number of films and series, with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever marking the thirtieth film in the MCU. As Phase 5 begins, the race for the most frequently appearing MCU actor can change at any time, with a litany of projects for talent to build up their respective resumes.
10 Cobie Smulders – 8 Appearances
Cobie Smulders’s SHIELD agent Maria Hill has quietly worked her way up the ranks of the MCU cast, racking up eight appearances throughout the franchise. Beginning with The Avengers, Hill has since appeared in multiple films and even became one of the biggest MCU cameos in Agents of SHIELD, appearing in multiple episodes throughout the show’s run. Smulders even returned to voice her character in the animated What If…? anthology series, marking her most recent appearance in the MCU thus far. Maria Hill’s time in the franchise is far from over, however, with Smulders’s ninth MCU appearance confirmed to come later this year in the Disney+ series Secret Invasion.
9 Sebastian Stan – 8 Appearances
Sebastian Stan portrays James Buchanan Barnes in the MCU, Steve Rogers’s best friend and the Winter Soldier. Beginning with Captain America: The First Avenger, Stan has portrayed Bucky Barnes for well over a decade, with no end in sight. A character with a long and storied timeline in the MCU, Bucky Barnes has appeared in eight projects so far, including all three Captain America films, the latest two Avengers projects, the post-credit scene of Black Panther, the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and What If…?, with Stan returning to voice his character. The upcoming Thunderbolts project is also confirmed to include Stan, which will mark appearance 9.
8 Scarlett Johansson – 9 Appearances
Beginning her run all the way back in 2010, Scarlett Johansson made her first MCU appearance in Iron Man 2, setting in motion a long and celebrated career as Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow. Over more than a decade in the franchise, Black Widow stood alongside more powerful Avengers, proving all the more impressive with each new film. Despite Romanoff’s heroic sacrifice in the second act of Avengers: Endgame, Johansson returned for a swan song in Phase 4’s Black Widow, marking her ninth and final appearance in the franchise, which includes all four Avengers films, two Captain America movies, and a cameo in Captain Marvel‘s post-credits scene.
7 Don Cheadle – 9 Appearances
James “Rhodey” Rhodes, also known as the War Machine and the Iron Patriot, may have been portrayed by Terrence Howard in Iron Man, but Don Cheadle is the actor that viewers most commonly associate with the role. Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as Rhodey in Iron Man 2, beginning a long career in the MCU. Since the recast, Rhodey has appeared in nine Marvel projects, including three Avengers films, two Iron Man sequels, Captain America: Civil War, Captain Marvel, What If…?, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Furthermore, Cheadle is confirmed for at least two additional projects, Secret Invasion and Armor Wars, so it’ll soon be 11.
6 Chris Hemsworth – 10 Appearances
Beginning with the 2011 Thor film, Chris Hemsworth has made an impressive ten appearances in the MCU so far, presumably with more on the way. After starring in four films of his own solo franchise, as well as four Avengers films, the mighty Thor is reaching the end of his MCU tenure. If Hemsworth is to make his exit, he won’t do so without leaving a few surprise performances for his fans, including as the voice of Thor in What If…? and a cameo as the voice of Throg in an episode of Loki. Thankfully, Thor: Love and Thunder‘s ending promises at least one more appearance from the beloved Avenger.
5 Chris Evans – 10 Appearances
Chris Evans’s Steve Rogers, otherwise known as Captain America, was a mainstay of the MCU’s Infinity Saga. Making his first appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger, Evans was featured in ten MCU projects in total, ending with Avengers: Endgame. A character with a surprisingly messy MCU timeline, Captain America was featured in all four Avengers films, as well as three movies within his own solo franchise. Evans rounded out his MCU tenure with cameos in Thor: The Dark World, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the post-credit scene of Captain Marvel. While his time in the franchise is celebrated and revered, Captain America’s time in the MCU appears to be completely finished.
4 Mark Ruffalo – 10 Appearances
After Edward Norton made his sole appearance as Dr. Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, the actor was recast for all future films, with Mark Ruffalo taking over the role of Banner and the Hulk beginning with 2012’s The Avengers. Fifteen years after Bruce Banner became the Hulk, Ruffalo continues to play the character to perfection, most recently appearing in multiple episodes of the Disney+ series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. After appearing in every Avengers film so far, Thor: Ragnarok, What If…?, and the post-credits scenes of Captain Marvel, Iron Man 3, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Ruffalo’s ten MCU projects may have more to come.
3 Robert Downey Jr. – 10 Appearances
Roberty Downey Jr. is credited with kickstarting the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe with his performance as Tony Stark, the eponymous superhero in 2008’s Iron Man. Over the course of eleven years, Downey appeared in many different films and many different suits of Iron Man armor, quickly becoming one of the most frequently featured actors in the MCU. On top of leading his own three Iron Man films, Downey was also featured in all four Avengers films, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: Civil War, and Spider-Man: Homecoming, marking ten appearances from the beloved actor in the role of Tony Stark, with his time in the franchise ending with 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.
2 Paul Bettany – 10 Appearances
Paul Bettany has a unique place in the MCU, beginning his time in the franchise by portraying JARVIS, Tony Stark’s personal AI assistant. Bettany voiced the AI in all three Iron Man movies and the first Avengers movie before JARVIS was transformed into the superhero Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Vision claimed another six appearances in the third and fourth Avengers movies, Captain America: Civil War, WandaVision, and What If…? for a total of ten films and series, though the recently announced Vision Quest series portends the coming of an eleventh appearance from Bettany, who doesn’t appear to be nearing the end of his stint in the MCU.
1 Samuel L. Jackson – 13 Appearances
Samuel L. Jackson holds the record for the most MCU appearance of any actor by far, playing SHIELD director Nick Fury fifteen times since his debut as the character in Iron Man. Though Marvel had no plans for Nick Fury following his first appearance, the franchise quickly changed its tune, featuring Jackson in five of Phase 1’s six movies, two Phase 2 projects, and four films in Phase 3, with appearances in Agents of SHIELD and What If…? filling the gaps in between. Furthermore, Jackson’s confirmed appearances in the upcoming Secret Invasion series and The Marvels will keep his record untouched for even longer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.