The Thor movies, more than any other Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, have always drawn critically acclaimed, Oscar-magnet actors, from Matt Damon to Natalie Portman to the only performer ever to win two Best Actor Oscars, three decades apart.
From the start, when Marvel hired Shakespearan trained Kenneth Branaugh to direct the first Thor, the studio signaled that it wanted gravitas for its films about the Asgardian God of Thunder, played by Chris Hemsworth. That was fitting for a comic book inspired by Norse legends even older than Shakespeare, but at times all the weightiness imbued the Thor movies with an unhelpful stolidness (especially in the slow-moving 2013 sequel Thor: The Dark World). Taika Waititi shook it loose when he took over the franchise with 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, which playfully juxtaposed epic stakes with goofy absurdity, striking a fun and seductive balance.
Much of the Thor credit goes to Hemsworth, who, like Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt, is terrific at both big-action self-pieces and self-deprecating throwaways. (Both appear in the new Thor: Love and Thunder, now on Disney+.) But no one wins an Oscar for skillfully anchoring an action franchise: Actors win Oscars for disappearing into characters, staying just ahead of the audience, and delivering even ludicrous lines with flair and humanity. The following actors applied such skills to the Thor films without losing their auras of prestige.
Please note: We aren’t making this list based on their performances in the Thor movies — that would be too easy. We’re talking about their careers overall.