Essays · Movies

Where the Women of the MCU Should Go Next

Which women-led standalone Marvel movies would we like to see first?
By  · Published on February 20th, 2018

Marvel’s Black Panther has officially changed the game of the studio’s movie slate. Not only is it a great blockbuster that’s fun, dynamic, and engaging, but it’s also vital to the landscape of tentpole films with impeccable commentary on race and gender. Black Panther features a number of amazing women who are fully realized characters with strengths and motivations. In the wake of such a satisfyingly validating entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what’s Marvel going to do to fast-track some more women-led movies?

For years, Marvel has fostered some kind of goodwill with audiences by making promises for more women-focused content without actually delivering a substantial amount of it. They have honestly included female characters in their movies rather stingily, with only the tiniest of concessions given when it comes to representation. Moreover, most women in the MCU are white. But the demand for actual solo movies has only increased over the years.

The MCU’s first women-led standalone, Captain Marvel, is just over a year away, but what can the studio offer us after that? With so many female characters breaking out and stealing scenes in the last few installments, it’s time we talked about who we want to see in their own standalone films, especially as Marvel shifts its priorities post-Phase Three. Of course, all the women deserve an equal shot in the spotlight, but here is a small selection of characters whose solo projects we really want Marvel to make sooner rather than later.


Shuri Black Panther

Shuri is easily almost everyone’s favorite character in Black Panther. Smart, witty, optimistic and kind, she is one of the best characters the MCU has ever produced. She represents the best of Marvel’s iconic innovators, creating and improving on technology for Wakanda out of a sheer love for the process. She importantly takes pride in her work, and is charming and funny.

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Shuri is absolutely capable of leading her own spin-off. As a genius who is great in combat, she would make a wonderful Black Panther. Reginald Hudlin, who wrote the “Black Panther” comics from 2005 to 2009, specifically characterized Shuri as an ideal role model and T’Challa’s counterpart, which are traits that definitely shine through in the film version. Hudlin says:

“I wanted girls who read the book to feel as empowered as boys. So, I wanted her to be smart and tough and brave and everything you think of as a Black Panther, so that eventually she would be a Black Panther as well.”

With her brains and capacity to create the best technology in the world, Shuri has been touted as a potential next Iron Man too, especially given the fact that the comics have handed the mantle over to Riri Williams, a 15 year old black girl. There could logically be a merging of the two characters in the MCU continuity. There are also a ton of parallels between Shuri and Peter Parker, as both characters are the same age, share similar morals, and obviously love tinkering. And really, if Peter can feature in a ton of different standalone installments, Shuri is just as worthy to have her solo story told. posed the question of Shuri’s potential spin-off to actress Letitia Wright during the press tour for Black Panther. Delightfully, Wright replied in the most Shuri way possible — enthusiastically, although making the distinction that Shuri is as much a part of a whole as she is a powerful individual:

“I hope, whenever the time is right, if it’s meant to happen, I would happily do it. But you can’t have a Shuri movie without T’Challa and you can’t have a Shuri movie without Ramonda and Nakia and the rest of the Dora Milaje and Okoye. So, I guess, the question is: when can we have ‘Black Panther 2?'”


Valkyrie Tessa Thompson

Without a doubt, Valkyrie is one of the highlights of an already-stunning Thor: Ragnarok. While Marvel’s TV slate has explored brash, flawed women more overtly, their movies haven’t really gone there except for a small number of instances. In Ragnarok, there is something brazen about Valkyrie that other MCU heroines hadn’t really gotten to be at the time. Plus, Valkyrie definitely isn’t put-together, nor does she want to be. There’s a chance that a standalone movie could pursue those qualities, particularly if it addresses the loss of the Valkyrior on a more in-depth level. Alternatively, a Valkyrie solo film could depict a version of the character post-Hela’s defeat who still struggles with her inner demons. The possibilities are endless.

Regardless, similar to Wright, Tessa Thompson has expressed interest in not only going solo (and wants Gina Prince-Blythewood to direct) but also having a new kind of team-up happening on screen. Thompson — together with Brie Larson, Zoe SaldanaScarlett Johansson, Pom Klementieff, and Karen Gillan — campaigned for a women-led film in Marvel’s Phase Four. Months later, Thompson is still going strong and apparently discussions with producer Kevin Feige have been fruitful, too. Thompson may not be making any decisions herself, but the fact that she champions women in Marvel so ardently provides a great initiative.

Thompson says:

“I think Kevin Feige is really excited by the idea, and if you look at what’s happened already in Phase Four with me and Valkyrie and our story, and then in ‘Black Panther’ the women rule supreme. There’s an interest — they’re doing ‘Captain Marvel’, they’re doing a ‘Black Widow’ — there’s an interest in having women at the forefront of this phase. I feel like it’s hopeful. Who knows?”

Black Widow

Black Widow Civil War Marvel

Finally, this one is a no-brainer. Folks at Marvel have been teasing a Black Widow movie for literal years amidst the chatter of fans imploring Feige to get a move on and make one. But most recently, Chris Evans may or may not have spilled the beans about where Marvel currently is with the Black Widow spin-off that was previously announced by Variety early in the year. Well, he mentions the film rather definitively, and that’s all the update we have on the film so far.

Although we’d have to deal with the consequences of some shoddy characterization in past films in a Black Widow standalone at this point, perhaps with the right writer and director, a Black Widow film could still be incredibly entertaining. The movie is easily imagined as a spy thriller, and if it’s as good as as Captain America: The Winter Soldier — with bigger themes about accountability buttressing the personal dilemmas of the protagonist — that would be ideal.

Iron Man 2 was almost a whole decade ago, and some other core heroes from the previous phases will be retired post-Phase Three, so it really is time for a Black Widow standalone film. Whether it will make as much of a cultural impact now as it would have in the early part of this decade is debatable, but it would be a great experience for long-time fans of the MCU.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)