Without question, Marvel reigns supreme at the box office, and being cast in a Marvel film is often a golden ticket to instant stardom for an actor – especially if they end up in an Avengers movie.
It’s amazing to look back at childhood photos of the most famous actors and see how far they’ve come. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of Avengers actors’ childhood photos, ranging from the adorable to the downright heart-breakingly cute.
Tom Holland – Spider-Man
It’s no secret that the Spider-Man character has been in turmoil for decades, having been the subject of a war between the ascendant Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment, who have a tight grip on the character’s film rights.
But when Tom Holland was pretending to be Spider-Man, aged just three, did he realise he’d end up portraying the web-slinger on the silver screen? That cheeky smile says: maybe.
Paul Rudd – Ant-Man
Paul Rudd’s 2015 entry into the MCU, simply titled Ant-Man, was so refreshingly peppy it seemed to blindside many cinemagoers. Still, for an actor whose agelessness has become the stuff of Hollywood legend, we promise he was, in fact, young once.
Not only was Rudd young, but look at that magnificent hair! He’s also dropped the tie, unlike those losers Matt Bailey, Mike Roberts and Karl Myers.
Benedict Cumberbatch – Doctor Strange
Once upon a time, Benedict Cumberbatch was a classically trained actor who brought Sherlock Holmes to a new, swooning audience. However, Cumberbatch’s performances (as well as his cumbersome, meme-worthy name) soon caught the attention of executives across the pond, and he landed the role of interdimensional kaleidoscope wizard Doctor Steven Strange.
But it’s not like Cumberbatch was a theatre nerd his whole life – just take a look at this photo of a young Benny C in a rugby team! We’d recognise that face anywhere.
Chris Hemsworth – Thor
Chris Hemsworth is part of one of Hollywood’s newer acting families, alongside brothers Liam and Luke, who all got their start in Australian soaps. Hey, if it can work for Kylie Minogue, it can work for hunks too!
Yet before he was the God of Thunder, it looks like Hemsworth was the god of getting his hair cut by his mother. Those were the days.
Brie Larson – Captain Marvel
You wouldn’t expect a thriller about a brutal kidnapping would be the best launching pad into the MCU, but it certainly worked for Brie Larson, who won an Oscar in 2016 for Room. Captain Marvel became the first female-led superhero film to make more than $1 billion at the box office, and it looks like Larson will be flying around and punching things for many years to come.
Larson began, however, by acting in various sitcoms at the turn of the millennium, in which she sported classic early noughties bangs and curls!
Robert Downey Jr – Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr has had a rollercoaster of a career that few could have predicted, including struggles with alcoholism and drug abuse that have dogged his adult acting life. He went sober, but it wasn’t until 2008’s Iron Man that Downey Jr truly returned to his A-list status, ending up as the highest-paid actor in the world.
Downey Jr’s first acting role was in 1970’s Pound, aged only five; the film was written and directed by his father. Before even then, however, this remarkable photograph was taken, featuring Robert and his sister Allison enjoying some ice cream. Who knew that he’d grow up to act in Doolittle?
Tom Hiddleston – Loki
Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t the only actor to make the jump from classical acting to the MCU. In fact, both he and Tom Hiddleston have had well-received turns as Hamlet!
However, a young Hiddleston is unrecognisable in his early days. Where are those flowing, glossy locks?
Chris Evans – Captain America
Chris Evans’ first run at comic book movie stardom was a bit of a damp squib – all the more ironic when you consider that his part was as the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four. Evans rebooted his career with Captain America: The First Avenger. He hasn’t looked back since.
Still, maybe Evans should look back with childhood photos this adorable! Now, we know what you’re thinking: since when did Chris Evans have such big cheeks? Just remember, he’s the one on the right.
Dave Bautista – Drax the Destroyer
Guardians of the Galaxy showed off a new, swashbuckling side to the MCU, and also showed us a new side of former professional wrestler Dave Bautista!
But, as what Drax the Destroyer might term a PUNY CHILD, Bautista was completely adorable!
Jeremy Renner – Hawkeye
Back in the day, Jeremy Renner’s first role came in the poorly-received National Lampoon’s Senior Trip, in which he played a slacker. Since then, Renner has carved out a career in Marvel blockbusters, even if he stars as one of the most derided superheroes of the group.
Maybe Renner and Hawkeye would get more respect if he’d maintained this remarkable hairdo and sweater combo. Mullet or spiked hair? The real question is: why not both?
Cobie Smulders – Maria Hill
For Cobie Smulders, getting a role in The Avengers truly marked hitting the big-time, even if her previous role in How I Met Your Mother was still hugely popular.
In that show, we get a glimpse at Robyn’s (Smulders) upbringing, but nothing as early as this toothy-grinned picture!
Elizabeth Olsen – Scarlet Witch
Elizabeth Olsen’s surname is the stuff of 90s gold dust, but that era wasn’t so great for the future Scarlet Witch. For one thing, Olsen was overshadowed by her incredibly famous twin sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley.
Still, Olsen certainly looks adorable in this family photo. She’s pictured here alongside her brother – and, yes, there really is an Olsen brother!
Chadwick Boseman – Black Panther
Black Panther made history for its African setting and became the first Marvel project to be nominated for an Academy Award – at its core, however, the film is about a hi-tech city whose king dresses up as a cat and fights crime. Thankfully, Chadwick Boseman’s effortless likeability carries the day.
Can you believe that this fresh face is really Chadwick Boseman? Well, you’ll have to: his name is right there underneath the picture!
Mark Ruffalo – The Hulk
Let’s be honest: the Hulk hasn’t had a glamorous Hollywood history. Ang Lee’s Hulk, starring Edward Norton as the angry green lump, is often regarded as one of the lesser Marvel efforts in spite of the talent on board. It’s been refreshing, then, to have someone like Mark Ruffalo take up the role.
But if you think the Hulk is ugly, think about how gorgeous Ruffalo is underneath! In this early picture, the actor bears a fleeting resemblance to current Hollywood heartthrob Timothee Chalamet. It’s in the brows.
Zoe Saldana – Gamora
Zoe Saldana’s Gamora might be an underrated member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but she brings an emotional heft to Infinity War that sets that film’s dire events in motion.
Little Zoe Saldana could never have guessed she’d grow up to make a considerable living by covering herself in green paint!
Josh Brolin – Thanos
Josh Brolin is Hollywood royalty, making him the perfect choice to play the MCU’s mad titan Thanos. While the character is largely CGI, Brolin is unmistakable.
Based on childhood pictures like this, it’s clear that Brolin got his thoughtful look mastered from an early age!
Don Cheadle – War Machine
As a veteran of the early Iron Man films, Don Cheadle has been around almost since the inception of the MCU, and as James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes has often functioned as Iron Man’s conscience.
But did you know that Cheadle scored an early role on the landmark sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Maybe Will Smith could become an Avenger…
Scarlett Johansson – Black Widow
Black Widow will finally receive a spin-off film to answer growing fan demand, but those fans will have to wait a little longer: the movie’s planned May opening has recently been pushed back to November.
Yet before she was gracing the silver screen, Scarlett Johansson was sporting adorable dresses and bangs. Honestly, which little girl didn’t have a dress like this in the 80s?
Samuel L Jackson – Nick Fury
From the MCU to Star Wars to Jurassic Park to Tarantino flicks, it sometimes feels like Samuel L Jackson has worked on every Hollywood success. Coincidence?
Jackson’s steely glare stands out even in this school photo, alongside the world’s skinniest tie!
Chris Pratt – Star-Lord
Chris Pratt has had one of Hollywood’s most remarkable turnarounds. Having risen to prominence as a loveable doofus in TV sitcom Parks and Recreation, Pratt conducted the world’s grandest heist of the muscle emporium and is now a hunky leading man.
Still, once a comedian, always a comedian. Pratt hasn’t been shy to share some photos from his childhood a more self-conscious actor might consider a little embarrassing!
Zendaya – Michelle Jones (MJ)
Zendaya is one of Hollywood’s latest sensations, but even she still got a boost by being cast as MJ in the latest line of Spider-Man films. She’ll soon star in a new adaptation of Dune.
Zendaya’s childhood isn’t so long ago, but that side-eye tells you everything you need to know about how you achieve big dreams!
Paul Bettany – Vision
Vision is one of the stranger characters in the MCU, since he’s a robot made from two other robots and imbued with a mystical gemstone. Best not to think about it too much.
Paul Bettany, however, used to look like any other child before donning the red paint. Check out those teeth!
Sebastian Stan – Bucky Barnes
One of the most mysterious figures in the MCU, fans of Sebastian Stan’s jawline and luscious barnet were thrilled when the Winter Soldier became a force for good.
Back in the day, however, it has to be said that Stan was less of a hunk. Thank Odin for glow-ups!
Natalie Portman – Jane Foster
It was revealed last year that Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster would soon step out of the shadows and become the MCU’s first female Thor. We can’t wait!
Portman has had an illustrious Hollywood career since an early age, but in her earliest headshots she clearly couldn’t afford a nice staircase to lean on.
Idris Elba – Heimdall
As the guardian of the Bifrost, Idris Elba is every bit the weathered Asgardian warrior in his underrated role. Anyone fancy a Heimdall spin-off?
As a child, however, the future Luther actor wasn’t quite as good at striking fear into the hearts of his enemies. In fact, quite the opposite – look how sweet!
Marisa Tomei – Aunt May
Marisa Tomei caused controversy when she was cast as the MCU’s Aunt May, a role previously held by older actors. Tomei, 55, is no spring chicken, but you wouldn’t know it!
In fact, this photograph was taken nearly four decades ago. The only explanation is that Tomei is a vampire.
Karen Gillan – Nebula
Karen Gillan had an international breakthrough as Amy Pond in Doctor Who, but her next biggest role as Nebula forced her to hide her red hair and become a blue robot. That’s Marvel for you!
As a result, a young and chubby-cheeked Gillan is perhaps more recognisable than her on-screen role, though she pulls the same expression in both the above images.
Michael Keaton – Vulture
For those old enough to remember Michael Keaton as Batman, and then parodying himself in 2014’s Birdman, it was reassuring to see him return to a winged role as Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Looking at this childhood photo, however, it’s amazing to see the longevity of Keaton’s eyebrows.
Gwyneth Paltrow – Pepper Potts
It goes to show how long the MCU has dominated cinemas that Gwyneth Paltrow was still a jobbing actor, and not a purveyor of questionable ‘wellness’ goods, when she signed up to 2008’s Iron Man.
Still, Paltrow is adorable in this family photo. Doesn’t her dad look a bit like Chris Martin? Weird.
Jake Gyllenhaal – Mysterio
Mysterio was always going to be a difficult villain to portray, but producers landed on a winner when they picked professional oddball-hunk Jake Gyllenhaal for the part.
You’d be hard-pressed to guess this is Jake Gyllenhaal. Even though the actor was still incredibly young in 2001’s Donnie Darko, it’s clear his handsome gangliness hadn’t yet set in.
Evangeline Lilly – Wasp
The Ant-Man side of the MCU sure is strange, with the shrinking technology being so advanced as to enter the so-called Quantum Realm. Given all that, the fact that Evangeline Lilly’s character also has bug wings on her suit feels like nothing.
Back in the day, however, it’s more likely that Lilly was running away from wasps than aspiring to play them in a movie!
Tessa Thompson – Valkyrie
Tessa Thompson might have had a misfire with Men in Black: International, but her turn as Valkyrie turned heads – especially when it was announced that the Asgardian would become Marvel’s first LGBTQ+ character!
Thompson, now 36, initially broke through in stage productions of Shakespeare, but spent her early days between her father’s place in New York and her mother’s in Los Angeles.
Pom Klementieff – Mantis
Introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Mantis is a being who can sense the emotions of others. Usually she tells Star-Lord that he’s sad about his dad, which is – in short- the plot of that film.
Klementieff, who is also a model, was quite the star of French film before making the jump to English-language cinema in 2013. Four years later, she became part of Hollywood’s biggest franchise.
Jeff Goldblum – Grandmaster
Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok was unexpected in many ways. Not only did it transform Chris Hemsworth’s Thor into a wise-cracking Errol Flynn type, but it also had Jurassic Park star Jeff Goldblum stealing scenes left and right.
Goldblum also moonlights as a jazz pianist, which goes to show the value of piano lessons from a young age!
Lee Pace – Ronan the Accuser
One of the more brutal villains of the MCU, Ronan the Accuser initially forges an alliance with Thanos before betraying him in a power-grab. Then he gets killed by a raccoon. That’s a bad day on the job for sure.
There’s nothing villainous about Lee Pace’s childhood photo though! Fun fact: Pace initially auditioned for Star-Lord, but was beaten to the punch by Chris Pratt.
Michael Douglas – Hank Pym
Michael Douglas brings a much-needed acting heft to the MCU, starring as original Ant-Man Hank Pym. It turns out a really big star can also be a really small star with the right technology.
Douglas has been in the spotlight since infancy as the son of Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, who is best known for Spartacus among many other classic films.
Benicio del Toro – The Collector
Alongside Grandmaster (as portrayed by Jeff Goldblum, who has eagerly teased the possibility of a team-up movie), Benicio del Toro’s Collector is one of the MCU’s most quixotic characters. He also keeps Howard the Duck in a jar.
But before del Toro was collecting infinity stones in a far-off galaxy, he was collecting three-pointers in Puerto Rico. Don’t shoot aliens, kids: shoot hoops instead.
Stellan Skarsgård – Dr Erik Selvig
The Thor films might not be the best-loved in the MCU, but it’s hard to argue with the acting talents of Stellan Skarsgård. He’s so talented, in fact, that most of his sons have gone on to have their own illustrious careers.
But for those who only know Skarsgård as an older actor, this 60s throwback is sure to turn heads. And what a statement belt!
Robert Redford – Alexander Pierce
Robert Redford is a Hollywood giant, and even came out of retirement for a quick cameo in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. Earlier, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Alexander Pierce was a double-crossing government hack.
Judging by photos like these, it seems Redford has always had a face for serious films and weighty themes, even if they involve superheroes buzzing through the sky.
Martin Freeman – Everett K Ross
Having broken through with a role in the original, British version of The Office, Martin Freeman has forged an unlikely Hollywood career out of his everyman charm and nervous disposition.
There’s no trace of those character tics in this early photo, however, in which Freeman positively oozes confidence.