It’s a safe bet that The Avengers would never have seen the light of day in the 1980s. The technology simply wasn’t available to craft a film as ambitious as the one audiences watched in 2012. However, if someone did try to take a stab at it, they’d need some mighty good actors to fill the parts.
Luckily, the 1980s were loaded with solid actors who would have been perfect for the film. Who would have likely joined forces to save the world if the Marvel Cinematic Universe began decades earlier?
10 Mel Gibson (Tony Stark / Iron Man)
It’s hard to top Robert Downey Jr.’s incredible performance as Iron Man in the MCU, but he’d be a bit too young to play the superhero if The Avengers was made in the ’80s. The role would require someone with a screen presence that was both youthfully energetic but still mature and authoritative.
1980s Mel Gibson would be a prime choice. Not only does he have a natural knack for wisecracks as a real life practical joker, but he’s proven he can pull off drama as well. It’s hard to imagine another actor in the Iron Man suit, especially considering his laundry list of absolute-best movie performances.
9 Bruce Boxleitner (Steve Rogers / Captain America)
Pulling off Captain America means having the right mix of elements in the chosen actor. Too youthful and he appears inexperienced. Too old and he’s hard to relate to. Bruce Boxleitner could have fit the role perfectly given that he was able to straddle both sides equally.
Boxleitner made a name for himself as the titular hero TRON in the amazing yet slightly overrated 1982 Disney original. He’d have required a significant bulking up process in order to play the role, but it would be no different from what Chris Evans had to go through to achieve the same thing.
8 Richard Gere (Bruce Banner / The Hulk)
By his very nature, Bruce Banner is a somewhat neurotic individual thanks to his paranoia of turning into the Hulk at the worst moments. The right actor would need to appear intellectual, studious and confident, yet also vulnerable to the kind of fear Banner has to go through on a daily basis.
Richard Gere is an obvious pick. In his ’80s heyday he’d have been perfect for the role of Banner. He has the right mix of disarming charm and intimidating personality traits that would benefit a role like Banner, and his versatility as an actor is reflected in his long career.
7 Dolph Lundgren (Thor)
1980s Dolph Lundgren made a huge splash when he debuted in Rocky IV as the towering monster Ivan Drago, but it took a while for his career to really grow beyond that role. Still, who better to play Thor in the 1980s than a guy with Lundgren’s Norse looks and huge physique?
The only challenge he’d have faced is dialect, unless the filmmakers decided to forego the accent used by Chris Hemsworth. In so doing, a lot of the magic of the character might be lost in the process.
6 Michelle Pfeiffer (Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow)
Stunning beauty Michelle Pfeiffer proved she was no shrinking violet when she played Catwoman in 1992’s Batman Returns. She was more than up for the physical demands of a role that required a butt-kicking femme fatale.
Pfeiffer looks sweet, but behind those eyes is something pleasantly wicked and fun. She could easily play a former assassin who worked her way up to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s upper echelon. All it would require is for a director to see what Tim Burton originally saw when he cast her as Catwoman.
5 Michael Dudikoff (Clint Barton / Hawkeye)
Pre-Endgame Clint Barton was a happy go lucky wisecracker with an impeccable shot, and actor Jeremy Renner knew how to bring that energy to the role. However, his 1980s counterpart could benefit from a bit more of that youthful exuberance.
American Ninja star Michael Dudikoff had not only the looks, but the boyish charm and personality to pull off Hawkeye. He’d already starred in a string of action films, which meant he was more than prepared to tackle the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent role.
4 Rutger Hauer (Loki)
It’s hard to find a bad guy capable of topping Tom Hiddleston’s charming arrogance and wicked bravado, especially when it comes to the role of Loki. This is a hard sell, and requires a particular kind of actor brimming with mischievous intent.
1980s Rutger Hauer had already played a number of off-kilter roles that would have made him a perfect fit for Loki. Hauer had just the right amount of disjointedness to play a would-be Asgardian thirsting for ultimate power, while still being able to charm audiences at the same time.
3 Bill Paxton (Phil Coulson)
Clark Gregg is great to watch as Phil Coulson, and his small but important role in the MCU films proved to be such a fan favorite that he ended up getting his own spinoff TV show. Who else but Bill Paxton could pull something like that off in the 1980s?
Paxton was busy starring in a number of James Cameron hits as a loudmouth-type character, but he was perfectly capable of playing charming characters as well. By reeling in his bigshot stereotype, Paxton would have made one excellent Phil Coulson. Both he and present Coulson actor Clark Gregg even worked together on an episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
2 Carl Weathers (Nick Fury)
It’s hard to imagine another ’80s star taking over the role of Nick Fury besides Carl Weathers. He’d already made a big impact on the action movie scene for his roles in the Rocky franchise and the brutally violent sci-fi hit Predator, and both would have prepared him for the role.
Stick a cigar in his mouth, turn him loose, and Weathers could own that role as the voice of authority inside the Avengers. Plus, he’d look like a total badass with an eye patch, because of course he would.
1 Andie MacDowell (Maria Hill)
Cobie Smulders and Andie MacDowell share a lot of the same physical characteristics, mostly in personality and eyes. Both are stunners who have shown they’ve got the acting chops to go the distance. Although MacDowell is hardly known for her action roles, neither was Smulders.
This would be a matter of casting someone who has the right physicality and presence to be a believable S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Maria Hill may not be the strongest, but she’s got the smarts to think on her feet and keep a clear head, something MacDowell could easily portray.