Black Panther: Wakanda Forever may be an effective, harrowing examination of grief, which depicts a nation and a family mourning the significant loss of King T’Challa — but it is still a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, meaning there is a potentially catastrophic global threat that our heroes (in this case, the royal family of Wakanda, the Dora Milaje, an M.I.T. student named RiRi Williams and CIA agent Everett Ross) must conquer before the nearly three hour run-time is up.
Luckily for us, everyone gets powerful emotional moments that complement to somber tone of this sequel to 2018’s Black Panther, with the onscreen mourning mirroring the real-life collective grief over the death of actor Chadwick Boseman in 2020. And most of the main characters to show off just how badass they are. Some characters are badass due to their cunning, their stealth, their intelligence, their righteiousness. And others, well — their physical strength and skill on the battlefield would mark them as badass no matter what movie they were in.
From the aquatic villain Namor to the long roster of strong Wakandan women, here are the 10 main characters of Wakanda Forever, ranked by badassery.
10.) Everett Ross (Martin Freeman)
CIA operative Everett Ross is not very badass at all, unfortunately. Despite being a professional spy, he has a problem with being discreet, and always seems to end up in situations where the heroes of Wakanda have to save him. (Yes, this happens again in Wakanda Forever.) How exactly did he get his job?! Maybe that will be revealed in a series that eventually comes to Disney+. Meanwhile, congratulations Agent Ross, you are the least badass character here. Try to stay out of trouble, please.
9.) Aneka (Michaela Coel)
She’s got mini-spears! The Dora Milaje soldier Aneka, played by the one and only Michaela Coel of the groundbreaking and award-winning series I May Destroy You, is criminally underused in Wakanda Forever. She has a few moments in the film that mostly revolve around her use of tiny, customized Vibranium spears that Shuri made for her and that her boss, Okoye, is not particularly fond of. Eventually, Aneka uses the weapons so well that Okoye must accept them. You just wish she had more to do in this sequel, though she does get a split second of affectionate screentime with her romantic partner, Ayo.
8.) Ayo (Florence Kasumba)
Every single member of the Dora Milaje is badass by default. But Ayo, played by Florence Kasumba, is loyal with a bit of spunk, and has a wicked sense of humor to match her skills as a protector of the realm. In Wakanda Forever, Ayo takes over the Dora Milaje as general. While no one compares her to her predecessor, she proves herself more than a worthy successor as she leads the Dora Milaje to defend Wakanda in the middle of the ocean.
7.) RiRi Williams (Dominique Thorne)
RiRi Williams, a.k.a. Ironheart, is a resourceful inventor and MIT student whose experiments put her at the center of a dire conflict in Wakanda; she’s soon escorted back to the country to for her own protection. While in Wakanda, RiRi melds her unique mind with Wakandan technology to create a sleek flying suit of armor. All respect to Tony Stark, but Iron Man could never. This won’t be the last we see of her, given that her stand-alone series Ironheart drops on Disney+ in the fall of 2023.
6. Namor (Tenoch Huerta)
Namor is a mutant with winged feet who rules the super secret sea kingdom of Talokan. He is centuries old (Thor is probably his only rival in terms of age), and his people respect him, going so far as to wage war on innocents when he tells them to. Namor is violent and has both a seemingly unending army of blue-skinned warriors and a seemingly unending collection of water grenades, which are kind of awesome when they are not, y’know, being thrown at Wakandans. Namor has understandable motivations, but his narcissism gets in the way of his potential and rationality, which is reflective of the first film’s villain, Killmonger.
5. M’Baku (Winston Duke)
M’Baku is the plucky but fiercely loyal leader of the Wakandan mountain tribe Jabari. Despite his rebellious nature, M’Baku shows up for Wakanda when it needs him. He is a fierce warrior, and always has a great sense of humor, even in dire life-threatening situations. In Wakanda Forever, M’Baku defends his home and also demonstrates how eating a carrot can be iconic, leveling up his badass status significantly.
4. Shuri (Letitia Wright)
Like so many in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shuri is a rare genius (genius inventors seem to get less and less rare as the franchise goes on, but it’s fine, because none of this is real). Shuri has the advantage of understanding vibranium, which she uses to keep Wakanda safe and innovative with her sprawling inventions which range from suits to weapons to cures for Vision’s predicament. She is, in many ways, Wakanda’s provider. A relentless forward thinker with a little bit of spunk and a deep longing for adventure, Shuri struggles to comprehend the loss of her brother T’Challa in Wakanda Forever while trying to save Wakanda from catastrophic events. Along the way, this stubborn, broken hero finds her way and figures out what she has to do to honor T’Challa and her nation. Badass, indeed.
3. Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett)
Queen Ramonda is as regal as they come — she’s played by Angela Bassett, so of course she is — but don’t be fooled: She can be biting when she needs to be. In Wakanda Forever, she immediately lives up to her status as the nation’s ruler by eviscerating major countries, including France and the United States, at a U.N. meeting. Leading a nation in crisis without a Black Panther while still mourning the loss of her son and husband, Ramonda is also trying to help her daughter Shuri get through her own grief. This is a woman who prioritizes peace, but she’ll fight you with her mind and her words if you cross a line (or the Wakandan border without permission). That alone which makes her more powerful than any Avenger, and yes, we’re including the Hulk. Also, Ramonda has the single best wardrobe in the MCU. Hands down.
2.) Okoye (Danai Gurira)
As General of the Dora Milaje, the stoic Okoye used to be an uncompromising, ruthless warrior. She was conflicted about opening Wakanda up to the world in Black Panther, which put her relationship with T’Challa and the Wakandan throne at risk. But since Black Panther, her journey — which has included everything from teaming up with the Avengers and to trying (and failing) to blend in at a Boston college campus — has made her a little more emotional and way more funny. But she’s still uncompromising, and there is nothing Okoye would do for Wakanda. In this sequel, actor Danai Gurira shows off Okoye’s growth with moth subtle and rousing emotional moments in addition to some light but fun comic relief, which includes a failure to be discreet on a secret mission. Even when she’s trying to blend in, she stands out because she is an icon and a badass.
1.) Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o)
Nakia, played by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, is a former member of the War Dogs, an elite Wakandan spy network. Due to her position, Nakia has valuable skills including stealth and knowledge of the outside world that benefits Wakanda, but she’s also an asset on the battlefield thanks to her ring blades. Nakia had a romantic relationship with T’Challa, and at the beginning of Wakanda Forever, you’re initially left wondering why she has not come to Wakanda for his funeral. Instead, she stays in Haiti, where she’s running a school. But a life far away from the action has not softened her skills. Nakia goes on a rescue mission on behalf of Queen Ramanda that she executes easily and skillfully, despite the fact that it involves going deep into the ocean. She’s easily one of the most resourceful people to ever hail from Wakanda. There’s a reason she’s Number One on this list.