Chris Hemsworth has been a member of the Marvel cinematic universe for more than a decade, and in that time, he’s played Thor in seven different movies. With the release of Thor: Love & Thunderhis Norse god will have earned more solo films than any other character in the MCU, and he’s easily among the more iconic characters in the entire universe.
Hemsworth’s performance in the role has evolved considerably since he first took on the mantle, though. As different writers and directors have experimented with what Hemsworth brings to the table, they’ve discovered that he has skills that were being underutilized, especially in his earliest entries into the MCU. Now, with Love & Thunder providing another look at Hemsworth’s Thor, it’s worth looking back at every performance he’s given inside of the MCU and trying to definitively rank them from the very best to the very worst.
Hemsworth isn’t bad in The Dark Worldand the movie itself has plenty of fun moments. Ultimately, though, the first Thor sequel is most notable because it marks the death of the more serious version of Thor that was introduced in the first movie. Finding a way into a character who is an ancient god turned out to be harder than it looked, and The Dark World was the last time Hemsworth got a whole movie to experiment even though the experiment didn’t totally work out for him or the audience.
Perhaps the most memorable Thor moment in Age of Ultron is one in which other characters try and fail to lift his hammer. The sequence is greatbut it also has very little to do with Thor himself, which is indicative of how the movie as a whole seems to feel about the character.
Thor is shunted off onto his own side mission, which is really just meant to set up future installments, and because of the direction that the MCU took after Age of Ultronmuch of what gets set up in this film doesn’t really get followed through on. Hemsworth gets a couple of jokes in, but it’s hard not to feel like the movie is really just wasting his time.
Our first introduction to Chris Hemsworth’s Thor definitely gives us a take on the character, but he is almost entirely outshone here by Tom Hiddleston, who almost got the role of Thor himself and wound up playing his mischievous brother Loki instead. Hemsworth take on Thor in this first film is in line with the script: He’s arrogant, inexperienced, and occasionally outright rude to those around him.
Ultimately, though, Thor is a relic of an earlier era of the MCU, where everyone was very much still experimenting with these characters and how they related to one another. This movie nails Loki, who would go on to shine in his very own self-titled Disney+ series, but it would take some time before they figured out who Thor actually is.
Joss Whedon is probably not a very good guybut he does have a clear sense of how all of the Avengers relate to one another, and that allows Hemsworth to pop much more than he ever did in Thor. It helps that Hiddleston joins Hemsworth in this installment, giving Thor a crucial role in the film’s plot as he tries to rein in his malevolent brother.
This is also the best early indication that we get that Hemsworth’s Thor was better when he inflected his vulnerability through comedy. Thor is much funnier in The Avengers than he ever gets to be in Thorand his character feels all the more vivid as a result.
Some people are not thrilled by Thor’s fat suitbut whatever you think about that choice, Hemsworth plays the spiraling depression that Thor finds himself in after failing to kill Thanos with aplomb. What makes Infinity War and Endgame so impressive is the space it gives a wide number of characters to go through pretty full arcs.
In EndgameThor’s arc is about forgiving himself and realizing that his role is not to be a leader. He gets to have a pretty wonderful conversation with his mom, who died in The Dark Worldand we get a sort of meta-understanding that Thor is a man still figuring himself out, even after millennia of existence.
Taika Waititi’s first Thor movie fundamentally upended many of the things that had been established in the first two films, and with pretty tremendous results. Waititi’s version of the character is funnier, and the film itself is more colorful and vibrant as well.
It’s not just that Thor: Ragnarok is funnythough. It’s also that what Hemsworth and Waititi discover together is that the version of Thor that works best for them is one who bumbling and silly, but also one in quite a bit of pain. He wants to help the people around him, but he’s often at a loss as to exactly how to do that. He also learns that the people he idolizes, and his father in particular, are not as complicatedly great as he long believed them to be, adding further richness to Hemsworth’s portrayal of the character.
Infinity War has a truly insane number of popular characters in it, but Hemsworth comes out of the movie shining the brightest. He’s playing Thor at a true nadir, after Thanos killed his brother and his best friend, and immediately following the devastation wrought to Asgard in Ragnarok. Thor’s reaction is to find a way to kill Thanos, and he buries the pain until he can do that.
His mission consumes much of the movie’s runtime, and Hemsworth plays Thor’s pain and determination brilliantly. In the film’s final moment, when he strikes Thanos with a fatal blow but doesn’t aim for the head, we get to see the triumph and horror play out on Hemsworth’s face in real-time. It’s a brilliant piece of acting that comes a full seven years after he first took on the role.