One of the many things that the MCU does right is to provide viewers with meaningful on-screen bonds between compelling characters. Whether romantic or friendly-natured, the beloved cinematic universe always manages to translate beautiful connections to the big screen with strong sentiment and intensity, often making viewers feel as though they, too, are a part of them.
Mentor-mentee relationships are one of the most well-known (and arguably most heartwarming) tropes in film — there is clearly something about a wise and older person sharing their knowledge with the young and green that always gets us going. Of course, Marvel does not shy away from delivering a few dynamic duos that fit into this category. From Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) & Spidey (Tom Holland), two Erik (Stellan Skarsgård) & Jane (Natalie Portman), here are our top 10 mentor-apprentice relationships in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
10/10 Erik Selvig and Jane Foster
An old colleague of Jane Foster’s father, Skarsgard’s astrophysicist Erik is both a friend and a mentor of Portman’s Jane from the very beginning. Although both characters were already pretty close in the first Thor film, their impressive relationship stood strong and tall up until Thor: Love and Thunder.
Always there to help Jane with her research and often the first one to support her, Erik was also the one to analyze Foster’s blood work, frequently providing medical advice for her cancer treatments during the events of the latest Thor instalment.
9/10 Ancient One and Doctor Strange
Aware that Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) would later become her successor, Tilda Swinton‘s Ancient One keeps a close eye on Cumberbatch’s character during the early stages, appearing relatively early in the picture in the first installment and bringing all the answers to Strange’s questions with her.
There is no doubt that the Ancient One and her knowledge played an essential role in Strange’s character development. Although this master often pushed her mentee to his limits, she firmly believed in his potential and was certain that he would eventually become the best among all Sorcerers Supreme.
8/10 Heimdall and Thor
While technically Odin was Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) mentor, many may find themselves agreeing that Heimdall (Idris Elba) did a far better job at it. Ever since the beginning, the all-seeing, all-hearing Asgardian God of the Bifrost Bridge proved himself to be quite the reliable mentor and caring friend to Hemsworth’s Thor.
Loyal and kind-hearted, Heimdall was the advisor Odin could never be. Always leading Thor on the right path, Elba’s character and his strong connection with the protagonist were undoubtedly one of the best things about the movies.
7/10 Rocket Raccoon and Groot
Not only is Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) an amazing mentor to Vin Diesel‘s Groot, but he also fills in the shoes of the father figure perfectly. Despite the unfortunate events that led to adult Groot’s tragic fate during the first Guardians of the GalaxyRocket had the pleasant surprise of earning a son and little apprentice in the second installment.
With a soft spot for his fellow partner, Rocket has spent more time with Groot than anyone else and thus is one of the very few people who understand his language.
6/10 Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson
Very few things are as wholesome as the evolution of Cap (Chris Evans) and Falcon’s (Anthony Mackie) relationship. Throughout their emotional journey, both these characters certainly had a lot to learn from each other — even if just to look left during running laps.
Not only did Steve help Sam cement his name as the Falcon, but he also paved the way for him to become the next Captain America. Always fighting battles by Cap’s side and following him to hospital beds, Mackie’s character has proven himself to be quite the worthy successor.
5/10 Clint Barton and Kate Bishop
As seen in the Disney+ series HawkeyeClint (Jeremy Renner) and Kate’s (Hailee Steinfeld) relationship dynamic is possibly Marvel’s next best thing: Fun, unpredictable, and surprising, this on-screen bond is thoroughly entertaining to watch.
It is clear from the beginning that Clint is Kate’s role model, but what makes their relationship even better is how undeniably close they have become. Even if Hawkeye himself did not approve of this in the beginning, Barton ultimately became a proper partner and mentor to Bishop throughout their journey. In addition to that, both characters connected on emotional levels.
4/10 Hank Pym and Scott Lang
Although they may not have started off on the right foot, the relationship development of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has become one of the MCU’s most heartwarming. After all, who doesn’t love a healthy father-in-law/son-in-law dynamic?
Before Scott and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) were a thing in Ant-Man 1, Hank showcased solid mentorship skills as he carefully passed the torch to Lang, trusting him with one of his most prized belongings. A comical but somewhat sentimental relationship between the two ended up flourishing.
3/10 Ho Yisen and Tony Stark
Having quite literally willingly sacrificed himself for the sake of Iron Man, Yisen (Shaun Toub) was unarguably the most important person in Tony’s life, and he certainly had some things to say when they were both held captive by the Ten Rings in the Afghan mountains.
After several months in captivity, Toub’s character helped Stark escape by developing a suit of armor. And although this might have been the most heroic thing he has ever done, giving Tony’s life a purpose was the most reinvigorating — even if for a relatively short period of time, Yisen was the person who provided Stark the most enlightenment.
2/10 Tony Stark and Peter Parker
Just as Yisen served as a fascinating eye-opener to Stark, Tony was always the one to bring Peter back to his senses whenever he was in too deep. There is hardly any doubt that Stark was a major mentor to Spidey, even if a flawed one at times.
Whether he was scolding him or working on new Spider-Man super suits, Tony’s love and concern towards Parker has always been present — ultimately, all he wanted to do was not only to support and protect Peter but to be to him a parent that he never hate Even off-screen, Holland and Downey Jr.’s relationship is incredible and should be protected at all costs.
1/10 Yondu and Peter Quill
The award for the most adorable mentor-mentee relationship goes to Michael Rooker spirit Chris Pratt‘s on-screen counterparts. Although their relationship is faulty and even dysfunctional at times, this Guardians of the Galaxy duo successfully depicts the ultimate awkward (but moving) advisor-apprentice bond.
Raising Quill as a space pirate and mentoring him along the way, Yondu proved himself to be a compassionate person by keeping Peter as his own child in order to protect him from his father, Ego. In a heartbreaking scene that highlights that Yondu came to see Peter as his own, he ends up sacrificing himself in order to keep him alive.
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