Like spandex, daddy issues, and endless origin stories, capes are historically an essential element of superherodom. Historically. In the MCU, not to mention the comics they’re based on, our favorite heroes and villains are devoid of capes more often than not. Why no cape, Cap? Aside from the fact that it’s doesn’t fit with your tactical aesthetic and is entirely impractical and thus will probably get you killed. Counterpoint: they look rad.
You know who knows that? Thor and his MCU cape comrades. There aren’t a ton of them, especially when you look at the triple-digit cast of characters the MCU has assembled (heh) over its 17 movies. (Sometimes I forget Quicksilver was briefly a thing.) But Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok has upped the cape count by quite a bit by putting just about everyone who gets a sliver of screentime in one. Main characters. Side characters. Extras. It is the Oprah of capes.
You get a cape. And you get a cape. Everybody gets a cape!
And so, for your pleasure, here are the capes of the MCU (movies only), ranked.
As you can see at around :07 in the above clip, Fandral’s cape is actually two miniature capes that extend down from his pauldrons. I am going to go on record as being against this method of capery. It’s like he stapled two scarves to his shoulders. Weak.
Fandral, Thor: The Dark World
In Thor: The Dark World, Fandral got not only a new actor (from Thor’s Josh Dallas to Zachary Levi), but a new cape as well. The cape is… an upgrade? Ish? It’s pretty boring, but at least it doesn’t look like someone stole half of it.
Sorry, Fandral. Not a Fan(dral).
Loki, Thor: The Dark World deleted scene
In this deleted scene from Thor: The Dark World, Loki envisions himself as the new ruler of Asgard, complete with the adoration of the masses and a snazzy new cape. In a deleted scene from the deleted scene, Loki hops down to Earth on the rainbow bridge to buy said cape at Medieval Times. He's imagining a moment he's wanted all his life, and this is the cape he comes up with? This?
Malekith, Thor: The Dark World
And we're back from actively bad to just-plain-dullsville with Malekith's cape from Thor: The Dark World. You can see it better in behind the scenes shots here. It's... black? It has a hood. It needs a trip to the dry cleaners. It's making me fall asleep, which is appropriate, given the movie it's from.
Skip to 2:05 for a gander at the capes worn by Asgard's guards. Asgard's ass guards, if you will. Kudos to them on a non-black color and a slim silhouette that keeps them mostly out of the way during fight scenes. Other than that... eh. Pretty unexceptional. Smart of Odin to have his guards wear capes long enough that they double as Swiffers, though. Must cut down on the custodial bill.
Odin wears a big-ass red cape that's like Thor's big-ass red cape, only not as good. His son has surpassed him, cape game-wise. "When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master."
Jane, Thor: The Dark World
Certain shots of this outfit—worn by Jane Foster once she legs it to Asgard for a meet-the-parents session in Thor: The Dark World—make it look more cape-like than it does here. ‘Cause here? It looks a little like she wrapped herself in a blanket. A nice blanket, but…. a blanket. Damn, Natalie. Do you have that in your contract or something? “If Natalie wears a cape, it must also be a blanket. She has trouble sleeping at night, so she needs to be provisioned in the event of on-set nap breaks.”
Thor, Thor: The Dark World
...Did Natalie tip Chris Hemsworth off as to the benefits of an on-set costume blanket as well? You don't even wear this cape--you're swaddled in it. That said, this style works better with Thor than it does with Jane. It fits Thor's aesthetic better, making him look even more like he belongs on the cover of some bodice-ripper. At the end of the day, though, this particular garment flies in the face of an obvious truth: Thor is hotter the less fabric is on his body.
Ego, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Finally, at spot twelve, we come to a non-Thor cape, specifically the one worn by Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I appreciate that the character has a cape, echoing as it does the fact that though he at first seems down-to-earth (down-to-himself? Because he is a planet), Ego is,in fact, a raging drama queen. As for the cape itself... it's fine! It's a pretty low-key, middle of the pack cape. You want high-key (or Loki), you need to book it back to the Thor franchise. To wit...
Heimdall, Thor: Ragnarok
Thor: Ragnarok is so dedicated to the way of the cape that it gave one to a character who previously went without: Heimdall, the god of being Idris Elba. He gets a cape that's pretty similar to what Ego sports in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, in that it's a traveling cloak that has more in common with travelworn Lord of the Rings garb than with the lighter, brighter, primary color capes worn by the Asgardian royal family. That’s because Heimdall gets sh*t done and is not a punk. But Heimdall is still an Asgardian, aka a Shakespeare Demigod Drama Alien, so he gets a bit more flair than Ego courtesy of a brooch-like clasp and a more pronounced silhouette.
Loki's cape... is fine. I like the jewel green color, but Hela does it better. I like the silhouette, but Thor does that better. Loki: the red-headed stepchild of life and also of capes.
Hogun, Thor: The Dark World and Ragnarok
An unexpected top ten inclusion in the MCU cape rankings: Hogun, a member of the Warriors Three. When Hogun made the jump from Thor to Thor: The Dark World, he maneuvered his way into a cape—worn again in Ragnarok—in the bargain. Capewise, he blows his buddy Fandral out of the water. The cape's use of contrasting fabrics and edge stitching means the cape maintains a bit of visual interest even though its color and silhouette are more-or-less standard.
The Collector, Guardians of the Galaxy
I’ve stared at the Collector’s outerwear situation way too long, and I still can’t figure out if it’s a cape or a coat. Is the shearling bit its own, separate item of clothing, i.e. a cape? Or is what appears to be a cape merely billow-y sleeves attached to a red torso? I’ve strained my eyes. I’ve asked James Gunn on Twitter. I’ve lit a votive candle to the God of capes, aka Joan Crawford, and I still cannot figure out what the exact situation is here. This would easily be a top five cape if I could only definitively establish that it is one, but I can’t, so to number eight it goes.
Loki, Thor: Ragnarok
See... here we go. Here's a truly great Loki cape. In keeping with its over-the-top visual aesthetic, Thor: Ragnarok gave many of its characters (including just about every extra) capes that mix it up a bit from the ol' "here's some fabric draped over your shoulders" superhero/fantasy movie standard. Shoutout to costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo. With this cape, Loki gets a bit of stripe-work and (new for MCU capes!) a colorful lining, setting him apart sartorially from the characters who have come before.
Note to Loki: When you have the power to conjure up any cape you want, this is what you do. Vision's cape has a color! A computer circuit pattern! Vision snapped into being and within seconds had his own distinctive fashion sense. And then someone gave him a J. Crew catalog. I blame Tony. It was a joke that Vision took seriously.
Hela, Thor: Ragnarok
It's more or less a tie for me between Vision's cape and Hela's. Both are high-drama affairs, with Vision's a more intersting color/pattern but Hela's possessed of an exponentially higher slink factor. Really, the cape itself is... while not bad, certainly, not exceptional enough to warrant top five placement. Except for one thing: the cape is worn by Cape Blanchett, vamping it up in Disney villainness mode, which she excels at better than any other living human being. Cate works this cape, and she does so well enough to make me overlook the fact that Hela's also taking part in the execrable 2017 "cold shoulder top" trend. How can you have a cape and a color shoulder look? It doesn't make any sense!
Valkyrie, Thor: Ragnarok
Valkyrie actually wears two capes in Thor: Ragnarok, though both of them are the same cerulean shade. Hey, when you find a color that works for you, you stick with it. In early scenes, Valkyrie sports a one-shoulder affair, similar in shape to what Thor’s red number eventually becomes as he takes his knocks over the course of the movie. Later, in time for the final battle, Valkyrie is upgraded to a more pristine, two-shoulder affair, complete with embellishment on the back. It’s her character evolution mirrored through clothing—from battered and cynical to someone who fully accepts her destiny as a badass heroic warrior, aka The Way of the Cape.
Yes, Doctor Strange's cape (technically the "Cloak of Levitation") can fly. Yes, it has a personality and can change (in the comics, anyway) into other items of clothing. Could we be looking at a Fake Tuxedo Shirt of Levitation in Infinity War? Conceivably, yes! But what really sells this cape for me is the details worked into it by costume designer Alexandra Byrne, who also did the costumes for Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Looked at from afar, it's just a red cloak, if one with a particularly dramatic collar. Up close, it's a patchwork affair of excellence.
You may think that Thor’s standard red cape is the same from movie to movie, but that is quite simply not the case. There are subtle differences (gotta sell those action figures), the most noticeable of which is that his celestial pads get shorter from movie to movie. Observe!
In the first Thor, he was rocking a full-on BumpIt on each shoulder, whereas by Ragnarok, the fabric lies flush against his torso. All snark aside, it’s a great example of character-through-costume; as the franchise goes on, Thor spends more time with mortals and gets more down-to-Earth as a result, and his cape reflects that. In Ragnarok, that evolution (from full-of-himself demigod to chill space bro) continues, which is mirrored in the fact that he actually loses half his cape. One hopes Thor never becomes so like mortals that he ditches the cape entirely, as it’s a pretty sweet item of clothing. Billowy, a striking color, some nice pleating on the back. Take it from CHems himself: “And that sexy red cape of his, always brushing against his big butt! Oh, to be that cape. Am I right, bitchessssss?”
Thor’s cape is a masterclass in showing character evolution through clothing. Doctor Strange’s Cloak of Levitation can literally fly. What cape could possibly best that? SURPRISE, NERDS: It’s Frigga! Ohhh, did you forget about Frigga? Queen of Asgard, great at magic, excellent taste in clothes? A rebuttal:
Check out this gold number, worn by Frigga in Thor’s coronation scene. (More detail here.) We don’t see it a ton in the movie, because humans as a species do not deserve to, because we are trash and this cape is beautiful. It is the Lando Calrissian cape of the MCU. It’s splendor. It’s grace. It’s sumptuosity. It’s drama. RIP Frigga, MCU Mother of Capes.