From Strucker to Infinity: Ranking the Villains of the MCU

Movies Lists Marvel Cinematic Universe
Share Tweet Submit Pin
From Strucker to Infinity: Ranking the Villains of the MCU

“Villain problem” aside, over the last decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has introduced buckets of villains along with its bevy of heroes. It’s probably still fair to say their track record has been less consistent with the bad guys than with the good. This ranking bears that out—after the standouts, there’s a whole lot of middlin’ and a fair amount of meh. The reasons for this vary, but if there’s a common thread, it usually involves a reluctance to embrace the established look and character of the villain. On the villain side of things, we get a lot of “not really like his, her or its source material.” Klaue becomes an Affrikaner arms dealer instead of being composed of pure sound. Dormammu is barely shown. Worse, big big bads like The Leader (Hulk) and the Mandarin (Iron Man) are virtually erased completely and boring ol’ humans—industrialists, mercenaries, etc.—used in their place. Fortunately, in the last few years, this trend has seemed to be reversing. Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger and Michael Keaton’s Vulture were both examples of B-level villains that were treated with respect and landed impressively in their on-screen debuts. And no one is complaining that Thanos lacked heft.

For this ranking, we’re ignoring henchmen who we consider too low on the totem pole (Agent Sitwell, Arnim Zola, Yon-Rogg’s Starforce). We’re also weighting the ranking in favor of strong performances but against regular ol’ humans—if you’re on this list and lacking superpowers (via genetics, mutation, gear or otherwise), you had better have some interesting extracurriculars on your résumé. This list also does not include temporary bad guys (mind-controlled Hawkeye and Winter Soldier, misinformed Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver) or characters that never really seemed to be bad in the first place (“Behold—my stuff!”). Starting from weakest, let’s see how bad the MCU got in its first 22 films, shall we?

(SPOILER ALERT: This list has ’em.)

SpoilerWarning.jpg

(No, seriously, like there are spoilers for everything, everywhere.)

40. Baron Wolfgang von Strucker
Appearances: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Type: Hampered Hydra Leader

39-Strucker.jpg

In the comics, Baron Strucker is one of a host of Nazi-origin villains menacing all sorts of heroes. He served as an arch-nemesis of Nick Fury (WWII edition) and was generally a dependable Hydra-helming bad guy. In the MCU, he’s got some promise as—oh, wait, never mind. Ultron killed him.


39. Justin Hammer
Appearance: Iron Man 2 (2010)
Type: Conniving Arms Dealer

38-Hammer.jpg

The bottom of this list is going to have two main flavors of MCU villain—the yawn-inducingly human or egregiously unfleshed out. By my count, out of 39 villains, five are from the “unethical industrialist” mold of boring antagonist. Three of those are from Iron Man, which makes sense, since that’s an easy foil to populate the world of Tony Stark, ethical-ish industrialist. Of these, Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer is probably the least inspiring. He doesn’t even end up in a suit he’s strangely able to master faster than the hero in the Third Act.


38. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross
Appearances: The Incredible Hulk (2008), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018, Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Type: Mustachioed Military Angry Man

37-Ross.jpg

In the comics, Ross is the Hulk’s very own J. Jonah Jameson—an implacable critic with an epic mustache. In the MCU, Ross (played by William Hurt) is less a villain than annoying, antagonistic presence in the room. He makes the list, though, since he does spend a lot of time hounding the Hulk and then, later, getting our heroes detained, jailed and otherwise greatly inconvenienced.


37. Ayesha
Appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
Type: Shiny Zealot

36-Ayesha.jpg

She’s shiny, spends a lot of time trying to kill Peter Quill and his buddies, and just may eventually introduce Adam Warlock into the MCU? This is the best we can do for Elizabeth Debicki’s leader of the Sovereign.


36. Sonny Burch
Appearance: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Type: Opportunistic Criminal

35-Burch.jpg

The good news is, by dint of his character’s somewhat unlikely determination to interfere with the superpowered to further his own ends, Walton Goggins’ Burch is not the lowest-ranked regular human on the list. The bad news? What a waste. We’re on record regarding at least one villainous role Goggins would be ideal for—maybe now with the X-Men properties under their control, Disney could just consider this appearance a mulligan?


35. Georges Batroc
Appearance: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Type: Jumpin’ Jackanape

34-Batroc.jpg

In the MCU, Batroc the leaper (or ze leaper!) gets one nice fight scene with Captain America. Despite being a decently extended mano-a-Capto affair, the fight probably doesn’t even crack the top three Cap fights in the film (we’re thinking elevator, Bucky street, Bucky helicarrier?). Still, any “normal” human with Batroc’s pedigree and wonderfully garish comics costume) makes the list.


34. Korath the Pursuer
Appearances: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Captain Marvel (2019)
Type: Kree Bastard #1

33-Korath.jpg

Korath (Djimon Hounsou) barely escapes the “nah to henchman” clause that keeps folks like Arnim Zola, Agent Sitwell and others off this list due to his role as “second-most” villain in the first Guardians of the Galaxy and the fact that, hey, everyone is a henchman to someone, right? But even the neat epithet “the Pursuer” doesn’t get him any higher.


33. Crossbones/Brock Rumlow
Appearances: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Type: Nascent Masked Baddie

32-Rumlow.jpg

One could argue the MCU’s Crossbones falls into “quite the step down from the comics” category of villain. Sure, Frank Grillo’s Brock Rumlow gets plenty of lines and screen time in multiple films, but the comics version is a henchman of the Red Skull who once helped sorta kill Captain America. Still, as evil henchmen in the MCU go, Rumlow carries his weight, which makes his elimination, one of our least favorite tendencies in superhero movies, all the more regrettable.


32. Dormammu
Appearance: Doctor Strange (2016)
Type: Flame-Headed Arch (Deflated)

31-Dormammu.jpg

For all the improvements in general respect of source material, studios still seem averse to some of the more “comic book outlandish” aspects of the film industry’s newest cash cow. Sometimes this is understandable—drawn costumes can be hard to actually create, and like any medium for tale-telling, there are plenty of stories that should never make the Big Screen (like that one with Spider-Man and Mephisto). But most of the time, watching a film buck and shy away from just embracing the look and feel the source character or story is an exercise in immense frustration for those of us who love the original material. The mere fact the Dread Dormammu, Dr. Strange’s clear and established archenemy, is a lowly 29 on this list of 37 should tell you all you need to know about his representation in Doctor Strange. There should be ample opportunity to do better in the future, but meanwhile, the Dread One can go hang out with Galactus the Big Cloud.


31. Algrim/Kurse
Appearance: Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Type: Henching Rage Machine

30-Algrim-Kurse.jpg

More proof a henchman with enough screen time can totally make this list. Though in most cases, we’ll bemoan the wasted potential of the comics character, here, let’s pause and regret how little they gave actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje to work with (and how quickly they buried him under 40 pounds of makeup and costume).


30. Aldrich Killian
Appearance: Iron Man 3 (2013)
Type: Scientist with a Grudge, Faux-darin

29-Killian.jpg

Listen, the Mandarin has always been the main arch enemy of Iron Man, so getting this head-fake-after-a-head-fake version of him still stings a little (even after the implication a “real” Mandarin may be out there). Still, Guy Pierce’s Killian gets points for being the founder (in the MCU) of Advanced Idea Mechanics, everyone’s favorite beekeeper-outfitted evil organization).


29. The Destroyer
Appearance: Thor (2011)
Type: Unstoppable Murder Machine

28-Destroyer.jpg

Created in 1965, the Destroyer serves as a mindless yet unbeatable (ignore how often it is beaten, please) weapon crafted by Odin and used often (by Loki) against Thor. The film version retains the cool design and general usage, even if its comics threat level suffers once Hemsworth’s Odinson regains his mighty mallet. The fact the armor is ultimately just a soulless weapon/glorified prop keeps it lower on the list than some less well designed, more inane villains ahead of it.


28. The Supreme Intelligence
Appearance: Captain Marvel (2019)
Type: A Different Type of Hive Mind

27-Supreme.jpg

The MCU’s version looks like Annette Bening. Its comics original looks like this. As a foe, the latter can be pretty impressive—Supremor the Supreme Intelligence possesses a full suite of psionic abilities and has complete control over one of the largest and most militaristic races in the universe. In Captain Marvel, we only really see it as a mental manifestation meant to serve as a before-and-after evaluation of Carol Danvers coming into her own, powers wise. Since they managed not to kill it in the first film (it bears repeating, a rare outcome), we may yet have the opportunity to see the Supreme Intelligence’s galaxy-spanning potential as an antagonist. Until then, #25 it is.


27. Whiplash (with Crimson Dynamo’s accent)
Appearance: Iron Man 2 (2010)
Type: Scene-Chewing, Confusing Amalgam

26-Whiplash.jpg

Most would agree that Mickey Rourke has the screen presence needed to transfer the comic book menace of a comic book villain into a chewy, Big Screen antagonist worthy of Robert Downey Jr.’s shellhead. But which villain? Rourke’s Ivan Vanko seems like yet another instance of a creative team picking isolated traits from the source material (the accent and name of the armored Crimson Dynamo, the whips of, well, Whiplash) instead of just embracing one of the (many) versions established and successful with fans from the comics. There’s a reason the phrase “villain problem” became a thing during the MCU’s first two phases.


26. Yellowjacket
Appearance: Ant-Man (2015)
Type: Unethical Scientist

25-Yellowjacket.jpg

Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket is pretty far removed from the gloriously costumed hero of the comics (principally appearing as one of Hank Pym’s many costumed identities)—oh, how I cherish those strange shoulder … epaulets? In the MCU, morally challenged Darren Cross behaves pretty much like your typical Iron Man villain—he wants to sell that sweet, sweet shrinking technology to the military—and this yields a very typical-for-the-early-MCU “doppelgänger” climatic battle where the guy with no training somehow is immediately a real threat to the guy we’ve seen painstakingly trying to learn how to use the technology in question. The militarized Yellowjacket suit is action-figure cool, but otherwise, meh.


25. The Abomination
Appearance: The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Type: “Bumpy Hulk”

24-Blonsky.jpg

All things considered, the MCU’s take on one of the Hulk’s main archenemies—he has two, a muscled one and a brainy one—isn’t that bad. This Abomination loses a bit of his comic book version’s symmetry, but otherwise, Abomination also smash, which is not that difficult a character to capture on film.


24. Malekith
Appearance: Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Type: Dour the Elf

23-Malekith.jpg

No amount of revisioning will ever pull the second Thor film out of the cellar along with the other “least good” of the MCU’s first 22 films. (The revelation of the joyous tonal shift of Thor: Ragnarok made sure of that.) There’s some mileage out of the Thor-Loki buddy film approach, but with Loki removed as the antagonist, we’re left with Chris Eccleston’s Malekith the Accursed, who will probably always be best known for triggering exclamations of “Oh, that’s Chris Eccleston?! He was a Doctor!” Malekith is another of those characters with a very snazzy comics outfit that lost its snaz in screen translation, but looking at the rest of the film, it was probably inevitable.


23. Alexander Pierce
Appearance: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Type: Redfordian Human

22-Pierce.jpg

Some make the argument Alexander Pierce’s role as long-time head of Hydra makes him a very potent villain in the MCU. After all, he undermines S.H.I.E.L.D., controls the Winter Soldier and represents Robert Redford’s very own late-career, Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West heel turn. Still, he’s human, and unlike the only other strictly non-powered human higher on this list, Pierce doesn’t really risk himself in direct conflict with our protagonists. Basically, his villainy is fait accompli—he’s written as the big bad much more than he’s shown being so (poor Renata the housekeeper notwithstanding). The MCU is a comic book universe, after all—give us our villains as costumed and absurdly powered as our heroes, or return to the others genres from whence you came.


22. Cull Obsidian
Appearance: Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Type: Cull Smash?

21-Cull-Obsidian.jpg

The big and burly of Thanos’s henchman, Cull exists to punch, cleave and die mildly spectacular deaths. Mission accomplished, twice.

21. Corvus Glaive
Appearance: Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Type: #Hench4Thanos

20-Corvus-Glaive.jpg

Besides being the reason a whole generation of kids might have some clue what a “glaive” is—feel that weight on your shoulders lessened, Dungeons & Dragons?—Corvus Glaive is the “lithe and lean” to Cull Obsidian’s “slow and beefy.” He’s got a cool weapon—it can slice through anything and while it is whole, Corvus cannot be killed—and, like most of the Black Order/Children of Thanos, gets to die twice.


20. Yon-Rogg
Appearance: Captain Marvel (2019)
Type: Kree Bastard

19-Yon-Rogg.jpg

Yon-Rogg doesn’t have much going for him beyond screen time, Jude Law and the fact there’s not really any sense of “source material potential” squandered here. Yons are gonna Rogg, and this one does.


19. Proxima Midnight
Appearance: Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Type: #Hench4Thanos2

18-Proxima-Midnight.jpg

It’s completely just to wonder why Carrie Coon’s Proxima Midnight is a few slots higher than the other “not Ebony Maw” members of the Thanos kill club. The reasons are simple: Her name and character design have that extra something when it comes to comics-worthy flamboyance, and Carrie Coon, even under all the makeup and CGI, is still Carrie Coon.


18. Ghost
Appearance: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Type: Quantum Wild Card

17-Ghost.jpg

Even though the MCU’s version of Ghost does not represent the global (or for most of the film, even personal) threat of most villains on this list—she’s just trying to avoid dying—she’s still a formidable superpowered antagonist for Ant-Man and the Wasp. She gets bonus points for not just being a mirror-image in terms of power set, and for the casting of Hannah John-Kamen. Every antagonist left alive at the end of a movie is a potential returning, developing figure in a future one, and that’s hopefully something Feige and company recognize in the post-Endgame era.


17. Surtur
Appearance: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Type: Fire Giant with Focus

16-Surtur.jpg

Surtur’s role in the MCU aligns pretty well with his comics and Norse myth underpinnings. Most notably in the MCU, Surtur is a winner! Unlike all the other villains on this list, he win-wins in the end, fulfilling his prophecy-ordained mission of destroying Asgard. Winner!


16. Ulysses Klaue
Appearances: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Black Panther (2017)
Type: Psychopathic Weapons Dealer

15-Klaue.jpg

On one hand, Andy Serkis’ Klaue is another villain who falls short of achieving his full comics persona—there, Klaw is a physicist who is composed of solid sound and possessed of a host of sound-based powers. In terms of sheer arch-ness, he’s Black Panther’s main, ahead of Erik Killmonger. (One way to judge how potent one hero’s nemesis—how often do they fight with other heroes?) Still, let’s not toss the MCU version aside. Serkis does a great job turning the arms dealer/merc of the MCU into a vibrant villain. It even looks like they are well on their way to converting Klaue to the Klaw of the comics, as he loses an arm and gets a sound cannon prosthetic. Death by Killmonger definitely seems like a setback, but one wonders, how alive do you have to be to be converted to a being of pure sound?


15. The Grandmaster
Appearance: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Type: Eccentric (and Groovy) Boss

14-Grandmaster.jpg

Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster isn’t quite the menacing figure of the comics. There, as one of the Elders of the Universe along with folks like the Collector, the Champion and … the Gardener (hey, guy had an infinity stone), the Grandmaster would frequently show up and force heroes to compete in order to satisfying his mania for games. Still, even if the MCU’s Grandmaster is just a secondary antagonist to Thor: Ragnarok’s big bad Hela, he does control an entire planet and oversee gladiatorial games with combatants like Thor and the Hulk. Plus, he’s Goldblum-powered—it’s a deceptively potent fuel for a villain.


14. Ego the Living Planet
Appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
Type: Planet-Sized Daddy Issue

13-Ego.jpg

While we’re quick to fault Marvel for flinching at the thought of portraying some comic book characters in ways more in keeping with their source material, the Kurt Russell-sized celestial of the MCU makes plenty of sense when writing scripts and blocking scenes. Ego is also the first entry on this list that serves as a well-cooked, well-executed significant threat. Yes, Dormammu would have ruined our reality and Malekith’s plans weren’t exactly “light mischief,” but here we have character, casting, plot and dastardly plan all coming together to create a threat that viewers can appreciate to both our heroes and countless inhabited planets (including Earth).


13. Obadiah Stane
Appearance: Iron Man (2008)
Type: Conniving Industrialist

12-Stane.jpg

It’s important to realize that before the MCU and, as importantly, Robert Downey Jr. came along to sexy him up, Tony Stark was pretty damn boring and his rogues gallery, ditto. His truly outstanding foe was The Mandarin (ten superpowered alien rings, man), which the MCU whiffed on. Otherwise, it was armored foes (Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man), one melodramatic arc with alcoholism, and buckets and buckets of industrialists (and corporate espionage). Hollywood’s early reluctance to embrace the source material (aided, admittedly, by limitations in technology) meant their early forays into villainhood regarding Iron Man were destined to feature Obadiah Stane. Jeff Bridges makes Stane much more compelling that he had any right to be, even if the climatic fight set the early MCU template of “protagonist fights mirror-image antagonist.” (Kudos to Stane for hastily donning complex tech and operating it skillfully after the audience has seen extended montages of Stark trying to do even the basics—Obadiah got skills.)


12. Helmut Zemo
Appearance: Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Type: Human with a Grudge

11-Zemo.jpg

A tip of the hat to this list’s highest-ranking normie. Zemo is another one of those villains whose MCU version is markedly toned down in appearance and less strident in presence. (Granted, comic book villains have a tendency to rant and exclaim.) Daniel Brühl’s Zemo may not have a mask glued permanently to his face by Adhesive X or a personal grudge against Captain America himself, but he does have a strong hankering to destroy the Avengers. Despite just being a regular human bent on revenge, Helmut makes it this high on the list thanks to his personal involvement/interaction with the heroes he’s attempting to exact his revenge upon. He data mines, he assassinates, and he basically succeeds, for a while, at breaking up the Avengers. Thanks to the Black Panther, he even survives to threaten another day.


11. Nebula
Appearances: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Type: Cyborg Sister Act

10-Nebula.jpg

Thanos’ least favorite adopted daughter arguably has the most complex, engaging arc of the entire MCU. In any group not including Gamora, she usually stands out as the most effective—witness how she intimidates and leads the Ravagers in the second Guardians film. She even manages to both endanger the Avengers’ entire post-snap plan in Avengers: Endgame and save it. Sure, her time as an antagonist could be viewed as a succession of failures when it comes to her primary missions—to kill Thanos or Gamora—but for what Nebula lacks in success ratio, she more than make up for in determination.


10. Ronan the Accuser
Appearances: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Captain Marvel (2019)
Type: Militant Fanatic (or Zealous Militant, or Fanatical Zealot)

9-Ronan.jpg

Of all the “...and then they killed him” in the MCU Phases 1-3, Ronan’s fate was perhaps the most frustrating. Lee Pace captured the look and feel of the Kree’s judge, jury and executioner, but anyone familiar with the comics know how much potential the character had to figure in a host of classic storylines. As for the films and his position on this list, there’s a lot to be said for this power stone-enhanced cosmi-rod-wielding fanatic. On the other hand, being defeated via dance-off might not be his proudest moment. Fortunately, the new timeline created by Endgame means the character did not have the chance to meet such an ignominious end. (Come to think of it, didn’t Ego become aware of Peter Quill due to that confrontation?) With luck, we’ll see more of Ronan.


9. Ebony Maw
Appearances: Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Type: Hench with Big Arch Energy

8-Ebony-Maw.jpg

Despite his untimely demise via the classic move from “That really old movie, Aliens,” Maw seemed the one member of Thanos’ crew ready for the spotlight as a solo villain. Not coincidentally, he also represents one of the few instances where the MCU version is much stronger than his comics’ antecedent. (In the comics, Ebony Maw is all about the maw—a super persuasive manipulator.) In Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Maw takes on Doctor Strange, Iron Man and Spider-Man and wipes the floor with them. Impressive.


8. Mysterio
Appearance: Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
Type: Dastardly Manipulator (in a fish bowl, no less)

8-Mysterio.jpg

There’s a long list of reasons why the MCU has succeeded—the casting, the patience, the casting, the daring, the casting, etc.—but make no mistake, the depiction of Mysterio (a C-tier member of the greater Marvel universe who hovers on the edge of Spidey’s personal top 10 Rogue’s Gallery) in Spider-Man: Far from Home should serve as Exhibit A in any case made for what Marvel is doing right. Most studios wouldn’t come near retaining the villain’s signature look from the comics—so garish! So crazy! Forget the bright purple cape and emerald green doublet thingie, there are like, eyes on each shoulder with a—is that a fish bowl?!—helmet that looks like something you’re used to seeing on souvenir shelves. Fox would have leathered that suck up! Warner Bros.? Mute that palette! Sony would have—well, after seeing what they did to Electro, who knows what they would have done? Who cares that, in the case of Quentin Beck’s past and current goals, the outfit’s very garishness actually makes perfect sense? (Go big! This is show biz!) Well, Feige and company care. And it’s just as important a sign that the source material is respected and preserved as Chris Evans’ Captain America. It’s also why Mysterio, who compared to many of this list is not very impressive in the villainy department (despite that signature way above his weight class villainous achievement in the Old Man Logan universe), is this high on the list.


7. Red Skull
Appearance: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Type: Nefarious Nazi Mastermind

7-Red-Skull.jpg

Compared to the villains who would come after him, Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull might not seem that impressive, but there’s a clear demarcation between the the Red Skull and the villains ahead of him on this list and those that precede him. In the comics, the Skull is Captain America’s clear archenemy. (The character itself was introduced in 1941, the same year and in the same comic as Cap.) In the decades that followed, the Red Skull has figured frequently in Marvel Universe-shaking events. (He’s not quite Doctor Doom, but then again, who is?) His power set that has ebbed and flowed depending on the macguffins involved, but he’s never out of the picture for too long. In the MCU, the Red Skull is a well-balanced foil to Chris Evans’ Captain America. We’re not sure how satisfied we are with the Red Skull’s “surprise” demotion to eternal soul stone guard duty, but we trust that he isn’t, either—hopefully, during the post-Evans lull, Marvel will look for ways to reintroduce the Red Skull in his more traditional, villainous form.


6. Ultron
Appearance: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Type: Archvillainous Automaton

6-Ultron.jpg

In the comics, Ultron is one of the biggies. Born of Hank Pym and involving, in one way or the other, aspects of the Wasp, the Vision, Wonder Man and the original Human Torch, Ultron reoccurs like a boss, threatening people, heroes, cities, the world, the galaxy … this is one murderous robot with unlimited upside. The MCU does a good job capturing Ultron’s classic look and overall threat level (especially for his first appearance). We’re still not sure how well the James Spader voiceover works, but should Ultron reappear in future movies, the writers won’t have to really worry about establishing his bona fides.


5. Hela
Appearance: Thor: Ragnarok (2018)
Type: Goddess of Death (and Estranged Sister)

5-Hela.jpg

Thor: Ragnarok is a joy for many reasons, but among them, there’s the sense that Marvel Studios execs just may be starting to accept that beloved characters and, as importantly, beloved character designs, will work just fine on the Big Screen. As Hela, Cate Blanchett is spectacular—so that’s what it would have been like had Galadriel taken the One Ring—but as impressive and tone-setting as Hela’s crumbling of Mjolnir is, her maintaining and manifesting of the comic character’s classic “horns” look was just as exciting. As a villain, Hela is everything you look for—a well-acted, menacing presence that sends the heroes scrambling (and fleeing) from the first moment until the very end. (Bonus—no matter how things end, you can’t count out the goddess of death for a return appearance.)


4. The Vulture
Appearance: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Type: Blue-Collar Scavenger

4-Vulture.jpg

After showing they could take B-tier (C-tier?) heroes and make a great film with Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, it was high time Marvel Studios exhibited some of the same alchemy on B-tier villains. Hello, 2017. The smaller stakes and more intimate settings of Spider-Man: Homecoming not only provided a nice palate cleanser compared to all the Thanos-related shenanigans going on elsewhere, they also provided an opportunity to show that there’s no “villain problem” if you take the concerns and casting of a character seriously enough. Michael Keaton’s Vulture also represents a rare example (in the MCU) of a classic villain, albeit a minor one, whose adjustments to make him more menacing on film land because the writers have taken the time to flesh out the character. The moment where Keaton’s Adrian Toomes deduces Peter Parker’s secret identity feels earned, which makes the character’s survival all the more exciting for all those Sinister Six fans out there.


3. Killmonger
Appearance: Black Panther (2017)
Type: Committed “Burn It All Down” Proponent

3-Killmonger.jpg

As exciting as the Black Panther’s scenes are in Captain America: Civil War and as mind-blowing as the revelation of Wakanda itself is in Black Panther, it’s Michael B. Jordan’s turn as Erik Killmonger in the latter that continuously threatens to steal the show. When he answers Ulysses Klaue’s query about whether a mask in a museum is vibranium with, “Nah, I’m just feeling it,” we are, too.


2. Loki
Appearances: Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Thor: Ragnarok (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Type: Tricksy God

2-Loki.jpg

Downey Jr., Evans and Hemsworth get deserved praise (often by us) for being examples of the near transcendent casting that powered the MCU rise to box office domination, but Tom Hiddleston’s take on Loki Laufeyson was just as crucial, particularly in the pre-Thanos villain drought of Phase 1 and 2. There’s a reason even the loudest laments concerning “villain problems” had either an assumed or spoken Loki-based caveat. As a mischievous trickster god who dabbles in world domination, the MCU’s Loki is complicated, conflicted and always scheming. Hiddleston makes the character as fun during its villainous arcs as its (usually briefer) heroic ones, and without the arrival of a certain purple-toned gem collector, Loki would be the clear #1.


1. Thanos
Appearances: The Avengers (2012), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Type: The Big Bad

1-Thanos.jpg

Snap. $4.7 billion worldwide (and counting). The MCU’s existential threat, Thanos will be a tough act to follow. ’Nuff said.

Also in Movies