Entertainment

All Of The Marvel Studios Movie Villains, Ranked From Worst To Best

Being boring is bad, and not in a good way. (Now with more Civil War!)

Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for every movie released by Marvel Studios.

Adam B. Vary for BuzzFeed / Marvel Studios

39. Malekith (Christopher Eccleston)

Marvel Studios

Thor: The Dark World

Yeah, he wants to transform the entire universe into absolute darkness, but that and his freaky blue eyes are pretty much the dude’s only defining features. I guess when you’re in the same movie as Loki, there is just no competing. But, really, Malekith could not be more boring, and, I repeat, he wants to destroy the universe. When you are The Big Bad for an entire superhero feature film, the sin of total boredom is unforgivable. There is nothing worse.

38. Vice President Rodriguez (Miguel Ferrer)

Marvel Studios

Iron Man 3

He conspires with the Mandarin and sells out the president — and, worse, Tony Stark. So he’s definitely a bad guy. But, to be honest, I totally forgot he was even in the movie. Because he’s on screen for less time, though, he evokes less boredom than Malekith, so he’s not quite as terrible. But only barely.

37. Mitchell Carson (Martin Donovan)

Marvel Studios / Via marvel-movies.wikia.com

Ant-Man

This high ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. official who is actually a Hydra weasel wants to use the shrinking tech designed by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to rule the world. Since Pym did make a memorable impact on Carson’s face, however, he’s more interesting than the previous two villains on this list!

36. Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre)

Marvel Studios

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

His one parkour-y fight with Cap is kind of cool? But that’s all he does, and Cap wipes the floor with him. Next!

35. Ivan Vanko / Whiplash (Mickey Rourke)

Marvel Studios

Iron Man 2

Mickey Rourke plays Whiplash with a kooky dreadlocked-ponytail-bun thing, a penchant for showing off his over-the-top tattooed physique, and what seems like only a vague grasp on his lines. Granted, that is the opposite of boring, but it isn’t exactly interesting, either — it’s just weird for weirdness’ sake. Half the time, Rourke seems to be performing in his own movie, and the character’s ultimate aim — killing Tony Stark with, uh, whips? — is weak sauce when compared to the grander designs of the other villains on this list. He is one of the major reasons why Iron Man 2 is so irretrievably terrible.

34. Algrim / Kurse (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agabje)

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

 

Thor: The Dark World

As Algrim, he’s as dull as his leader Malekith, but when he transforms into Kurse, he’s a menacing, virtually indestructible thug, who is… still pretty dull.

33. Korath (Djimon Hounsou)

Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy

At least Korath gets a couple funny moments surrounding Peter Quill’s desire to be called Star Lord. But he’s ultimately just kind of… there. Also, apparently, if you’re a black alien in a Marvel Studios movie, you must have electric blue eyes.

32. King Laufey (Colm Feore)

Marvel Studios

Thor

Good grief, Thor has seriously lame non-Loki villainy. Colm Feore at least brings a spark of personality to the leader of the Frost Giants, but now that I’ve typed the term “Frost Giants,” I cannot take him or his intimidating abs seriously.

31. Raza (Faran Tahir)

Marvel Studios

Iron Man

Marvel Studios’ very first villain is essentially a standard Middle Eastern terrorist proxy for Osama bin Laden — he’s like bad guy training wheels for the far more outlandish malefactors to come.

30. Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann)

Marvel Studios

Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron

Off camera, Strucker is a mad Hydra scientist willing to sacrifice the lives of untold numbers of “volunteers” in the pursuit of making “miracles” with Loki’s scepter — including the primordial beginnings of what would become Ultron and his army of robots. That’s pretty villainous. On camera, however, Strucker is a coward who surrenders to the Avengers without so much as a fight — and then promptly dies, off camera. Kretschmann brings a playful twinkle to the role, but, yeah, this guy is the definition of underwhelming.

29. Darren Cross / Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll)

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

 

Ant-Man

Because Corey Stoll is such a strong actor, Ant-Man’s central villain makes more of an impact that he deserves to — other than whining all the time about why Hank Pym won’t be nice to him or whatever, the guy doesn’t actually do much of anything. Sure, he has evil plans, and that Yellowjacket suit manages to be scary instead of mildly ridiculous, but other than threatening a child in her own bedroom, the guy is basically just all talk.

28. Brandt (Stephanie Szostak)

Marvel Studios

Iron Man 3

As a visual, Extremis is creepy-cool to look at. As a character trait, it makes people into amoral jerks who get off on violence. Which is a decent attribute for a lackey, but it doesn’t make that lackey all that memorable.

27. Savin (James Badge Dale)

Marvel Studios

Iron Man 3

Savin gets more screen time than his Extremis-y counterpart Brandt, and he likes to chew gum a lot, a telltale sign of cinematic villainy. Therefore, he is slightly more evil. It’s math.

26. Emil Blonsky / The Abomination (Tim Roth)

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

 

The Incredible Hulk

Blonsky is a non-character. We gather he used to be a hot shit soldier, but he’s leaping at the chance to be injected with super-soldier serum before we barely even know the guy. So, when he transforms into the Abomination, it’s like, Uh, sure, why not? And frankly, the Abomination has more personality, though not by much. At least his name is well-earned — that thing looks terrifying.

25. Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández)

Marvel Studios

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Until Cap 2, we thought Sitwell was one of the good guys, a stalwart S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and compatriot of Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson. So discovering he’s been a Hydra weasel all along feels like a bracing slap in the face (in a good way!) — but Sitwell was only alive long enough to drop some exposition and tease the Doctor Strange movie before getting hit by a truck. Oh well.

24. Heinz Kruger (Richard Armitage)

Marvel Studios

Captain America: The First Avenger

This Hydra weasel has even less total screen time than Sitwell, but at least he actually does something villainous — i.e. kill Stanley Tucci’s Dr. Abraham Erskine — before taking his own life with a cyanide capsule. Also, a double-breasted suit and a vest? Even in the 1940s, that’s evil.

23. General “Thunderbolt” Ross / Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt)

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

 

The Incredible Hulk and Captain America: Civil War

In the forgettably terrible Incredible Hulk, William Hurt plays a fuzzily drawn antagonist to Edward Norton’s Bruce Banner. At times, General Ross wants to capture Banner because he’s a threat, at other times because Banner’s hot for his daughter, and at others still because Banner represents the future of super soldiers. Hurt is never not interesting, but the character is so all over the place that there’s not much there for him to play.

In Civil War, Ross has been inexplicably promoted to Secretary of State, and his sense of morality has grown even murkier: The logic of taking the Avengers to task certainly makes sense given all the collateral damage they’ve inflicted on the world, but by the end, Ross is holed up on a submerged super-max prison, wearing a sleek Bond villain jacket and coming off as vaguely sinister as he holds Cap’s rebel Avengers prisoner. You get the sense that Ross thinks he’s a good guy, but secretly wants to be a bad guy. Make up your damn mind, man! (Still, points to Marvel Studios for figuring out a savvy way to reuse a character from the one MCU movie pretty much everyone wishes didn’t exist.)

22. Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace)

Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy

His appearance certainly makes a strong impression, and he fits in perfectly with the rest of the movie (unlike, say, Whiplash). Thanks to Lee Pace’s keen sense of theatricality, Ronan also holds our attention far more than those Dark Elves and Frost Giants pestering Asgard. But he is, once again, a one-note bad guy, all explosive genocidal rage with zero sense as to what makes him tick.

21. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall)

Marvel Studios

Iron Man 3

One of the very few female villains on this list, Hansen falls into bad behavior that is also the most human — she desperately wants to advance in her field, and just loses her way in the process. In the end, she feebly tries to redeem herself, and is gunned down for her troubles.

20. Thanos (Josh Brolin)

Marvel Studios

The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers: Age of Ultron

On one hand, he’s apparently the most powerful person in the galaxy — nay, the universe. He’s the scheming puppet master of the calamitous events in The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. And he has a penchant for kidnapping young girls and torturing them into his weaponized “daughters.”

On the other hand, we’ve not actually seen him do anything yet. This list will evolve as subsequent Marvel Studios movies are released, and it’s certainly possible that Thanos will rise in our estimation of his villainy. As it stands now, though, he’s all evil potential, no real follow through.

19. Senator Stern (Garry Shandling)

Marvel Studios

Iron Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Garry Shandling’s cameo as a weasel-y U.S. senator hounding Tony Stark was one of the few bright spots of Iron Man 2 (the other is coming up shortly), but it was a small masterstroke to make him into an actual Hydra weasel. And the sight of the late, great Shandling whispering “Hail Hydra” is one of the many bright spots of The Winter Soldier.

18. Dr. Arnim Zola, human version (Toby Jones)

Marvel Studios

Captain America: The First Avenger

Zola’s vigor for serving Hydra’s aims of world domination, even as those aims terrify him, make for a welcome murky presence in the otherwise morally cut-and-dried first Captain America movie. And Toby Jones, bless him, was born to play the scientist lackey of a super villain.

17. The Other (Alexis Denisof)

Marvel Studios

The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy

With barely any screen time, an unrecognizable Alexis Denisof imbues Thanos’ underling with a sinister, spider-y malevolence — and unlike Thanos himself, he actually carries out some evildoing before Ronan breaks his neck. Plus, that extra thumb is damn creepy.

16. Dr. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson)

Marvel Studios

The Incredible Hulk

Even more than Arnim Zola and Maya Hansen, Dr. Samuel Sterns is Marvel Studios’ most insidiously amoral “scientist.” Even as he strives to help “cure” Bruce Banner of his Hulk-itude, he thinks nothing of synthesizing Banner’s blood to harness its potential. And when he gives Banner’s blood to Emil Blonsky, Tim Blake Nelson knows how to barely contain Sterns’ excitement at creating the Abomination. In that moment, Sterns also appeared to be transforming into the giant-brained Leader, the scientist’s ultimate fate in the comics. But since The Incredible Hulk never spawned a sequel, he’ll forever be caught in comic book movie limbo.

15. Zemo (Daniel Brühl)

Marvel Studios

Captain America: Civil War

Zemo sets a plan in motion to tear the Avengers apart, and unlike almost every other villain on this list, his plan actually succeeds. Otherwise, he’s your basic cocktail of you-killed-my-family revenge story spiked with a lethal ability to Google “Tony Stark dead parents Winter Soldier 1991.” Which is to say, he’s far from the most dynamic member of the MCU’s rogues gallery, but Brühl shrewdly underplays the role. The fact that he also survives to the end of the film suggests that he may still live up to his far more outlandish comic book namesake.

14. Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges)

Marvel Studios

Iron Man

A father figure to Tony, Stane betrays him twice — first by selling him out to Ten Rings (Reza’s terrorist group), and then by stealing the arc reactor straight out of Tony’s chest to create his own Iron Monger. That’s cold. And maybe a bit small fry compared to so many other villains here. What really elevates the character, however, is the fact that Jeff Bridges is playing him, bringing a wry playfulness to the man’s very bad deeds. That, and a pretty wicked beard.

13. Brock Rumlow / Crossbones (Frank Grillo)

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War

In Winter Soldier, Brock feels like a fully-realized character and not just another Henchman, due mostly to Grillo’s decision to play him not as a “Henchman,” but as just a man who, in most normal circumstances, would be a decent guy — until his weasel-y allegiance to Hydra is revealed. Even then, Brock behaves as if he’s doing the right thing, not the evil thing — and that is far more sinister.

As Crossbones in Civil War, Brock’s been twisted into a remorseless, scarred rage monster who hates Captain America so much he’s willing to destroy himself to erase Cap from the Earth. That’s damn cold.

12. Aldrich Killian / The Real Mandarin (Guy Pearce)

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios / Via gilgalads.tumblr.com

 

Iron Man 3

He transforms from a loser-nerd with bad teeth and worse hair into a suave, stacked, fire-breathing sociopath who thinks nothing of exploiting the accidental death of his veteran soldier guinea pigs to gin up demand for his Extremis super-soldier serum. Killian is so slick, in fact, that he risks coming off as a generic evil d-bag. But Pearce adds a disturbing sexual entitlement with regard to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts that is quite rare among Marvel Studios’ villains — and, for a bad guy, quite effective.

11. Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis)

Marvel Studios

Avengers: Age of Ultron

In just a few minutes of screen time, Andy Serkis makes an indelible impression as an ethically challenged arms dealer smuggling stolen Vibranium out of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He is such a memorable presence, in fact, that it barely matters that Klaue is kind of superfluous to the movie’s main story — basically, I can’t wait to see what he does in Black Panther.

10. Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker)

Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy

There is an argument to be made that Yondu isn’t quite a villain — he does join the fight against Ronan, after all. But he’s also constantly threatening to kill Peter Quill for not much more than pride and a payday — greed is his one and only north star. One expects his antagonism to only grow in the Guardians sequel, and thank goodness, because Michael Rooker is fantastic in this role.

9. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell)

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

 

Iron Man 2

On paper, as a rival defense contractor, Hammer was only meant to be the smooth-talking, morally empty yang to Tony Stark’s yin, and the secondary villain who gets Whiplash from point A to point Evil. In Sam Rockwell’s spray-on-tan-stained hands, however, Hammer proved to be an oddball riot, and one of the only unambiguously good things about this bloated, unlikable movie.

8. Nebula (Karen Gillan)

Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy

There is something just so coolly lethal about Nebula, from her sharp gait to her slightly mechanized voice to her cyborg-enhanced body. And Karen Gillan also brings something treacherously desperate to the role — you get the feeling that if she wasn’t always on the razor’s edge of violence, she would be even more dangerous. Her antipathy towards Thanos might ultimately bring her back around to the good guys’ side, but hopefully not for a long time.

7. The Mandarin / Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley)

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios / Via harrihito.tumblr.com

 

Iron Man 3

Some people hate that Marvel made the Mandarin into a joke, and I feel sorry for those people, because A) The Mandarin as conceived in the comics is racist, and B) This is an amazing joke. This version of the Mandarin is supposed to be a kind of racist pastiche of America’s biggest boogeymen — he’s conceived as propaganda meant to provoke our most base fears, one of the most deliciously trenchant ideas that has ever worked its way into a Marvel Studios movie. Best of all, Ben Kingsley has a total blast playing both the pastiche, and the washed-out actor hired to perform him.

6. Ultron (James Spader)

Marvel Studios

Avengers: Age of Ultron

He has a grumpy, wicked sense of humor (“I can’t actually throw up in my mouth, but if I could, I would do it!”), and an apocalyptic plan to save the planet by destroying humanity. Those are pretty great combinations for a villain, and that’s before factoring in Ultron’s terrifyingly sleek design and James Spader’s delightfully peculiar delivery.

5. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Bucky Barnes’ transformation into the Winter Soldier — and subsequent confrontation with his old buddy Steve Rogers — makes him one of the only Marvel bad guys with major skin in the game beyond mere wicked behavior. To be clear, as the Winter Soldier, Barnes is certainly a sympathetic villain — the brainwashing and torture he underwent over multiple decades is indeed what helps make him so compelling. But he spent those decades as a lethal and merciless assassin, killing multitudes and shaping history. Some villains do evil because they are themselves evil; others are driven to villainy, caught up in circumstances beyond their control, but still active and relentless antagonists to the greater good. And the Winter Soldier is just that in the movie that shares his name. He saves Cap in the end, sure, but as Bucky himself expresses in Captain America: Civil War, that does not make up for all the terrible things he did as the Winter Soldier.

And unlike the mystically controlled Hawkeye in The Avengers, we also vividly understand in Civil War that a simple bonk on the head isn’t nearly enough to change Bucky back to the guy he was in the 1940s. But it is also clear that having Cap back in his life is enough to bring Bucky into the 21st century, setting him on a path of redemption that promises to be one of the most satisfying character arcs in the MCU. But yes, sorry, everyone: As the Winter Soldier, he is unmistakably a villain — and a great one.

4. Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford)

Marvel Studios

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Pierce could have been a deliberately anonymous government bureaucrat gone catastrophically to seed, which would have been effective enough for a movie about the perils of runaway military expansion. Convincing Robert Redford to play him, however, was a masterstroke of movie star casting. Who would have thought seeing the Sundance Kid whisper “Hail Hydra” as his dying breath would be so damn fun?

3. Dr. Arnim Zola, computer version (Toby Jones)

Marvel Studios / Via falconbigbutt.tumblr.com

Marvel Studios / Via falconbigbutt.tumblr.com

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

When he was a man, Dr. Zola was a wee bit… meh. But when he transferred his consciousness into a vast, aging database buried deep underneath an abandoned army base so he could conspire to stretch Hydra’s tentacles deep within S.H.I.E.L.D., Dr. Zola was magnificent. (He’s also a fun, winking nod to the character’s more outlandish computerized iteration in the comics.)

2. Johann Schmidt / Red Skull (Hugo Weaving)

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

 

Captain America: The First Avenger

As Schmidt, he’s cruel and conniving. When unmasked as Red Skull, he looks both convincingly frightening and like he stepped straight out of a comic book. As performed by the great Hugo Weaving, the founding leader of Hydra had a combination of commanding presence, dark intent, and baleful panache that so many of Marvel Studios’ main villains have oddly lacked. It’s a shame, really, that he was killed off. (Or was he?!)

1. Loki (Tom Hiddleston)

Thor

Marvel

The Avengers

Marvel

Thor: The Dark World

Marvel

 

Thor, The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World

Was there ever any doubt who would be No. 1? Thor’s adopted younger brother could have been a sniveling brat pining for the throne. But Tom Hiddleston brought such rich pathos to the character — and Joss Whedon wrote him to be such a dramatic, dynamic villain in The Avengers — that Loki has quickly and deservedly become one of the great movie villains of the last 25 years, period. The only question is: When is he going to get his own movie, already?

A note on criteria: To qualify, a character has to play an antagonistic role for the vast majority of their presence in one of the MCU movies. So the brainwashed Selvig and Hawkeye from The Avengers, and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch from Avengers: Age of Ultron (who change sides), don’t count. But, yes, the Winter Solider does.

UPDATE

This post has been updated to include characters from Captain America: Civil War, as well as update entries for established characters on this list. Earlier updates included characters from Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man.

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

 
  Your Reaction?
  REACT WITH GIF
 

    Contributions

    Now Buzzing