Warning: The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for every movie released by Marvel Studios.
49. Malekith (Christopher Eccleston)
48. Vice President Rodriguez (Miguel Ferrer)
47. Mitchell Carson (Martin Donovan)
46. Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre)
45. Ivan Vanko/Whiplash (Mickey Rourke)
44. Algrim/Kurse (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agabje)
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.
43. Korath (Djimon Hounsou)
42. King Laufey (Colm Feore)
41. Raza (Faran Tahir)
40. Jackson Brice/Shocker #1 (Logan Marshall-Green)
39. Mac Gargan (Michael Mando)
38. Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann)
37. Darren Cross/Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll)
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.
36. Brandt (Stephanie Szostak)
35. Savin (James Badge Dale)
34. Dormammu (Benedict Cumberbatch)
33. Emil Blonsky/The Abomination (Tim Roth)
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.
32. Phineas Mason/The Tinkerer (Michael Chernus)
31. Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández)
30. Heinz Kruger (Richard Armitage)
29. Herman Schultz/Shocker #2 (Bokeem Woodbine)
28. General "Thunderbolt" Ross/Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt)
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.)
27. Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace)
26. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall)
25. Thanos (Josh Brolin)
24. Senator Stern (Garry Shandling)
23. Taserface (Chris Sullivan)
22. Dr. Arnim Zola, human version (Toby Jones)
21. The Other (Alexis Denisof)
20. Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen)
19. Dr. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson)
18. Zemo (Daniel Brühl)
17. Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker)
16. Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges)
15. Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo)
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.
14. Aldrich Killian/The Real Mandarin (Guy Pearce)
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.
13. Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis)
12. Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki)
11. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell)
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.
10. Ego (Kurt Russell)
9. Nebula (Karen Gillan)
8. The Mandarin/Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley)
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.
7. Ultron (James Spader)
6. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)
Villain in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, also appears in Captain America: Civil War
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.
5. Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford)
4. Dr. Arnim Zola, computer version (Toby Jones)
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.)
3. Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton)
2. Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving)
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, 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 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.
This post has been updated to include characters from Spider-Man: Homecoming. Earlier updates included characters from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man.