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

Being boring is bad, and not in a good way. (Now featuring Avengers: Infinity War!) Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS!

Originally posted on
Updated on

60. 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.

59. 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.

58. 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!

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57. 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!

56. 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.

55. Algrim/Kurse (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agabje)

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.

54. 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.

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53. 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.

52. Topaz (Rachel House)

Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok

She's the Grandmaster's enforcer who thinks melted flesh smells like burned toast and has it out for Valkyrie. That's about it for Topaz, but it still makes her more interesting than all the men before her on this list.

51. Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw)

Marvel Studios

Avengers: Infinity War

He looks like, I dunno, an evil elf? And he growls a lot. But the only real defining characteristic of this member of Thanos’s Black Order is the long-bladed weapon he’s named after, and that is no substitute for an actual personality.

50. Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon)

Marvel Studios

Avengers: Infinity War

Proxima Midnight’s problem is that her name is Proxima Midnight, but the character is more Proxima Three-Thirty-in-the-Afternoon. I’m frankly outraged that this is how Carrie Coon gets to join the MCU, but at least she (almost) held her own in a killer fight with Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, and Okoye.

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49. 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.

48. Jackson Brice/Shocker #1 (Logan Marshall-Green)

Sony Pictures

Spider-Man: Homecoming

He's brash, reckless, a pretty terrible shot, and kinda dumb (i.e., threatening to rat out his boss, Adrian Toomes, in a room filled with lethal alien weaponry). So, even though Toomes accidentally (allegedly) vaporizes him, the guy pretty much had it coming.

47. Mac Gargan (Michael Mando)

Sony Pictures / Via villains.wikia.com

Spider-Man: Homecoming

In Homecoming, he's a generic criminal who's around just long enough to have his face messed up during Spidey's confrontation with Vulture on the Staten Island Ferry (which Gargan seemingly blames Spidey for, even though Vulture's the one who really causes that gnarly scar across his eye). Eye-based scars are obviously the most villainous scars — but since, according to the comics, this dude is destined to become Scorpion (and maybe Venom), we'll just have to wait to see what nefarious plans he actually has in store for our Spidey.

46. 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.

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44. Darren Cross/Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll)

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.

43. Surtur (Clancy Brown)

Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok

As a Fire Giant, Surtur is automatically cooler than the Frost Giants (terrible pun intended!), and to date, he remains the only villain on this list who successfully destroys an entire world. Granted, he basically had nothing to do with making that happen, since Thor was just using him to defeat Hela — an even worse, more powerful villain. Still: He's made of fire and has zero chill. (More terrible puns!)

42. 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.

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41. 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.

40. Dormammu (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange

The master of the Dark Dimension is one of the most powerful and formidable villains in the Marvel Comics. But in his first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he's not much more than a massive disembodied head with an oddly passive drive to take over Earth. Granted, Dormammu is a really cool-looking disembodied head, and he's voiced by Cumberbatch's singular baritone growl. But the best thing about the character — i.e., the way Doctor Strange uses his arch-enemy's catastrophically poor understanding of time-loop spells to get one over on him — has very to do with the character himself.

39. Emil Blonsky/The Abomination (Tim Roth)

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.

38. Skurge (Karl Urban)

Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok

One of the more wishy-washy villains in the MCU, Skurge forsakes his people to become Hela's executioner, which shouldn't be all that surprising given his penchant for pilfering from the nine realms and his obsession with Earth-bound firearms. Plus, his local barber/tattoo artist really leaned into the whole "Asgardian fuckboy" look. His last-minute sacrificial change of heart is certainly noble, but, like, it comes after he just stood there while Hela decimated just about every soldier in Asgard. The guy just has a problem committing.

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37. Phineas Mason/The Tinkerer (Michael Chernus)

Sony Pictures

Spider-Man: Homecoming

One of the oldest members of Spider-Man's comic book rogue gallery makes a subdued debut in Homecoming, slapping together alien and human technology to keep Toomes' criminal enterprise in business. This Tinkerer really only cares about his gadgets, indifferent to how they might be used...or misused: When Toomes "unintentionally" zaps his compatriot Jackson, Mason barely bats an eye.

36. 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.

35. 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.

34. Herman Schultz/Shocker #2 (Bokeem Woodbine)

Sony Pictures

Spider-Man: Homecoming

The most villainous moment in Schultz's young career as an MCU villain comes when he nonchalantly picks up his Shocker gloves after Toomes zaps them off of Jackson's body. Like, he's standing over the smoldering ashes of his compatriot, and his immediate thought seems to be Yay, mine now!

Schultz also seems to relish beating the crap out of Spider-Man, but that's kind of his job as a bad guy, and he ends up bested by Peter's BFF, Ned, which has got to be embarrassing down at the local bad guy watering hole.

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33. General "Thunderbolt" Ross/Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt)

Marvel Studios

The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: Civil War, and Avengers: Infinity 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.)

32. 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.

31. 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.

30. 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.

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29. Taserface (Chris Sullivan)

Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

He's Taserface! His name is what strikes fear in all those who hear it! Kind of. OK, not really. But he does murder all of those Ravagers in a mutiny, which is pretty bad. Taserface, everybody!

28. 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.

27. The Other (Alexis Denisof)

Marvel Studios

The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy

With barely any screen time, an unrecognizable Alexis Denisof imbues Thanos's 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.

26. Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen)

Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange

The disgraced former disciple of the Ancient One is a nihilistic zealot driven by a boilerplate disregard for humanity and a fuzzy desire to escape the ravages of time. Kaecilius, in fact, might feel like just an empty shortcut to explicating Stephen Strange's personal failings were he not played by Mikkelsen, who has become something of an expert in imbuing creepy soulfulness into iconic villains. Also, for a universe filled with evildoers, this is one of the few MCU rogues who actually kills one of the lead characters.

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25. 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.

24. 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.

23. N'Jobu (Sterling K. Brown)

Marvel Studios

Black Panther

N'Jobu betrays his country and allows Ulysses Klaue to steal its vibranium — leading to the deaths of many of his fellow Wakandans. But his decision comes from a place of almost existential frustration with the plight of black people who live outside of his homeland and cannot benefit from its prosperity. His screentime is minimal, but between the legacy of rage and tragic loss his character bestows upon his son, and the striking performance of Sterling K. Brown in the role, N'Jobu's impact looms large.

22. Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker)

Marvel Studios

Villain in Guardians of the Galaxy, also appears in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

This one is tricky. In the first Guardians movie, Yondu is constantly threatening to kill Peter Quill for what seems to be not much more than pride and a payday — greed appears to be his one and only north star. His treatment of Quill, including kidnapping him from Earth when he was just a boy, is antagonistic within the context of the movie. Also, as played by Rooker, Yondu's bad behavior is just tremendous fun.

In Vol. 2, however, Yondu's actions throughout Quill's life are revealed to be much more complicated than the first film suggests. The guy is basically Quill's surrogate dad; he even makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his adopted son. Your mileage may vary on whether that means Yondu wasn't a villain in the first Guardians movie. Like the other rogues on this list who eventually heed their better angels, however, I still think Yondu deserves to be here.

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21. 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.

20. Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo)

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.

19. Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor)

Marvel Studios

Avengers: Infinity War

He’s the only member of Thanos’s Black Order to make any kind of genuine impression, and it’s a considerable one. His eerily high voice makes his fanatical proselytizing on behalf of Thanos’s apocalyptic master plan that much creepier, and I know this maybe seems weird to say, but there’s something…untoward about the casual way he manipulates his telekinetic powers. He’s such an effective villain, and yet he was vanquished by a high schooler who’d seen Aliens. Pity!

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

Marvel Studios

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.

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17. Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum)

Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok

Jeff Goldblum is such a gas as the despotic ruler of the galactic trash planet Sakaar that it's easy to forget that the guy is a cruel despot who pits slaves — or to use the Grandmaster's preferred term, "prisoners with jobs" — against each other in gladiatorial battles, and thinks nothing of liquefying his enemies with his trusty melt stick. I'm not convinced that any of Goldblum's lines were in the script, and I do hope we're treated to more of his wackadoo shenanigans in future movies.

16. Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis)

Marvel Studios

Avengers: Age of Ultron and Black Panther

In just a few minutes of screentime in Age of Ultron, 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. He makes a much bigger impact in Black Panther, drawing T'Challa and his cohorts from Wakanda to South Korea on the promise of intercepting, you guessed it, more stolen vibranium. Serkis is an absolute treat in the role, and his fancy arm cannon has an enjoyable, Inspector Gadget (but evil) kick. The guy's villainy, nonetheless, is pretty much only about getting his hand on that sweet, sweet vibranium. Although he still manages to cause a great deal of (mostly off camera) death and heartbreak in that pursuit, his sudden demise at the hands of Killmonger means we'll never know what other wicked transgressions he could have attempted.

15. Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki)

Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Listen, all Debicki needed to do to rank high on this list was sneer imperiously at the Guardians of the Galaxy. As the perfection-obsessed leader of the golden-skinned, genetically engineered Sovereign, she is so delightfully put out by the Guardians' impudence that it barely matters that her efforts to snuff them out fail spectacularly. Maybe creating Adam Warlock will work out well for her! But probably not!

14. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell)

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.

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13. Hela (Cate Blanchett)

Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok

Listen, Cate Blanchett + giant black headdress + sinister smoky eye makeup = everything I want in life. And certainly, Hela is one of the MCU's most lethal and effective villains, single-handedly wiping out the entire Asgardian army, disintegrating Mjolnir, squishing out Thor's eye, and brutally killing the Warriors Three before they'd barely earned SAG minimum.

Yet, altogether, the character never quite took flight for me in the way I'd hoped. I think part of it is with Thor spending the bulk of Thor: Ragnarok stuck on Sakaar, Hela ends up isolated on Asgard with not much to do but wait for him to show up to stop her. (Karl Urban is a lovely actor, but Skurge is not what I'd call an A+ scene partner.) The main issue for me, though, is that the film keeps choppily cutting around Blanchett's performance, and I think I know why: In the trailers and most of the promotional material for the film, Hela has a hard-edged, working-class accent. In the finished film, however, Blanchett has clearly rerecorded almost all her dialogue with a blandly posh accent instead. Who knows why anyone would second-guess Blanchett's creative instincts, or why editors would cut away from her face, even to hide the dubbed-over lines. But, if this wasn't already abundantly clear, they shouldn't! Ever!

12. Ego (Kurt Russell)

Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

He spawned thousands of offspring throughout the cosmos just so he could subsume their essence in his mad quest to replace all life everywhere. And then the one time — the one time! — Ego actually fell in love with one of the females he aimed to impregnate, he gave her cancer so she won't distract him from his ultimate goal because he is such supreme narcissist (it's right there in his name!).

That Peter Quill's father looks like Kurt Russell (and, for one freaky moment, David Hasselhoff) only makes the fact that he is literally the worst dad in the universe sting that much more. Also, he mansplained Looking Glass' "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" to Quill in a preemptive attempt to justify killing his mom, and that is just vile.

11. Nebula (Karen Gillan)

Marvel Studios

Villain in Guardians of the Galaxy, also appears in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Avengers: Infinity War

There is something just so coolly lethal about Nebula, from her sharp gait to her slightly mechanized voice to her cyborg-enhanced body. And Gillan also brings something treacherously desperate to the role — in the first Guardians movie, you get the feeling that if she wasn't always on the razor's edge of violence, she would be even more dangerous.

By Vol. 2 (and Infinity War), Nebula's antipathy towards her father Thanos and her, uh, complicated feelings about her sister Gamora (Zoe Saldana) lead her to very reluctantly join up with the good guys. Like with Yondu and the Winter Solider, however, our understanding of what drives Nebula's behavior may earn our sympathy, but it doesn't excuse her earlier crooked actions.

10. The Mandarin/Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley)

Marvel Studios

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

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9. 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.

8. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)

Marvel Studios

Villain in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, also appears in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity 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, which sets him on a path of redemption that promises to be one of the most satisfying character arcs in the MCU — well, until he disappears into ash in Avengers: Infinity War. Sniff.

But yes, sorry, everyone: As the Winter Soldier, he is unmistakably a villain — and a great one.

7. 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?

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

Marvel Studios

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.)

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5. Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton)

Sony Pictures

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Unlike so many of the villains on this list, Toomes feels like a real guy, with real gripes about the rigged system that has left him and his crew scrounging for scraps to feed their families. Of course, he then decides to use those scraps to build a lucrative cache of alien-based weaponry that he sells to any dastardly criminal who can match his price, and his first instinct when confronted by his lackey Jackson is literally to shoot first and ask questions about the device he was holding later. But Keaton keeps his performance so grounded that these choices feel like the organic evolution of an everyday criminal, adding a welcome and pungent new flavor to the MCU's rogues gallery. And his decision not to rat out Peter Parker to Mac Gargan in prison suggests there are depths to this character that have yet to be explored.

4. Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving, Ross Marquand)

Marvel Studios

Captain America: The First Avenger and Avengers: Infinity War

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. With the great Hugo Weaving in the role, 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?!)

UPDATE: HE WASN’T! One of the most delightful surprises in Avengers: Infinity War is the discovery that — rather than getting zapped by the Tesseract into oblivion at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger — Red Skull was consigned to watch over the Soul Stone on a desolate, far-flung planet instead. He’s played this time by a more subdued Ross Marquand, and he didn’t do much more than float maliciously in a flowy black cloak. But, still, what a callback!

3. Thanos (Josh Brolin)

Marvel Studios

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

For his first few appearances in the MCU, Thanos did not do much more than glower and scheme; his worst actions — kidnapping young girls and torturing them into his weaponized "daughters” Gamora and Nebula — were all offscreen.

Then Infinity War happened, and good criminy, Thanos does all the things! He kills Heimdall and Loki! He throws Gamora — the only thing he’s apparently ever loved — to her death! He wins and gets all the Infinity Stones and erases half of the population of the universe — including Black Panther and Spider-Man and a dozen other heroes! — with a snap of his fingers. It’s all frankly a bit exhausting, but Brolin brings a weariness to Thanos’s belief that he’s the only person with the will to truly save the universe from the scourge of overpopulation, giving him real dimension beyond pure villainy. Still, the cosmic dimensions of Thanos’s genocidal aspirations keep his character chilly and remote (and not in a good way). Watching him stand alone in his retirement hut at the very end of Infinity War also suggests that his story remains incomplete and that he may only grow more complex in the next Avengers movie, out in 2019. To be continued!

2. Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan)

Marvel Studios

Black Panther

My only complaint is that Killmonger lasted for only one movie. Michael B. Jordan brought such quivering fury and sorrow to the role, and cowriter-director Ryan Coogler invested such depth of feeling and motivation to his actions, that you can easily argue that Black Panther was more about Killmonger than its title character. That may also lead some to understandably question whether he belongs on a list of villains, and to that I can only point out that the guy murdered his girlfriend, staged a one-man coup of an entire country, threw its leader to his seeming death, and riddled his body with so many scars marking every person he's killed that his name became Killmonger. Still, I felt a deep pang of sorrow at his death — for the character, and for the loss of how much more story that character had left to tell.

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1. Loki (Tom Hiddleston)

Marvel Studios

Villain in Thor and The Avengers, also appears in Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok (as still kind of a villain), and in Avengers: Infinity War (finally redeemed)

Was there ever any doubt who would be No. 1? Thor's 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. Even in The Dark World and Ragnarok, when Loki becomes his brother's extremely reluctant ally, he still somehow manages to find a way to betray Thor — and, it turns out, the entire universe — when he doesn’t just let the Tesseract get destroyed when Asgard goes boom. Loki has the MCU’s most tragic arc, a would-be king constantly undermined by his own instinct for mischief. Assuming he’s gone for good — and not an obvious assumption! — I’m going to miss the scamp, desperately.

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.

UPDATE

This post has been updated to include characters from Avengers: Infinity War. Earlier updates included characters from Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man.

Adam B. Vary is a senior film reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Adam B. Vary at adam.vary@buzzfeed.com.

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