The Marvel Cinematic Universe has produced over two dozen films and more than a handful of Disney+ series, successfully maintaining their stay in the hearts and minds of viewers. With recent additions, such as The Mandarin and The God Butcher, to the MCU, the antagonists have gotten increasingly better — almost perfect. You decide.
Here are 30 out of all Marvel villains, ranked from worst to best.
Considered as one of the most underutilized villains in the MCU, Malekith literally has not much substance. Nevertheless, he serves as the main protagonist for Thor: The Dark World.
The king of the dark elves faced off against Bor, the father of Odin. However, Malekith fails to capture the viewers' attention, becoming just another evil being who exists to be evil. Malekith is simply a tick on the list of villains brought from Thor's rogue gallery with a forgettable performance.
29. Darren Cross (Yellowjacket)
Ever the beguiling character, Darren Cross is a reprise of the Obadiah Stane plotline from the original Ironman — with none of the intensity. The charming corporate CEO looking to take over Pym technology is a high and dry villain. While the Antman movie is lighthearted, there is never any pressure from the terror of the Yellowjacket. All attempts to make the antagonist seem scarier fell flat, with the last battle scene happening on a toy train set, making for a fun, low-stakes supervillain.
Holding the spot for one antagonist in the Eternals was Kro. Kro starts as a deviant who murders Ajak, leader of the Eternals, setting him up as a terrifying villain. As the film progresses, Kro begins to evolve, and so does his intrigue for a moment. However, this was cut short as the film's true villain had to be revealed.
Kro ends up just being another scary CGI monster with no authentic emotions, convictions, or purpose other than being evil. While there was a possibility for more, the plot had to move on.
27. Aldrich Killian
Motivated by a younger, reckless billionaire playboy, Aldrich Killian went from nerdy genius to covert leader of a terrorist super soldier unit. Aldrich isn't first portrayed as the movie's villain, as Trevor Slattery takes the wheel, misdirecting the viewers until the last moments.
In a performance by Guy Pierce, nothing short of exceptional, the fire-breathing Extremis supervillain was one of the few villains who could go toe to toe with Tony Stark. He left the iron-hearted hero reeling.
26. Ronan The Accuser
Ronan the Accuser defied Thanos, shrugged off a Lazer cannon, and took down Drax the Destroyer. He is an incredibly tough supervillain who got his hands on the Power stone. But for all of his vigor, Ronan is simply another rudimental baddie. The extremist nearly wins the day, but the Guardians of the Galaxy take him down in what could be one of the goofiest scenes ever.
Everyone has sought after The Red Room since the debut of the Black Widow in the MCU. With the Black Widow movie in 2021, they finally got a chance to see it. Behind the curtains of the Red Room is a shadowy figure called Dreykov who takes girls from their homes at a young age and trains them to be spies, using his network of expert killers to take down targets at every corner of the globe.
While Dreykov isn't much of a threat, the women at his command are.
24. Yon Rogg
Despite all attempts to make Yon-Rogg appear otherwise, everyone saw through it and instantly pegged him as a villain. Despite Jude Law's stellar act, Yon-Rogg feels slow and dragged. He pushes Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel, manipulating her into becoming the “best version of yourself.”
The character's portrayal is shallow, mainly because there isn't much for him to do until the ultimate act of the movie, where Carol Danvers wins him in a delectable fight.
Ikaris is one of the most emotionally complex members of the Eternals, taking the reins from Kro. The plot reveals him as the one responsible for the death of Ajak. Betraying his team to follow the plans of his creator, Arishem, Ikaris takes on the rest of the Eternals in a spectacular fight. After all, he feels crushing guilt for what he did, and his emotions for Sersi burden him. He flies into the sun, killing himself.
22. Alexander Pierce
Hydra's infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D is one of the best stories of the second phase of the MCU. With Alexander Pierce taking instructions from the deathless Arnim Zola, Project Insight nearly changes the MCU's landscape if not for Captain America's heroics. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the most grounded movies in the MCU, and Pierce is a massive contributing factor.
Robert Redford embodies the character in a bone-chilling fashion, pulling the wool over the eyes… eye of Nick Fury. Pierce maintained his stance as genuinely evil until his death, his last words: “Hail Hydra.”
21. Karli Morgenthau
Karli Morgenthau is one of the true believers of the “Thanos was right” movement. She is one of the chief antagonists of the Disney+ series Falcon and the Winter Soldier. While her impact on the MCU as a whole is minimal, Erin Kellyman's character is one of the most morally complex villains in the MCU. She makes a persuasive argument and will go to extreme lengths for equal distribution of natural resources.
Karli believes that the corrupt ones in power, who were victims of the great blip, should stay out of power.
20. He Who Remains
The MCU got their first look at the variant of Kang the Conqueror in the Disney+ series, Loki. While He Who Remains is a dabbler who barely does anything menacing, Loki and Sylvie realize he is responsible for creating the Time Variance Authority. The primary antagonists for the series. Choosing to abandon his duties to protect the timeline, He Who Remains serves as a fulcrum point for the start of the Multiverse Saga.
Dormammu does not like a bargain. The CG villain of Dr. Strange is the first glimpse of another dimension in the MCU. The visual spectacle of the villain is quite trippy, and the time it spends with the sorcerer supreme makes it more memorable. Trapped in a time loop for eternity by Dr. Strange, Dormammu accepts the bargain by Strange and leaves the dimension alone.
Despite his near-infinite power, the cunning of a man beats Dormammu. However, now that the time stone has been destroyed, there's always a chance he could return.
18. Agatha Harkness
Captain America's theme song pales to the genius of Agatha Harkness'. Agatha steals the show and nearly does the same to Wanda's magic in WandaVision. The enthusiastic, nosy neighbor has her hands in Westview's pies. She controls many things from behind the scenes while pretending to just be another one of the people caught in the Hex.
Although she loses to the Scarlet Witch, Agatha will return in her own spin-off series on Disney Plus.
17. Arthur Harrow
Arthur Harrow was the MCU's introduction to cultism, and Ethan Hawke portrayed the character of the former conduit of Khonshu. Arthur pulls off the eccentric cult leader in style by looking to bring the goddess Ammit back into the world, to judge everyone for sins (both ones committed and ones yet to be).
While the series finale is a giant CGI mashup, Harrow is one of the most fearful villains introduced in the MCU. The Moon Knight TV show would undoubtedly have benefited from more Harrow on-screen time.
16. Obadiah Stane (Ironmonger)
Obadiah Stane, a.k.a Ironmonger, is pretty much the first major villain of the MCU, and Jeff Bridges does a stunning portrayal of him. Acting as the new father figure in Tony Stark's life after his father's passing, Obadiah is revealed as the true antagonist of the movie and sets the base for a plethora of future marvel villains.
15. Red Skull
Red Skull comes from a time in the MCU when things were relatively easy. No aliens, no robot army, no green men ripping soldiers apart. The story set in World War II depicts Red Skull as a simple-minded, sadistic man who starts out working for the Nazi cause but drifts off as he finds the tesseract. He becomes full-on evil, acting as a perfectly contrasting character to the morally righteous Captain America.
And after the events of Avengers: Endgame, he may return to the MCU once again.
The MCU has its fair share of negligent, troubled fathers, and Ego is one of the most glaring examples. He completely forgets about his son, Peter Quill, until he realizes the Guardian has something he needs. Ego then manipulates Star-Lord into coming home and nearly succeeds in his plan to spread himself across the cosmos.
Kurt Russell plays the character with a swagger that he can only portray, potentially wiping out millions while playing catch up with his long-lost son. Ego lies at the heart of a movie about abandonment and family.
13. Adrian Toomes (The Vulture)
It is hard to see Adrian Toomes as a villain, save for the menacing mechanical suit, the deaths resulting from his black-market dealings, and his negligence. Despite his despicable acts, Adrian is still a family man at the heart of it. He truly cares for the welfare of his family and friends, showing what life is like for the average man living in a world filled with superheroes.
Michael Keaton is as terrific as ever, playing another bird-themed character.
Motivation is one of the most essential features that makes a hero or villain. And while many MCU villains have a weak cause, Gorr has a rock-solid one. Christian Bale plays the part of a loyal disciple scorned by his god. After losing his child, despite praying to the gods, Gorr goes on a rampage, looking to kill every god in the MCU.
With a relatable, sympathetic story, Gorr is one of the best Thor villains — arguably one of the best in the MCU.
11. Xu Wenwu
Everyone has experienced the loss of love at one point or the other. As the warlord who finds love, Wenwu is one of the most relatable villains in the MCU. After initially being hinted at in Ironman 3, the actual Mandarin shows up in Shang Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings. Marvel reenacts its theme of bad fathers, and this time, Wenwu adroitly pulls off the act.
As a widower fueled by loss, he takes his mourning to extremes while manipulated by an ancient power. Tony Leung renders a riveting performance, putting some previous MCU dads to shame.
10. The Winter Soldier
Some may not consider Buchanan Barnes a villain because Hydra brainwashed him. Still, the Winter Soldier serves as a dreadful opponent for Captain America. He went toe to toe with the star-spangled hero and gave him a run for his money. Sebastian Stan fully mastered his character, offering the best hand-to-hand combat sequences in the MCU.
Steve and Bucky also tell a heart-rending story of undying friendship. With the brainwashing gone, The Winter soldier now dons the moniker of the White Wolf and has appeared on the Falcon and The Winter Soldier Disney+ series. He will reprise the role once again in the forthcoming Captain America movie.
Even dead, Tony Stark remains ever present in the MCU, and just like Aldrich, he creates Mysterio. But unlike the fire-breathing Extremis, Mysterio shows up in the MCU, fighting alongside Spiderman and Nick Fury. He convinces everyone that he's on the good side for a long time. But in the end, Mysterio sets the ball rolling for an avalanche of events in Peter Parker's life by revealing his true identity to the world.
Jake Gyllenhaal's acting is wholesome, embodying the character to a fault. In the end, he (Mysterio) reveals his true nature in a comedic manner that blows us away.
8. Helmut Zemo
“An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one which crumples from within? That's dead, forever.” — Baron Helmut Zemo
The events of the Avengers: Age of Ultron leave Baron Zemo in mourning after losing his family, and he has his sights set on those he knows are responsible. The Avengers. Unlike a majority of the villains in the MCU, Zemo's plan succeeds, albeit with a few hiccups here and there. He turns the Avengers against each other in Captain America: Civil War.
Zemo makes a compelling argument against the heroes and successfully breaks up the Avengers.
7. Eric Killmonger
“Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships because they knew death was better than bondage.” — Erik Killmonger
Despite his twisted methods, Killmonger was right. It's only logical that if you have advanced, possibly life-saving technology, you share it with the world. Yes, there would be those who would use it for evil, but there would also be those who'd use it for good. Killmonger's mindset is his most defining trait as an antagonist. It's a shame he's killed off at the movie's end.
However, who knows what the future holds with the Multiverse Saga kicking up?
It is arguable that if Tony had never become the Ironman, many events in the MCU would not have occurred. One of them is the destruction of the entire nation of Sokovia. To prevent a vision he saw, Stark builds a homicidal AI, which he intends to use to protect the world. Instead, Ultron, voiced by the ingenious James Spader, decides that the true problem with the earth is humanity itself.
Ultron holds its own against the Avengers, destroys Sokovia, which sets off the events of the Civil War, and kills Quicksilver, a newly recruited Avenger. For a one-time villain, Ultron reshaped the face of the Marvel Universe for good.
Just like Zemo, Hela got what she wanted — just not as she had planned. Cate Blanchett appears in the MCU as Hela, the eldest child of Odin. Almost immediately, she dispatches Asgard's greatest defenders, banishes Thor and Loki, resurrects the army of the dead, and destroys Mjolnir — all without breaking a sweat.
Hela may be a one-time villain, but the goddess of death changes the face of the MCU, and forces the destruction of Asgard.
4. Wanda Maximoff
After the events of WandaVision, the Scarlet Witch seems to have regressed to her grief. But in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the sheer power of Wanda is on full display. Wanda takes on the sorcerer supreme and the Kamar-Taj and absolutely lays waste to it. She does everything she can to get what she wants, including the vicious murder of the Illuminati.
With several movies and a TV show's worth of grief, one can understand where the character comes from and what led the ex-Avenger down the path of villainy. While it is yet to be confirmed, fans can only hope that the Scarlet Witch returns.
3. Norman Osborn (Green Goblin)
Sometimes, being pointlessly evil does work, especially when done masterfully. Sharing the screen with a handful of other antagonists, Willem Dafoe stands out easily, portraying the same maniacal hoverboard riding character he played in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. Reintegrated into the MCU, he brings everything great about the Green Goblin — and dials it to eleven in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Loki is burdened with the glorious purpose of being the best villain in the MCU — even better than some heroes. The adopted son of Odin has stuck around long enough to get his own TV series, which Disney+ for a second season. While he may lack physical strength and incredible superpowers, the god of mischief gets around. And despite his foes and opponents, Loki just won't die.
He starts out as the endearing but jealous brother of Thor. As a result of his jealousy, he engages in heinous affairs, including the battle of New York, which brings about the ensemble of the Avengers.
Thanos was always a looming horror, and when it was finally time for him to take the stage, he destroyed half the universe. The mad titan kills Loki and Heimdall, along with several Asgardians, beats Thor and Hulk, the Avengers, Dr. Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy within an inch of their lives. After which, he accomplishes his mission, snapping the infinity gauntlet and eliminating half of all life in the universe.
“Dread it, run from it, destiny still arrives.” — Thanos
While his methods are extreme, anyone can understand his motives. They give depth to the character who, despite his mean streak, stays true to his word. And when the work was done, Thanos retired to watch the sun set on a grateful universe. After a decade-long build-up, Thanos lived up to reputation and expectation. He is the greatest villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.