With Avengers: Endgame currently in theaters, we’ve been taking a look at the MCU as a whole. Today we’re ranking the MCU villains from Worst to Best.
There are NO spoilers for Avengers: Endgame in this article. (There are Spoilers for the other MCU films.)
Over the course of the 22 films released thus far for the MCU, we’ve seen some really fantastic villains, and some really terrible villains. The foes of the MCU haven’t always been its strong suit. We’re taking a deep dive and looking at each of the major MCU villains and where they rank from worst to best. We won’t get into any specific details for Endgame, but we did take that into account. Check out the full list below and let us know your thoughts!
- Abomination (The Incredible Hulk)
Abomination is practically a throwaway villain. He’s there to be a force for Hulk to fight against. Tim Roth does a great job playing Emil Blonsky, but he’s still just there to be beaten to a pulp by Hulk. There’s no motivation, there’s no real point aside from him being a punching bag.
- Malekith (Thor: The Dark World)
Malekith and the Dark Elves are one of the most boring and forgettable villains ever. The only thing that makes them better than Abomination is the fact that they do at least have some motivation behind their evil deeds, in that they want to rebuild their home world. But otherwise they are completely replaceable.
- General/Secretary Ross (The Incredible Hulk/Captain America: Civil War)
General Ross gets a boost thanks to his role in the events of Civil War. But overall he’s not much more than a face for the evil side of the US government. There’s not much there to work with, and the films never expanded what they could have with his relationship with Betty Ross.
- Darren Cross/Yellow Jacket (Ant-Man)
What makes Darren Cross slightly more interesting than the villains listed thus far is the fact that he shows some more depth than just an evil businessman trying to go against the heroes. Hank Pym talks about the fact that the constant exposure to Pym Particles and the Ant-Man tech warped his mind and he had to give up his work as Ant-Man. There are small moments in the film where we see that this has happened to Cross. Moments where he takes a half step back from his evil inclinations. In a way this aspect not only helps inform Cross’ character but ask Hank Pym’s, which makes him a more interesting villain than expected.
- Ronan the Accuser (Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel)
Ronan is interesting because he’s the first look we get at someone who has worked with Thanos, and he’s someone who we’ve now seen two glimpses of from different sides of his story. In Captain Marvel he’s a fearsome force for the Kree army. In Guardians he is a religious extremist, who has taken a deep dive into the traditions of his people. This type of character would be explored later in the MCU after Guardians Vol. 1, but the fact that Marvel would be willing to say, our villain is a religious extremist, is an interesting note.
- Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War)
Rumlow is a villain who could have been just a faceless force within SHIELD/HYDRA, and meant nothing. But the performance by Frank Grillo makes you actually sort of like the character before his turn when HYDRA is revealed in Winter Soldier. He’s someone you enjoy seeing Cap and his team fight against, and acts as the physical presence of HYDRA for the team to punch at in the films. On top of that, his costume in Civil War is a pretty cool way of interpreting the character from the comics.
- Taserface (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
Taserface is fun and interesting because he’s able to destroy Yondu’s crew from the inside out. He’s also responsible for helping Yondu grow in Guardians Vol. 2. Without him Yondu could just look at the Ravagers in his crew and think, at least I have this. But by having Taserface take that all away and strip him of his fin and arrow, makes him reassess things, and realize what is truly important. Taserface may be a scenery chewing bombastic villain, that overall doesn’t have an immense amount of screen time. But his role in the film is incredibly important and for that he gets a larger bump.
- Sovereign (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
Ayesha and the Sovereign are an intriguing entry into the MCU because the expand what type of characters we can see in this universe and create an unusual conflict for our heroes. They’re not wrong in being angry at the Guardians. Even if Ayesha is going a tad bit overboard in her desire to hunt them down, they still have every right to try to attack and kill the Guardians. Rocket completely betrayed the Sovereign in stealing the batteries, and should rightfully be held accountable for his actions. Now the Guardians would never let him be killed or imprisoned. But you can’t blame for Sovereign for trying.
- Justin Hammer (Iron Man 2)
If Sam Rockwell hadn’t played Justin Hammer, he may not have landed this high on the list. Rockwell gives an amazing performance that is perfectly charismatic and comedic. He’s the perfect foil for a guy like Tony Stark- a businessman who is almost as credible as Tony, but constantly trying to get out from underneath Tony’s shadow. His banter with Tony, the fact that he constantly calls him Anthony, his plan to work with Vanko to take Tony down, it all works really well. It’s a shame the movie he was in was so full of different elements, because he was really overshadowed in the cluttered film.
- Aldrich Killian (Iron Man 3)
This may be an unpopular opinion but Killian is definitely worth a lot more than people give him credit for. He essentially is the Mandarin if you take to heart everything that happens solely in the films. He may not be an offensive Asian stereotype, but I think we can all agree that would have been a horrible idea. If the Mandarin was going to be featured in an Iron Man film, this is likely the best way to pull it off. He also has one of the best motivational arcs of all the villains in the MCU, with him essentially being created out of Tony’s own ignorance. The Iron Man arc has always been about Tony taking responsibility for the things he’s done. Killian is the physical embodiment of that.
- Ivan Vanko/Whiplash (Iron Man 2)
What makes Vanko interesting is that he’s the evil version of Tony Stark. He’s able to create an arc reactor just like Tony does in the first Iron Man, with limited resources. He’s just as powerful and smart as Tony. His motivations all make complete sense. His plan is actually pretty brilliant. But the film never gives him the payoff he deserves. It spends too much time showing Tony take out the Hammer Drones, and gives Vanko a quick minute and a half or so final battle with Tony. If the final act of the film had featured a longer exchange between the two, then Vanko would likely be higher on this list.
- Yon-Rogg (Captain Marvel)
Yon-Rogg in some ways can be looked at as a “Phase One” villain. A friend of the hero who turns on them and becomes evil. But he has some more complexity to him, and the performance by Jude Law is something that has kind of flown under the radar when talking about the film. Law does a great job at playing this character with the right amount of self righteous tendencies that never feel outlandish. He never seems to see Carol Danvers as a real threat, because he believes he truly can control her. He believes that despite her powers, he is literally stronger than her in every way. Seeing him proven wrong, is a joy to behold. But that would feel meaningless if not for the road it takes to get there.
- Kaecilius (Doctor Strange)
For one, Mads Mikkelsen is a treasure to this world, and his performance as Kaecilius helps boost the character’s spot on the list significantly. You mix that with the fact that the character has a good reason to follow the path he does and it makes him much more than just an “evil version of the hero” villain. Kaecilius knows that the dark powers can be harnessed for good. He knows that the Ancient One is doing that for her own benefit. So it makes sense that he would want to follow the path of Dormmamu. If you’re constantly told by someone that something is bad, and yet they’re directly benefiting from it in a good and decent way, why wouldn’t you question them? Kaecilius is one of many Phase Three villains who actually have solid motivations to their actions, and that makes a big difference.
- Red Skull/Johann Schmidt (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Johann Schmidt is essentially a super powered Hitler that knows more about science and is deformed in a horrific manner. Looking at it like that, it’s impossible to say he isn’t a major threat and a great villain. He’s an ultimate evil, and a force that is nearly unstoppable. His legacy lived on for generations after his defeat in the 1940’s. He’s one of the few villains who can truly go toe to toe with Cap. And he never actually is killed. He’s pretty much the ultimate Captain America villain, and given the importance of Cap to the MCU, you can’t deny his Red Skull’s importance as well.
- Obadiah Stane (Iron Man)
The MCU is what it is because of Obadiah Stane. Stane is the reason Tony was kidnapped and made the suit. Stane is the reason Tony upgrades the suit when he gets home and starts fighting bad guys. Stane is the reason Tony truly becomes Iron Man, and declares it at the end of the first film. Add to that the fact that Jeff Bridges nails the performance of Stane on every single level, and it’s impossible not to love this character and appreciate his significance in the MCU.
- Ego the Living Planet (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
He’s a living planet, that is evil and comes up with a plan to successfully take over the Universe. One that comes incredibly close to succeeding. When you imagine the number of planets he begins to wipe out in the third act of the film, and the idea that at least some people on every one of the planets were killed, he is without a doubt one of the deadliest villains in the MCU. Add to that the fact that he’s found and killed nearly every single child he’s ever had over the (potentially billions of) years, and he is a straight up monster. The tone of Guardians Vol. 2, helps ease the fact that Ego is so wickedly evil. But you take all of that into account along with the emotional weight of him killing Meredith Quill, and destroying the Walkman, and he’s a nearly perfect villain. The bow on top is the fact that he’s played to perfection by Kurt Russell, and honestly, you couldn’t ask for much better than that.
- Ultron (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Avengers: Age of Ultron is often looked at as a mess of a film because it does work on expanding a lot of things within the MCU, maybe too much. But you can’t deny that Ultron is a fun villain, and a worthy threat to the Avengers. He’s someone/something that almost can’t be stopped. He’s funny and entertaining, and James Spader does an excellent job in every aspect of the performance. If the film had focused a bit more on Ultron, especially during the third act, he’d be a little bit higher. But his impact on the Avengers, and the MCU is significant, and he’s someone we actually enjoy watching, and that can’t be said for many of the MCU villains.
- Arnim Zola (Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Zola has a great arc between the two films he’s in and is one of the few villains who gets to see their plan succeed. When we first see Zola in First Avenger, he almost seems reluctant at times to follow Red Skull. He seems frightened at what Johann Schmidt has become and the plans he’s laid out. But by the time we get to Winter Soldier he has successfully become one of the greatest threats to the MCU by reviving HYDRA through SHIELD and tearing apart the world for decades in the shadows. Zola’s actions accomplished more than almost any villain in the MCU. The expanded canon of the MCU has shown that HYDRA was responsible for every major war and conflict over the past 70 years or so, and that all rests on Zola’s shoulders.
- Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Toomes rests this high on the list because of the performance of Michael Keaton. The scene between Toomes and Peter Parker in the car before the Homecoming dance, is one of the best scenes in the MCU. Toomes is terrifying in that scene, and he feels like an insanely enormous threat for this kid who was bitten by a spider. The film essentially sets him up to be an Iron Man level villain, with the youngest and least experienced MCU hero taking him on. Keaton’s performance, the fact that we understand what drove Toomes to become what he has, and the fact that despite his imprisonment at the end of the film, he doesn’t give up Peter’s identity in prison, make him one of the most interesting and exciting villains in the MCU.
- Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)
Hela is a force to be reckoned with, and essentially destroys everything that has made Thor who he is when she arrives to the MCU. She takes away his hammer. She kicks him into the further reaches of space. She destroys Asgard. Her arrival is brought on by the death of Odin. She’s portrayed by Cate Blanchett. She’s the only major villain in the MCU that is a woman. There’s a million different interesting and fun elements to this character, and Ragnarok uses every single one of those perfectly. Few villains have appeared in just one film of a franchise (MCU or not) and fundamentally changed a character as much as Hela did for Thor. In doing that, and being a pure treat to watch on screen, she deserves ever bit of praise we can offer.
- Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Black Panther)
Killmonger is one of the few villains whose plan actually succeeds, though not exactly in the way he expects. He wants Wakanda to drop its borders and become a powerful threat to the rest of the world. He wants to take on the disenfranchisement of black men and women around the world and kill all those who have oppressed his people worldwide. Honestly, I can’t disagree with that desire. He has no reason not to want that-given the horrible ways this world has worked over the years. In the end T’Challa does agree to break down the borders of Wakanda, but instead of taking on the world with violence, he decides to work on helping the world to become a better place.
- Thanos (The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame)
Thanos is only this high on the list because his plan succeeds and he wipes out half of all living beings in the Universe. Infinity War does a good job of helping to expand his character as we had only been given glimpses of him before that, but it’s not enough to boost him to the top. Without revealing any spoilers for Endgame, that film (despite being amazing) doesn’t do much to expand his character. He’s just the same threat that he is in Infinity War, but from a different angle. Add to that the fact that he’s the direct reason behind three of the four Avengers films and the permanent death of some major Marvel players, and he’s destined for a top spot.
- Helmut Zemo (Captain America: Civil War)
While Thanos may have wiped out half of all living things in the Universe, he only succeeded in doing so because the Avengers were split up. The only reason why the Avengers were split up was Helmut Zemo, the villain of Captain America: Civil War. Zemo destroys the Avengers. He never throws a single punch at any of them, and yet he does more damage than any physical threat they face in all 22 films. He is the direct reason Thanos succeeds. He is the reason that Phase Three played out the way it did. His plan succeeds. He has clear and obvious, legitimate motivations for his plans. We feel for him, and in a way can empathize with him. Which makes him even more dangerous. He may not get much credit, but Zemo is one of the best villains ever put on screen, and only one MCU villain can top him.
- Loki (Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War)
Loki has appeared in more MCU films than some of the Avengers. The first two Thor films would be nearly worthless without Loki. He’s the threat that brought the Avengers together the first time. He’s a joy to watch every single time he’s on screen, and fans (including myself) constantly hope he’ll pop up somewhere if only for one more scene. Loki has easily become one of the greatest cinematic villains of all time, and one of the most memorable characters (villain or not) of all time. Tom Hiddleston has done wonders with this character, and despite having numerous directors and writers weave his story thus far, Hiddleston has found a way to make the character consistent. Loki will live on for years as one of the world’s favorite film characters. He will live on to be as significant as the Avengers and any and all Marvel heroes that may come to pass on the big screen. For the reason, he will likely always be the best MCU villain of all time.
What do you think of our choices? Does Loki deserve the top spot still or should Thanos take it given his actions in Endgame and Infinity War? Let us know what you think and be sure to keep following Poor Man’s Spoiler for all of our Avengers Endgame and MCU coverage.
3 thoughts on “MCU Villains: Ranking the Major Marvel Foes”
Great list. But, if we were to include the villains from the Netflix shows, Wilson Fisk would be top, without any doubt!
BTW I did a post on the most powerful heroes in the MCU.
Would be interested in your list!