Warning: The following article contains SPOILERS for ALL FILMS currently released within the MCU.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated the box office charts for a decade. They’ve introduced many iconic characters that used to live on the pages of comic books until they were brought to life through film.
The first film released in this new reformatting of the MCU was Iron Man in 2008. Today, nearly 20 films and several TV franchises have been created. Marvel Studios has brought to life many different comics, including several iconic super villains that have captivated audiences everywhere.
In an effort to better understand the evil forces in the MCU, let’s look at the villains ranked from worst to best. This list deals strictly within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, meaning we disregard any villains in the comics that have yet to make an appearance on the big screen. This Marvel Villains list also excludes large chunks of henchmen such as soldiers recruited by HYDRA, or other terrorist organizations. Instead, we concentrate on the masterminds behind the films that create the amazing conflict we’ve all come to love. It should also be known, that this list was created following the release of Black Panther (2018) and before Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
The following Marvel Villains are ranked from Worst to Best. What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with the order of the list? Let us know in the Facebook comments!
28) Karl Mordo: The character of Karl Mordo from Doctor Strange (2016) played by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor remains at the bottom of this list for his lack of actual villainy. It isn’t until the very end of the film (Spoiler alert) that Mordo reveals what his future intentions might be. Perhaps in the follow up to Doctor Strange, we might see him rise to further power.
27) Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket: Portrayed by actor Corey Stoll in Ant-Man (2015), Cross was the protégé of Hank Pym, who created the famous technology that made the Ant-Man suit possible. Cross betrayed Pym and tried to sell his technology to the evil HYDRA organization. His research for Cross Technologies was destroyed by the new Ant-Man Scott Lang, and in a battle between the two, he was ultimately defeated during their battle.
26) Obadiah Stane aka Iron Monger: Played by the dude himself, Jeff Bridges, in Iron Man (2008), Obadiah Stane was the business partner of Iron Man himself, Tony Stark. Stane was jealous of Stark and organized to have him assassinated in order to take over as CEO again. In a fit of jealousy, he created the Iron Monger suit, stole Stark’s arc reactor from his chest and tried to take over yet again. However, he was quickly defeated after a battle between him and Iron Man.
25) Justin Hammer: Another jilted CEO in competition with Tony Stark, Justin Hammer, played by the actor Sam Rockwell in Iron Man 2 (2010), Hammer desperately tried to improve his position by looking for ideas to damage Tony Stark’s reputation, but he only ended up ruining his own in the process. He teamed up with Russian physicist Ivan Vanko to help create his Hammer Drones, which he inevitably had stolen from him. Now Hammer is locked up in Prison after his involvement in the whole thing.
24) Ivan Vanko aka Whiplash: Played by seasoned actor Mickey Rourke in Iron Man 2 (2010). Ivan Vanko is a Russian physicist and son of disgraced scientist Anton Vanko, who died without any money because of Howard Stark. Ivan vowed revenge against the Stark family by designing similar armor to ruin his reputation and battle him in public. He teamed up with Justin Hammer, and together they built the Hammer Drones that Ivan eventually stole to get back at Stark. In the end, his final moments were sacrificing himself in one last attempt at humiliating Stark.
23) Thaddeus Ross: Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross is a character who appears in The Incredible Hulk (2008), and Captain America: Civil War (2016). He isn’t exactly a villain, he’s actually not evil at all, but his actions have caused The Avengers, specifically the Hulk, a great deal of grief. The accident, which transformed Bruce Banner into the Hulk, resulted in a long hunt between Ross and Banner. Later, Emil Blonsky would be turned into a monster just as bad Abomination, which would force Ross to ally with Hulk and eventually let him go. Later, Ross would become the Secretary of State and helped approve the Sokovia Accords that aimed to put more control over the Avengers. These accords would go against the principles of Captain America, causing a clash between both sides of the Avengers team, inevitably leading to their break up. Ross isn’t evil, but he certainly doesn’t make things easy for anybody.
22) Helmut Zemo: Colonel Helmut Zemo, played by actor Daniel Brühl in Captain America: Civil War (2016), was more nuisance than a villain. Zemo was a former Sokovian citizen who decided to take revenge on the Avengers after the death of his family following the Ultron incident. He tried to frame the Winter Soldier for the assassination of T’Chaka, the leader of the Wakandan people. This is what sparked the Civil war when Captain America was forced to defend Bucky, while Iron Man learned of the Winter Soldier killing his parents. This makes Zemo an important figure, but ultimately he tried to take his own life. He was saved by the Black Panther and is now in custody.
21) Wolfgang Von Strucker: Strucker was played by actor Thomas Kretschmann in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). He was formally a sleeper agent in S.H.E.I.L.D. before revealing his true nature and becoming one of the last major leaders of HYDRA. He was responsible for experimenting on humans, specifically Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, unlocking their powers to serve HYDRA. He was killed by Ultron in captivity after being imprisoned by the Avengers.
20) Arnim Zola: Doctor Arnim Zola, played by actor Toby Jones in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), was a Swiss scientist working for the Nazis before being recruited to work for HYDRA. He was a weapons specialist who was captured by the Allies at the end of the war. He was offered a place to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. but used this time to rebuild HYDRA. After becoming ill, he transferred his consciousness to a computer system where he remained for the rest of his days. He was ended after a missile destroyed the bunker his computer was in while trying to keep Captain America and Black Widow from leaving before the missile struck.
19) The Chitauri: Although most henchmen haven’t been included in this list, the Chitauri are an entirely different matter. They are an incredible sentient species that use cybernetic enhancements for their technology. Their allegiance is aligned with Thanos, and their attack on earth brought on by Loki served as a major turning point in the formation of the Avengers.
18) Ego: Played by actor Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 (2017), the megalomaniac Ego, father of Peter Quill, set out to expand himself throughout the galaxy using his own energy, and required Peter’s help to make everything in the universe turn into, well, Ego. Unfortunately, Ego’s God-like powers were matched by his son, and after ridiculously letting it slip that he killed Peter’s mother, Ego lost any chance of seeing his plan follow-through. In the end, he was defeated in favor of Quill living like everybody else. So much for your ego, Ego!
17) Alexander Pierce: Played by actor Robert Redford in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), was secretly a top HYDRA leader, operating inside the United States Government, S.H.I.E.L.D., and even the World Security Council. He attempted to create a world of chaos in order for people to sign over their freedoms in a move called Project Insight, which would have ultimately given HYDRA complete control over the world. His plan was inevitably foiled during the Battle of Triskelion, after he was killed by Nick Fury.
16) Malekith: This Dark Elf played by Christopher Eccleston in Thor: The Dark World, brought destruction and chaos on Earth and Asgard. He was originally defeated by King Bor (Thor’s Grandfather) and the entire race of Dark Elves was said to be defeated but Malekith survived. After the Aether was unleashed, Malekith awoke and sought to continue the destruction he started. Malekith tried to take back the Aether for himself but was defeated for a second time by Thor, before had had a chance to plunge the universe into eternal darkness.
15) Ulysses Klaue: Played by the versatile actor Andy Serkis in Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015) and Black Panther (2018) Ulysses Klaue proved to be a menace by trying to expose Wakanda to the world. He stole a large stockpile of Vibranium and used this supply to sell it to Ultron before Ultron took his arm during an altercation. His hatred for Wakanda continued and he joined forces with Erik Killmonger to steal more Vibranium from the country with the help of his new prosthetic arm weapon.
14) Adrian Toomes aka Vulture: After the Department for Damage Control interfered with Toomas Salvage Company working on the clean up in NYC in the aftermath of the battle with the Avengers, Toomes, played by actor Michael Keaton in Spiderman: Homecoming (2017) quickly rose as a large provider of Chitauri tech weapons, including the suit he used to steal his supplies. In his final battle with Spiderman, his life was saved which stopped him from giving up Peter Parker’s true identity in Prison. This makes him both honorable as well as villainous.
13) Emil Blonsky aka Abomination: This former commando with the Royal British Marines working for Thaddeus Ross was played by actor Tim Roth in The Incredible Hulk (2008). Blonksy was injected with the Super Soldier Serum but then was later injected with blood from Bruce Banner causing him to transform into the creature called Abomination. The Hulk, who was later allowed to escape by Ross, stopped the battle that occurred in Harlem. Abomination is currently held in custody by the United States Armed Forces, and we may see him reappear in the MCU sometime in the future.
12) Kaecilius: This evil sorcerer played by Mads Mikkelsen in Doctor Strange (2017) fell out of favor with the Ancient One when they clashed over opinions about how dimensions should be unleashed on Earth. Kaecilius used his new powers to summon the inter-dimensional being called Dormammu to Earth, but was defeated by Doctor Strange, causing him to spend Eternity in the Dark Dimension.
11) King Laufey: This King of the Frost Giants played by Colm Fiore in Thor (2011) would prove to be an incredible foe against Odin and Asgard as the two waged war on each other. The final battle took place on Jotunheim where a peace agreement was made for the two worlds to not fight. After the battle, Odin found a baby born by Laufey who was too small and abandoned. Odin adopted the boy who would later turn out to be Loki. Years later, after a skirmish on Jotunheim by Thor, a new war was started, but this time, the Front Giants were lead into Asgard by Loki himself in an attempt at trickery to gain favor with his mother, and in turn, gain the throne of Asgard. Loki killed Laufey in an act of betrayal, which would prove to be the end of the King Front Giant’s reign.
10) Aldrich Killian: Killian, played by Guy Peirce in Iron Man 3 (2013) was the leader of the terrorist organization Extremis, after being turned down by Stark to fund his work. The Extremis soldiers were created with nanotechnology that allows the bodies of soldiers to heal and regenerate limbs, deformities and mental issues. It allowed the re-growth of limbs in a short time span, as well as extreme exothermic powers of heat. Tony Stark, his Iron Legion as well as Pepper Potts eventually stopped Killian. It took an entire legion of Iron Men to stop this force, which makes him quite formidable.
9) Surtur: This fire demon, whose voice acting was played by Clancy Brown in Thor: Ragnarök(2017), was empowered by the eternal flame to bring on an apocalyptic event known as Ragnarök, as foretold by an Asgard prophecy. Alone he was defeated, but the Eternal Flame turned him into an apocalyptic figure that will bring on the end of any civilization.
8) Ronan The Accuser: Played by actor Lee Pace in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ronan or Ronan The Accuser, was a member of the Kree race who was outraged when the Kree Empire signed a peace treaty with the planet Xandar. He planned to wipe out the Xandarians after joining forces with Thanos who would offer him an Orb containing one of the Infinity Stones in exchange for eliminating Xandar. However, Ronan learned of the Orb’s true power, and fused himself with the Infinity Stone, taking the power for himself. He waged an attack on Xandar, but was foiled by the Guardians of the Galaxy when they used their combined strength to weald the infinity stone for themselves.
7) Red Skull: Formally Johann Schmidt, the German scientist and confidant of Adolf Hitler desired to be a superior man to the Fuehrer, and injected himself with a botched version of the Super Soldier Serum that transformed him into the Red Skull. Played by legendary actor Hugo Weaving, he brought on terror to the world after obtaining the Tesseract which contained one of the Infinity Stones. After battling Captain America, the Red Skull vanished after touching the Tesseract with his bare hands.
6) Nebula: Before she redeemed herself in the eyes of her adoptive Sister Gamora, Nebula proved to be a worthy foe against the Guardians of the Galaxy. The adoptive daughter of Thanos, Nebula, played by Karen Gillan in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 (2017), was the right hand of Ronan the Accuser and helped bring destruction upon the people of Xandar. Nebula’s cybernetically enhanced body makes her a deadly threat to anyone who opposes her. Now, she’s on a mission to eliminate her father Thanos who corrupted her over the years. What lies in store for this character’s fate in the MCU will likely transpire in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War (2018) film.
5) Dormammu: This inter-dimensional creature is the supreme ruler of the Dark Dimension first featured in Doctor Strange (2017). Dormammu encouraged Kaecilius to use his power to take over the Masters, bringing the Dark Dimension to earth. His apocalyptic powers make him a worthy adversary to anyone who opposes him. His performance was captured by facial recognition software and performed by Benedict Cumberbatch in addition to his role as Doctor Strange. Eventually, Doctor Strange trapped Dormammu in an endless time loop. Dormammu was forced to agree to stop his attack on Earth and take Kaecilius with him when he couldn’t get himself out of the paradox.
4) Erik Stevens aka Killmonger: Born under the name N’Jadaka, Erik Stevens played by Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther (2018), was originally born in Wakanda through his father Prince N’Jobu. When serving in the Black Ops he was renowned for his heinous actions which gave him his nickname as Killmonger. Erik’s father was killed by T’Chaka who was forced to kill N’Jobu after discovering his involvement with Ulysses Klaue. Erik then planned to dethrone the new leader of the Wakandan people, T’Chalia the Black Panther. His intentions, although just in wanting more respect for people of African descent, were ultimately corrupted by his thirst for power.
3) The Grandmaster: Played by the incomparable actor Jeff Goldblum in Thor: Ragnarök (2017), The Grandmaster proved both ridiculous, entertaining, and filled with enough lunacy to make him one of the most notorious villains in the MCU. He was best known for forcing people to enter his Contest of Champions, including pitting the Hulk against Thor. He was ultimately foiled, causing him to lose his position of power on Sakaar. However, his absurd reign will be remembered by people for years to come.
2) Hela: This goddess of death played by Cate Blanchett in Thor: Ragnarök (2017), brought with her the destruction and ruin of Asgard. Imprisoned by her father Odin, after his death, she was let loose on the world. She demanded Odin’s armies join forces with her, and when they refused, she destroyed them all. It wouldn’t be until Thor returned to Asgard with Revengers from Sakaar that her reign would be brought to an end, but not before dishing out some mega hurt on her brother Thor, taking out his eye, and destroying the famous hammer Mjölnir earlier on. Ultimately, no one could defeat Hela, except for the inevitable doom of Ragnarök brought on by the fire demon Surtur. Thor and the surviving group of Asgardians managed to escape.
1) Loki: Although he doesn’t wield the same amount of power as someone like Thanos, Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston in Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Thor: Ragnarök (2017), and again in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), remains one of the most beloved, elusive, and reviled villain in the MCU. Loki somehow manages to evade capture in nearly every situation and has truly mastered the art of trickery. We never know whether to love or hate him, to trust him or to punish him, making him one of the most interesting villains ever. Loki’s involvement in the upcoming film will no doubt prove interesting, but where will his allegiances ultimately lie?