Top 10 Best Marvel Cinematic Universe Villains Of All Time

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The role of a villain in an MCU film is almost always the most interesting. Being the hero is cool; they get all of the glory and fandom. If someone wants to play a villain in a superhero film? Most of the time that will be one of the most fun roles—fun, it’s wrong—and it will only last for one shoot. The MCU has tapped Hollywood royalty (Robert Redford, Kurt Russell), legitimate megastars (Michael B. Jordan), and Academy Award winners for these roles ( Cate Blanchett and, now, Christian Bale). And that’s just a taste.

Top 10 Marvel Cinematic Universe Villains


  1.  Ultron – Avengers: Age of Ultron


    Avengers: Age of Ultron is quite one of the weirdest movies Marvel has made thus far, and considering it’s the sequel to their first BIG movie, that’s quite a risk. Writer/director Joss Whedon asks big, difficult, and dark questions concerning this film’s parentage and basic humanism. James Spader’s evil robot Ultron is a mouthpiece for these ideas and concerns. Ultron is Tony’s legacy in humanoid form, and this is a narrative about a son rejecting his father and forging his legacy. While the character’s outward appearance is poor, his intentions and Shakespearean-style dialogue are lovely. Spader makes a meal of it. That final scene between Ultron and Vision, in which they discuss the value of humanity itself, is something that could only come from the mind of Whedon in the context of a massive blockbuster sequel. Ultron makes for one of the MCU’s very best baddies.

  2.  Mysterio – Spider-Man: Far from Home


    The tricky thing about Mysterio is you have to spend half the movie pretending he’s a good guy, even when you know he’s not. Jake Gyllenhaal does a convincing job (that’s why he’s Jake Gyllenhaal). Indeed, the idea behind casting Gyllenhaal in this role was to elicit two different kinds of performances from the talented actor. And he’s quite good at it! But it doesn’t change the reality that the film’s first half is spent waiting for the other shoe to drop, which pushes Mysterio down a notch compared to other MCU villains who have the whole screen time to grow.

    But when that other shoe does drop, Mysterio’s an interesting guy. The notion of “fake news” and selling the world as an alternate reality certainly rings true in 2019. The final Mysterio twist is one of the most significant impacts a villain has ever had on an MCU hero. You end up slightly disappointed, wishing you had more time with the real Mysterio.

  3.  The Winter Soldier – Captain America: The Winter Soldier


    From a physical standpoint, The Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes is one of the most formidable baddies in the MCU. He’s led to some of the franchise’s best close-quarters combat scenes and offers an emotional point of conflict with Steve Rogers. However, his motivation in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is “I’m brainwashed.” We never see much of Bucky shining through or reckoning with what’s happened to him, so it’s a bit disappointing from an emotional standpoint. Ultimately, “The Winter Soldier” is a physical obstacle, whereas Alexander Pierce plays the more straightforward villain of the story. Regardless, Sebastian Stan’s Bucky is a powerful visual antagonist. The personal connection to Steve Rogers makes the audience’s investment all the more significant. Bucky’s arc in the films following The Winter Soldier strengthens his impression.

  4.  Green Goblin – Spider-Man: No Way Home


    Vulture is an amazing new addition to Spider-Man’s already spectacular rogue gallery. Still, regarding Spidey villains, only one person could be considered the ultimate foe. Spider-Man: No Way Home took things a step further by bringing back the man who started it all: Norman Osborne. Plucked straight from the original Sam Raimi films, Willem Dafoe’s take on the Green Goblin is pure perfection for many reasons. For one, Willem Dafoe never ceases to have the time of his life playing the Marvel equivalent of the Joker. Secondly, No Way Home plays into the more sympathetic side of Norman Osborne, otherwise known as the more sensible half of the more chaotic Goblin persona. Finally, and most importantly, no character has historically caused the most personal torment to Spider-Man. The Goblin’s presence was constantly felt over the entire Raimi trilogy. They took the woman that Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man loved and finally murdered the MCU Peter Parker’s, Aunt May. All of these elements combine for a result that makes the unexpected return of the first Spider-Man movie villain faithful to the original. It may be even better.

  5. Hela – Thor: Ragnarok


    During the events of Thor: Ragnarok, Hela is released from her imprisonment following the death of her father, Odin. Noticing that Asgard requires a new ruler, Hela plans to seize the throne and establish a new empire. Still, her younger brothers, Thor and Loki, constantly stand in her way.

    While Hela is just another villain vying for the throne, the Goddess of Death is a unique take on the trope, and her cruel methods are both stunning and effective. It was also surprising when she managed to destroy Mjölnir, proving her power. Viewers couldn’t help but fall in love with Cate Blanchett’s performance, resulting in another Asgardian villain who the fans seem to like more than they dislike.

  6. Ego – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2


    Ego, the Living Planet certainly has one of the better story arcs of any Marvel villain, especially given how it plays out narratively. Elizabeth Debicki’s Ayesha turns out to be something of a red herring in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2—a pre-villain of sorts, as her story in the film is just about setting up her future role in the creation of Adam Warlock and using her as a physical antagonist towards the end of the film. The real villain of Guardians 2 is Kurt Russell’s Ego, who we’ve spent most of the runtime believing is Star-Lord’s benevolent and long-lost father. James Gunn’s decision to tie the emotional drive of the movie with the villain’s story is an inspired one, as the film’s backbone is Star-Lord finally getting to have a relationship with his father, only to learn that his dad is a deadbeat. Gunn uses these two otherworldly beings to tell a grounded, relatable story as one of the film’s greatest strengths. Russell kills it in this role.

    While the film does devolve into a CG-filled battle at the end, Ego is mostly a pretty great, complex, and interesting character who mucks up the plans of our heroes in a way that’s inherently tied to the emotional stakes of the film, not just as some physical force to be reckoned with. That makes him stand out amongst the library of lackluster MCU villains thus far.

  7. Helmut Zemo – Captain America: Civil War


    Captain America: Civil War is a surprising film that extends to Daniel Bruhl’s villainous Helmut Zemo. A revenge thriller is not exactly a new idea. Still, the lengths to which Zemo goes to exact his revenge and how it’s enacted are refreshingly complex and very much grounded in character and emotion. You have to make some pretty big leaps in logic to follow along. Still, the impact is the same: Zemo gets Iron Man and Captain America to destroy each other, to destroy the Avengers, to make them pay for killing his family in their careless assault on Sokovia. In some ways, the Avengers are the villains of the Civil War, and Bruhl’s Zemo underlines this wonderfully.

  8. Thanos – Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame


    Let’s get started. The main villain. The worst of the worst. Thanos erased half of the known world in one *snap*, but it’s more than that. From Iron Man to Endgame, the build-up to Thanos very much defined the whole pace of the MCU’s first vast plot arc. Marvel spent ten years teasing and exciting this enormous enemy before giving him a big role in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. It was a brilliant trick, and it wouldn’t have succeeded if there hadn’t been a decade of build-up indicating that a larger, more malicious puppet master was constantly tugging the strings just out of sight. There are more interesting villains in the MCU, but Thanos is unavoidable.

  9. Loki – Thor and The Avengers


    Loki held that title for a long time regarding the ultimate Marvel villain. Not until our #1 appeared did a single other MCU villain match the pathos of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who stole Thor even before he was revealed to be an antagonistic force. We care about Loki, even when he’s doing awful things, and his story is ultimately one of tragedy. That’s what makes him compelling, and that’s what no other Marvel movie has been able to replicate. Loki got to build his sympathy as a friendly face before being outed as a baddie. Still, even in The Avengers, there’s a dynamism to the performance and the role that makes it watchable. While Loki turned more towards the “good guy” in later MCU films, he remains one of the most interesting and layered antagonists Marvel has introduced thus far, which is why he’s getting his Disney+ series.

  10.  Killmonger – Black Panther


    Black Panther is Marvel Studios’ most notable film to date. It achieved that through the precise, thoughtful, and bold creative vision of co-writer/director Ryan Coogler. That vision wasn’t just one of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) getting into fisticuffs with a threat to the Wakandan throne, but a story about the African experience contrasted with the African-American experience. The latter is embodied by Michael B. Jordan’s Erik “Killmonger” Stevens. A Wakandan raised in America—an outsider to his homeland. This character is so empathetically written that it’s weird even to call him a villain. It’s easy to agree with Killmonger’s motives to share Wakandan technology to help the oppressed people of African descent worldwide. Even though his methods are extreme, you see his point. How rare is it to be moved to tears by a film’s antagonist? But that happens in Black Panther thanks to Jordan’s phenomenal performance and Coogler and Joe Robert Cole’s pitch-perfect screenplay. Killmonger’s impact is deeply felt long after the credits roll. I haven’t gotten his parting words out of my head since I first saw the film: “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships because they knew death was better than bondage.”

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