MCU Villains Ranked Part 1

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had many incredible successes in their portrayal of the iconic cast of characters in their impressive arsenal. Unfortunately, there have been some utter disappointments as well, particularly in the villain category. Many have criticized Marvel Studios for their weak showing of “bad guys” and since it feels like everyone and their crazy uncle have written listicles, I thought I’d give it a go. From worst to best, I give you the Villains of the MCU Part 1.
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30. Malekith and the Dark Elves- Thor: The Dark World is the worst of the films thus far in my opinion as it is completely and utterly forgettable. All I remember is the scene from the trailer where London gets smashed up. That’s it. Well, and I guess the very end was pretty important. Love interest is weak, hero was flat, and Malekith was just there, I guess? Dark Elves were the equivalent of Putties from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which if you remember was just a cheap obstacle to fill time with pointless, time-consuming fight scenes. I’ve never been a Thor fan, but even so I have to give the movie version of the Norse God some credit. But Malekith is so blasse that I can’t even remember what he did. Like at all. And I refuse to Google it for fear of big brother thinking I give a damn about him. Not doing it. Next.
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29. “Guys in Suits”- Okay, so I’m generalizing many different characters from several movies into this category for one reason. To me, they have the same general motives and character development. I’m not saying they are not adequate protagonists or that they are wasted, but having our main conflict be with “the system” or government or bureaucratic figure is just kinda boring. No big fight scenes, no real pay off. There are plenty, but the main two that come to mind are General Ross, portrayed in The Incredible Hulk and Captain America Civil War by William Hurt, and Alexander Pierce, Robert Redford’s character from Captain America Winter Soldier. Both great actors in great roles, but as villains? Not sold. Against super soldiers and green goliaths, sporting a double Windsor is just so… boring.

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28. Destroyer and King Laufey- If the Dark Elves were Putties, than the Destroyer is the monster that fights the Power Rangers in each episode. Thor was definitely better than I expected as a film, but the only reason Destroyer was even there was to show off that an Odinson worthy of Mjolnir can beat up a big robot hellbent on destroying a town in the middle of nowhere. He obviously was not the main villain, but we gotta see Thor destroy some stuff, right? And he wasn’t even that cool of a robot, considering all the sci-fi in pop culture today. As for King Laufey of the Frost Giants, I’m tacking this here because I can’t remember him, but my research confirmed that he was, indeed, a villain. So forgettable that he’s an afterthought. I guess Thor has no good villains… am I forgetting anybody else?
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27. “Mandarin”- So many things were wrong with Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin in Iron Man 3, but he is not to be held responsible whatsoever. He’s a very talented actor who did the best he could with what he was given. No, I blame the writers and the casting director for this travesty. Instead of a comic accurate version of the all-powerful ring-wearing Asian sorcerer, this character was no more than a patsy playing the role of a puppeteer, when in reality he is a puppet by the main villain. A drunken actor is not evil or interesting at all. It’s quite pathetic really. On top of that, they white washed the hell outta Mandarin which raises the question: is it worse to cast an Asian villain just to waste him by bad writing as a throwaway or to ruin him by miscasting? Either way, Kingsley deserves better and we deserve better.
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26. Ayesha and the Sovereign- The trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 would have you believe that the golden race of aliens known as the Sovereign are the main villains of the movie, but leave it to Marvel to pull a bait and switch on us. Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and her army are a constant thorn in the Guardians’ side, although, to be fair, they kinda brought it upon themselves. Rocket steals some ultra-powerful batteries from Ayesha, so really she isn’t being a villain so much as defending her people’s honor. I did love that they did not directly engage Star-Lord’s band of misfits, instead piloting ships remotely from their base in a hilarious arcade game simulation set-up. They are only limited by their resources and not a one of them has to die. I didn’t get a feeling of evil intent from them and in the end, the Sovereign just made it harder for the Guardians to beat the real cosmic threat.
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25. Aldrich Killian and Extremis- This villain feels like he’d be more at home in another franchise because of the genetically enhanced nature of their powers, but at least they tried to make it work. Guy Pierce plays Aldrich Killian, a disabled genius who uses the experimental Extremis treatment to make superhumans prone to volatile explosive episodes. I give Marvel credit for incorporating Advanced Idea Mechanics into the MCU, but they wasted them if you consider AIM is right up there with Hydra in the “evil organizations” category. The fighting is different from the last two Iron Man films, and the physical effect of Extremis is pretty cool, but I am not terribly impressed. Not only that, but Killian is the REAL “Mandarin” the whole time which just belittles that character even more. Pulling double villain duty, and neither one is that great… for shame…
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24. Justin Hammer- Now, I know what you’re thinking. “BUT HE’S ALSO I GUY IN A SUIT!” (Why are you yelling, I’m right here, geez…) Well, yes, technically he is another suit wearing, behind the scenes manipulator but he is a main villain in Iron Man 2 and is actually much more complex. Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell is not only Stark’s main weapons rival and general sleazeball, but with help from the other villain of the movie, he builds an army of remote-controlled war machines to waylay Iron Man all at once. Luckily, Rhodey is there to don the War Machine suit and team up with Tony Stark to beat them. Hammer gets his comeuppance in the end, but even in Netflix’s Luke Cage his weapons are still being used to take out the unbreakable man. Sometimes a smart jerk is all the villain you need.
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23. Helmut Zemo- Civil War was all about pitting hero versus hero is a battles of differing ideologies, which is what made this film so fun to watch. Team Cap against Team Iron Man. Spider-Man swinging around the legs of super-sized Ant-Man. Black Panther seeking vengence against the Winter Soldier. So many iconic scenes! Yet the mastermind behind their feud is no where to be found, like the Wizard of Oz. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” Baron Helmut Zemo, played by Daniel Brühl, is a formidable strategist, yet he really didn’t do much in terms of spectacle. His classic purple costume was completely scrapped, which was probably for the best in the MCU but almost gives him “Guy in Suit” status in my mind. Next to the Thor franchise, I think Captain America Civil War may have the weakest villain line-up because in the end, the heroes are their own enemies. Thanks to Zemo.
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22. Taserface and the Ravagers- “HA HA HA! YOUR NAME IS TASERFACE!” Rocket Raccoon pretty much hits the nail on the face…. er…. head when he mercilessly mocks this secondary villain in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Leading a mutiny against the Ravagers leader Yondu, Taserface becomes the new captain and the first order of business is to send Yondu’s supporters out of the airlock and into deep space to die a terrible death while he helplessly watches. Yikes. They also torture and humiliate poor Baby Groot, which is unforgivable. Luckily, Yondu gets to exact his revenge in one of the coolest and most dynamic scenes in the movie. Chris Sullivan’s Taserface was more the butt of a running gag than a legitimate main villain, but his character design was cool and he was an archetypal witless bad guy.
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21. Crossbones- Introduced in The Winter Soldier yet fully realized in Civil War, Crossbones is the first character on this list who sees actual development between films (General Ross is a guy in a suit; he don’t count cuz). Played by Frank Grillo, Crossbones is an operative tasked to take out Captain America and is defeated, only to return more badass than ever. The costume is a great real-world interpretation of the classic design and he serves the same purpose as his comic counterpart: a gun for hire. He doesn’t really hold up as a main villain, but by having a recurring street-level threat it makes the world more complete. Instead of aliens, killer robots, and science experiments gone wrong, it’s nice to just have a guy with a mission, some explosives, and a skull motif. Other than Punisher and Taskmaster, of course.
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20. Yellowjacket- Ant-Man is a seriously underrated character and film, but I was actually a huge fan. I really relate to an out-of-luck engineer trying to do something with his life, and it’s a funny movie to boot. So, with the only villain being Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket, there were big/little shoes to fill. I was not disappointed. Sure Corey Stoll’s character didn’t steal the show like some other villains on this list, but he is a proper foil for Scott Lang. He dons what is really just a shrinking yellow Iron Man suit to stop the other guy in a shrinking red jumpsuit, and yet I was enamored by the entire train set fight scene. Super strength and speed, yet small enough to fit through key holes, it truly is a miracle this worked on the big screen. We get minimal insight into substance of Stoll, but just the execution of the suited up Yellowjacket puts him above the last ten entries.
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19. Baron Mordo- Ah, the first of many “non-villains” on my list. Throughout Doctor Strange, Mordo is a mentor, ally, and friend to the budding Sorceror Supreme and often feels disagrees with the Ancient One’s teaching methods. The uninitiated probably found his path to darkness as a major twist, but the fans really got to appreciate the experience of developing a villain with no immediate pay off. Some might even agree with Mordo’s stance after the events that take place, and a relatable villain is the best. He ranks so low because he is not the actual villain of this particular film, but I see great things ahead. Also, I want to point out that this is the best use of casting a person of color in a “white” role. Chiwetel Ejiofor is an amazing actor who does very well in a movie criticized for being white-washed by casting Tilda Swinton in a typically Oriental role. I couldn’t agree with Marvel’s decision more in Mordo’s casting.
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18. Iron Monger- The original MCU villain falls just shy of the halfway mark in this countdown, despite being a really great villain (which goes to show just how good they do on average). Jeff Bridges plays Obadiah Stone in 2008’s Iron Man, who holds a high position with Stark Industries and tries taking control after Tony’s kidnapping experience. His focus on weapons leads him to his own version of the Mach I suit called Iron Monger, and while primitive, it packs a punch that Iron Man struggles to combat. This is a the standard upon which Yellowjacket is strongly based, and for good reason because it is a character that works. Because it was made almost a decade ago, the VFX aren’t as refined yet Jon Favreau did an excellent job kicking the MCU off the ground and handling the high altitudes with style. (Note: I’m not including the terrorists that originally captured Tony Stark because they are just your cliché, run of the mill, expendable bad guys. Vital to the story, yet nothing to write home about).
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17. The Maximoff twins- Another entry about villains that aren’t necessarily villains throughout, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff at least prove themselves against the core Avengers in Age of Ultron. Now, I am kinda salty about these two because Marvel takes some serious liberties with their origins due to the custody battle with Fox. In the comics, these mutant siblings are the offspring of Magneto (at least until Marvel retconned their parentage to fit their cinematic needs) and begin as members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants where they truly are villains. Because of the obvious exclusion of key elements, they are instead called “wonders” and fall under Ultron’s persuasion to do his bidding. Quicksilver easily outpaces the competition and Scarlet Witch reveals each member’s deepest insecurities before realizing they are being manipulated and switch sides. (Note that I’m not including heroes like Hawkeye who are literally mind-controlled into doing evil stuff on this list). There are aspects to both characters that I like while there are others I just can’t stand, but as a unit I’d say these twins played by Elisabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are a pretty solid entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They are a great example of villains turning good and very compelling characters that deserve a decent spot on this list.

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16. Chitauri aliens- The first Avengers movie was an incredible feat, bringing so many heroes together from different films into one cohesive story. One of the biggest challenges was finding a threat large enough to require their combined strength to defeat it. Even though Thor’s familial arch nemesis pulled all the strings with the help of the cosmic cube, it was the invasion of the Chitauri horde on New York City that banded the Avengers together into a historic cinematic moment. The footsoldiers were enough to cause mayhem and damage worthy of the less god-like team members, while Thor, Hulk, and Iron Man fight the MASSIVE alien Chinese dragon lookin’ things called Leviathans. The CGI is totally on point since they are all based on extraterrestrial warriors and not some humanoid figure. Plus, that means our heroes do not have to hold back one bit. They generally have to take human lives into consideration, so they aim to stop without killing anyone, but not here! Awesome fight scenes, major stakes, and something new to the MCU. So cool…
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The best is yet to come! Stay tuned for Part Two!
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