The Marvel Cinematic Universe certainly has no shortage of heroes, but what about the anti-heroes, or villains? Here’s my ranking of the main MCU villains we have seen so far, ranked from worst to best.
- The Mandarin (Iron Man 3)
Oh boy. Firstly, they ruined the Mandarin. Secondly, what a waste of Ben Kingsley’s talent. Thirdly, they RUINED the Mandarin. Fourthly, why waste the best part of a film building up this character and make them seem genuinely threatening, only for this all to be some elaborate ruse? And finally, THEY RUINED THE MANDARIN AND CRUSHED ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS. So you might have guessed that I am a little bit bitter about this. The Mandarin is one of the best comic book villains, and I was super excited to see him come to life in this film. What they did to this character is simply unforgivable, and probably means they won’t be able to bring him into a later Iron Man story. Hang your heads in shame, Marvel!
- Malekith (Thor: The Dark World)
If there is anything the Thor solo films don’t do well, it is the villains. Sure, Thor had Loki, but that film is mostly about Thor anyway, and there isn’t much villainy until the very end. In Thor: The Dark World, the villain is the dark elf Malekith; he is completely forgettable, and it is never clear exactly what he is trying to achieve. Not particularly menacing, and at no point does it seem like he has the upper hand over Thor. Mostly though he is just boring. I don’t care about his backstory or what he is trying to do with the aether. Next!
- Ivan Vanko/Whiplash (Iron Man 2)
Iron Man 2 is not a good film, let’s face it. The best bit in the whole film (briefcase Iron Man suit!!) was spoilt in the trailer, so there is little else to look forward to. Whilst it is mildly refreshing to have a villain who isn’t intent on world domination, and whose sole aim is just to kill the hero, it’s also kind of boring. The design of the character is strange, the whips are kind of cool (I guess) but again, a completely forgettable bad guy.
- Emil Blonsky/The Abomination (The Incredible Hulk)
We’re not treated to a huge amount of backstory on Blonsky so it is difficult to buy into his transformation into The Abomination. I mean, it’s difficult to buy into anything in this film because it is terrible, but there is nothing hugely memorable about this character. Once the transformation is complete however, he does look freakin’ awesome!
- Aldrich Killian (Iron Man 3)
Well if this isn’t an inspiring story of transformation, I don’t know what is! Guy Pearce goes from a greasy nerd with bad teeth and poor dress-sense, to a suave and sophisticated businessman who is a great match for the egotistical Tony Stark. The closing scenes when it seems like it is just damn near impossible to actually kill the guy, are genuinely terrifying. Without Extremis though he is not particularly menacing, and sorry Aldrich but dragon tattoos or no, you’re not the “Real Mandarin” either!
- Obadiah Stane (Iron Man)
As the first villain in the MCU, Obadiah Stane is great! He has a sweet looking “Iron Monger” suit, which he designs as a direct counterpart to Stark’s shiny new Iron Man suits that he has built. It also adds a great dynamic when the antagonist is someone who knows the protagonist so personally; Stane has worked with Stark closely for many years but they disagree on Tony’s new stance regarding Stark Industries weapons manufacturing, and Stane decides to not just distance himself from Stark, but completely destroy him. There isn’t huge scope to his villainous plans; but the showdown between the Iron Monger and Iron Man is awesome.
- Yellowjacket (Ant-Man)
Essentially the same character as Obadiah Stane in Iron Man, but with a much more badass suit which is pretty much the only reason why he ranks higher! It’s never really made clear why Darren Cross wants to sell the Yellowjacket suit to Hydra, what his intentions are, or why he suddenly went balls-out crazy and tried to kill everyone, but the fight scenes between him and Ant-Man are great, and the relationship between Cross and Hank Pym is an interesting one. It’s just a shame we don’t get to see that develop further. Some Cross/Pym flashbacks would have been awesome and would’ve added some extra depth to this already excellent villain.
- Ronan the Accuser (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Ronan on first appearance is just a puppet for Thanos, but as Thanos barely gets a look-in in Guardians, it is down to Ronan to provide the menace for our ragtag band of misfits. Largely down to Lee Pace’s great Shakespearean-style acting, the result is a villain who is genuinely terrifying. The thought of him getting his hands on the orb which the Guardians are so desperately trying to sell, is a horrifying prospect. And similarly to Killian in Iron Man 3, when it seems like defeating Ronan is impossible, it’s pretty creepy.
- Johann Schmidt/The Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Without question the scariest looking villain in all of the MCU films. The first reveal of Hugo Weaving in full Red Skull guise is just ghastly! Hugo Weaving is also a fantastic actor, and manages to make Schmidt just as menacing as The Red Skull which is no easy feat. This is probably the most faithful adaption from the original comic book source material as well, it looks dead on! I am forever living in hope that somehow they find a way of bringing back the Red Skull as his “death” was left fairly ambiguous, but either way Weaving’s creation is one of the best things about this often underrated film.
- Ultron (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Kudos to whoever cast James Spader as the voice actor for Ultron, because he is bloody marvellous. There’s so much menace in his words, and a sinister glee behind his tone that is difficult to imagine anyone else pulling off. Ultron’s speech when he first meets The Avengers is probably the best introduction to a villain in the whole of the MCU, and I will never be able to listen to “I have no strings” from Pinocchio in the same way, ever again. Some people didn’t like the fact that there were actually thousands of Ultrons (the ultron bots), and argued that this made it difficult to appreciate the character fully, however I would argue that this actually made Ultron even scarier; killing one of them wasn’t enough, and defeating him completely was actually a real test for our heroes.
- The Winter Soldier (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
The Winter Soldier is an absolutely amazing film, and easily my favourite in the MCU; this is in large part due to the outstanding villain, The Winter Soldier played by Sebastian Stan. Fans will know that The Winter Soldier is in fact Bucky Barnes, Cap’s old war buddy seen in The First Avenger, but in this film there is barely a shadow of the friend that Cap once knew. What makes this villain so great is the fact that there is no humanity, there is no soul, no sense of what is right and wrong. He has been trained for one purpose, as an assassin. To kill whoever Hydra instruct him to. Which for this film is our hero Captain America aka Steve Rogers. As Steve comes to terms with the fact that Bucky is alive, yet this is not the Bucky he knew, we as an audience also have to come to terms with the fact that a character we loved from the first movie is suddenly on the other side. This internal struggle means that when they fight, we fear for Rogers, but yet we also fear for The Winter Soldier as we’re desperately clinging onto the fact that Bucky is still in there somewhere, just as Captain America is. All in all this makes for a great film and a truly great villain.
- Loki (Thor, The Avengers)
Who else but Loki? Due to Joss Whedon’s excellent writing and Tom Hiddleston’s incomparable charm that bring the character to life, Loki is so much more dynamic than anyone could have ever hoped. To outshine the heros in every scene he is in is almost unheard of, and even though he does some truly despicable things, you can’t help but root for him (secretly…or in my case not secretly at all!). There is great depth to the character, real emotion in his backstory and the feelings of jealousy towards his brother Thor, and resentment towards his father Odin. Unlike a lot of other villains in the MCU, we fully get why Loki does the things that he does. We love him, we hate him, we feel sorry for him, we want him to succeed, we want him to fail. To bring this amount of depth to one character is extraordinary. I’m sure this won’t be the last we see of Loki, and it will be really interesting to see how his relationship with Thanos plays out in the later phase 3 films. What is certain though is that whatever villains have to appear alongside Loki, they’re going to have to work pretty damn hard to stand out!
What do you think? Who are your favourite MCU villains so far, and which ones would you love to see in future films? Let me know in the comments below!