Time for an update with this one since the last time I did it, Infinity War hadn’t come out. That means we’ve got quite a few bad guys to add! And for spoiler-sake, I won’t include the villain of Spider-Man: Far From Home until a few weeks after everyone’s got a chance to see it.
I based my list off a few factors.
- Competency as a villain. Were they effective? Have a sensible plan with a realistic way to achieve victory?
- Charisma. Did the villain kinda have a point or at least make a compelling argument?
- Threat level. Did they make the heroes work for the win?
- Major villain act. What one thing did they do that qualifies them for the list? Sorry Batroc and Strucker.
With that criteria, let’s see how they stack up. I did include a few Netflix and TV series villains as well since they are part of the larger MCU picture.
Now let’s get to the list!
25. Kaecilius (Doctor Strange)
As much as I like Doctor Strange, it suffers from having the worst Marvel Studios villain by a mile. Kaecilius basically seems to exist for the sole purpose of creating an origin problem for Stephen Strange.
He’s the training wheel bad guy so Doctor Strange can prepare for his real battle against Dormammu. Besides stringing up and decapitating some magicians he’s the main goon who gets beaten by a cape.
24. Yellowjacket (Ant-Man)
Ant-Man was a small-scale (ha-ha) film so its villain didn’t need to be some overpowering scary bad guy. Darren Cross just wanted to keep his money rolling and wasn’t about to let anyone stop him. He wasn’t a particularly well-rounded bad guy, but he gets style points for decomposing a co-worker and flushing him.
23. Whiplash (Iron Man 2)
Chalk Ivan Vanko’s odd portrayal to the weird decision to combine two classic Iron Man villains — Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo — to one character. Mickey Rourke’s thick Russian accent kinda makes Whiplash come off a bit comedic too. Despite having somewhat of a personal stake against Tony Stark, Whiplash’s vendetta never seems that serious or big of a threat. Stark’s drinking and toxic suit formula came off like much bigger problems.
22. Yon-Rogg (Captain Marvel)
Yon-Rogg isn’t the deadliest villain on the list, but he’s a supreme manipulator who uses Carol Danvers for the greater glory of the Kree. He’s the oppressive workplace supervisor who acts as a friendly mentor while keeping his thumb on Carol’s ascension. And that final fight hardly warrants a higher slot, but he deserves some credit for keeping Carol’s powers under wraps for so long and effectively weaponizing her.
21. Abomination (Incredible Hulk)
One of the best aspects of The Incredible Hulk was how the film built up the rivalry of Emil Blonsky and the Hulk through a series of battles. This led to Blonsky demanding to fight Hulk on even footing. Their battle led to the destruction of Harlem, which is well deserving of a high spot of the Marvel Studios villains all by itself.
20. Malekith (Thor: The Dark World)
Malekith had a pretty simple plot to use the Aether Infinity Stone to send the universe into eternal darkness. He’d waited a long time to plot his revenge and lay siege to Asgard and managed to kill Odin’s wife in the process. This made Thor’s quest to stop him personal and tap into a greater strength to defeat the leader of The Dark Elves.
19. The Mandarin (Iron Man 3)
This will probably be the only time anything associated with Iron Man 3 will be this high on any of my lists. Despite my well-documented issues with the movie, The Mandarin has a pretty great scheme. He uses a patsy to play a cliche terrorist and uses him as a figurehead to call out Tony Stark.
In the process Aldrich Killian destroys his mansion and nearly succeeds in killing him. It takes literally everything in Iron Man’s arsenal to take him out showing Stark the need to be a little nicer to people before they hatch intricate revenge plans.
18. Mariah Dillard (Luke Cage)
By the end of the first season of Luke Cage, we think Mariah Dillard is on the Michael Corleone path of villainy where in an effort to help her family she’s gone down a dark path. As the second season plays out, we learn this has always been her destiny. Alfre Woodard has to work hard at staying a villain as her performance is so charismatic, but Mariah does enough dirt commits enough horrible actions to warrant a pretty significant spot on the list.
17. Grant Ward (Agents of SHIELD)
Ward seemed like the typical pretty boy member of Agents Coulson’s elite Shield team, but he was a wolf in the hen house waiting on his time to reveal his true affiliation as a member of Hydra. After dropping that pretense, Ward became Shield’s most dangerous enemy as he relied on his personal connection to torment his former teammates.
His deathtrap led to Fitz’s brain being scrambled for a while. He killed Coulson’s girlfriend and generally was a major nuisance to the team. Not even getting killed could stop him as Hive used his body to torment the team for a while.
16. Ronan (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Ronan craves power and he doesn’t care who he steps on or kills to get it. Ronan is so bad he betrays Thanos and dares him to come after him. After he wipes out Xandar. Yep, Ronan is a dude who is all about the murder and mayhem whether a prison or an entire planet. And that’s not even counting killing poor Drax’s family.
Ronan doesn’t rank any higher because he’s more of a force of nature and lacks the strategic mind to really pose a more significant threat. And like Loki, it’s his actions that lead to the formation of another galaxy protecting team in the Guardians of the Galaxy.
15. Killgrave (Jessica Jones)
Jessica Jones dealt with severe emotional trauma after being controlled by the slimy Killgrave. When he resurfaced just as Jessica was starting to heal, he kicked off a whole new wave of trouble leaving a wave of bodies in his wake. Killgrave limited his scope to harassing Jessica Jones and her allies, but left unchecked he could have been a major problem throughout the MCU.
14. Kingpin (Daredevil)
The man who runs Hell’s Kitchen is powerful, ruthless and isn’t afraid to get his hands bloody if needed. Kingpin’s greatest strength is the massive respect he commands from his inner circle willing to do his bidding and throughout Hell’s Kitchen whenever the need arises. Even in prison, The Kingpin is still powerful and biding his time before he regains power on the outside after being taken down by Daredevil.
(Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
Ego is one of the better developed MCU villains because he’s such a crappy father. He manipulates Peter Quill into thinking he was truly loved while all the while just viewing him as the means to finally terraform the galaxy. To do that, he had to be the ultimate deadbeat dad impregnating various species before finally finding a suitable offspring to use. For Peter, after still grieving his mother at an early age, Ego’s betrayal is the cruelest and coldest he’s ever faced. And the battle proves costly as Peter loses his surrogate father Yondu in the process.
12. Brock Rumlow
Rumlow held it down in Captain America: Winter Soldier as one of the main Hydra goons constantly gunning for Captain America. That’s good enough for a spot on the list since he was at least competent to be on Cap’s tail for the film. And as a regular member of Cap’s strike team, his betrayal was significant. But Rumlow warrants his spot for his role in Captain America: Civil War.
It’s brief, but causes a major headache for the entire Avengers. It’s Rumlow’s suicide bomb that is the final nail in the coffin for Avengers’ freedom. This act advances the Sokovia Accords and creates the need for the showy press conference, which leads to King T’Chaka’s death and triggers the all out Avengers Civil War.
11. War-Monger (Iron Man)
It’s easy to forget about how great a villain the first MCU villain was because he debuted a decade ago. But Obidiah Stane remains a great villain. He set Tony Stark up to get killed by terrorist ring The Ten Rings in a hostile takeover of Stark Enterprises and when that fails, Stane quickly shifts gears by stealing Stark’s design to create an even more indomitable suit of armor. That’s before Stane leaves Tony for dead by snatching his life saving arc reactor.
Jeff Bridges played this manipulative bad guy to a tee and set the bar for every other MCU villain.