Marvel Studios has crafted a variety of compelling villains. Some are outright deplorable folks while others have been misunderstood and find the path along the dark side an easier journey.
The list was based 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. This list has now been updated to include the Disney+ villains — from completed shows. So, no Loki reveals just yet.
Now let’s get to the list!
28. Kaecilius (Doctor Strange)
Doctor Strange probably suffers from having the worst Marvel Studios villain. 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.
27. Agatha Harkness (WandaVision)
The good citizens of Westview would probably say that Wanda was more of the villain for keeping them hostage against their will, but Agatha did a little light manipulating to keep Wanda at her emotional break point. Bonus points for having a catchy theme song.
26. Karli Morganthau and the Flag Smashers
(The Falcon and the Winter Soldier)
One world. One people was the creed for the Flagsmashers, who were angry about the state of the world following the great return after the Blip. The government started making changes to disrupt the new way of life people had grown accustomed to over the past five years and Karli and her allies weren’t for it. They quickly became radicals to governments while really just trying to do right by their borderless society. The only reason Karli makes the list is for killing Lamar, who was a very necessary balance for John Walker.
25. 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.
24. 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.
23. 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.
22. 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. With Abomination’s MCU return set for Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, it’s possible he could earn a higher ranking thanks to finally getting his comic book accurate ears.
21. 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.
20. The Mandarin (Iron Man 3)
This will probably be the only time anything associated with Iron Man 3 will be this high on any MCU lists. Despite my well-documented issues with the movie, The Mandarin has a pretty great scheme. He uses a patsy to play a cliché 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.
19. 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.
18. 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.
17. Dreykov and The Taskmaster (Black Widow)
Dreykov is a sleazebag who’s perfectly weaponizing women as his private assassin army. Worse, he takes them as children and robs them of their ability to have children. Like another villain on this list, Dreykov’s greatest asset is his special killer, The Taskmaster, an assassin with a photographic memory. They’d be higher on the list, but they don’t really accomplish anything too memorable and prove more of an obstacle for Natasha and her family.
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. 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.
14. 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.
13. 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.
11. Mysterio (Spider-Man: Far From Home)
Quintin Beck was a mind-screw villain for Peter Parker. He approached him under the guise and a potential surrogate big brother in the wake of Tony Stark’s death only to sucker him into stealing his “inheritance.” That was pretty crummy and hit Spider-Man on a personal level. This mental assault continued as Mysterio had Peter see a zombified Iron Man as he led him into a train. Even worse was his final act after being defeated was a video recording revealing Peter’s identity to the world. Not cool Mysterio.