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The Top 10 Marvel Villains!

Updated: Sep 22, 2021


The votes are in! Our Senior Students listed the Top 10 Villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here's the results!...


 

1. LOKI

Appears in: Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame.


Thanos is conflicted, Red Skull's full of rage, and Ultron's as cold and calculating as his code, but only Loki actively enjoys being evil. The self-styled God of Mischief (Tom Hiddlestone clearly having the time of his life) may have ended up being more of an ant-hero in the MCU than a straight-up villain, but let's not forget that this is the guy who tried to subjugate mankind and led a full-scale Chitauri invasion of the Big Apple in The Avengers.



Motivated purely by sly self-interest, Loki has occasionally done the right thing alongside his adoptive brother Thor (when their ambitions temporarily align) but always, always reverts to his skin-saving, double-crossing ways the moment the coast is clear.

Brilliantly he ended the MCU's first decade in the most Loki way imaginable, dying in Endgame in an act of self-sacrifice, only for a younger version of him to steal an earlier version of the Space Stone and jump to a new timeline where he gets to continue being the MCU villain we love to hate the most.

 

2. N'JADAKA / ERIK STEVENS / KILLMONGER

Appears in: Black Panther


No doubt about it, MCU villains grew in authenticity and depth as the franchise's first decade came to a crescendo. In Black Panther's Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), we have Marvel's finest expression of an atagonist - a fully realised villain who elicits empathy for his ideals even as he horrifies us with his methods.

The son of a mum from Oakland and Wakandan Prince N'Jobu - killed by Black Panther's dad, T'Chaka for trying to spread Vibranium-powered tech to oppressed peoples around the globe - N'Jadaka/Erik gained the nickname Killmonger while serving as a Special Ops soldier for the USA. Killmonger's motivations are clear and - depending on your point of view - understandable: he wants to avenge his father's death and continue his work to spread Wakanda's technological might to downtrodden peoples everywhere.

Still, in his journey to seize the Wakandan throne, Killmonger demonstrates a violent and ruthless streak a mile wide as well as a lack of respect for the traditions that have made Wakanda the proud and peaceful nation it is. Killmonger is ultimately defeated by Black Panther, choosing to die as N'Jadaka on his own terms as the sun sets over Wakanda rather than be saved an imprisoned. It's a meaningful death for one of the best villains yet in the MCU.

 

3. QUENTIN BECK / MYSTERIO

Appears in: 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 however (that's why he's Jake Gyllenhaal), and indeed the entire idea behind casting Gyllenhaal in this role was to be able to elicit two different kinds of performances from the talented actor. And he does well!



When Mysterio shows his true colours he's an interesting guy! The notion of "fake news" and selling the world an alternate reality certainly rings true to 2019, and the final Mysterio twist is certainly one of the most significant impacts a villain has ever had on an MCU hero.

 

4. THANOS

Appears in: The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame.


Everyone's favourite grape-flavoured Ross Kemp impersonator, Thanos (Josh Brolin),

was groomed to be the ultimate villain of the MCU's first decade from the start. He began turning the wheels of villainy slowly with a tantalising post-credits cameo in 2012's The Avengers, a supporting role in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy and a post-credits 'fine, I'll do it myself then' in Age of Ultron (2015). And did he ever.


After gathering the six powerful Infinity Stones to create the spangliest accessory this side of Mardi Gras, he snapped those colossal purple fingers and wiped out half of all life in the universe in an instant. In his eyes Thanos was doing what had to be done to save the universe from chronic overpopulation. Of course, his intentions didn't matter to the billions of lives he snuffed out, nor to those left behind to mourn their loss.

However, thanks to Pym Particles and the time travel they make possible, Thanos bows out in Endgame as the only MCU villain to have been both 100% successful and 100% unsuccessful in their plans. Quite an achievement (and also not).

 

5. XU WENWU


The best villains are those with whom we can empathize. The thread connecting the most forgettable MCU baddies are that we don't really care or care to understand what it is they want. They exist simply to serve as a physical antagonist for our hero. But the brilliance of how Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings constructs its protagonist/antagonist relationship is that it's constantly subverting expectations. The entire introduction to the film allows us to understand where, exactly, Xu Wenwu is coming from and what motivates him, and the second act of the movie finds our protagonist and antagonist in close quarters, having a dialogue that allows Shang-Chi to better understand his father — or at least his father's motivation. That makes the third act all the more satsifying, and all the more tragic, as Tony Leung sells the heck out of a man blinded by love and guilt to that point that it puts his family in harm's way. Leung's performance is beautifully layered, on top of the fact that he fully kicks ass. 24 films in, Marvel is still capable of surprising us, and of introducing us to some of the most memorable characters the MCU has unveiled thus far.



 

6. HELMUT ZEMO

Appears in: Captain America: Civil War


Played with perfectly focused self-control by Daniel Bruhl, Sokovian national Helmut Zemo

is a remarkable MCU villain precisely because he's so unremarkable. Without superpowers, bleeding-edge tech or the assistance of interdimensional armies spat through a wormhole, Zemo succeeds in splitting the Avengers in two, armed only with his intelligence and an unquenchable desire to avenge the death of his family in Age of Ultron's Sokovian incident.


Using Steve Rogers' loyalty to his old pal Bucky Banes (AKA The Winter Soldier) as a wedge to turn Tony Stark against his shield-flinging bessie is a stroke of genius. In fact, so deep is the schism that Zemo creates between Stark, Rogers and their respective Avengers splinter groups that it takes the universe-wide threat posed by Thanos to reunite the team. Given that Zemo’s intention was only ever to tear the super team apart, he’s arguably one of the most successful villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

7. EGO

Appears in: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2


With the possible exception of Thanos, Ego wins the MCU Bad Parenting award hands down. Played with equal parts paternalistic charm and chilling callousness by Kurt Russell, this god-like Celestial is capable of manipulating matter on a planetary scale yet remains bored and unfulfilled.


However, instead of learning the ukulele or playing FIFA, Ego deals with his boredom by hatching a plan to duplicate himself on thousands of worlds – a plan that involves creating another gifted Celestial with the power to help him trigger this cataclysmic event.


Ego’s implied child murder and emotional manipulation is horrifying and is best summed up by the casual way he reveals he killed Quill’s mum (whom he professes to have loved) rather than let her distract him from his plan:


“I did what I had to do. But... it broke my heart to put that tumour in her head."


Happily, Ego doesn't bank on Quill's friends smelling a planet-sized rat while he bonds with

the father he’s spent his entire life trying to find (but who only wants him for his dormant Celestial powers). They liberate Quill and help him achieve closure (destroy Ego) in spectacular fashion. Turns out, the Guardians are the only family Quill will ever need.

 

8. THE WINTER SOLDIER

Appears in: Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame


From a physical standpoint, The Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes is one of the most formidable baddies in the MCU. He’s lead to some of the franchise’s best close-quarters combat scenes and offers an emotional point of conflict with Steve Rogers. His motivation in Captain America: The Winter Soldier though seems only to be "I'm brainwashed," and we really never get to see much of Bucky shining through or reckoning with what's happened to him. 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 really strong visual antagonist and the personal connection to Steve Rogers makes the audience investment all the more significant, and Bucky's arc in the films following The Winter Soldier only make his impression that much stronger.

 

9. HELA

Appears in: Thor: Ragnarok


At the risk of incurring the wrath of Asgardians everywhere, Hela’s campaign of vengeance against her family isn’t without justification. Odin’s firstborn started out as her dad’s super-capable right-hand goddess, helping him to conquer the Nine Realms. And what thanks does she get? Fearing Hela is getting too big for her boots, Odin imprisons her and writes her out of history.


With Odin’s death releasing her to discover that her baby brothers don’t even know who she is, it’s not hard to see why she embraces her dark potential and goes FULL VILLAIN, banishing Thor and Loki to space and hatching plans to use the Bitfröst Bridge to expand Asgard’s empire in all directions.


Played by the always-excellent Cate Blanchett, Hela and her living-hatstand headdress are stupendously powerful and wonderfully evil. So much so that the only thing that Thor can do to defeat her is to summon Sutur the fire demon and trigger Ragnorok – the complete destruction of Asgard. And you thought arguments with your siblings were bad.

 

10. GHOST

Appears in: Ant-Man and the Wasp


It's a little unfair to even include Ghost on this list, because Hannah John-Kamen's character is more of an antagonist than a true villain. But she is indeed the main "baddie" of Ant-Man and the Wasp. The Midnight Run approach to the story dictates that there are various obstacles in our heroes' way, and so while Ghost is the most formidable, there are times when she takes a backseat to Walton Goggins' shady dealings or the federal authorities. When we get to the Ghost "twist" it provides some understanding for her character, and we see she's really not all that "bad".


 

Here's our Marvel Villains Podcast...



How do you rate the films in the MCU?...





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