What's a hero without a great villain? Whether they're out for revenge, money, or world domination, Marvel Comics is full of them. But who is the baddest of the bad?
Check out our list of the top 10 Marvel villains, then let us know your favorites in the comments!
Sometimes you set out to build something to help mankind and you wind up creating a genocidal robot with an Oedipal Complex instead. That’s what Hank Pym did when he invented Ultron. This artificial intelligence has dedicated itself to wiping out humanity and its “father,” not necessarily in that order.
Ultron is an imposing villain, by virtue of the fact that its core body is usually built of nigh-indestructible adamantium. And because it can constantly swap bodies and upgrade itself, Ultron is a threat the Avengers will never be truly able to defeat. Which, of course, makes Ultron the ideal villain to oppose the team in the next Avengers film.
9. Green Goblin
The Green Goblin will always rank among Spider-Man’s greatest foes. No villain has taken so much from Peter Parker or left such a lasting impact on his life. Once simply a powerful businessman, Norman Osborn was driven insane by his exposure to the strength-boosting Oz formula. One Halloween costume, glider, and satchel-full of pumpkin bombs later, the Green Goblin was born.
Osborn left his mark when he caused the death of Peter Parker’s love, Gwen Stacy. He’s since cheated death and even managed to elevate himself to an Avengers-class villain when he pretty much took over the world as the head of H.A.M.M.E.R. Currently, thanks to Superior Spider-Man, Osborn is getting back to his roots as a costumed villain.
Raven Darkholme has the mutant ability to shapeshift and transform her body at will. Thanks to her power, Mystique is effectively immune to age or injury. She can go anywhere and be anyone. The world is her oyster, and she’s rarely been reluctant to abuse her powers.
Mystique is also frequently depicted as the leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants, fighting for the survival of her race by any means necessary. But though she’s often battled and betrayed the X-Men, there is a more complex nature to Raven’s personality.
Mystique has long been a big player in the X-Men films, and her stock has only risen thanks to her central role in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past
Apocalypse is one of the world’s first mutants, born in the days of Ancient Egypt and forced to learn at an early age that only the strong survive. Apocalypse used Celestial technology to make himself the strongest person alive. For millennia he traveled the world, battling men like Thor and Dracula, inspiring a cult of followers and furthering the process of evolution. Now in the present day, Apocalypse is determined to make sure only the strong survive, whether they be human or mutant.
Apocalypse sees himself as the rightful master of the world, and with a vast array of powers including shapeshifting, psionic abilities, and body-swapping, he certainly has the means to make it happen.
Wolverine has Sabretooth, and Spider-Man has Venom. Just like Sabretooth, Venom is an amplified version of his nemesis. When Eddie Brock stumbled across Spider-Man’s discarded alien costume, he inherited boosted versions of Peter Parker’s powers and the symbiote’s hatred for its former wearer. That quickly made Venom a force to be reckoned with, even among a rogues gallery as diverse and fearsome as Spider-Man’s.
Venom has persisted even after being abandoned by a repentant Brock. It found new hosts in the form of a mob boss’ son, the former Scorpion, Mac Gargan, and even in Peter Parker’s good friend, Flash Thompson. Though the Venom suit is being used as a weapon for good these days, it's original incarnation was an incredibly evil monster with a sadistic streak as long as its tongue.
The name “Thanos” is enough to inspire dread in almost every living being in the universe. Thanos is a tyrant obsessed with Death. Not just the concept of death or the act of killing, but the literal personification of Death herself. Thanos would happily kill entire worlds to win her favor -- they call him the Mad Titan for a reason.
And perhaps no Marvel villain has racked up quite a body count. Thanos has a habit of amplifying his already considerable strength with cosmic artifacts like the Cosmic Cube or the Infinity Gauntlet. The latter weapon briefly morphed him into an omnipotent being, allowing him to murder half the living beings in the universe as tribute to Death. He only lost ultimate power because of a latent self-loathing streak. That quality, as much as his awesome power or his boundless ambition, is what makes Thanos a fascinating figure
The God of Lies and Mischief and Pointy Hats, Loki is ever the troublemaker. Given what he’s the God of, it’s surprising so many people, both heroes and villains, trust him enough to make deals with him. Perhaps he’s just that good.
Loki rarely takes action himself, preferring to lie, manipulate, and coerce others into wreaking havoc for him. He even convinced Odin to exile Thor. That takes talent. And lies, which he is the God of. He obviously got a huge popularity boost from the Avengers movie, but he has long been one of the most rotten backstabbers in the Marvel Universe, and with a wicked grin to match.
3. Red Skull
With his only notable features being enhanced strength and a creepy face, Red Skull is nowhere near as powerful as the other villains at the top of this list. However, he makes up for it with pure malice. His soul is as black as tar with no moral ambiguity to be found. He’s the Nazi all other Nazis aspire to be. The guy makes most other villains look like Golden Age heroes. He’s not tragically misunderstood; he just wants to rule the world as the master race of the planet. You get the idea.
Magneto is unique in that he could also be towards the top of a list of the best superheroes. As the founder of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, he started out as a fanatic obsessed with making mutants the dominant race of the planet. But thanks to his lifelong bromance with Professor X, he was rehabilitated and joined the X-Men, fighting to make the idea of peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans a reality.
But he finds himself atop this villains list because, just when he starts to take the higher path, Magneto stumbles. He often succumbs to his inner rage, born of being persecuted as a Jew during the Holocaust, and goes back to his evil ways. His anger was born out of tragedy, so it’s tempting to sympathize with him, but he always goes one step too far, forever proving that he’s a villain at heart.
1. Doctor Doom
There’s no sympathizing with this guy. Dr. Doom is the epitome of arrogance and lusting for power. He believes himself to be the smartest, most gifted man in the world, which is why he’s constantly going after Mr. Fantastic and his teammates to prove it. He’s often teamed up with heroes to defeat a common enemy, but never without a hidden agenda that will give him the upper hand in the end. As the ruler of Latveria, he sees himself as a regal figure above reproach, but he would go to the deepest, darkest lengths to prove his dominance.
He’s created a time machine to muck with the past. He’s enhanced his archaic-looking armor with all manner of weapons, spells, and gadgets, making him a scientific sorcerer who can take on the likes of Iron Man and the Thing. He’s stolen the Power Cosmic and the Beyonder’s god-like abilities. In short, if there’s power to be had, he’ll find a way to make it his.
In a way, Dr. Doom is the Batman of the Marvel Universe. He's always prepared, and has the smarts to defeat anyone. And thanks to his decoy Doom-Bots, it's hard to pinpoint a time when he was ever truly defeated. But unlike Batman, his pride and arrogance often get the best of him, which causes his eventual downfall.
In his most sickening play for power, he scarified his estranged wife (his one true love) to a pack of demons in exchange for ultimate magical power. They granted his wish, ripping her apart and crafting him new enchanted armor out of her skin. Her skin! If you’re still wondering why he’s Marvel’s number one villain, then wonder no more.