Superhero movies are the pinnacle of box office blockbusters right now. Everyone loves to see the righteous hero saving the day and rescuing the love interest and blah blah blah. You know who the real heroes of these movies are? The guys that the heroes have to fight.
I am a firm believer that a movie or series is only as good as its villain. Without the antagonist, the plot never really develops and the movie becomes nothing more than a showcase of how good the studio could make the hero look on screen.
Marvel has done a pretty good job of giving us the villains that we love to hate. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, with both movies and television, is the home to some really good, really bad guys.
Here are my top 10 MCU villains:
Of all of the movies of the MCU, The Incredible Hulk is probably the most frequently forgotten. That’s not for a lack of impact from the villain though. The big guy looked great and gave us the best one-on-one fight with the Hulk, at least until the Hulkbuster showed up years later. Tim Roth did a great job of portraying the power-hungry super soldier wannabe, before becoming the enormous monster. Every now and then, you need a bad guy that’s just a mindless powerhouse, rather than a calculating genius.
From enormous to microscopic, the antagonist of Ant-Man is next on the list. Darren Cross, I thought, left a little bit to be desired. Yellowjacket though, really delivered. This is a difficult movie to judge because while all of the films of the MCU feature some humor, this one really is a comedy. It’s difficult to get a truly menacing villain out of a comedy, but Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket managed to pull it off.
When you look at some of the iconic actors that have played Marvel villains, Mickey Rourke is right up there. The combination of genius intellect and brute strength that Ivan Vanko brought to the table made him an intimidating counterpart to Tony Stark. His “there will be blood in the water” line still gives me chills. If I had one complaint, his final showdown with Tony did not live up to the hype that the rest of the movie provided.
The first villain on the list that was not on the big screen, Daredevil’s Kingpin gave us a new look at the Hell’s Kitchen crime boss. Giving us a look into his life and his background made it harder for us to hate the big guy. Whether or not you like that approach is completely up to you, but there is no arguing that it was definitely different. We understand what he has been through and at some points in the series we may even feel bad for him. Vincent D’Onofrio did a great job of portraying the calm, mellow Wilson Fisk, but he really shined when he was able to lose his cool and show the violent nature of the character. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this character is that he will be back.
I know this one has taken a lot of heat, and I get that. The word I have most commonly seen to describe Ultron has been “forgettable.” I think the problem that led to all of that was the humor. Ultron should be a dark, menacing, and to be honest, terrifying villain. All of his jokes, while hilarious, didn’t really fit with the character. When a villain wants to eliminate the human race for the sake of evolution, quirky one-liners just seem out of place. Still, James Spader was perfect for the character and he did give us some epic fight scenes. I think Ultron is still one of the best despite the factors that kept him from the top of this list.
One great attribute that a villain can have is the sense that challenging them is futile. Ronan possesses that, perhaps more so than any other villain in the MCU. His staggering power is eclipsed only by his terrifying desire to obtain more. While we never really got to see him fight a worthy opponent, we still got the sense that he could take on anyone in the Marvel Universe... even Thanos! Guardians of the Galaxy is widely viewed as the best Marvel movie yet, and Lee Pace’s Ronan is part of the reason for that.
4. Alexander Pierce
Yes, I chose Pierce and not the Winter Soldier. His name may be in the title of the movie but when you really look at it, Bucky is a pawn. Pierce is the puppet master, the secret leader of Hydra that has been pulling the strings all along. Sure, he’s just a normal guy that wouldn’t last a second if it came down to a fist fight with Cap, but that’s part of what makes him great. A real evil mastermind gets others to do his dirty work for him. And remember when I mentioned those iconic actors? I don’t know that it gets much more iconic than Robert Redford.
3. Red Skull
Only Marvel could make a movie set in World War 2 and create a villain that surpasses Hitler. Skull is an iconic Marvel villain and his on screen portrayal did not disappoint. It helps that he was played by villain extraordinaire Hugo Weaving, who has also played Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy and voiced Megatron in the Transformers movies. The original leader of Hydra, the Red Skull is the base of the villain tree that has spanned across several MCU films and shows. It all started with the skull.
Almost everyone has the god of mischief at the top of their list, and with good reason. It takes a special villain to go from his debut in Thor to taking on the first assembled super team in Avengers. Tom Hiddleston has become incredibly popular because of this role and Loki is one of the first names that comes up when you talk about the best film villains in recent years. There is no question that he was the centerpiece of phase 1, and I’m sure we’ll still be seeing him in phases 3 and 4.
Yeah, I did it.
was one of the most popular Netflix series of 2015 and the villain had a lot to do with it. I think what really makes Kilgrave special and separates him from the rest of the villains of the MCU is the mystery that surrounds him.
We know the motives of the rest of them, and it usually just comes down to power. Kilgrave is different though; he has no master plan. He’s just kind of a creep. He uses his powers for personal gain, but not one the massive scale that guys like Loki or the Red Skull do. He stays in the shadows, off of everyone’s radar and just does what he wants. Combine that with his sick sense of humor and his... just general... creepiness, and you’ve got a very different villain.
David Tennant brought his own following along with him, thanks to his work on Doctor Who. What they saw from him in Jessica Jones could not have disappointed. His portrayal of the hilarious, creepy, mysterious Kilgrave was nothing short of perfect. He is the perfect example of the antagonist making a series great and the current pinnacle of Marvel villainy.
...That is at least.... until Thanos steps in...