Back in the day, the MCU was often criticized for its one-note villains, but over the years Marvel Studios has successfully turned that complaint on its head and the franchise is now widely praised for its nuanced, multi-faceted antagonists. One way Marvel has consistently managed this is to give their villains a sympathetic and understandable motive for their actions. But which MCU bad guy has the best motivations?
That’s something that Marvel fans have been discussing on Reddit lately. Redditor u/Not-Good-at-life-Yet kicked off the conversation on the r/MarvelStudios subreddit. Their personal choice was Ghost from Ant-Man and the Wasp, who was attempting to cure her molecular instability. “What better motive than survival right?” they summed up.
Meanwhile, u/AGuardian12 went for Captain America: Civil War‘s Baron Zemo. “I thought he was gonna be another black and white villain but he turned to be much more layered so much so that it made me question if he even was a villain,” wrote the fan. “He wasn’t grandiose and his motives really made us sympathize for him.”
Another commenter, u/LegendOfFN, chose Marvel’s latest villain, Wenwu from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. “Man really went blind to bring back his first love in a thousand years,” the fan summed up. u/iamwizkid agreed, adding: “Honestly I’d back any villain whose motivation is simply true love.”
Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s Vulture was another popular suggestion. As u/SnooHobbies6531 had to say, “He went all in on equipment for a big job and the government comes in and shuts him down. He’s got a family to provide for, a crew that he’s responsible for, and big debt to pay off. I’d do the same if I were in his situation.”
Ego from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was a more left-field pick, with u/Mandaring defending Ego’s schemes as the result of his intense loneliness. The Redditor described him as a “completely alien conscience that is for all intents and purposes immortal and shapeless” so his lack of “basic compassion and understanding [for] what are essentially mayflies to him weirdly makes a lot of sense.”
Other suggestions include Killmonger (u/21Marvel1 says he had “a good motive to help oppressed and disenfranchised people”), Loki (As u/EmpJoker put it, “Guy’s a jerk but he’s got some demons”) and Thanos (u/Evans1204 argued “He just did not want universal extinction to happen”).
However, the most upvoted comment on the thread comes from u/CobaltSpellSword who decided to throw Ultron’s name into the ring. “Not saying his motivations were the best,” they explained, “but if the first experience I had with humanity involved seeing 4chan, I might have did what Ultron did too.”
Now that Marvel’s figured out how to deliver a great villain (in most cases – we’re looking at you, Black Widow), hopefully we’ve got more to come in the MCU movies due over the next year, such as Doctor Strange 2, Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, among many others. The next Marvel film to arrive is Eternals, hitting theaters November 5th.