The Marvel Cinematic Universe is home to many of the most well-known and intricate characters in comic book cinema. Over the years since it began with Iron Man, we have been introduced to many of Marvel’s greatest heroes, alongside some of the franchise’s most notorious villains.
With almost 25 movies under their belt, it should come as no surprise that there have been some swings and misses at adapting these beloved characters to the big screen. The positive side though is that most of these adaptions have done the characters justice, especially when it has come to the antagonist of their films.
Marvel has been able to find the perfect balance between making a villain likable or in some cases even relatable while still maintaining their threat. In this article, we will be highlighting our picks as the top 10 villains currently in the MCU.
As Captain America’s most notorious villain Red Skull was the perfect choice to face off against the super soldier in his first entry to the MCU. What makes Red Skull a compelling villain is his backstory, cartoon-like appearance, and the capability of violence he puts on display throughout the film. As the former head of Hydra, a division of the Nazi Schultzaffel during World War II, Johann Schmidt seeks to surpass Hitler himself by performing experiments with a version of the Super Soldier Serum. These experiments don’t go as planned for Schmidt changing his appearance drastically and inspiring his Monica, the Red Skull.
The conflict between Red Skull and Captain America in The First Avenger puts them on an even playing field both having some kind of Super-Soldier Serum flowing through their veins and allows for Cap to show his strength and commit the ultimate sacrifice to destroy the threat of Hydra.
The Mandarin / Aldrich Killian
One reason why the Mandarin is placed so high up on this list and yet we still haven’t seen the TRUE character on screen is thanks to the masterful deception pulled off in Iron Man 3. Puppeteered by Aldrich Killian, The Mandarin is used to terrorize the public and instill fear to the benefit of AIM, Advanced Idea Mechanics.
Aldrich Killian is the true villain of this film and his goals are entrenched in his backstory as a struggling scientist seeking the help of tech guru and millionaire philanthropist Tony Start, before literally being left in the cold. His growth into the character that we see throughout the later acts of the film makes you feel pity for him and understanding how he got to be the devious villain he is.
Also, Trevor Slattery’s performance of The Mandarin was a highlight of the film bringing some much-needed comic relief.
Ego The Living Planet
After Guardians of the Galaxy was released, fans eagerly awaited a follow-up that would give us more information into the lineage of Peter Quill. Fortunately, this was showcased in Guardians of the Galaxy part 2, with Ego The Living Planet as the centerpiece to both Quill’s upbringing and the villain of the film.
What makes Ego such a great villain is the progression the character receives during the film. When we first meet Ego he is a bubbly father figure who claims to have great intentions for reuniting with his son, as we learn later this is not the case.
Being one of the more powerful celestial beings in the MCU, the character may have been underutilized for the purposes of building Quill’s story, however, he is still one of the most likable and best villains in the MCU.
Another character who mostly has good intentions and also is one of the more prevalent fathers in the MCU, Adrian Toomes Vulture first appeared in Spider-Man Homecoming. As the web-slinging neighborhood heroes the first appearance in the MCU there were high expectations and the film, its characters, and the action itself delivered.
Once Vulture’s identity is revealed and we come to understand why he is doing the things he does, you can’t help but feel some kind of sympathy for the character. Even in the third act of the film, the remorse he takes on Spider-Man and his love for his family, it’s hard not to like the Vulture despite his evil deeds.
Bucky Barnes has become a returning character throughout the MCU and the Winter Soldier one of the Avengers’ most trusted allies, but initially, this character was the villain during Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
While his villainy was greatly due to some extensive mind control over the past half a century, the character did some truly evil things including the murder of Tony Stark’s parents, yet still, he has become one of the most beloved characters in the franchise. This is again thanks to his character development which has not only justified his actions but displayed the ability to evolve and get better along the way.
While he may not strictly be a villain anymore, the Winter Soldier still takes a place in the top 10 on our list.
Thor: Ragnarok brought fans a more lighthearted spin to the Asgardian warrior after two films that were more on the serious side. Despite this change in tone, the film’s villain Hela remained as sinister as ever and perhaps the best villain in a Thor film so far.
Thor and Loki’s half-sister, Hela emerges after the death of their father Odin and immediately showcases her immense power. While there isn’t much to like about Hela, being evil through and through, the character functions as a driving factor for Thor to completely evolve and become more powerful.
Hela is an exceptional villain and the character is perfectly executed on-screen by Cate Blanchett and is one of the reasons why the film is so beloved.
The most recent addition to this list, Mysterio enters the MCU in a completely different role than one would expect. The Spider-Man: Far From Home villain starts out as an ally for the web-slinger, and it isn’t until the final act of the film that his motivations are revealed.
The character of Mysterio in the MCU has been extremely throughout and everything from his costume, the effects, his powers, and the perfect casting of Jake Gyllenhaal makes the villain one of the best we’ve seen so far.
Even towards the conclusion of the movie Mysterio finds a way to taunt Spider-Man and continue causing issues for him in the future, well after their final battle. Villains like this shine because their acts and character stick with the audience well past their initial showing.
No MCU villain list would be complete without the Trickster himself, Loki. The first time we see Loki is during Thor, however, where the character truly shines as a villain is during The Avengers.
After we’ve seen some redemption for his evil deeds during Thor, and some justification for his actions, during The Avengers Loki becomes an unredeemable villain who only acts for his self-interests. The ability to toe the line between a likable character and an outright problem throughout all his appearances in the MCU is why Loki is undoubtedly a top three villain right now.
Killmonger is one of the characters in the MCU that seems to have a valid justification for their actions. In Black Panther, Killmonger may be the villain, however, as it is established throughout the film the character is only taking back what he believes to be his.
The journey Killmonger goes on alongside T’Challa makes it hard to justify exactly who is in the wrong and the right, but ultimately this is capped off with a final battle for the throne of Wakanda during the conclusion of the movie.
It would be difficult to portray Killmonger’s story so well without the incredible acting chops of Michael B. Jordan, but with his acting paired with a complex character like Killmonger, the result is why he takes second place on our list.
It should come as no shock that Thanos is our pick for the best villain in the MCU so far. The threat of Thanos was built up since the very first Avengers film and once we finally get to meet him properly in Infinity War, the reasons for his actions become clear.
What makes this villain so great is that his intentions aren’t to hurt, terrorize, or steal from the people of Earth, rather he plans to save them from the mistakes of his past. While killing 50 percent of the population may seem terrible, and it is, after seeing that overpopulation led to the destruction of his home planet the audience can begin to justify his actions.
On top of the character’s story, Thanos is just a badass. He is both immensely powerful and extremely intimidating in appearance. Again, like with many of these villains, the acting behind the character is a huge factor in what makes them so great and Josh Brolin did an exceptional job portraying Thanos throughout the MCU.