Major Marvel Villains: From Weakest to Strongest
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has many absolutely shallow and useless villains. But there are also those who are more likable and relatable than the superheroes. We analyzed these characters based on their strengths, intelligence, and backstory, and here's our ranking!
Number 10: The Mandarin - Marvel’s Biggest Disappointment?
Marvel comic fans expected to see him as the genius scientist, skilled martial artist, and Tony Stark's archenemy like he was in the comics. But… we were completely disappointed because the Mandarin in Iron Man 3 was fake. He's just an actor, Trevor Slattery who plays the role to earn money and uses it to drink and have fun with girls.
But The Mandarin remains in our list for two reasons. First, Ben Kingsley nailed the role, even though he was playing a fake villain. He’s formidable right until the scene that reveals him as an impostor. Kingsley's delivery of lines like “You’ll never see me coming” is haunting and his look is so intimidating in the beginning that we really believed that he was THE Mandarin!
And second, we’re yet to see the real Mandarin and we're sure that his next appearance will be much better. The real Mandarin is set to appear in the MCU Phase 4’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings next year.
Number 9: Red Skull: Cap’s First Enemy
This man is pure evil, with not even a trace of humanity left in him. He’s a Nazi, but he eventually turns his back even on Adolf Hitler because he wants to take over the world himself. Considering himself a superhuman being, he thinks that he's eligible to rule everyone else.
There are no shades of grey for this character - he's more cruel and cold-blooded than anyone else in the MCU. And since Red Skull injected himself with the Super Soldier serum, he’s also incredibly powerful.
So even if the entire team of Avengers had to fight this villain, they’d find it hard to overpower him. It all sounds brutal, and Hugo Weaving’s performance makes Red Skull even more terrifying than he was in the comics.
The way he talks and looks at his opponent… Brrr…Too bad he wasn’t cast as the villain in Infinity War and Endgame. As it turns out, Weaving didn’t return because he and the Marvel Studio couldn’t agree on the financial terms. Do you think we’ll see Red Skull again in future MCU projects?
Number 8: Dormammu: Awesome-Looking Gull
This is quite a villain! In Doctor Strange, he’s enormous and powerful – he can quickly destroy the whole universe and fuse our world with the Dark Dimension. The designs and effects that went into creating Dormammu are incredible. He looks so menacing and has that ominous voice that belongs to none other than Benedict Cumberbatch… Wow!
So yeah, Benedict is that good - he played BOTH the protagonist and the villain! But Dormammu is still not at the top of our list because he lacks so many other things. First of all, Dormammu has pretty much zero backstory – he’s just a giant monster who wants to destroy Earth... just because. Yeah, been there, seen that!
And he certainly lacks intelligence because Doctor Strange defeats him just by wearing him down with his time loop trick! Dormammu never saw it coming! So he’s not that strong of a villain after all!
Number 7: Ultron: “There Are No Strings on Me”
The whole idea of this villain is fascinating. Tony Stark creates artificial intelligence because he wants it to protect the Earth. Little did he know that the robot that had to obey its creator would turn into an incredibly powerful enemy with a hatred for humans. According to Ultron’s pessimistic vision, there’s no need to protect humanity because it’ll eventually destroy itself.
So he decides to end the suffering by simply wiping humans out and leaving only metal. Ultron was earnest in his intention, so if he succeeded, absolute extinction would undoubtedly happen. This villain’s influence became very strong - not only in The Age of Ultron but in most of the subsequent MCU movies as well.
Among other things, he was the reason why Scarlet Witch and Vision joined the Avengers, and why the Sokovia Accords appeared to fracture the Avengers further. So although Ultron’s visual design was a bit underwhelming, his Shakespearean-like dialogue impressed most of the MCU fans and made him unforgettable.
Number 6: Mysterio: Friend or Foe?
Sure, he isn’t the best (or the strongest) Marvel villain, but he lands on our list because he’s obviously one of the smartest. Throughout half of the movie, Mysterio pretends to be a good guy - he tricks even comic-book fans who know that he’s supposed to be a villain! Hats off to Jake Gyllenhaal, who gives two absolutely different performances in one movie!
Mysterio manages to create a whole new alternate reality and show it to hundreds of people who have no idea that what they see is only an illusion. The most exciting thing about this villain is the way he uses fake news – an issue that certainly rings true these days. And he does it all just because he thinks that his genius wasn't recognized when he worked for Tony Stark.
He created a powerful holographic technology that could change the world, but Stark Industries used it only to help people deal with traumatic situations. So Mysterio takes this technology and creates his incredibly realistic illusions with it. Until he's stopped by Spider-Man.
Anyway, we’re probably yet to learn the whole scope of Mysterio’s influence on the MCU future. After all, he uncovered the identity of Spider-Man in the mid-credit scene, accused him of being a villain, and framed him as a menace to the whole world, and it’ll certainly affect the further development of the universe.
Number 5: Erik Killmonger: Villain or Sympathetic Antagonist?
This is one of those rare cases where we don’t know whether we should root for the hero or acknowledge that the bad guy actually has a point. Director and screenwriter Ryan Coogler wrote this story incredibly well, and Michael B. Jordan did his best to portray the villain.
Killmonger is undoubtedly evil. After all, he took so many lives. But he became evil for a reason. His father was killed in front of him when he was a little boy, and he was oppressed his whole life, knowing that he actually has royal blood.
Erik has been planning revenge on Wakanda for years, and he has all the strength and intelligence to succeed. He's a strong and relatable character who's probably the first one in the MCU to raise the issue of racism. The Wakandan throne is rightfully his because he's a son of the prince.
But his main goal isn’t only to become king. Killmonger also wants to change Wakanda's policy. In his opinion, it has to come out of the shadows and use its advanced technology to help and empower the oppressed people of African descent.
"There's about two billion people around the world who look like us and their lives are a lot harder. Wakanda has the tools to liberate them all," Killmonger says in the film.
Interestingly, even though he dies at the end of the film, this goal is still fulfilled. Erik’s incredible motivation makes T’Challa change Wakanda’s foreign policy and let the rest of the world use its technology for protection.
Number 4: Helmut Zemo: A Formidable Opponent
He’s not a godlike being, or an alien monster, or a robot. He doesn’t have any supernatural abilities or extra-powerful weapons. All he has is an old notebook from where he reads a few seemingly senseless lines. And by doing it, he literally tears the Avengers apart – single-handedly!
Zemo is an outstanding villain for one simple reason: he’s really smart. He doesn’t even want to kill the superheroes. All he strives for is to set them against each other and let them do the job themselves. His intelligence helps him quietly attain his goal and become the only villain (until Thanos) to win.
Zemo does it all for a simple reason - he wants to avenge the death of his whole family in Sokovia during the Avengers’ battle with Ultron. Isn’t it refreshing to see the consequences of the damage caused by our favorite superheroes? Yes, their actions are heroic, but they inflict massive damages, cause civilian deaths, and create the birth of formidable villains, like Zemo.
Even though he doesn’t have a lot of screen time in the Civil War, Zemo’s backstory is wonderfully written and it’s hard not to understand why he’s doing what he’s doing. This villain is certainly a great reminder that you don’t have to be a purple giant with world-smashing powers to defeat the Avengers.
Number 3: Hela: The Goddess of Death
Seconds after appearing for the first time, she establishes herself as an incredibly potent being. Gosh, she destroys Thor’s hammer just like that, how more powerful she could be? And Hela doesn’t stop there – the next thing she does is throw her brother (who’s – a reminder! – considered one of the strongest Avengers) onto a trash planet.
Even at full power, Thor can’t defeat her. He has to unleash the age-old monster to destroy Asgard because it’s the only way to kill her. The scope of Hela’s power is understandable – she’s a goddess of death, after all! Her look is impressive, she’s intelligent, and her backstory is quite dramatic.
After being Odin’s favorite daughter and conquering the Nine Realms together with him, she finds herself banished to Hel, aka the home of the dead, because she becomes too ambitious. So, naturally, upon her return, she wants revenge! All of this, along with Cate Blanchett’s impeccable performance, make her one of the most memorable MCU villains.
Number 2: Loki: The Most Likable Villain
Ever since the first Thor and the first Avengers movie, he’s had as many fangirls as the superheroes. Or, probably, even more than some of them… Loki might not be the strongest villain in the MCU, but he’s definitely the smartest, the most cunning, and the most charming one. And, of course, his Shakespearean-style backstory is fantastic!
A king’s adopted son, who’s always felt oppressed and neglected, grows up into a vengeful man who wants to overtake the throne, believing that it’s rightfully his. On top of it all, Tom Hiddleston’s charisma is undeniable and it makes Loki even better. But the most exciting thing about Loki is the dynamism of his character.
He’s good at one point and the next moment he’s bad… and you never know whether you can believe him or not. In the superhero genre that can be oh-so-predictable, the God of Mischief always keeps us guessing as to his true intentions. But eventually he, unfortunately, dies as a hero at the hands of the next villain we’re going to discuss.
Number 1: Thanos: “I’m Inevitable”
Oh yeah, it really was impossible to avoid this super-villain! The Mad Titan appeared back in the first Avengers movie and kept coming back in other MCU films. And due to these brief appearances, his backstory became exceedingly richer compared to other villains in the MCU (well, except for Loki, of course).
At first, we only see him as a ruthless monster on a mission to find all the Infinity Stones. But then, we learn more about his personality and motivation. Thanos doesn’t want to destroy half the universe just for the sake of it. In his mind, it’s something he has to do to create balance and let the other half enjoy the abundant resources.
His story also has its drama, shown in the relationship with his beloved daughter Gamora – a sacrifice he has to make to attain his goal. And eventually, however hard the superheroes try to stop him, he wins. He snaps his fingers and wipes out half the universe just to battle with the Avengers once again.
Fighting with the superheroes, he realizes that he shouldn't have destroyed half the universe. He should've wiped it out completely and created a brand-new one. Although this time, the Avengers are much stronger and, due to Iron Man's sacrifice, they manage to finally defeat him. But despite his eventual failure, truth be told, Thanos is the villain in the MCU.