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The Definitive Ranking of Marvel’s Ten Best MCU Villians

By Joe Starr | Marvel Movies | July 8, 2015 |

By Joe Starr | Marvel Movies | July 8, 2015 |

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had its share of great villains, not so great villains, and Dark Elves. So with the next ant-sized installment of the franchise right around the corner, here for your enjoyment and borderline click bait, and ranked in the order of how I felt the jokes flowed the best, are the top ten bad guys of the many phased MCU.

10. Thanos

The big bad at the end of the road! Every epic universe needs an Emperor Palpatine: A final boss that sits in a throne until it’s time to get up and start slaughtering people and taking gems. Thanos is all powerful and consumed with his quest for the Infinity Stones, which is the MacGuffin propelling the MCU. Thanos’ super power is literally creating more Marvel movies. That’s pretty strong. Here is the first set picture of him from a phase 5 film:

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 12.51.19 PM.jpg

Until he shows up to finally start doing things, however, the staying power of Thanos is in serious question. From his “ohhhh shit!” dramatic slow turn to the camera in the first Avengers, to his first ‘ohhhhhhhhh shhhhhhit” dramatic slow turn to the camera in Guardians of the Galaxy, Age of Ultron’s snarky declaration of “I’ll do it myself!” as Thanos grabs the Infinity Gauntlet was a serious case of diminishing returns: more put upon Al Bundy than galactic despot. Less talking, more dramatic slow turns until it’s time to start wrecking dudes, Thanos. Also, you look great in those baseball caps.

9. Abomination


The arch nemesis of the Hulk formerly played by Ed Norton! Remember this guy Abomination is fun because his motives are clear and very specific: he is an aging soldier desperate to stay at the top of his game, like a major league baseball player roiding up to keep hitting homeruns. He’s Barry Bonds if hitting homeruns meant ‘punching Hulk’s face.’ There’s something fascinating about a tough guy that’ll do anything — even fill himself up with gamma rays and failed super soldier serum — to avoid having to say that he’s too old for this shit.

And while Emil Blonsky’s third act endgame is becoming a giant computer graphic, it’s still one of my favorite fights in the films. The movie gives him enough depth to carry over into his CGI brawl.

Also, spray painting abs onto a guy who looks like he was just on a heroine bender is super ballsy. And they say no one takes chances in Marvel films anymore.

8. Justin Hammer


The Marvel brand has suffered without a continual dose of Justin Hammer. The dancing Great Value version of Tony Stark is one of the most entertaining characters of any phase of their films. In fact, I’ve waited and hoped for every villain in every movie to turn to Justin Hammer for assistance. Age of Ultron was already bloated, but a scene featuring Tony Stark’s evil robot twin and a guy that really, really wants to be Tony Stark working together to do whatever it is that Ultron was trying to do? Oh, I’m in. Sam Rockwell helping Thanos find Infinity Stones? Sign me up. You think Justin Hammer isn’t up to the task? The dude found that bird for Whiplash — he can sure as hell find some glowing rocks.

Justin Hammer makes me want to rewatch Iron Man 2, and that makes him the biggest villain on the list.

7. Winter Soldier


Bucky Barnes. So tough. So dreamy. So troubled. Is he a bad guy? Maybe not, but he’s not outright very nice yet, either, and I have a soft spot for villains that turncoat to the good side. It’s textbook Joseph Campbell and it works. It’s why I’ve written so much Ronin Warriors fanfic about Anubis.

I really wish I hadn’t shared that.

I love the Winter Soldier for the same reasons I enjoyed his movie: his conflict with Cap is personal. He doesn’t want to destroy the world, and he doesn’t command any CGI armies. He’s just a screwed up guy with a lot of rage with some very personal, high stakes for himself: his brain is broken and he’s lost and angry. Hey man, join the club. You missed the band ‘Alkaline Trio’ while you were zapped by Hydra. Your version of Cap’s ‘what did I miss while frozen’ list is basically going to be everything that got me through high school.

6. Nebula


A bionically enhanced assassin that really hates her family. If Nebula was in high school, she’d be smoking cloves and yelling on her cell phone in the senior courtyard. “You’re not my dad, THANOS.” Click. We should get her and the Winter Soldier together. Get on it, Tumblr.

Also has anyone noticed that Karen Gillan has this little acting tick where she leans forward and cocks her head to the side when she’s emphasizing something? It’s especially fun when she’s dressed like a Smurf Borg. What a great lady.

5. Grant Ward


Ward is fun because he’s been a technically been a great villain since Agents Of SHIELD premiered: being an obnoxiously bland white bread pretty face standard issue good guy made me truly hate every moment Grant Ward was on my screen. It’s rare that a television character actually makes my blood boil just by existing, but Grant Ward’s boring idiot face got heel heat from me that Vince McMahon could only dream of a talent getting on Monday Night Raw.

And then, one of the truly great moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: it was all an act. Grant Ward was using our blinding hatred of his dumb ass character to distract us from the reality that we were actually supposed to hate him on purpose. Ward is a dynamic evil presence in the MCU, and is easily more interesting than most of the guys that Thor has swung a hammer at. It’s a damn shame that his charisma will probably never pay off in a film appearance.

4. Wilson Fisk


We don’t say his name. What a cool way to introduce how monumentally terrifying the villain of your show is!

However, as much as I loved Daredevil, I never really got a sense of what Fisk was actually planning. He was gonna destroy Hell’s Kitchen, but I don’t really know how. There was a similar plan in the first season of Arrow, and we knew what it was: an earthquake machine would kill all the poor people and then the bad guys would rebuild with condos and a PF Changs. It’s kind of silly, but we at least knew exactly what Steven Amell’s beautiful, beautiful abs were trying to prevent, and we rooted for him because shaking people of any economic background until things fall on them is a shitty thing to do.

Wilson’s plan was closer to the Underwear Gnomes strategy: Step 1, control organized crime in Hell’s Kitchen. Step 2, be creepy to people and give dating a try. Step 3, create a version of Hell’s Kitchen that he already runs and controls absolutely but now it has condos and a PF Changs. I hope someone can stop this sociopath from all of these dastardly…plans that he’s planning. I guess.

Fisk’s plan was cloudy and confusing, but Fisk himself was clear and terrifying — and he killed enough guys with car doors that I’d rather he concentrate on dating and romance than his shadier endeavors.

3. Calvin Zabo


I don’t like to overstate things, but Cal is the best part about Agents of SHIELD. A chemmed up psychopath that just wants to protect his daughter? Forget super strength, Zabo has the ability to create additional daddy issues, and that is DEVASTATING.

It doesn’t hurt that Kyle MacLachlan has clearly had a ball playing Coulson and Skye’s season 2 nemesis. Most of the guys on this list wasted a lot of breath and time with monologues and grand gestures: Zabo earned his place as an all time great with a single gleeful wave to a security camera with one foot still inside his camper.

More bad guys should drive around together in campers. Think of the mix tapes.

2. Loki


Marvel has a tendency to kill its bad dudes pretty quickly. Lucky for us, Loki is a welcome exception. Tom Hiddleston’s God of Mischief is so likable that he can cause mischief both on screen and off: audiences are just as gullible as Thor when it comes to Loki shifting sides or seeking redemption, because they desperately want to see him Avenging with his brother, and they want to see him as the fourth wheel of Lady Sif and the Warriors Three. They want to see him make good while he breaks bad. Loki is Walter White with cool knives and an infinity stone. He’s the one who knocks, you mewling quim.

I promise you that right now, someone is writing the crappy erotic fanfic about Loki that will be adapted as the next 50 Shades of Gray. And instead of S&M it’ll be body pillows.

No one called dibs? Fine, I’m writing it. It’s called 500 Thread Count Trickster In The Sheets: First Sequence and I’ll be publishing it on my angelfire site and I will make a million dollars.

1. Ultron


As long as Avengers: Age of Ultron was, I could have done with an extra age’s worth of the character Ultron, his creator issues, and his relationship with Vision. If only there had been dream sequences and magic caves and Black Panther set ups to cut to make room for more snarky AI exploring what it means to exist and improve.

Ultron was fun and full of potential, and I’d be more bummed about that wasted potential except that we never saw him die on screen, and hey — Guardians 2 needs a big bad.

Voiced by James Spader, Ultron represents both the dark side of Tony Stark’s narcissistic futurism AND the struggle of a unique director being crushed to death under the weight of corporate expectation and control: “You want a better world, but you’re not willing to change! Strings! Strings!” Aww, that smart robot was just as mad about Disney forcing Edgar Wright to bail as the rest of us.

Honorable Mentions: Some great bad guys that just weren’t great enough.

Turk Barrett: Turk is comically terrible at being a thug, but balanced well enough that you never feel actual sympathy for him. Daredevil owes his victories to the crappy guns Turk sells as much as he does his super senses.

Trevor Slattery: It’s taken some time, but I’ve come to appreciate Trevor ‘The Mandarin’ Slattery and his role in the one major moment Marvel didn’t just hand us what we wanted on our comic book bingo card/checklist.

Whiplash: A total goofball, but between Sam Rockwell’s awesomeness and how much I loved hearing Mickey Rourke say the word ‘bid’ over and over again in a Russian accent, I’m seriously reconsidering Iron Man 2 as the best superhero film ever made.

Madame Gao: A tiny old lady with iron fists that runs a cartel of blind people shipping heroine. Madam Gao provided Daredevil with a much needed reminder that comic books are ridiculous during long stretches of Kingpin being mega sad about things and I adore her for that.

Iron Monger / Darren Cross: These gentlemen made the list together so I can make a joke about them literally being the exact same bald tech obsessed corporate ne’er do well. I’m super excited about Ant Man.

Joe Starr is a comedian in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter