With the box-office smashing and heart-shattering Avengers: Infinity War finally at the end of its run at cinemas, much to the dismay of hard-core Marvel fans who still haven’t seen it enough times on the big screen, I thought it would only be fitting to welcome in our new leader Thanos with a rundown of the top 10 MCU villains!
So, in a very particular order…
10. Winter Soldier (Captain America: Winter Soldier)
Putting the Winter Soldier at 10 does feel a little harsh, him being a favourite character of mine, but I’m looking at him as a villain alone. The good thing about having a brainwashed evildoer is that his character is (pretty much) steadfast in his actions, making his tie to Cap even more awful to watch with Bucky is trapped inside. And with his bionic arm, martial artistry, and marksman abilities Winter Soldier is a warrior to watch!
9. The Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger)
The Red Skull could not be more different from other Captain America villains and is all the better for it. The theatricality that Hugo Weaving brings to the role feels like the best way to bring such a theatrical character to life – and it’s important to remember that this guy was the first MCU character from outer space, so he needed to make an entrance. And that he most certainly did.
8. Adrian Toomes, The Vulture (Spider-man: Homecoming)
One of my favourite things about The Vulture is how his theme in the OST is a response to the Avengers theme in minor key, highlighting his totally understandable hatred of the heroes, his motivation for the rest of the film. Michael Keaton’s talent is not wasted, particularly in the moments grounded in reality; his protective nature of his family, especially in that car scene, is as frightening, maybe even more so, as when Vulture takes to the sky.
7. Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)
Cate Blanchett just makes a perfect villain, despite some rather shallow characterisation. Seeing her black horns and emo-esque smokey-eye, you can’t help but think that there’s been some wonderfully bizarre LotR cross-over, Taika Waititi setting up a queen not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night!
6. Obadiah Stane (Iron Man)
Apparently, Jeff Bridges just makes an awesome and ominous villain! Since Iron Man was the first MCU film out the gates back in 2008, it’s unsurprising that its villain sits relatively close to home, and certainly not out in space. His menace came entirely from a good performance and a good simple villain driven by the most basic motive of all: the desire for power.
5. Helmut Zemo (Captain America: Civil War)
Zemo is a more of a schemer than an outright villain: sitting alone, concocting a plan to tear apart the Avengers for good. It’s refreshing to have a villain who simply pokes and tears at the Avengers, letting them do all the work for him, rather than having a big ol’ fist fight between him and Cap to round off the Third Act. What’s more is that his grief, which spurs on his actions, forces us to question whether maybe the Avengers themselves are to blame after all.
4. Ego, The Living Planet (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2)
Kurt Russell, man, who knew he could be such an ominous and all-mighty villain?! Ego is a villain that could have massively flopped – being a literal Living Planet, you couldn’t help but wonder how any superhero could match up in that power battle. But surprisingly it’s his emotional ties to the Guardians that takes precedence and makes the final smash-out oh so worth it.
3. Erik Killmonger (Black Panther)
As a standalone villain, Kilmonger should really be at the top of the list. Unlike everybody else, Killmonger sees T’Challa not simply as a King or a Black Panther but as a man who is privileged and who has so much still to learn – and thinks he is the one who should teach him this lesson. Like all good villains, Killmonger’s motives come from real and understandable places but he is driven too much by anger to realise his modus operandi is so so wrong.
2. Loki (Thor, Avengers, the rest of the MCU)
Loki has had the most well-rounded character arcs of the whole MCU and we love him for it. The playful naughtiness Tom Hiddleston plays him with in Avengers leads you to rally behind him even when he’s gauging out a mans eye, whilst his tragic backstory draws us further towards him as his mask cracks to show the vulnerability underneath. By this point, we have to ask ourselves, can we even call our angsty God of Mischief a villain anymore?
1. Thanos (Avengers: Infinity War, and all the post-credit scenes)
Avengers: Infinity War is undeniably Thanos’ film; in an interview on the Empire Podcast the Russo brothers spoke about wanting to take a new angle with this film by letting the audience experience the story through the eyes of the villain. And what a villain! His intentions and motivations are reasonable, if not carried out in a rather merciless way; all the more so because of the deep backstory he’s provided. He’s the big boss level baddie and he’s bringing down the MCU as we know it!