The Marvel movies are beloved the world over, and they are consistent box office and critical hits. But if there’s an Achilles heel to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s its villains. They’re not particular good or even interesting. And given how many films they’ve made now, it’s become a bit of a running joke that Marvel’s villains are lackluster. Of course, they make up for it in the protagonist department, but that doesn’t mean creating a fascinating Marvel movie villain is impossible. In fact, they’ve come close a few times and there is one indisputable great Marvel movie villain.
So as we await the release of the latest film in the MCU, let’s look back on every major Marvel movie villain to date ranked from worst to best. Be aware there are spoilers discussed.
Note: I only included major villains in this piece, or characters who at one point in the story served as a primary/major antagonistic force to our hero. So while Kursed and Crossbones are in the MCU, it’s unfair to compare their character-lite screentime with other major villains, and thus they’ve been left off the list.
Whiplash – Iron Man 2
You really can’t blame Jon Favreau and Marvel for wanting Mickey Rourke to play Whiplash in Iron Man 2. At the time, Rourke was in the midst of what would ultimately be an incredibly brief resurgence thanks to his terrific performance in The Wrestler. But when he showed up for Iron Man 2, he basically wore his same clothes off the street, demanded the character have a pet bird and mumbled his way through the film. Ivan Vanko was supposed to be a formidable foil for Tony Stark that brought up all of Tony’s daddy issues, but Rourke’s performance is so stilted and odd that Vanko/Whiplash just comes off as one big joke. While Iron Man 2 certainly is one of the MCU’s worst films, a lot of the film’s stink is due to this complete dud of an antagonist and Rourke’s unwillingness to give Favreau and Co. anything resembling an actual performance. — Adam Chitwood
Kro – Eternals
Bill Skarsgård seems like he would be the perfect person to play a Marvel villain after he brought the terrifying Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the recent It films. This makes his completely bland and pointless villain in Eternals even more crushing. You can tell how bad a villain Kro is when I couldn’t remember his name and had to Google it, and there’s a reason why his name is hard to remember. For starters, Kro is overshadowed by Ikaris (Richard Madden), who becomes the real main villain in the third act. Secondly, Kro appears about halfway through the movie, becoming the first intelligent Deviant after absorbing the abilities of some of the other Eternals. Having a character that can mimic the abilities of those it’s killed might sound interesting, but ultimately Kro doesn’t get to do anything in the story besides show up out of nowhere for the final fight. A complete waste of a talented actor in an already convoluted plot. — Aidan Kelley
Emil Blonsky/Abomination – The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk is an outlier in the MCU for many reasons—it was produced at the same time as Iron Man, and yet only two characters from Hulk have appeared in any other MCU films. It’s a weird movie that’s kinda-sorta part of the MCU mythology, but as a film itself, it’s pretty forgettable. That extends to its main villain Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), who in the film is basically just portrayed as a macho military dude who wants to get Hulk-sized ripped. He becomes Abomination because, reasons, to fight Hulk, and is beaten to a pulp. The end. He really only exists in the film to justify a big third-act fist fight between Hulk and a formidable challenger, and as a character is as paper-thin as they come. — Adam Chitwood
Malekith – Thor: The Dark World
In the long line of pointless villain roles in the MCU, Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith in Thor: The Dark World ranks as one of the most pointless. Case in point: I bet you forgot/didn’t know Christopher Eccleston was even in a Marvel movie! Malekith is a mean Dark Elf who wants to rule the universe. That’s the beginning and end of his story, and the film makes no efforts to inject any sort of pathos or emotion into the character at all, just using him to get in the way of Thor and Jane. It’s all the more glaring when coming off of Loki in Thor, who was chock-full of pathos. But Eccleston’s not alone in the MCU legion of wasted talents. — Adam Chitwood
Dormammu – Doctor Strange
I debated even putting Dormammu on this list, but seeing as how he’s the one pulling the strings in Doctor Strange, it felt appropriate. He can’t rank very high because the character only has a teensy bit of screen time, during which he’s seen only as a floating psychedelic face. The character is only made interesting by the fact that he worked alongside Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One, and his visual design is admittedly pretty cool, but beyond that, he doesn’t make much of an impression. Of course, that’s certainly not the last we’ve seen of the character, so To Be Continued… — Adam Chitwood