Marvel Cinematic Universe Villains Ranked

23. Ultron – Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

“I know you’re good people. I know you mean well. But you just didn’t think it through. There is only one path to peace… your extinction.”

An AI created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner to defend Planet Earth, Ultron realises the innate destructive nature of his creator’s species and so decides to exterminate humanity with an extinction-level event.

The vengeful Frankenstein elements of Ultron’s character and James Spader’s wry, fruity vocal delivery really work to make him memorable. In contrast, the CGI used to create him looks a lot less good now, and the flexible, Kermit-looking Muppet mouth on a metal being was never convincing. He’s also arguably too funny, suffering from Joss Whedon’s usual verbal diarrhoea, and is too constantly snarky to be threatening.

At least we were gifted the character of Vision as well, Ultron’s final scene with his accidental synthetic offspring debating their purpose and human nature ended up being unexpectedly poignant.

22. Dreykov – Black Widow (2021)

“With you, an Avenger under my control, I can finally come out of the shadows using the only natural resource that the world has too much of: girls.”

Black Widow Review

Dreykov is a Soviet spymaster who has developed a way to chemically brainwash an army of deadly Black Widows – sleeper assassins who only need to be activated in order to sew chaos across the world.

Black Widow needed a very personal threat to work as an origin story, and in combination with his pet super assassin Taskmaster, Dreykov manages to be a villain who challenges Natasha Romanov on both a physical and emotional level. He’s a nasty piece of work to put it mildly, taking away many young women’s free will and invasively turning them into weapons seemingly just because he can, and that’s not even getting started on what he did to his family.

The concept of the character is admittedly much scarier than what Ray Winstone does with him (big gruff general with a highly inconsistent accent), but he works well enough in service of the story being told.

21. Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger – Iron Man (2008)

“Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps!”

Tony Stark’s mentor and day to-day handler of business affairs at Stark Industries, Obadiah Stane, turns on his boss following Tony’s kidnap, escape and weapons production contract-threatening crisis of conscience.

Jeff Bridges as Obidiah Stane works unexpectedly well. There’s nothing of Bridges’ normal hippie persona about this character aside from his easy-going charm, which becomes quite a sinister combination with Stane’s brutal business practices and willingness to murder for profit.

The finale of Iron Man with suited Tony and Stane (or Iron Monger, like Iron Man but bigger) punching each other, flying for a bit then punching some more, isn’t particularly engaging a decade on, but up to this point Bridges and Downey Jr have such great passive-aggressive chemistry.

20. Alexander Pierce – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

“You didn’t ask, you just did what had to be done. I can bring order to the lives of seven billion people by sacrificing twenty million.”

As the head of SHIELD (and Nick Fury’s superior), Alexander Pierce secretly works with Hydra, using the brainwashed Winter Soldier as his tool to bring about a new world order.

You don’t have to give Robert Redford much for him to steal every scene he’s in. He brings all the expected presence and charm to a character who is completely amoral but utterly convinced the atrocities he is about to sanction are the right thing to do for world security. The knowing casting of Redford playing it completely straight and providing much-needed gravitas as the villain in a comic book conspiracy thriller adds much value to Winter Soldier’s admittedly pretty hokey final act.

19. Kaecilius – Doctor Strange (2016)

“People think in terms of good and evil, but really, time is the true enemy of us all. Time kills everything.”

Kaecilius, a renegade master of the mystic arts, attempts to open the way to the Dark Dimension, allowing demon Dormamu to consume our reality and increase his great power.

Kaecilius only wants forbidden knowledge, and eternal life, and limitless power… actually he wants quite a bit. He’s the classic example of a wayward student gone wrong, and he would probably have turned out OK if the Ancient One had been a bit more supportive as a mentor.

Mads Mikkelsen always plays entertaining villains, and as well as being shown to be a deadly dark sorcerer here he brings a welcome sense of humour to his portrayal of Kaecilius (“Mr Doctor?” / “It’s Strange” / “Maybe, who am I to judge?”).

18. Hela – Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

“We were once the seat of absolute power in the cosmos. Our supremacy was unchallenged. Yet Odin stopped at nine realms. Our destiny is to rule over all others.”

Thor: Ragnarok Review

Thor and Loki’s long-lost secret evil stepsister, Odin’s first-born and the Asgardian Goddess of Death returns to claim her throne and begin a new bloody conquest of the Nine Realms and beyond.

Incredibly, only the second female main antagonist in the MCU to date, Hela is born out of Odin’s days of warmongering and has Loki’s sense of superiority, young Thor’s bloodlust, and enough power to crush Mjolnir in her bare hand.

Cate Blanchett seems to relish playing a tyrant dressed like the lead singer of a metal band which makes it a shame all her colourful screen time is overshadowed by a final showdown against the heroes which is cut short by the deus ex machina arrival of “big monster” Surtur.

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17. Adrian Toomes/Vulture – Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

“Those people, Pete, those people up there, the rich and the powerful, they do whatever they want. Guys like us, like you and me… they don’t care about us.”

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Vulture is a self-made social riser orchestrating a series of heists to steal Stark technology and sell it to the highest-bidding criminals.

One of the only working-class villains in the MCU, Adrian Toomes starts off salvaging alien wreckages from the Battle of New York before being shut out of this lucrative business by SHIELD. He and his crew go on a spree, stealing from Stark weapon caches and employing the alien technology they managed to save.

He’s a robber in a wing-suit, but what makes him interesting aside from Michael Keaton’s scary performance is his personal connection to Peter Parker – they soon deduce each other’s secret identities and Spidey is left battling his crush’s dad atop of a disintegrating plane.

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