20. Ava Starr/Ghost – Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
“It hurts. It always hurts.”
A scientist’s daughter with an unnatural condition that causes her to painfully phase in and out of the physical realm, Ghost resorts to stealing Pymtech to survive.
Ghost is an admirable attempt to make something interesting out of a gimmicky physics-based villain. The character is let down not by Hannah John-Kamen’s engaging and tortured performance but by her essential irrelevance to the film’s main plot and lack of enough meaningful screen time. It’s almost like they only decided late in the day that Ant-Man and the Wasp should have an antagonist at all, and that may have been the wrong decision for this particular movie.
19. Ronan – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
“I don’t recall killing your family. I doubt I’ll remember killing you either.”
Ronan is a Kree fanatic who courts war and is gathering enough power to wipe the planet Xandar from the galaxy.
Ronan, with his war paint, samurai helmet and big hammer has a strong look, and thanks to Lee Pace he is given an imposing presence and a rumbling voice. But you’d struggle to claim he had much in the way of depth as a character. He wants a weapon to destroy a planet because because he’s from a war-like race and that’s about it, though Pace’s affronted expression and confused “what are you doing?” as Star-Lord dances in front of him as he’s trying to trigger an apocalypse is pretty memorable.
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18. Darren Cross/Yellowjacket – Ant-Man (2015)
“Did you think you could stop the future with a heist?”
Hank Pym’s protégé, ouster and successor at his company, Yellowjacket seeks to weaponise and sell Pym’s shrinking technology to the highest bidder.
Marvel has a lot of evil CEOs in its rogues gallery and Corey Stoll brings plenty of punchable arrogance to his performance as Darren Cross. He murders rivals and exterminates animal test subjects without second thought, seemingly motivated by Pym not trusting him with the secrets of his technology (though really it’s because he enjoys doing it).
Cross does have probably the most gruesome villain death in the MCU so far, and it’s no more than he deserves.
17. Johann Schmidt/Red Skull – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
“I have seen the future, Captain! There are no flags!”
Red Skull is the head of Hydra, the Nazi science division, plotting to end the war and conquer the world with weapons powered by the Tesseract.
Captain America’s greatest adversary from the comics became a somewhat generic evil-doer on the big screen. The explanation for his appearance – the super soldier serum that made good great in Steve Rogers made bad worse in Johann Schmidt – works well thematically, and Hugo Weaving’s drawling, superior delivery hits the mark too, but otherwise Red Skull is just a stronger-than-usual would-be-world-conqueror who makes a more interesting, not-quite villainous re-appearance in Infinity War.
16. 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.