Marvel Cinematic Universe Villains Ranked

22. 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.

21. Darren Cross/Yellowjacket – Ant-Man (2015)

“Did you think you could stop the future with a heist?”

Ant-Man Review

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.

20. 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.

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19. 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.

18. 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.

17. 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.

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