Loki aside, the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t always hit it out of the park when it comes to their big movie villains. In fact it has even become a point of discontent among fans that the heroes might be great but the bad guys fail to make an impact.
The TV wing of the MCU has started to change that though with longer stories allowing villains to be fleshed out and their nefarious schemes given explanation and depth. Characters like Killgrave and Wilson Fisk have been as integral as Jessica Jones and Daredevil; characters like Whiplash or Malekith didn’t quite measure up to Iron Man and Thor in the same manner.
That looks set to change with Thanos’s eventual arrival on Earth in Avengers: Infinity War and who knows what Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok have in store for fans. In the meantime, here are eight Marvel Cinematic Universe villains that certainly have made their mark…
8. The Winter Solider (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier boasted an impressive cast and with that an impressive roster of bad guys. In the same vein as the movie itself, these weren’t completely evil characters, but good characters morally and psychologically corrupted. Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce was another contender for this list, a senator imbued with power and the sense of moral righteousness that almost lead the deaths of thousands and the fall of SHIELD itself. But one character beats him; Bucky Barnes, AKA the titular Winter Solider.
From Steve Rodgers wholesome best friend to an assassin responsible for the murder of key MCU characters like Howard Stark (and almost Nick Fury) he is a mental and physical match for Captain America and their shared friendship almost becomes the hero’s undoing. His redemption in Captain America: Civil War is going to be an interesting one, particularly where Tony Stark / Iron Man gets involved. But as the villain of Cap’s second movie he stands out as one the best bad guys in Phase 2.
7. Dottie Underwood (Agent Carter)
Bridget Regan’s Dottie Underwood was a surprisingly great addition to the MCU, turning up in Agent Carter as an unsuspecting new resident at the Griffith Hotel before revealing herself as a psychotic Russian agent of the evil organisation Leviathan. Her evil ‘debut’, killing Otto Mink was one of the highlights of the first season and from there she went on to become the perfect nemesis for Peggy Carter herself.
What is even more intriguing is that she helms from the same Red Room that Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow; from her chilling flashback killing her fellow student without question to her deadly actions late in season one of Agent Carter, she has proven herself to be great nemesis, and we eagerly await her return in season two.
6. Ultron (The Avengers: Age Of Ultron)
While Ultron failed to make the impact fans were hoping for, he was still an impressive villain, with James Spader delivering a terrific vocal performance (even if it was a robotic version of his phenomenal character Red from The Blacklist). He exuded menace, cruelty, twisted humour and delusions of grandeur that gave a full engaging character (something that could not be levied against Christopher Ecclestone’s disappointing Malekith in Thor: The Dark World. Some argued that the humour felt out of place but as the invention of the king of quips Tony Stark it was a wonderfully twisted mirror of the lead hero.
And while having the Avengers face off against another horde of warrior might have been a mistake, Ultron was a threat worthy of the team physically and mentally. He was the manifestation of Tony and Bruce’s guilt over their creation, the megalomaniac who wanted to create an extinction event to wipe out humanity and a villain who could be literally anywhere in the world thanks to his ability to hide within the internet.
It might have been a week – rather than an age – of Ultron, but what a week that was!
5. Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger)
It is easy to forget that Marvel phase 1 boasted another great villain alongside Loki, Hugo Weaving’s evil mastermind Red Skull. The Nazi mastermind behind HYDRA, he was a terrifying presence and a great nemesis for Steve Rogers all American hero. And his master plan, to harness weapons from the Tesseract, was suitably dastardly.
Just how Red Skull would fit into the modern world of the MCU remains to be seen – and given Hugo Weaving’s lack of enthusiasm for an encore performance it is unlikely, but in the black and white world of World War II, he was visually, mentally and most importantly evil enough as the villain of his time.
4. Grant Ward (Agents Of SHIELD)
Agent Grant Ward was endemic of everything that fans found disappointing the first half of Agents Of SHIELD season one. Bland, wholesome and without any depth. But that was all part of the master plan, making his turn as HYDRA villain in season one’s Turn, Turn, Turn all the more shocking. From the moment he shot and skilled Victoria Hand, Ward became one of the most interesting characters in the series and has got better with each season.
What makes Ward so great is that every time there is a glimpse of redemption he does something even more shocking; murdering his family in an act of cold revenge and then taking control of the remnants of HYDRA after its defeat by the Avengers and SHIELD. Adding in his twisted relationships with Skye and Agent 33, his ruthless nature – his nefarious plan to make Lance kill Bobbi being most memorable – and Ward continues to be one of the most engaging villains within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
3. Killgrave (Jessica Jones)
There is evil an then there is sick and twisted evil and David Tennant’s Killgrave is certainly one of the most twisted villains in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. From his very first entrance in Jessica Jones, taking over the poor family’s apartment, forcing the kids to shut themselves in the cupboard while they urinated themselves, this was someone who no redeeming features. From the callous way in which he told the vendor to throw the hot cup of coffee into his own face to the offhand manner in which he told Wendy to attack Jeri with a thousand cuts, these moments defined him as cruel, cold and altogether vicious.
Added to this is his fascinating backstory as a boy subjected to horrific experimentation by his parents, unleashing his ability to control others. This reveal could have easily been a moment that brought him towards the light; instead he forced his mother to kill herself without hesitation and used his dad to strengthen his abilities when they were finally reunited. He might not be someone hellbent on world domination or destruction but as the survivors group proved, his harm was deeply personal and deeply devastating.
2. Loki (Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World)
With no doubt, all other MCU villains have lived in Loki’s shadow. Tom Hiddleston’s Norse god of mischief was by far the best thing in Thor with and it was inspired to make him the central villain in the first Marvel team up The Avengers. In Thor: The Dark World, Loki continued to steal the show from Chris Hemsworth’s hero and ended that movie succeeding in his goal of taking the throne of Asgard disguised as his father Odin.
In a cinematic universe which has sometimes failed to nail its villains, Loki remains one of the greatest characters. His wit and charm equally balance his manipulative and scheming nature, making audiences root for him as much as Thor. There were probably a few people he cheered when he took the throne. Thor: Ragnarok could be his last film and we can only wait with anticipation as to what Loki will do next.
1. Wilson Fisk (Daredevil)
Half the success of a good hero is in how good the villain is and in season one of Daredevil one of the best aspects of the series was Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin. His journey was fascinating, from his powerful grip over the criminal elements of New York City to his mesmerising relationship with Vanessa, he often stole the show from the titular hero. And with moments like the ‘car door scene’ in episode four, to the epic showdown with the Man Without Fear in the finale, D’Onofrio brought the physical presence to perfectly manifest the character from page to screen.
But what makes him greater than Loki? Quite simply the depth of his character explored over those thirteen episodes. The serialised format allowed Daredevil to explore his tragic childhood and the murder of his father and his relationship with Vanessa in tender detail. What made him so brilliant is that he is not fully evil; he is child in a giant’s body, socially awkward and terrified that he might lose his powerbase, easily enraged when things didn’t go his way. His unpredictability is what made him so dangerous and what kept audiences on edge to the very end. Let’s just hope there is room to explore Fisk further in season two…
Perhaps the most interesting thing is that some of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe villains are the very human characters. Do you agree? Are there other choices you would have picked? Do you find characters like Loki of Killgrave overrated? And what villains are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below…