One of the most consistent criticisms against the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that it has weak villains. Certainly Marvel has given us several of one-and-done villains, underdeveloped characters like Malekith who appear and die in the same movie. But the criticism that Marvel often receives for their villains is not fair to the range of villainy that has appeared (and will continue to appear) in the MCU.
So in this series of posts, I plan to rank Marvel’s villains. In order to do that, I am sorting the characters into three tiers, with the worst characters in the bottom tier, the middling characters in the second tier, and only the supreme baddies in the top tier. With tiers one and two, I will leave readers to decide how to sort those characters within their category. Only in the top tier will I assign numerical rankings, and characters in that tier will get their own posts.
My criteria and methodology for deciding how to categorize Marvel’s villains aren’t exactly scientific, but they’re fairly simple. I have looked at several characteristics:
- The believability of the character’s motives.
- The quality of the actor’s performance.
- The quality of the writing for the character.
- The character’s faithfulness to the source material.
- Whether or not the character has a certain unnamed . . . something (call it “wow factor” if you like) that might mitigate a deficiency in some other area.
No doubt a lot of people have (and will) rank Marvel’s villains differently than I do in these posts. I offer my ranking primarily in order to prompt discussion—and maybe to change a few people’s minds about some of the MCU’s baddies.
In ranking Marvel’s main antagonists, I can’t categorize three of them:
Even though Bucky returned from his fall into a snowy canyon as one of the main antagonists in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s hard to call him a villain even in that movie when he’s acting as an assassin for Hydra. As Cap argues in Captain America: Civil War, it isn’t Bucky who does those things.
Klaue appeared for the first time as a small part in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Andy Serkis made good use of the character’s limited screen time, but the movie simply doesn’t give us enough to make much of a judgment about Klaue’s role in the MCU. According to IMDB, Serkis is rumored to reprise the role in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. I hope that Klaue’s role is expanded in that film because he remains one of the most powerful villains in the comics and has a long history with both the Avengers and Black Panther.
***A major spoiler for Doctor Strange follows.***
Still with me?
Are you sure?
Chiwetel Ejiofor turned in a strong performance as Karl Mordo in Doctor Strange, but Mordo is hardly a villain in that movie. The end-credits scene does reveal that he is probably turning villainous, but even if he is, I doubt that he will be a baddie in the same sense as Abomination or Red Skull. We’ll see soon, I hope.
Look for the next post in this series soon!