Though Marvel Studios has grossed over $18.5 billion at the worldwide box office -- and will likely reach $21.5 billion or more by the time Avengers: Endgame ends its box-office run -- one of the common complaints is that the movies often lack a compelling villain. Here at ComicBook HQ, we decided to put our heads together and come up with a list of the 10 best villains to ever hit the Marvel Cinematic Universe, either on the silver screen or through your television.
As fate would have it, the villains found at the top of the list are some of the most recent baddies to hit the MCU, though a few "classics" can be found strewn about. Unlike our top 10 heroes of the MCU list, this one actually has some participants from the television side!
This list was compiled using ballots submitted by the writers of ComicBook.com. Much like its hero counterparts, each writer was asked to submit their top 10. We then then implemented an algorithm to determine the character's final ranking in the grand scheme of things using the weight of their rating on the ballots of the staff members.
Without further ado, here is our list of the top 10 villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Welcome to Earth's Mightiest Week! From April 22nd to April 26th, ComicBook.com is celebrating the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far with a series of exclusive articles, lists, arguments, and more. If you'd like to check out some of our other offerings from this week, you can click the image above.
Coming in at the bottom position is the only tie in our list with Ultron (James Spader), the android hell-bent on destroying all of humankind, and Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes (Mahershala Ali), the organized crime boss found in Luke Cage.
Spader's voice work for Ultron continues to be blood-chilling to this day, and the character would likely be higher on the list if Avengers: Age of Ultron had been better received by both critics and fans. Ultron has this bizarre mix of naivety and terror, leading to an unhinged character that can snap at any given moment.
Cottonmouth, on the other hand, might be one of the best things to come from the television side of the MCU -- save for the other TV villains on this list. Though his time was cut short, Ali is one of the best raw talents the MCU has ever seen. With the two-time Oscar winner already having played a major role on a Netflix show, it's less likely he'd be recast as a different character on the movie side, though one could always hope.
Red Skull and Captain America go together better than peanut butter and jelly, and it's a no-brainer that this classic comics villain made the top 10 list. Originally played by Hugo Weaving in Captain America: The First Avenger, Ross Marquand's take on the character in Avengers: Infinity War elevated Red Skull to a whole new level.
When it comes to the Nazi founder of Hydra, Red Skull's been one of the most comic-accurate adaptations of a villainous character. Though we likely won't be seeing Weaving back in the role, I'd venture to guess that vast majority of MCU fans are just fine with Marquand continuing on.
The world-record holder for the most times having yelled "JESSICA!" in the span of 13 hours, Kilgrave (David Tennant) might be the most terrifying villain on this list. Not because of his mind-controlling powers, but because the character was written so human and realistic.
Melissa Rosenberg and company did a killer job writing this villain for Jessica Jones, and that's why the character found himself on the majority of ballots submitted by ComicBook.com writers. Writer Connor Casey ranked the Purple Man highest out of the lot, slotting him at fourth while myself and Jamie Jirak each rated him fifth. He appeared on the bottom-half on all other ballots.
To justify Ego's spot on the list, the only evidence I need is his infamous "it broke my heart to put that tumor in her head" line. Do we need any more explanation than that? The Celestial cared about himself and only that, even though it meant killing thousands of innocent children and lovers.
Also, Kurt Russell makes a terrific bad guy.
The last of the television characters on this list is the kingpin of New York, Wilson Fisk. A classic villain of both Spider-Man and Daredevil, Vincent D'Onofrio's take on Fisk is near-flawless, making the character a terrifying baddie. The show made him more human, and I think that's what makes the character better.
Though he wasn't portrayed as a Hulk-sized character -- see Into the Spider-Verse or most comics as an example -- he still brought that bravado and swagger to the role. Plus, I mean, the dude decapitated someone with a car door. It doesn't get much more villainous as that.
For the record, this is the first character on this list to receive a first-place vote. In fact, both Connor Casey and myself placed this villain at the top of our lists.
Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes was one of the most consistent villains on the ballots received. In fact, he was one of the few characters that appeared on every single top 10. The highest he was ever rated was second, and oftentimes found himself right around the middle of the pack.
Responsible for one of the MCU's biggest twists, one of the character's major highlights was the incredible car scene ride in Spider-Man: Homecoming that left many fans sitting on the edge of their seat.
The rightful Queen of Asgard is the one character on this list that's full-out "comic booky," and it's so delightful. From her Kirby-esque headpiece to the stunning performance by the Oscar-winning Cate Blanchett, Hela's top five spot is particularly well deserved. In fact, some may say she's not rated high enough.
The Goddess of Death received two top-spot votes, and she appeared in the top five nearly everywhere else. While she was presumably killed by Surtur in the destruction of Asgard, there are plenty of fan theories saying she'd be back -- we are talking about comic book movies, after all.
"I love Hela. To pieces," ComicBook.com anime queen Megan Peters tells me. "She has motivation which is something I feel villains like Thanos lack, and she is ruthless. Her rage is understandable yet never justifiable, and Cate Blanchett killed the role."
The most surprising thing I noticed while tabulating ballots was that not a single staffer ranked Thanos as their top villain. Despite looming large in Avengers: Infinity War and coming right back in Avengers: Endgame, the Mad Titan found himself second on three ballots and lower on everything else. In fact, there was one ballot where he was absent entirely.
It's an interesting placement, for sure -- especially after the character just got done killing half of all life. I suppose we'll see if he can get any more villain points in just a few days...
The classic go-to villain throughout the duration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) will forever go down as one of the most iconic characters to ever grace superhero cinema. Even among Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, there has yet to be a better casting than Tom Hiddleston as Loki.
The God of Mischief always skirts the line between hero and villain, and that's why, as one ComicBook editor puts it, he's a superb villain.
"Yes, Loki has played both sides, and yes, his intentions are almost always shrouded in secrecy," says editor Rollin Bishop. "But that's what makes him the best villain: you're never quite sure if he actually is one."
The consistently highest-rated villain on the ballots was none other than Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). The baddie of the highest-grossing domestic MCU flick gets the top spot, despite only one first-place vote. Every other time the character appeared on a ballot, he was either second or third, save for a ballot or two.
And it's likely because the character's motivations were the most understandable out of everyone else on this list. While it's clear the character wasn't right in his actions, they at least do raise discussions points. And even in the face of death, Killmonger stood strong with courage and grace.