It’s not always good to be bad in the Marvel movies, where nefarious shenanigans and escapades often lead to a star-spangled shield or a mystical hammer upside one’s head. (Or, in the case of Thanos, just getting that noggin chopped right off.)
Over the course of 23 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, many superheroes have been introduced, as well as a veritable legion of doom when it comes to their arch enemies – men and women who’ve had close ties to their chosen do-gooders and others who just have one heck of a mean streak.
The latest in this antagonistic pantheon (spoiler alert!) is the mysterious Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” but with more Marvel movies on the way, you can bet on some more big bads to go with them.
Whom do we most love to hate? Here’s a breakdown of the baddies, ranked from worst to best:
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Hey, Mysterio! Jake Gyllenhaal answers the superhero call for ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’
Russian inventor Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is no fan of the Stark family and he wields a couple of nasty electric whips – and kind of an iffy accent, if we’re being honest – on his path of vengeance that pits him vs. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in “Iron Man 2” (2010).
The evil dark elf (Christopher Eccleston) plans to use the Aether, one of the Infinity Stones, to rain darkness upon the Nine Realms in “Thor: The Dark World” (2013). He brings the pain to Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and pals in an action-packed London finale, though he ultimately feels a literally crushing defeat.
30. The Mandarin
The enigmatic leader (Ben Kingsley) of the terrorist group the Ten Rings makes Tony Stark a paranoid mess in “Iron Man 3” (2013) – that is, until Iron Man reveals him to actually be washed-up English thespian (and chronic over-actor) Trevor Slattery playing the part of international baddie.
29. Thunderbolt Ross
Villains aren’t always the mustache-twirling kind – although the not-so-good general (William Hurt) has plentiful facial hair. He first hunted down the Hulk (Edward Norton) in “The Incredible Hulk” (2008) and then become a bureaucratic foil – and Tony Stark frenemy of sorts – for the Avengers in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016).
Plenty of dudes in the Ravagers (think outer-space motorcycle gang) are not on the side of the law, but rabble-rousing Taserface (Chris Sullivan) sparks a mutiny, takes over the group, plus captures Rocket and Groot in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017). Not cool, man.
The former protege (Mads Mikkelsen) of the Ancient One turns magical rogue and schemes with his cultish sect to unleash Dormammu and the Dark Dimension on Earth in “Doctor Strange” (2016). Thankfully, sorcerer supreme Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has the time-twisting Eye of Agamotto to stop such goings-on.
26. Ronan the Accuser
The fanatical Kree warrior (Lee Pace) forms an alliance with Thanos, makes enemies of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his group of misfits, and loses a dance battle in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014). Plus, in the ’90s-set “Captain Marvel” (2019), he backs down in the face of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson). Kind of a poseur, really.
25. Aldrich Killian
The mad-scientist head (Guy Pearce) of Advanced Idea Mechanics invented the Extremis virus to help his own disability and then uses it against rival Tony Stark in “Iron Man 3” (2013), transforming Killian into a fiery, crazy jerk rather than the brainy jerk he was before. Good news? Better than Whiplash.
One-time S.H.I.E.L.D.-turned Hydra operative Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) got his butt handed to him in an elevator and later had a building pretty much dropped on his face, courtesy of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014). He seeks fiery revenge on the supersoldier in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016).
23. The Abomination
Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) is a soldier who gets the same gamma-radiation treatment that created the Hulk to become a yellow gamma monster in “The Incredible Hulk” (2008). Of course, he takes on the big green guy in a massive brawl and, like almost everything in this movie, it’s not that great. Still, ’08 special effects are kinder to Abomination than the Hulkster.
Somewhat unhinged scientist and businessman Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) yearns for the approval of his mentor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) but also wants to weaponize the old man’s size-changing technology and sell it to the military in “Ant-Man” (2015).
The high priestess (Elizabeth Debicki) of the Sovereign, a race of genetically engineered, upper-crust-y alien folks, sets her murderous sights on the lovable space heroes of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017) after they steal from her. Which would otherwise make her the victim except for the fact she is quite crazypants.
20. The Kree Empire
Led by the Supreme Intelligence (who takes the form of Annette Bening), the powerful alien race fosters a facade of being noble space warriors. Eh, not so much. In fact, they made their sworn enemy, the shapeshifting Skrulls, cosmic refugees and lie to Carol Danvers to keep her powers in check in “Captain Marvel.”
Originally created as a peacekeeping AI by science bros Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), the megalomaniacal robot (James Spader) becomes sentient, gets tons of one-liners and aims to wipe out mankind in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015). Great villain from the comics but the execution’s glitchy.
18. Obadiah Stane
The Dude gone bad! One of the few times in his career where Jeff Bridges is both folksy and seriously wicked. He plays the business partner and mentor to Tony Stark who uses the Iron Monger armor to take over the tech company for himself in “Iron Man” (2008).
Suffering from molecular instability, antagonist Ava Starr (Hannah John-Kamen) can phase through solid objects (which is kind of awesome) and steals technology to fix her physical form (less awesome) in “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018). A tragic backstory and redemptive arc make her less evil in general, but she’s a tricky foe for the size-shifting lead duo.
The Ravagers leader (Michael Rooker, center) is a space outlaw who sacrificed himself to save his surrogate son Star-Lord yet had a definitely underhanded side in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014). Even though he turns out to have a heart of gold in the sequel, Rooker always gives him a sense of fun down-home rascality.
15. Ulysses Klaue
The black marketeer and arms dealer (Andy Serkis) gets done dirty – and loses an arm – in “Age of Ultron” (2015) but comes back like a champ in “Black Panther” (2018), a thief of valuable vibranium from Wakanda who wants to reveal the high-tech nation’s secrets to the world.
14. Alexander Pierce
Robert Redford is another guy who hasn’t played a lot of villains but is pretty cool as a top government official who heads the World Security Council but also schemes as an undercover Hydra operative in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014). And it makes his cameo in the recent “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), in a flashback mini-showdown with the Avengers, all the sweeter.
13. The Grandmaster
Jeff Goldblum goes full Goldblum like only he can as this eccentric Elder of the Universe who rules the battle world of Sakaar and enslaves warriors (like Thor and Hulk) for his dangerous gladiatorial games in “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017). Fun fact for those who aren’t connoisseurs of DVD extras: He actually moved to Australia for a bit to live with Thor’s roommate.
An all-powerful Celestial, the living planet takes human form (Kurt Russell), reveals himself to be the long-lost father of Star-Lord and wants his son to help him take over the universe in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017). When Star-Lord rebuffs him – since Ego kinda killed his mom – dear ol’ dad tries to end him, too, which won’t win him any Space Parent of the Year honors.
11. Helmut Zemo
In one of the more interesting adaptations from the comic-book counterpart, Daniel Bruhl’s terrorist and former Sokovian soldier doesn’t have any superpowers in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) except for his extraordinary need to avenge his own family and country. That and his smarts are enough to drive a serious wedge between Cap and Iron Man that breaks their relationship for quite a while.
Karen Gillan brings not only a seriously cool look to the part-android assassin but also a complexity to Thanos’ killer daughter. Cold and calculating with the occasional sense of warmth, Nebula aligns with various underhanded individuals in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies though ultimately fights alongside the good guys – like Tony Stark and sister Gamora (Zoe Saldana) – against her father’s army in “Avengers: Endgame” (2019).
9. The Vulture
After getting screwed over by Tony Stark, winged antagonist and salvager Adrian Toombs (Michael Keaton) sells illegal weapons made from alien tech, which gets him on the radar of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017). The Vulture also happens to be the father of the web slinger’s romantic crush, which makes for one heck of a dad talk.
8. Red Skull
A World War II baddie aligned with the Nazis, Captain America’s archenemy (Hugo Weaving) tries to use the Tesseract to bring Hydra to power before being bested by Cap in “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011). Intriguingly, Red Skull gets a new lease on life – ironically, in death – showing up later in “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) as the ghostly cosmic keeper of the Soul Stone.
7. Justin Hammer
One of the biggest injustices in the Marvel universe so far has been the limited use – only one movie, “Iron Man 2” (2010), plus an “Iron Man 3” (2013) end-credits cameo – of this cocky weapons manufacturer (Sam Rockwell). Just as scheme-y and smarmy as Tony Stark, Hammer is willing to go to extreme lengths to take out his business rival permanently or just knock him down a couple pegs.
Another charter member of the Official Tony Stark Haters Club, Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) passes himself off as a hero from an alternate Earth in “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019). As if. In fact, he’s a former Stark Industries employee with state-of-the art hologram technology who befriends and then betrays Peter Parker, revealing his secret identity to the world.
Eons after getting too powerful for Dad’s comfort, Odin’s long-lost daughter (Cate Blanchett) escapes a mystical prison and immediately gets the family together but not for a happy reunion in “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017). The antler-helmeted Hela shoots her estranged bros Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) off into space and takes over her home world of Asgard.
4. Winter Soldier
Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) was an Army soldier and childhood friend of Cap, before being turned into a brainwashed Hydra assassin who spent decades causing international chaos and killed Tony Stark’s parents. A faceoff in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) with his old pal led to Cap protecting him in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) and Bucky working with Wakandans on his path of redemption.
For the longest time in the MCU, the trickster god (Tom Hiddleston) was the coolest of all big bads, debuting as a weaselly dude in the original “Thor” solo film in 2011 and then arriving to Earth to make a planet bow to his presence – and low-key working for Thanos – in “The Avengers” (2012). He made amends with his bro and turned out to be more of an antihero later, but never lost his swagger.
Wiping out half the universe is a pretty good way to shoot to the top of the bad-guy charts. After spending many movies hunting the six Infinity Stones, the cosmic villain (Josh Brolin) finally utilized them to rapturous effect in “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) and while the Avengers used time travel to fix the situation, he and his troops give Earth’s mightiest heroes all they can handle in the massive finale of “Avengers: Endgame” (2019).
1. Erik Killmonger
What makes the American black-ops soldier (Michael B. Jordan) in “Black Panther” (2018) so fantastic is the complicated connection with his rival hero and their homeland. A forgotten prince of Wakanda, Killmonger returns seeking revenge for his late father and wants to rule the African nation but also use its superior technology to change the world by raising up those who’ve been oppressed because of the color of their skin.