Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra had a number of villains who wreaked havoc and chaos in their own ways. Aang, Korra, and their predecessors had to face fierce bending masters, power-hungry conquerors, underdog rebels, infamous assassins, and political manipulators. Each villain has required a different approach from the Avatars and their allies, but only a few were capable of shaking up the world as everyone knew it.
Aang was focused on the threat of Fire Lord Ozai throughout Avatar: The Last Airbender, but he often met villains along the way. While he tried to stop Ozai, he had to contend with the likes of Hama, Jet, Long Feng, and Azula. Korra had a new existential threat every season. She had a revolving door of villains, battling Amon, Unalaq and Vaatu, Zaheer and the Red Lotus, and Kuvira. Korra, though, had her share of minor villains manipulating events from the background.
The eminently powerful villains were capable of giving an Avatar the fight of their life, but even a few of the minor villains and sometimes-allies refused to be brushed aside. Which of the Avatar's many villains was the best of the worst?
Here are the 25 Most Powerful Villains Of The Avatar Universe, Officially Ranked.
For a small-time rebel leader, Jet caused more than his share of trouble. Jet and his band destroyed an Earth Kingdom village controlled by the Fire Nation, and they would have wiped out the residents if Sokka had not warned the village. He was an excellent fighter with hook swords. He was evenly matched with Zuko, a master swordsman. He managed to delay Aang in an extended fight before Katara stopped him in a surprise move. He was strong-minded enough to resist Long Feng's brainwashing, but fell to a single fatal blow from Long Feng.
24 Lightning Bolt Zolt
Lightning Bolt Zolt ran the underworld of Republic City. He was a powerful firebender, capable enough with lightning generation to teach the technique to Mako. He was the leader of the Triple Threat Triad, known for harassing peaceful non-benders who found it difficult to defend themselves against his violent bender henchmen. This habit of preying upon weak targets put him in Amon's crosshairs. Zolt fell on his first encounter with Amon, and he was the first victim of Amon's bending removal. Without his bending, Zolt was just a bully with empty threats, and he was replaced as the leader of the triad.
June was infamous as a bounty hunter, known for tracking down anyone wherever they might be. She found both Katara when the Fire Nation could not manage to track down the Avatar and his friends. She later tracked down Iroh after he disappeared following his prison breakout. Most of her skill with tracking came from her control over the shirshu she rode. She found a process that worked for her as a non-bender bounty hunter, and she used it to great effect. Aside from her tracking abilities, she was an experienced fighter, able to wipe the floor with multiple opponents in record time.
22 Desna and Eska
Desna and Eska were reluctant but effective henchmen for Unalaq. They both took part in the civil war between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes, leading the North's forces. In battle, they forced the Southern forces into retreat and effectively defended Unalaq from the attacks of his brother Tonraq. When they turned against Korra, they showcased their powerful waterbending by cutting her ship in two and holding their own against the Avatar in a water battle. However, in the end, they had little interest in helping Unalaq accomplish his dark spiritual goals and turned to fight at Korra's side.
21 Long Feng
Long Feng was a power player in the Earth Kingdom and head of the elite Dai Li. He held Ba Sing Se in an iron grip and manipulated the Earth King from behind the scenes. The main source of Long Feng's power was the secret brainwashing program he operated under Lake Laogai. He was a master earthbender, only requiring a single move to trap Appa or deliver a fatal attack on Jet. Long Feng was ultimately thwarted by Azula, who turned the allegiance of the Dai Li. Without the Dai Li, Long Feng had no leverage in the Earth Kingdom and was forced to work for Azula.
20 Admiral Zhao
Admiral Zhao may have been one of the foremost leaders of the Fire Nation military, but he was not prepared for the challenge Aang would bring him. In one of his earliest conflicts with Aang, Jeong Jeong evaded Zhao, and then Aang goaded the admiral into destroying his own ships during their fight. He also lost a duel to 16-year-old Zuko in a single move. He was a powerful firebender, but he did not think through most of his attacks. His most effective plan was the Siege of the Northern Water Tribe, in which he destroyed the Moon Spirit, but even that plan was violently thwarted by Aang and the Ocean Spirit.
Mai was a deadly opponent with a knife when she wanted to be. She measured up surprisingly well in fights against benders, keeping them on defense or pinning them down with her throwing knives. Like her partners Azula and Ty Lee, she was quick, agile, and nearly acrobatic warrior. Mai could incapacitate multiple opponents when outnumbered without injuring anyone in the process. When she turned on Azula, she engaged multiple experienced Fire Nation guards and held them off long enough for Zuko to escape. However, she did not have a wide enough skill set to defeat master benders during regular engagements.
Varrick was a master of manipulation and subterfuge hiding under a cover of eccentricity. He engineered a civil war between the Southern and Northern Water Tribes. He attempted to take President Raiko to draw the United Republic into the conflict, and he spread propaganda to sway the public toward his goals. When Mako got suspicious of the plan, Varrick frames Mako for a crime and disgraced him. Varrick's plan failed, but he did not stay down for long. He escaped from prison and continued to pop up in the middle of every conflict, always pursuing his own angle.
17 Ty Lee
Ty Lee's agility and precision in a fight made her a formidable opponent even for a bender. Her chi-blocking left bending masters and skilled warriors incapacitated. She was an accomplished acrobat, which often allowed her to get the drop on her enemies and evade their offensive strikes. If she was given the chance, she could outmaneuver any opponent. She incapacitated Azula once, a rare feat, though she had the element of surprise on her side. However, she often faced the same enemies, and familiar opponents like Suki, Sokka, and Katara could avoid her chi-blocking because they knew her technique.
16 Combustion Man
Combustion Man was an assassin like Aang and his allies had never seen. Unlike other benders, he could create destructive, concussive explosions and required none of the complex motion most benders had to use. Aang nearly avoided assassination on more than one occasion. Combustion Man often pinned down his opponents, making it difficult for them to leave their cover to go on offense. He had one glaring weakness. Any impact on his third eye would cause his explosions to turn back on him, which is why he was eventually taken out by Sokka and his boomerang.
Unalaq was a spiritual leader whose potential went horribly awry. Before he got involved with the Harmonic Convergence, he developed spiritbending out of waterbending. He then taught Korra how to tame a dark spirit by changing its energy. Unfortunately, he was also working to release Vaatu, the spirit of darkness, and install himself as a Dark Avatar in Korra's place. He ultimately failed as the Dark Avatar when Korra defeated Vaatu. However, his plan to reunite the physical and spirit worlds was successful, as Korra realized he was not entirely wrong. Unalaq was responsible for reshaping the world.
Hama was the originator of bloodbending. She developed the ability while in a Fire Nation prison, and she used it to terrorize Fire Nation villagers for years. She was an imminently skilled waterbender. When she had no other water, she found a way to use the water inside a person's body to control them. She also found a way to take the water from the world around her. She taught the technique to Katara, who mastered it and used it effectively against Fire Nation soldiers. Hama kept Aang under her bloodbending hold, and only Katara was capable of defeating her by using her own technique against her.
P'Li continued the legacy of the long-defeated Combustion Man, harnessing the same rare ability to produce explosive blasts from her forehead. She could also curve her blasts, allowing her to hit her targets even while they sheltered under cover. On top of her combustion ability, she was an agile fighter and competent with traditional firebending. She showed more skill with combustionbending than her predecessor, but she was also up against master benders. Suyin Beifong took her out with a precise strike, wrapping a metal shield around her head and turning her own explosion against her.
Tarrlok may have not been up to the standards of his brother or his father, but he was an accomplished bloodbender in his own right. He used his bloodbending hold to capture and detain Avatar Korra to prevent her interference in his plans. Though he was second to Amon in bloodbending, Tarrlok leveraged his own skill with political manipulation to build a different kind of power. He held Republic City under his sway and fought his brother through his position as a city leader. In the end, he used that manipulation to take out Amon while sacrificing his own life.
Yakone was the first bloodbender the Avatar encountered who could use the ability outside of the full moon. He blindsided Toph and her police force, holding them all under his control. When Aang pursued him, Yakone captured him in his bloodbending hold. A fully realized adult Avatar Aang could not break out of his hold without the Avatar State. Aang removed his bending, but he still knew enough of the skill to pass on his overpowering bloodbending control to his two sons. He shaped Amon into the villain he was, creating a terror that spanned generations.
Ghazan was an earthbending master who possessed the rare ability of lavabending. He could liquify large swaths of earth, turning them into lava in his wake. He was skilled enough with earthbending to turn the Dai Li's attacks back on them. His lavabending was the first of its kind seen on the show. Even Toph was never shown changing the state of the earth she manipulated. In addition to large-scale lavabending, he could use the ability to form earth into detailed weapons such as the shuriken he used to escape from prison. When he was about to be captured, Ghazan brought down the cave around him rather than return to prison.
Azulon was a cold-blooded Fire Lord who lived up to the cruelty of the rest of his family. He continued Sozin's legacy of warfare, conquering much of the Earth Kingdom and decimating the Southern Water Tribe. Azulon was responsible for seventy-five years of the Hundred Years War. He sent his son Iroh and grandson Lu Ten into the siege of Ba Sing Se, which Lu Ten did not survive. When Ozai tried to manipulate the line of succession after Lu Ten's demise, Azulon retaliated by ordering him to end the life of his own son Zuko. He was finally taken out from inside his own palace by Zuko's mother Ursa.
Ming-Hua used waterbending as an extension of herself. She could waterbend constantly to create water tendril arms. She often performed multiple waterbending feats simultaneously, dueling with multiple opponents and managing as many as eight tendrils. Ming-Hua defeated Katara's waterbender daughter Kya, overpowering Kya with her agile and resourceful bending. Her waterbending was precise enough to function as her hands for tasks ranging from driving to gripping an opponent by the throat. Ming-Hua's waterbending, as powerful as it was, could not overcome lightning bending. Mako fatally attacked her with lightning bending, conducting electricity to her through her own tendrils.
Amon sowed chaos among all the benders in Republic City with his unique ability to take away bending. He targeted powerful, influential benders like Lightning Bolt Zolt, the pro-benders, Councilman Tarrlok, and Lin Beifong. Amon was a first-rate bloodbender, one of only three bloodbenders who could use the ability without the full moon. Amon developed bloodbending until he was far beyond the skill of even his brother Tarrlok. He could step out of Tarrlok's hold with no more than a second's hesitation. He kept bending masters in his thrall and used bloodbending in ways the world had never seen.
Kuvira rose in a power vacuum, enforcing order in the aftermath of Zaheer's chaos. She became a conqueror, overtaking the Earth Kingdom and setting her sights on Republic City. She took over Zaofu and held her own against Suyin Beifong, one of the most accomplished metalbenders in the world. It took Toph herself interfering in the battle to give Kuvira pause. Aside from her powerful bending, she was a brilliant strategist, anticipating her enemies' moves and setting traps for them. Kuvira defeated the still-recovering Avatar Korra at Zaofu, and she later fought a fully recovered Korra to a draw before their fight was interrupted.
Sozin was the originator of the Hundred Years War. His desire to own the world led to a century of destructive Fire Nation conquest. After Roku's demise, he leveraged Sozin's Comet to wipe out the airbenders, hoping to get rid of the new Avatar before he could interfere in the Fire Nation's plans. However, he could not stand up to a fully realized Avatar Roku in their one-on-one fight at the palace. While he was a powerful firebender, his power was largely political and strategic, backed by a huge military force. Sozin shaped the world while he was Fire Lord, and generations after him dealt with the effects of his lust for power.
Azula was a force of nature all on her own. Though Ozai was a looming threat in the background, Aang and his allies had to contend with Azula's chaos on a regular basis. Azula wasn't the type to waste time on small-scale plans. When she came to the Earth Kingdom, she took over the Dai Li and tried to bring down the walls of Ba Sing Se. When she battled the Avatar, she struck him with lightning as he was entering the Avatar State, a move that would have ended the Avatar cycle if not for Katara's healing. Even when her mental state deteriorated, it took a duel with two masters to bring her down.
Vaatu was literally evil incarnate. His battle with the Avatar was a cataclysmic fight 10,000 years in the making. During the battle, he ripped Raava's spirit from Korra, severing her connection with the previous Avatars. However, Vaatu could never entirely destroy Vaatu, nor could Korra entirely destroy Vaatu. Korra was able to pull the light left from Raava out of Vaatu, starting a new Avatar cycle. Vaatu did temporarily defeat Raava and almost corrupted Korra's spirit during their battle, but he ultimately did not have the power to triumph in his immortal battle against Raava and the Avatar.
Zaheer was the most existential threat Korra faced. Though Korra faced evil spirits and bloodbenders, none of them were capable of destroying her the way Zaheer nearly did. He was a self-taught prodigy. Zaheer used airbending to suffocate the Earth Queen and bring the Earth Kingdom into political upheaval. He learned to levitate unaided, a skill Tenzin thought to be no more than a legend. His battle with Korra caused her significant trauma, leaving her unable to access the Avatar State three years later. If not for Korra's allies, Zaheer might have defeated the Avatar.
Ozai was the climactic villain of the entire series, the Fire Lord who was ready to burn the world and remake it in his image. Only the Avatar and maybe his brother Iroh could have measured up to him in battle, and Iroh was not even sure he could win against him. Even though Aang had trained in all four elements to battle him, the Fire Lord still kept him on his heels until Aang accessed the Avatar State. Ozai was finally defeated by Aang's rare energybending ability, but he was so unbreakable that he almost corrupted Aang's spirit in the process.