The Marvel Cinematic Universe has treated superhero fans to some of the greatest stories over the past ten years. Beginning with Iron Man, the MCU has expanded through space and time to bring some of comic books biggest heroes to life. Ranging from The Avengers to The Guardians of the Galaxy, seeing some of the biggest adventures on the silver screen has brought millions of fans back to movie theatres. With twenty films released, the MCU has currently grossed over seven billion dollars at the box office.
Not only has the franchise brought numerous heroes onto the screen, but it has also introduced us to unforgettable villains. In order for there to be a successful hero, there must also be a strong villain. For every goodness that is Captain America, there needs to be someone just as evil to oppose him. This is what has made the MCU so incredibly successful. Not only do fans want to see their heroes succeed, but they are hoping to see the villains fall.
A strong villain can be measured in several ways - is the villain so physically strong that no one can oppose them? Or is the villain the most intelligent that they can outwit the heroes? Or perhaps the villain is so evil that it is impossible for them not to be strong? The MCU has done a wonderful job at providing high-quality villains in their films for their heroes to oppose. While some may certainly be stronger and more opposing than others, there is no shortage of evil in these films.
Here is Every Major MCU Villain, Ranked From Weakest To Strongest:
20 The Mandarin/Trevor Slattery - Iron Man 3
Iron Man fans were incredibly excited to see that The Mandarin would be making an appearance in Iron Man 3. His comic book feud with Tony Stark had fans salivating after viewing the trailers. Unfortunately, he ended up being an incredible disappointment.
The final act of Iron Man 3 revealed that The Mandarin was not the mastermind he had been depicted as. He was nothing more than a performer named Trevor Slattery who had been paid to act this way. Slattery was nothing more than a figure-head for a much larger plot.
All that Slattery managed to do was ruin fan's dreams of watching this super villain. When comparing him to other MCU villains, his pathetic nature hardly makes him worth ranking. Unless this list was ranking the all-time most disappointing MCU moments, then he would earn his place at the top.
19 Sonny Burch - Ant-Man and The Wasp
While Ant-Man and The Wasp was an entertaining addition to the MCU, it certainly did not have a villain worthy of the two heroes.
Sonny Burch is a run-of-the-mill bad guy looking to profit from crime. There is little motivation beyond his basic intentions of wanting to sell Hank Pym's technology for his own gain. Furthermore, he does not do any of his own work to achieve his goals and relies solely on henchmen. And when he finally does take matters in to his own hands, his plan is quickly foiled and he ends up in prison.
After Thanos' "finger-snap" wiped out half of the MCU, fans certainly hoped that Burch was included. This way he would never make another disappointing experience.
18 Alexander Pierce - Captain America: The Winter Soldier
When the government begins to get involved in superhero films, it never turns out well. Particularly when that government official is completely hands-off from his plan.
While Pierce does gain credit for running an inventive scheme, he lacks the ability to execute it. A man wearing a suit can be very powerful, but Pierce does not execute any of the plan himself. All of the heavy-lifting in the film is done by The Winter Solider, while Pierce remains silent. Furthermore, when Pierce is faced with actual combat, he succumbs very easily and will no longer be featured in another film.
Being a part of HYDRA is grounds enough to be considered a super-villain, however he is certainly weaker than the average MCU villain.
17 Aldrich Killian - Iron Man 3
At least some of these humans began to develop some sort of super power to make them credible villains.
Aldrich Killian has both the drive and powers to potentially be a great villain. His use of the Extremis technology has granted him superhuman strength and regenerative healing abilities, giving him powers unlike other people on the list. However, it is his hatred for Tony Stark that drove him to commit several illegal acts.
A man with something to prove is very dangerous and Killian's drive is what makes him stronger than other regular humans. However, the fact that he can breathe fire and rip apart Iron Man suits doesn't hurt his ranking either. However, there are certainly much stronger villains out there that were more successful in their plights.
16 Whiplash - Iron Man 2
When a man has been brewing a plan for years, he has the determination to do some serious damage.
Ivan Vanko's childhood was ruined due to his father's affiliation with the Stark family. It is this rough upbringing which drives him to extract revenge against Tony Stark. Certainly the most intelligent villain up to this point, Vanko's work with mechanics and technology is second to none on this list. Combine this with his determination to take down the Stark family, and he is very dangerous.
The only reason that Vanko was not successful in taking out Stark was that he under-estimated the relationship between Stark and James Rhodes. If he had not made this fatal flaw, he would have been successful. And perhaps if Mickey Rourke had not hated being a part of this film.
15 Dormammu - Doctor Strange
When an evil force that resides in The Dark Dimension is not considered to be one of the strongest villains, there are certainly some powerful beings out there.
As the leader of The Zealots, Dormammu is bent on merging his Dark Dimension with Earth. While he is stuck inside the Dark Dimension, his powers certainly over-take most villains on this list. He is seen disintegrating Doctor Strange with minimal effort multiple times.
Dormammu is defeated due to his inability to foresee Strange's use of the Time Stone, leaving him stuck in a never-ending time loop. Dormammu realizes he has been mentally defeated, and gives up on his plan. If someone with Dormammu's power was able to overcome Strange's magic, the world would be in serious trouble. However, due to his plan being foiled so easily, he is not a very strong villain.
14 Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger - Iron Man
An arrogant businessman who will stop at anything to accomplish his goals is extremely dangerous. Especially when he gets his hands on a super-suit of his own. Obadiah Stane was the first MCU villain that fans encountered, and he did not disappoint. Jeff Bridge's portrayal of someone who will betray anyone to achieve what he feels is his set the tone for what villains would become in superhero films.
When Stane's true colors are revealed during Iron Man, he is able to out-think and over-power Tony Stark. Furthermore, he has the intelligence to have his own Iron suit designed in order to gain the strength he needs. As The Iron Monger, Stane even over-powers Iron man during their climactic battle.
His business-savvy combined with his ruthlessness made him a formidable villain - certainly the best from the Iron Man franchise.
13 Darren Cross/Yellowjacket - Ant-Man
Darren Cross may seem like another evil business man in a super suit, but he is much more than that. Deep down, Cross is the most malicious human villain in the MCU.
Unlike The Iron Monger, the Yellowjacket is a very adapt fighter and has experience with his weapons. Cross is able to take Scott Lang to the limit during their battle and is close to winning their fight. Apart from their fight, Cross is also the type of villain who can anticipate his enemy's moves and outsmarts Lang as well.
Perhaps more importantly, Cross is a villain who has been driven to insanity, making him extraordinarily dangerous. While it is his unclear head which causes him victory, he became very close to being the first MCU villain to win.
12 Emil Blonsky/Abomination - The Incredible Hulk
Having control over a super suit is one thing, but being able to transform into something which can rival The Hulk is extraordinarily impressive.
Emil Blonsky has the combined abilities of two Avengers: he has both Captain America's ability combined with The Hulk's transformation. This makes him not only incredibly dangerous, but unstable. Blonsky is obsessed with being the most powerful person, which is why he subjects himself to outrageous experiments. Upon seeing The Hulk's power, he becomes hell-bent on defeating him.
His motivations may not be strong as some of the other villains, but there is no denying how dangerous Blonsky is. He may not have defeated The Hulk, but is there still a possibility of a return for The Abomination? Perhaps The Hulk needs another formidable opponent?
11 Malekith The Accursed - Thor: The Dark World
While certainly not the most popular villain in the MCU, The Dark Elf was a formidable opponent of Thor. His motivations for wanting to send the world into eternal darkness are not exactly clear, but he causes some problems along the way.
Malekith's reign of terror against Asgard begins with taking the life of Thor's mother, Frigga. While he may not be successful in his overall goal, this malicious act was devastating. Furthermore, he is one of the only villains who has been able to stand toe-to-toe against Thor in a fight. At certain points, it looked as though Malekith may come out on top, especially after Thor lost his hammer.
His lack of screen-time was almost made up for with his strength and his ability to take Thor to the absolute limit.
10 Ronan The Accuser - Guardians Of The Galaxy
Back before it was fully clear that the Guardians of the Galaxy were a part of the MCU, they faced a tough challenge on their own. Ronan the Accuser may not be the most memorable villain, but fans should refresh their memories.
Ronan is considered to be one of the most sadistic villains due to his hatred for the Xandarians. Out of all the other villains on this list, Ronan's hatred for a single group of people burns brightest. This hatred makes him do things that others would not even attempt, including double-crossing Thanos.
In one-on-one combat, Ronan is unmatched as he even defeats Drax. He is only defeated when the entire team comes together to take him out. Even though he is incredibly strong, it is his intense hatred which makes him one of the top villains in the franchise.
Enjoyed him in this film? He is confirmed to appear in Captain Marvel.
9 Adrian Toomes/The Vulture - Spider-Man: Homecoming
A strong villain is not only defined by their physical strength, but also their cunning. Adrian Toomes fell into life as a villain in order to provide for his family, but his attitude is what drove him to be a successful one.
For all intents and purposes, Toomes never intended to be a "bad guy". However, he becomes very good at it once he gets a taste of success as an arms-dealer. While his battles as The Vulture are intense, it is Keaton's portrayal of a father which makes him dangerous.
When Toomes says that he will take out Peter Parker if he interferes in his business again, the audience fully believes him. The Vulture may be intense, but a father trying to protect his family is even stronger.
8 Ultron - Avengers: Age of Ultron
I had strings but now I'm free. There are no strings on me.
The thought of a sentient machine with the drive to extinguish humankind is enough to terrify anyone - even The Avengers.
Up until this point, Ultron was the most formidable opponent that Earth's Mightiest Heroes had ever faced. He is able to mentally manipulate them to the point that the group almost fractures. Furthermore, the effects of his evil plan are felt through several MCU films showing just how strong his influence is. If he had been successful in his plan, it would have been meant absolute extinction.
What perhaps makes him one of the strongest villains is that Ultron was the first villain to take an Avenger's life. Unfortunately, Quicksilver was one of his first victims and cemented his legacy as a very dangerous villain.
7 Red Skull - Captain America: First Avenger
Even though he is one of oldest villains on this list, The Red Skull retains his status as one of the strongest. In addition, he is certainly one of the most evil.
Johann Schmidt's intentions are 100% evil as he plans to bomb each of the World's capital cities. It is hard to argue that someone so evil is not at the top of the "big bad" list.
Schmidt's ambition is eventually his undoing as he is unable to handle the power of the Infinity Stones. While fans learned in Infinity War that he has accepted his fate, there is a glimmer of hope that he will return as a villain. As strong as The Avengers are now, they would still have trouble containing the evil of The Red Skull.
6 Ego - Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2
Ego may seem wholesome at first, but, once his true intentions are revealed, it is a different story.
While initially presented as Peter Quill's estranged father, the audience is led to believe that he simply wants to reconnect with his son. However as time goes on, the full extent of his atrocities are unveiled. His personality is best described as sociopathic, as he truly only cares for himself. There are very few villains in the MCU who are that sadistic. It is revealed that he also may have taken more lives than any other villain.
The Guardians of the Galaxy films are normally an escape from the harshness of other franchises, but Ego reminded fans how deranged some villains can be.
5 Hela - Thor: Ragnarok
Thor is considered to be the strongest Avenger based on his god-like strength. So to see a villain easily dispatch of him was surprising, but that is exactly what Hela did.
Following only moments of screen time in Thor: Ragnarok, Hela established her strength by imposing herself on Thor. Not only did she easily remove Thor from the equation by throwing him into space, but she also destroyed his beloved hammer without breaking a sweat. Having seen Thor destroy enemies with ease, it was astounding to see him be defeated so soundly by a newcomer.
Hela's thirst for power combined with her untold strength and intellect makes her very dangerous. Unfortunately, her demise means we have seen the last of her in the MCU for now.
4 Helmut Zemo - Captain America: Civil War
Strength does not always mean physical strength, which is evidenced by Helmut Zemo. Despite only being human, he gains rank as one of The Avenger's most formidable opponents. He does not require the magic or strength of others on this list, as he was able to cause enough damage using only his intellect.
Fully knowing his physical limitations prevented him from attacking The Avengers, he chose to attack them strategically. Zemo instigates a "civil war" between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers surrounding the passing of Tony's parents. Through his strategy, Zemo successfully drives a wedge into the group.
When looking at all the villains, Zemo is one of the few who succeeded in his plan, making him very dangerous.
3 Loki - Thor & The Avengers
Loki's intelligence and expert lying abilities make him a very dangerous foe. The God of Mischief has no solid allegiances and is very quick to side with whomever benefits him the most. This is what makes him stronger than the average villain - he is impossible to predict.
In both Thor and The Avengers, Loki is the one causing all the trouble and pulling every string. While he appears to eventually join his brother as a protagonist, it is never fully clear where his loyalty lies. One moment he is siding with the good guys and another he is working with the enemy. It is reasons like this why Loki will always be one of The Avengers most formidable villains.
Loki is another villain who has succeeded before, however Infinity War made his future status uncertain.
2 Erik Killmonger - Black Panther
The thing that can make a villain incredibly dangerous is their motivation. If someone has been stewing and planning revenge for a long time, their motivation to succeed is higher than anyone else's. This is what separates "bad guys" from super villains - motivation is the greatest strength.
Erik has been planning his takeover and revenge on Wakanda since he was young, and now that he has the strength and intellect to execute it, he is at his most dangerous. By harnessing all of his determination, Erik is able to execute his plan with ease and defeats his cousin, T'Challa, to become Black Panther.
It is not just Erik's strength, fury and intellect which make him able to take over Wakanda. It is that he wants to bad enough to sacrifice everything. That is his true strength.
1 Thanos - Avengers: Infinity War
The jury may still be out on if Thanos truly wins the war against The Avengers, but there is no denying his impact on the MCU. Other villains may be more established across multiple films, but no one has caused as much damage as Thanos.
Prior to Infinity, War only one Avenger had officially lost their life. Now, that count is much higher thanks to Thanos. The rate that Thanos was able to accomplish his goal of retrieving the Infinity Stones was no accident. His brute strength, planning and ferocity were the driving forces behind his success, making him the most dangerous villain in all of the MCU.
With one simple snap, Thanos was able to complete his goal. While it could have ended if Thor had aimed a little higher, there is no downplaying how strong and dangerous he is.