Every movie in the MCU so far has been leading up to Thanos’ reign of destruction. Now that Tony Stark has seen the Mad Titan and his friends off, the fans’ burning question is: who is going to be the MCU’s next big villain?
Thanos will be a tough one to top, since he’s one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Comics canon and he literally beat the Avengers at the end of Infinity War, which was something we’d never seen before – there’s an unwritten rule in superhero cinema that the good guys have to win. But there are some incredible villains in the comics that are ideal candidates to replace Thanos. Here's hoping that we get to see them in action in the next phase of the MCU.
10 Red Hulk
While The Incredible Hulk has been mostly forgotten about, with a bunch of sequel setups and villain teases that went nowhere, William Hurt’s Thunderbolt Ross has been sneaking back into the MCU fold in recent years since he introduced Earth’s mightiest heroes to the Sokovia Accords.
In the comics, he starts a supervillain team under the guise of a superhero team when the Avengers have gone A.W.O.L. (or disbanded, as they have in the MCU) called the Thunderbolts and becomes the Red Hulk. Fighting Red Hulk could be the next stage in the development of Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, as he’s finally happy to just be a big, green nerd and would suddenly be called back into action to fight a red, angry, evil version of himself.
Remember when Magneto was a formidable movie villain? Ian McKellen played him as the physical and intellectual equal of Patrick Stewart’s Professor X. And then the prequels with the younger cast weirdly made Michael Fassbender’s Magneto a sort of good guy. He’ll occasionally lash out, but he’s basically the Kylo Ren of the newer X-Men movies.
It’s about time Magneto’s screen portrayal got back on track, because he’s one of the most iconic supervillains ever created, with the deadly combination of a tragic backstory and immense power. If the X-Men are coming to the MCU – possibly via the multiverse in Spider-Man: Far From Home – then perhaps their greatest foe will become the franchise’s next big villain.
8 Kang the Conqueror
Kang the Conqueror’s defining ability is time travel. Now that time travel has been introduced into the MCU via Avengers: Endgame, it’s the perfect time to introduce Kang. There are versions of him that are good and versions that are evil, so it would be fun to see these alternate versions trick people and screw each other over, sort of like a non-magical sci-fi Loki.
As long as alternate timelines and changing the past have become the consequences that Marvel’s heroes will be dealing with in the next chapter of the MCU, then it might as well be in the shadow of Kang. He’s a human, but he’s from the 31st century, which gives him an advantage over our heroes. In the comics, his alter ego is Nathaniel Richards, and it’s unclear, but he could be a descendent of Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic. This could tie into the MCU’s introduction of the Fantastic Four.
Some fans thought Annihilus would be appearing in Captain Marvel after one of the URLs embedded in the movie’s retro ‘90s-style website was “annihil.us,” but he never showed up. Still, his appearance in the MCU has been teased.
He is primarily a villain to the Fantastic Four, with a personal history with Mr. Fantastic, so the producers could be saving him for when Marvel’s first family can make their debut in the franchise. Annihilus is the ruler of the Negative Zone, which would be interesting to see the Avengers try to figure out after they nailed the Quantum Realm in Endgame.
6 The Mandarin
The real Mandarin, that is, not the bitterly disappointing fake-out Mandarin we got in Iron Man 3, where it turned out to not be the Mandarin at all, but rather a goofball actor named Trevor Slattery. A short film featuring an imprisoned Slattery confirmed that the real Mandarin and the Ten Rings were out there, and according to Kevin Feige, Marvel hasn’t forgotten about that tease.
So, we could see the real Mandarin become a threat in Phase 4 of the MCU, possibly to Harley Keener’s Iron Lad. It’s entirely possible that Marvel is retconning a lot of this storyline due to the overwhelmingly negative fan response and it wasn’t actually the plan all along, but if they can fix the Mandarin problem, then we’ll all forgive them.
5 Adam Warlock
The introduction of Adam Warlock into the MCU was first teased in one of the many credits scenes at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Ayesha, leader of the Sovereign, is mad that the Guardians managed to evade her wrath yet again, so she creates a powerful artificial being capable of destroying them and calls him “Adam.”
Some fans expected Adam Warlock to make his first MCU appearance in Infinity War or Endgame, but it seems as though he’s being saved for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. On the power scale, Adam’s up there with Captain Marvel and Thanos.
4 Norman Osborn
Better known as the Green Goblin, Norman Osborn would make a great next villain for the MCU. The Infinity Saga was ultimately Iron Man’s story and Thanos was its big bad because he had a personal relationship with Tony Stark. Thanos haunted Tony for years before finally showing up.
The next saga in the MCU will belong to Spider-Man, who is being passed the torch and leading the way in Spider-Man: Far From Home this summer. Thanos was an otherworldly threat, but Osborn is a human. He just happens to be a very rich, very powerful, very intelligent, and very evil human, which makes him a dangerous enemy to have.
3 Namor the Sub-Mariner
Namor the Sub-Mariner’s existence in the MCU has been teased since way back in 2010’s Iron Man 2 when Atlantis appeared on Nick Fury’s map of potential Avengers. Namor was re-teased this year in Avengers: Endgame when Okoye mentioned an earthquake under the ocean off the coast of Wakanda that they’ll handle “by not handling it.”
In the comics, Namor is the King of Atlantis and a close rival of Black Panther, so it would be great to see him show up in the Black Panther sequel, leading the charge in a battle between the armies of Wakanda and Atlantis.
2 Doctor Doom
After two attempts to adapt him for the screen in the superhero blockbuster era, we still haven’t seen a worthy film portrayal of Doctor Doom, perhaps Marvel’s most iconic villain. The great thing about Doom in the comics is that he has diplomatic immunity, protected by his country Latveria.
He can walk right up to a cop and tell that cop that he’s going to take over the world, and the cop can’t do anything about it. This element has been left out of both movie versions, but it’s easily the most interesting trait of the character. He’s also been responsible for some of the most ridiculous events in Marvel history.
Galactus is known as the Devourer of Worlds and he’s really the only villain the MCU can use to step things up after Thanos’ reign of terror. Galactus is a cosmic god who sucks the life out of planets to keep himself alive and powerful.
He disregards the mortal beings who die to provide him with his life-force, because he feels like he’s above them, and he lacks the moral compass to consider the ethics of his actions (unlike Thanos who spent the last two Avengers movies trying to justify himself to Earth’s mightiest heroes). This would make him a great match for Captain Marvel, who prides herself on keeping multiple planets at once safe.