The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was built on the foundation of its beloved heroes. All the way from Iron Man to Avengers: Infinity War, the MCU grounded its heroes with compelling performances that make the characters feel relatable and human.
The same cannot always be said for the villains. For many years, the MCU was plagued with a villain problem. Many of the villains had thinly designed backstories and motivations and as a result became utterly forgettable. Few villains other than Loki were able to rise above this problem until recently.
The likes of Vulture, Killmonger, and Thanos are all steps in the right direction, as they have clear motivations rooted in their unique backstories. Their motivations are all understandable, and in some cases, even relatable on a certain level, yet the way they go about achieving their goals is where the true villainy arises.
Now that they finally have momentum in the villain department, Marvel needs to make sure they continue in the right direction. A rich history-- and present-- of source material provide ample choices for villains to bring to the big screen following Infinity War.
The deal with FOX opens up even more opportunities as it allows the MCU to bring in villains from the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises.
Many of the villains are already confirmed for the next few MCU movies, but there's vast potential for new antagonists beyond those movies, though they must be careful in their choices lest the villain problem become rampant once again.
It's time to take a look at the 10 Villains Marvel Needs To Use After Infinity War (And 10 They Should Absolutely Avoid).
WARNING: THERE ARE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR SPOILERS AHEAD.
20 Needs To Use: Magneto
While it won't be any time soon, the FOX deal will eventually bring the X-Men into the MCU. The only way to do the X-Men right is with Magneto.
Not only is Magneto the quintessential X-Men villain, but he also provides an entry point into the MCU.
In the comics-- and in the movie X-Men: Apocalypse-- Magneto is the father of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Only ever referred to as Pietro Maximoff and Wanda Maximoff in the MCU, both played integral roles when they came onto the scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Pietro's demise in the movie is one of the few passings of a heroic character that's managed to stay permanent in the MCU.
Wanda, meanwhile, may have perished along with half the beings in the universe when Thanos snapped his fingers in Infinity War, but for many reasons it is likely that many of those demises, including Wanda's, will be undone in Avengers 4.
As such, it would be perfect to introduce Magneto into the MCU as the father who Wanda never knew, only to turn what should be a joyful reunion into the relevation that Magneto is a villain.
That is a highly personal story and an entry point for the X-Men into the MCU. Other iconic characters like Charles Xavier, Mystique, and Jean Grey will have a way into the universe via Magneto.
19 Absolutely Avoid: Hydra Captain America
Fans were outraged when, in 2017, Captain America was revealed to have been an agent of Hydra all along in Marvel's Captain America: Steve Rogers comics.
Acting as a beacon of hope in both the comics and through Chris Evans' portrayal of the character in the MCU, the reveal felt like a slap in the face to fans everywhere, negating countless years of Cap's inspiring heroism.
The twist also felt problematic to many, given that Captain America was created by two Jewish men-- Jack Kirby and Joe Simon-- as a superhero fighting for American values in a time when the threat of Nazism was on the rise.
Unveiling Cap as an agent for the fascistic Hydra organization feels like we were meant to believe that he was a Nazi all along. It practically feels like spitting in the face of the purpose behind the character in the first place.
Also, it's even harder to reconcile in contrast with the noble and likable Captain America that Chris Evans has brought to an MCU film every year since 2011.
Replacing Captain America with an actor other than Chris Evans is already going to be a enormous challenge for the MCU. They don't need to make it even worse for themselves by turning the character into a problematic villain.
18 Needs to Use: Masters of Evil
At this point, the Avengers have faced many formidable villains. They've taken on and defeated Loki and the army of Chitauri, Ultron and his army of Sentries, the Black Order, and the army of Outriders.
While they still need to deal with Thanos, the Avengers have overall proved themselves adept at handling one super-villain and their army. What they haven't faced yet is a team of powerful super-villains.
The Masters of Evil have had many iterations throughout the history of Marvel Comics. Which iteration would act as the best fit in the MCU is another article in itself.
Without a doubt, though, the Masters of Evil would be a unique threat and in many ways the toughest one the Avengers have ever faced.
The Avengers have often triumphed because they are a team that ultimately finds a way to cast aside their differences and unite their incredible powers and abilities to defeat their foes. How the Avengers will hold up against a team of super-villains doing the same thing and with potentially more potent powers and abilities will be a challenge unlike anything the heroes have had to overcome.
The post-credits scene in Justice League with Lex Luthor and Deathstroke already shows that the DCEU is building to their own super-villain team.
If Marvel pulls off the Masters of Evil right and in time, this could be yet another way in which the MCU proves superior to the DCEU.
17 Absolutely Avoid: Norman Osborne
Part of what made Spider-Man: Homecoming such a successful reboot of the web-slinger into the MCU was using the Vulture as the movie's primary antagonist. Michael Keaton's brilliant performance along with strong character writing made Vulture one of the MCU's best villains ever.
He had a backstory rooted in established events in the MCU, as well as clear and understandable motivations that brought him down a villainous road. It was a smart choice instead of rehashing the story of villains from the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies.
All of these elements, but particularly the last one, explain why the MCU should steer clear of Norman Osborne. He's already served as a key figure in the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies.
Not only has he been used twice, but he was done so perfectly by Willem Dafoe in the original Spider-Man that there's nothing that the MCU can do to top that.
Of course, Osborne has done a lot more in the comics than act as a primary antagonist for Spider-Man. One of the most memorable storylines came when he tried to oust S.H.I.E.L.D and take control of the organization himself.
The problem is that plot can't be adapted to the MCU, as it essentially already happened with Hydra in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
At the end of the day, Norman Osborne is a villain best left untouched by the MCU.
16 Needs to Use: Scorpion
The sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming should learn from the success of its predecessor, continuing to use villains whose stories haven't already been told in the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films.
Scorpion is a natural choice as Spider-Man's next big villain, since he was already teased in Homecoming.
Earlier in the movie during a weapons deal, he was injured and later sent to prison as a result of Spider-Man's intervention. In one of the movie's post-credits scenes, Scorpion crosses paths with Vulture in prison, wanting to know the true identity of Spider-Man.
Vulture doesn't spill the beans, but it's unlikely that Scorpion is going to let it go. The MCU tends to follow through on the teases in their post-credits scenes and it is unlikely this will be an exception, especially since they already have an established actor Michael Mando playing the character.
In addition to acting as an enemy of Spider-Man, the Scorpion has also served as a foe for Iron Fist in the comics.
With many fans wanting to see more crossover between the MCU movies and Marvel's Netflix shows, Scorpion could potentially grant that wish as a villain for Spider-Man and also as a villain in Iron Fist.
15 15. Absolutely Avoid: Kang the Conqueror
One of the MCU's constant challenges is introducing characters that both longtime, avid comics readers and casual fans alike can enjoy. Overall, they've done a remarkable job of tackling the challenge, contributing greatly to the MCU's continuing popularity and success.
They've been smart about choosing characters that hardcore fans will get excited about, while also making them accessible for the average audience member.
Kang the Conqueror is a villain that flies in the face of this strategy. His backstory and motivations are far too convoluted and will likely confuse practically anyone who hasn't read the comics.
He's a character who can't be made accessible in ways that allowed villains like Loki and Killmonger to work so well on the big screen.
Another essential component of Kang the Conqueror is time travel. Without time travel, his character and his story don't work at all.
The Time Stone is definitely in play in the MCU. Rumors leading into Infinity War and the ending fans have now seen indicates that time travel could absolutely play a pivotal role in Avengers 4.
The MCU is smart enough not to use time travel excessively, though, and thus they should know not to introduce such a convoluted villain like Kang the Conqueror.
14 Needs to Use: Mephisto
Other than the Thor movies and Dr. Strange, the MCU feels very rooted in advanced science and technology. Opening up the multiverse via Dr. Strange and the fantastical feel of the Thor movies paves the way for different kinds of villains than the MCU has traditionally featured in the past.
Mephisto is exactly the kind of villain who could appear because of what has been done in those movies.
Inspired by the demon Mephistopheles from the Faust legend, Mephisto is unlike any character that we've seen in the MCU before.
His unique look is both fantastical and terrifying, and could potentially be the most visually stunning of any MCU villain. He's faced so many heroes in the comics that there are endless stories that can be adapted.
After the likes of Loki, Ultron, and Thanos, it will be difficult to find a villain worthy to face the Avengers.
Mephisto is both powerful and unique enough that he could act as the next primary antagonist, and one they'll only be able to defeat when uniting all their powers and abilities. He was also speculated at one point to be the main villain in The Defenders, meaning he could still be introduced in the future of one of Marvel's Netflix shows.
Whether it's in an Avengers movie or one of Marvel's Netflix shows, as the MCU explores more mystical avenues, Mephisto seems like the ideal villain to incorporate.
13 Absolutely Avoid: M'Baku
M'Baku has often acted as a villain against Black Panther in the comics. The MCU's Black Panther movie took a completely different approach with M'Baku, as he saved T'Challa's life after he was dethroned by Killmonger, paying the debt owed by T'Challa sparing M'Baku's life earlier in the movie.
M'Baku even goes a step further by showing up with his tribe to help T'Challa and the Dora Milaje defeat Killmonger and preventing vibranium from being sent all around the world.
This trajectory for M'Baku continued into Infinity War, where he and his tribe fought in the massive effort to prevent Thanos and the Black Order from seizing the Mind Stone.
Suddenly making M'Baku a villain would contradict everything about his arc in Black Panther and Infinity War.
Also, as a villain in the comics, he was known as Man-Ape and even wore the skin of a gorilla. Without a doubt, an African man called Man-Ape wearing the skin of a gorilla is nothing short of problematic.
The MCU definitely wants to steer clear of those problematic associations, which is likely why they took M'Baku in such a redemptive, heroic direction in the first place.
As one of the survivors at the end of Infinity War, M'Baku seems positioned to take on an even greater role with the trajectory established in Black Panther, especially since T'Challa himself is one of those who perished along with half the universe.
12 Needs to Use: Black Widow (Ultimate Marvel)
Scarlett Johansson has excelled at playing Black Widow, which made her a beloved staple of the MCU. As such, it might seem like turning Black Widow into a villain is just as bad an idea as Hydra Captain America.
If Black Widow's story from the Ultimate Marvel Universe comics is adapted, however, the twist could actually work quite well.
In that story, the villainous Black Widow works with the likes of Hawkeye and Tony Stark, but only as a cover in her attempts to bring down the United States in her alliance with fellow anti-American terrorists.
This twist could work in the MCU if she's presented as an agent created by the Red Room that looks, talks and acts like the Black Widow we know, but in fact is a different person.
She was only made to be like Black Widow in order to gain the trust of the Avengers.
This would allow Scarlett Johansson's heroic Black Widow to remain the characters fans know and love. The evil version of Black Widow created by the Red Room would also provide the perfect transition into the Black Widow solo film that fans are still clamoring for.
It would raise many fascinating questions and mysteries in regards to the Red Room and Black Widow's past, which have largely been ignored since Avengers: Age of Ultron.
11 Absolutely Avoid: Malice (Nakia-version)
There have been many versions of Malice in the comics, one of which was Nakia. Her love for T'Challa became poisoned with extreme jealousy and vengeance, leading her down several dark paths and team-ups with various villains including Killmonger and Man-Ape.
Other than the fact that she loves T'Challa, this comics iteration of Nakia contradicts everything about her character in the MCU.
In fact, in the MCU, she seems to ground T'Challa more than anyone else with her wisdom and compassion. Turning her into a villain would completely destroy everything about Lupita Nyong'o's performance in Black Panther.
Between Nakia, Shuri, and Okoye, Black Panther has the best women characters in the MCU. There's no reason to take that away from them just by turning Nakia into a villain motivated by romantic jealousy.
Her motivations in the comics are intertwined with romantic jealousy, which seem like the kind of lackluster motivations that led to the MCU's villain problem in the first place.
Even if Marvel decides to go that disappointing route, it would require a scenario where T'Challa no longer loves Nakia, which would be inconsistent with everything established about their relationship in Black Panther.
Nakia is destined for a much more intriguing and empowering future in the MCU.
10 Needs to Use: Galactus
Many would argue that the best part of the FOX deal is not the heroes the MCU receives with it, but rather the villains.
One of these villains is Galactus, who is one of the most powerful and memorable adversaries in Marvel Comics. Galactus doesn't just have to enter the MCU as an enemy of the rebooted Fantastic Four. The powers and motivations of Galactus require a cosmic story.
It's already been confirmed that the Guardians of the Galaxy films and Infinity War are only the tip of the iceberg for what looks to be a long, prosperous cosmic future for the MCU.
Galactus is formidable enough to be a primary antagonist for the Avengers, but he could also work in a solo movie with the Fantastic Four, the Guardians, or even a new group of heroes in space.
Introducing him via the Fantastic Four may be the best option, though. Many elements didn't work well with the past Fantastic Four movies, including the use of Dr. Doom.
Instead, it would be smarter to go with a foe like Galactus. Defeating him would prove that the Fantastic Four have what it takes to work as a team and take on the most fearsome villains, making them natural allies to fight alongside the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.
9 Absolutely Avoid: Morlun
Like Kang the Conqueror, Morlun's story is quite convoluted. It relies heavily on the concept of totemic forces and Spider-Man acting as a totem between man and beast with both his human traits, as well as the abilities inherited via the spider bite. Morlun seeks to destroy totems such as Spider-Man.
There's no reason for the MCU to waste its time incorporating villains with convoluted stories like this when they have so many options at their disposal.
Morlun is also more of an endgame villain for Spider-Man. While Spider-Man contributed nicely to the airport battle in Captain America: Civil War, took down the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and ended up being one of the most helpful members of the team in Infinity War, he is not yet powerful and experienced enough to handle Morlun.
The web-slinger is still a relative newcomer to the MCU and despite the ending of Infinity War, it's clear that his story won't be ending for good any time soon.
Much further down the line when Spider-Man is one of the most seasoned and powerful figures in the MCU, Morlun may be a viable villain option.
For now, though, the MCU has plenty of villains that would be smarter choices.
8 Needs to Use: Mordo
Mordo already has an advantage that few villains ever have. He has an entire movie's worth of backstory that explain his motivations and overall character before ever becoming a major villain.
Other than Stephen Strange himself, arguably no character received more of the spotlight in Dr. Strange than Mordo.
He's the farthest thing from a villain when audiences meet him, a man who is loyal and lives by a strict moral code.
That's what make his arc so fascinating-- it is that loyalty and strict moral code that drives him to walk away at the end of the movie, and then to even commit murder in one of the post-credits scenes.
He's already more developed than most villains in the MCU because fans got to see how he became a villain in the first place.
The post-credits scene already shows him on his mission to cure the problem of "too many sorcerers." He was there alongside Strange the whole time he trained, intimately aware of his former friend's greatest strengths and weaknesses.
Mordo knows and understands Dr. Strange better than any new adversary could.
Also, just as Dr. Strange's powers have only amplified from his first film to his appearances in Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity War, Mordo's powers are likely growing as well.
He's the perfectly developed and highly personal villain for the Dr. Strange sequel.
7 Absolutely Avoid: Amora the Enchantress
Using Amora the Enchantress relies heavily on her use of mind control. The problem is that mind control has already been used several times in the MCU.
It was a central piece of Loki's schemes in The Avengers, and a significant piece of Wanda Maximoff's powers, especially in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Using it again in such a prominent way feels repetitive of what's already been done with Loki and Wanda.
New villains should bring with them new powers to keep things exciting and fresh.
Another problem with Amora the Enchantress is that her story requires Thor to be the leader of Asgard and its surviving people.
Infinity War left it ambiguous as to what happened to all the Asgardians on the ship at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. At the beginning of Infinity War, it's stated by Ebony Maw that Thanos and the Black Order only destroyed half of the Asgardians on board, but the audience is left with no answers of what happened to that other half and where they are now, including Valkyrie, Korg, and Miek.
If there are no survivors and Thor is all that's left, adapting the story of Amora the Enchantress will never work.
6 Needs to Use: The Real Mandarin
Many fans were left aghast at the reveal that Ben Kingsley wasn't playing the real Mandarin in Iron Man 3, but was instead the washed-up actor Trevor Slattery using the persona as a cover for Aldrich Killian's experiments.
Some fans likened the twist to the Joker being hyped up as the major villain of a Batman movie, only to unveil that it wasn't the Joker at all.
Partly as a reaction to this criticism, Marvel made a short movie called All Hail The King, in which Slattery is interviewed for a documentary about the Ten Rings organization and the Mandarin situation from Iron Man 3.
It turns out the documentary filmmaker is an actual member of the Ten Rings and is there to break Slattery out of prison so he can meet the real Mandarin in retribution for Slattery posing as the Mandarin in Iron Man 3.
The tease of the real Mandarin is too good to pass up.
Regardless of one's feelings towards the twist in Iron Man 3, the fact remains that the Mandarin is the definitive Iron Man villain in the comics.
Whether it's against Tony Stark or a successor of his, it seems only right that the real Mandarin will eventually be revealed and become one of the MCU's best villains yet.
5 Absolutely Avoid: Mr. Sinister
One of the issues with using Mr. Sinister is quite simply his name. It's difficult to imagine the MCU heroes taking a villain named Mr. Sinister seriously.
It would probably end up being like the running joke about Taserface in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, where everyone from Rocket to the Sovereign can't take him seriously as a villain because of his name.
Imagine the scene in Infinity War where Tony Stark is told about Thanos and says, "Tell me his name again" only it's Mr. Sinister.
Another issue is the character's aesthetic. The MCU has done wonders with their character designs, including how they made the giant purple Thanos look and feel authentic.
Yet, it's difficult to imagine how they can pull off the Mr. Sinister look, particularly the red diamond on his forehead, without it looking ridiculous.
Once the MCU has complete access to the X-Men, there are plenty of other villains to choose from. Mr. Sinister worked well for the aesthetic and tone of the comics, but in a cinematic adaptation, he would not be the right fit.
There were heavy rumors leading up to Logan that Mr. Sinister was going to be the movie's main antagonist.
The director James Mangold even explained that Mr. Sinister is exactly the kind of "operatic villainy" they were trying to avoid. It would probably be best for the MCU to avoid the character as well for this reason.
4 Needs to Use: MODOK
Many fans are divided on whether Ultron was an effective villain in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Where Ultron struggled as an artificial intelligence villain, MODOK may do better.
It was heavily rumored that Peter Dinklage's mysterious character in Infinity War was MODOK, but of course he ended up playing Eitri on the planet Nidavellir.
Nevertheless, there are still ample opportunities for MODOK to appear in the MCU.
Standing for "Mental/Mobile/Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing," MODOK is arguably the best artificial intelligence villain Marvel has ever created.
Experimenting on their technician George Tarleton, A.I.M-- Advanced Idea Mechanics-- bio-engineered MODOK, essentially a hyper-intelligent living computer. The only difference is that when A.I.M created him, he was called MODOC with the C standing for "Computing." MODOK changed it to K later on.
MODOK has the ability to calculate at a superhuman level, meaning he can run through countless scenarios before they occur, thereby allowing him to make the best choices possible.
He can control the minds of others, but unlike many others villains, that's just one piece of his many powers. He can also focus his mind's power into a destructive energy beam.
All of these abilities and more make MODOK arguably the most formidable mental adversary.
While many villains rely on their physical strength, MODOK can provide more of a mental threat.
For all these reasons, he could potentially end up being a more compelling artificial intelligence villain than Ultron.
3 Absolutely Avoid: Beyonder
While the MCU wants to feature powerful villains who truly challenge the heroes, they also don't want to feature villains that are overpowered.
As the sum total of an entire multiverse, the Beyonder is a classic example of a villain who is way too powerful. Even though he takes on the form of human beings in order to better understand humanity, he lacks any elements that would ground his character.
In fact, he has been stated to have powers millions of times more powerful than all of the entire multiverse.
A villain that overpowered can't possibly have motivations that are relatable to audiences on any level. If audiences can't find any way to relate to the villain, it's much more difficult to care about them.
The Beyonder might seem like a tempting choice with the multiverse opened up via Dr. Strange and the countless cosmic opportunities opened by the Guardians of the Galaxy moviess and Infinity War.
Ultimately, though, it would be a mistake to bring him into the MCU.
Instead of continuing the momentum left by Vulture, Killmonger and Thanos, the Beyonder would regress back to many of the issues that created Marvel's villain problem in the first place.
2 Needs to Use: Red Skull
The appearance of Red Skull was one of Infinity War's best twists. The character's end in Captain America: The First Avenger and Hugo Weaving's complete disinterest in reprising the role made his return seem incredibly unlikely.
Rumors of the Red Skull's return still persisted, but it eventually seemed like nothing more than the wish of desperate fans.
That all changed when Thanos arrived with an unwilling Gamora on the planet Vormir in Infinity War, where it was revealed Red Skulll had become the keeper of the Soul Stone there since his defeat in The First Avenger.
The Walking Dead's Ross Marquand replaced Hugo Weaving as Red Skull, but it's difficult to tell given Marquand's impressive voice performance.
Now that Thanos has the Soul Stone, it's reasonable to assume that Red Skull no longer has to stay on Vormir, as he's no longer the keeper of the stone.
Once crazed for power and even admitting that, like Thanos, he once sought all the Infinity Stones, Red Skull appeared much humbler and wiser in Infinity War.
With newfound freedom and a different attitude, there's no telling what he might do next.
Facing Captain America again-- nearly a century later with both of them drastically changed individuals-- would make for a fascinating, and full-circled story within the MCU.
1 Absolutely Avoid: Doctor Doom
This is an unpopular choice given Doctor Doom's iconic status as a Fantastic Four villain and as an antagonist in general for Marvel Comics. The problem is that Doom has already been overused in the previous Fantastic Four movies and he hasn't been done well.
When the MCU reboots the Fantastic Four, it needs to be done without repeating the same mistakes of the past. Using Doom yet again would be a mistake.
Doctor Doom has also taken up the mantle of Iron Man in the comics, leading some to speculate that he will be Tony Stark's successor in the MCU.
If Stark does have a successor, it needs to be someone that he trusts, who will uphold Stark's values and who has been part of Iron Man's story for a while now.
None of that works with Doom, but even if it did, it would be as a hero and not as a villain. It would be a poor decision to introduce Doom as a hero. It only makes sense to at least start him out as a villain.
Once the Fantastic Four are finally done right and are a well-developed, consistent piece of the MCU, bringing Doom in could work. But until that point, the MCU should steer clear of Doctor Doom.
Which villains do you think the MCU needs to use and which ones should they avoid? Let us know in the comments!