Ever since it was first established with Iron Man's 2008 release, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has worked to tell amazing stories featuring some of the most beloved superheroes in comic book history. Viewers were inspired by Steve Rogers' unwavering moral code and willingness to put his life on the line for the friends and country that he loved. Audiences rejoiced when Black Widow and Scarlet Witch proved that women were powerful enough to save the world and stand among Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Tom Holland wasn't the first cinematic Spider-Man, but his youthful and refreshing portrayal of Peter Parker reminded fans that there's no age limit when it comes to trying to do what's right, even in the face of impossible odds. The heroes of the MCU are undoubtedly the reason hardcore comic book enthusiasts and casual moviegoers alike turn nearly every film in the franchise into box office gold, but as the saying goes, "a hero is only as good as his villain."
For every good hero introduced over the past decade of Marvel films, there has been a formidable villain who forced them to rise to their full potential. Not every villain in the massively-successful franchise has been as well-received as Loki and Erik Killmonger or as powerful as Thanos, but they were all carefully thought-out and each played an instrumental role in helping shape their adversary's destiny. Some of these antagonists were too amazing and entertaining to say goodbye to, and deserve another chance to shake things up. Others have fulfilled their purposes and should accept that their time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is over.
Here are 10 MCU Villain Returns Marvel Must Make Happen (And 10 To Avoid At All Costs).
20 RETURN: THANOS
Anyone who has seen Avengers: Infinity War knows that Thanos absolutely has to return in the massive crossover film's highly-anticipated sequel. The Mad Titan successfully gathered all six Infinity Stones to complete his Infinity Gauntlet and, with a mere snap of his fingers, he was able to wipe out half of all existence throughout the entire universe. Thor managed to severely injure Thanos with a strike from his new battle-axe Stormbreaker, but with the unlimited power of the cosmos at his disposal, Thanos is still the most powerful villain the few remaining Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy have ever faced. Upcoming merchandise leaks imply that Thanos will not be Avenger 4's sole villain, but a good portion of the film has to be spent trying to take him down.
19 AVOID: ERIK KILLMONGER
Erik Killmonger is one of the most popular villains in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, so saying he shouldn't return in future Black Panther films is potentially controversial. N'Jadaka's fate, however, was entirely of his own choosing. After T'Challa took out Killmonger with his own spear during their final confrontation, the young king of Wakanda explained to his cousin that the kingdom's highly-advanced technology could surely heal him. Killmonger turned down the offer, choosing to go and asking to be buried in the ocean with his ancestors. Killmonger's actions throughout Black Panther were at times questionable, but his heart was in the right place and his ultimate sacrifice helped open T'Challa's eyes and inspired him to finally use Wakanda's vast resources to help make the world a better place. Killmonger's story had the perfect conclusion and shouldn't be continued any further, no matter how well-received he was as a character and villain.
18 RETURN: RED SKULL
Ever since the Red Skull disappeared in a beam of blue light at the conclusion of Captain America: The First Avenger, fans have wondered if the Space Stone hidden within the Tesseract simply launched the HYDRA leader into space. That theory was proven correct when Johann Schmidt was revealed to be the hooded protector of the Soul Stone on the planet Vormir.
Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson both took on the Captain America mantle for a time in the comics, and since Chris Evans' time as the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Steve Rogers is officially over, it's entirely possible that one (or both) of those characters will do the same in future phases of Marvel films. If that happens, they'll need a formidable adversary to inspire them to pick up Steve Rogers' shield. The return of Captain America's greatest foe and the resurgence of HYDRA could be exactly the motivation they need.
17 AVOID: ULTRON
Age of Ultron is considered to be the least popular of the three current Avengers films, but the film's weakness lies more in its rushed storytelling than with its primary antagonist.
Ultron's motives were understandable from his perspective, his plan was well-executed and it was fun to watch Earth's Mightiest Heroes fight off his army of robots.
The final battle on Sokovia ended with Vision seemingly terminating Ultron-Prime and removing all traces of the villain, but Ultron repeatedly pops up in the Marvel comics and could easily make a repeat appearance in a future MCU film. With Marvel's new access to X-Men and Fantastic Four antagonists thanks to Disney's recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox, the return of Ultron would just be unnecessary and uninteresting compared to their other potential options.
16 RETURN: HELMUT ZEMO
Not long before Thanos succeeded in dramatically diminishing the number of heroes left standing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, another villain accomplished his goal to take down the Avengers. Helmut Zemo wasn't fixated on creating balance like the Mad Titan was, but he still managed to split Earth's Mightiest Heroes in half by manipulating events that he knew would cause the Avengers to fight against each other. Zemo didn't have an army, superhuman abilities or an Infinity Stone at his disposal, but his ingenious plan still played out exactly as he wanted it to. If it hadn't, it's possible the Avengers would have been united enough to stop Thanos before he could assemble his Gauntlet and snap his fingers. A villain that diabolical and successful deserves another shot in the spotlight, and if the Red Skull returns and brings back HYDRA, Zemo could join and help lead the organization just like he does in the comics.
15 AVOID: SURTUR
Surtur is an incredibly powerful and frightening recurring villain in Marvel's Thor comics, but in Thor: Ragnarok, the massive fire demon seemed more like comedic relief than an actual threat. The God of Thunder definitely isn't known for his intelligence, but he managed to completely outsmart Surtur at the start of the film, tricking the gigantic beast into revealing his plan to him before using Mjolnir to break out of his chains and escape. At the film's conclusion, Thor intentionally resurrected Surtur and allowed him to cause Ragnarok, sacrificing Asgard so Surtur could destroy Hela. The minor villain wasn't made to be particularly intimidating despite his nearly-unparalleled strength, so it wouldn't be interesting to see Thor or any of the other Avengers face off against him in a future film. Asgard is in ruins and there's really no need to revisit the once-beautiful kingdom.
14 RETURN: JUSTIN HAMMER
Iron Man 2 introduced viewers to Justin Hammer, the Hammer Industries CEO who hated being in the shadow of his primary competitor, Tony Stark. Several of Hammer's attempts to replicate or improve on Stark Industries technology failed miserably and his software was outdated in comparison to his rival's, but Hammer refused to stop trying to one-up the Marvel Cinematic Universe's original hero. His partnership with criminal Ivan Vanko landed him a cell in Seagate Prison at the end of the film and it's about time someone breaks Hammer out so he can start equipping villains with technology the way Tony Stark and Shuri supply Earth's Mightiest Heroes with new suits and gadgets. Hammer Tech was seen being used by criminals in Netflix's Luke Cage, so the company is clearly still in business and ready for its CEO's return.
13 AVOID: ALDRICH KILLIAN
Like Obidiah Stane and Justin Hammer, major villains from the first two Iron Man films, Aldrich Killian was a perfect foil to Tony Stark. The Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to really enjoy pinning Tony against technological and scientific geniuses who went down a dark path in life instead of using their brilliant minds to help save the world like Tony chose to.
Unlike Tony's business rivals from the previous films, however, Killian failed to be particularly interesting or entertaining.
His plan to turn a derelict actor into The Mandarin to create worldwide panic and disguise his failed Extremis experiments as intentional attacks was clever, but comic book fans had a hard time appreciating this twist because The Mandarin is supposed to be a very serious, powerful and iconic Iron Man villain. And while Killian nearly succeeded in wiping Tony out in the billionaire's own home and put up a great fight at the film's conclusion, audiences didn't take him seriously as a villain due to his ridiculous fire-breathing and bizarre ability to instantly regrow severed limbs. There's no way fans would be excited to ever see Killian back on the big screen.
12 RETURN: ARNIM ZOLA
Arnim Zola worked under the Red Skull during World War II, designing a variety of advanced weapons to help HYDRA in its quest for world domination. He was captured by the Allies and offered a position within S.H.I.E.L.D., but he secretly remained loyal to HYDRA. After receiving a fatal diagnosis a few decades later, he transferred his mind into a complex computer system to achieve virtual immortality. Zola seemingly perished when sent missiles to Camp Lehigh in an attempt to take out Captain America and Black Widow, but with the scientist's brain uploaded to the Internet, he could—and should—come back at any time. Red Skull and Helmut Zemo are both still alive in the MCU, so it's time for the return of HYDRA and Arnim Zola.
11 AVOID: LOKI
When Loki was first introduced, his sole focus was on besting his brother Thor and sitting on the throne of Asgard. When that didn't work, he tried ruling over Earth instead, forcing the Avengers into existence. Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of the character was oddly charming even when Loki was a fairly one-dimensional villain, but in Thor: The Dark World fans got to see and love another side of the iconic trickster. Loki started showing subtle signs of genuine loyalty towards his family and fellow Asgardians, and his heroic side continued to grow in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War. He still occasionally gave in to some of his more villainous vices, but Loki ultimately perished while trying to protect his brother and save the universe. Saying goodbye to such a beloved, dynamic character isn't easy, but his brave stand against Thanos was proof of his growth and the perfect ending to his story.
10 RETURN: SCORPION
Mysterio, the master of illusions and iconic member of the Sinister Six, is reportedly going to be the primary antagonist in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Sony has repeatedly made the mistake of cluttering their Spider-Man solo films with too many villains, but the Scorpion should definitely make an appearance in the film alongside Mysterio.
Mac Gargan, the man who became the Scorpion in Marvel comics, was introduced in Homecoming and eagle-eyed fans noticed that the criminal already had a scorpion tattoo on his neck. During a conversation with the Vulture in prison, Gargan expressed his desire to take out the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler since Spider-Man helped the FBI apprehend him, perfectly setting him up to become the Scorpion and seek out his revenge.
9 AVOID: BARON VON STRUCKER
With the return of the Red Skull in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, HYDRA seems poised to make its grand return. The villainous organization claims that when one of their heads gets cut off, two more will take its place, but one former head of HYDRA should just stay out of the MCU and never come back. Baron von Strucker set himself up to be a formidable villain in Age of Ultron, but even though he had Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch as bodyguards and the enhanced twins seemed perfectly capable of holding Earth's Mightiest Heroes off long enough for him to escape, von Strucker simply surrendered to the Avengers in their very first encounter. Ultron then finished him off off-screen, just to send a message. The HYDRA leader had the power of an Infinity Stone at his disposal, but all he really did with it was power up the Maximoffs and inadvertently bolster the Avengers' ranks.
8 RETURN: DORMAMMU
In Marvel comics, Dormammu wields apocalyptic levels of supernatural power, making him Doctor Strange's most intimidating and formidable adversary. The ruler of the Dark Dimension is supposed to be practically unstoppable, but thanks to the Time Stone hidden within the Eye of Agamotto, Stephen Strange was able to trap Dormammu in a ridiculous time loop that turned the villain into mere comedic relief. He was able to repeatedly terminate the Sorcerer Supreme, but Strange just kept coming back and asking to bargain. Dormammu eventually accepted his adversary's deal, agreeing to leave Earth and take his loyal follower Kaecilius with him in exchange for his release from the endless loop. Strange was among the casualties of Thanos' finger snap in Infinity War and, while he's likely to return, he may never wield the power of an Infinity Stone again. Once Dormammu realizes this, he'll likely return and the two rivals will finally be able to face off in a true supernatural showdown.
7 AVOID: SHOCKER
Instead of providing the Vulture with a few nameless minions in Spider-Man: Homecoming, writers chose to equip two of Toomes' lackeys with Chitauri gauntlets that shot blasts of concentrated vibrational air and call them "The Shocker." This was clear fan-service, since that is the name of an iconic villain from Spider-Man's Rogue's Gallery in the comics. Unfortunately, no time was spent developing the character of either "Shocker," so fans weren't given any chance or reason to care about them.
In the comics, several of Spidey's greatest foes like to team up every now and then to try to take him down, calling themselves the Sinister Six. With Homecoming introducing Vulture and the criminal who will become the Scorpion and Far From Home featuring Mysterio, it seems like a live-action Sinister Six isn't too far away. The Shocker has joined that notorious group of villains on various occasions in the comics, but the criminals who took on that mantle in the first MCU Spider-Man film definitely don't deserve to return and join the Six should that team ever assemble.
6 RETURN: GRANDMASTER
The Grandmaster wasn't exactly much of a threat in Thor: Ragnarok, but Jeff Goldblum's hilarious portrayal of the ruler of Sakaar turned the eccentric character into a fan-favorite villain. Grandmaster loves putting on a show for his subjects by assembling as many great warriors as possible and forcing them to fight against each other in a Hunger Games-style Contest of Champions. His gladiatorial competition was just a minor part of the third Thor solo film, but it gave viewers one of the coolest fight scenes in Marvel Cinematic Universe history by piting Thor against the Hulk and revealing which Avenger really is "the strongest there is."
With the MCU already using the 'Civil War' comic book storyline in a film and the Mind Stone in Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet, Marvel is running out of ways to force their heroes to fight each other. Brief but memorable hero-versus-hero combat has featured in a number of Marvel films over the past decade and, if the studio wants to keep treating audiences to those interesting battles, they should bring back the Grandmaster and allow him to throw whatever Avengers survive Avengers 4 into his Contest of Champions.
5 AVOID: WHIPLASH
Anton Vanko helped Howard Stark design Stark Industries' Arc Reactor, but when Howard accused his co-worker of espionage, Anton was deported and fell into poverty. When he passed away, his son Ivan vowed revenge on the Starks and used his own technological-expertise to become the supervillain Whiplash. Ivan's genius seemed to perfectly match Tony's, so he should have made for a compelling villain in Iron Man 2, but weak writing kept audiences from enjoying Whiplash.
Even actor Mickey Rourke, who portrayed Vanko in the film, has openly criticized Marvel for their treatment of his character.
"I wanted to bring some other layers and colors," Rourke told Crave Online. "Marvel just wanted a one-dimensional bad guy, so most of the performance ended up the floor." Rourke likely wouldn't even consider reprising his role if Marvel asked, so there's no way fans should ever expect Ivan Vanko to return to the MCU.
4 RETURN: BARON MORDO
Karl Mordo was once a loyal member of the Masters of the Mystic Arts and one of the Ancient One closest allies, but when he found out that the Ancient One secretly drew her power from the Dark Dimension, Mordo started questioning whether or not he was fighting for the right side. Doctor Strange's trick of using the Time Stone to break nature's laws and trap Dormammu in an endless time loop was the last straw that caused Mordo to believe that sorcerers abuse their power and are the true source of the world's imbalances. The end credits of Doctor Strange revealed that Mordo is now out using his skills to try to restore balance by stripping sorcerers of their power (or simply exterminating them), so he's primed to become a major adversary to his former student, the Sorcerer Supreme.
3 AVOID: RONAN THE ACCUSER
When the Kree Empire signed a peace treaty with Xandar, Kree soldier Ronan the Accuser aligned himself with Thanos in an attempt to eradicate the Xandarians. He offered the Mad Titan a mysterious orb in exchange for the destruction of his rivals, but when Ronan learned that the weapon contained an Infinity Stone, he attempted to use the Power Stone to wipe Xandar out himself. Ronan seemed like a powerful and intimidating villain throughout Guardians of the Galaxy, but when Peter Quill was able to use a silly dance-off as a distraction so Rocket Raccoon could blast him and knock away his Infinity Stone, it became difficult to see Ronan as a true threat anymore. Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet gives him the ability to both rewrite reality and turn back the clock, so he could easily bring his former ally back to life and use Ronan in his impending fight against the remaining Avengers. There's just no reason to do so, though, since Ronan was so easily beaten. He'll be in Captain Marvel, but we hope that's the end of the line for him.
2 RETURN: EBONY MAW
Now that Thanos has both the Time and Reality Stones and can bring back fallen allies, Ebony Maw should be the first Black Order member on his list. Maw stole every scene he was in throughout the first half of Avengers: Infinity War, and he was both incredibly loyal to Thanos and ridiculously powerful.
Doctor Strange is supposed to be one of the most powerful sorcerers in the universe, but Ebony Maw's magic seemed to be on the same level as the Sorcerer Supreme's.
If Iron Man and Spider-Man didn't interfere and team up against him, the Maw likely would have taken Strange out and stolen the Infinity Stone locked away within his Eye of Agamotto. His time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was far too brief, so he should return to fight alongside his master one last time in Avengers 4.
1 AVOID: HELA
In Hela's very first fight against Thor and Loki, she managed to destroy Mjolnir and trap her two brothers on a foreign planet. The Goddess of Death then journeyed to Asgard, where she effortlessly took out the kingdom's mighty army and wiped out the Warriors Three. Thor finally reached his potential as the God of Thunder at the end of Thor: Ragnarok and learned to harness his powers without the assistance of his trusty hammer, but even that wasn't enough to take out Hela. He had to unleash Surtur and sacrifice his kingdom so he and the few remaining Asgardians could escape.
It's entirely possible that Hela survived Surtur's atttack on Asgard, but even if she did, Marvel shouldn't bring her back. If the combined might of Thor, Hulk, Loki and even Surtur wasn't enough to stop her, nothing will be. It'd take every single one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes to put up a genuine fight against her, but with supervillains like Galactus, Doctor Doom and Magneto now available for use in the MCU, the Avengers will soon likely have their hands full with more iconic adversaries.
Who do you want to see back in the MCU? Let us know in the comments!