Every good hero deserves a great villain. With reviews for the DC Extended Universe looking bleak, someone has to carry on the time-honored tradition of bringing the big bads to justice in style. With the CW now in full-on warrior mode to bring the very best in comic book super beings to the small screen, they’re locking down the hottest television properties for the foreseeable future. That, of course, means there will be a slew of evildoers set to try and take the mantle from their heroic counterparts.
The Legion of Doom has already been confirmed for Legends of Tomorrow’s sophomore season while The Flash will see a new speedster by the name of Savitar causing problems for Barry Allen due to the consequences of the upcoming "Flashpoint" arc. On top of the already impressive lineup of bad guys, we’ll be treated once again to the Arrowverse’s villain-of-the-week format with many notable faces from each show’s rogues gallery making return appearances.
Our rankings catch you up on the most powerful villains to date in Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. We’ve already ranked the 15 Most Powerful Arrowverse Heroes, so we thought it only right to follow it up with the baddest of the bad. We’re excluding characters who took on the role of a hero such as Captain Cold and Heatwave while also removing minor villains who have had less of an impact on the shows, such as Earth Two’s Reverb. There are many different ways a villain can be defined as powerful. We took them all into careful consideration when compiling our list. Obviously, not everyone could make the top 15, so before we kick things off, here are the names that just missed the cut.
Honorable Mentions: King Shark (The Flash), Weather Wizard (The Flash), Count Vertigo (Arrow), China White (Arrow), Jemm (Supergirl).
We kick things off in style with one of Fort Rozz’s most dangerous villains. Played by Smallville alum and former Supergirl herself, Laura Vandervoort, Indigo is a living supercomputer previously known as Brainiac 8 capable of traveling through the internet. As far as her attributes, she stacks up well with Kara Zor-El. She has super strength, wicked fast speed and can shapeshift her limbs into piercing sharp claws. Throw in the fact that she’s nearly indestructible and can teleport to just about anywhere with the help of technology and you’re talking about a winning combo of evil.
With all her upsides, why does she rank last in our list of ultimate Arrowverse baddies? Despite wreaking chaos on National City, this cybernetic humanoid robot is done away with in the end by nothing more than malware. With a virus on hand, Kara’s friend and colleague, Winn Schott, manages to destroy Indigo pretty easily. Such glaring weaknesses mean the fembot is one less antagonist Kara will have to worry about. Still, her ability to go head-to-head with the Kryptonian was far too impressive to pass up, making her a solid first entry.
14 The Trickster
An apt name for a practical joker and conman (played by Mark Hamill), this Central City criminal has been terrorizing the Flash’s home for more than twenty years. After being incarcerated for two decades in Iron Heights, this Twizzler-eating nutcase breaks free from his cell with the help of a copycat whose taken over the villain’s moniker and has been remaking some of his greatest hits in his honor. With no powers to speak of, the Trickster’s strengths come through his pure unpredictability and strategic planning, including a variety of booby traps which he uses to nearly kill the Scarlet Speedster on more than one occasion.
After being locked back up following a botched plan involving poisoning guests at a Mayoral dinner party, the maniacal James Jesse escapes once again with the help of the Weather Wizard and Captain Cold in an attempt to rid the town of Barry Allen once and for all. As one could imagine, the Trickster’s reckless abandon is once again no match for Barry’s speed, foiling his ideas for taking over the city. The right mix of insanity and mindful execution can get you a long way, but in the end a lack of superpowers leaves this villain still far removed from the most powerful in the DC universe.
13 White Martian
Natives to planet Mars, the White Martians stand at a towering eight feet tall and age much slower than the inhabitants of Earth. They are responsible for the eradication and near extermination of the Green Martians, who once lived on the same planet before they were killed in droves by fiery underground furnaces created by the ruthless white creatures. One such victim of the massacres was J’onn J’onzz, more famously known as Martian Manhunter, who refers to himself as the Last Son of Mars. Masking his appearance, J’onn assumes the role of Hank Henshaw, director for the Department of Extranormal Operations, and while working with Supergirl, he’s able to finally come face to face with a White Martian years after what happened to his home planet.
Sensing J’onn’s whereabouts after he uses his powers, the white alien tracks him to National City where it shapeshifts into Senator Miranda Crane to get closer to the members of the DEO. In a climactic fight between the White Martian, J’onn and Supergirl, J’onn is able to detain Kara with a pair of Kryptonite handcuffs. Weighing his option to kill the foreign visitor, Kara talks him down and they imprison the alien in Fort Rozz. With their maximum strength, shapeshifting capabilities as well as an accelerated healing ability, these creatures are adversaries that are guaranteed to make a return to Supergirl in the near future. By then, Kara and Martian Manhunter will be better equipped to handle the situation, but the sheer size in numbers for these enemies may prove to be a challenge moving forward.
12 Slade Wilson (aka Deathstroke)
Given the code name Deathstroke by Amanda Waller of A.R.G.U.S., Slade Wilson is a former operative for the Australian Special Intelligence Service who first encounters Arrow’s Oliver Queen on the island of Lian Yu. He’s trained in hand-to-hand combat and weaponry, which he puts to good use in his vengeful quest to take down Ollie and lay waste to Starling City. After a near-fatal accident leaves him incapacitated, Slade is injected with the experimental Japanese super soldier serum, Mirakuru, sparking a rage inside him that is fuelled even more by the death of the love of his life, Shado.
Presumed dead after Oliver puts an arrow through his eye, Slade returns years later to take over Starling with the help of a Mirakuru army, but it’s not just the super strength that gives this bad guy his edge. Like many other members on this list, Slade acts without remorse, never weighing the consequences of his actions, but unlike some, he’s gone so far as to actually murder someone of considerable importance on the show. In a shocking twist, he kills Oliver’s mother Moira in front of him and his sister Thea. While the Arrow is ultimately able to turn Slade’s own aggression against him, it wasn’t without dealing with significant losses beforehand. Luckily, he can say this villain is now locked away tight in a supermax prison on Lian Yu.
Although Will Smith is currently killing it as the nation’s deadliest gun-wielding assassin in Suicide Squad, Floyd Lawton had already made his presence felt on Arrow a few years prior. A former soldier and family man, Lawton retreated to his murderous ways after returning home from war with post-traumatic stress disorder. Unable to cope with the emotional abuse he put on his family, he takes an offer from Mina Fayad on behalf of H.I.V.E. to kill John Diggle’s brother Andy, setting off a long feud between Deadshot and Oliver's team.
After becoming a member of the Suicide Squad, it's revealed that Lawton’s assassination of Andy Diggle was a ploy to fake Andy’s death so he could become a foot soldier for H.I.V.E. While Lawton isn’t inherently bad, he builds a reputation as a man who never misses his mark. He’s last shown sacrificing himself on top of a hospital rigged with explosives during a hostage extraction. Although his final exit is heroic, his life by way of the gun was the opposite. He could hit anyone in the Arrowverse with a clean headshot. Unfortunately for us, the chances of that happening are now virtually nonexistent.
10 Maxwell Lord
Unlike the other villains we’ve included on this list, Maxwell Lord has no superpowers to speak of, nor is he trained in any particular set of skills. He is the founder and CEO of Lord Technologies, a pioneer in the latest cutting-edge tech of the 21st century. Max’s parents, former scientists employed by the government, were killed by a chemical agent when a biological experiment went horribly wrong. Since then, he’s had a deep-seated hatred with authority. Often portrayed as an anti-hero to Kara Danvers, Lord has spoken out against Supergirl’s arrival in National City, believing the Kryptonians have brought nothing more than destruction and increasing maintenance costs to the city.
In much the same vein as Lex Luthor, Lord seeks to uncover the secret identity behind Supergirl to expose her to the public. To prevent any further attacks against humanity, he attempts to make Green Kryptonite to weaken the foreign invaders. Instead, he creates Red Kryptonite, which inadvertently lowers Kara’s inhibitions and turns her evil. He’s also able to turn a comatose patient into a clone of Kara by injecting her with a serum and brainwashing her into believing she is the new Supergirl. Although he lacks strong physical attributes or a superhuman physiology, Maxwell Lord’s genius intellect and business acumen make him an underlying threat that looks to be going places in Supergirl’s later seasons.
9 Malcolm Merlyn
Al Sa-Her - that was the name given to Malcolm Merlyn by the League of Assassins following his years of rigorous training after his wife was murdered. Season one’s biggest rival, Malcolm serves as a part time archenemy and part time ally to team Arrow. When he wasn’t trying to destroy the Glades of Starling City or running away from Nanda Parbat’s most lethal assassins, Malcolm ran his own multi-billion dollar corporation Merlyn Global Group; that is, until he faked his own death and left the company behind. Now, he tries to make up for his lost time with his family by trying his best at being a father figure to Thea Queen, Oliver’s half-sister and Malcolm’s only remaining child.
Masked as the Dark Archer in the first season, Malcolm faces off against the Arrow on a few occasions, often besting him with his own archery skills. It is his belief that Oliver’s own obsession with saving everyone is his downfall, making him a far superior combatant. Trained to endure pain and suffering, he comes to blows with Oliver many times throughout the series but his connection to Thea prevents him from acting out against the hooded vigilante. Always capable of pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, he is never to be trusted. It’s just when you think Malcolm’s got your back that he’s most likely to put an arrow through it, leaving you the fool for ever believing a word he said.
8 Nyssa al Ghul
The rightful heir to the Demon, Nyssa was raised under the strict training regimen of the League of Assassins, perfecting her heightened senses and becoming a proficient swordsman at a young age. The last League member to hold the title of Ra’s al Ghul, she disbanded the ancient organization after her father died at the hands of the Arrow. As caring as she is merciless, Nyssa’s involvement with Sara Lance, a.k.a. White Canary, becomes an exploitable weakness which pits her against her father when she leaves in search of her beloved following her departure from Nanda Parbat.
As part of Ra’s al Ghul’s scheme to recruit Oliver Queen as his successor, Nyssa weds the Arrow in a secret ceremony. The expert killer also befriends Sara’s sister Laurel, becoming her master trainer and building closer ties with the rest of Oliver’s team. After Malcolm Merlyn kills Sara, Nyssa is pitted against the rest of team Arrow. Although she never comes to blows with Oliver, her disdain for her beloved’s killer often puts the hooded vigilante in her path for vengeance. Despite no longer having the League under her command, Nyssa still holds considerable power as the last Ra’s and we’re not counting her out as a major villain for a future season, should her urge to kill Malcolm become too much to handle.
7 Non & Astra
A powerful Kryptonian and Kara Zor-El’s aunt, Astra is an escapee from Fort Rozz that pursues her niece after the prison crash lands on Earth. Alongside her husband Non, she looks to get revenge on her twin sister Alura, who sentenced the married couple after branding them terrorists. Learning that Kara has taken the mantle as Supergirl in National City, she sets up the prison as her new base where she commands other inmates to attack Kara to convince the heroine to join her side. After being stabbed by a Kryptonite knife, she engineers a device in her bodysuit to make her immune to the alien substance. Kara brawls with her aunt, subduing her but ultimately finds herself unable to deliver the finishing blow.
Although Astra served as a primary antagonist in the first half of season one, she is ultimately killed by Kara’s adoptive sister Alex after she’s stabbed in the back with a Kryptonian sword. Non assumes the position of Army Commander to resume their plans of taking over Earth. As far as superpowers go, the duo have all the same abilities of a Kryptonian, including their strength, flight, invulnerability, speed and enhanced hearing and vision. While both have proven to be capable of testing Kara’s heroics, neither have been particularly convincing in taking over the planet, making them just shy of the strongest rivals to take part in the Arrowverse.
A silverback gorilla with psychic abilities sounds more like the subject of a kids’ show than something from the Arrowverse, but we assure you Grodd is nothing to mess with. The only meta-ape of Central City, he now dwells underneath the inhabitants in the sewer system after he was subjected to various unethical treatments during his five year stint as a test subject at S.T.A.R. labs. When Barry, Cisco and Caitlin discover his hideout, Grodd manages to get inside the speedster’s head, using his telepathy and brute strength to overpower him. When we last see the giant ape, Barry has opened a gateway to Earth Two and sends Grodd to the parallel universe to be with others of his kind in Gorilla City.
Although a massive gorilla barreling its way towards you is a nightmare no one would want to face, Grodd does have a vulnerability to compassion. He faithfully follows the Reverse-Flash when he mistakenly believes Eobard Thawne to be his former owner Harrison Wells, the only one who treated him with kindness during his time at S.T.A.R. Labs. At the same time, his own anger can be used against him, a strategy which the Flash uses when he causes him to jump in front of an oncoming train. All things considered, the weak-minded should stay far away from this science experiment gone wrong if they know what's good for them, but this ape still can't stand up to some of the other big bads on our list.
5 Damien Darhk
Say what you will about magic’s misplacement in Arrow, but there’s no denying that Damien Darhk was a worthy, if unfairly matched, adversary to Starling City’s green hood. A former member of the League of Assassins, Darhk has a long history with Ra’s al Ghul. At one time, the two men were both horsemen being prepped to take the mantle as the leader of the League. When Darhk found out he would not become the successor, he left the League, taking waters from the Lazarus Pit and gaining knowledge in the dark arts of sorcery.
Operating covertly as the head of the secret terrorist organization known as H.I.V.E., Darhk’s powers come from the Khushu idol retrieved from Lian Yu. Frequently seen performing blood sacrifices before it, Darhk can drain the life force from all he touches and can stop anyone in their tracks with the wave of a hand. In a convoluted plot line, Oliver finds the light within himself thanks to an immortal shaman named Esrin Fortuna and is able to combat Darhk’s dark magic with his own light magic. With the citizens of Starling behind him, he gathers enough support to render the bad guy’s powers useless, delivering a fatal blow to the gut with an arrow. While the final confrontation between the two was bizarre to say the least, it did show exactly what kind of extremes are needed to dispose of this villain, putting Damien Darhk among the hardest antagonists to take out so far in any of the series.
4 Vandal Savage
A master of time and conqueror of lands, Vandal Savage has lived many lifetimes. Formerly known as Hath-Set, he has gone by many names but began as an ancient Egyptian priest who served under the command of Ramses II. After becoming obsessed with the priestess Chay-Ara, he is exposed to a mutative agent during a meteor shower. While he gains the power of regeneration and becomes immortal, able to live out his days for the rest of eternity, Chay-Ara and her lover Prince Khufu repeat their lives over and over again, being reincarnated each time they die before finally taking on their hero identities as Hawkgirl and Hawkman.
Through his various lives, Savage cleverly concocts a plan to create a temporal paradox in three different time zones with past versions of himself, in effect, causing a rift in time and reverting everything back to the year 1700 B.C. when he first gained his powers. With aid from Rip Hunter, a time-traveling group of heroes are able to prevent him from carrying out his plan. Exposure to the radiation from the meteor turns Savage mortal, giving Hawkgirl the chance to stab him in the chest before Hunter delivers the final blow. While having the advantage of being hard to kill is a plus, Savage also has the bonus of ruling throughout time while often going undetected. He’s able to pull the strings during many significant historical events, making him a political threat capable of serving his own agenda while never being seen.
3 Ra’s al Ghul
The leader of the League of Assassins may have been remarkably underutilized in Arrow’s third season, but there's one thing he holds over the other villains on our list. To date, he's come the closest to killing a leading hero on their own show. He drove the blade of a sword through the chest of Oliver Queen, leaving him bloodied and on the brink of death on the side of a mountain. Nearly disposing of the archer with ease, Ra’s easily tops the other foes of the Arrowverse in terms of combative skills with his daughter Nyssa and former student Malcolm Merlyn going so far as to admit their fear.
Having killed his first man at eleven years old to protect his family, Ra’s took the throne as leader of the League after his loved ones were threatened. Since then, he's been given immortality due to the mystical healing properties of the Lazarus Pit. Graced with eternal life and displaying a stoic demeanor, the Demon’s Head was a ruthless fighter who could take the lives of his victims without hesitation. Even in his dying moments, after being impaled by Oliver in their final fight, he is unfazed by his fate. He accepts what has befallen him before trying one last time to pass on his legacy to his executioner. He may not possess superhuman strength, but he's methodical and expertly trained to endure the most challenging opponents. That's the kind of expertise that can only come from centuries of experience.
Without question, Eobard Thawne has proved to be the most cunning villain in the Arrowverse so far. Appearing under the guise of S.T.A.R. Labs founder Harrison Wells, Thawne finds himself stuck in the 21st century after travelling back in time. With his powers drained due to his most recent time jump, the speedster works under his new identity in order to train Barry Allen to become the Flash so he may harness his Speed Force and return to his time in the future. Under the tutelage of his adversary, Barry becomes faster but falls short of matching the Reverse-Flash’s speed. When he learns of Thawne’s true identity, he’s finally able to subdue him with the help of the Arrow and Firestorm.
Eobard Thawne’s rivalry with the Flash began as an obsession with the Central City hero. Recreating the accident of the particle accelerator explosion which gave Barry his powers, he travels back in time only to discover that he is destined to become the Scarlet Speedster’s greatest enemy. The two battle endlessly but neither can gain enough speed over the other to get the upper hand. After learning the Flash’s secret identity, he travels back in time and murders Barry’s mother Nora, framing her husband Henry for the crime. Learning of the truth behind that night, Barry sets out to prevent his mother’s death from ever happening. Thawne’s knowledge of the Speed Force makes makes him a veteran villain with years of experience fighting one of DC’s top superheroes. His speed and scientific prowess put him ahead of the competition. Still, he’s not even the fastest bad guy on the show.
What’s better than a speedster who can break through the space-time continuum? How about a speedster that can break through the space-time continuum and dimensional barriers?
If we were to choose between the shows of the Arrowverse thus far, we’d have to pick The Flash as DC at its best. The CW network took a big risk playing all its trump cards early on and so far it's paid off big time. Not only has the writing gotten better, the villains have gotten faster, pushing Barry to his limits and forcing him to master the use of his speed with each new challenge. Much like Eobard Thawne, Hunter Zolomon first arrives in Central City with another identity. He appears as Jay Garrick, the man who has assumed the role of the Flash on Earth 2. He warns Barry that a masked speedster named Zoom has taken over the other Earth and is taking out all of his kind from each parallel dimension in order to steal their speed.
After Barry discovers that Jay Garrick and Zoom are indeed one and the same, he learns the ugly truth about Zolomon. The man inducing fear in both universes was a serial killer living in a mental institution when he gained his powers. Experimenting with a scientifically engineered Velocity serum, he gradually became faster until he adopted both of his personas. Zoom’s animalistic satisfaction from seeing the terror on people's faces is both his weakness and strength. He is eventually sucked into the speed force by time wraiths where he becomes a grim reaper speedster known as Black Flash, but not before he makes all of Central City question whether Barry can truly protect them. It’s a brutal showdown between a hero and a merciless psychopath that could have gone either way. Luckily, the right person made it out unscathed with a lesson that will stick with him for the seasons to come.