A common criticism in the early days of the MCU is that the franchise was failing to deliver some genuinely great villains. By Phase 3, that problem really started to get addressed and fans were treated to some truly memorable and entertaining bad guys.
One aspect that really brought these villains to life was complex motivations. The audience saw villains who truly thought they were the good guys, some who were sympathetic, and some who we even sort of agreed with. Of course, there were also the megalomaniacal antagonists who just wanted to destroy everything. With such a broad roster of baddies, it’s thrilling to compare them and determine which were true villains and which were misunderstood.
In Ant-Man & the Wasp, Ghost is the main antagonist of the story but she is just as sympathetic as the heroes. As a little girl, her father’s experiments went wrong and caused an explosion that killed both her parents and gave her the ability to phase through objects.
While the powers come in handy during a fight, they also cause Ghost a great deal of pain. Not only is she always suffering, but S.H.I.E.L.D. also used her as an assassin. All Ghost wants is to find a cure for her constant pain, which pushes her to do some bad things.
9 Erik Killmonger
Along with Michael B. Jordan’s stunning performance, Killmonger is one of the most compelling MCU villains because it’s hard not to see his point. After his father was killed by King T’Chaka, Killmonger was left as an orphan so the secret of Wakanda could remain hidden.
As Killmonger learns about Wakanda and trains, he comes back to take the throne so that he can use Wakanda’s resources to help people all around the world who are being oppressed. While he also plans on overthrowing governments and waging war, he does have some good points.
8 Adrian Toomes / The Vulture
The Vulture is a Spider-Man villain, but he is yet another bad guy created by Tony Stark. Following the events of The Avengers, Adrian Toomes was hired to clean up the mess only to be replaced with Stark’s own Damage Control company.
Fuelled by his unfair treatment, Toomes uses some of the advanced Chitauri tech to become a master thief and arms dealer. While he is selling dangerous weapons to dangerous people, Toomes doesn’t want to see people get hurt and really just wants to provide for his family.
Kaecilius is not really a villain, but rather someone who was tricked into believing the wrong thing. He was a student of the Ancient One who discovered that she is drawing power from the Dark Dimension, something that is forbidden.
He then switches allegiances and becomes a follower of Dormammu, the lord of the Dark Dimension. Kaecilius is under the impression that Dormammu is a savior and is willing to kill to serve him. But in the end, we feel a bit sorry for him for just backing the wrong horse.
Once again, Tony Stark’s behavior directly resulted in the creation of another villain. Quentin Beck was the original creator of Stark’s B.A.R.F. technology but was kicked off the project and fired for being too unhinged.
Beck uses that tech and creates the persona of Mysterio in order to trick the world into accepting him as a hero. He is something of a trickster and an effective one at that. However, when his plan is threatened, he is willing to kill anyone, including young kids, to keep the truth from getting out.
Zemo is another tragic villain whose sad backstory led him down a dark path. Zemo lost his entire family in Sokovia during the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. He then set a plan in motion to tear apart the Avengers from within.
While some of his plans are merely about exposing the truth, he also kills a lot of people to get to that final result. He bombs a United Nations meeting, killing T’Chaka, kills a doctor to take his identity, and executes the other super-soldiers, all for his own vengeance.
When we first meet Yon-Rogg, he is a supportive Kree mentor to Captain Marvel. Eventually, as she learns more about her past as Carol Danvers, it becomes clear how evil Yon-Rogg actually is.
He was responsible for killing Mar-vell and would have killed Carol as well. When she absorbs the power of the Tesseract, he sees her as a weapon, capturing her and brainwashing her. He also plans to murder the Skrull refugees, including small children, because he sees them as inferior.
Fans had been waiting a long time for Thanos to step into the spotlight. When he finally did, he proved to be a complex and fascinating villain. Thanos sees himself as a hero trying to save the world. His plan is to collect all the Infinity Stones to wipe out half the universe and balance things out.
Despite his motivations, the evilness of Thanos’ plan is clear. Instead of using the stones to help people, his madman mind decides the elimination of countless innocent lives is the best option. And when his plan is threatened in Avengers: Endgame, he plans to wipe out the entire universe and start from scratch.
Thor has bad luck with evil siblings and his sister Hela proves to be even worse than Loki. She is the Goddess of Death whom Odin used to help conquer the Nine Realms and establish Asgard as the ruler of all.
When Hela returns from exile, she wastes little time in slaughtering most of Asgard for no particular reason. She hoped to be welcomed back as a savior, but when they try to rise up, she decides the home kingdom will be destroyed.
Ego the Living Planet is a Celestial and one of the oldest beings in the universe. He is also incredibly powerful with the ability to grow himself on other planets, which he plans to do in order to take over everything until he is the only being left.
It seems like his sole motivation for this is pure boredom. After encountering other life on other planets, Ego is disappointed by what else is out there and decides to replace it. He also kills countless of his own children for failing him and puts a tumor in Meredith Quill’s head just so he won’t be tempted to return to her.
NEXT: Every MCU Phase 3 Film Ranked, According To Rotten Tomatoes
Song Of The South (& 9 Other Movies Disney Wants You To Forget)
About The Author