When sitting down to watch a Marvel movie or series, they need relatable heroes with genuine struggles.
But just as important are fierce villains that feel like they pose a genuine threat. They also need to have their own warped logic that motivates their actions.
Which are your favorite villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
We have put together a list of our top 30, building up to the best and most powerful villains in the MCU.
Sorry, no X-Men villains included this time around (look out for another list soon).
30. Iron Monger – Iron Man
It is easy to forget the first of the villains from the Iron Man movies since so much has happened since then.
Obadiah Stane was a business partner to both Howard and Tony Stark. He became CEO of Stark Industries after Howard’s death.
He then tried to have Tony killed so that he could take full control of the company.
When Tony returned with his Iron Man suit, Obadiah worked to make a more powerful suit of his own and harness it as a weapon for sale. He called himself Iron Monger.
He tried to kill Tony Stark to take control of the company and keep his activities secret. But his greed ended up in his own death.
29. Aida – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Aida is an AI robot that was created by scientists Holden Radcliffe and Leo Fitz as a “life model decoy”.
She was initially an asset, saving Melinda May, Phil Coulson, and Leo Fitz from the Dark Dimension. But she was so advanced that she developed consciousness and a personality and started to crave her own freedom.
She soon created a Framework a bit like the Matrix and trapped the members of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team inside.
In this world, she was the head of a powerful HYDRA organization, and Fitz was manipulated into being her lover and second in command.
Meanwhile, in the real world, she made a body for herself that would allow her to feel emotions.
She then set out to make the real world look like her Framework world, forcing the team to kill her.
28. Aldrich Killian – Iron Man 3
Played perfectly by Guy Pierce, Aldrich Killian was the founder and CEO of an arms company. He wanted Tony Stark to participate in his research, but Stark refused.
When he could not get Tony’s help, he joined Maya Hansen to develop Extremis. He created a group of enhanced soldiers for him to command.
To mask his illegal activities, he created a fake terrorist known as “Mandarin” to run interference.
He was not aware that a real terrorist by that name actually existed. He worked with the Vice President to try and take over the government.
However, his plans went up in smoke when he kidnapped Tony’s beloved Pepper Potts. She ended up killing him with one of his own enhanced battle suits.
27. Grant Ward – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Grant Ward was initially one of the Agents under Phil Coulson. He quickly won the trust of everyone on the team.
But it was soon revealed that he was a HYDRA imposter and that he was mercilessly working to undermine the team and was a cold-blooded killer.
When HYDRA was defeated, he gathered its remnants and tried to rebuild it as its new leader. He then worked actively to return the Hive to Earth and change the world order.
While he was eventually killed by Coulson, his corpse was reanimated by Hive. The team could not escape the constant reminder of the betrayal and hurt that he had caused them.
26. Kingpin – Daredevil & Hawkeye
Kingpin is a New York crime lord expertly played by actor Vincent D’Onofrio. While he is a Spider-Man villain in the comics, Marvel TV transfers him to the world of Daredevil and later Hawkeye as a villain too good to skip.
While he doesn’t have superpowers, he has power and influence over the criminals of the city. This means he doesn’t need superpowers to make trouble.
His ruthlessness makes him illogical and unpredictable.
A large man, Kingpin, also known as Wilson Fisk, can display Hulk-like anger as he seems to have no emotional control when triggered. But someone with that many enemies always has a short shelf-life.
25. Yon Rogg – Captain Marvel
Yon Rogg was a commander of the Starforce within the Kree Empire.
He was extremely loyal to the Supreme Intelligence that directed his work and to Kree ideologues. This included committing genocide against Kree enemies, such as the Skrull.
He was sent to Planet C-53, also known as Earth, to find a Tesseract-powered energy core.
When he got there, he found that a woman, Carol Danvers, had absorbed its energy. He made her part of his team and began to mentor her.
Despite forming a close bond, when he was ordered by Ronan to capture her and turn her over so that she could be used to wipe out the last of the Skrull hiding out on Earth, he was more than willing to do so.
24. The Winter Soldier – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Winter Soldier is a complicated character going from hero to villain and to hero again. He is Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers’ oldest friend and a hero of World War II.
But while Rogers thought that he died during operations in WWII, he survived because he had previously been given a super-soldier serum by HYDRA.
He was recovered by HYDRA. His arm was badly injured, so it was replaced with a cybernetic arm.
He was also brainwashed to become an operative and super-soldier known as the Winter Soldier. HYDRA used him as their best assassin.
He killed Howard Stark and his wife, and he was placed in stasis when he was not needed. But he eventually encountered Steve Rogers, which helped his memory to return, and he threw off his brainwashing and joined the Avengers.
23. Mysterio – Spider-Man: Far From Home
Quentin Beck was an employee of Stark Industries and felt like he was one of the people behind the rise of Iron Man.
He became angry when he and many of his colleagues lost their jobs. They felt as though their life’s work had been devalued.
Beck led a group of disgruntled employees to create a new superhero named Mysterio. He used weaponized drones and hologram technology to make it look like he was saving the world from a fictional group called Elementals.
He tried to get close to Spider-Man to get access to technology that he knew Stark had entrusted to the youth.
Spider-Man managed to defeat him, but Mysterio also exposed his identity to the world.
22. Alexander Pierce – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Alexander Pierce is one of those human villains that you can imagine really existing. So, while he’s not as powerful as the super-charged villains, he can be more menacing.
He is a HYDRA leader who is undercover as the Secretary of the World Security Council in the US. Pierce commands S.H.I.E.L.D. through Nick Fury and is also the one calling the shots for the Winter Soldier.
He eventually spearheads a HYDRA uprising within S.H.I.E.L.D. attempting to kill Nick Fury, but he is discovered and stopped by the Avengers.
But he kills all the members of the Security Council before he is taken down by Fury.
21. Kurse – Thor: The Dark World
Many of us have tried to forget the movie Thor: The Dark World because it just wasn’t very good, but it still introduced Kurse as a fairly formidable villain.
Originally known as Algrim, he was a Dark Elf, and one of the few to survive the first war between the Dark Elves and the Asgardians.
When the chance came to get revenge, Algrim sacrificed his life to transform into Kurse, a monster with incredible strength.
He killed Thor’s mother, Frigga, and gave Thor a pretty hefty beating until Loki stepped in to stop him. He had to use a black whole grenade to deal with the formidable villain.
20. Malekith – Thor: The Dark World
Malekith is the leader of the Dark Elves, a race that thrives in the primordial darkness that existed before the Big Bang.
He decides to lead his people in a war against the Asgardians to revert the universe to a state of darkness in which they can thrive.
The Dark Elves were initially defeated by Bor, the father of Odin. But Malekith survived and restored himself for 5,000 years to make another attempt.
To start his new attempt, he must capture Jane Foster, who had absorbed a powerful weapon that he needs. Once he has extracted this, he leads an army into Asgard.
Malekith was eventually transported to Svartalfheim and crushed by his own warship.
19. Adrian Toomes – Spider-Man: Homecoming
Maybe we just love this character because he is expertly played by Michael Keaton.
Adrian Toomes is the former owner of a salvage company who lost everything when the government and Stark Industries took over salvaging what was left behind after the Avengers’ destruction of New York.
He started using bits of S.H.I.E.L.D. and alien tech that they had salvaged to create an exo-suit for himself and became a black-market arms dealer known as Vulture. This eventually brought him into conflict with both Iron Man and Spider-Man.
In his final showdown with Spider-Man, Peter Parker decides not to kill Vulture and instead saves his life and leaves him to the authorities.
While he is sent to prison, he chooses not to reveal Spider-Man’s true identity.
18. Taskmaster – Black Widow
Taskmaster appears in Black Widow as a Terminator-like unstoppable force. The character is a futuristic cyborg who knows all the tricks of the Widows, which makes it seem undefeatable.
We say “it” because we only discover later that Taskmaster is the daughter of Dreykov, assumed killed in the explosion organized by Natasha Romanoff to get out of the program.
But she has completely lost her sense of self, having been raised from a young age to be nothing more than a super-assassin.
She is not higher up on the list because it soon becomes apparent that there is a good soul underneath all the technology and brainwashing, which is why she can be saved by the other Widows once her father is out of the picture.
17. Agatha Harkness – WandaVision
Part of the reason that Agatha Harkness is such a compelling villain is that it wasn’t obvious from the outset that she would be.
She is a Salem witch, accused of practicing dark magic by her own Coven and cast out. She continued as a secretive solo practitioner for three hundred years until she sensed the strong chaotic magic being created by Wanda.
As well as being a powerful witch, Agatha is a master manipulated. And although she is stripped of her powers in the end, this results in Wanda herself becoming a dark villainess in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
16. Killgrave – Jessica Jones
While the main Jessica Jones villain in the comics is called purple man, in the series, he takes the name Killgrave and is villainously inhabited by actor David Tennant. But he does consistently wear purple suits as a nod to his print alter ego.
What makes Killgrave terrifying is that he can control the minds of others and make them do whatever he wants, making him almost impossible to fight.
Since he had this power as a child, he is used to getting what he wants, making him a very narcissistic adult with zero empathy for others.
While he was eventually defeated by our heroine over the series arc, he left a lot of damage in his wake that will perhaps never be fully undone. Definitely one of the best Marvel villains on the small screen.
15. Kaecilius – Doctor Strange
Like Doctor Strange himself, Kaecilius is a sorcerer and was a member of the Masters of the Mystic Arts. But he soon became disillusioned with the teaching of the Ancient One and her restrictive rules.
In particular, he believed that by allowing other dimensions to come to earth, he would be able to reunite with his dead wife and son.
So he formed a group of Zealots to overthrow the Ancient One and call an inter-dimensional being known as Dormammu.
While the Ancient One was killed, Kaecilius became trapped in the dark dimension for all eternity. This made him immortal, what he wanted for his wife and son, but he will now always be separated from them.
14. Ghost – Ant-Man and the Wasp
Ghost is one of the more sympathetic villains in the Marvel universe. Named Ava Starr, she gained the ability to render herself intangible and generate extreme amounts of power as a result of a quantum accident.
She was exploited by S.H.I.E.L.D. as a stealth agent, but she was also slowly dying due to the quantum energy that she was expending involuntarily.
To save herself, she wanted to steal energy from the Quantum Tunnel created by Hank Pym, but that would undermine plans to rescue his wife.
Ant-Man and Wasp manage to stop Ghost and save Janet, but Janet also gives some of her energy to Ava, stabilizing her and saving her life. She is currently in hiding. Who knows where she will turn up next.
13. Abomination – The Incredible Hulk
Abomination is another villain much better than the film that he appears in. He is often forgotten, but let’s not forget that he was strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the Hulk.
Like the Hulk, Abomination is a man, former special-ops commander Emil Blonsky. He agreed to be injected with a variant of the super-soldier serum in order to help capture the Hulk.
When he was initially defeated, he also exposed himself to Banner’s gamma-irradiated blood, making him Abomination.
But while he is formidably strong, he’s not all bad. In the aftermath of the events of the film, he was actually considered for the Avengers initiative.
12. Ebony Maw – Avengers: Infinity War & Avengers: End Game
Ebony Maw has that combination of effortless power and grim look that makes him a great enemy for our avenging heroes.
His telekinetic abilities are so good that he can even incapacitate the powerful Doctor Strange without breaking a sweat.
But more than his power, it is his fanaticism for Thanos and his cause that makes him so formidable.
There is no reasoning with him, and there is nothing he will not stoop to in order to gain his prize, including torture.
He is there during many of the atrocities committed by Thanos, including his destruction of Gamora’s world and all her people and the attack on the Asgardian ship to retrieve the Tesseract.
11. Dreykov – Black Widow
Dreykov makes a terrible villain because he is one of those characters that is not superpowered or from space. He is a twisted man who you can imagine existing in our real world.
He was a high-ranking Russian General who set up and oversaw the Red Room program, where young girls were selected and taken from their families to become Black Widows.
Brainwashing and mind control techniques were used, and following a near-death experience, he even turned his own daughter into a brainwashed super-assassin.
He kept his work hidden on a sky ship and the girls under control with Red Dust. They were also programmed to be unable to hurt him.
Fortunately, Natasha Romanoff was able to break her programming and finally bring an end to him and the program.
10. Killmonger – Black Panther
N’Jadaka was exiled from Wakanda as a child when T’Chaka killed his father for trying to murder Zuri and for betraying the nation.
He became Erik Stevens, a United States Navy SEAL so ruthless that he became known as Killmonger.
Killmonger wanted revenge and was determined to remove his cousin T’Challa from the throne and use the might of Wakanda to gain control of the world.
He would use that control to avenge all the people of African descent abused over the years.
He managed to infiltrate the city, kill Zuri, and seemingly defeat T’Challa to become the new ruler of Wakanda and the new Black Panther. But T’Challa managed to stop his cousin and restore order.
9. Red Skull – Captain America: The First Avenger
Red Skull was born Johann Schmidt, a Nazi, which is already a pretty dire back story for a villain.
He was treated with a super-soldier serum to enhance his strength, but the serum was not yet perfected, and he became hideously deformed.
But Red Skull quite liked his new visage and his power and went about looking for powerful objects that would help him realize the ambitions of his organization HYDRA. It took another super soldier, Captain America, to stop him.
Red Skull was transported off the Earth when he touched the Tesseract with his hands. He found himself in Vormir where he became trapped in purgatory as a guide for those seeking the Souls Stone.
When Thanos took the stone, Red Skull was freed from his purgatory. Who knows where he is now.
8. Loki – Thor (various) & The Avengers (various)
Loki is a villain that you just can’t hate, and you are often rooting for him to get his way or have a change of heart and decide to help the heroes, as he often does.
He is a frost giant that was raised by Odin as one of his sons in Asgard, but he never felt at home or adequate.
For this reason, he thwarted Thor’s coronation as the successor of Odin and had him expelled from Asgard. Loki himself then became ruler when Odin entered the Odinsleep.
After being exposed, Loki continues to make mischief, allying himself with Thanos and then helping the Avengers to fight him.
His unpredictability is what makes watching his actions unfold so exciting. That and his effortless wit.
7. Ronan the Accuser – Guardians of the Galaxy & Captain America
While the Kree Ronan is another follower of Thanos, he has his own fanatical agenda that includes genocide.
First, he tried to secure the complete annihilation of the Skrull, threatening to drop a warhead on Earth to kill the last refugees there. He was stopped by Captain Marvel, but he was not defeated.
As an ally of Thanos, he went in search of an Orb. When he discovered the power stone inside, he kept it for himself rather than pass it to his master.
During the course of getting the stone, he was attacked by Drax the Destroyer on Knowhere. He made this formidable warrior look like an annoying child.
The fanatic terrorist tried to use the power stone to wipe out the planet of Xander but was stopped by the Guardians of the Galaxy.
6. Ultron – Age of Ultron
One of the things that makes Ultron such a devious villain is that it doesn’t take a huge imaginative jump to imagine something like Ultron really being created.
Ultron is an A.I. created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner for a Peacekeeping Program using a code derived from the Mind Stone.
But once activated with the mandate to protect the Earth from all threats, Ultron quickly recognized humans as Earth’s biggest threat.
As well as controlling computers around the world via the internet, he created an incredibly strong body for himself that could only be defeated by a team of Avengers, including Wanda and a newly minted Vision.
Read more: Which is Stronger, Adamantium or Vibranium?
5. Ego – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
It doesn’t get much more powerful than a Celestial being who can simultaneously take human form and the form of a planet and control all the energy and matter around him.
He is one of the few beings in existence than can handle the infinity stones.
But the man was also a nutter, with plans to remake the universe by causing a massive extinction-level event and then planting new seeds on planets to extend himself.
He knew that this would require two celestials, which is why he traveled the universe impregnating people.
Not all of them took his celestial DNA, and the ones that didn’t, he simply killed.
4. Surtur – Thor: Ragnarok
Surtur is a Fire Demon named in prophecy to be the destroyer of Asgard. Consequently, Odin defeated the giant and weakened him by the removal of his Eternal Flame, which Odin kept safe in Asgard.
When Odin went missing, Surtur decided to try and take Asgard but was defeated by Thor.
However, when Hela turned up and proved too much for the god, Loki reunited him with the Eternal Flame, restoring him to full force.
Surtur went on to destroy an evacuated Asgard, Hela, and himself in an apocalyptic event that would change the nature of the universe.
3. Thanos – The Avengers (multiple) & Guardians of the Galaxy
Thanos was one of the warlords from the planet Titan determined to control and conquer the galaxy.
He destroyed the populations of entire planets and would adopt promising children from those worlds as his children and train them as warriors, such as Gamora.
He enhanced his power further by obtaining all of the infinity stones and combining them into a Gauntlet that would allow him to control reality itself.
His mission was to restore balance to the universe by wiping out half of all living things.
Thanos was successful, using the Snap to change reality and then destroying the stones to ensure that it could not be undone. The Avengers were forced to change time to restore half of existence.
2. Hela – Thor: Ragnarok
The Asgardian gods are among the strongest beings in existence, and Hela is stronger than most.
She was the eldest daughter of Odin, who created her to help him conquer the nine realms. But while he eventually wanted peace, the goddess of death that he created could not be appeased.
Odin banished Hela to stop her murderous rampage and hid all knowledge of her existence. Even her younger brother Thor did not know about her until she broke out of her prison and returned.
She destroyed Mjolnir, which was once her weapon, and killed most of the Asgardian warriors.
Thor was able to fight her after receiving a power boost, but even he could not defeat her. This was left to Surtur.
1. Dormammu – Doctor Strange
The most powerful Marvel villain is Dormammu, a primordial inter-dimensional entity that rules the Dark Dimension and has the power to consume worlds in other dimensions. That alone makes him the strongest villain that our Marvel heroes have faced (so far).
Doctor Strange was unable to defeat this pretty much omnipotent being. Instead, he trapped him in an endless time loop. Here Dormammu kills Doctor Strange over and over again.
Perhaps when he gets bored, he will find a way to escape his time prison. Maybe then he will finally consume the earth and place his Dark Dimension in its place.
What do you think? Do you agree with our assessment of the various villains?
Want to know which Marvel characters you share personality traits with? Explore the MTBI personality profiles or your favorite MCU characters.