All The Marvel Big Bads, Ranked By Badness

This past weekend saw the release of Marvel's Black Panther and the debut of Michael B. Jordan's striking new villain. So you know what that means: it's time to update our Marvel villain ranking.

If you're still reading, there are two things to keep in mind regarding this particularly ranking of Marvel's bad guys. One, I'm judging them all based on Personality and Plan Points. How magnetic are they? How stupid is their plan for world domination (or whatever else they're seeking)?

Two, Thanos isn't on it because he doesn't count. He's not a villain; he's a Postmates customer with the munchies. I'm sure we're all looking forward to Infinity War, when he can legitimately join this list.

marvel villains ranked abomination

18. Abomination – The Incredible Hulk

Personality: 9/20

Plan: 1/20

Total: 10/40

You earn bonus points if you don't have to Google the name of the guy who becomes Abomination. Tim Roth's character might as well have been called "Third Act Fight Thing." He's desperate to get 'roided out, then he does, and half the concrete in the city gets crushed. The plan is to punch stuff.

marvel villains ranked malekith

17. Malekith – Thor: The Dark World

Personality: 8/20

Plan: 5/20

Total: 13/40

No doubt this is at the bottom of the pile. Christopher Eccleston does his level best (and I'll break my wrist if I have to type about how, at least, the actor they cast was stellar for just about every MCU bad guy), but this Dark Elf is flat as the Bifrost. His plan is also marked solely by the brute force hammering that comes with blind revenge.

marvel villains ranked whiplash

16. Whiplash – Iron Man 2

Personality: 6/20

Plan: 9/20

Total: 15/40

After The Wrestler, you could have bet easy money that Mickey Rourke was about to launch a second chapter that would keep him steadily working in commanding roles. You would have lost that money. His turn as Ivan Vanko is a mumbling mess, even though the character earns some credit for the tenacity of his vengeance. He not only outsmarts Justin Hammer, he makes a formidable opponent for Iron Man by outsourcing the fight to remote controlled suits – a move that Iron Man would copy for Iron Man 3. His plan is actually fairly shrewd: exploit the greed of one enemy of your enemy to get the tools necessary for your blood-deep hatred to take down its target.

marvel villains ranked ultron

15. Ultron – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Personality: 15/20

Plan: 2/20

Total: 17/40

It's by sheer force of James Spader's charisma that Ultron doesn't appear at the very bottom of the scrap heap. It's possible this character existed only to calm Elon Musk's nerves about creating the nano-technology that eventually kills us all. Ultron is meant to be an unfathomably intelligent A.I. that wants to destroy all humans (because reasons), and he goes about it in the dumbest, most convoluted fashion possible because lifting an entire city is more cinematic than hanging out in a robo-bunker and launching all the world's nukes while destroying all the money in the banks. Clearly the stupidest omnipotent robot since Eagle Eye.

marvel villains ranked darren cross

14. Darren Cross – Ant-Man

Personality: 10/20

Plan: 10/20

Total: 20/40

As far as corporate baddies go, Corey Stoll's character makes a beeline for the middle. He's essentially a retread of Obadiah Stane with a little Abomination roid rage thrown in for good measure. His plan also earns (and loses) points for its simplicity. He wants to build a thing and sell it. That's literally the whole plan. Obviously it helps that the thing is a powerful weapon, and he's amoral enough to sell it to the highest bidder, but as far as dastardly machinations go, it's more checkers than chess.

marvel villains ranked kaecilius

13. Kaecilius – Doctor Strange

Personality: 15/20

Plan: 7/20

Total: 22/40

Mads Mikkelsen's turn as the apprentice gone to the dark side ("You were supposed to be the Chosen One!") is thrilling to watch because he makes a Hannibal Lecter-sized meal of every scene he's in. He's got chops, he's a competent and demanding combatant...and his plan to destroy the world should have been written in crayon. Seriously? Seize an untold amount of power, hobble an ancient group of protectors, and then hand over power to...a neon magic mushroom trip that feeds off your life energy for eternity? Even someone starving for immortality has to recognize that the juice wasn't worth the squeeze on that one.

And where's Dormammu on this list? It's not. It's whatever the evil version of a Deus Ex Machina is. Diabolus Ex Machina, maybe. Rolling in at the last minute to be invincible except for the one vulnerability Strange can use. Plus, branding it a "villain" isn't fair. It's just trying to eat worlds and live its life until Strange gets in the way. Too bad we don't get to know it more.

marvel villains ranked justin hammer

12. Justin Hammer – Iron Man 2

Personality: 14/20

Plan: 10/20

Total: 24/40

It may seem unfair to rank Hammer higher on the list than the dude who outwitted him, but Sam Rockwell boosts him up the chain with an extra dose of self tanning spray. His plan is on par with Cross's (build weapons and sell them!), and Rockwell brings a dancing, cringing levity to the overstuffed movie. He was a funhouse mirror of Tony Stark's bravado; the guy who holds his second place trophy higher in the air than the champion. He's a joy to watch who probably would have gotten away with it if he hadn't needed a mad genius to get him across the finish line.

marvel villains ranked red skull

11. Red Skull – Captain America: The First Avenger

Personality: 13/20

Plan: 14/20

Total: 27/40

Like a Nazi, but somehow worse. Hugo Weaving sneers wonderfully through the creepy red prosthetic to give life to an old comic book character that magnified the Nazi mission, stole an ancient artifact that grants untold powers (without ever having to battle Indiana Jones), and utilized Hitler's resources until double-crossing him. Hitler! Double-crossing Hitler. If we hadn't injected a scrawny kid with experimental serum, we'd all be hailing Hydra right now.

marvel villains ranked killian

10. Aldrich Killian – Iron Man 3

Personality: 14/20

Plan: 14/20

Total: 28/40

Tony Stark has a habit of accumulating people from his past who want to kill him because he mocked them, dismissed them, or indirectly killed their family members. Enter Guy Pearce's portrayal of clever sophisticate trying to perfect his own super soldier formula. He's a smarter version of Justin Hammer, and while Hammer was playing checkers, Killian was playing three-dimensional, holographic chess. His plan involved hiding in plain sight behind the fabricated terrorist, The Mandarin (who also won't appear on this ranking because Trevor Slattery was just an actor trying to keep his SAG health insurance). He also has the Vice President of the United States in his pocket and plans to assassinate the POTUS in order to become the de facto leader. Hell of a calculus at work, all brought down by an army of Iron Men and a super-powered Pepper Potts.

marvel villains ranked ronan

9. Ronan the Accuser – Guardians of the Galaxy

Personality: 17/20

Plan: 12/20

Total: 29/40

Oh, Lee Pace. You are a national treasure. His intergalactic zealot is a master class in delivering a singularly-focused villain without squashing him into one dimension. He's sharp and threatening, but it's also easy to see why he has dedicated followers, drawn to his magnetism and power. That's why his status as an errand boy for Thanos is irritating. Ronan's plan is straightforward: destroying Xandar would pack a whopping death toll and show of his power, and it's noteworthy that he keeps the Infinity Stone for himself (because screw Thanos). It takes an entire team, an advanced military, and a dance-off to bring him down. A dance-off that Ronan surely would have won if it were legit.

Marvel's Captain America: Civil War Zemo (Daniel Brühl) Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal © Marvel 2016

8. Helmut Zemo – Captain America: Civil War

Personality: 15/20

Plan: 16/20

Total: 31/40

As slick and dangerous as his Inglourious Basterds character, Daniel Brühl does a lot with a little in this movie. After all, he's barely in it. That's the ingenuity of his plan: a multi-layered plot that pits the Avengers against each other with only a slight nudge in the right direction, the code words to control the Winter Soldier, and an American government lusting for control. Like other villains, revenge is his key motivator, but it doesn't seem to cloud his judgement or abilities of manipulation. That revenge offers us some empathy with his character, understanding the cost cast on normal people by a world of heroes and villains who can tear a city from the earth. His infiltration of the prison and interrogation of Bucky Barnes is excellent. It's also proof that (come on, Thanos), if you get other people to fight on your behalf, you gotta get involved at least a little.

Iron Man

7. Obadiah Stane – Iron Man

Personality: 18/20

Plan: 14/20

Total: 32/40

Obviously Stane's master plan is about self-preservation and emerging from the shadow of Tony Stark to take Stark Industries to new heights by unshackling it from corporate responsibility. It's a simple goal, but to secure it, he hires terrorists to kill Tony, and, when that fails, he convinces Tony he's his sole ally on the board, betrays him, steals his tech, and tries to murder him himself. He's both skilled at hiding his true allegiance and flippant enough to tell Tony that he's the one who forced him out of the company. Jeff Bridges absolutely owns the character. A decade later, the tense scene between him and Gwyneth Paltrow after Pepper surreptitiously downloads Stane's files remains one of the best in the MCU. A near-perfect mix of hidden malice, murderous possibility, and disarming charm.


6. Vulture – Spider-Man: Homecoming

Personality: 17/20

Plan: 16/20

Total: 33/40

I don't fully agree with Karen Han that Vulture is the best of the MCU, but he's right up there with the greats. Part of that is owed to the film subverting the typical narrative by giving the standard superhero story to its villain, creating an unparalleled empathetic character who is unfairly beaten down by (who else?) Tony Stark, and who gets into the easy business of being bad in order to save his small world of family and employees. The other major reason Vulture is so fantastic is Michael Keaton, who brings grizzled intensity to the role without ever overselling the melodrama. He's flesh and blood, and only a little crazy. His logic is so sound that you may wonder whether he's really a bad guy at all, and his plan to secure his crew's future by robbing from Stark is beautifully well thought out.

marvel villains ranked alexander pierce

5. Alexander Pierce – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Personality: 17/20

Plan: 17/20

Total: 34/40

While some villains have convoluted plans, Pierce spent years converting S.H.I.E.L.D. into H.Y.D.R.A. right under the gaze of Nick Fury's one good eye. It's an incredible feat, directed at consolidating power, and his ultimate plan of launching roaming Helicarriers to police the world is Orwellian and ingenious – particularly because it blurs the lines between the good guys with guns and the bad guys with guns. The big flaw of his plan is in not properly neutralizing all of the incredibly powerful figures who wouldn't want him to succeed. A weird misstep for a careful villain living in the lion's den. As for Personality Points, it's Robert Redford.

4. Hela – Thor: Ragnarok

Personality: 18/20

Plan: 17/20

Total: 35/40

Nothing but respect for my Queen. Too often, villains end up in a totally different movie than everyone else, but Cate Blanchett makes that look good. Hela is a chilling agent of raw power with delicious lines, a purring delivery, and immensely GIFable side-eye. She balances her status as a mass murderer and as a style icon with grinning ease. As for her conquest of Asgard, her plan to maroon Loki and Thor in a far-off universe, crush an army, and recreate the ancient city in her image works I'd say it's a pretty good one. Points off for lacking a back-up plan for the mountain-sized fire demon.

marvel villains ranked ego

3. Ego – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Personality: 20/20

Plan: 15/20

Total: 35/40

Thanks to Kurt Russell, this character is all personality. He's gotta be, right? You can't have that name and not sell it. It's perfect casting to explore all of Star-Lord's daddy issues because we all want to love Ego from minute one. He's got a unique, fascinating power, and his plan to become the god of the entire universe makes sense if you consider how much time he's got on his hands. He's got one major limitation (he can't activate the terraforming seeds without another Celestial), and he contrives a solution for it that would have worked exactly as planned if Quill didn't have friends to pull him back from the cult-like brink. He – like almost all fictional deadbeat dads – is exactly the dad you want, until you realize that he doesn't actually want you. Or until you realize that he wants to conquer all of existence.

2. Erik Killmonger – Black Panther

Personality: 18/20

Plan: 18/20

Total: 36/40

The mask isn't vibranium, y'all. He's just feeling it. Michael B. Jordan has got swagger on top of his lifetime of pain and loss and anger. He's a bit of a generic impossible soldier as written, but Jordan makes it work, and his familial and ancestral pain is his main focus anyway. Silly name aside, Killmonger has an excellent reason for wanting to reign over Wakanda – one of the few Marvel villains who legitimately has something to teach the hero. Plus, it's rare to see an actor who can rock both the scraggly outcast look and the regal sociopathic ruler style. Like Hela, his plan works like clockwork, so it's clear that years of careful plotting and patience paid off. His only mistake was throwing T'Challa off a waterfall instead of getting visual confirmation of the kill. Don't get too fancy when you're overthrowing a government through single combat, people.

marvel villains ranked loki

1. Loki – Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World

Personality: 19/20

Plan: 18/20

Total: 37/40

The undisputed champion of the big bads. Sorry I'm not ending with something controversial to blow up the comments section. Tom Hiddleston's enigmatic, Shakespearean beguiler has been the gold standard for adversaries ever since he came on the scene. Like a soft-boiled Joker, he's whimsical even as he thirsts for ultimate power. He's willing to cut deals with devils and Hiddleston carries the triumph, impishness, and humiliation with a wink and an eye roll. He always gets high marks for his plans because they make sense and require some artful lying, but he might as well get bonus points for winging it 10% of the time. He adapts, which makes his planning better than any other villain so far. He lives by an old saying that allows him to fight another day. A bright, wonderful light in the darkness of a cinematic universe that often struggles in the villain department.