All the Marvel Big Bads, Ranked By Badness

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 immediately…so 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.

Black Panther Characters - Michael B. Jordan

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.

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