There are dozens of movies based on Marvel comic books already, but all of them have a hero's name in the title, even though a hero is nothing without his villain. The comic book giant has an impressive stable of bad guys for filmmakers to choose from, leading to a series of iconic villains and absolute, embarrassing misfires. The Marvel movie villains we've seen so far have been enormously hit-and-miss, so we decided it was time to take stock of who's been done right on-screen, and who's been done a terrible injustice.
So here we present CraveOnline's picks for The 10 Best (and 10 Worst) Marvel Movie Villains, chosen from Marvel Studios films and adaptations produced at other companies as well, because you know what? With a couple exceptions (below), Marvel Studios movies have spent so much time focusing on the heroes - a refreshing change of pace, to be perfectly honest - that many of their villains have been merely decent. Obadiah Stane? He represented the opposite of Iron Man's ideals, but didn't represent all that much of a threat. Whiplash? He's just weird. The Abomination...? No.
And yet despite the incredible disparity between the good X-Men and the bad X-Men movies, that's the franchise that - surprisingly to us - wound the most represented on our lists of both the best and worst Marvel movie villains. It probably helps that they've introduced a lot of villains, but either way, it's an interesting observation. Marvel Studios may have a better track record of quality films, but Fox's X-Men franchise totally dominates the villain landscape, for better and for worse.
But don't waste any more time. See for yourself how the best and worst Marvel movie villains stack up against each other. We poured over every Marvel movie before we made this list, but if you think we missed something please let us know. That's comments and Twitter are for.
10th Worst: Malekith
It just came out, and already we're reeling from the disappointing villain in Thor: The Dark World. Malekith has a regal presence, mostly thanks to actor Christopher Eccleston, but his generic plan (destroy everything) and simplistic motivation (I want to destroy everything) simply makes him a forgettable bad guy.
10th Best: Sabretooth
Liev Schreiber's version of Sabretooth (we'll get to the other one in a minute) is a magnetic antagonist with a believable grudge against the hero. In the otherwise awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Sabretooth is intelligent, threatening and dangerous... everything he was always supposed to be.
9th Worst: Typhoid Mary
There aren't a lot of standout female villains in the Marvel Universe, but one of the best and most popular is Typhoid Mary, a multiple-personality disorder-suffering villain who's as unpredictable as she is violent. As one of the main bad guys in the terrible Daredevil spin-off Elektra, she's barely in the film, utterly disposable, and completely wasted. Natassia Malthe isn't at fault, we blame a script that has no idea who Typhoid Mary is and why she's a classic villain.
9th Best: Doctor Octopus
The question isn't why Doctor Octopus is one of the greatest villains, the question is why he's so low on the list. In Spider-Man 2 he's got an iconic look, a charismatic and sorrowful performance from Alfred Molina, but a lame MacGuffin scheme involving an arbitrary super-science device. He's one of the best movie supervillains, no doubt about that. There just happen to be better ones.
8th Worst: Juggernaut
Ugh... Vinne Jones was actually pretty good casting for the enormous strong guy Juggernaut, but in X-Men: The Last Stand he's trapped in an embarrassing leather bar outfit and spends more time referencing that dopey "I'm the Juggernaut, Bitch" internet meme than doing anything of interest, let alone anything truly villainous.
8th Best: The Red Skull
The Red Skull is a classic villain in every sense: articulate but monstrous, brilliant but evil, and possessed of an overpowering point of view that leads him nearly to world domination. Hugo Weaving is exceptional in Captain America: The First Avenger, confidently bringing a classic World War II pulp villain to life in the modern age.
7th Worst: The White Queen
The otherwise excellent X-Men: First Class made a big mistake when it came to The White Queen, the psychic/diamond seductress of Sebastian Shaw's Hellfire Club. The costume was perfect, the powers intriguing, the performance... was just plain terrible, courtesy of January Jones, who looks the part but fails to embody Emma Frost's intellect or subversive danger.
7th Best: Bullseye
It's not popular to like the Daredevil movie, although CraveOnline has defended it before. Whether you love it or hate it, the problem wasn't Bullseye. His look may have been changed (we're kind of iffy on that forehead scar), but Colin Farrell nailed the homicidal marksman's tunnel-vision: he never misses his target, and goes even more spectacularly insane when Daredevil finally breaks his impeccable record.
6th Worst: Venom
Shoehorned into the second half of Spider-Man 3 and sounding terrible thanks to a baffling decision not to alter Topher Grace's voice to make him sound more threatening, Venom was a disappointment to fans of the villain the world over. But... he was still basically Venom. Our Top 5 Worst Marvel Movie Villains can't even boast this much faithfulness to what made their characters great in the first place.
6th Best: Mystique
Never the main villain of the X-Men movie franchise but always an unexpected, insidious (and sexy) threat, the shapeshifting Mystique became a franchise mainstay thanks to her intriguing powers, unpredictable alliances and a new backstory that indelibly links her to the heroes and villains alike. Whether she's played by Rebecca Romjin or Jennifer Lawrence, Mystique always has an undeniable... air of mystery.
5th Worst: Deadpool
Wonderfully played by Ryan Reynolds in the first half of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and horribly mangled in the second, Deadpool wound up being on the most insultingly poor interpretations of a Marvel character on record. Yeah... Let's make "The Merc with a Mouth" a mute and give him laser vision. We can't honestly imagine why they bothered, and why they shot a potentially amazing spin-off franchise in the foot.
5th Best: The Mandarin
Now we know what you're thinking... not "technically," right? But The Mandarin turned out to be one of the cleverest re-interpretations of any comic book character: a potent combination of every xenophobic fear Americans cling to, an unforgettable reversal, an unpredictable performance by Ben Kingsley, and a connection to the most sprawling and impressive villain plot Marvel movies have ever offered. We say he counts.
4th Worst: Dracula
Woefully miscast, embarrasingly costumed and anything but a threat (his first response to meeting the hero is to flee like a coward), Dominic Purcell's awkward interpretation of one of literature's greatest villains was just one of the terrible decisions made in the abysmal Blade: Trinity. What were they thinking...?
4th Best: Colonel William Stryker
Performed with equal gravity by Brian Cox and Danny Huston in X2: X-Men United and X-Men Origins: Wolverine respectively, Colonel William Stryker is the greatest threat to mutant-kind, in the movies at least. His intricate plans, seemingly unending resources and cruelly logical motivation makes him one of the scariest, most impressive villains ever to grace a superhero film. Or more to the point, two of them.
3rd Worst: Sabretooth
Ah yes, the "other" Sabretooth. Played by Tyler Mane, this confusing, dumb and dumb-looking villain was probably the worst part of Bryan Singer's influential original X-Men. This Sabretooth bears little-to-no resemblance to the original, classic comic book bad guy, and we have absolutely no idea how the genuinely threatening, intelligent Liev Schreiber version ever turned into this.
3rd Best: Harry Osborn
Evolving gradually from an insecure Daddy's boy to a tragic anti-villain to a full blown modern day Iago, the movie version of Harry Osborn was the dark mirror our hero in the original Spider-Man movies. Sure, he's redeemed at the end, but before that his descent into villainy was one of the most intricately chronicled in movie history: believable, emotional, and devastating to Peter Parker, his best friend turned arch-enemy. And that mid-air fight in Spider-Man 3 is awesome.
2nd Worst: Doctor Doom
One of the greatest, grandest villains in comic book history was utterly ruined by Tim Story's first Fantastic Four. Played with zero charisma by Julian McMahon, poorly costumed, limply motivated, unnecessarily superpowered, and possessing one of the weakest schemes in superhero movie history, Doctor Doom has got to go down as one of the genre's biggest disappointments.
2nd Best: Loki
The cult of Loki undeniable and completely understandable. The Norse god of trickery first sprang to life in Kenneth Branagh's Thor as a complex, emotional brother and son whose inferiority complex and identity issues threatened to destroy an entire species. In Joss Whedon's The Avengers he returned to nearly conquer our planet just so someone would love him. In Thor: The Dark World his heart starts beating again, but just long enough to put his most insidious plan in motion. Played with slithering smarm by Tom Hiddleston, Loki has quickly established himself as one of the greatest villains in comic book movie history.
The Worst: Galactus
A cloud? Really? The worst version of any Marvel supervillain on the big screen was this embarrassing non-character, easily dispatched by his own creation, devoid of any proper on-screen presence. In the comics, Galactus is an all-powerful godlike being, doomed to an insatiable appetite for planets teeming with sentient life. In Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer he's... a cloud.
Screw this. Let's move on to the best Marvel movie villain of all time...
The Best: Magneto
The most dangerous thing about Magneto is that he's right: as an oppressed minority, mutants need to constantly defend themselves from humankind. His ideology just goes too far, seducing the victims of anti-mutant hatred and turning his spectacular powers on his oppressors. Motivated, and understandably so, by his family's tragic persecution by the Nazis in World War II, he'll never give up on his quest to prevent the same kind of tragedy from befalling his fellow mutants. Played exceptionally by both Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender throughout the X-Men franchise, Magneto is an immovable object and an unstoppable force; impossible to argue with, and impossible to defeat for very long.