Every Villain is the Hero of Their Own Story1 of 12
While the Civil War comic book was all about heroes fighting heroes, Scarlet Witch actress Elizabeth Olsen revealed that the story’s film adaptation Captain America: Civil War will have an actual villain at its core. So we started thinking about who the best villains in the entire Marvel Universe are.
But when the writers at Newsarama and Best Shots set out to countdown the best of the best, serious debate about the criteria to be used ensued.
What makes a villain great? His evil deeds? His menacing persona? How many times he's triumphed over his nemesis?
Finally, we settled on an objective ranking system, taking the obvious contenders and ordering them for your consideration.
In the end, some of the choices are clear, while some required a healthy debate. We polled several Newsarama writers to make it as much of a consensus as possible. Marvel's villains are, after all, often as classic and iconic as the heroes they oppose, and many have fan followings in their own right. Without further ado, we present our rankings the ten greatest Marvel villains of all time!
DARK PHOENIX2 of 12
Despite appearing in earnest in only one story arc, the Dark Phoenix (Jean Grey type) was the central villain in what is, arguably, the most iconic X-Men story ever produced. Partially owing to Jean Grey's prior status as a heroine, and to her destruction of an entire galaxy, the Dark Phoenix remains one of the most shocking and effective villains of Marveldom.
More recently, the Phoenix Force itself - though not necessarily it's "dark" aspect - was the catalyst for major shake-ups during Avengers Vs. X-Men, where Marvel's most iconic heroes struggled over whether to destroy the Pheonix or use it as a tool, culminating in Cyclops's corruption at its hands, the re-invigoration of mutant kind, and the death of Professor X.
THE RED SKULL3 of 12
By far the oldest villain on this list, the Red Skull is emblematic of far too many aspects of villainy to list. Never wavering from the Nazi ideals he has espoused since World War II was still being waged, the Red Skull is the absolute counterpoint to Captain America, Marvel's moral center, and provides just about everybody someone to hate.
Red Skull’s biggest moment in recent memory came during Axis, in which Red Skull seized Professor X’s brain, stealing his psychic powers and conquering part of the world. Red Skull’s actions lead to the “inversion” of heroes and villains, seeing them switch sides – an effect still being felt all the way up to, and into, Secret Wars.
GALACTUS4 of 12
Supposedly created when Jack Kirby and Stan Lee pondered what would happen if the Fantastic Four encountered God, the world-eating Galactus quickly became one of the greatest threats ever encountered in the Marvel Universe, often uniting various heroes and even villains when his boundless hunger draws him to the lifeforce rich Earth.
While he appeared in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in a form closer to his Ultimate Universe incarnation, the "real" Galactus is set to appear in The Ultimates, a cosmic-level team book in "All-New, All-Different Marvel." While mainstream audiences may never be able to accept him as a hundred foot tall guy with a "G" on his chest, Galactus remains one of Marvel's most iconic villains.
ULTRON5 of 12
Despite being best known in recent years for the time-spanning crossover Age of Ultron - from which Ultron himself was conspicuously absent for much of it - Hank Pym's ill-fated creation has a history which runs much deeper, and far more deadly than that crossover. In the years since his creation, Ultron has menaced the Avengers time and again, perhaps even becoming their primary nemesis.
Ultron can never be truly destroyed, never truly defeated, owing to his computerized consciousness and nigh-indestructible body. Many non-comic readers got their introduction to Ultron as the villain of this summer’s sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron, played by James Spader.
DOCTOR OCTOPUS6 of 12
Until fairly recently, the long-running but sometimes silly Dr. Octopus might have been considered a B-List villain at best, despite often functioning as Spider-Man's arch-enemy. Under Dan Slott's guidance, Doc Ock earned that title once again, enacting numerous schemes that threatened not only Spider-Man but the entire world, culminating in an act that almost no other villains in Marvel Comics have accomplished - he actually finished off his nemesis.
That's right. As most of you know, Doc Ock's final scheme was transferring his consciousness into Peter Parker's body, trapping Peter's mind in Ock's own dying form. In this feat, he actually succeeded, going on to take over Peter's life, and his role as Spider-Man. Though Peter eventually defeated Dr. Octopus once and for all, and returned to his role as Spider-Man, many of the things Doc Ock did while under the mask are still affecting his life.
THE GREEN GOBLIN/NORMAN OSBORN7 of 12
In recent years, Norman Osborn has caused more trouble under his own name than that of his grinning, cackling alter ego, even taking over as one of America's top cops in Dark Reign, culminating in his comatose body somehow escaping its hospital bed after his defeat at the hands of the Avengers, before he returned to the role of Green Goblin – albeit with a surgically altered face.
But before all that Norman Osborn was secretly the Green Goblin, one of Spider-Man's greatest foes, and not only the man who killed Peter Parker's true love, Gwen Stacy, but also, in his secret identity, the father of Peter's best friend Harry Osborn. Norman Osborn's apparent death at that time lead to several others taking on the mantle of the Green Goblin, and the Goblin's true identity was a mystery for years prior to these events.
THANOS8 of 12
Before catching the briefest glimpse of Thanos in the end credits of the Avengers film, most mainstream audiences probably hadn't even heard of the mad titan. But longtime Marvel readers know him as the cosmic bad-ass who long possessed the reality-altering Infinity Gauntlet, and who slew half the universe, including many Marvel heroes, before his misdeeds were undone.
Thanos threatened the Marvel Universe once again in Infinity - a cosmic event which lead to the current proliferation of the Inhumans in the Marvel Universe.
Next up for Thanos, outside of comics that is, will be as the big bad for the third and fourth Avengers films, collectively titled Avengers: Infinity War. Yeah, he might be moving up in this list soon.
MAGNETO9 of 12
Magneto has straddled the line between hero and villain over and over again since his introduction in the '60's, and his current status quo places him somewhere in the grey area between the two extremes, but in his villainous days Magneto has often been one of Marvel's most ruthless villains. It's Magneto's dichotomy that makes him so compelling, and so effective as a villain. It's hard not to sympathize with Magneto knowing his suffering at the hands of the Nazis, and understanding that his extreme views have often been pursued while attempting to build a future for mutant kind.
Still, it's then almost impossible to identify with Magneto in his role as a mutant terrorist, often undertaking schemes so vile and deadly as to be almost unforgivable. As a character, Magneto also has a higher profile than many of his enemies in the X-Men, having starred in 4 films, and made cameos in others. Still, he’s lately been on the side of the angels, even leading a team of other reformed mutant villains in All-New, All-Different Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men relaunch.
LOKI10 of 12
For many years, Loki was almost the primary villain of the Marvel universe, menacing not just his brother the mighty Thor, but many of Marvel's other big names, even leading to the formation of the Avengers. It is, therefore, appropriate that he also took that role in the Marvel cinematic universe, a turn that has made Tom Hiddleston a star, and made Loki almost more popular among some fans than the heroes he opposes (don't believe us? Let us introduce you to Tumblr...).
Of course, these days Loki has recently been an Avenger himself. In a de-aged body, Loki spent his time traveling between worlds with his comrades in the Young Avengers most recently, a role that has only increased his popularity as a fan-favorite character. He later spun-off into his own series, where he operated as an Agent of Asgard.
Loki of course continued his breakout movie stardom in Thor: The Dark World, and we'll see him on the silver screen again in Thor: Ragnarok.
DOCTOR DOOM11 of 12
Could number one on this list really have been anyone else? Dr. Doom remains not just a fan favorite, but a creeping reminder of the evil that lurks in the Marvel Universe, ready to rear it's head at any opportunity. Doom is the smartest man in the Marvel Universe - yes, even smarter than his hated enemy Reed Richards - but like all great villains, his hubris blinds him to his own potential. Not content with mastering only science, Doom is also one of the most powerful magic users in the Marvel Universe, and was once considered a rival to Dr. Strange for the title of Sorcerer Supreme.
Despite never having received a proper film adaptation in three movie appearances and two separate franchises, Dr. Doom remains a presence in the cultural zeitgeist, his very name synonymous with villainy even to those who don't read comics. While the Doom’s future is unclear, his central role in Secret Wars is proof that, no matter how much the Marvel Universe changes, Doom is a central figure in its development.
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