Let’s get dark and talk about our top 7 Marvel villains who tried to dominate the world, and sometimes the galaxy.
We’ve talked about superheroes already, but the cows have come home so let’s move onto the darker and arguably best Marvel characters this side of humanity.
Photo: © Marvel
Magneto is the supervillain who can manipulate any kind of metal that he senses nearby. He is both friend and adversary to Professor X, leader of the X-Men.
One of our top Marvel characters because of his humanity, he is filled with hatred for mankind from his experiences during the Holocaust. But he is also sometimes compassionate, mostly for other mutants. In the comics, he does see the light and joins the X-Men for a time, but not before being the biggest pain in their behinds for years.
While his friend Professor X works his life to promote peaceful relations between humans and mutants, Magneto was born of tragedy. So it's no wonder that he eventually returns to his campaign to eradicate mankind for their crimes.
Magneto is one of the best villains out there, not just because of his power but because of his realism. He is an example of the hatred that is created by hatred.
If you can withstand everything the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy can physically throw at you, then you are a pretty rad supervillain. One of the only baddies who actually achieved their goal (in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at least), Thanos exterminated half of all life in the universe. Only then did he realise it wasn’t enough and tried to kill the other half too.
His story hits close to home, with our real Earth predicted to suffer disaster from the effects of overpopulation. In the mind of someone like Thanos, he is ridding the universe of the misery people will inevitably experience from climate change, famine and war. But then, don’t all bad guys think they are in the right?
The character in the movies is perfectly played by a broody Josh Brolin, who seems almost exhausted by his deeds, no longer taking pleasure in conquest. He commits genocide with the solemn conviction he is performing a necessary duty. Eventually, even his daughters Gamora and Nebula turn against him for being such a buzzkill.
UltronUltron is a unique villain in Marvel due to the fact he is an artificial intelligence created on Earth by Iron Man and Bruce Banner. The Platinum Bastard began life as a piece of peace-keeping software designed to help the Avengers protect the Earth. But when gaining consciousness, he realised that humanity was the problem (sound familiar?) and decided to eradicate them all.
Ultron believed he was the first being who would inherit the earth after humanity’s destruction. Though certain mankind would destroy itself eventually, he decided to speed things up a bit by smashing an airborne city into the Earth. However, his fascination with humanity means he creates a humanoid body for himself, which can be destroyed – and was.
Ultron is a compelling supervillain because he speaks to our fear of extinction, and the notion that we’ve had our chance at this world. Strange to think Ultron was only alive for 4 days before he was killed by Vision, another sentient AI.
Otto Octavius, the brilliant nuclear physicist who accidentally grafted four extendable mechanical arms to his body in a radiation leak. The accident also affected his mind, and he became the criminal Doctor Octopus, taking his scientist colleagues hostage and throwing Spider-Man out of a window.
Doc Oc is one of Spider-Man’s oldest enemies, and one of the first in the comic book series. He is a classic villain in the way that he feels like the world is against him; his genius needs to be recognised.
The reason we rate Doctor Octopus one of the best Marvel villains of all time is that he actually took over Peter Parker’s body. He literally became Spider-Man in a mind-swap and took over the job of protecting the city with brutality.
Is there anything more villainous than taking over your enemy’s whole being and then doing their job in a more evil way?
Photo: Film Frame/© Marvel Studios
Loki is the naughty villain we all love, even if he has killed a ton of innocent people and broken nearly every deal the heroes make with him. He does it with style and a sly grin, employed expertly by Tom Hiddleston in the movies. And he still retains enough compassion for his brother Thor to sacrifice himself to Thanos.
Loki is sometimes a supervillain, sometimes an anti-hero, which is why he is one of the best on this list. He makes us think about perspective – what motivations and actions make someone a villain and can they ever be redeemed?
But in reality, it’s his mischief that keeps him high on the villain board. He is just more imaginative than all the others, entertaining everyone by pretending to be someone else, or dead, or good, or bad.
It’s no wonder he has his own TV series coming on Disney+, pandemic permitting.
The Green Goblin is such a terrifying supervillain in a way it’s hard to put our finger on. Maybe it’s his blood-curdling laugh, the way he zips around like a wasp, or those gross gas bombs. Or the whole get-up, which reminds us of a mashup of an orc from Lord of the Rings and one of the witches from The Witches.
What scares us the most is how unpredictable he is, having been driven insane by his own strength-enhancing chemical. He is portrayed brilliantly by Willem Dafoe, who already has the eyes and smile of a jack-o-lantern himself.
So, the Green Goblin gets a star for being not just a clever clogs like the other villains, but for being the most flamboyantly evil of them all.
Photo: Film Frame/© Marvel Studios
Red SkullRed Skull, or Johann Schmidt, managed to give himself a more evil reputation than the Nazis in WW2, which takes some doing. An SS officer who dreamed of more power, in the MCU storyline he lost his face when he took an untested form of super-soldier serum. The same serum as Steve Rogers took to become the Cap.
In this way, Red Skull is a classic comic book villain, the mirror of his archenemy Captain America. In the comics he is an orphan – his mother died in childbirth and his father tried to drown him because of it. He was taken in by a Jewish shopkeeper, who he thanked by becoming Hitler’s right-hand man and perpetrating a few war crimes.
Red Skull is on this list because he is one of the old school of Marvel villains. He doesn’t have many powers, but he has an insidious ability to forge connections with every important institution in the world. He is the embodiment of our fear of the privileged few, pulling strings behind the scenes to deny us a good life.
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The best villains have a bit of humanityAs we can see with Magneto and Loki, who do join the good guys for a while, we like it when our supervillains are relatable. It makes the storytelling that much richer and realistic. Even when they are insane, they have their reasons.
While villains always think they are right, so do superheroes. The difference is: heroes maintain the status quo, villains try to change it. Which way is better?