Before Avengers: Infinity War's Thanos, a look at MCU's best villains from Killmonger to Loki

FP Staff

Apr,26 2018 16:00:02 IST

This Friday, Marvel Studios unleashes the highly-anticipated Avengers: Infinity War on theatres worldwide, almost 10 years to the day that it introduced movie fans to its ever-expanding comic book world with Iron Man.

In this ultimate superhero mash-up, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Panther, Captain America, Black Widow, Star Lord and all your Marvel favorites assemble to face the mad titan Thanos.

The film earned impressive reviews on Tuesday ahead of what is expected to be one of the biggest box office opening weekends on record.

The Earth's mightiest prepare for an all-out battle with supervillain Thanos (Josh Brolin). "We wanted to tell a story that they weren't expecting, and the story is told from the point of view of a villain, which I think is also really unique and risky for a commercial film," said Joe Russo, one half of the brothers who have directed the movie.

Josh Brolin plays Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Marvel Studios

Josh Brolin plays Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Marvel Studios

In the movie's trailer, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) — Thanos's daughter, of sorts — explains that the villain believes that if he annihilates half of the universe, he can save the other half. He needs the so-called Infinity Stones to do it. So, the heroes need to keep him from getting them.

So, as we look ahead to its worldwide release, here are some other villains who kept our superheroes busy over the last decade or so.

Also read: Before Avengers: Infinity War, here is a list of all Marvel films ranked worst to best

8. Obidiah Stane - Iron Man (2008)

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Jeff Bridges as Obidiah Stane in Iron Man. Marvel Studios

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark (L) and Jeff Bridges as Obidiah Stane (R) in Iron Man. Marvel Studios

MCU's inaugural villain, Jeff Bridge's Obidiah Stane aka Iron Monger, seems like a charismatic, cordial guy on the outside but truly is one opportunistic, diabolical sociopath. He is intelligent and resourceful. He turns from Tony Stark's trusted mentor to enraged foe when he thinks Iron Man's recklessness could impede Stark Industries' success. In order to ensure the company's profitable future and "America's place on the world stage for the next 50 years," he dons the Iron Monger armour and attempts to kill Iron Man. Though his transition from a complex character to a cartoonish villain is rather abrupt, he still makes for a pretty decent villain — especially for the first ever MCU film.

7. Kaecilius - Doctor Strange (2016)

Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius in Doctor Strange. Marvel Studios

Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius in Doctor Strange. Marvel Studios

One of the Ancient One's most gifted students, Kaecilius is one of the most powerful Masters of the Mystic Arts. He not only possesses teleportation and inter-domensional travel abilities, he is also highly skilled in martial arts. But he becomes disillusioned with the Ancient One when she denies him permission to merge different dimensions.

Kaecillius wants to unite our world with Dormamu's timeless dimension in order to alleviate the pain he's suffered from the deaths of his wife and son. He believes doing this could help reunite him with his loved ones. Yes, all too human reasons.

He also thinks the Ancient One is a bit of a hypocrite because she forbids other sorcerers from using Dark Magic while she herself uses the timelessness of the Dark Dimension in order to achieve immortality. He is defeated by Doctor Strange of course and gets absorbed into the Dark Dimension for all eternity. Mads Mikkelsen gives a riveting performance as Kaecilius channeling his inner Hannibal and Voldemort.

6. Hela - Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Cate Blanchett goes full vamp as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. Marvel Studios

Cate Blanchett goes full vamp as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. Marvel Studios

Hela is one of the more cold-blooded villains in the MCU. Thor's long lost older sister was locked away by Odin because she was oh-so-dangerous. But she's a victim of a formulaic, all-too-convenient plot in Thor: Ragnarok. 

An accident occurs that of course releases Hela to the world. She’s really strong, like stronger than Thor strong, and really angry and basically punches Thor into another dimension and she heads off to Asgard to take the throne. Her power is so great that even a hammer-less Thor, Loki, Hulk and company can't stop her but instead, it literally requires destroying Asgard to ultimately beat her at her game. Cate Blanchett goes full vamp as Hela in what is one of the more memorable performances in the MCU canon.

5. Alexander Pierce - Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Marvel Studios

Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Marvel Studios

The US government proved a breeding ground for a deluded extremist in an all too real and prophetic Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The movie was more like a spy, rather than superhero, film with a villain that felt like he was lifted straight out of a James Bond movie.

Alexander Pierce was an operative of the World Security Council and the US Secretary of Defense and secretly spearheaded HYDRA's decades-long infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D.. He used special helicarriers to preemptively assassinate potential HYDRA threats around the world. Oscar-winner Robert Redford almost convinces you with his nefarious plan of a new world order.

4. The Vulture - Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Michael Keaton as The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Marvel Studios

Michael Keaton as The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Marvel Studios

Adrian Toomes is just a blue-collar guy trying to make ends meet and provide a comfortable life for his family. When larger organisations steal business from his much smaller enterprise, he becomes bitter that the world keeps screwing him over and leaving him behind. So, he channels his socialist indignation into an underground arms trade selling high-powered alien weapons littered among the debris across New York City after the events of 2012’s Avengers. So, yes, you do sympathise with him.

When he starts dealing his weapons to trigger-happy criminals and terrorists, the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man takes notice and obviously puts a stop to it. With giant mechanical wings and greed to go with it, the Vulture's villainy is accentuated by Michael Keaton’s layered performance.

3. Helmut Zemo - Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Daniel Bruhl plays Helmut Zemo in Captain America: Civil War. Marvel Studios

Daniel Bruhl plays Helmut Zemo in Captain America: Civil War. Marvel Studios

Unlike many of the other villains on the list, Helmut Zemo does not have heavy armour or some complicated evil plan to take over or annihilate the world. The best thing about him are his motivations are simple, clear and understandable. Having lost his wife and child as collateral damage during the Battle of Sokovia in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he manipulates things behind the scenes to tear up the superhero team inside out. He destroys the very foundation that the Avengers were built upon and their ensuing battle results in, arguably, some of the most spectacular action sequences we have witnessed over the last ten years. So, we have Daniel Bruhl's Zemo to thank for that.

2. Erik Killmonger - Black Panther (2018)

Michael B Jordan as Erik Killmonger (L) and Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa (R) in Black Panther. Marvel Studios

Michael B Jordan as Erik Killmonger (L) and Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa (R) in Black Panther. Marvel Studios

Black Panther's central story pits T’Challa, the Black Panther and king of Wakanda, against Erik Killmonger, the son of T’Challa’s uncle and an American woman, who was abandoned in America, and touches on how and whether the country’s power should be used in aid of black people globally. Killmonger, played by Michael B Jordan, feels his father’s African homeland should arm black people in global uprisings, while T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, questions his country’s history of isolationism but doesn’t want to see global bloodshed or Wakandan imperialism.

In touching on the questions of what’s the connection or displacement among peoples of African descent all over the world, it puts a spotlight on a very real-world issue, one that’s been talked about by academics and activists for a century and more and one that’s had an impact on how Africans and African-Americans have interacted with each other.

The spiteful Killmonger is full of rage, vulnerability, arrogance and misguided radical notions. But he is still relatable and believable. And Jordan sure gives an impressive, nuanced performance.

1. Loki - Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Tom Hiddleston's Loki in a Thor: Dark World promo. Marvel Studios

Tom Hiddleston's Loki in a Thor: Dark World promo. Marvel Studios

Loki has been around since the first Thor movie in 2011 and will be making his fifth MCU appearance in Avengers: Infinity War. This has helped Marvel build him a believable character arc — one that we have since come to empathise with. He may be a devious trickster but for all his sins, he still has heart and a redeemable side to him. Hence, he often faces interesting moral dilemmas that perhaps make him a more appealing antagonist than others.

The biological son of the ruler of the Frost Giants (Laufey), Loki was abandoned to die as a baby for being too small. When he is adopted by Odin and his Asgardian family, it is clear that he never feels like he belongs there. Forever overshadowed by his blond, more heroic brother Thor, he is motivated by an almost childish desire to rebel to merely be noticed. Like he tells his brother, "I never wanted the throne, I only ever wanted to be your equal." In Thor: Ragnarok, Loki even helps Thor defeat the formidable Hela, who intends on destroying their celestial home.

But what also makes the devious and mischevious Loki a great villain are his inside knowledge of his brother and his allies' weaknesses. Sure, his plot to take over Midgard (our world) in Avengers seemed harebrained considering it was against all reason and Earth's mightiest heroes assembled to stop him. Yes, he keeps deceiving his brother from time to time but he is still capable of the occasional surprise like in Ragnarok. As Tom Hiddleston aptly puts it, "He has a broken heart. He is grief-stricken, bitter, lonely, sad, angry, ambitious, jealous and proud — and yet, he has a charm and a playfulness and a mischief.”

Updated Date: Apr 26, 2018 16:27 PM