With the sheer volume of comic book villains, there have been some heavy hitters. Here are the best.
You know what they say, the hero is only ever as good as its villain. While this is true, there have been plenty of times when the villain has overshadowed the movie's protagonist, making its maniacal antagonist the star of the show. Sure, with the sheer number of comic book movies releasing each and every year for well more than 40 years, there have been way more irritatingly boring villains that we try so incredibly hard to forget. But occasionally, there rises a villain so memorable, so maniacal, so off-the-wall, and so relatable, that we can’t get them out of our heads. From a mad titan, the many clown princes of crime, and a God of Mischief, there have been some iconic and unforgettable comic book movie villains that simultaneously rank among the best bad guys in cinematic history. So without further ado, let's rank the best comic book villains.
Once a charming and caring science mentor to Peter Parker, Doctor Otto Octavius quickly turns into the villain when attempting to harness the power of the sun, which unsurprisingly goes horribly wrong. From there, Doc Ock robs a bank, attempts to derail a train holding hundreds of pedestrians, and once again attempts to harness the sun's power, which could destroy the world. Yeah, Doc Ock is pretty evil, yet Doctor Otto Octavius is perhaps one of the earliest sympathetic villains in a comic book movie. His robot tentacle arms are unbelievably cool, yet when the inhibitor chip on said arms broke, they were able to access Otto’s nervous system, forcing him to commit acts of villainy against his will.
Alfred Molina is simply incredible in the role, having such a fun time playing the villain, yet giving his character the perfect amount of emotional layers, that forced audiences to adore him.
Family man Adrian Toomes always put his family first, no matter the cost; at least that's what he thinks. After losing his job because of Tony Stark, Toomes travels down a criminal path that eventually turns him into one of Spider-Man’s most iconic villains, The Vulture. Toomes and his gang make a living in arms dealing, mostly by selling alien tech. Again, Adrian Toomes is a villain that fans sympathize with by the end of the flick, making his character far more memorable. Michael Keaton’s performance and Vulture’s poignancy in Spider-Man’s MCU arc, and that shocking twist make Vulture one of the MCU’s best villains. Plus, the MCU managed to make Vulture look practical, believable, and incredibly cool, which deserves many more points, considering his comic counterpart.
Willem Dafoe’s performance as the utterly crazed Green Goblin has become the stuff of legend, and is one of the reasons why Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man is such a classic. After being exposed to the Goblin serum, Norman Osborne, the founder and CEO of Oscorp, inherits a side effect that made Norman insanely dangerous, causing his mind to split in two, creating an alternate persona, The Green Goblin. The Green Goblin burrows itself into Norman’s mind, forcing Norman to kill anything and everything, until he becomes obsessed with destroying the Spider-Man. Lacking the layers of which a more sympathetic villain may hold, Green Goblin is pure evil and is nonetheless, a simply fantastic and maniacal villain, of which we can’t help but love, mostly because of Willem Dafoe’s off-the-wall performance. This made his return in Spider-Man: No Way Home incredibly exciting.
Black Panther was in its own right, a fantastically diverse superhero epic, and the film's main villain, Killmonger, only made the movie far more iconic and added an impactful sense of poignancy to the flick. Played to perfection by Michael B. Jordan, Killmonger returns to his true home of Wakanda in seeking his revenge for the death of his father, killing King T’Challa and becoming the new King of Wakanda. Killmonger made a powerful and strategic entrance, demonstrating his raw strength and cunning ways before he ate the heart-shaped herb that grants him superpowers. Likewise, his motives were relatable, as audiences understood and sympathized with his character, which was only enhanced by Jordan’s raw and impactful performance.
Loki was the MCU’s first real taste of a big bad, constantly popping up to cause mischief in films such as Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok. Sure, Loki has come a long way now and has turned over a new leaf, helping his brother defeat their sister and cause Ragnarok, as well as sacrificing himself for the universe. His time as a villain was no less memorable, and he was a villain audiences immediately connected with, and Tom Hiddleston's dastardly layered and evil performance only helped this. Loki is a villain we will never forget, yet we are incredibly happy that he has pushed his villainess aside, for the greater good.
The leader of the Brotherhood, Magneto, instantly became a fan-favorite, for his super-cool mutant superpower, compelling characterization, and a pitch-perfect performance by Sir Ian McKellen. Behind his evil nature and lack of remorse for his actions against humanity, holds much devastating trauma that McKellen allowed to shine through, giving Magneto a somewhat Shakespearean elevation that no villain ever achieved. While Magneto is undoubtedly evil, he will do anything to protect his own kind, making fans adore his character so much more.
After being built up for six years, fans finally got to witness Thanos in all his mad titan glory. The predominantly evil and relentless titan blew audiences' minds when the Russo brothers not only delivered a villain so heinous, but also so relatable, forcing audiences to understand his logic behind his actions. Thanos' power was unparalleled in both movies, easily fending off Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man, Hulk, and Doctor Strange, proving his raw strength. Likewise, Josh Brolin brought this CG villain to life in ways no one but Brolin ever could. Thanos is the MCU’s strongest villain, at least until Kang the Conqueror arrives.
2008 delivered one of the best superhero movies of all time, The Dark Knight, expanding on Batman’s story in new and interesting ways, as well as introducing audiences to some new villains. One of these villains was Batman’s most iconic villain in his packed rogue's gallery, The Joker. Nolan’s Joker is one of the best-written villains in cinema, portraying his crazy yet methodical crimes in many of the trilogies' best moments, as well as how he accentuates and completes the Batman as a character. Yet, it was Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as the Clown Prince of Crime that made Joker such a memorable villain. His performance is crazed and incredibly entertaining. Any time Heath Ledger's Joker is on-screen, you simply cannot take your eyes off him. While The Dark Knight is a Batman flick, Joker stole the show and turned it into his movie.
Olly is a self-proclaimed film critic and professional nerd, who probably knows way too much about movies ?