From Jeff Bridges’s cunning Obadiah Stane to Josh Brolin’s powerful and indomitable Thanos, the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced us to some of the best live-action portrayals of famous Marvel villains, who have left a massive impact on the cinematic art form. Powered by compelling CGI work and strong acting/voice performances, Ultron and Hela’s likes shall remain among the top movie villains.
But unfortunately, many of these villains never got the mainstream place in the story. Despite having a great comics background, these villains either perished or were just cast aside somewhere along the way without exploring their utmost potential. Here, I discuss ten such.
10. Darren Cross/Yellowjacket
Which villain can turn you into a glob and then wipe you off the floor and flush you down the toilet? Darren Cross (played by Corey Stoll) was one of the best-paired villains with the MCU’s superhero counterpart.
Plus, the dope Yellowjacket suit and the final fight with Ant-Man were so aesthetically and accurately shot (they fought in a briefcase AND on a Thomas the Steam Engine rail-model) that it seemed the perfect comic-action adventure we were waiting for in the MCU. But Darren was either killed or sent to the quantum realm in the final confrontation with Scott Lang. He might not be dead, but there’s no sign of him returning to the MCU anytime soon.
9. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell)
Alright! Before you judge me, let me admit, Hammer isn’t the typical supervillain you’d imagine taking on Iron Man. Most people don’t know that the earlier plans for Ironman (2008), before Jon Favreau’s involvement, had Hammer as the antagonist, donning the War Machine armor.
Despite this, Sam Rockwell did good justice to the role. His version had a comic approach towards the evil, and he acts as a mercenary sponsor to take out his competitors. Even in the presence of a large and more significant ensemble, Sam Rockwell killed it with his wicked and witty sense of humor, and hence, he deserved a second shot.
In case you think otherwise, watch his cameo in the Marvel One-Shot, All Hail the King, and you’ll know why he deserves to be brought back.
8. Lt. Gen. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt)
William Hurt’s portrayal of Thaddeus Ross was as remarkable as Jeff Bridges’s Obadiah Stane in the previous installment of the franchise Iron Man. We had a famous Marvel comics character with a great potential to lead a sequel to The Incredible Hulk as his alter-ego, Red Hulk. That’s right, as per the comics, Ross takes on the role of villain Red Hulk, fighting Bruce Banner, man-to-man.
But, the only way we got Ross back was as a heart-attack survivor, now American Secretary of Defense. And to make matters worse, we never saw our new Hulk, Mark Hamill, confront his arch nemesis and father of his lover. I won’t blame Marvel completely for this, as Marvel is yet to get the Hulk film rights from Universal Pictures. Ross was a true villain in The Incredible Hulk, and he deserves a more significant presence in the MCU. William Hurt will reprise his role again in Black Widow, but I guess we will never see Red Hulk fighting Hulk ever.
7. Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo)
Grillo did a great job in the limited screen time he got in The Winter Soldier. While his performance mostly included hand-to-hand combat sequences and action, Rumlow looked like a promising villain once his dark side was revealed. And then, when it was announced that he was returning for the Civil War, and as Crossbones, it was just perfect. I mean, Rumlow was never in competition against Captain America, but Crossbones? He could have kicked his arse.
But thanks to the writers’ ignorance, Crossbones was used as a medium of enforcing Sokovia Accords (a plot which was blown to hell in a two-year off-screen span after the Civil War). The writers even chose to neglect Rumlow’s transformation into Crossbones (which they did to Hulk as well! Seriously?). The last we saw Rumlow was in a flashback/time-travel cameo in Avengers: Endgame, and unfortunately, that was it for him.
6. Samuel Sterns/The Leader (Tim Blake Nelson)
He’s just not the underused villain; he was the villain we never saw despite a good hint left about him. Samuel Sterns was the scientist whom Bruce Banner meets in the hope of finding a cure to his “condition.” Blonsky later forces Sterns to inject him with Banner’s blood, turning him into Abomination. In a clever signal, The Incredible Hulk had a scene where Sterns gets some of Banner’s blood too via a wound in his head, as he starts turning into The Leader.
The Leader is one of the most iconic villains in Marvel comics and has a long-lasting enmity with the Hulk. His powers include genius intellect, superhuman abilities, and psionics. People still love the idea of a Hulk sequel, but due to the Universal Pictures copyright troubles with Hulk, Marvel has never been able to pull off anything unique for Hulk within MCU. For now, The Leader lies somewhere in a S.H.I.E.L.D. prison in the cinematic universe, waiting for his on-screen debut.
5. Thanos (Josh Brolin)
Thanos turned out the most deadly villains ever in the MCU. A villain who was not motivated by personal greed but obsessed with his own sense of judgment and justice. Thanos was always the true villain of The Infinity Saga being teased since the first Avengers movie. It was not until Infinity War that he got a mainstream place in the story. And it was a blast! His presence made Infinity War the greatest superhero ensemble ever (even better than Endgame).
What bothered me was his final fate. Thanos has several stories in the comics for his character to be kept alive. Interestingly, in the Infinity Gauntlet edition, Thanos leaves his dream of a balanced universe behind and retires in The Garden. Endgame was a fantastic film, but killing Thanos was probably not the best idea. Marvel spent two phases building the infinity stones storyline in the background and indicating Thanos as the master villain. Don’t you think it wasn’t just time?
4. Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving)
A Nazi, an evil but intelligent scientist, a super-soldier, and a man hell-bent on destruction. Plus, he has a scary face. Johann Schmidt was the epitome of villains in the MCU and is the most compelling one of them all. The best part – he has the vastest background.
He’s been around since the 1910s, and he established the Hydra plot, which has continued even in Marvel’s television productions. And the dude was a true villain. Now, I know he isn’t really gone (he re-appeared in Infinity War, this time played by Ross Marquand), but to bring him back when he can’t be used in the main plot was an injustice to the character. And given the next line of films in the MCU, he is less likely to appear until Phase 4 is complete.
3. Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal)
So here’s how the decision of Mysterio’s storyline must’ve gone:
Writer: So let’s get some iconic Spiderman villain for the sequel. How about Mysterio?
Marvel Exec.: Awesome, we can have a great actor to fill in the role. We can give him a unique background.
Writer: I was thinking, let’s link his existence to some previous film. This way, we can prove in retrospect that MCU has a whole Spidey-Universe in itself. Plus, I’m thinking of approaching Jake Gyllenhaal for the part.
Marvel Exec.: Great! We will have the potential to introduce Sinister Six in the future Spiderman films. Which Beck will be a part of, and we’ll throw in Keaton’s Vulture too.
Writers: No, there’s a better idea. We’ll kill him in the end!
Mysterio could have been the key to a major Spiderman cross-over. With Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness in the making and Benedict Cumberbatch starring in Spiderman 3, it could’ve opened a live-action Spiderverse with Mysterio in the picture. We know that Vulture exists, Scorpion (Mac Garvin) has been introduced. Donald Glover played Aaron Davis, who dons the Prowler mantle among Spidey villains, and since Davis is there, Miles Morales exists in the MCU. Plus, the Kingpin is already in place in Daredevil, played by Vincent D’Onofrio. Unfortunately, Mysterio is dead, and we can just pray or hope for his return.
2. Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis)
Watching Andy Serkis’ unhinged but intelligent Klaue was a thrill in The Age of Ultron and Black Panther. Klaue was the main instrument in setting up Black Panther and the Wakanda plot, introducing the audience to the “hidden vibranium” in The Age of Ultron. Plus, it was pretty amazing to watch Serkis, showing off his mesmerizing acting talent.
However, Klaue was killed in the middle of his second appearance in a lousy shootout, only to be further used by Killmonger as a “gate pass” into Wakanda.
Klaue could have been more than an arms dealer. His traits, such as his egoistic attitude, craziness, cunning accent, and his sonic cannon arm, could have become some interesting plot points in the franchise’s future films. Especially when Marvel is bringing Fantastic Four, Klaue’s other arch enemies from the comics, to life, Klaue could have shone better on the big screen. Unfortunately, he remains underused.
1. Ultron (James Spader)
So you plan on getting the Avengers to clash with artificial intelligence, a robot; you get him voiced and performed by James Spader, make him completely invincible, and then kill him. If you remember the movie, Ultron could’ve defeated the Avengers without a battle if Vision hadn’t just shut him out. Just like that! It’s unimaginable how challenging it would’ve been to create a villain like Ultron. An evil intelligence who practically doesn’t need a body other than to intimidate his enemies. He is wiping floors with the Avengers’ arses; plus, he gets this cool, wicked sense of humour inspired by Tony Stark. It is said that Ultron remains a one-film wonder.
Many theories support Ultorn’s existence in the current MCU. And since he was powered by one of the infinity stones, there is a high possibility he survived the Battle of Sokovia. I still remember the Avengers Assemble animated-series scene, where Ultron reveals himself to consume all power of six infinity stones, leaving the team baffled. I wouldn’t mind watching it on-screen with Spader returning to portray the role.
Several more villains are not used properly in the MCU storyline. Malekith, for instance, could’ve been better, but now, I guess he’s dead for good. If Marvel hadn’t announced The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Zemo would have been at the top of my list. Zemo is the most real villain in the MCU. While other villains fought against the Avengers’ united team (which makes them strong), Zemo broke them from within, the only villain who successfully “defeated” the Avengers by playing on their emotions rather than strength. Children of Thanos could’ve had a more significant role, especially Ebony Maw. Nevertheless, while I wait for the other villains to show up again, I mourn the loss of these ten.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.