Ever since the boom of comic book movies in the early 2000s, there’s also been a rise in related media, like TV and video games. While this has been great for the industry in general, it’s also made one thing abundantly clear: Hollywood loves to reuse the same villains over and over again. While fans keep hoping to see deep dives into their favorite hero’s rogues gallery, the people making the movies, TV shows and games keep saying “nope.”
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To be clear, this isn’t a complaint about these particular villains, many of them are great! It’s just that there are so many more options, and it’s time to stop using these characters. There are some that have just been used too many times. Others only needed one or two appearances to show that they don’t translate off the comic book page. For those reasons and others, here are the 15 villains that should never show up on-screen again.
15. DOCTOR DOOM
There have been three theatrical Fantastic Four movies, and despite one being a sequel and another being a complete reboot, all three featured Doctor Doom as the villain. Even Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), which was about Galactus targeting the Earth as his next feast, still managed to make Doom a bigger presence than the planet eater. Even the unreleased Fantastic Four (1994) featured Doom as the bad guy. Every time the Fantastic Four have failed to launch a cinematic series, Dr Doom has been right there with them.
Here’s the thing, Dr Doom is a great villain, and he’s grown from a Fantastic Four villain to torturing the entire Marvel universe since his first appearance in The Fantastic Four #5 (1962) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and is rightfully placed towards the top of most “greatest bad guys” lists. He’s just too big a character to cram into another team’s origin movie. Marvel or Fox need to get a couple of good FF movies out first before even considering Doom again.
14. LEX LUTHOR
Superman’s arch-nemesis is one of the most infamous comic book villains ever. Lex Luthor first appeared in Action Comics #23 (1940) by Jerry Siegel and Joel Schuster, and despite not having any powers other than his incredible intellect, he’s been a constant pain in Superman’s side. There have been multiple versions of the character, whether he’s a mad scientist, a purple and green armored lunatic or a greedy businessman, but the one constant is that no villain is worse than Lex.
Given that, it’s understandable that he’d be a constant presence in the Superman movies. The problem is that it seems like the movies are way too reliant on using him. He’s appeared in every modern Superman movie except for “Superman III” (1983) and Man of Steel (2013). Supes has one of the most colorful and entertaining rogue’s galleries, but the movies always have him facing off against Lex. Even Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) ultimately revealed that Luthor was behind the titular fight, making him the true villain.
As Thor’s adopted brother and the god of mischief, Loki is the perfect foil for the god of thunder. While Thor is all about brute strength and nobility, Loki is a schemer who typically has no honor. While he first appeared in Journey into Mystery #5 (1962) by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby, the character gained mainstream popularity due to his appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where he’s played by Tom Hiddleston. He’s also been a major character in every movie Thor has appeared in, aside from Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).
This is another case of the movie’s being too afraid to move past the hero’s arch-nemesis. Thor is a unique character due to the fact that he’s a mythological figure and a modern day crime fighter. He has villains that come from folk lore, but he also faces off against bank robbers and other earthly evils. Even when Thor is transported to an alien planet to fight as a gladiator in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), the previews have made it clear that Loki is going to be heavily involved.
12. THE JOKER
The Joker is another great villain that Hollywood can’t seem to move past. As Batman’s most well-known enemy, he’s the perfect foil. He first showed up in Batman #1 (1940) by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, and he’s the delightfully evil counterpart to Batman’s stoic heroism. He was famously portrayed by Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989), and didn’t appear in any movies again until The Dark Knight (2008). His presence was hinted at in “Batman V Superman” (2015) before he was fully introduced in “Suicide Squad” (2016). Outside of movies, the Arkham Asylum games have all featured Joker as one of the main antagonists.
Once again, this isn’t a complaint about the character, but enough is enough. Batman, even more than Superman, has one of the most famous rogue’s galleries ever, so it’s time to move past the clown. Another problem with the Joker is that each actor always tries to do something different with the character, which ultimately led to Jared Leto’s bizarre (and controversial) take on the character in “Suicide Squad.” Once an actor has to tattoo the word “damaged” on the villain’s head to make his version stand out, it’s time to retire him for a bit.
11. GREEN GOBLINS/THE OSBORN FAMILY
The Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy featured both Norman and Harry Osborn, played by Willem Dafoe and James Franco respectively throughout all three movies. When the series was rebooted in the Amazing Spider-Man films, the Osborns were heavily featured in the background of the first movie and both made appearances in the second movie, where Harry ultimately killed Gwen Stacy. It was also implied that Oscorp was responsible for the death of Peter’s parents, and the failed sequel set up Harry as the ultimate villain behind the planned Sinister Six sequels/spin offs.
Unlike the other villains on this list, Norman isn’t Spider-Man’s most interesting foe. Originally appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #14 (1964) by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, he only targeted Spider-Man because he thought killing the hero would help him make a name for himself in the criminal underworld. It wasn’t until much later on that Osborn was elevated to a major villain, and even then, many of Spider-Man’s best stories haven’t involved him at all.
The opening scene in the very first X-Men (2000) is one of the most powerful in any comic book based movie. A young Erik Lehnsherr is being led into a concentration camp by Nazis when he’s forcefully separated from his family. The trauma of the moment activates his mutant powers, but he’s not strong enough yet to save his mom and dad. This scene perfectly sets up Magneto’s motivation for the rest of the series, and no matter how evil he acts, he’ll always be a somewhat sympathetic villain.
The thing is, the X-Men have other villains. Magneto, who first appeared in X-Men #1 (1963) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, has appeared as a major character in every single X-Men film (not counting the spin offs). Even when the mutants are fighting against another threat, Magneto still ends up stealing the show. He should have a big presence in the movies, but he shouldn’t be as omnipresent as he’s been. Let Mr Sinister, the Brood or the Phalanx take the spotlight. At this point, it would be refreshing if they gave Sauron an entire movie.
Back in 2003, just when comic book movies were starting to take off, Fox released Daredevil starring Ben Affleck. The movie was a decent hit box office wise, but audiences were torn. One of the most divisive points of contention was Jennifer Garner’s portrayal of Elektra. Fox doubled down on her and gave her the starring role in Elektra (2005), which was neither a success at the box office or with fans. After these two movies, Daredevil and his cast of characters didn’t reappear in live action until the release of Netflix’s Daredevil premiered in 2015.
Elektra became a main character in the second season of the show, and was just revealed to be a part of the upcoming Defenders series, co-starring Daredevil. She’s been a big part of Daredevil’s comics since first appearing in Daredevil #168 (1981) by Frank Miller, but it’s possible to tell a Daredevil story that doesn’t include her, like the classic Born Again story arc from 1986. Her arc in the second season of the Netflix show would’ve been fine, bringing her back for Defenders makes it seem like Daredevil can’t exist without her.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hydra is the ultimate villain. They first appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), where they were seemingly defeated during World War 2. They then popped back up Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), where it was revealed that the group had actually infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., and were secretly running the organization. Since then, Hydra has been the go-to group when the movie’s need a shadowy terrorist organization to fight, especially in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
First appearing in Strange Tales #135 (1965) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the comic version of Hydra is one of the most powerful terrorist groups in the Marvel Universe. There are others, however, and the movies should spend more time exploring them. The other major group, AIM, was reduced to a single appearance in Iron Man 3 (2013), and barely resembled the comic book counterpart. While Hydra’s slogan is “cut off one head, two more shall grow in its place,” maybe it’s time to stop growing Hydra heads and kill them with fire.
When it comes to the Ninja Turtles rogues gallery, the Shredder is the first name anyone thinks of. He was the antagonist in the famous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) cartoon, and has been the main villain in four out of six theatrical movies. He didn’t appear at all in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 (1993), and was only mentioned in TMNT (2007). In the comics, he first appeared in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (1984), although he was killed off in that first appearance (which was later retconned).
The problem is that with the Shredder being used so often, that means he’s shown constantly being defeated. He’s obviously supposed to be one of the most intimidating and terrifying opponents the turtles will ever face, and the mere mention of his name should strike fear. Instead, he’s been beaten by the turtles so many times that it’s just getting embarrassing. He’s spent his life mastering the martial arts, and he’s constantly being beaten by teenagers.
When the first X-Men (2000) movie was announced, fans anxiously awaited to see which characters would be chosen to appear from the comic’s huge roster. Mystique, a shape shifting evil mutant, who first appeared in Ms Marvel #18 (1978) by Chris Claremont and Jim Mooney, was an obvious member to include in Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants. She returned in X2: X-Men United (2003) and again in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). When the series was rebooted, she was included as a member of the first X-Men team in X-Men: First Class (2011), and remained a major character in both Days of Future Past (2014) and Apocalypse (2016).
That means that she’s a main character in every single movie in the main X-Men franchise, only sitting out the Wolverine and Deadpool films. While she’s a prominent villain in the comics, this is a bit overkill. She’s appeared in more movies than Cyclops, Rogue and Jean Grey, who are major characters in almost every other version of the franchise. There are so many other mutants to choose from, so Fox needs to give up its weird obsession with Mystique.
After the response that X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) received, it’s unlikely that En Sabah Nur will make live action appearances anytime soon. On one hand, that’s a shame because Apocalypse can be a great villain when done well. On the other hand, it’s time for the various X-Men franchises to move past the powerful mutant. He played a major role in X-Men (1992), and served as the primary villain for many of the show’s ongoing plotlines. Then, in X-Men: Evolution (2000), he served as the primary antagonist for the show’s final season, which was a culmination of multiple ongoing storylines. Even the short lived Wolverine and the X-Men (2009) ended on a cliffhanger revealing Apocalypse to be the next main threat.
Apocalypse made his first full appearance in X-Factor #5 (1986) by Louise Simonson and Jackson Guice, and became a prominent villain during the ’90s. This ultimately resulted in the classic Age of Apocalypse crossover in 1995. The popularity of that crossover seems to have resulted in every TV writer thinking that all things X-Men have to include foreshadowing to increasingly less foreboding ages of Apocalypse.
Since Superman is one of the most powerful superheroes ever, it’s hard to find enemies that can actually pose a physical threat to him. Also being from Krypton, General Zod poses a unique threat since he gains the same power from the Earth’s sun. He appeared as the primary antagonist in both Superman II (1980) and Man of Steel (2013). In the original movie, he survived the destruction of Krypton when he and two of his followers were imprisoned in the Phantom Zone, keeping them off planet when everything went bad.
In Man of Steel, he was the leader of a failed insurrection against the Kryptonian government, and was imprisoned with his entire army in the Phantom Zone. Both versions found their way to Earth, and battled Superman while trying to conquer the planet (or turn it into new Krypton). He’s shown up in the movies twice, and the problem with using him too much is that it begs the question “why does every Kryptonian survivor always end up on Earth?” If Superman gets rebooted again, it’s time for him to fight a non-Kryptonian.
3. THE LEAGUE OF SHADOWS
In Batman Begins (2005), Bruce Wayne’s path for vengeance led him to Ra’s al Ghul, who plans on having Bruce lead the League of Shadows into Gotham, a city he believes in beyond saving. Bruce escapes the league, returns to Gotham where he discovers that the league has infiltrated almost every aspect of Gotham’s law enforcement and governing bodies. As Batman, he saves the city and Ra’s al Ghul is killed during the fight.
Gotham seems safe until the league returns years later in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), where they are led by Bane and Talia al Ghul. This second appearance didn’t have the same impact as the first. In The Dark Knight (2008), Batman had to deal with the escalation that his appearance caused. Instead of following through on that concept, The Dark Knight Rises went back to focus on a group that existed regardless of Batman. Aside from the story implications, it’s always more interesting to watch Batman fight his more outlandish enemies than group of ninjas.
Sometimes, it doesn’t take that many appearances for a villain to wear out their welcome. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) ended with Lex Luthor creating the monstrous Doomsday by combining his blood with Kryptonian. The monster briefly terrorized the city before Superman killed it with a kryptonite spear, before succumbing to his own wounds and seemingly dying himself. While the finale felt like it rushed through the Death of Superman story, it’s also revealed one of the bigger flaws with Doomsday.
The character was created specifically to kill Superman, so after that, there’s not much to do with him. Also, audiences know that Superman isn’t really going to die, not for real. Instead of shocking anybody, Doomsday killing Superman ultimately underwhelmed because it’s clearly not permanent, especially considering that DC has advertised that Superman will show up in Justice League (2017) and future Man of Steel sequels. Without that, Doomsday feels completely defanged and kind of pointless.
1. EVIL/DARK VERSION OF THE HERO
While this isn’t a specific character, it’s an all too common trend that needs to stop. In Spider-Man 3 (2007), Peter Parker bonds with an alien symbiote, which increases his aggression and strength. Most of the movie deals with a Spider-Man who is acting less and less like himself and more like a villain. When Pete finally frees himself, the symbiote bonds with Eddie Brock. This creates Venom, who has all of Spider-Man’s powers, but none of the responsibility.
The concept of the hero fighting the evil version of himself also appeared in Superman 3 (1983) and Logan (2017), where both heroes literally fought evil clones of themselves. Each of the Iron Man movies deals with Tony fighting another business man/inventor who built a suit of armor (or Extremis) to use for evil. Even The Dark Knight Rises (2012) treated Bane like he was Bruce’s evil reflection, another disciple of Ra’s al Ghul who never broke free. Even the third X-Men movie had the evil version of Jean Grey as one of the antagonists. It’s an obvious plot device that oddly shows up in the third movie of a series, and it’s time for writer’s to move on.
Spider-Man: Homecoming features none of these villains and hits theaters July 7, 2017, so be sure to check it out!