Since 2008, Marvel has set the gold standard for superhero cinema. Over the course of 15 films, audiences have grown to love characters like Iron Man, Star-Lord, and Captain America. In each film, we’re shown new depths of the characters and learn to love them even more. However, every great story needs a great villain. In this department, Marvel has been lacking. The villains in these Marvel movies are consistently some of the low points of the movies themselves. Marvel is home to many quality villains. The reason why these villains have been lame on screen is unknown. We can only hope that as Marvel continues to build their cinematic empire they will give audiences better on screen villains.
The following list is a ranking of the lamest villains thus far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These characters are only from the films. No villains from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Marvel Netflix shows are present. “Lame,” in the context of this list is being defined as uncool, boring, awkward, useless, or all of those adjectives combined. Some of these characters might have tragic or compelling backstories. Some of them might be fun to watch. But all of them share the common factor of being lame.
In the comics, Thanos is one of the ultimate bad guys of the Marvel Universe. He’s a monstrous villain on a quest across the far reaches of space to conquer the known universe and obtain power through wielding the Infinity Gauntlet. Unfortunately for fans of Marvel movies Thanos has been regulated to sitting in a chair grimacing and making idle threats to more active villains like Loki or Ronan the Accuser.
As of right now, Thanos has been depicted as being all talk and no walk. There hasn’t been any true display of frightening power that could shatter the Earth or destroy the Avengers. There’s still time for Marvel to show that Thanos is deserving of the ultimate Avengers villain. So far, though, he’s just been a lot of hot air.
There’s no doubt that Helmut Zemo is a tragic figure. Zemo’s entire family was killed during the battle between Ultron and the Avengers in Sokovia. After their deaths, Zemo vowed to destroy the Avengers through deceit and in-fighting. His plan revolved around the shadowy nature of the Winter Soldier who was already a lightning rod of controversy that ended up being the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D.
What makes him a lame villain is his lack of follow through. After countless man hours of ruthless planning, killing, and exacting his revenge, Zemo gets the two figureheads of the Avengers, Iron Man and Captain America, to duke it out. Zemo leaves them be instead of finishing the job himself. It’s a blunder normally that is out of character and reminiscent of mustache-twirling villains form pulp serials.
A giant scary looking monster does battle with our hero, a giant green monster. Yawn. Two problems with Abomination. One, the mutation Emil Blonsky goes through has no thematic depth. The Incredible Hulk is an interesting character because he must monitor his anger lest he turn into a raging giant. Abomination is just a massive thing. There’s no depth to the character. A generic, if a little tenacious, soldier gets turned into a monster.
Two, there’s nothing memorable about the design of Abomination. The best villains are memorable characters that stick with viewers. Part of being memorable is having a look or design that sticks with viewers after a movie is over. Abomination is just a brown-gray mass with spiked protrusions. That pales in comparison to a memorable character like Hulk with his green skin, purple pants, and shaggy black hair.
12. ALEXANDER PIERCE
Alexander Pierce spent his whole career as a shill for HYDRA only to falter in the final stages of his plan to overthrow the United States government. Pierce and HYDRA’s plan to plunge the world into chaos runs into a few snags when Nick Fury and Captain America start digging around into Project Insight. How does a guy like Pierce, so brilliant at his job that he can turn down a Nobel Peace Prize, mess up so badly?
It’s almost absurd how quickly Pierce’s plan falls apart once people begin to suspect what he’s doing is evil. His mistake was to activate the Winter Soldier to take down Captain America. How did Pierce not know that the Winter Soldier was Bucky Barnes, best friend to Captain America? Pierce was one of the figureheads in the intelligence community. You have to know that the power of love and friendship would persevere.
11. ARNIM ZOLA
Arnim Zola’s lameness spans decades. He was first a scientist working under the thumb of the Red Skull. Zola was a sniveling lackey of the Red Skull. Zola acted like a small shaking puppy while experimenting on the Tesseract to create new weapons for HYDRA. He may have been sympathetic to audiences if he were working for Red Skull under duress. However, it was made clear that Zola had aspirations of ruthlessness when he ordered dozens of soldiers to kill Captain America.
The second half of Zola’s lameness is that he got turned into a computer. He didn’t get turned into a cyborg or android. He got turned into a computer. Not only that, but also when he was turned into a computer, the technology was primitive. His supercomputer brain had to be housed in a massive underground bunker that probably has the computing power of a modern cell phone.
What makes Darren Cross, a.k.a. Yellowjacket, so lame is that he is obsessed with other people’s work. Specifically he’s obsessed with Hank Pym’s work on shrinking objects. Cross was a prodigy who graduated M.I.T. at 20 years old. He could have had a long and prosperous career if he had not obsessed over Hank Pym’s work. Instead, he ended up murdering a fellow employee and donning his Yellowjacket suit to become a supervillain. All this because he couldn’t come up with his own ideas to work on.
Cross is the type of villain who makes audience’s blood boil. Not because he’s particularly evil or deranged. It’s because he’s an avatar of all the backstabbing, ineffectual, and downright scummy people in the world. He’s lame because in a universe like Marvel’s, there’s so many other exotic heroes and villains. Cross is just a crummy guy.
A tall golden goddess who is the leader of the Sovereign, a race of genetically perfected people. While Ayesha’s title is that of Golden High Priestess, her title should be Drama Queen. Ayesha and her people are an entire race of rich, privileged bratty kids. Ayesha’s entire character arc in the movie is that she throws a temper tantrum.
We see so little of the Sovereign’s society in the movie that it makes one wonder how Ayesha can continue to be in power if all she does is stomp her foot. Furthermore, her plans to seek revenge against the Guardians of the Galaxy fail time and time again. She’s not a good leader with any sort of skills good enough to lead her people. Twice she simply sends her fleet of ships to attack the Guardians in an attempt to overwhelm them by sheer numbers.
Kaecilius may have had a tragic past that led him down a path to being a dark sorcerer. However, what makes him lame is the lack of clarity in what his mission was to accomplish. He wants to convert the entire universe into the Dark Dimension. But what about after that? What’s his plan? The lack of true definitive purpose makes him a weak villain, rather than a strong one with a clear agenda.
In the end, it’s a bit hilarious how quickly Kaecilius’ master turns on him. In an instant Kaecilius is whisked away from our plane of existence. Doctor Strange didn’t even have to defeat Kaecilius in battle! For all of Kaecilius’ planning and destruction, he committed against the three Earth sanctums he is unceremoniously ejected from our reality. That certainly signifies a lame villain.
7. BARON STRUCKER
Baron Strucker was introduced in a post-credits sequence in Captain America: The Winter Solider. We see that he is a HYDRA leader and he claims that HYDRA agents are still all around the globe. Inside his secret base he holds Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch hostage. It’s a tantalizing introduction to a character. Everyone’s interest was piqued, waiting to see who this new villain was and how much of a threat he would be to the Avengers.
Turns out, he wasn’t much of a threat at all. In the opening sequence of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Strucker is captured by the Avengers on one of their missions to get rid of HYDRA. We don’t get much of a glimpse of Strucker’s personality or his villainous ways. When the android Ultron goes live, he easily murders Strucker.
6. THE MANDARIN
On paper, Mandarin is the single least effective villain on this list. After all, he’s not even a real villain. Taken at face value, the Mandarin is a villain with a lot of style and flair. He induces fear in the public by releasing frightening videos with bold proclamations of impending violence. No one in the world knows who he is or what acts of terror he’s about to commit.
Of course, it’s revealed that this version of Mandarin is actually an actor with a drinking problem. It’s supposed to add moment of levity to the movie. However, Iron Man fans felt cheated because Mandarin is one of Iron Man’s greatest foes. Marvel even backtracked for the actor-in-character angle with the release of a short movie that suggested a real Mandarin was in fact in the MCU.
5. ALDRICH KILLIAN
Aldrich Killian starts off as a lame, greasy, awkward scientist trying to impress Tony Stark. After being rejected, he spends a fortune to become a dashing looking businessman and the founder of Advanced Idea Mechanics. On the surface, he turned his life around to better himself and the world around him. But, like the other businessmen on this list, his metamorphosis was to seek revenge.
What makes him lame is that his Extremis formula to enhance soldiers and repair wounds is so hilariously faulty. That the Extremis formula fails so much is what tips off Tony Stark to investigate Killian. In the end, only Killian is able to tap into the Extremis the way he wanted, and by that point there’s an entire army of Iron Man suits to stop him.
4. JUSTIN HAMMER
Justin Hammer is a dopey Tony Stark wannabe. He tries to have the swagger and coolness like Stark but comes across as desperate. His skills as a businessman and inventor are laughable. He became obsessed with creating replica Iron Man suits but they failed catastrophically. One suit severely damaged the pilot. Another one was taken out by a small rebel army even though Hammer assured investors his drone suits couldn’t be shot down.
Hammer’s obsession with besting Tony Stark led him down a path of recruiting Ivan Vanko, also known as Whiplash. Hammer, naturally, was almost immediately outsmarted and betrayed by Whiplash. In the end, Hammer was arrested by the FBI. All of Hammer’s schemes, weapons and technology failed miserably because he tried so hard to be Tony Stark but couldn’t help but be lame.
3. OBADIAH STANE
Back in 2008, no one could have guessed that Obadiah Stane would become the template and forefather for all the lame businessman villains that would permeate the MCU. In the movie, Stane is characterized as being Tony Stark’s mentor who eventually turns on Stark in pursuit of the arc reactor technology that powered the Iron Man suit.
Like the other businessmen on this list, Stane is easily agitated, jealous, and turns to villainy when he cannot get what he wants. In the end, he creates his own inferior suit that cannot compare to the one Stark made. The only true lasting legacy Stane has had on the Marvel Cinematic Universe is becoming a meme on the internet. “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps!”
Whiplash is a lame villain because his suit is dumb and impractical. The first iteration of Ivan Vanko’s suit leaves most of his body exposed to the elements. His head, chest, arms, and legs are all open to attack. In fact, during his first battle with Iron Man, Vanko was easily defeated because of how impractical his suit and electric whips were.
Vanko spent years upon years seeking revenge against the Stark family. In all that time, he couldn’t think of a weapon system more practical than whips? An electric whip is the type of weapon that seems really cool and scary, but in reality we see how ineffective they are in battle. Vanko is defeated because his whips kept Iron Man and War Machine in such close proximity they were able to use their arc reactors against Vanko.
What makes Malekith the lamest MCU villain above all else is that he is boring. His reasons for attacking Asgard are boring. He wants all nine realms including Asgard and Earth to be in total darkness for all of eternity. It makes sense because Malekith is a Dark Elf and as such, his people thrive in darkness — but it’s still boring.
Unlike the great villains in the MCU, like Loki or Ultron, Malekith has a distinct lack of personality. At least the other villains on this list have enough of a compelling vibe that makes them watchable. Malekith is one of those types whose rage makes them so one-track-minded that they lose all other personality traits. Malekith might be powerful and he almost succeeded in his plan, but he was still a bore.
Which villain from the Marvel Cinematic Universe do you feel is the most pathetic? Let us know who in the comments!