In the world of Marvel Comics, there has always been a shade of grey when it comes to the superheroes and villains running around the universe. The same villain who wants to control the world and recreate it in his image is also a Holocaust survivor and someone who was once a reluctant hero as well. A man tasked with saving the world turns out to be a narcissist who might be responsible for more deaths than many of the villains he brings to justice. At times, the only thing keeping the heroes from becoming bad guys is the fact that they fight the villains.
When it comes to Marvel movies, the villains mostly became basic bad guys, and even those traditionally sympathetic baddies – like The Lizard – end up as generic villains for the superheroes to defeat. However, Marvel movies still paint many of its heroes in broad strokes, giving them a touch of grey to present much more realized characters. Some of the superheroes tasked with saving the world throughout the movies sometimes turn out to be one step away from being villains themselves. Here are 15 Marvel movie superheroes who are actually despicable.
15 IRON MAN
There have been many times in the comics that Iron Man went off the rails. During The Crossing in the ‘90s, it even turned out he was always a villain, while his actions in Civil War caused superheroes to turn on one another. When it comes to the movies, Marvel has given Robert Downey Jr. a chance to delve into the narcissism and arrogance of Tony Stark, and it took on a life of its own.
Stark is self-destructive and has a penchant for turning friends against him. In the movies, Iron Man proves time and again that he only cares about himself, which Nick Fury pointed out when he didn't want to invite him to join The Avengers, to begin with. Stark started the events in Captain America: Civil War because of his guilt. He tried to kill Winter Soldier even when he learned he wasn't responsible for his parents' death. While a popular hero with the fans, Iron Man is one of the least honorable characters in the MCU.
14 ROCKET RACCOON
In Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Rocket Raccoon had a great arc that saw him and Yondu bond, and the two dealt with their personal demons. It was the most heroic moment since Rocket appeared in the MCU. However, much like Tony Stark on Earth, everything Rocket did in his two appearances so far has been for selfish and less than honorable reasons -- at least at the outset.
Rocket remains close to one being – Groot – and even uses their friendship mostly to achieve his own personal goals. In the first movie, Rocket was only out to get the reward. In the second film, Rocket’s selfish desires and penchant for self-destruction almost got his entire team killed. At the end of the day, Rocket is a self-destructive creature who just happens to fight on the side of good while working with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
13 THE PUNISHER
If you get a chance to talk to Gerry Conway, the man who created Punisher, don’t ask if Frank Castle is a hero. It seemed ridiculous to the writer when police officers wanted to place Punisher logos on their cars because Castle has never been a hero. Conway himself said that Punisher would kill a police officer if he felt the cop shot an innocent person. The last character that anyone in law enforcement should strive to emulate is Frank Castle.
Honestly, Castle is barely even an antihero. Yes, the people that he kills are all villains, and most of them are men who might deserve to die. However, Punisher appointed himself judge, jury and executioner and even a hero like Captain America, who has fought and killed in actual wars, knows the difference. In the Civil War comics, when Spider-Man claimed Punisher and Cap were the same – but from different wars – Cap said that they were nothing alike because Punisher is insane.
12 NICK FURY
Nick Fury is a spy, and that likely gives him an excuse for his sins, but it doesn’t make him less despicable when it comes to his actions. No one, friend or foe, can trust Fury because he has proven time and time again that he will manipulate everyone and throw away anyone when he finishes with them.
When it comes to Fury, there are his goals, honorable or not, and nothing else means anything to him in the grand scheme of things. To achieve the world that he believes in, Fury will do anything to anyone. He faked Agent Coulson’s death just to make Captain America, Iron Man and Thor work together. He faked his own death in Captain America: The Winter Soldier to achieve his goals. Nothing is too low for Fury when it comes to getting his way.
If there is any character in the MCU who is only out for himself, it is Hulk. Sure, Bruce Banner is a good guy, but he has no control over Hulk, no matter what he thinks. When Hulk rode off in the Quinjet in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he kept Banner buried away for a couple of years. When Banner finally returned in Thor: Ragnarok, he expressed fear that if he turned into Hulk again, the big guy might never let him return.
Sure, Hulk isn’t a bad guy – he’s just a really angry and destructive guy. In Thor: Ragnarok, he is also a big, spoiled, petulant child – one that destroys the Quinjet to try to force Thor to stay with him on Sakaar. At his worst, Hulk is a monster who will destroy anything and everything to get his way – an unstoppable force of nature.
10 WINTER SOLDIER
It wasn’t his fault. At least that is the story that Captain America keeps telling Iron Man as the armored Avenger is trying to kill the Winter Soldier. At one time, Bucky Barnes was a really good guy – a U.S. military man who fought the good fight both in the war against Hitler and at home protecting his little buddy Steve. However, after Bucky fell to his apparent death something terrible happened.
Bucky Barnes became Winter Soldier, a merciless killer programmed by HYDRA to eliminate anyone standing in their way. This included both Tony Stark’s mom and dad among countless others. While Winter Soldier was not responsible for his actions, he still committed countless murders of innocent people and is a trained assassin. Even Bucky knows the danger he presents, allowing himself to remain incapacitated until they can completely erase the programming.
Neither Avengers: Age of Ultron nor X-Men: First Class presented a legitimate version of Pietro Maximoff – Quicksilver. The X-Men version was the more entertaining offering, with Quicksilver showing off his speed and helping Charles Xavier when needed. The Age of Ultron version was flat, and while the character was a darker shade of grey, it still wasn’t the Pietro from the comic books where Quicksilver is one step removed from his father, Magneto, and one of the biggest jerks in the entire Marvel Universe.
Pietro carries himself with a chip on his shoulder, more similar to the Avengers version than the X-Men version in the movies. The only person he cares about is his sister Wanda, and he will do anything – to anyone – to achieve his goals. Pietro is in no way a good guy – even if he happens to save the world on occasion.
Elektra has appeared four times now in Marvel movies and TV. She was in Daredevil where she fought and died at the hands of Bullseye. She was resurrected in her own movie and fought assassins. She appeared in the second season of Daredevil on Netflix, manipulated Matt into helping her, and then died. The Defenders saw her resurrected again - this time as a villain. One thing that the Netflix series got right is that she was nothing more than a cold-blooded killer for much of her life.
If Elektra has specialized in anything, it is the manipulation of Matt Murdoch. She is not a good person, and as season two of Daredevil shows, Elektra loves to kill. While she has done some good things when the chips are down, she remains a despicable murderer and manipulator who destroys almost everything she touches.
7 DOCTOR STRANGE
The entire theme of Doctor Strange was to show that an arrogant man who only cares about himself could change into a good man and become the Sorcerer Supreme. However, while Stephen Strange was able to take on the role, he didn’t go about it in the purest way possible. If there is anyone in the Marvel Universe who rivals Tony Stark in the area of arrogance, it is Doctor Strange.
Yes, Strange agreed to sacrifice himself to save the world – if it came down to that – but he remains one of the most egotistical and self-centered superheroes in the MCU. To earn the powers of the Sorcerer Supreme, he stole books, broke the rules and completely disregarded the teachings of his elders. Now, with his full capabilities, Strange still uses power plays to get what he wants, as he showed in Thor: Ragnarok.
Peter Quill is not entirely on the level of Rocket Raccoon when it comes to his selfishness and self-destructive behavior. However, at the end of the day, Star-Lord is still a Ravager at heart – a thief who lets greed and money rule his actions more often than not. Quill is also very arrogant and self-centered, and while he looks out for his team and their well-being, Star-Lord is not so much a superhero as he is a hero-for-hire.
Growing up as a Ravager and stealing to make a living was not the best start in life for Peter Quill. Neither was the fact that he hated himself for not saying goodbye to his mother before she died. Add in some major daddy issues that caused him to almost turn on his friends in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and it is clear that Star-Lord may be a hero, but he is a very flawed man with some considerable personality problems.
Scott Lang didn’t commit crimes because he was a bad guy. He did what he thought he needed to do to right the wrongs of others. Even his time in prison was not for the worst of reasons, as Lang went to jail for his actions as a sort of Robin Hood-type character, stealing from criminals and returning the money to those wronged. However, while he had noble intentions in his mind, he was still a thief.
When Lang got out of jail, he promised never to go back to stealing, but his friends convinced him to pull another heist – stealing something from Hank Pym’s home. That was the Ant-Man costume, and he ended up getting roped into fighting crime and stopping a man trying to take over Pym’s company. Ant-Man was a reluctant hero from the start. The most damaging thing was a deleted scene from the end of Ant-Man that showed Lang using his powers to cheat at craps in a casino, indicating he never gave up his life of crime after all.
From the start, Wolverine was never a true hero in the basic sense of the word. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Logan was part of a mercenary team with his close friend Victor (Sabretooth), Wade Wilson (Deadpool), Fred Dukes (Blob), Chris Bradley (Bolt), John Wraith and Agent Zero – all working for William Stryker. While Logan got away from this group of bad guys, he ended up drifting along – not wanting to be a hero at all but willing to fight, and kill anyone who gets in his way.
Even after joining the X-Men, Wolverine still had his bloodlust – one of the few members of the team who had no qualms about killing someone. Throughout the X-Men movies, Wolverine racks up a higher kill count than almost anyone outside of Punisher. Even at the end, in Logan, Wolverine was someone who had no problem murdering anyone who crossed him.
3 GHOST RIDER
Ghost Rider is an interesting character. As the World War Hulk storyline in the comics showed, he won’t fight anyone who is considered innocent and only sets out to punish those who are guilty. However, as the two movies that he appeared in also showed, Ghost Rider has no problem dishing out punishment to people guilty of just about anything, and he has little care whether it is a major or minor offense.
Johnny Blaze is a tortured character anyway – someone who lost his father due to a betrayal and now seems destined to live forever while cursed by Zarathos. However, he is the human side of this superhero. As far as Zarathos is concerned, the demon has no real care when it comes to who receives his penance stare. He is merciless and demented – one of the scariest characters in the Marvel Universe.
2 PROFESSOR X
When looking at Marvel superheroes who are actually despicable, the one who sits above almost all others is Professor Charles Xavier. The distinguished looking man in the wheelchair who claims he is interested in humans and mutants living together in peace has done more despicable things in his life than most of the villains he sends his teenage students out to defeat.
Professor X has used mind control many times over the years to erase people’s memories or alter them in other ways. He messes around with people’s brains like there is no tomorrow and in the comics, he manipulated Wolverine, altering his memories to turn him into a weapon for the X-Men. Add in sending teenage students out to battle supervillains, and you have a very dishonorable person pretending to be a good man. As Logan showed, it all ended horribly when he killed almost all the X-Men.
If you ask Deadpool, and you don’t have to because he will tell you himself, he is not a superhero at all. He merely does what he does because it suits him. Before he ever got his powers, Wade Wilson helped people in need – if they paid him. After he got his powers, all Deadpool cared about was getting revenge on the people who destroyed his life. Deadpool is not so much an anti-hero as he is a man who just wants to cause mayhem.
In the Deadpool movie, Colossus even admits that he wishes that he would try to do good and possibly join up with the X-Men. However, Deadpool likes to kill people and gets joy out of the many ways he accomplishes this task. Out of all the heroes in any Marvel cinematic universe, Deadpool is the most despicable because he doesn’t even have the honor code of someone like Punisher.
Which other Marvel movie heroes do you find truly heinous? Let us know in the comments!