The MCU has pulled off something truly spectacular. Not only has it created a cohesive cinematic universe of 20 films and counting, not only has it achieved an exercise in cinematic world building the likes of which the film world has never before seen, not only has it fundamentally and irrevocably changed the way we look at movies, but it also created films that consistently manage to keep both capricious critics and fickle audiences alike happy. Even if you prefer the cinematic output of the Distinguished Competition (and what a time it is to be a DCEU fan as well) you have to acknowledge the sheer scope, magnitude audacity that the MCU represents.
If there's one aspect of the MCU, however, that frequently comes under fire, however, it's the villains. While the introduction of densely layered characters like Thanos and Loki have somewhat quelled accusations that Marvel has a 'villain problem', there are some villains in the cinematic canon who are more beloved than others. In light of Thanos' infamous finger snap (canonically known as The Decimation), who knows what trickery will be used to restore the fractured MCU? Who knows which previously deceased villains could be resurrected and which living but inactive villains could be purged from continuity? We won't know until Avengers: Endgame hits theaters later this year who will remain alive and well in the MCU and who will forever be consigned to the annals of MCU history. Come what may, there are 10 villains we want to see return in the MCU... but there are also 10 who can stay buried as far as we're concerned.
20 BRING BACK: RED SKULL
Captain America: The First Avenger had barely hit cinemas when actor Hugo Weaving publicly stated his disinterest in returning to the MCU to reprise his role as Johann Schmidt, aka The Red Skull. Audiences had virtually given up hope of seeing this iconic Marvel villain grace the big screen again when he made an unexpected cameo in last year's Avengers: Infinity War.
While Weaving was (according to a Q&A with the Russo Brothers) invited to reprise his role, the Australian actor bowed out leaving Ross Marquand to seamlessly reprise his role. And now that we know that The Red Skull is alive in the MCU we sincerely hope that we get to see him do battle with Captain America again!
19 STAY GONE: ABOMINATION
Tim Roth is a phenomenal actor and an important early casting coup for the nascent MCU. His portrayal of a soldier driven slowly to madness trying to become the strongest and most ferocious that he could be (an obsession that led him to become a literal and figurative monster) was one of the best parts of 2008's The Incredible Hulk.
Moreover, when Roth's Emil Blonksy finally became the Abomination the CGI monster smackdown was every bit as brutal and compelling as we hoped. However, now that we've seen Hulk do battle with a wide range of CGI pugilists from Thanos to Iron Man in full Hulk Buster armor do we really need to see another CGI monster smackdown?
18 BRING BACK: THE REAL MANDARIN
There's a certain subset of MCU fandom who are still not over the plot twist of 2013's Iron Man 3 which revealed that arguably the most iconic villain in Iron Man's stable was really a failed actor called Trevor Slattery. While the revelation that the Mandarin was Aldrich Killian all along made for a satisfying payoff for most, many diehard Iron Man fans held out hope that the real Mandarin was still out there somewhere.
In the Marvel One-Shot All Hail The King, Mandarin fans' hope was rewarded by a cryptic allusion to an unseen Mandarin who is indeed still operating in the MCU and has yet to show his (or her) face. Who knows if the MCU will return to this dangling plot thread, but we remain intrigued!
17 STAY GONE: SURTUR
However you feel about 2017's Thor: Ragnarok even the most jaded naysayer would have to admit that it was a remarkable achievement on a number of levels. Not only was it a masterpiece of production design and visual effects, bringing some of Jack Kirby's most iconic designs to life with aplomb, it also managed to spin a lot of plates.
Not only did the film provide resolutions for a number of returning characters, it also introduced a lot of new characters from Scourge to Valkyrie to Surtur. While Surtur remains an impressive accomplishment in VFX and his voice work by the ever-reliable Clancy Brown is great, having enacted Ragnarok, he's kind of served his purpose.
16 BRING BACK: THE OTHER
The Other was a villain with great potential. He was brilliantly portrayed by Alexis Denisof in both the first Avengers and the original Guardians Of The Galaxy. He had a visually intriguing and scary design concept. His power level was largely unseen but since Loki was visibly afraid of him he was clearly a force to be reckoned with. And then... he was unceremoniously ended by Ronan The Accuser in Guardians Of The Galaxy.
We get that the moment was intended to showcase Ronan's power level but it was still a waste of an intriguing villain whom we'd barely gotten to know. If the MCU bringing Ronan back for a turn in Captain Marvel, dare we dream that we may see The Other again?
15 STAY GONE: MALEKITH
If it's been a while since you last saw Thor: The Dark World, we implore you to give it another shot -- it's a better movie than you remember. Nonetheless, it's hard to gloss over a lot of the film's cardinal sins... chief among which is wasting both a villain with bags of potential in Malekith the dark elf and a great actor in former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston.
While the film establishes Malekith as a credible threat and his design is of the same high standard of the rest of the production the villain falls flat. The script simply doesn't do the character or the actor justice. Could he be redeemed with another appearance? Sure... but we think the MCU has bigger fish to fry.
14 BRING BACK: VULTURE
If you grew up in the '80s or '90s there's more than likely a special place in your heart for Michael Keaton. Even before he redefined The Dark Knight in Tim Burton's Batman he was already a household name owing to his spectacular turn as The Ghost With The Most in Beetlejuice and memorable performances in comedies like Mr. Mom and Nightshift.
Keaton was (and is) a phenomenal casting coup for the MCU and transformed Adrian Toomes (who was largely a gimmick first and a character second in the comics) into a densely layered and sympathetic villain. Moreover, his chemistry with Tom Holland was superb with the infamous 'car scene' one of the most tense and beautifully acted moments in the entire MCU.
13 STAY GONE: WHIPLASH
Mickey Rourke is nothing if not a consummate professional who goes above and beyond to imbue his characters with depth and life. For his turn as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash in Iron Man 2 he spent three months learning Russian, researched prison tattoos and even spent time in a Russian prison. Unfortunately, none of the hard work and depth came across in the finished movie and Vanko ended up feeling sadly two-dimensional and underdeveloped.
In a 2011 interview with Complex, Rourke lamented the fact that most of his best work ended up on the cutting room floor. Maybe a director's cut of Iron Man 2 could convince us that Whiplash is a villain worth bringing back... but for now we're happy to leave him buried.
12 BRING BACK: HELA
There are some villains from whom we require depth, nuance and sympathetic characterizations... and then there are rock star villains who bewitch us with their sheer force of nature. Hela, the Goddess of Death most certainly falls into the latter category. From her exquisite design (we're so glad they made the helmet work) to Cate Blanchett's effortlessly cool performance, Hela made a huge impression on all who saw Thor: Ragnarok.
While Hela seemed to get her comeuppance in the film's climax, we all know that the Asgardian physiology can take punishment exceeding human tolerance. With any luck we'll see this acclaimed actress play this unforgettable villain again!
11 STAY GONE: EGO
Think of the sheer range of characters we've seen brought to life in the MCU. Surely, back in 2008 even the most optimistic comic book fan would struggle to believe that within a decade the Guardians Of The Galaxy would be a household name. The fact that the legendary Kurt Russell was brought on board to play a character as obscure as Ego The Living Planet speaks to how far comic book movies have come in recent years.
Yet, while both actor and character were well represented in Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2 Ego has had a very specific narrative function in the MCU. Now that he has fulfilled that function, would there really be any point in bringing him back from the dead?
10 BRING BACK: THE LEADER
If it weren't for the ongoing presence of General "Thunderbolt" Ross in the MCU, fans could be forgiven for thinking that The Incredible Hulk had been ret-conned out of existence. While the film remains one of the least financially successful outings in the cinematic universe it remains a solid action thriller with a dedicated fan base.
Oh how sweet it would be to see Marvel Studios pick up an 11-year old plot thread and revisit Dr. Samuel Sterns who, when we last saw him, had come into contact with gamma-irradiated blood teasing a transformation into staple Hulk villain The Leader. After so many CGI brawls it would be nice to see Hulk face off against a more cerebral villain.
9 STAY GONE: HELMUT ZEMO
The Avengers have faced many threats from cosmic aggressors to homicidal robots. Who would have known that possibly their greatest blow (at least until the big purple dude came along) would be struck by the soft spoken Colonel Helmut Zemo? The Sokovian soldier lost his family while the Avengers battled Ultron in his home land and his retribution was as devastating as it was subtle.
After turning Earth's Mightiest Heroes on one another, Zemo attempted to take his own life but was stopped by Black Panther. Now he can spend the rest of his life ruminating on his transgressions in a prison cell. Even if he were released, we doubt that he'd return to villainy.
8 BRING BACK: ULTRON
When Thanos was revealed in The Avengers' post-credits scene, many assumed that he would antagonize the team in their second outing. Instead, Marvel Studios defied expectations and pit Earth's Mightiest Heroes against an Earthbound threat... a threat of their own making. Ultron is one of the most feared and iconic villains in the Marvel canon but his appearance in Avengers: Age Of Ultron didn't quite hit the mark for many diehard fans.
We'd dearly love it if somehow this malignant artificial intelligence returned to the MCU if only so that we could hear James Spader's silky bass recite Ultron's affable brand of villainy once again! Perhaps there's still some remnant of his consciousness lurking somewhere in the internet biding his time.
7 STAY GONE: GHOST
It's not that we didn't like Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost in Ant-Man & The Wasp, far from it. In fact, in many ways she was everything we could have hoped for in a Marvel villain. She had a plausible motivation, a sympathetic backstory, a cool design concept and a power set that looked amazing on-screen.
If anything, she was too sympathetic for us to ever really see her as a villain again. The film did such a great job of demonstrating her tortuous existence that when she disappears with her ersatz father figure Dr. Bill Foster at the end of the film we felt that she had earned her escape. We hope that she never needs to climb back into that suit again.
6 BRING BACK: MAC GARGAN
Anyone who's ever seen Better Call Saul knows that Michael Mando has a talent for playing a cold yet compelling and strangely affable villain. Although his appearance as Mac Gargan in Spider-Man: Homecoming was fleeting it gave us just enough to tease the screen debut of an old-favorite villain Scorpion.
Given what Marvel Studios has accomplished with Scorpion's fellow Sinister Six member Vulture, and what they are sure to accomplish later this year with Mysterio, dare we dream of seeing 50% of the infamous team together on the big screen? Plus, The Scorpion's origin story is (at least in the 616 universe) inextricably tied to J. Jonah Jameson... and it's been way too long since we last saw J.J. grace the screen!
5 STAY GONE: SHOCKER
The Shocker is a veteran Spider-Man villain and a regular member of Spidey's ultimate team of nemeses, The Sinister Six. Despite this, however, he never appeared in the Sam Raimi or Marc Webb Spider-Man movies (although he did show up in the video game adaptation of Raimi's original Spider-Man). You know how it is, you wait around forever for one Shocker then two come along at once!
Spider-Man: Homecoming featured two Shockers: Jackson Brice and Herman Schultz. While both were welcome additions to the movie, they were there more as plot devices than as living, breathing characters. While we don't hate the idea of Shocker returning (especially to round out a Sinister Six) there are villains more deserving of screen time in these movies!
4 BRING BACK: ERIK KILLMONGER
The best villains are those who, had they made better choices, could easily have been heroes and Black Panther's Erik Killmonger is one of those villains. Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole's script along with Michael B Jordan's outstanding performance took a character who had largely been a little one-note in the comics and imbued him with pathos, angst and dimension.
Killmonger quite decisively met his end in the film, and it made for an emotionally satisfying (albeit heart-wrenching) conclusion. Nonetheless, the synergy of actor, character and script was so perfect in Black Panther that we'd be lying if we said we weren't intrigued by the prospect of Killmonger's resurrection.
3 STAY GONE: ALDRICH KILLIAN
He breathes fire, he hits on Pepper Potts and he wears sandals without a hint of irony. Yup, Iron Man 3 does a lot to engender a strong dislike of Aldrich Killian even before it's revealed that he is the film's big bad and the 'real' Mandarin. While Guy Pierce is always an interesting screen presence there's something about Killian that never quite worked for us.
While it would be cool to see Killian's nefarious network A.I.M become the ubiquitous presence that it is in the comics, we can't help feeling that Aldrich himself has played his part in the MCU.
2 BRING BACK: LOKI
Admittedly this is something of a cheat since we already know that Tom Hiddleston's Loki will return for his very own miniseries on the highly anticipated streaming service Disney+. Nonetheless, fan theories are abound when it comes to the manner of his return.
Will the series be a prequel that chronicles The God Of Mischief's exploits before the first Thor? Or will Loki be brought back courtesy of some time-hopping or inter-dimensional trickery in Avengers: Endgame? We can't wait to find out! While some may argue that it would cheapen Loki's loss in Infinity War if he were to return from beyond the grave, Hiddleston is just so darned watchable in the role we imagine they'll get over it pretty quickly!
1 STAY GONE: YELLOWJACKET
Somewhere out there there's a parallel universe where Corey Stoll was cast as the greatest Lex Luthor in cinematic history. Instead, we're stuck in the world where instead we got Jesse Eisenberg's intriguing but divisive performance in the DCEU and Stoll went on to portray one of the MCU's least interesting villains.
While Yellowjacket at least sports an awesome design the character comes across as underdeveloped and overacted. Indeed, there are scenes in which Stoll seems to be in a very different film to everyone else. While we understand the necessity of the character's deviation from the source material, Yellowjacket remains a cornucopia of missed opportunities.