We love pop culture villains, especially the ones from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So far, we’ve had ten years worth of MCU villains that have run the gamut from laughable to truly fearsome. If we go back all the way to 2008’s Iron Man, our first MCU villain was Obadiah Stane, a mentor to Tony turned enemy. With Thanos’ presence looming as we head into Avengers: Infinity War, there are a lot of lists out there that are ranking our villains so far. Most of these ranking focus on their powers and overall performance in their franchise. However, what about that first impression? A villain needs to look the part.
Just as the MCU’s heroes have iconic costumes, the villains’ looks are also carefully constructed. The villains’ costumes allow for more creative freedom, in a sense, because we’re willing to suspend more disbelief for them. How does Hela look so regal and stay balanced while fighting with those antlers coming out of her head? While the MCU has had a lot of dudes in bulletproof vests, we’ve had some interesting villain getups in the past 10 years. Let’s go over the fashion choices of our villains as we rank 20 of them from worst to best.
20 THE MANDARIN
With a name like “The Mandarin,” no matter what, people were gonna be mad if the actor wasn’t Asian. With the plethora of white villains out there, especially in the MCU, when there’s an opportunity for Asian representation, it should be taken. Iron Man 3’s the Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, was a disappointment both in character and in wardrobe.
It’s understandable that the Marvel execs didn’t want to risk a Fu Manchu stereotype, but putting a white guy in Asian inspired wardrobe was just as bad. The robe plus the hairstyle screamed appropriation. Adding the sunglasses didn’t make his outfit any more palatable. The Mandarin remains one of the more unpopular villains in the MCU, and just by his costume alone, we can see why.
Initially, we were all excited that Christopher Eccleston of Doctor Who fame was going to grace another one of our fandoms. The first Thor film wasn’t perfect, but it set up an interesting family dynamic and a love interest for its hero. Thor: The Dark World is by and large the least favorite in the Thor franchise, and to some extent, it’s Malekith’s fault.
To be honest, the character was forgettable, as was the costuming.
He is intent on ending the universe, but he could’ve picked a better outfit to do so, just saying. With the exception of his scarring, he resembled the other Dark Elves pretty strongly, so he didn’t really stand out all too much. The one standing next to him with the horns coming out of his face was more memorable.
The robes worn by the Sorcerers in Doctor Strange seem Asian-inspired, which made the fact that The Ancient One wasn’t played by an Asian actor all the more upsetting. However, even if we take away that aspect, Kaecilius still doesn’t have a great look.
The most interesting part of Kaecilius’ look isn’t the garment he’s wearing, but the way his eyes have been burned. Other than that, we have a basic orange robe with a belt and boots. If cosplayers wanted to replicate this look (though I can’t think of many who would want to), it would be very easy to accomplish. Kaecilius does have an interesting backstory with the loss of his family, but it’s too bad his signature look isn’t as interesting.
17 HELMUT ZEMO
Helmut Zemo is the antagonist of Captain America: Civil War. After he lost his family in the Battle of Sokovia, he is set on exacting his revenge on the Avengers. We understand that motivation; we’ve seen that be the basis of a villain’s actions before. Helmut Zemo was certainly a competent villain. The Avengers did go to war with one another. However, his costume was kind of just…there.
Zemo preferred to work in mostly black, and we get that -- black is flattering.
But there was nothing special about what he wore throughout the film. We can talk about how he influenced the Avengers all day, but with his costume, there’s not much to talk about. When he reactivates the Winter Soldier, he dons a pair of glasses, which is probably his most memorable look.
16 IRON MONGER
Obadiah Stane was our first MCU villain. In setting up a pattern to follow, Obadiah became a darker version of Tony Stark. Tony recognized the global problem Stark Industries was exacerbating, while Obadiah maintained that weapons were necessary. We find out that Obadiah planned Tony Stark’s kidnapping and attempted assassination.
Obadiah’s greed and the way he turned on Tony was troubling. Equally as troubling was his attempt to replicate the Mark I armor. This is how we got the Iron Monger costume. Similar to Tony’s suit, it was powered by an arc reactor. However, it’s clunky -- not as sleek as Tony Stark’s Iron Man armor. The suit also couldn’t deal with freezing temperatures, which led to Obadiah’s demise. All in all, the costume wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either.
15 JUSTIN HAMMER
Justin Hammer is the Iron Man 2 villain who is CEO of Hammer Industries. Hammer Industries specializes in military weapons, similar to what Stark Industries was doing before Tony had a change of heart. While he never puts on any armor, Justin Hammer is the mastermind and villain of Iron Man 2. Tony manages to one-up him in both the upending his plan and outshining his wardrobe.
Justin Hammer’s costume can best be described as self-involved CEO.
Throughout the film, he dresses in suits that are paired with vests. His best look is when he’s showing weapons to James Rhodes while wearing white gloves. It looks very old school Chicago mobster. Justin Hammer ends up in prison, while Iron Man 2 has ended up being an adequate sequel.
Georges Batroc appears in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While he’s not the primary villain of the film, he had a somewhat memorable outfit. As a mercenary, Batroc’s costume needed to be functional, first and foremost. What made his outfit interesting was the use of color.
Unlike Helmut Zemo, Batroc’s costume has a splash of red. This could be symbolic of all the kills he’s responsible for -- the blood on his hands, so to speak. Other than that, the costume is basic, but it suits the needs of the character. Not only does the color of Batroc’s costume make him stand out, but the actor who plays him makes him stand out as well. Georges St-Pierre, legendary UFC fighter, really brought this role to life.
Thanos is the big bad of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War film. We have caught glimpses of him before, which was usually of him seated. In the trailers for Infinity War, we’ve seen Thanos walking around without his armor.
While the purpley face is still distracting, if we look at his costume, it appears to be pretty standard.
Thanos likes gold, clearly. That’s probably part of his obsession with the Infinity Gauntlet, right? His costume utilizes gold and blue. Blue is a color that’s featured in a lot of costumes as it is a universally liked color. In the most recent trailer for Infinity War, we saw the whole gold armor getup, which was pretty cool. However, we have to knock points off for the overall CGI face presentation.
READ MORE: Weird Facts About Thanos' Body
12 RED SKULL
The period piece that kicked off the Captain America franchise featured a prominent Marvel villain, Red Skull. Red Skull is played well by Hugo Weaving, who is no stranger to fandoms. The Captain America franchise did well in utilizing Red Skull, who appeared to be truly fearsome.
Even before he turned into Red Skull, Johann Schmidt’s Nazi soldier get-up was pretty spot-on. We’ve seen Nazi soldier costumes a lot in films, but there’s still pressure to it well. With the transformation to Red Skull, the makeup and effects were done well for Hugo Weaving’s face. His costume afterwards balanced out his eye-catching face. The all-black getup paired with the Hydra belt buckle created a cohesive look for the first Captain America villain.
Ego’s costume looks comfortable and cool, and it very much matches the spirit that Kurt Russell brought to the role.
The costume doesn’t look like someone tried hard to be cool. It’s just effortlessly cool. We also enjoy the off-the-shoulder scarf/cape action with the Han Solo looking belt and boots. Ego turns out to live up to his name, and he did terrible things to Peter’s mother. But his costume fits him well.
Because of his familiarity with Chitauri weapons, Adrian builds a rather impressive suit that “borrowed” Chitauri technology. As you can see, he’s got a pretty cool wingspan, and the suit provides him with armor. In addition, the suit gives him increased strength, which he uses in his final battle with Spider-Man. At the end of the film, Adrian doesn’t betray Spider-Man’s identity, and he goes to prison. However, he can rest assured that we will remember that suit for a long time yet.
Crossbones, the alias of Brock Rumlow, is most remembered by blowing himself up in Captain America: Civil War. He used to fight alongside Captain America, but then he turns and fights against him. By the time he names himself Crossbones, he has dramatically shifted his alliance. He turns on S.H.I.E.L.D., and he abandons HYDRA’s ideals as well.
We see that the gauntlets in his suit give him increased strength and the damage that was done to him after the Triskelion also made him feel less pain.
Coupled with his suit, Crossbones had nothing to lose. He put his own life on the line to get revenge, and that’s how he dies. The Captain America franchise was already memorable, but the Crossbones costume with the scratched helmet was equally as memorable.
The villain of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 aligned himself with Thanos (his first mistake) so that he can destroy the planet Xander. He was certainly ambitious. He got his hands on the Power Stone and affixed it to his Cosmi-Rod. This made him unstoppable until he fell at the hands of the Guardians.
Even if you haven’t seen the first Guardians movie in a while, you probably remember Ronan’s look. He looks very much the part of a genocidal military man. The black armor with the red drawn on it, plus his hood, work together well to give a fierce look. He’s called Ronan the Accuser, and we wouldn’t have wanted to be on the receiving end of an accusation from him.
Both Ant-Man and the Wasp play with bug shapes in their costumes. In the first Ant-Man film, the antagonist also went buggy in his costume. We got bad vibes from Darren Cross from the beginning -- Marvel hasn’t had a great track record with mentor relationships. Our suspicions were proved correct when Cross becomes obsessed with Pym’s shrinking technology so he can make more sales with terrorists.
Though thoroughly evil (who kills a lamb?!), Yellowjacket’s costume is thoroughly awesome.
He’s also a man of technology, so it had cool functions that Ant-Man was barely able to overcome. Like Ant-Man, Yellowjacket could shrink and have increased strength, but he could also fly. And he had stingers! All in all, Yellowjacket was a worthy opponent for Ant-Man both in character and costume.
6 WINTER SOLDIER
Villains often become fan-favorite characters, but it’s rare that a villain become a hero while maintaining its fan-favorite status. This is what Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier was able to pull off in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. After being BFFs with Steve Rogers and accompanying him on a dangerous mission, Bucky gets captured by HYDRA operatives and is brainwashed into being the Winter Soldier.
The Winter Soldier costume has been cosplayed many times over, and for good reason: it’s a fantastic costume. The metal arm, the black mask, and the simple black armor can all be done by cosplayers regardless of gender. Don’t forget the smudged black eyeshadow around the eyes as well. Winter Soldier was a great villain because he was Cap’s best friend, and Cap never gave up on him.
Ayesha is a secondary villain in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As the Golden High Priestess of Sovereign, and we do mean golden, she tries to kill the Guardians because Rocket stole something from her. This is how, at the end of Vol. 2, Adam Warlock is created. Hell hath no fury like a woman who has had something stolen from her.
Though everything about Ayesha is gold, the attention to detail makes the look very chic.
She’s got a golden headdress and gloves that scream regal. We’d say she looks like a queen, but high priestess is her proper title. Also, the details found throughout her dress are gorgeous. Check out the details on her neckline and how the top is molded. Her intentions aren’t great in the film, but her outfit is wonderful.
Fans love Loki and are now becoming concerned that he won’t survive Infinity War. Loki has had a very interesting character arc to follow so far. At the end of Thor: Ragnarok, it seems as though he has gone from villain to hero. At the very least, he’s trying to do better. He helped the Asgardians escape their destruction, after all.
Loki has appeared in numerous Marvel films, and his outfits are usually green and always amazing. Even when Thor and Loki are doing human cosplay in Ragnarok, that black suit Loki wears is superb. We will always associate him with his golden horns helmet that has appeared from the Avengers to Ragnarok. We would venture to say that Loki has yet to have a bad outfit. That Asgardian fashion though.
The latest villain to join the MCU is the Black Panther’s Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan (more like Michael Bae Jordan, right?). He is a complex villain and one that truly tests T’Challa.
His motivations are actually believable, which is what made his death more emotional than other villains’ deaths.
Not to mention, all of his looks were fire. First, let’s talk about the museum look with the jean jacket. He looked like a grad student that we’d want to be our boyfriend until he goes and kills a bunch of people. Then there’s his Killmonger vest that apparently just zips off to reveal the abs beneath. Men and women alike were thirsty for Erik Killmonger, and some part of that was due to the great work the wardrobe department did.
We would be remiss if we didn’t include at least one villain from the Marvel Netflix universe. David Tennant’s Kilgrave from the Jessica Jones series has one of the best costumes in the MCU. This is because it consists of literally high-end designer suits.
With good quality fabric and proper tailoring, suits can immediately elevate a man’s look. Kilgrave was a terrible, just awful, abusive villain, but he had great taste in fashion. He’s a villain that we love to hate, and we hate that he looks so good. In the first and second season, David Tennant was dressed in suits by Ted Baker and Paul Smith. The color palate they kept to was navy and purple, which worked well for both the character and the actor.
From the second we saw Cate Blanchett as Thor and Loki’s long-lost sister Hela, we knew that we would be in love. We can understand that she’s super pissed off about being locked up by her dad and forgotten. The family resemblance is there with the dark green in her costume (which makes Thor the odd one out when you compare the siblings).
Hela’s personality is perfectly expressed in her costuming.
Basically, Hela’s costume is deadly couture. Cate Blanchett had a lot of pressure to move gracefully, yet like a predator, in this costume. She pulled it off. We also like that there’s a bodysuit aspect to her costume rather than a dress like Ayesha’s costume. This allows us to see her fighting technique, which was also on another level.