Rumors surrounding the highly anticipated Avengers: Infinity War are growing every day. As such, it has fans bustling with theories about how this event will tie together the 18 films leading up to it. Obviously, the film will feature the heroes from 2008’s Iron Man all the way to 2018’s Black Panther, which means Infinity War has one of the biggest ensembles ever in a blockbuster film. What it will also feature is the Mad Titan Thanos finally making good on his promise to contend with the Avengers since he flashed his foreboding smirk in 2012's The Avengers.
Fans believe Thanos will be using old villains (as well as his generals in the Black Order) to boss rush the Avengers as a distraction to enact his plan of destruction on Earth. If true, he may accomplish this by using villains that are both alive... and dead. These resurrections could be used test each hero to see their growth since they first battled their own personal demons in their respective franchises. There are also villains from the early MCU that have been missing and waiting for a comeback. But which villains do fans believe will return, and who do they hope will stay gone?
15 ALDRICH KILLIAN (LEAVE BEHIND)
Iron Man 3 was loved by many fans, but a group of MCU’s audience found it exploitative of its main antagonist. Ben Kingsley portrayed the Mandarin right up until it was revealed that he was an actor hired as the face for the Ten Rings by Adrian Killian. It was a slap in the face to one of Tony Stark’s biggest foes in the comics. Plus, it turned Kingsley’s entire performance as Mandarin into a punchline instead of a threat, which made fans furious.
Killian's characterization was essentially a nerdy scientist driven by vengeance who wanted to destroy Tony because he ignored him after a party. It was a motive stretched thin across the film whose character arc ended with a cringe-worthy “I am the Mandarin!” It is a villain that fans will not miss if he is left behind, and who, let's be honest, wouldn't cause much trouble to the Avengers.
14 ABOMINATION (RETURN)
The 2008 The Incredible Hulk was a part of the MCU (kind of, sort of) that didn’t share the same critical and commercial success of its other films. It also had controversy surrounding its lead Edward Norton, who signed on with the caveat that he had a decent amount of creative control. Fans believe that Abomination could make an Infinity War appearance because of a character featured in Captain America: Civil War.
After the Hulk was recast with Mark Ruffalo, it seemed that the Norton film would be erased from the MCU; that is, until General Ross, portrayed by William Hurt in The Incredible Hulk, popped up in Captain America: Civil War. Hulk is extremely powerful, which led fans to believe that if Ross returned then Abomination (under Thanos' control) in Avengers: Infinity War is completely possible. Fans have speculated it is why the Hulkbuster might be making a return... but then, it could just be because of all the monstrous Hulk-level threats. Either one.
13 MALEKITH (LEAVE BEHIND)
Marvel has had no shortage of actors who weren’t fans of its production or craft when making these films. Christopher Eccleston has expressed his poor experience of having to portray the Dark Elf Malekith in Thor: The Dark World due to an excruciating amount of time in the hair and makeup trailer. It took seven to eight hours at the beginning of production, but eventually the team brought it down to six and a half. He also didn't like that scenes which built his character's motivations ended up on the cutting room floor.
With Eccleston not happy about his role as Malekith, fans believe this character will not be returning to the MCU anytime soon. They also cite Thor: Ragnarok as a revisionist story to the previous two Thor films. It marked a new beginning for the character, which may lend credence to this character not appearing in the next big Avengers film.
12 KAECILIUS (RETURN)
Kaecilius was one of the better villains introduced to the MCU as his philosophy and drive was more complex than others. He wanted everyone to give their lives to Dormammu because he believed that humanity is enslaved by time. As such, the philosophy of being one with Dormammu seemed like an idealist’s pursuit of transcendence.
This is a motivation that fans believe can be exploited by a figure like Thanos, who is excited to exercise his own philosophy through violent terms. If Thanos brings Kaecilius back to life with the Infinity Gauntlet, then it is likely he wouldn’t even need to use it to control Kaecilius' mind to influence the evil sorcerer. He would also put up a fight against Doctor Strange, which would inhibit any mystical help that Stephen could offer in the Avengers' battle for the world.
11 WOLFGANG VON STRUCKER (LEAVE BEHIND)
Von Strucker is another big Marvel comic book character, one who was given the task of developing Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the MCU without much purpose afterward. Wolfgang was given a similar treatment that Crossbones got in Avengers: Age of Ultron; a character leading the action of its opening scene, but not much else.
Fans were disappointed with this portrayal as Von Strucker plays a larger role in Captain America’s comic book history. He eventually is captured and killed in the film by Ultron after getting information on where to retrieve more Vibranium. So, while comic book fans wanted a better depiction of Von Strucker, they aren’t exactly enthusiastic about seeing his character return to the MCU because he just doesn't seem to pose any threat.
10 RONAN, THE ACCUSER (RETURN)
The surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy had audiences in love with the scrappy gang of space heroes, not least because it featured Lee Pace in the role of Ronan, The Accuser, whose Kree race had been wiped out of the galaxy and who vowed justice against the Xandarians for their extinction. His possession of the Power Stone made him all but invincible, but he only had it for a time. Star-Lord distracted Ronan with a song and dance (literally), took the stone away, and used it to kill the villain.
It was a pretty silly way to end his character arc, but fans have begun discussing his possible resurrection at the hands of Thanos. Fans theorize that Thanos will use the Infinity Gauntlet to bring him back. It has been speculated online that the Mad Titan wants to show Ronan his failures as torture while pitting him against the Guardians all over again.
9 EGO, THE PLANET (LEAVE BEHIND)
The MCU has been criticized heavily for its lack of stakes pertaining to their heroes. Death seems to only find the characters that Marvel Studios deems unnecessary enough to lose. Ego’s death should be treated as such, so that Peter Quill’s connection to the cosmic power of his heritage can't be used in Avengers: Infinity War. This could have put Thanos in danger when confronted by the Guardians.
Some fans have speculated that Ego will not be returning after James Gunn commented that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had no setup to the big Avengers event film. Though it did leave door open for other characters like Adam Warlock’s eventual appearance, fans will have to just forget about Kurt Russell’s Ego, as well as the cosmic powers tied to his son Star-Lord.
8 QUICKSILVER (RETURN)
Quicksilver was introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron along with his sister Scarlet Witch. They originally fought against the Avengers, siding with Hydra and Wolfgang Von Strucker as villains. They were called “Enhanced” by the Avengers during Age of Ultron, but are originally mutants in the comic books. Fans believed his stint of being the fastest man alive in the MCU was short-lived and done to show the MCU as a dangerous place with actual stakes.
For this reason, Thanos’ possible resurrection of former foes of the Avengers may just include Scarlet Witch’s brother, since her arc surrounding the sudden loss of her brother was never confronted again after the film. With this being the biggest event in the MCU, fans believe this grief will be tested in the form of Quicksilver returning, but under the control of the Mad Titan himself fighting against the Avengers.
7 WHIPLASH (LEAVE BEHIND)
Anton Vanko, played by Mickey Rourke, had a personal vendetta against Tony Stark because he believed Stark’s father had built his company on the stolen technology of his own dad, and became the nefarious Whiplash. This was a better motive than the villain of Iron Man 3, but the portrayal fell flat for fans... and for the actor, himself!
Mickey Rourke has been very vocal about his bad experience working with Marvel Studios. He discussed his initiative and collaboration with screenwriter Justin Theroux and director Jon Favreau to create a more three-dimensional villain than previous Marvel films, but apparently, they left much of his character work on the cutting room floor. This leaves fans pretty sure that the man with the energy whips will not return for the big Avengers: Infinity War film.
6 HELA (RETURN)
Thanos is famously known for his love of the Marvel universe’s version of Death. He serves at her pleasure and it is for her love that he decides to bring balance to the universe using the Infinity Gauntlet to kill off half of those inhabiting it. Hela was referred to as the Asgardian Goddess of Death in Thor: Ragnarok, so fans believe she might be making a return in Avengers: Infinity War to serve in Death’s place, as Thanos' paramour.
Plus, fans have cited Mark Ruffalo in an interview where he talks about recently working with Cate Blanchett, who played Hela, and while some believe he meant on Thor: Ragnarok, others think he was referring to her possibly making an appearance in Avengers: Infinity War.
5 CROSSBONES (LEAVE BEHIND)
Crossbones was never a big player in his appearances in the MCU. His first outing in Captain America: The Winter Soldier didn’t show him as a threat to Steve Rogers in the famous elevator scene where he and his crew couldn’t manage to take Cap out. Then, his appearance in Captain America: Civil War was short lived when, after losing to Cap in a fight, he tried to blow himself up, most of which was deflected by the Scarlet Witch.
While fans believe Thanos will use his Infinity Gauntlet to resurrect a whole gang of villains who died in the MCU, Crossbones is one they believe will be gone for good. His death in Captain America: Civil War seemed like a throwaway that had fans wondering why he was introduced in the MCU in the first place. Fans just think he is too small a character to return, but Grillo has stated that he isn’t done with Marvel just yet.
4 IRON MONGER (RETURN)
Tony Stark has had three solo films out, but only one antagonist that truly was the best. Iron Monger's Obadiah Stane was his replacement family after Tony lost his two parents tragically at the hands of the Winter Soldier, so when his betrayal was revealed in Iron Man, it only cut that much deeper. Originally, Stane was supposed to live, so when Jeff Bridges found out his character was dead he was shocked.
Fans believe that a way to reintroduce the Iron Monger back into the MCU will be by Thanos using his Infinity Gauntlet to bring him back from the dead. It seems fans believe Thanos will use characters like Stane as more of a psychological component to his warfare. He will terrorize his foes before he decides to show them how far he’s willing to go to ensure his destructive plans come to fruition.
3 YELLOWJACKET (LEAVE BEHIND)
Marvel’s Ant-Man was a fun introductory chapter to the shrinking superhero’s journey in the MCU. They got both Scott Lang and Hank Pym on screen as well as one of Ant-Man’s biggest foes in Yellowjacket. Darren Cross’ attempt to utilize the Pym technology that made Ant-Man was thwarted by Scott Lang, and the villain was crushed within his own suit.
Fans have wondered whether Cross was actually crushed in his suit or if he was transported to the Quantum Realm. Fans also believe that the reason he won’t be popping up in Avengers: Infinity War might be because he’ll be appearing in Ant-Man and the Wasp as he might be trapped there. Since Ant-Man is relatively new and his character wouldn’t have much motivation in the destruction of the world, he can probably be counted out of an appearance in the wider MCU.
2 ULTRON (RETURN)
Ultron was defeated by the Avengers when they stopped his programming from spreading to the rest of the world. Tony Stark mapped out the power of the mind stone to create an AI system to protect the world, but this best intention gained sentience and was almost immediately tainted, creating the anti-human extremist Ultron.
The possibility of Ultron's return seems inevitable to fans. They know that even if Ultron’s programming was completely wiped away from Earth, that it doesn’t mean he’s completely gone. There is a possibility that he might be brought back when Thanos gets his hands on the Mind Stone (which we see being pried from Vision's head in the trailer) and returns Ultron’s consciousness from it to terrorize the Avengers during Infinity War since he has proved effective against them in the past.
1 RED SKULL (RETURN)
The Red Skull has had countless confrontations with Captain America in the comics, so when he "died" in the very first Cap movie, fans were disappointed. Of course, there has been fan speculation that he didn’t die at all, but instead was transported by the tesseract to another place in the universe. Fans wouldn’t put it past Marvel to return characters this important to affect the Avengers in some way.
Hugo Weaving, who played Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, has stated he no longer wants to continue playing the villain in future films. And yet, fans think that since the Red Skull doesn’t have a regular human face, the character could be recast and utilized in Avengers: Infinity War. He’d be the perfect smaller antagonist for Thanos to use against Captain America in the big war while also having him confront his past.