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Apocalyptic Antagonists: 20 Villains That Nearly Ended the World

You can always expect a bad guy to do bad things. That means disrupting the equilibrium somehow by threatening someone, taking something or at the more extreme end, taking one or more lives. The stakes are raised in that way and the hero has the challenge they have to overcome. Nowadays you're more than likely to see villains who don't just threaten to destroy a life in some way but the entire world, more often than not by physically obliterating it. If the hero is any good, they'll stop the bad guy before any real damage can be done but as we've seen in more recent films, that's not always the case.

For this list we'll be going through a couple of major villains, predominately from film and in no particular order, to illustrate just how commonplace the doomsday trope is as well as how high the stakes actually get when it comes to world-ending supervillains. To qualify for this list, each supervillain must threaten to destroy the world they inhabit somehow. That doesn't necessarily mean they have to physically destroy the planet, it just means they have to seriously upset the balance on a large enough scale through generally violent means. We'll look at what they did, why they failed and if they were ever really worthy opponents for their foes.

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20 APOCALYPSE

You'd think a supervillain whose name quite literally means the end of the world would be better at destroying it. At one point in X-Men: Apocalypse, it does appear that En Sabah Nur holds the fate of the world in his grasp. He took control of the world's nuclear weapons via Xavier and Cerebro and he launched them all during a frightening monologue showcasing his god complex, but ultimately he chose to do nothing with them.

Apocalypse chose the end the world the hard way and because of that poorly made decision, he saw defeat at the hands of the X-Men and the Phoenix Force pretty much ensured that he would never return. Apocalypse had his chance at victory and just gave it up for no reason.

19 MEGATRON

This Decepticon is arguably the Autobots' greatest foe and with good reason. He has endured the war or thousands of years and his determination has not worn away in the slightest. He sees humans as little pests and after his time on Earth, has developed a seething hatred for all of them, which is why, even if destroying Earth isn't his primary goal, he's more than willing to see it destroyed in his war against the Autobots.

Throughout the Transformers film series, Megatron has proven that he is pure destructive force. He knows what he wants but he doesn't really think about the best way to get there, which is why he tends to treat even his closest allies with cruelty, which actually ends up weakening him in some ways, which is why he never succeeds against either the Autobots or humans.

18 OCEAN MASTER

There's a lot to appreciate about Ocean Master's dastardly scheme in Aquaman, like the fact that he managed to get pretty far and that it's actually understandable. So much so that we can say he wasn't actually as evil as other villains. He treated Arthur with enough respect that we could at least see that his motivation for trying to wage war on the surface world (a war the humans would almost certainly lose) was purely for environmental reasons.

He fought for the good of Atlantis and in the end, he was absolutely ready to fight until the very end and he would have were it not for the timely intervention of his mother, Atlanna. After she persuaded him to stand down, he went away peacefully, seeing that his emotionally charged battle against the humans wasn't the right way to make change.

17 HELA

Thor Ragnarok Hela

The exiled daughter of Odin returned when the All-Father reached the end of his life and she wasted no time in conquering Asgard. Much like she did with her father in ancient times, she was eager to spread her power across all realms and to that end, she was clearly willing to destroy everything and everyone that stood in her way.

If Thor, Loki, Valkyrie and Hulk hadn't stopped her in Thor: Ragnarok, there's no telling the kind of destruction she would have wrought. Unfortunately for her, she had always been destined to fail since the time of Asgard's destruction had come just as she came into power and without Asgard, Hela had no power.

16 SURTUR

The destruction of Asgard and demise of Hela couldn't have happened if it weren't for the fire demon known as Surtur, who knew from the beginning that his destiny was to become the ruination of Asgard. This is one of the exceptionally rare cases in which a hero requires a supervillain to just do their thing and destroy the world, just because it prevented a greater evil from succeeding.

Success for the fire demon also meant being annihilated with the planet, clearly however, he knew the cost and went in willingly anyway. He knew that at the end of it, his life's purpose, his destiny would be fulfilled. Thankfully this destructive villain won't likely be seen again.

15 DORMAMMU

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dormammu

Superheroes in the MCU usually have to battle against a supervillain bent on destroying the planet. In Doctor Strange, Stephen faced a giant being who sought to devour the entire dimension. Dormammu very nearly succeeded but he gave up after Strange trapped him using time itself thanks to the Eye of Agamotto. In that moment, Dormammu revealed that, despite being a powerful extra-dimension force of evil, he's true to his word.

After Strange released Dormammu, the dark being retreated and took his henchmen with him. He's still out there, ruling over the dark dimension. Whether or not he'll return any time in the future is something we'll likely never know. One thing that's certain is that while he failed to take Strange's dimension, he's sure to be consuming the countless others in existence.

14 RICHMOND VALENTINE

Kingsman-Valentine-and-Gazelle

Valentine may not have had any powers but he's still very much a supervillain in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Using his technology and wealth, he acted to save the world by causing the human race to destroy itself. It was an outrageous and cruel way to solve a very real problem: man-made climate change.

Throughout the film, it would seem as though he did everything right. He kept his evil plan a secret until he was ready to begin, he removed nuisances like Harry quickly and without too much monologuing and he didn't take unnecessary risks. In the end, he failed purely because Eggsy and Merlin were just extremely good at their jobs and his henchmen weren't.

13 SEBASTIAN SHAW

Before Magneto formed the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the biggest threat Xavier and the X-Men faced was Sebastian Shaw and his Hellfire Club in X-Men: First Class. Shaw had the power to absorb energy and redirect it in a wide variety of ways. He used that power in an effort to escalate the Cold War conflict, which he hoped to rid the planet of the majority of the human race, allowing mutantkind to thrive.

Thanks to the combined might of the X-Men and Magneto, Shaw's plan failed, though he came perilously close to succeeding. That failure can mostly be attributed to good old fashioned lack of wisdom when it came to how best to face his enemies and use his power. He could have succeeded early on, like when he attacked the CIA facility where the younger mutants were hiding out.

12 DOOMSDAY

Let's be honest, this creature was not worthy of the name it bore in Dawn of Justice. It definitely appeared to be capable of devastation, which was Lex Luthor's hope, but because of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, the creature didn't destroy much more than the abandoned island to which Batman had led it. If it weren't for them, there's no telling how much of Gotham, Metropolis or beyond would have been lost.

Would he have destroyed the world? There's really no way to tell. Humankind might have found a way to battle the kryptonian monster another way. It might be difficult, seeing as how Doomsday can quickly adapt to all kinds of physical threats, but it's not impossible.

11 UNSEEN MONSTERS

bird-box-header

The antagonistic monsters that roamed the post-apocalyptic world of Bird Box arguably succeeded in bringing humankind to its knees. Just by being seen, these creatures inspired lethal madness in some and self-destruction in others. Because of that power, no one ever stood a chance at defeating them. Success is a rare thing for most fictional villainous beings.

We never really find out what they are or what it is they want. Given that they were based on Lovecraftian lore, it's safe to assume that they wanted destroy all mere mortals in almost every way they could by spreading their influence and causing humanity to tear itself apart. There's no real reason or rhyme to the existence of these creatures, they simply are.

10 EGO

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Vol-2-Ego-the-Living-Planet-Kurt-Russell-feature

It makes sense that Ego wouldn't care much for the simple beings he encountered throughout his unimaginably long lifetime. He's an ancient Celestial, after all. He would have learned a long time ago to grow detached from creatures like humans, who live relatively brief lives. It's likely why he didn't care that his expansion would wipe out trillions of lives across multiple planets.

Because he was able to trap Quill in a trance like state in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, he was able to begin terraforming. If he had just kept his mouth shut, he might have been able to finish, but like most supervillains, he could not resist his need for a monologue. He admitted that he murdered Quill's mother and that freed Quill from his trance, allowing Star Lord to save the galaxy.

9 ENCHANTRESS

enchantress in suicide squad

This ancient witch was inadvertently freed and hosted by Dr. June Moone and quickly captured by Amanda Waller. After freeing herself in Suicide Squad, Enchantress immediately went about preparing to take over the world with the help of her minions, the Eyes of the Adversary. Unfortunately for her, all of that power just wasn't enough to end the threat of Amanda Waller and her Suicide Squad.

Her minions weren't powerful enough to combat them and neither was her bother, Incubus. She tried to tempt them into submission but none of the Suicide Squad members gave in. Ultimately, Enchantress failed because she just wasn't powerful enough. Still, she managed to burn half the city and convert many of its inhabitants, so she's still plenty frightening.

8 ZOD

General Zod Man of Steel

Zod's motivations in Man of Steel were completely understandable. He wanted to save Krypton by recreating the planet. To do that, he had to terraform Earth and that meant wiping out most, if not all of the existing life forms currently on it. He had the World Engine and a small army of incredibly powerful Kryptonians.

The only one who could defend Earth from complete destruction was Superman and even he couldn't fight Zod's forces alone. He needed the help of Lois and the virtual ghost of Jor-El. Together, they saved Earth and ended the Kryptonian threat. Unfortunately, that meant ensuring that Kal-El was the last of his kind.

7 VOLDEMORT

harry-potter-villain-voldemort

You Know Who didn't just want to destroy the muggle world. His actions throughout the Harry Potter film series also threaten the foundations and inhabitants of the wizarding world and that's bad enough to earn him a spot among would-be-world-enders. With his Death Eaters and horcruxes, he launched a violent and cruel campaign against any and all muggles both in his world and beyond it.

With Dumbledore out of his way, Voldemort was free to conquer and war quickly erupted in and around Hogwarts. In the end, thanks to the young witches and wizards at school and the guidance of the professors, Harry and his friends were able to vanquish the Dark Lord once and for all. He might have been able to take over the Ministry of Magic but he couldn't conquer Hogwarts. We leave it to you to discuss what that says about Voldemort as a threat.

6 ULTRON

Avengers Age of Ultron

When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner used Loki's sceptre to create a true AI in Avengers: Age of Ultron, they thought they were creating a worthy defender of Earth. Ultron misinterpreted the threat to humanity after a couple of seconds on the Internet without proper guidance. Let that be a lesson to you, kids. It was up to Iron Man and the Avengers to prevent Ultron from destroying mankind in his twisted effort to save it.

Ultron came horrifyingly close to wiping out the human race using Sokovia as a meteor. With his metal armies, he proved to be a worthy opponent for Earth's mightiest heroes. He failed because his plan alienated his allies and was generally just illogical. He also ended up creating his own nemesis, Vision. Though a failure, his attempt changed the world and left it vulnerable to one of the most powerful villains on this list. But we'll get to that.

5 STEPPENWOLF

As Wonder Woman explained to Bruce in Justice League, all the tribes of man, all the gods and even those from other worlds united to fight Steppenwolf thousands of years ago. He returned for the Mother Boxes and compelled the League to unite. Evidently this time around, it took a much smaller force to defeat Steppenwolf and his swarms of Parademons.

He may have come close thirty thousand years ago thanks to the Mother Boxes but his second attempt left him far from successful. He rained destruction upon Themyscira, Metropolis and the Russian countryside and he began to reshape the globe but he didn't come close to conquering and destroying the world as he intended and all because he couldn't withstand the might of Superman.

4 SAURON

Sauron-in-The-Lord-of-the-Rings

If Mordor is any kind of example of what Sauron's rule would have been like, then Middle Earth is lucky that it had the Fellowship to save it from his minions and power in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sauron was an exceptionally powerful being who managed to dominate the humans, elves and dwarves with the One Ring. If it wasn't for the might of Isildur, he would have succeeded in conquering Middle-Earth.

Even with that failure thousands of years ago, Sauron was still a powerful enemy. He still controlled the orcs and the Nazgûl and he had powerful allies in sorcerers such as Saruman. With that power, he was able to control Mordor, even without a physical form. That's real power. His downfall proved to be the belief that no one could resist the will of the One Ring. Enter Samwise Gamgee and Frodo.

3 RONAN THE ACCUSER

After acquiring the Power Stone in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1, Ronan grew confident enough to threaten the Nova empire and even the mad titan, Thanos. Armed with an Infinity Stone, the fanatic comes close to destroying Xandar. It would have taken just one strike of his hammer to wipe everyone out, but he failed and all because of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

He failed because he was too easily distracted. If he had just ignored Quill at that critical moment, it would have been the end of Xandar and victory would have been his. However, Quill's dancing was disrespectful and ruined the Kree's big moment, which the villain just couldn't stand. Ronan's downfall was essentially his pride.

2 THE NIGHT KING

Night-King-Game-of-Thrones

Even if we don't yet know how the final seasons of Game of Thrones will unfold, we can still judge the Night King. He's obviously incredibly slow but clearly cautious and resourceful and more importantly, he actually managed to dominate Westeros thousands of years ago during the Long Night. As told by Old Nan in the first season, that winter, spanning a generation, almost destroyed civilization. Somehow, humans survived it and built the Wall to prevent it happening again.

Obviously the Wall didn't do much good, because the Night King, with the help of an undead dragon, was able to take it down in a matter or seconds. We'll see just how much of Westeros is destroyed in the coming season. With Game of Thrones, you never know if the heroes will actually succeed.

1 THANOS

Fans of the MCU are still recovering from the heartbreaking conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War and the mad titan's surprising victory. Despite the best efforts of Earth's mightiest heroes, Thanos still managed to wipe out half of all life. Not just on Earth, but across the entire universe and he was able to do it because he's one of the rare villains that did everything right. He had the will, he made sacrifices and he didn't waste time or effort and he didn't fall for obvious traps.

However, it's worth mentioning that it wasn't his intention to destroy the world, in fact, he was trying to save it. It's almost guaranteed that the Avengers will be able to undo The Decimation, at least on some level. Whether or not they'll be able to get away with it without consequences is uncertain. We'll find out in Avengers: Endgame.

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