Summary

  • Some MCU villains never come close to winning, but others are one small mistake from victory.
  • Some mistakes come down to underestimating the hero, a classic narrative device that leads to a villain’s undoing.
  • Other villain mistakes are more frustrating as they ignore clearly superior options to what it is they’re doing.

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The villains of the MCU have been just as instrumental in the franchise’s success as its heroes, and a few were one simple mistake away from finding victory. It makes sense that even the most powerful MCU villains have to lose most of the time; otherwise, the Earth – and the franchise – wouldn’t last very long. However, even in defeat, different antagonists from across the movies of the MCU have come shockingly close to accomplishing their goals.

Of course, a few MCU villains have won – even if only temporarily. Thanos snapped away half of life in the universe, Zemo caused the Avengers to split, and Surter destroyed Asgard and brought forth Ragnarok. However, this list is a few scenes away from being much longer. Despite eventually falling to the powerful heroes of the MCU, these ne’er-do-wells likely regret one impactful decision that led to their downfall.

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10 Ronan Doesn’t Just Shoot More Missiles

Captain Marvel (2019)

Ronan isn’t in Captain Marvel for very long, but the future Kree Accuser appears at the movie’s end to lay waste to Earth by launching massive missiles from his fleet of ships. Unfortunately for him, Carol Danvers is able to stop one of the missiles with great effort and, upon it’s explosion, set off a chain reaction, blowing up the others in the salvo. She then warns Ronan to leave, which he does after her impressive display of power.

However, it’s clear from Captain Marvel’s struggles with one missile that he could very easily have returned, spread his ships out around the world, and fired more simultaneously and spread out. As powerful as Captain Marvel is, she can’t stop simultaneous missile launches all around a planet. However, Ronan simply leaves and, as far as the MCU has shown, never returns to Earth again.

9 Thanos Leaves The Avengers’ Lives Up To Chance

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Thanos is arguably the most powerful villain in the MCU, but one clear mistake in Avengers: Infinity War undoes his temporary victory. Thanos believed that he was being fair by keeping his snap random, but given that he’d shown no qualms about killing to accomplish his goals earlier, it seems silly that he didn’t ensure all the Avengers turned to dust. Had Thanos not had the hubris to assume his act was permanent, it’s unlikely anyone else would have had the ability to retroactively stop his devastating act.

8 Iron Monger Ignores A Big Engineering Problem

Iron Man (2008)

Early in Iron Man, Tony discovers that his suit doesn’t perform well at high altitudes because it can’t handle the low temperatures of the high atmosphere. It’s surprising enough that the Earth’s greatest mind doesn’t think about something as basic as temperature when it’s already a known factor in aviation, but Obadiah Stane failing to consider the same thing with his Iron Monger suit seals his fate. While the villain survives the fall in his frozen suit, he was in a great position to kill Tony before the misstep.

7 Ego Gets Cocky With Peter Quill

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Peter Quill is initially elated when he meets his father, completely oblivious to Ego’s goals of galactic conquest. The villain is successful in winning over Quill and understands that his son may not initially understand his goals. However, he goes a step too far when he reveals that he gave Peter’s mother cancer to rid himself of the emotional attachment he saw as a weakness. Had he played it more cool, Ego may have been able to defeat Peter and keep him imprisoned as a living battery. However, the emotional punch of hearing about his mother gave Quill the boost to take on his father.

6 Kang The Conqueror Doesn’t Know When To Walk Away

Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania presents Kang’s grand debut on the big screen, but the villain fails to accomplish much. In the movie’s final act, team Ant-Man succeeds in opening up a portal out of the Quantum Realm. After everyone but Scott goes through, Kang attacks Ant-Man and then simply stands there for a good half a minute. At that point, there’s nothing stopping Kang from either walking through the portal as Scott finds his bearings or doing something productive with his engine. Moreover, Kang has several more times to walk through the portal out of the Quantum Realm and simply doesn’t.

5 He Who Remains Underestimates Loki

Loki Seasons 1 & 2 (2021/2023)

Loki‘s He Who Remains is an interesting villain because, when he’s introduced, he’s already won. The Kang variant has already defeated all others and established a system working nearly flawlessly to keep other Kangs from coming to power and the timeline as he sees fit. However, his decision to trap Loki in a false dichotomy of continuing his work or destroying the multiverse is a vast underestimation. He’s almost right, but Loki’s final moments of selfless brilliance prove to be the villain’s undoing, and He Who Remains’ control of the timeline is lost.

4 The Ten Rings Didn’t Actually Monitor Tony Stark

Iron Man (2008)

Tony Stark was perfectly happy living life as a genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist until his time spent as a captive under the Ten Rings terrorist organization. While the group succeeds in attacking the tech mogul’s caravan, it’s a silly oversight not to pay more attention to what he’s doing. Stark may have kept his blueprints separated, but there’s little doubt that a close eye would notice that the Iron Man Mk 1 suit was very much not a missile. Had they been more proactive, they may not have attained their goal, but Stark wouldn’t have made his great escape.

3 Scarlet Witch Reveals Too Much

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (2022)

It isn’t immediately clear that Scarlet Witch is the villain of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. After a hulking monster attacks multiverse-traveling teenager America Chavez, Strange actually approaches Wanda for help. She would have likely succeeded in her goal of capturing the girls and stealing her powers had she kept her cool and offered to help Strange, but she says the name “America” before Strange does, cluing him in that she knows more than she lets on.

2 Thanos Didn’t Just Attack NYC Himself

The Avengers (2012)

Loki makes for a wonderful villain in The Avengers, and the Thanos tease at the end of the movie generated a ton of hype. However, in hindsight, it seems silly that Thanos didn’t simply come to Earth himself. Avengers: Endgame shows that Thanos is more than capable of overpowering both Hulk and Thor without any stones, and the latter, in particular, was far weaker in The Avengers than he’d become in Thor: Ragnarok and beyond. There’s little doubt Thanos couldn’t have used the Mind Stone and attacked Earth with ease, grabbing the Tesseract (Space Stone) and retreating with nobody strong enough to stop him.

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1 Ronan Is Inches Away From Winning

Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

The ending of Guardians of the Galaxy is iconic, but there’s little doubt that Ronan made a gigantic mistake by pausing when Quill starts dancing. Ronan had the power stone and successfully made it to Xandar, and all he had to do was move his Universal Weapon down a few inches to make contact with the ground and devastate the planet. Instead, he stops to ask, “What are you doing?” giving Rocket the few moments he needs to fire his weapon, destroy Ronan’s hammer, and allow the Guardians to grab the Power Stone. If Ronan had succeeded, the entire rest of the MCU‘s Infinity Saga would look markedly different.

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