Summary

  • MCU villains have varying fates, from redemption to death, setting the stage for dynamic character arcs and potential returns in future projects.
  • Recent MCU installments have brought complexity to villains like Thanos, the Green Goblin, and Xu Wenwu, elevating them beyond mere antagonists.
  • The longevity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe allows for the evolution of villains over time, keeping audiences engaged with their multifaceted journeys.

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe has lasted for over 15 years, and that longevity means it can sometimes be hard to remember which villains are alive, dead, or of indeterminate status. The fates of these supervillains are as varied as the heroes they face off against. While many of the MCU’s villains perish, others are left in a more complicated status, with some even redeeming themselves and living on as heroes for the rest of their time.

While the MCU has always had strong villains to contend with the franchise’s many superheroes, a common criticism early on in the franchise’s history is that many were deemed “forgettable” or underdeveloped. Indeed, the movies of the MCU have largely corrected this issue in recent installments, with villains like Thanos, the Green Goblin, and Xu Wenwu, whose sheer threat level to the MCU’s heroes is matched by their complexity as characters. Of all the franchise’s properties thus far, here are the fates of the MCU’s villains.

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Every good superhero needs a powerful and threatening adversary, and Marvel Studios’ villains have often been the highlights of the MCU’s projects.

MCU Phase 1

45 Iron Monger (Obadiah Stane) – Dead

Original Appearance: Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man

Release Date
May 2, 2008

Writers
Matt Holloway , Art Marcum , Hawk Ostby , Mark Fergus

By the third act of Iron Man, Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane develops and uses his Iron Monger armor against Stark. The two only fight once in the movie, but the villain survives a fake-out death in which his armor freezes after flying too high. However, he survives the fall but shortly after is knocked into and fatally electrocuted by a massive Arc Reactor.

44 The Abomination (Emil Blonsky) – Alive And Redeemed

Original Appearance: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky becomes the villainous Abomination in The Incredible Hulk, though he ultimately survives his battle with the Jade Giant. Blonsky returns in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, having reformed and become an ally and friend of Wong, the Sorcerer Supreme. With the ability to fully control when he transforms and maintain his personality when he does, it’s unclear if Emil will appear again in the MCU or not.

43 Whiplash (Ivan Vanko) – Dead

Original Appearance: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Ivan Vanko walking down the racetrack in Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2

Release Date
May 7, 2010

Writers
Justin Theroux

In Iron Man 2, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) dons the Whiplash armor to seek revenge against Stark as he believes Tony’s father stole ideas and information from his father. Vanko is ultimately killed after teaming up with Justin Hammer and battling Tony and Rhodey alongside Hammer Drones. He ultimately enables his suit’s self-destruct function in a last attempt to take Tony out with him, which it does not.

42 Justin Hammer – Alive

Original Appearance: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Justin Hammer readies a gun in Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 was the first MCU movie to have multiple villains, with Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) working alongside Ivan Vanko. Hammer is a comedically inept rival of Tony Stark’s who ends up being arrested at the end of the film and, as shown in the Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King, remains at Seagate Penitentiary. Though there’s been no official comment, rumors swirl that Hammer could return in the currently-undated Armor Wars movie.

The Armor Wars comic event deals with Tony Stark’s enemies selling and using his technology for evil, including Justin Hammer.

41 Loki – Main Variant Is Dead (But Variants Are Active In The MCU)

Original Appearance: Thor (2011)

Thor

Release Date
May 6, 2011

Writers
Zack Stentz , Ashley Miller , Don Payne

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is one of the MCU’s most popular and complicated villains, appearing throughout the franchise in various forms. The main timeline’s Loki is dead, killed by Thanos after trying to betray him in Avengers: Infinity War. However, the Avengers created a new timeline branch when they revisited 2012 New York in Endgame. The Loki there, who escaped capture with the Tesseract, has been the focus of the MCU since and is currently stationed outside of time, keeping the whole MCU multiverse intact.

Loki’s post-Endgame story is told through Loki seasons 1 and 2 on Disney+

40 Red Skull (Johann Schmidt) – Unknown

Original Appearance: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Hugo Weaving as Red Skull looking angry in Captain America The First Avenger

Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull is Captain America’s arch nemesis, who appeared to have died in Captain America: The First Avenger when the Tesseract evaporated him. However, it’s revealed in Avengers: Infinity War that he was instead transported to Vormir to forever stand watch over the Soul Stone. It’s unclear if he remains alive after Thanos’ destruction of the infinity stones or if his unnaturally extended life ended with them.

MCU Phase 2

39 Aldrich Killian- Dead

Original Appearance: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Aldrich Killian using Extremis in Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 IMAX Poster

Iron Man 3

Director
Shane Black

Release Date
May 3, 2013

Writers
Drew Pearce , Shane Black

Though the Mandarin was marketed as Iron Man 3‘s central antagonist, it’s revealed that he’s simply an actor hired to stir up drama. Scientist Aldrich Killian is revealed to be the man pulling the strings, using Extremis to grant people unstable fire-based abilities and commit terrorist acts. Killian dies in the film’s third act when Pepper Potts uses a combination of her Extremis powers and the weaponry from the Mark IX Iron Man armor to disintegrate him. Trevor, the aloof actor playing the Mandarin, still lives on.

38 Malekith – Dead

Original Appearance: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Malekith in Thor The Dark World

Thor- The Dark World Poster

Thor: The Dark World

Director
Alan Taylor

Release Date
November 8, 2013

Writers
Stephen McFeely , Christopher Markus , Christopher Yost

Cast
Tom Hiddleston , Tadanobu Asano , Idris Elba , Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje , Anthony Hopkins , Natalie Portman , Zachary Levi , Christopher Eccleston , Rene Russo , Chris Hemsworth , Ray Stevenson , Stellan Skarsgård , Jaimie Alexander , Kat Dennings

Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) is the leader of the Dark Elves and the antagonist of Thor: The Dark World, attempting to use the Reality Stone to plunge the universe into darkness. Malekith is killed in the film’s finale when the efforts of Thor and his allies result in Malekith being crushed to death by his Ark warship. Despite Eccleston’s proven talent as an actor, Malekith simply wasn’t given much to work with in the movie and remains one of the MCU’s more disappointing antagonists.

37 Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier) – Alive And Redeemed

Original Appearance: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Steve Rogers’ best friend and WWII squadmate Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) becomes the brainwashed agent of HYDRA known as The Winter Soldier following the events of the first Captain America film. In his following MCU appearances, Barnes begins to remember his past life and breaks free from HYDRA’s brainwashing. He’s been a hero for quite some time now in the MCU, and he’s set to appear next as a member of the Thunderbolts‘ cast.

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36 Ronan the Accuser – Dead

Original Appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy

Release Date
July 30, 2014

Writers
James Gunn , Nicole Perlman , Dan Abnett , Andy Lanning

Cast
Zoe Saldana , Karen Gillan , Vin Diesel , Michael Rooker , Djimon Hounsou , Lee Pace , Benicio Del Toro , Glenn Close , Dave Bautista , ​Chris Pratt2 , Bradley Cooper , John C. Reilly

Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser is a Kree MCU villain whose plot to destroy Xandar inadvertently creates the Guardians of the Galaxy in the film of the same name. Ronan dies when the Guardians control the energy of the Power Stone and use it to disintegrate him. He is seen again, but it’s via a prequel when a younger Ronan briefly appears in Captain Marvel.

35 Ultron – Dead (Probably)

Original Appearance: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Ultron monologues in Avengers: Age of Ultron

Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Release Date
May 1, 2015

Cast
Chris Hemsworth , Clark Gregg , Robert Downey Jr. , Cobie Smulders , Aaron Taylor-Johnson , Jeremy Renner , Thomas Kretschmann , Chris Evans , Don Cheadle , Mark Ruffalo , Elizabeth Olsen , Scarlett Johansson , Paul Bettany , Samuel L. Jackson , James Spader

Tony Stark’s well-intentioned plan to protect the world proactively results in the creation of the sinister artificial intelligence Ultron (James Spader), which decides to wipe out humanity. Although Ultron is killed by Vision at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, his ability to transfer his consciousness means there is a possibility that he could return in a future MCU property. However, there have been no solid teases that this is planned for a future MCU movie.

34 Darren Cross (Yellowjacket/M.O.D.O.K.) – Dead

Original Appearance: Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man 2015 Poster

After developing the Yellowjacket suit to sell to HYDRA and the Ten Rings – and then becoming obsessed with vengeance after these plans were destroyed – Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) appeared to have died in Ant-Man when Scott Lang sabotaged his suit, causing him to abrasively shrink. However, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania reveals that he survived to become M.O.D.O.K., the right-hand man of Kang the Conqueror. As M.O.D.O.K., Cross finally dies after abandoning his villainous ways and turning on Kang the Conqueror, a move that leaves him mortally wounded.

MCU Phase 3

33 Helmut Zemo – Alive

Original Appearance: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain America Civil War Poster

Captain America: Civil War

Release Date
May 6, 2016

Writers
Stephen McFeely , Christopher Markus

Cast
Martin Freeman , Daniel Brühl , Robert Downey Jr. , Sebastian Stan , Elizabeth Olsen , Chadwick Boseman , Chris Evans , Paul Rudd , Frank Grillo , Scarlett Johansson , William Hurt , Paul Bettany , Anthony Mackie , Emily VanCamp , Tom Holland

The villainous Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) turned The Avengers against each other in Captain America: Civil War, but his attempted suicide afterward was prevented by Black Panther. Zemo returns in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and survives yet again, where he is imprisoned in the Raft by the end of the series, leaving room for yet another return in the MCU. It’s currently unknown when or where Zemo could appear next.

32 Kaecilius – Alive (But In Another Realm)

Original Appearance: Doctor Strange (2016)

Kaecilius in the first Doctor Strange movie standing in the mirror dimension.

Doctor Strange Poster

Doctor Strange

Director
Scott Derrickson

Release Date
October 25, 2016

Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius seeks eternal life in Doctor Strange, and he ultimately gets what he wants by the end of the film. Kaecilius soon learns, however, that immortality comes at a steep cost, as he becomes one of the latest additions to the Mindless Ones, and is doomed to an eternity of torment in the Dark Dimension. This is a rare MCU case of life being worse than death.

31 Dormammu – Alive

Original Appearance: Doctor Strange (2016)

Dormammu and Doctor Strange in the Dark Dimension in 2016's Doctor Strange

Despite being an incomprehensibly powerful interdimensional entity, Dormammu (Benedict Cumberbatch) is defeated rather cleverly by Doctor Strange in the film of the same name. Using the Time Stone, Strange locks Dormammu in a time loop, effectively irritating him into submission but leaving him alive for a future MCU appearance. The end of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness teases a return to the Dark Dimension, so Dormammu will likely appear in that project whenever it happens.

30 Ego – Dead

Original Appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Release Date
April 19, 2017

Cast
Dave Bautista , ​Chris Pratt2 , Chris Sullivan , Vin Diesel , Kurt Russell , Zoe Saldana , Karen Gillan , Elizabeth Debicki , Sylvester Stallone , Glenn Close , Sean Gunn , Nathan Fillion , Tommy Flanagan , Michael Rooker , Pom Klementieff , Bradley Cooper

Although Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell) is one of the MCU’s most powerful villains, he is not invincible. Ego dies when the Guardians of the Galaxy plant an explosive in his core, destroying his humanoid avatar and causing his planet form to collapse. This thwarts his omnicidal plan known as the Expansion, in which he attempted to annex all life to be an extension of himself.

29 The Vulture (Adrian Toomes) – Alive (But In Another Universe)

Original Appearance: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

The Vulture wearing a mask in Spider-Man Homecoming

spider-man homecoming

Director
Jon Watts

Release Date
July 5, 2017

Writers
Jonathan M. Goldstein , John Francis Daley , Jon Watts , Christopher D. Ford , Chris McKenna , Erik Sommers

Michael Keaton’s Vulture, also known as Adrian Toomes, is a deadly weapons dealer who survives his battles with Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming and ends up in prison. However, in a bizarre twist, Toomes is transported to the Sony Spider-Man Universe at the end of Morbius. He tells Morbius that it must be Spider-Man’s fault, but with no Spider-Man revealed in that universe, it’s unclear if the strange cliffhanger will ever be revisited.

28 Hela – Dead

Original Appearance: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

A close-up of Cate Blanchett as Hela wearing her Asgardian attire in Thor Ragnarok

Thor Ragnarok Poster

Thor: Ragnarok

Release Date
November 3, 2017

Writers
Christopher Yost , Craig Kyle , Stephany Folsom

Hela, the daughter of Odin and the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett), menaces Asgard and seeks to return it to its imperialist ways in Thor: Ragnarok. Despite her power, Hela is killed when Surtur impales her with his Twilight Sword. She is destroyed in an instant along with Asgard itself.

27 Killmonger (N’Jadaka/Erik Stevens) – Dead

Original Appearance: Black Panther (2018)

Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger points a spear at an off-screen Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa / Black Panther in Black Panther.

Black Panther Theatrical Poster depicting the primary cast

Black Panther

Director
Ryan Coogler

Release Date
February 16, 2018

Writers
Joe Robert Cole , Ryan Coogler

After briefly ruling Wakanda with the hopes of using the nation’s vibranium weapons across the world in Black Panther, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) dies fighting T’Challa, who fatally stabs him in their melee. While his demise is not undone, Killmonger returns in the Ancestral Plane to speak to Shuri in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

26 Thanos – Dead

Original Appearance: The Avengers (2012)

Avengers Endgame Poster

Avengers: Endgame

Release Date
April 26, 2019

Writers
Stephen McFeely , Christopher Markus

Cast
Chris Hemsworth , Anthony Mackie , Paul Rudd , Robert Downey Jr. , Scarlett Johansson , Mark Ruffalo , Evangeline Lilly , Sebastian Stan , Josh Brolin , Elizabeth Olsen , Tom Holland , Don Cheadle , Samuel L. Jackson , Bradley Cooper , Karen Gillan , Brie Larson , Paul Bettany , Chris Evans , Jeremy Renner , Chadwick Boseman

Two iterations of Josh Brolin’s Thanos threaten the entire universe in the Infinity Saga, and both ultimately die in Avengers: Endgame. The original version dies on his farm, beheaded after destroying the Infinity Stones. Later, a version from the past travels to the present but is ultimately killed by Tony’s sacrificial snap. Thanos has died several more times in different timelines in Marvel’s What If…?, but these two remain the only ones on the big screen.

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