- MODOK’s execution fell short of expectations, with distracting visual effects and a portrayal that turned him into a joke rather than a terrifying villain.
- Dar-Benn in The Marvels lacked depth and backstory, leaving audiences to fill in missing connections to Ronan the Accuser.
- Kang the Conqueror’s first official appearance in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was underwhelming and failed to set up the character with the reverence and attention he deserved.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced a swathe of new villains in 2023, but some were much more effective than others. A superhero is only as compelling as their adversary, a vital proponent that the MCU has proven itself very adept at delivering. Several incredibly enthralling villains appeared throughout the MCU timeline, many of which rival the popularity of their heroic counterparts. 2023 provided several of these for Phase 5, and hopefully, some of them will persist into Phase 6.
There are many upcoming movies in the Marvel franchise that promise to expand the MCU’s rogues’ gallery even further. Much of the Multiverse Saga has been building up to Kang the Conqueror assuming Thanos’s mantle as the primary villain. Considering Jonathan Majors’s legal troubles, the MCU’s future may drastically change and some are looking toward his contemporaries to potentially take over the position. 2023 has featured some possible contenders, offering a range of diverse antagonists from the bizarre to the terrifying.
8 M.O.D.O.K – Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania
Played By Corey Stoll
Corey Stoll reprised his role in the MCU in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, playing the infamous MODOK (Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing). Following the first Ant-Man, Darren Cross reached the Quantum Realm and underwent reconstruction by Kang to become his enforcer. However, despite the originality of the concept and Stoll’s enthusiastic performance, MODOK’s execution fell short of expectations.
The visual effects that brought MODOK to life were distracting and incredibly poor. Furthermore, Quantumania portrayed him as a joke rather than the terrifying villain the comics have shown MODOK is capable of being. Given MODOK’s distinctive appearance and characterization, he deserved a far better cinematic adaptation for the MCU and was undoubtedly the worst villain introduced in 2023.
7 Dar-Benn – The Marvels
Played By Zawe Ashton
- Release Date
- November 10, 2023
- Nia DaCosta
- 105 Minutes
- Nia DaCosta , Zeb Wells , Elissa Karasik
The Marvels opted for a concise running time, and while this was refreshing, it didn’t allow much time to flesh out its antagonist, Dar-Benn. The movie prioritized Kamala Khan’s family and Monica Rambeau’s strained relationship with Carol Danvers, focusing primarily on the bonds that steadily grew between all three heroes. As a consequence, Dar-Benn was a minor character in the narrative and lacked the depth of a truly enthralling villain.
Zawe Ashton’s performance was entertaining, delightfully fierce, and with a commanding presence. The problem was that there wasn’t enough of it. Crucial moments from Dar-Benn’s backstory and former role in Kree society were unexplored, leaving audiences to decipher essential details and missing connections to Ronan the Accuser. As a result, Dar-Benn ranks as one of the weakest villains introduced into the MCU in 2023, and a notable wasted opportunity.
6 Gravik – Secret Invasion
Played By Kingsley Ben-Adir
- Release Date
- June 21, 2023
- Streaming Service(s)
Gravik was the leader of the Skrull resistance in Secret Invasion. The Phase 5 villain thought of himself as a freedom fighter and would stop at nothing to complete his mission – including being willing to wipe out humankind in order to take over Earth as the Skrull’s new home. Gravik was a wholly original character who does not appear in the comic books, making him an interesting figure for the MCU to explore. Ultimately, his portrayal throughout Secret Invasion was effective but slightly underdeveloped.
Gravik was presented as an antagonist with a very clear motivation throughout. His actions were very clearly explained, and he perfectly countered Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. However, he lacked the emotional depth of a truly great villain, as his characterization wasn’t as three-dimensional as some of the other villains introduced by the MCU – or even arguably in Secret Invasion itself. Nevertheless, Gravik still provided a thrilling opponent who could effectively navigate themes of immigration and espionage.
5 Kang The Conquerer – Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania
Played By Jonathan Majors
Kang the Conqueror is one of the most iconic villains in Marvel Comics, and as such, there was much anticipation regarding him becoming the newest villain in the MCU. While a variant of Kang appeared in Loki as He Who Remains Dead, the Conqueror himself didn’t appear until Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Unfortunately, Kang’s first official appearance was a bit of an anti-climax.
Kang’s Quantumania performance lacked the imposing might that characterizes the villain. His introductionfelt far less significant and cogent than Thanos’, though this can also be attributed to the longer and more mysterious build that the Infinity Saga villain’s overall story received. Major’s performance was compelling and filled with a lot of promise for future phases, as the movie emphasized that countless Kang variants exist across the multiverse, each with a varying personality – a feature that Majors would be able to deliver very effectively. Unfortunately, though, Quantumania failed to set the character up with the reverence and attention the MCU’s second major adversary required.
4 General Dox And The TVA Rebels – Loki Season 2
Played By Katie Dickie
- Release Date
- June 11, 2021
- Season List
- Loki – Season 1 , Loki – Season 2
- Story By
- Michael Waldron
- Michael Waldron , Eric Martin
- Streaming Service(s)
General Dox was introduced in Loki season 2, during the tumultuous council meeting that followed the season 1 finale. Dox was behind several critical decisions that greatly shaped the narrative, especially concerning the hunt for Sylvie. Dox instructed Hunter X-5 to locate Sylvie and mobilized the TVA to find her, believing the variant held the key to reshaping the organization.
As such, the MCU General added a greater degree of intrigue to the continued narrative surrounding the TVA’s origins and corruption. While the character was a little underwhelming, Dox held a prime pivotal position in the plot and oversaw the deaths of billions when she successfully pruned branches in the timeline. As a result, this makes General Dox an especially notable villain and a vital element in Loki season 2.
3 Brad Wolfe – Loki Season 2
Played By Rafael Casal
Loki season 2 perpetuated the TVA’s menace against rogue timelines but also introduced a variation of Brad Wolfe, also known as Zaniac. He first appeared in Loki season 2, episode 2 “Breaking Brad,” as a TVA agent named Hunter X-5 who had assumed an identity in the sacred timeline. In the comics, Brad Wolfe is the alter-ego of a minor Thor villain named Zaniac, but in Loki, he was an actor appearing in a slasher movie with the same name.
Brad Wolfe was incredibly compelling, serving as a sterling villain and opponent to Loki, while also questioning the necessity of the TVA.Wolfe was enthrallingly conflicted, providing a villain that was emotionally profound and complex – something that made the character an undeniable highlight of Loki season 2 and one of the best villains introduced into the MCU in 2023.
2 Raava (Rhodey) – Secret Invasion
Played By Nisha Aaliya And Don Cheadle
Secret Invasion was greatly bolstered by including Don Cheadle, who delivered a masterfully sinister performance that exploited the uncanny aspects of the narrative. Cheadle played a Skrull named Raava who was disguised as Rhodey, also known as War Machine. Raava only appeared on a handful of occasions in her Skrull form – played by Nisha Aaliya – and primarily assumed the Avenger’s countenance to infiltrate the American government and military.
Rhodey proved a highly effective antagonist, fully exploiting the lovable reputation garnered in previous movies. The subtle hints at his true identity became one of the most enjoyable features of the series and has had dramatic consequences for the MCU. Determining precisely when Rhodey was replaced by Raava has proven far more essential to the MCU’s overarching narrative than many other villains’ stories, making it one of the strongest in the franchise thus far.
1 High Evolutionary – Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3
Played By Chukwudi Iwuji
Chukwudi Iwuji’s portrayal of the High Evolutionary in his inaugural appearance stole the spotlight, captivating audiences with his unbridled cruelty and megalomaniacal aspirations. Despite Kang being Marvel’s chosen major antagonist, the High Evolutionary’s emergence has sparked debate about the studio’s selection of the primary villain for its second movie saga. While Kang’s prominence aligns with comic book history, the High Evolutionary, with his particular goals and tendencies, offers a contrasting profile that could hold great promise for the MCU despite the villain being comparatively less relevant to the current ongoing story.
This is in part because the High Evolutionary’s on-screen deeds outmatched Kang’s presenting a more compelling and inhumane villain on a smaller scale. Marvel’s willingness to portray the High Evolutionary as irredeemably evil broke from the cinematic universe’s tradition, potentially setting the stage for a more prominent role in Phases 5 and 6, with ties to established and upcoming MCU characters. The High Evolutionary was undoubtedly the greatest villain introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2023, and as such, it wouldn’t be surprising if the hopes surrounding the character getting a bigger role came to fruition in the franchise’s future.