In comic books, the villains are always the ones who are fun to read about. That goes for the movies as well as many a time, it’s the actor playing the bad guy who gets all the good lines and better performances. The Marvel Cinematic universe has done their best to handle that but also run into a few issues. They have had slews of amazing and incredible villains: Loki, the Red Skull, Killmonger and Thanos. But they’ve also had their duds: The Mandarin, Ronan, Malekeith and several others. It’s tricky to make it work, a bad guy who can be evil but his motivations clear and even relatable to the audience. Given the slews of amazing characters in Marvel history, they should be able to bring up a lot of great bad guys to the big screen. That’s especially true as they enter their “Phase 4” and the recent deal with Fox meaning they have the potential to bring in characters from the Fantastic Four. That’s not to mention co-working with Sony for more of Spider-Man’s amazing rogue’s gallery.
Of course, you need actors to make it work as Marvel’s casting has always been the key to their success. Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Cate Blanchett as Hela, Josh Brolin as Thanos; casting the right actor is what makes a good villain into a great one. But saddle the wrong person and the best script can’t do anything to make it work. However, there are still slews of amazing actors out there who can be part of the MCU and some even wanting to be. While having them in heroic roles might be good, others are far better off suited to playing the bad guys and some can work nearly perfectly. Here are 20 celebrities who can play major villains in the MCU and remind moviegoers how good it is to act bad.
20 Timothy Olyphant as Bullseye
Netflix is prepping the next season of Daredevil and it promises to get a bit darker. Thus, it’d be fitting to introduce the man most consider the Man Without Fear’s greatest foe. His origin is shrouded in mystery (he loves to give different versions), Bullseye is the supreme assassin of the Marvel universe. The reason is that his uncanny aim allows him to turn the most inconsequential objects into something lethal. Pencils, playing cards, a CD, a toothpick, his own teeth, in his hands, anything is a deadly weapon. Match that with a total sociopath who openly admits he does this because he loves it, not for the money, and you’ve got a major threat. Colin Ferrell did a wild turn on him in the Daredevil movie (complete with a matching scar on his head) but the MCU might want it a bit more grounded.
You’d need someone dangerous yet not showing it too much, a guy who can seem quiet, maybe even blend into the background. But turn him loose in a fight and he’s a terror and that’s before he gets his hands on some weapons to use. Casting the right actor is key, yet Timothy Olyphant could be good in the role. He’s famous for his cowboy roles in Deadwood and Justified, but he is guy with a wicked edge to his parts and can be sinister if he has to. He pulled off a bald look in Hitman, and Santa Clarita Diet proves that he can master the black humor as well. Just have him in the classic costume hurling anything he wants and Olyphant can hit the target in the part.
19 Kate Upton as Titania
Whenever you need a lady who can be a serious force in a fight, you hire Titania. Mary MacPherran was a short and thin gal looked down on by her classmates. During the “Secret Wars” event, her neighbourhood was transported to another planet. There, Mary was found by Doctor Doom who subjected her to an experiment that transformed her into a tall and stacked powerhouse. She and She-Hulk had an instant rivalry going and Mary has been known to get into wild brawls with other heroes. She surprisingly found love with the Absorbing Man but is known for her brash manner and always wanting to flaunt her beauty and power. So she might work best in the MCU more in the “flunky” role but fitting it well.
On first glance, casting Kate Upton may seem odd. Yes, the supermodel has the curves to fit the role but seems more about beauty than power. However, Upton has amazed fans with her terrific strength regiment, seen pulling a 300 pound sled and a workout regimen that can put some MMA fighters to shame. Combine that with her height and she can be believable as a gorgeous knockout who can throw a car over her head. You don’t need a serious actress for the part. Sometimes you just need to go with the wild card.
18 Daniel Day-Lewis as the Chameleon
Rarely does a guy live up to his name like the Chameleon does. Dmitri Smerdyakov was born with the uncanny ability to mimic others almost perfectly. He realized that rather than an acting career, this could be a boon for crime. He is the ultimate master of disguise as he can replicate a person down to their smallest tics and voice mannerisms. Even heroes who should be able to sense imposters (like Daredevil) have fallen for his act. Whether he’s using face masks or a special holographic projector, the Chameleon is a genius at pulling off impersonations to the point he can fool even close friends of heroes. When the Chameleon is around, it’s impossible to know who’s who.
It can be easy to just have him show up with the blank mask and then cast other actors as his “characters”, but it would be more fun to have an actor posing in a variety of looks to get close to his targets. In which case, casting Daniel Day-Lewis would be utterly brilliant. The three-time Oscar winner was hailed for his astounding ability to sink into roles and make them his own and often unrecognizable. True, he claims to be retired but Day-Lewis has specialized in quirky choices in acting, so being in the MCU might work out. If nothing else, having a man capable of changing in acting like Day-Lewis as a master of disguise would be a major boon.
17 Olivia Wilde as Madame Masque
A character with a very complex history, Whitney Frost was originally the daughter of crime boss Count Nefaria. In a rare show of compassion, Nefaria had her adopted by another family so as not to be part of his criminal life. Whitney lived the life of a rich socialite before her father revealed the truth and she followed in his footsteps. She was soon a fantastic fighter and hiding her identity with a mask so she could continue to use her social connections for her life of crime. She romanced Tony Stark but their relationship had a lot of ups and downs. But the character works best as a mercenary who holds no allegiances but to herself. The Agent Carter TV show has Peggy facing a young Whitney Frost in the 1940s before she’s defeated and imprisoned.
Yet the potential for the character is too good to let it die like that. The idea could be this is Frost’s granddaughter and namesake, out to take back the family name in her own way. For the role, Olivia Wilde would be terrific. Yes, the idea of hiding a gorgeous woman behind a mask may seem off but Wilde can be believable in the action scenes while also selling her gorgeous manner and acting the rich lady in public. Wilde is terrific at femme fatale roles and Masque sure puts the “fatal” in that.
16 Morgan Freeman as Galactus
Truth to tell, Galactus isn’t so much a villain as he is a force of nature. The sole survivor of the universe that came before ours, a scientist was transformed by the experience into a monstrous figure who requires the energy of entire planets to survive. It’s stated that every race sees him in their own image and his powers are almost like a god. Earth was the first planet that was able to fight him back and has stymied him time and again. Galactus is not truly evil but does what he has to in order to live like anyone else. He’s needed in the cosmic balance and has actually fought with humans against other threats (like Thanos). Still, hard to argue someone out to turn the planet into lunch doesn’t come off as the bad guy.
The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer movie infamously reimagined Galactus as a sort of cosmic cloud. Maybe a giant guy in a huge purple helmet might be silly but the MCU has showcased a great ability to make things like that work. So you’d have a huge CGI figure with a voice that has to be booming, powerful and commanding respect. In which case, Morgan Freeman is the way to go. The veteran actor has played just about every role imaginable including the Almighty and can sell the power of Galactus and a bit of edge while relatable. He may be a huge challenge but it would fit in the MCU.
15 Javier Bardem as Count Nefaria
Originally, Count Luchino Nefaria was a well-known and a respected Italian businessman and aristocrat. That was really a façade for his role as a high-ranking leader the Maggia, an international crime cartel. He tried to frame the Avengers to get them out of the way but they ended up exposing him, robbing Nefaria of his wealth and privilege. Nefaria soon remade himself into a powerhouse to take on the team and while he’s been defeated, keeps coming back. He carries himself with the air of power, a man used to being treated as a superior type and above the “commoners” of the Avengers. Of course, strip all that away and he’s just a crime boss with some culture, albeit one who can go toe-to-toe with Thor if he has to.
For the role, you’d need someone who can be convincing in charm and regal bearing but also utterly ruthless and brutal. In which case, Javier Bardem would be a terrific choice. The Oscar-winner has excelled at roles as sinister guys in Skyfall, Pirates of the Caribbean and more. He can showcase the aura of control Nefaria exudes while also believable in the fight scenes. Add some of his snide humor and you can count on Bardem bringing Nefaria to brilliant life on screen.
14 Angelina Jolie as Morgan Le Fay
Yep, as in the Morgan Le Fay. In the Marvel universe’s version of the King Arthur legends, Morgan is still the half-sister of Arthur but her other half is faerie. That’s made her immortal and thus surviving the fall of Camelot and surviving through the centuries. She kept herself hidden for a time before returning in the modern era, clashing with a variety of heroes. Incredibly powerful in witchcraft, she’s also highly seductive, able to use her body and wiles to fool and control others. She once managed to remake the world into a medieval land before being defeated and has even tangled with Doctor Doom.
Naturally, it might be tricky working a character from another legend into the MCU yet the potential Morgan brings as a villainess is high. With her history and magical abilities, she could work as a foe in the next Doctor Strange movie. For the part, who better than Angelina Jolie? The actress has a long history of stunning roles that look gorgeous and she can easily handle the sultry beauty of Morgan. Her turn as Maleficent also shows she can do the CGI scenes with ease and adding her star power can only help the MCU. Turn Jolie loose and we’re in for some true wicked magic.
13 Liam Neeson as The High Evolutionary
Often underrated among Marvel’s biggest villains, Herbert Edgar Wyndham was a scientist in the 1930s who became obsessed with the then-new field of genetics. He was soon cross-breeding and mixing up animal life, which got him blackballed from the scientific community. Relocating to a distant mountain, Wyndham experimented on himself, transforming his body into a figure requiring a special armor to survive. He eventually found “Counter-Earth,” a replica of our world in another plane of reality. There, he basically played God, transforming the population into human-animal hybrids. He’s now determined to do the same to our world, boosting humanity’s evolutionary progress…whether we want it or not.
The character is totally convinced he’s in the right, thinking himself above humanity, and his armor combined with his army of creatures, makes him a threat. He’d be tricky for a movie but Liam Neeson could fit the part well. He brings a powerful edge (he has played Zeus) and a gravitas to win you over. Neeson can showcase how the Evolutionary may have a noble goal but horrific means and even sympathize with as he fights the Avengers. If the MCU does plan to “evolve” in the next phase than the Evolutionary would be a good figure for it.
12 Ralph Fiennes as Mephisto
There’s an argument over whether Mephisto really is the Devil or just a high-ranking lord of Hell who wants folks to think he’s the real deal. Regardless, this demon has been taking it to the heroes of the Marvel Universe quite a lot. He challenges himself by trying to corrupt noble souls like Daredevil, Silver Surfer, Captain America and others. He is confident he can find a way to bring them to his side. He loves showing off as a guy in a red suit but can easily shift into a monstrous form, charming but pure evil as well. He’d be a natural for a Doctor Strange sequel, if not the key enemy then at least on the side watching with interest. His lust for power can also add him to cosmic conflicts but even in a low-level setting, his deal-making can lead to trouble.
For the role, there are a lot of guys you can see in the part but Ralph Fiennes would be great. His roles have included hateful characters such as Lord Voldemort, which shows he can play evil in his sleep. He can also sell the charm of Mephisto, for all those parts in which he would have to make deals in a way to build up his own power. Fiennes could easily make this role his own and show how the Devil is always the ultimate foe.
11 Charlize Theron as Moonstone
A criminal psychiatrist in every sense of the term, Karla Sofen was already into manipulating people. Then she got her hands on an alien gem that granted her enhanced strength, flight and the power to fire off energy blasts. As Moonstone, she’s worked with the Masters of Evil as well as the villains-turned-heroes: the Thunderbolts. But Sofen is more an anti-hero. She is arrogant and has the major flaw of thinking she’s a lot smarter than she really is. That behavior makes it hard for folks to get behind her so while she may imagine being a leader, she really needs to be put in her place. However, her smarts and knowledge of what makes people tick can make her a dangerous foe even without the super-powers.
There’s talk of how the upcoming Captain Marvel movie is set in the 1990s but will bring the character into the present. Given how Moonstone and Carol Danvers have a big rivalry, bringing her in for a sequel would be good. For the part, Charlize Theron would be an excellent choice. She can sell the brilliant wicked edge, and of course look fantastic in the costume. The Oscar winner has all the goods to make Moonstone a flawed but dangerous enemy to take it to Marvel and others.
10 Jason Statham as Taskmaster
An issue of Avengers has Ant-Man and Hawkeye finally learning the answer to the long-time question of exactly who trains all those low-level henchmen in the Marvel universe. The answer is the Taskmaster. Tony Masters has the uncanny ability to copy any physical move he sees. He first used it by seeing an NFL game and then pulling off the same passes to win a high school game. Masters realized there was no money there or in being a hero and thus turned to getting paid to train henchmen. His “photographic reflexes” ability makes him a very tough opponent as he can fire a bow as well as Hawkeye, throw Cap’s shield exactly the same and copy the gymnastics of Daredevil and fighting moves of Iron Fist. He can’t replicate super-powers but those fighting abilities make him a major threat.
If you’re casting a major fighter, you can’t go wrong with Jason Statham. The British actor is revered for his fantastic action roles in movies like The Transporter, Crank and the Fast and Furious franchise. He can sell Taskmaster’s often rough manner but also his fighting skills and it would be great seeing him and Chris Evans go toe-to-toe. Even without the character’s trademark skull mask and hood, Statham is up for the task.
9 Bryan Cranston as Doctor Octopus
There’s a tragedy to Otto Octavius, who should have been respected for his great scientific achievements. However, that was ruined in the lab explosion that bonded him to a set of mechanical arms. His mind cracked by the incident, Doctor Octopus began a life of crime, including countless battles with Spider-Man. But there are hints he could be something more. In a long storyline, Oc took over Peter Parker’s body as a “Superior Spider-Man” and did well at it. But he eventually realized his own ego and selfishness were ruining the name and let Peter have his body back. Now in a younger body, Octopus is back to his evil ways but fans prefer his older look. Alfred Molina was terrific in the role in Spider-Man 2 to show Oc twisted but doing the right thing in the end.
The MCU might forgo the “chubby” look of Oc and instead have the more suave look he possessed in the 1990s. Bryan Cranston could easily pull off the role. Breaking Bad showcased how Walter White goes from a bumbling chemistry teacher to a ruthless crime lord. That can easily fit Octopus, the arrogant scientist transformed into this villain and handling the CGI arms. Just slap that bowl cut on him and Cranston can truly break bad as Doc Oc.
8 Margot Robbie as the Enchantress
This is probably the most major of the various Thor characters who has yet to appear in any of the movies. A seductive witch, Amora is well known as the most beautiful woman in Asgard. Sadly, she’s also the most evil, totally egotistical and uses her beauty to control others. That’s literally speaking. A single kiss from her can turn anyone into her slave. If she wants, she can have legions of men kneeling to her and could control the Earth. What stops her is that she often has the attitude of a teenaged brat, more into people worshipping her than being controlling and obsessed with her own beauty. She wants Thor not so much for love but just because she can. She has also used her cunning to go head to head with a lot of heroes.
If you’re casting someone who’s supposed to be a literal goddess, you can’t go wrong with Margot Robbie. The stunning knockout had a big burst in fame in The Wolf of Wall Street and then playing Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. But her role in I, Tonya also shows her acting chops which can work for the part. Put her in one of the Enchantress’ green outfits and Robbie can easily cast her spell in the MCU.
7 Ewan McGregor as Kang the Conqueror
It would take hours to fully explain the complex history of this longtime Avengers foe. The basic gist is the far future Earth is a time of peace and harmony which totally bores a scholar. Utilizing time travel, he begins to bounce about time to gather power, then conquers his home era as Kang. However, he lusts for more challenges and is soon obsessed with controlling all of history. He’s a very dangerous foe as he has the technology of millennia at his beck and call and can control armies from every period of history. There’s also his knowledge of the future which he can use in various ways. But Kang can be honorable; he could easily go back and stop the Avengers from ever being born but he considers that far too cheap a victory and wants the satisfaction of beating them in their primes.
On the face of it, Ewan McGregor might be an odd choice but he could bring a lot to the role. He’s used to FX epics thanks to playing Obi-Wan Kenobi and can showcase the warrior pride of Kang and his cool control. Imagine him pulling out weapons of various types to battle Captain America or boasting of his mastery of time. It’s inevitable the MCU will do more with time travel and a man who once managed to conquer the Earth would be a great threat to face.
6 Matthew McConaughey as The Green Goblin
If you’re having Spider-Man in the MCU then you eventually need to bring in his greatest enemy. For decades, Norman Osborn has sought to make Peter Parker’s life a living hell. Already a dark industrialist, Osborn developed a formula that would give him enhanced strength. It also drove him completely insane and he took to the persona of the Green Goblin to fight Spider-Man. It was thanks to the Goblin that Spidey lost his beloved Gwen Stacy and Norman appeared to die in their fight later. The Goblin role was taken by his son Harry (Peter’s best friend) but eventually Norman returned to take it back. He was memorably played by William Dafoe in the first Spider-Man movie (with James Franco as Harry) but the MCU gives a chance for him to be reborn.
After years in rom-coms, Matthew McConaughey was able to remake himself as an actor. Winning hails (and an Oscar) for Dallas Buyer’s Club and more respect for True Detective, McConaughey has the power for the role and can easily capture the balance of madness and cunning that makes the Goblin so dangerous. He could even pull off a good take on the green mask over his features. He might need to tone down his Texas accent but McConaughey could provide a truly dark take on an already dark figure.
5 Nina Dobrev as the Black Cat
When she discovered her father had been a renowned thief, Felicia Hardy decided to follow in his footsteps just for fun. As time went on, she started to enjoy it and embracing the “cat burglar” motif to the extreme as the Black Cat. She and Spider-Man had a long relationship although it had the odd touch in that while Cat loved Spidey, she literally could not stand the sight of Peter Parker. They broke up with Cat getting a special power that caused bad luck to happen to foes. She spent time as a hero but after a run-in with Doctor Octopus (posing in Peter’s body at the time), she was pushed to go back to crime. She was even a mob boss for a while, but she went back to her roots as a thief, realizing she’s better suited for small missions.
Nina Dobrev can be a good choice to play the part. The actress is best known for her role in The Vampire Diaries where she played good girl Elena and her wicked vampire double Katherine. This shows she can pull off Cat, putting on the face of a nice girl in public but then pulling off some crimes. She has the athleticism needed for the role and even a wicked smirk. She might need a wig for the Cat’s white hair but Dobrev can make the bantering fun with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.
4 Mark Strong as The Leader
Most of the Hulk’s enemies are monsters who can go toe-to-toe with him. The Leader is massively different. Samuel Sterns was a low-level janitor exposed to gamma radiation which granted him incredible intelligence. It also mutated his appearance with a giant head and drove him insane. He later gained the ability to control people with a touch as he plays a variety of games for control. His clashes with the Hulk are a classic battle of brains vs brawn although it has to raddle the Leader that he can’t consistently outwit a creature with the mind of a child. But he is a good foe for the Hulk in many ways. The 2008 Incredible Hulk movie hinted at Tim Blake Nelson’s Stern transforming in the Leader but it was never followed up on.
If they can recast the Hulk, they can for the Leader as well. Mark Strong does bear a good resemblance to the character, the veteran actor known for playing fantastic villains in movies like Robin Hood and was the best part of Green Lantern as Sinestro. He can show the intellect and cunning of the Leader and how he uses his mind to battle this monster and, like the Hulk, the Leader can benefit from a second shot on film.
3 Chow Yun-Fat as The REAL Mandarin
One of the bigger disappointments of the MCU was the Mandarin. This arch-enemy of Iron Man was a Chinese nobleman who lost power in the Communist revolution. He stumbled onto a crashed alien spacecraft containing ten rings, each with their own unique power. Mastering them, the Mandarin has attempted to forge his own empire, battling Iron Man several times. The first IM movie hinted at him with the “Ten Rings” organization. But then in Iron Man 3, he showed up as a goofy villain played by Ben Kingsley. Then came the revelation it was just a boozing actor used as a front for the real mastermind behind all this. That was a huge letdown but it seems Marvel may have gotten the message. A short movie has Slattery in prison being told that the real Mandarin isn’t happy with his name being used like this.
Thus, it would make sense for the next Iron Man movie to showcase the true Mandarin striking out, rings and all. Tony would make the mistake of thinking it’s just another pretender only to find this is a serious threat. Chow Yun-Fat would be a good choice for the part. The actor is a legend in Hong Kong for his fantastic action and achieved fame with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon among other films. He can sell the Mandarin’s power and skills, a regal but intimidating presence and do justice to the character at last.
2 Mark Hamill as MODOK
It may look rather silly but don’t be fooled. Advanced Ideas Mechanics (AIM for short) is a group who utilize top thinkers to remake the world on their own terms (basically imagine a militant version of MENSA). To combat the growing threat of heroes, they create MODOK: Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing (yeah, AIM has a thing for acronyms). A mix of a mutated scientist and a cyborg, it basically looks like a gigantic head on a tiny body. However, it also lives up to its name, unleashing a variety of deadly mind blasts and can be incredibly brutal in a fight. It might like goofy on film but it can also work out as a threat.
Obviously, you need a good voice to make this work with a CGI face attached. And Mark Hamill is the guy to provide it. He may be famous as Luke Skywalker but Hamill is also a great voice actor, notably the Joker in the 1990s Batman animated series. He can provide the right pitch for this crazed figure, making him hysterical but also relatable and make him stand out. Maybe it doesn’t have to be connected to AIM, have him in the next Guardians as some space threat but either way, Hamill can turn MODOK into a memorable character for the MCU.
1 Joaquin Phoenix as Doctor Doom
To many fans, the worst part of the previous two attempts to bring the Fantastic Four to the big screen is how they both ruined the greatest villain in all of comics. Victor Von Doom is a genius on a par with Reed Richards (of course, he’d claim to be much smarter) but his pride and ego leads to his downfall a lot. He’s evil but has some streak of honor in him and the idea that, had things gone differently, he would have been Earth’s greatest hero. He’s regal and powerful, commanding and driven by how he truly and honestly believes the world will be a better place with him as supreme leader. A master of science and sorcery, his armor and his army of Doombots make him a formidable foe but it’s his cunning and ego that truly make him dangerous. Some might want an older actor but if the MCU goes for an FF in their 30s than Doom should be about the same age as Reed.
Joaquin Phoenix has showcased amazing range as an actor. He broke out as the evil Commodus in Gladiator, showing the ability to shift from cool control to loud rants, just like Doom does. Yes, he’s handsome and that’s a key point: that Doom was good-looking before an accident scarred his face and forced him into that armor. Phoenix can nicely pull off the part and let the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe finally get his due.