First starting out in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been one of the most prominent film franchises in recent history. With a ton of released movies and a lot more planned for the future, the franchise has been loved by both comic fans and casual superhero film lovers alike.
In its long list of films, Marvel has introduced some amazing and memorable portrayals of characters we only used to see in comics. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and there’s so much more to mention. Thanks to Marvel, our childhood heroes have been seemingly brought to life.
When there are heroes, there are villains, right? Lucky for us, Marvel’s casting prowess comes into play when choosing villains as well. It’s not all good though as some actors failed to live up to the roles they are chosen to play. Here are the 8 times Marvel got villain casting right, and 8 they got wrong.
16 Worst - Mads Mikkelsen As Kaecilius
2016’s Doctor Strange was a great film and it was considered to be one of the most visually impressive Marvel films to date. The cast was rounded up by some renowned actors and actresses including Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. Aside from Dormammu, the other bad guys pulling the strings was Kaecilius who was played by Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen himself is a renowned actor but once he became Kaecilius, fans were very disappointed.
Mikkelsen has played the bad guy before in Casino Royale and Hannibal. We expected nothing less from the veteran actor but alas, his Kaecilius was dull. Mikkelsen just failed to bring his character to life and what resulted was acting that was as dead as the eyes given to Kaecilius. It was still a good performance though but we expected something more.
15 Best - Kurt Russell As Ego
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had a high bar to reach the success of its predecessor. The film surpassed all expectations and this time, Peter Quill and co. performances were supplemented by a great villain named Ego. Behind this aptly named villain is Kurt Russell.
Ego wasn’t initially presented as the bad guy in the second film. Russell's acting and lines helped in concealing the twist that Ego was worse than most of the villains already introduced in the MCU. But of course, comic book fans knew this beforehand. Russell’s long history of good and laid back characters set up Ego to become an effective role for him.
What made this portrayal so great was that nobody really expected Ego’s true colors up until it was revealed. Once it was revealed though, it was pretty obvious that Ego is not one bad guy to mess with.
14 Worst - Corey Stoll As Yellowjacket
Not much was expected from 2015’s Ant-Man but to the surprise of many, the film was actually pretty good. Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang was a completely different role as compared to what the comedian has played before but he managed to pull it off. The same can’t be said for Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket.
Cross was a typical corporate bad guy who wanted to make use of Hank Pym’s technology for his own good. Stoll portrayed the bad guy as this egoistic mastermind who was hellbent on getting Pym’s tech and what resulted was a villain who was trying too hard to look awesome.
Stoll didn’t characterize the role in any memorable way. He’s a good actor all in all but Yellowjacket’s just not the guy for him. At least he looked good in the Yellowjacket suit.
13 Best - Sebastian Stan As Winter Soldier
Whenever the Marvel guys in charge of casting need to put in a villain alongside the main cast of the MCU, they have to do a good job with picking the right person. For Captain America: Winter Soldier, they had to cast someone who can really jive with Chris Evans, aka Steve Rogers.
Sebastian Stan who played Bucky, also known as Winter Soldier was a good choice. His acting was spot on and it was what everyone imagines when thinking of a brainwashed soldier hell bent on causing chaos. Although Winter Soldier is a good guy now, we still can’t get over how good Sebastian Stan was when he was a villain.
It’s not just the acting to get us, it’s his dedication to the role that served as the icing on the cake. The action scenes were very on point and that is to be attributed to Stan’s intense preparation for the role.
12 Worst - Christopher Eccleston As Malekith
Thor: The Dark World is presumably one of the worst films in the MCU. The story was simply lackluster and we’re sure that Marvel would want a do over if given the chance. With a film as bad as this, it’s almost expected that there are a few cases of wrong castings and that could be said with Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith.
To be fair with the Doctor Who actor, what Eccleston was given was not an interesting villain, to begin with. Malekith was a run-of-the-mill bad guy that offered as much interest as any other henchmen. This partnered with the fact that Eccleston just simply didn’t fit the role made the MCU’s Malekith just too much to bear.
Under all the CGI and makeup, we can’t even see or feel Eccleston’s acting prowess on display. It would’ve gone better if they made Malekith just a simpler villain.
11 Best - Michael Keaton As Vulture
The most recent villains to join the rogue's gallery of the MCU is Vulture who appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Spider-Man’s villain list is filled with a few terrifying villains and the Vulture isn’t one of those guys. He just really didn’t scare us. Michael Keaton changed our views about the character in his recent outing though.
Adrian Toomes aka Vulture is the first major villain that the new Peter Parker is facing. Keaton’s acting was very superb. We couldn’t expect less from the guy who was the lead in the award winning Birdman. At least we know now that avian characters are Keaton’s specialty.
We’re lucky that it isn’t the last we’ve seen of Vulture though as it looks like Marvel will introduce the Sinister Six and one of the members of the team is Toomes himself.
10 Worst - Ben Kingsley As Trevor Slattery
Iron Man 3 was known for quite a few things and it was not one of the best solo entries for Tony Stark but it was still a good film all in all. One of the main reasons why some people hated the film was the blatant lie told about the main villain. Everybody expected the terrorizing Mandarin to be Ben Kingsley's character but it was later on revealed that he was playing a terrorist named Trevor Slattery.
This lie was bad enough on its own but when Kingsley got into his Slattery persona, things just took a turn for the worst. His accent was annoying and though his acting was okay, not many were impressed with what he had to offer. To be fair, Kingsley did a good job on making Slattery a very pathetic and weak character.
9 Best - Tom Hiddleston As Loki
Thor’s first solo film was welcomed very well and fans loved how the Norse God was introduced to the franchise. The film was loved for a few reasons and that included Chris Hemsworth excellent portrayal of Thor. When asked who owned Thor, many are probably going to say Tom Hiddleston did.
Loki has been a prominent character in the MCU and he has been in several films already. We couldn’t be more thankful about that as Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki is nothing short of impressive. We’re lucky that Loki’s going to be a part of more films including the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity War.
Somehow, it’s like Loki has really been brought to life thanks to Hiddleston’s acting. His charms and wit are more than enough to keep MCU fangirls rooting for the villain every once in awhile.
8 Worst - Mickey Rourke As Whiplash
After the critical success of the first Iron Man film, many expected the next one to be a blast. The second is still a success of course with Robert Downey Jr., once again stealing the entire show as Iron Man himself. Opposite of Tony Stark was Whiplash, played by Mickey Rourke.
To begin with, Whiplash isn’t one of the most popular characters in Marvel history so those who’ve only gotten into the films might need a little research on who the character is. Since the character isn’t too well known, Marvel HAD to bring in an A-List character to bring him to life.
Rourke was excellent in The Wrestler, we don’t know what happened to him but his acting in Iron Man 2 felt dull and stiff. He didn’t bring justice to the otherwise terrifying character. Well, at least he looked intimidating.
7 Best - Hugo Weaving As Red Skull
The Red Skull is a terrifying villain as he is already. He’s an overpowered Nazi soldier with a red skull in place as his head. We’re lying if we said that he’s not the scariest villain in the entire Marvel universe. When Hugo Weaving was tasked with bringing this character to life, the pairing was just a match made in heaven.
Before Red Skull, Weaving is best known for his role as Agent Smith from The Matrix. In the film, he was a calm and calculated villain so when he brought Red Skull to life in Captain America, his fans were caught off guard.
What made Weaving such a match for Red Skull was his accent and his menacing facial expressions. Even without his iconic red skull, Weaving was terrifying as Hydra head, Johann Schmidt. Everything just looked all too natural for Weaving and it was as if he was born to be as the Red Skull.
6 Worst - Lee Pace As Ronan The Accuser
2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the best breakthrough movies from the MCU universe. The adventures of Peter Quill and the gang was just fun to witness and it seemed like fans underestimated what the film would be like. While the movie itself was a smash hit, we just can’t help criticize Lee Pace’s Ronan The Accuser.
Lee Pace’s acting was superb, don’t get us wrong. The main problem with this baddie is that Pace just didn’t really fit into the role of Ronan The Accuser. For starters, Pace looked more like a video game NPC rather than a galactic menace once the costume was put on.
What made his portrayal worse was the horrible accent Pace used. Most of the time, it felt like Ronan The Accuser was either going to shout his throat out or was going to break into a song and dance routine.
5 Best - James Spader As Ultron
You don’t have to actually be there to portray a role excellently. When Avengers: Age of Ultron was being teased, not many were too confident with the main villain as many expected the next Avengers film to revolve around Thanos already. Lucky for Marvel, James Spader won over fans with his role as Ultron.
For most of the film, Ultron terrorized the Avengers from afar. Spader’s all too intimidating voice was enough to send chills down our spines and we really felt the characters’ hatred for humanity thanks to his excellent voice acting. Fans had an entirely different opinion of the villain after the film because Spader was just too good.
We’re kinda sad that Ultron was a one-time thing though as we would’ve loved to see Ultron and James Spader return again. With Thanos bringing in all sorts of crazy powers, then Ultron returning isn’t too far off.
4 Worst - Jeff Bridges As Obadiah Stane
Don’t get us wrong, Jeff Bridges is an amazing actor and there are a ton of memorable roles under the actor’s name. We can’t add his Obadiah Stane portrayal in the first Iron Man film on that list though as he just wasn’t really the guy we’re looking for.
Stane is an elderly man who just happens to get his hands on Tony Stark’s tech. The problem with Bridges’ acting is that we just can’t get a feel of how sinister Stane could be. For the entire duration of the film, we felt like Stane could be portrayed by someone else more natural to the role.
Bridges is better known for his characters that have a calm demeanor and that perhaps is one of the reasons why his portrayal of Stane was not that well-received.
3 Best - Josh Brolin As Thanos
Almost all of the MCU movies center around introducing a menacing force of the galaxy that is Thanos. Comic book fans know Thanos all too well and when casting the actor that’s fit for the Mad Titan, the guys over at Marvel certainly made a good choice with Josh Brolin.
Brolin as Thanos was first revealed during the end credits scene of the first Avengers film. We got to see even more of him during Guardians of the Galaxy. We’ve gotten a glimpse of how Brolin will take on this character and all we can say for now is that he’s doing a mighty fine job with it.
With the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War leaking left and right, we’re getting to see the Mad Titan more and more. Simply put, Brolin is giving justice to the main baddie of the film universe that took an entire decade to build.
2 Worst - Daniel Brühl As Helmut Zemo
Captain America: Civil War was one of the best entries in the franchise so far but the film isn’t without its flaws. One of the flaws of the film was the tug and war battle for attention between the two conflicts in the film; Helmut Zemo vs. the heroes and the heroes vs. the other heroes.
Daniel Brühl’s acting as Helmut Zemo was already unimpressive enough on its own. With the history of the character being known by many Marvel fans, a lot was expected from the menacing Zemo in Civil War. Brühl could’ve used more spunk though.
What really stole the film from Zemo was the conflict between the heroes. There was a bigger battle on-screen so why should we focus on Zemo; who wasn’t really much of threat to anyone. Maybe if they gave Zemo a little more evil in him then Brühl’s performance would’ve been okay.
1 Best - Robert Redford As Alexander Pierce
Not all menacing villains need super powers or a super suit or anything extraordinary. In the hands of the right actor, a villain who’s quietly pulling the strings behind the curtain can steal the show as easy as any other villain. Such is the case with Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce.
Hydra was an evil organization enough on its own. Moviegoers were on edge while looking for any traces of Hydra in the film but little did they know, Redford was already doing the unthinkable and was setting up the heroes for turmoil.
Redford’s portrayal of Pierce was all too perfect. His menacing smile and calm demeanor were perfect for the role and fans felt his evil intent the moment he was revealed as the main bad guy. It just goes to show that even the regular guys can be an unfathomable force sometimes.
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