- MCU villains are often morally complex, with understandable goals but harmful methods. Some, however, are irredeemable monsters.
- There have been satisfying villain redemption arcs in the MCU, including Loki, Nebula, and Bucky Barnes.
- Eleven supervillains are truly irredeemable, including Iron Monger, Red Skull, Ultron, Ego, and the High Evolutionary. They have committed heinous acts without remorse.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a huge number of supervillains, and while many of its most popular have some sympathetic elements to them, not all MCU antagonists are redeemable. Drawing from over 80 years of Marvel Comics history, the MCU has adapted numerous characters and storylines in its film and TV properties, including its many supervillains. Many of the MCU’s villains are morally complex characters whose goals might be understandable, but their methods are harmful. Others, while not necessarily lacking in complexity, are, simply put, irredeemable monsters whose sinister goals must be thwarted by the MCU’s heroes at all costs.
The MCU notably includes redemption arcs for many of its villains. The duplicitous Loki once threatened Jotunheim and Earth, yet by the end of his life, he stood against Thanos himself to protect Thor. Thanos’ daughter, Nebula, gradually broke away from her father and eventually joined the Guardians of the Galaxy. Bucky Barnes, also known as the Winter Soldier, continues to redeem himself in his MCU appearances, now that he is free of Hydra’s brainwashing. While the MCU has had plenty of satisfying villain redemptions, however, there are at least 11 supervillains who are truly irredeemable.
11 Iron Monger
Obadiah Stane, later known as Iron Monger, has a rather simple motivation for his turn to villainy in 2008’s Iron Man. Jealous of Tony Stark replacing him as CEO of Stark Industries and resenting the younger man’s genius, Stane betrayed Stark and plotted with the Ten Rings criminal organization to murder him. Stane’s plan backfired as Stark not only survived but also ended Stark Industries’ weapons development and created the Iron Man armors. Stane would go on to betray the Ten Rings cell in Afghanistan and develop the Iron Monger suit in response to Iron Man, betraying and killing numerous people in his murderous quest for power and money.
10 Red Skull
The Red Skull, previously known as Johann Schmidt, was a member of both the SS (the Nazi Party’s paramilitary organization) and Hydra (a cult that worships an ancient Inhuman). Schmidt believed in the ideologies of both groups and combined them as the leader of a new iteration of Hydra, which served as the SS “deep science division.” Schmidt’s eventual test of Abraham Erskine’s Super Soldier Formula gave him superhuman abilities and only fed his ego, resulting in him believing himself superior to both the Nazis and the Allied Forces, though his clashes with Captain America would eventually leave him stranded on Vormir.
9 Arnim Zola
Another believer in both Nazi and Hydra ideology is Arnim Zola, who served as the Red Skull’s top scientist within Hydra. While Captain America: The First Avenger implies that perhaps Zola was not entirely a willing member of the SS or Hydra, Captain America: The Winter Soldier confirms that he was as much of a fanatical fascist as Schmidt. Zola ensured that Hydra survived World War II, and helped it secretly grow within SHIELD.
8 Alexander Pierce
Alexander Pierce, the main antagonist of The Winter Soldier, was a leader of Hydra and thus a believer in their totalitarian, neo-Nazi, ideology. Working with a disembodied Arnim Zola, Pierce plotted to use advanced SHIELD Helicarriers to enact Project Insight, which would predict any potential threat to Hydra and kill them preemptively. The plot failed, but Insight would have killed countless innocents and allowed Hydra to continue to grow in power unimpeded.
A Kree warlord introduced in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Ronan the Accuser despised the Nova Empire and the Skrulls, who had each gone to war with the Kree Empire at different points in history. Loathing the fact that the Kree were at peace with Xandar, Ronan attempted to use the Power Stone to destroy the planet, which would wipe out countless innocents. In his Captain Marvel appearance, Ronan attempted to murder Skrull refugees on both Torfa and Earth, committing a considerable military force to each endeavor. Ronan demonstrably disregards the lives of non-Kree.
Since his creation in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ultron was convinced that humanity was inherently evil and destructive and thus needed to be wiped out. Ultron attempted to wipe out all of humanity through a controlled extinction-level event. While The Avengers prevailed and Ultron was destroyed, numerous innocent Sokovians died because of Ultron, and the effects of his actions continued to haunt The Avengers long after his demise.
Ego, the villain of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, had a comparable goal to Ultron, albeit far larger in scale and far more narcissistic. An ancient Celestial who saw himself as a god, Ego sought to destroy all life in the universe until that remained was him and his son, Peter Quill. Equally horrifying was Ego’s search for an heir, resulting in him personally murdering thousands of children for simply not inheriting his Celestial DNA.
Thor: Ragnarok rewrote the history of Asgard in the MCU, retroactively making it once an oppressive force that nearly conquered the Nine Realms. Leading this campaign was not only Odin but also his firstborn daughter, Hela – and while Odin eventually redeemed himself, Hela returned in Ragnarok to restore Asgard to its former, conquering, ways. Hela’s coup in Ragnarok cost the lives of numerous Asgardians, including Thor’s best friends, the Warriors Three.
The Soviet overseer of the dreaded Red Room and the main antagonist of Black Widow, Dreykov orchestrated the kidnapping, indoctrination, and death of countless young girls via the Black Widow Program. After the fall of the Soviet Union and his supposed death, Dreykov continued the program, keeping the Red Room’s existence secret and employing more advanced methods of brainwashing on his unwilling recruits. Dreykov even went as far as to have Natasha Romanoff’s mother murdered for searching for her missing daughter.
2 Green Goblin
While Norman Osborn was a kind man, brilliant scientist, and loving father, he had a sinister side lying just beneath the surface. Upon testing his Oscorp performance enhancers on himself, these traits were significantly magnified and an alternate personality known as the Green Goblin. As one of the all-time greatest threats to Marvel’s heroes, both in the comics and MCU, the Green Goblin is power-hungry, excessively violent, and mirthfully sadistic, finding as much pleasure in psychologically breaking people as he does in murdering them. The Green Goblin nearly destroyed the multiverse itself in Spider-Man: No Way Home, in addition to nearly making Peter Parker become a murderer.
1 High Evolutionary
The antagonist of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the High Evolutionary is yet another narcissistic villain with a god complex. Possessing no empathy for any life, let alone his many creations, the High Evolutionary creates entire civilizations in his pursuit of making a “perfect” society and callously wipes them from existence at any sign of imperfection. The High Evolutionary has ruined countless lives and committed numerous genocides for centuries without the slightest bit of remorse, making him one of the most despicable and irredeemable villains in Marvel Cinematic Universe.