This article contains MCU spoilers.
Some superhero stories transcend the notion of heroism. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have seen actors such as Tony Stark, Stephen Strange, Natasha Romanoff, and Gamora make amends for their past sins through heroism. A viewer's desire for a great redemption story sometimes mixes itself with the notion of a villain that you no longer want to root against.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a slew of villains, some of whom have changed their ways for the better over time. A good face-turn might always get the blood pumping. We've compiled the best.
First off, here are some ground rules: this list is based on villains or at least antagonists. Yes, Tony Stark was a dick and was responsible for many fatalities, but he has always been portrayed as the good guy. Similarly, these villains have to be able to demonstrate how they have progressed. Taskmaster and Ghost are two bad guys who chill out by the end of the movie, but do not do anything beyond that.
As enjoyable as Jameela Jamil's portrayal of Titania in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is, the ending's otherwise funny rewrite gimmick completely forgets about her. Titania appears at the Intelligencia meeting to seemingly assist her opponent, so it appears the organization's humiliating treatment to She-Hulk was over the line in her eyes.
Jen stated that she thought the situation was a bit too crazy for the narrative, yet she made no mention of Titania whatsoever when it came to rewrite the ending. She was even there to express her opinions on Todd Phelps' arrest. It's just that there was no context for what she was doing there in the first place.
Ikaris became far more interesting after confessing himself to be the film's secret villain, as the Grant Ward of the Eternals. He betrays the team so that Earth may be destroyed, as willed by the Celestials. The film really needed this, since Kro the Mega Man Deviant was not really pulling his weight.
Ikaris does terrible things in order to accomplish his mission, but his failure leaves him no choice but to reflect on his crimes. He has already been responsible for several Eternal deaths, and even if he could persuade Sersi to kill him, it would be futile. Ikaris' alternative is to take himself off the board and fly into the sun.
The direction of Skurge is probably the worst part of an otherwise terrific Thor: Ragnarok movie. The film is never brave enough to permit him to do anything truly evil other than be completely spineless. He never gets to kill anyone or really doom the innocent in any way that matters.
Skurge's death is a weaker portrayal of a much better heroic death. It takes a brute henchman who has existed for so long as a loser and a simp, and gives him a death so terrible that even Hela shows him respect in the afterlife.
Black Widow is filled with humor, but underneath the jokes and charm, Alexei represents some serious destruction and tragedy. Unlike most of the others on this list, Red Guardian lacks self-awareness and therefore does not even know his own faults. That's why one of the saddest MCU scenes to me is when young Natasha steals a revolver and desperately screams at everyone to not touch her sister Yelena.
On the one hand, he may be talking down to a responsibility he no longer wants to share. He's washing his hands of this parental obligation so he can continue his career. On the other hand, he sees Natasha and Yelena's terrible upbringing and long training as a good thing, which he later backs up with his gratitude for all of the people they have killed.
Red Guardian is unintentionally betrayed by his pal and country, but while he does turn over a new leaf in the end, it is fragile whether or not he realizes what he did wrong. All he really understands is that he still has a soft spot for his daughters, especially Yelena, and that his actions made her miserable in some way he doesn't quite understand.
Scarlet Witch is a 16-year-old girl.
Wanda Maximoff's lack of agency is a feature rather than a bug. Despite being so powerful, the Scarlet Witch has trouble making her own decisions most of the time, and that makes her even more dangerous. She was so distraught from her parents' tragic death that she joined a Nazi off-shoot organization and then worked with a killer robot, only stopping when she realized that said robot intended to destroy the world.
Captain America: Civil War consists of following somebody's instructions, even when Wanda goes against her. Both directors are driven by two people who want her to keep doing what she's doing (Director Hayward and Agatha Harkness) and two who want her to stop (Vision and Monica Rambeau). That makes it even more horrifying in the post-credits scene where we see that this vulnerable sorceress did nothing to apologize for her terrible treatment of the residents of Westview.
Scarlet Witch goes off the deep end in Doctor Strange's Multiverse of Madness, finding no one to balance it out. She encounters only wizards she refuses to believe, as well as a smug assortment of superheroes who conceal what she's capable of. Wanda finally listens and changes her ways when she sees the horror of her would-be children and her understanding variant self.
If she survives, then we can hope that she will emerge from the experience capable of making her own decisions.
John Walker was the real x-factor of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, who was endorsed by the new government. He was depicted as a good guy who meant well, was decorated as a top soldier, and was equally as physically capable as Sam Wilson would be. He just didn't have the temperament to go through it all.
Perhaps Walker should have had more tact. Perhaps Sam and Bucky should have been more accepting of Walker as an ally. Walker became more alienated by the superhero lifestyle. Frustration and worries of inadequacy pushed him to the edge, and Battlestar's sudden death pushed him over it. It's a fantastic spiral into madness, especially when you see Walker's righteous breakdown during his honorable discharge.
Walker does not want to give up on his own protection in the sixth episode, so the post-credits clip for the fifth episode is distracting. Walker does end up doing the right thing and choosing to save lives rather than brutalizing his foes, but it feels very rushed and abrupt. Seeing him suddenly on good (enough) terms with Bucky feels unearned.
In Thunderbolts, at least, we'll get to see their connection develop more.
14.Gorr the God Butcher
Gorr may have gone a bit overboard in his mission, but after the first few scenes of Thor: Love and Thunder, it's easy to see where he's coming from. Dude lost everything and was MAD. He was being poisoned by the sword that allowed him to commit geno-deicide, and he didn't care because it was telling him to do everything he already wanted to do.
Thor chooses not to try to stop Gorr when faced with the wish-granting Eternity as his focus is on the dying Jane Foster. When the two Thors suggest that he use his cosmic wish to reclaim his deceased daughter instead, the dying Gorr understands that that makes far more sense.
Maya is a fearsome mafia lieutenant in Hawkeye, but a look at her backstory makes you sympathize with the guy and his grieving daughter. At the very least, you get the sense that Maya will not allow things to go if there is word of a young lady dressed as Ronin.
Maya's final encounter with Barton changes her mind about things. Despite Ronin being a brutal force of nature out to murder people, the fact that he killed Maya's father was a setup. He and Maya are weapons and in this situation, the real perpetrator is who set up the conflict.
Maya realizes that her underworld foes aren't her true family, and in her effort to free herself, she murders her closest confidant and shoots her "uncle" William Fisk in the face. It's still too early to tell where Echo will take her, but considering she's getting her own show, it looks like she'll take things in the right direction.
The story of Emil Blonsky is fascinating because to the length of time the Marvel Cinematic Universe has lasted and how it has evolved. An elderly soldier lamenting how his youthful body and his experienced experience could not exist at the same time. He sees a warrior that transcends even the finest of himself.
After years, he is forgotten about, and time really changes the context. Is he really a "Hulk villain" if the two of them only fought for ten minutes a bunch of years ago? Is he still alive and well when he becomes older and has ultimate power, but is in a situation where it is all but useless? When Blonsky reappears in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as well as the teaser for She-Hul
People wanted to believe that the Abomination had been reformed into a wise self-help expert, but there was an expectation that the other shoe would fall. Blonsky was still a decent enough guy who just made some stupid decisions at the end of the day. He returned to prison this time, though he accepted Wong's suggestion.
He has his flaws, but he is by no means a supervillain. That's enough.
Thanos, the Ravager, is 11th.
What If...? The second episode gave us a different version of T'Challa, who instead became Black Panther. T’Challa was able to persuade the Mad Titan that there was a better way to heal the universe than simply removing half of life.
The character's portrayal is interesting because while he receives a new leaf, he remains guilty of numerous crimes. Part of him remains clinging to his old Infinity Stones plan and becomes angry when his crewmates insult him for it. His adopted daughter Nebula is less cybernetic than usual, but the wounds are still there and she refuses to see him as anything other than a monster.
Thanos' major moment is a case of self-sacrifice, choosing to let his daughter (and the Ravagers) live at the cost of his own. Nebula chooses to assist and rescue Thanos in that moment, leading to an adorable final scene in the episode where Nebula accepts Thanos as a father figure, but is still surprised by his assertion that the whole snap plan was worthwhile.
Quicksilver is a 10.10 light bulb.
Pietro Maximoff has the disadvantage of having his entire arc told in an overstuffed film where his sister is treated as a lot more interesting. When Quicksilver meets the Avengers, especially Hawkeye, he gets to see him in a few good speedster moments. Once he understands that the evil killer robot is an evil killer robot, he becomes a winner.
Quicksilver's origins stem from a Stark computer that is being misused for disastrous purposes, and, wouldn't you know it, he saves people from a sentient computer that is being misused for disastrous purposes. He saves a child, but he also sacrifices himself to save the life of his main competitor, Hawkeye.
The true Mandarin is a badass trope of a violent person who did terrible things, then returned to that life. He is like William Munny or John Wick, although as an antagonist. However, his way of treating his children after falling off the violence wagon is unsatisfactory at best.
Wenwu's villainy in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings isn't because he is a giant bastard, but because he is too blind to see the truth. It's just too terrible that he nearly ruins everything and unleashes the Dweller-in-Darkness. He protects his son, looks him over emotionally, contemplates their relationship, and sends the Ten Rings into Shang-Chi's possession, and We
He's sorry for mistaking his son, but he's probably not fond of all of those years spent as a crime boss.
Yondu is a young lady who loves to dance.
Yondu might not be a full-on villain in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, but he is certainly an antagonist. He is an abusive and threatening force that claims that he will kill Star-Lord himself. When he joins the Guardians late in the movie, it is only a temporary agreement so that he can still nab the Power Stone and presumably put the galaxy in danger.
In one of his final scenes in the first film, he begins to reveal who he is. He implies to the viewer that he may be Peter's biological father, but he insists that he is not. Still, he continues to profess that he is proud of Peter and has taken steps to keep him away from his real "jackass" father.
Yondu is still shown to be arrogant and guilty of horrible acts (excommunicated from his Ravager brethren for bringing so many children to their deaths at the hands of Ego), but he's shown in a more sympathetic light. Not only does he sacrifice himself to save Peter and die so heroically that the other Ravagers glorify his actions, but he acts like a Jacob Marley figure to Rocket.
Yondu demonstrates to Rocket that they are similar in their self-destructive, selfish, and abusive behaviors. By doing this, Rocket is able to understand what he means to others and how he can and should do better.
Supreme Court Justices are odd in nature.
What If...? With all the hype surrounding Mordo revealing how dangerous Doctor Strange and his like can be, we finally got to see it in action. Strange had to suffer a terrible accident in the process, but by the time he had recovered, his girlfriend (in this universe) had to be saved.
Strange Supreme was able to defend the multiverse in the latter episodes of the first season.
Strange received some vindication from allowing Uatu the Watcher to declare that breaking his oath isn't the worst thing in the universe.
Doctor Octopus: 6.
I think this is the redemption arc that really needed to take place just for the thrill of the ride. Doc Ock is undoubtedly the most popular cinematic villain in Spider-Man's rolodex, and his story is tragic. Even when he realizes the error of his ways at the end of Spider-Man 2, he immediately goes for the self-sacrificing route.
Doc Ock is a shrewd character who wants to assist his multiversed foes, and he succeeds with him. His actions aren't just based on evil, they're also based on sci-fi mental illness, so once that's been taken care of, he's just a charming schlub of a man with extra limbs. However, in the final act, Ock returns to help the three Peters deal with their antagonists, allowing him
I remember reading a Thunderbolts comic from the 1990s where someone dismisses M'Baku as being a problematic character. Who would have expected that M'Baku would be a fan favorite decades later? At least in the movies, they made sure not to refer to him as "Man-Ape."
M'Baku starts off as a threat to T'Challa's role as King of Wakanda. He may have intended to kill him during the fight. Not only that, but he was quite rude! T'Challa not only demanded that he step out so his tribe would not have to lose such a leader. It's a great tribute to M'Baku when T'Challa is nearly killed later in the film.
M'Baku adapts over time to change for the better. He chooses not to fight alongside T'Challa during the Black Order's assault on Wakanda. He becomes Shuri's wise mentor when she needs it. By the time Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is over, M'Baku appears to be on track to be crowned the new King of Wakanda.
The Winter Soldier
Bucky Barnes is a victim, even if Tony Stark could not bear to admit it. He was a weapon used by HYDRA to murder their enemies, and he had no role in the matter. So for this entry, we will talk about Bucky Barnes as a robotic assassin dedicated to the job.
Bucky's shocked, wide-eyed, intense look reveals that he doesn't fully understand his past, but he understands enough to reconsider his actions. He tells him to shut up so he may fulfill his mission and keep things simple.
Bucky does not know who this guy is or who he himself is, but he decides to save Captain America's life and go on. He reads up on himself, and believes it would be for everyone's best if he sat off the radar for a while.
Melina Vostokoff is a German actress.
Melina Vostokoff has a much more substantial impact in Black Widow. Melina was forced through the program four times, yet she still cared enough about her adopted daughters to offer Natasha what she could of given her. Even after she was locked up in the Red Room's clutches, she always kept her secrets.
One of Black Widow's highlights is the reunion of the family around the table, where Melina goes over the mind-control techniques and you can see Yelena freeze up, feeling the betrayal. Either way, Yelena's breakdown affects her and her heart-to-heart with Natasha after the job is finished.
Melina grew up believing in young Natasha and it reverberates years later when she has the strength to stand up and saves the Red Room from its devastation. She chooses to support those she loves and makes it a matter of pride.
The other one from the main continuity makes huge strides with Thor and even declares that he would rather sacrifice great power than see his brother tortured. He dies in a failed attempt to stop Thanos, but does so rather heroically. He was never sorry about the siege on New York and never attempted to make amends.
The Loki from the Disney+ show is a different form taken from Loki at his most sinister moments, just after losing the New York battle. Loki begins to think about his own nature as a result of various experiences throughout the season, such as meeting his variants, being trapped in a time loop with an angry Sif, and forming a stronger bond with Mobius.
Loki is still interested in ruling the timeline during the final scenes of He Who Remains, but his intentions are subtle. It's not about how he needs to rule because he's Loki, but because someone needs to rule the timeline otherwise things will get worse.
Nebula refuses to agree to any kind of compromise when you see how Thanos treats her. In the sequel, Gamora gives us an insight into why she so resents Gamora. She decides that killing Thanos is a great offense.
Nebula stands out among the bigger names due to her ability to literally conquer her past. She spends years with real friends who give her the respect she never received from her father, including that wonderful moment when she admits shame for being a cyborg and War Machine is there to offer her reassurance and acceptance.
Nebula is now more at peace as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy and isn't as enthused as she used to be. She at least appreciates the joys of Christmas, even if it does mean taking a robot arm for the sake of making a kleptomaniac happy.