Deacon Frost in Blade was a standout Marvel villain pre-MCU, providing an engaging adaptation of the character with Steven Dorff’s solid performance. The film’s violence and reimagining of the vampire hunter showcased promise for comic book movies.
Magneto in Fox’s X-Men movies, portrayed by Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender, stands out as the best Marvel movie villain not in the MCU. Complex and sympathetic, the character design and the depth of the actors’ performances make Magneto a standout antagonist.
Though the Marvel Cinematic Universe has introduced many iconic characters, there are a number of excellent Marvel villains that exist outside the franchise. Since 2008, Marvel Studios’ efforts have been concentrated on the MCU, one of the most ambitious and successful movie franchises of all time. The movies of the MCU make up a massive shared universe comprised of countless Marvel characters. However, there are many other films based on Marvel comic books or characters that don’t exist within the MCU, and many of them are every bit as compelling as those who play a part in Marvel’s flagship franchise.
Many non-MCU Marvel movies were made before the creation of the franchise, whereas others exist independently due to long-standing rights issues. As all good superhero movies need a compelling villain to be at odds with the hero, these movies contain a rich vein of brilliant antagonists who simply don’t exist within the confines of the MCU. Many of these characters have yet to appear within the MCU, and others are variants of those who have already entered the franchise, but all of them are truly excellent villains. With that in mind, here are the 10 best Marvel movie villains not in the MCU.
10 Carnage (Venom: Let There Be Carnage)
The Sonyverse might be considered the MCU’s lesser sibling, but its introduction of Carnage was an excellent choice. After Venom’s offspring finds its host in the serial killer Cletus Kasady, the pair begin committing acts of wanton destruction as the symbiote helps set the killer free. Venom: Let There Be Carnage‘s casting of Woody Harrelson as Kasady was brilliant, as he brings a frenetic and sadistic energy to the role that fits the dark but comedic tone of Sony’s Venom movies.
9 Deacon Frost (Blade)
All the way back in 1997, Blade showcased some serious promise for comic book movies. With extreme violence and a healthy dose of blood, Marvel’s own vampire hunter was brought to life and forced to fight Deacon Frost, an ambitious vampire hoping to become the vampiric god La Magra. The film’s reimagining of the comic book character provided an engaging adaptation of the character, with actor Steven Dorff brought in to portray Frost and giving a solid performance as the character. He proves a worthy opponent for Blade, and was a big part of what made the pre-MCU Marvel film so successful.
8 Sentinels (X-Men: Days Of Future Past)
The Sentinels are one of the X-Men’s greatest threats, and X-Men: Days of Future Past brought them perfectly to life in live-action. The large mutant-hunting robots are featured heavily in the film, created by Bolivar Trask with the intention of finding mutants hiding in plain sight. The visual design of the Sentinels in the film brilliantly matches their comic book appearance, with sleeker and more futuristic iterations appearing in the film’s apocalyptic flash forwards. They may be cold and inhuman, but that’s a big part of what makes them such an imposing force for the movie’s heroes to face.
7 Sebastian Shaw (X-Men: First Class)
Despite having a significant amount of ups and downs, Fox’s X-Men movies always managed to attract impressive actors to the franchise. 2011’s X-Men: First Class saw Kevin Bacon cast as Sebastian Shaw, the powerful mutant leader of the Hellfire Club. As well as Shaw being an important character in the X-Men mythos, Bacon’s performance was excellent, communicating Shaw’s cold indifference to the lives of others and his self-interested nature in the way only a celebrated actor of his talent could have pulled off.
6 Firefist (Deadpool 2)
Although Deadpool will enter the MCU in upcoming Marvel movies, Deadpool 2 saw the Merc with a Mouth continue his X-Men adjacent existence. The film’s villain turned out to be Firefist, a young boy called Russell intent on getting revenge on a teacher who abused him. Deadpool 2‘s take on the relatively obscure character was an interesting spin on the traditional comic book movie villain, and Julian Dennison conveyed the complex nature of his character well. For a film that skews decidedly toward comedy, Russell is a tragic and sympathetic figure, making him a particularly compelling villain, and one who could well have promise as a future hero should Deadpool 3’s MCU status allow more than just its lead to transfer over.
5 Green Goblin (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Although the Green Goblin was adapted previously into live-action in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, there was another version that was both incredibly interesting and didn’t cross over into the MCU. Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn has a genetic illness, leading to him taking an experimental spider venom as a treatment. The resulting villain is a horrifyingly unique spin on the Green Goblin, with Harry proceeding to dismantle his old friend’s life piece by piece after mutating into the villain. It’s a fun spin on the villain’s story, and Dane DeHaan’s unnerving performance makes his Green Goblin unforgettable.
4 Mephisto (Ghost Rider)
Though he wasn’t featured all too heavily, Mephisto did pop up in the Ghost Rider movies. In the first, he was played by Peter Fonda, and was recast for the sequel, Spirit of Vengeance with Ciaran Hinds in the role. Though the Ghost Rider movies leave much to be desired, Mephisto himself is an incredible villain who has yet to appear in the MCU, making his appearance in the movie a decidedly exciting one, especially for those who know of his comic significance. With two celebrated actors having assumed the role, Mephisto is one of the biggest wasted opportunities in Marvel movies, and his inclusion in Ghost Rider and its sequel will have to satisfy his most ardent fans until his MCU debut.
3 Doctor Doom (Fantastic Four)
There are few Marvel villains as powerful and important as Doctor Doom, but the character still hasn’t found his way into the MCU. The team’s cinematic past has seen two iterations of the villain, but the one introduced in 2005’s Fantastic Four is by far the best. Julian McMahon’s dashing Victor Von Doom is shown to be a titan of industry and a dangerous individual, with his long-standing rivalry with Reed Richards boiling over into hatred. Though he may not entirely live up to the character’s potential, it’s still the closest Marvel movies have yet come to bringing one of the comics’ best villains to life.
2 Venom (Venom)
Venom’s status as an occasional anti-hero might confuse things somewhat, but he’s still primarily a Spider-Man villain. Another resident of the Sonyverse, Venom is voiced by Tom Hardy, who also plays his host Eddie Brock. The human-symbiote banter is brilliantly written, with Hardy providing both sides of the conversation, and the Venom movies are simply fresh, fun, and simple. The fact that Venom is an iconic character in his own right certainly factors in, but Hardy’s performance makes Sony’s Venom one of the best non-MCU Marvel movie villains.
1 Magneto (X-Men)
Fox’s X-Men movies got many things wrong about their titular mutants, but one of the franchise’s most consistent achievements was its characterization of Magneto. Played by both Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender, the two versions of Magneto are complex and not entirely unsympathetic, even when radically pushing to start a war against humankind. The character design and the depth of McKellen and Fassbender’s respective performances make Magneto by far the best Marvel movie villain not yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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