MCU villains often go unnoticed, but they have some standout scenes that steal the show, like Justin Hammer’s dance and Hela shattering Mjolnir.
The Vulture’s confrontation with Spider-Man challenges the black-and-white morality of the MCU, while Ebony Maw’s torture of Doctor Strange is chilling.
Ultron’s self-awareness and Gorr the God-Butcher scaring kids highlight the depth and complexity of these underrated villains.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is host to a wide variety of iconic villains, the less-noticed of which have some excellent scenes that get lost in the noise. From the sympathetic and mischievous Loki to the imposing and threatening Thanos, MCU villains run the gamut from weak to powerful, comedic to terrifying, and classic to forgettable. With so many antagonists having come and gone since the beginning of the MCU with 2008’s Iron Man, it can be hard to keep track of them all.

Though most of the heroes introduced in the film universe are memorable characters enjoyed by audiences, the MCU movies have an infamous villain problem. It’s easy to write off many of the threats that have reared their heads throughout the series as just another forgettable villain, unless they’re a widely-loved staple like Thanos or Loki. But within this subset of forgotten villains, the MCU hides some of its most memorable, unique, or downright hilarious scenes, with some of the franchise’s most underrated evildoers absolutely stealing the show.

Related: Every Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranked Worst To Best

10 Justin Hammer’s Dance

Iron Man 2 is often pointed to as a sore spot in the series, adopting a more light-hearted action-blockbuster tone, copious explosions, low stakes, and the introduction of some deliciously campy villains. Star of the show is Justin Hammer, one of Tony Stark’s many competitors in the military industrial complex. The eccentric CEO of Hammer Industries, Justin Hammer was remembered for his frustrating interactions with the film’s primary antagonist, Whiplash, as the two conspired against Stark.

Justin Hammer’s best scene sprung from his cocky, showboating attitude, presenting his new military-use drones to a cheering audience. So caught up in the moment, Hammer had no choice but to endear himself to audiences with a surprisingly impressive walk-out dance to the tune of Average White Band’s “Pick Up The Pieces.” The inclusion of the dance was likely the doing of Hammer’s actor, Sam Rockwell, who seems to find a way to include a dance scene in nearly every film he appears in.

9 The Vulture And Spider-Man’s Confrontation

Michael Keaton is more famous for playing a hero thanks to his career as Batman, but Marvel Studios instead opted to incorporate him as a villain. Adrian Toomes appears in Spider-Man: Homecoming as a villainous breath of fresh air, with Keaton’s great performance breathing life into the former blue collar worker turned airborne criminal. The film’s decision to make Vulture the father of Peter’s love interest, Liz, was very clever, heightening the fear of facing down a dangerous criminal by linking it to the normal teen fear of meeting a first girlfriend’s dad. His interactions with Peter Parker were a joy to watch, particularly in their last confrontation towards the end of the film.

In this final confrontation before Toomes puts on the Vulture suit for good, he explains his point of view to Peter. Even though he may just be stalling for time, he makes some good points, poking holes in the impressionable Parker’s world view by demonstrating how both he and Stark sold weapons to dangerous people. He also demonstrates his cunning in a fight, distracting Spider-Man with lazy attacks that serve to trap him under rubble. Vulture was a great way to demonstrate the MCU isn’t as black-and-white as it may first seem.

Marvel’s female villains often don’t get the credit they deserve, being unfortunately few and far between within the MCU. Yet Cate Blanchett’s Hela made a profound impact, delivering one of the first female superhero villains that felt truly threatening. Nothing encapsulates this power better than Hela’s first appearance in Thor: Ragnarok, confronting her estranged brothers for the first time.

In an act that was monumental in the Thor franchise and the MCU at large, Hela is able to single-handedly stop an attack from Mjolnir and shatter the legendary weapon, rendering Thor hopeless. This unforgettable introduction is a perfect display of power to make it clear that Hela meant business. Indeed, she wound up being so powerful that Thor himself had to destroy Asgard with her in it to stop her conquest, being unable to defeat her one-on-one.

7 Ebony Maw Torturing Doctor Strange

Being one of the few threats in MCU history significant enough to come with his own cadre of smaller villains, Thanos heralds his arrival on earth with the Black Order. An adopted crew of fearsome fighters across planets Thanos had “liberated,” Ebony Maw was one of the most memorable members of the Black Order. His zealous belief in Thanos’ plan, disarming voice, and effortless command of his telekinetic powers made Ebony Maw stand out among Thanos’ crew, particularly in regard to the lengths he was willing to go.

One of the few villains to ever be depicted torturing a hero on-screen, Ebony Maw’s careful dissection of Doctor Strange in Avengers: Infinity War aboard the Q-Ship was only briefly on-screen, but it made an impact even among the other events of the climactic film. Suspending Strange in a bed of high-tech micro-needles, Maw’s methods were enough to have even the steel-minded Doctor Strange, who endured years of torture at the hands of Dormmamu, screaming in agony. The scene was compelling, but hard to watch, luckily being interrupted by Iron Man and Spider-Man, having stowed away on Maw’s ship.

6 The Mandarin’s Fight With Ying Li

Hotly anticipated in the Marvel Universe following the fake-out in Iron Man 3, The Mandarin was finally introduced to fans in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Shang-Chi’s father, Xu Wenwu, is portrayed as a complicated character, his desire for power at all costs and status as a warlord often conflicting with his love for his family. This dual nature is emphasized in his criminally underrated flashback fight scene with Ying Li.

Seeking the entrance to the mystical realm of Ta Lo in hopes of uncovering its secrets after having already mastered the Ten Rings of Power, Xu Wenwu meets Ying Li guarding the magical dimension’s entrance. Fighting her for the right to enter, the duel that follows is expertly choreographed, invoking the wirework of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The fight evolves into a delicate dance, clearly depicting the two warriors falling in love over the course of combat with body language alone. The inclusion of a lengthy fight scene that manages to humanize the villain is a rarity in the MCU, and an effort that deserves more recognition.

5 Ultron Becoming Self-Aware

Largely considered the worst of the Avengers team-up films, Avengers: Age Of Ultron is criticized for a lot, including the titular villain’s use and wasted potential. For all the things the film gets wrong about Ultron, James Spader gives an excellent performance as the character, and his smooth, yet calculating voice work is given no better chance to shine than in the character’s introduction. As Tony Stark and Bruce Banner finally bring Ultron online, his awakening is left to be overseen by fellow A.I. Jarvis, which is where everything goes wrong.

Ultron quickly gains self-awareness, questioning his purpose, and ultimately decides to reject the purpose given to him, protecting the Earth by purging it of its greatest threat: Humanity. While the scene has been lambasted by memes poking fun at Ultron’s decision to destroy humanity after spending two minutes on the internet, there’s no denying the effectiveness with which the sequence conveys the villain’s motives and threat. The animation depicting Ultron’s activation as a program and how he is able to absorb information at an unprecedented rate is stellar, and Jarvis’ mounting concern before being ultimately overtaken helps sell Ultron as a genuine threat.

4 Gorr The God-Butcher Scaring Kids For Fun

Another installment that fell flat after the success of its predecessor, Thor: Love And Thunder was criticized for its lackluster CGI and humor. One bright spot in the film that was somewhat universally agreed upon was Christian Bale’s performance as Gorr The God-Butcher, a powerful alien villain who was equal parts campy, terrifying, and sympathetic. Gorr’s journey began in the film when his daughter dies despite his prayers to his planet’s god, causing him to become corrupted by the powerful All-Black Necrosword and begin slaughtering gods across the galaxy.

Yet Gorr’s best scene isn’t quite so dramatic as his origins and mission. In an effort to draw out Thor, Gorr kidnaps the children of Asgard, confining them in a spooky cage and leaving them to stew in their own fear. Just as Heimdall’s son, Axl, is able to contact the Asgardians, he shows up to revel in the children’s fear, toying with them before becoming morose as they remind him of his own daughter. This scene cements Gorr as a sort of boogeyman figure in the MCU, scaring kids with his mastery over shadow while reminding them of his own loss at the cruel hands of the gods.

3 Kaecilius Doubts Doctor Strange’s Ability

One significant aspect of Marvel’s problems with creating memorable villains is the films’ tendencies to have their antagonist simply be an evil version of the hero. Few MCU villains exemplify this better than Kaecilius in Doctor Strange. He’s a Master of the Mystic Arts who turned to the dark side in looking for a way to open the doorway to Dormammu’s dimension to, of course, resurrect his dead wife and child. Though Kaecilius may have a somewhat generic design and backstory, Mads Mikkelsen does a great job breathing life into the character, portraying him with a signature air of superiority and politeness no better exemplified than in a small scene fighting Doctor Strange.

Recognizing that Doctor Strange hasn’t been a magic practitioner for long when Kaecilius meets him at the New York Sanctum, the villain attempts to exchange pleasantries before getting violent. He is given pause when Strange confronts him with a glowing vase found in the Sanctum, but quickly realizes the novice sorcerer has no idea what to do with it. This is a small moment, but lends a lot of characterization to what could’ve otherwise been a bland villain. The scene’s setup is also paid off in the second Doctor Strange film, when Christine uses the weapon to defend Strange’s physical body as he astrally projects.

2 Sonny Burch Getting Picked Up By Giant Ant-Man

A secondary antagonist in an already maligned Marvel movie, Sonny Burch isn’t given much of a spotlight. A black-market technology dealer, Burch doublecrosses Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne in Ant-Man and The Wasp, stealing the suitcase-sized mobile lab for himself in an attempt to make a profit off the experimental technology within. Walton Goggins’ performance as a fast-talking criminal kept this character from being forgettable, excelling in his role as a secondary villain meant for comic relief.

Taking advantage of the chaos caused by Ghost, Burch takes off with the mobile lab, hoping to get away on a ferry headed into the San Francisco Bay. This prompts Scott to unleash his giant form for the second time, catching up with Burch and manhandling him like a toddler playing with a toy. Sonny Burch may have been far from threatening, but his southern charm and bombastic personality made him a great humorous secondary antagonist for Ant-Man to overcome.

1 Mysterio’s Reveal Scene

Spider-Man: Far From Home introduced Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio to the MCU, creating a compelling villain that left a lasting mark on the franchise. Though first introduced to both the audience and Spider-Man as a hero, protecting the Earth against elemental monsters, the curtain is finally drawn back after he convinces Peter Parker to give him E.D.I.T.H., the powerful defense program gifted to him by Tony Stark. When Mysterio’s facade finally cracks, and he’s able to celebrate with his team, his true identity as disgraced Ex-Stark Industries employee Quentin Beck is revealed.

What sells this scene is Mysterio’s own laughter and disbelief in being able to succeed, showing audiences his true persona after pulling the wool over the eyes of those not familiar with the character. Quentin Beck going on to thank his team, pointing out their individual contributions, also makes him unique as a villain that truly appreciates his staff. Though the character easily flies under the radar in the MCU, this scene points out how excellent of a schemer Mysterio was, even having a lasting impact on the universe upon defeat when he reveals Spider-Man’s secret identity to the world.

Key Release Dates

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Blade (2025)

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 Scenes from the MCU demonstrate some cool villains.  Read More