No matter how original and disruptive a superhero movie may seem, it’s safe to assume it will follow one basic premise: good guys fight bad guys, with the good guys almost always emerging victorious. Quite often, their triumph is only achievable with the villain’s death, as some of them are too dangerous to be left alive, or no prison in existence has what it takes to contain them. However, there are notorious examples in cinema of villains who, although defeated, managed to walk out of it alive. Whether the writers had plans to use them in upcoming sequels, whether they were just too captivating to be definitely written out, one thing is certain: some of these movies have villains charismatic enough to have people cheering for them.

10 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Lex Luthor)

Warner Bros.

Perhaps one of the most anticipated comic book adaptations to the screen, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice shows DC’s two top-shelf superheroes engaging in a battle to change the world’s fate. Directed by Zack Snyder, the movie was the second in the DC Extended Universe canon and followed a “darker”, more somber tone compared to the MCU’s concurrent productions.

Although, as the title suggests, it focuses on the clash between Batman and Superman, the fight itself was provoked and arranged by the movie’s true villain: Lex Luthor. Here, he is depicted as a young and eccentric heir who wants, by all means, to show to the world that even the Last Son of Krypton can bleed. Although partially successful, since Batman emerged “victorious”, he was defeated and imprisoned.

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9 Iron Man 2 (Justin Hammer)

Marvel Studios

Following the thunderous success of its predecessor, Iron Man 2 tells how Tony Stark is dealing with his newly acquired fame as a superhero, after his show-off attitude made it just unbearable to keep it a secret. Now, as the saying goes, fame can bring enemies. For Tony Stark, a man split between the business world and the war-torn world, his enemies come from both.

Although Ivan Vanko/Whiplash is credited as a main villain, at a point he becomes an asset to Justin Hammer, head of Hammer Industries, in his plan to bring his rival’s empire to rubble. Vanko commits suicide after seeing himself defeated by Iron Man and War Machine, but Hammer is spared and is eventually arrested, ending a corporate battle that went a little too far.

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8 Shazam! (Dr. Thaddeus Sivana)

The movie adaptation of one of DC’s most popular superheroes came in 2019. With a light-hearted approach, Shazam! shows how 14-year-old Billy Batson is chosen by The Wizard (who is also named Shazam) to become his new champion, giving him superpowers like super strength and flight abilities whenever Billy shouts, you guessed it, “Shazam!”.

Related: 18 Smartest Villains in Movie History

The Wizard had a previous encounter, shown at the beginning of the movie, with Thaddeus Sivana, a young boy in the late 70s constantly harassed by his dad and brother. However, The Wizard was able to see Sivana was not pure of heart, thus not worthy of the title of champion. Now an adult, Sivana meets Billy and tries to steal his power at all costs. He is ultimately defeated, but Billy, proving his heart’s pureness, lets him live.

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7 Captain America: Civil War (Helmut Zemo)

Another one of the much-anticipated crossovers from Stan Lee’s comics, Captain America: Civil War puts the two most prominent Avengers, Captain America and Iron Man, to a face-off. Usually seen dissenting from each other, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark had opposed visions over the Sokovia Accords, an attempt to limit the group’s actions, thus making them accountable for. Meanwhile, a former Sokovian colonel named Helmut Zemo blamed the Avengers for the death of his family in the battle with Ultron, and became consumed by the desire of making this empire fall.

Just as Tony and Steve were about to make amends, Zemo appears and reveals the terrible truth about Tony’s parent’s deaths. Infuriated, Stark engages Rogers in a savage battle, which nearly led to Zemo’s plan to succeed. Feeling he finally avenged his family, Zemo ultimately tries to take his own life, but Black Panther stops him, so he could pay for his crimes still in this life.

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6 Constantine (Lucifer/Gabriel)

Warner Bros. Pictures

John Constantine is a DC Comics character created by Alan Moore. Keanu Reeves gave life to the demon slayer and occult detective in 2005’s Constantine. In the film, he is recruited by police detective Angela Dodson after her twin sister commits suicide, and sends Angela a message to find him. She finds Constantine to be a cynical, anti-social and self-destructive individual. Nevertheless, he agrees to help her.

It turned out, Constantine’s true adversaries were none others than archangel Gabriel and Lucifer himself. The detective is used to dealing with all sorts of otherworldly creatures, but this case in particular forced him to ask for some divine intervention. Constantine prevails over them, but is unable to kill them, since they’re not even mortals to begin with. Gabriel loses his immortality, his punishment being living among humans like one of them. Lucifer just gets back to whence he came, to attend his hellish business.

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5 The Avengers (Loki)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The first film of the homonymous saga, The Avengers met critical and commercial acclaim. One of the highlights was the chemistry between the characters and how they complemented each other, giving the story a natural flow that is as fun as enjoyable to watch. But all of that was only possible thanks to the villain chosen to assemble the super crew. Loki, the Asgardian god of mischief, brings a perfect balance between a cruel and charismatic bad guy.

Loki intends to get the Tesseract to bargain it with the leader of the Chitauri alien race. In return, Loki would have control of the Chitaurian army, being able to rule Earth and show to his father Odin why he, instead of Thor, deserved to be first in line for Asgard’s throne. Loki gets defeated when the Avengers finally learn to work as a team, but lives to appear in a number of the following MCU’s features, including his own series on Disney+.

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4 X-Men (Magneto)

20th Century Studios

One of the first Marvel productions to hit the theaters, X-Men was a game changer in the industry, shaping the concept of “superhero film” as it is known today. The movie brings Professor Xavier’s mutant party and their battles against all sorts of enemies. It’s ironic that the X-Men are one of humanity’s greatest heroes when their biggest nemesis has always been the human race, who hunt and persecute mutants out of pure bigotry.

Related: 12 Horror Movies Where the Main Character is Actually the Villain

Taking all into consideration, X-Men finds its main villain in the figure of Magneto, a former friend and ally of Xavier. One of the strongest mutants ever known, he is now determined to show humankind how they must indeed be fearful of mutants. Magneto is defeated by the X-Men, but is kept alive in an all-plastic prison cell.

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3 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (The High Evolutionary)

The last installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is also the one where audiences get the deepest, most revealing details about one of the most intriguing and beloved characters on the crew. Rocket’s origins are explained, and the reason why he’s partially composed of mechanical parts is the link to the film’s antagonist, The High Evolutionary. He runs experiments with Earthling animals by developing anthropomorphic shapes to them, aiming to create a “perfect race”. If the result is not beyond his expectations, he doesn’t think twice before killing the test subject and moving on.

The High Evolutionary gave all the reasons for Rocket to kill him, but when the raccoon finally gets the chance to do so, he chooses otherwise. The villain survives, so can spend a lifetime to digest how much of a horrible being he is, serving his sentence in Knowhere.

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2 The Dark Knight (The Joker)

Warner Bros. Pictures

The film that many still consider to be one of the best comic book movies ever made, The Dark Knight owns it to a handful of reasons. Christopher Nolan deserves all the accolades for his work with practical effects and managing to permeate the film thoroughly with a sinister, afflicting atmosphere. But what really stands out here is Heath Ledger’s impersonation of The Joker.

The villain is the embodiment of chaos, one of the elements of evil and The Dark Knight’s recurring theme. His cat-and-mouse relation towards Batman sheds light upon one of the bitterest ironies surrounding the Caped Crusader: He needs to exist to stand up to the likes of Joker, but Joker only exists as a necessity to make a juxtaposition with Batman. It seems like, in Joker’s own words, they are “destined to do this forever.”

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1 Spider-Man: No Way Home (All of Them)

Sony/Marvel Studios

One of the MCU’s most ambitious projects to date, Spider-Man: No Way Home does not only gather the three spider-boys together, but also assembles an unprecedented cast of villains. They are five in total, each one from a different film in the series: Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, The Lizard, Sandman, and Electro. And why did all the mess break loose with these fellas? Because Spider-Man (Tom Holland’s version) did not want any of them to die.

He succeeds in his mission, but that costs him dearly. Every single person who knew Peter had all memories of him completely erased from their minds. He did that so his enemies, all of which wanted him dead, could have a second chance. Some say an individual can be measured by the enemies they make along the way. If that is true, one thing can be said about all of Spider-Man’s nemesis: they do not deserve him at all.

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 Some villains are lucky to run into heroes with flawless morals, others are just too cool to die.  Read More