Movies & TV / Columns

Top 10 Non-MCU Marvel Movie Villains

November 20, 2014 | Posted by Jason Chamberlain

Last week I looked at my favorite villains from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This week, being the creative guy I am, I thought I’d look at the villains from outside of the MCU! You know, all of those Marvel movies we loved/liked/tried to forget before Marvel Studios got off the ground.

Looking back at all these films reminds me just how awesome it has been to be a geek over the last 15 years or so. And times are only going to get better!

Here’s the list, and remember, it’s just my opinion!

10) Dr. Doom – Fantastic Four series
A lot of people don’t like the Fantastic Four movies. I liked them quite a bit, but they do have their shortcomings, and honestly, Doom’s portrayal could be considered one of them. ‘So why is he on your list?’ I hear you ask. Well, as much as they could have done better, he’s still Dr. Freaking Doom and it’s still cool as hell to see even an approximation of that iconic suit and mask on the big screen.

I don’t mind Doom’s portrayal as a titan of industry, and I think Julian McMahon did his best with what the script offered him. He plays Doom’s descent into madness pretty well, and the rivalry between he and Reed Richards is established well. Though it takes him a while to don the classic outfit, when he finally does he is a believable threat to the Four during the climax of the first movie. He returns for the second film and serves as the main villain once again (with cloudy Galactus playing a role too), and steps out of the suit again for a while, which is a bummer. When he gets back in it and jumps on the Silver Surfer’s board, he again shows some potential as the badass Doom we want to see.

I hope to see a better representation of the character in the new Four movie that’s coming up, one that truly brings the iconic Doom off the page. Whether or not that happens, we’ll see.

9) Yashida/Silver Samurai – The Wolverine
That crooked little weasel! That was my reaction during The Wolverine’s climax when (albeit predictably) the Silver Samurai removed his helmet to reveal the very same Yashida that Logan had saved from a fiery atomic death all those years ago. That’s gratitude for you! You knew something was up when an old, dying Yashida made the “generous offer” of relieving Logan of his immortality at the beginning of the movie.

Though he “dies” and disappears for a good portion of the movie, Yashida casts a shadow over the entire film, partially because his extended family continue to play roles throughout, most notably his lovely granddaughter Mariko. And of course, he plots with Viper to give Logan a taste of mortality by neutralizing his healing factor.

He represents a fairly personal threat for Logan, a good deed coming back to haunt him, but also shining a light on our hero’s personal conflict over the realities of his long life. Jean Grey’s dream presence throughout the movie also underlines the fact that Logan will always lose those he loves as he goes about his unnaturally long existence. Aside from jumping into a giant metal suit and beating Logan up, Yashida gives him plenty to think about.

8) Green Goblin – Spider-Man
The costume is pretty bad; there’s no getting around that. But Willem Dafoe makes up for it with a scenery-chewing performance as the brilliant but unhinged Norman Osborn.

As the first foe our hero battles in the Sam Raimi Spidey flicks, Goblin is a natural counterpoint to Uncle Ben’s “with great power comes great responsibility” teachings. Goblin provides the counterpoint that he and Spider-Man are better than the normal rabble of humanity and should use their power to take their rightful place at the top of the food chain.

Goblin really brings the pain when he figures out Spidey’s secret identity, further cementing Peter Parker’s belief that his loved ones are only safe if he keeps them in the dark. Goblin continued to have a presence in the Raimi trilogy after his death thanks to the failing sanity of Harry Osborn, giving Dafoe a few more opportunities to steal the show.

7) Blackout – Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
This may not be a popular choice as the Ghost Rider movies have been pretty widely maligned. I’ve never read the comics so I went in with no expectations, so maybe that’s why I enjoy them more than most. Both films are fun, but the Neveldine/Taylor fueled Spirit of Vengeance is just balls to the wall crazy, which is kind of what you want from a movie about a guy with a flaming skull.

I’m a Johnny Whitworth fan from way back (where are my Empire Records fans?) so it was cool to see him in this movie, a fair bit older and a whole lot nastier and crazier. He’s a pretty convincing bastard even before the Devil grants him nasty superpowers to both rot all forms of life and turn out the lights for everybody. The former ability provides one of the movie’s better gags, when Blackout tries to eat only to find he rots every piece of food he touches; except for Twinkies!

6) Bullseye – Daredevil
The late Michael Clarke Duncan’s Kingpin also deserves some love, but if I have room for only one Daredevil villain on this list, I have to give the edge to Colin Farrell’s Bullseye.

I love Daredevil, which I know puts me in rare company. I thought Affleck was good as the Man Without Fear; the aforementioned Duncan was suitably intimidating as Wilson Fisk; my Alias-fueled crush on Jennifer Garner ensured that I loved Elektra; and Colin Farrell pretty well stole the movie with his off the wall performance as the lethally accurate and sociopathic Bullseye.

When we first see Bullseye, he’s playing darts in a bar and killing his opponent with a paperclip. Then we see him on a plane, where he kills the talkative old lady seated next to him with a well-thrown peanut. It takes a special kind of crazy to do something like that. He’s also a standout in fight scenes with both Elektra and Daredevil throughout the movie.

It would have been nice to see Farrell play the role again, but I’m interested to see what, if anything, the Netflix Daredevil series does with the character.

5) Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber) – X-Men Origins: Wolverine
One of the best elements of the fairly mediocre X-Men Origins: Wolverine was Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth. Tyler Mane played the character as a pretty standard snarling, musclebound henchman in X-Men, but thankfully they gave Schreiber a lot more to work with in this prequel.

His rivalry/friendship with Logan forms the backbone of the movie, and it’s hard not to like Sabretooth even as he tears around killing people. Like I mentioned last week in reference to Loki, it’s great when a villain seems to be having fun, and that’s something that Schreiber definitely brought to the role. You can tell he’s having fun with the character, and Sabretooth himself is rarely seen without a dastardly smile on his face; he clearly relishes the opportunity to make his adopted brother’s life a living hell. At the end of the movie he even lends a hand against not-Deadpool, taking the timeless “I can beat up my brother but nobody else can” stance. I hope we see Schreiber in this role again at some point.

4) William Stryker – X2: X-Men United
It’s a rare individual who can bring the X-Men and the Brotherhood together, but William Stryker manages it with his mutant-hating ways. Brian Cox did a great job as the hardened military man who loathes mutants (due in large part to his own son’s mutation) but happily uses them as weapons whenever he can.

The villain was included in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and was serviceable as an antagonist, but it’s Cox’s X2 work that really shines. By plotting a mutant-led assassination attempt on the President, he manages to convince the POTUS that rounding up mutants is a swell idea, forcing Xavier and Magneto to put aside their differences and join forces to deal with the threat. He also teases Wolverine with promises of answers about his foggy past.

As much as you want Magneto to be wrong about humanity, people like Stryker prove that he has a point.

3) Magneto (Michael Fassbender) – X-Men series
The X-Men movie “soft reboot/in-between-quels/whatever you want to call them” of First Class and Days of Future Past cast the leading roles of Xavier and Eric Lehnsherr perfectly.

Michael Fassbender brings a vitality to the role that Sir Ian McKellen, as awesome as he is, is simply too old to offer. His Magneto is a man of action who simmers with barely controlled rage, especially in First Class before he finds a purpose in the mutant community. One of the best scenes of the prequel series so far is his bout of Nazi-hunting while on the trail of Dr. Klaus Schmidt/Sebastian Shaw; a sequence in a bar that progresses from polite conversation with a threatening edge to outright violence.

You always believe that Fassbender’s Magneto will do what he feels is right for mutants, no matter the cost or what side he ends up on.

2) Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen) – X-Men series
The best villains don’t consider themselves villains at all, and are as justified in their viewpoints as we are in ours. Magneto is one of the best villains not only in comics, but in pop culture at large, for precisely that reason. Magneto hates humanity and wants mutants to rule the world, but it’s not like humanity doesn’t deserve his ire; he has seen humanity at its absolute worst and has suffered considerably at their hands.

In a handful of appearances as the master of magnetism, McKellen has effectively made the character both unlikable and sympathetic. In his very first scene in X-Men, McKellen brings this aspect of the character to life perfectly in his hallway detente with his old friend Charles Xavier. While Charles desperately tries to find hope in his friend, Erik Lehnsherr has long since resolved himself to what he sees as the true nature of mankind and their unwillingness to accept mutants. His declaration to Xavier that he will find hope his own way (i.e. destroy all humans) is less a triumphant vow than it is a resigned pledge.

Like in the comic books, McKellen’s Magneto has drifted from hero (or at least ally to our heroes) to villain and back numerous times, with every turn making sense within the story being told. That’s a credit to a great actor.

1) Dr. Octopus – Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2 is often cited as the apex of the Raimi trilogy, for good reason. It’s my favorite of the three, and stands among the very best Marvel movies, MCU or otherwise.

Of course the villain is a big part of that, and Alfred Molina is terrific as one of Spidey’s most famous adversaries, Dr. Octopus.

Like Dafoe’s Norman Osborn from the first movie, Doc Ock enters the movie as something of a mentor figure to Peter Parker. And like Osborn, tragedy befalls him and sends him down the path to villainy. Unlike Osborn, though, the former Otto Octavius never completely loses touch of who he used to be and what he believes in, and is able to find a sort of redemption before his end.

Fused with his iconic (and rather smart and vicious) tentacles, it’s arguable who has control, the man or the machine. In his grief for his dead wife and lost dream, Doc Ock leaves morality behind and pursues his goals with single-minded purpose and no concern for consequence or collateral damage. But by unmasking himself at a critical moment, Peter is able to awaken the good man of science that Octavius used to be, who is then able to exert control over his tentacles long enough to avert a disaster by sacrificing himself. The ending may not leave room for the extended criminal career his comic counterpart enjoyed, but it’s fitting and satisfying for the movie’s version of Doc Ock.

Which non-MCU Marvel movie villains are your favorites?

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