Magnificent Bastard/Marvel Cinematic Universe

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a handful of particularly brilliant and impressive villains.

"I am...inevitable."

The Films

  • Obadiah Stane in Iron Man. He engineered Tony Stark's kidnapping, sold weapons to both sides of an armed conflict, and was thorough enough to eliminate the witnesses not on his payroll. Who knows what else he'd been up to before the film started? If Stark had only succumbed to his heart failing before the climax, Stane would have succeeded with his plans to mass-produce iron suits.
    • Ivan Vanko and the Mandarin from the sequels also qualify. The former being a Genius Bruiser who hijacked Smug Snake Justin Hammer's plans of mass-producing his own Iron Man units so that they could instead be his instruments in taking revenge on Tony Stark for stealing his father's work and glory. All while keeping his composure, even right before his own death! The latter is even moreso since he turns out to be Aldrich Killian who is using an actor named Trevor Slattery to pose as the Mandarin character in fake terrorist videos used for covering up the explosions caused by the Extremis project of Killian's company, AIM. He played Trevor, Tony, the Ten Rings, and the freaking American government as part of his plan to become the country's leader who could control and capitalize off of the war on terror.
  • Loki Laufeyson, adopted son of Odin and brother of Thor who styles himself as the Norse God of mischief and trickery, unsurprisingly has had his moments in this trope's territory:
    • In Thor, Loki manipulates the events behind his brother's banishment, then helps Laufey, the king of the Frost Giants and Loki's biological father, attack Odin only to kill him and launch what seems to be a justified attack on Jotunheim, all while keeping Thor in the dark on Earth. Like the above example, his downfall is in lying to Thor about what's happening in Asgard, as it motivates Thor to become worthy of his hammer and reveals Loki as the villain after Thor reunites with his warrior friends.
    • Loki's Magnificent Bastard status continues to evolve in The Avengers when he kicks off the film by opening a portal, stealing the Tesseract, killing about a dozen people, and taking control of the minds of Hawkeye and Selvig. He later reveals his plot to seize control of Earth--all fueled by a personal vendetta against Thor.
    • And in Thor: The Dark World, Loki goes from being confined to a jail cell, hated by all, never to see his mother in person again, for the rest of his very long life to the King of Asgard, having faked his own death and taken on Odin's countenance. As a result, he now possesses the Tesseract again! Bravo, Loki - you little shit!
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Alexander Pierce is the US Secretary of Defense, a member of the World Security Council, and a commanding member of HYDRA, who have evolved from a Nazi science Cult to a fascist conspiracy group dedicated to bringing about One World Order under their banner. Pierce had the Winter Soldier assassinate his old friend Nick Fury so Pierce can take control of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Project Insight, intending to use the project to massacre hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people, who could stand in HYDRA's way. Along the way he frames Captain America as a rogue agent who has to go on the run, kills his fellow members of the World Security Council, and shoots his housekeeper just for walking in on a meeting he has with the Winter Soldier. And he does all of this with calm, affable composure towards his enemies, attempting to make them understand that Utopia Justifies the Means.
  • Captain America: Civil War: Helmut Zemo proves his stripes as one of the greatest manipulators of the franchise. Overcome with grief over losing his family during the Avengers battle with Ultron, Zemo decides to enact vengeance against them. Knowing he is no match for them in strength, Zemo instead devises an intricate plan to break them up. Launching an attack on a UN conference, Zemo frames Bucky Barnes for the attack which starts a manhunt against him. After Bucky is captured, Zemo impersonates a UN interrogator to activate Bucky's Trigger Phrase which will put him under his control to give him information on the death of Tony Stark's parents. Finally, Zemo leaks this ruse to the media, counting on Tony Stark following Cap and Bucky to the Hydra compound in Siberia so he can accomplish his real plan: show Tony evidence that Bucky killed his parents, causing him to fly into a murderous rage and attack Bucky and Captain America, permanently fracturing the Avengers in a way they may never fully recover from. By the end, in spite of being captured by T'Challa, Zemo still accomplishes what he wanted and gracefully accepts his capture and even offers to let T'Challa kill him to avenge the death of his father. Zemo stands out in a world full of super-powered beings, aliens, sorcerers and cosmic entities with only his intelligence and able to cement himself as one of the work's most successful villain, being the man who broke the Avengers.
  • Spider-Man Homecoming: Adrian Toomes was once a hard working man who made a living salvaging Chitauri technology from The Incident. After having his occupation taken by Damage Control, he became a career criminal, taking the moniker The Vulture, and turning what was left of his salvaging company into an underground arms dealership, that would steal said technology and sell it to criminals. Toomes made sure not to leave any evidence for government officials to track his operations, while also making sure they aren't too big so that the Avengers won't view them as a threat; This process worked great for Toomes and his criminal business lasted for eight years without any problems. However, when he does face a problem in Spider-Man he isn't afraid to fight Spider-Man himself on several occasions; Spider-Man barely manages to survive those encounters with him. He is also able to uncover Spider-Man's civilian identity, Peter Parker, simply by analyzing Peter's behavior, and finds an opportunity to intimidate Peter from interfering with his operations. When this fails he sends The Shocker to distract Peter and later fights him for the final time so he wouldn't foil Toomes' latest heist job. Although threatening to kill Peter and his loved ones, its shown that Toomes greatly respects him, showing gratitude for saving his daughter's life, as well as his own, by not selling out his Secret Identity in prison, cementing Toomes as one of the most honorable, yet cunning foes.
  • Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame: Thanos the Mad Titan, after the death of his home world, is obsessed with reducing the population of the universe to save it and prove himself right. Forming an army of fanatics, Thanos travels from world to world, killing off half of the population of each, while taking children to raise as new warriors in his army, including his favorite daughter Gamora. Seeking the Infinity Stones to wipe out half the universe in one snap of his fingers, Thanos tricks and traps the heroes, staying one step ahead to reclaim the stones, even sacrificing Gamora to claim the Soul Stone at one point even as it destroys him to do so. Attacking Wakanda, Thanos repeatedly shows brilliant and effective use of the Stones before completing his gauntlet and performing the snap, before destroying the stones to prevent his work from being undone. When his past self from 2014 arrives, he has his daughter Nebula infiltrate the heroes, posing as her future self to not repeat any failures, resolving to wipe out the universe and make a new, grateful one himself before engaging in the ultimate battle for the fate of all existence.
  • Spider-Man Far From Home: Qunetin Beck proves to be one of the most deviously intelligent villains the MCU has ever seen, and the first since Helmut Zemo to actually pull off a victory of sorts without any powers of his own. Seeking revenge against Tony Stark for stealing the credit for his technology, Beck effortlessly manipulates Peter Parker into handing him the EDITH program, Stark's last legacy, by setting himself up as "Mysterio", a valiant Humble Hero from another dimension, an act so convincing that it not only gets him worldwide attention but also fools the Skrulls, a race of actual shapeshifters. Even after Peter has figured Beck's a fake, Beck tricks Peter into giving up the names of the other kids who know the truth about him by posing as Nick Fury and faking his own defeat, before dropping Peter in front of a bullet train and staging an attack on London by the combined "Elementals". When Peter confronts him in London, Beck very nearly manages to shoot him in the head while pretending to be dying, an attack that only Peter's Spider-Sense saves him from. Even after his death - if even that can be trusted - Beck gets the last laugh by framing Spider-Man for killing him and causing the mass destruction in London, not only turning him into a villain in the eyes of the public but exposing his secret identity, so now, nowhere Peter can go is safe.

TV Series

  • Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Daredevil, runs a complex scheme to make himself the hero to Hell's Kitchen, all while bringing organized crime under his thumb for the supposed betterment of the city. Falling prey to his own insecurities and impulsivity, Fisk is defeated and imprisoned, but slowly rebuilds himself as more dangerous and clever than ever. Shedding his former flaws, Fisk becomes a force to be reckoned with, even arranging for the Punisher to dispose of his obstacles, outmanuevers and crushes all his opposition and arranges for his own release from prison under 'house arrest' where he still dominates organized crime as the true kingpin. Steadily manipulating others into his grasp, including the deadly FBI agent 'Dex' Pointdexer, he arranges for Dex to impersonate Daredevil on several murders as to frame him, all while rising even further and even getting his hooks into FBI agents. Even when defeated, he makes a deal with Daredevil for the safety of his beloved Vanessa and seals it with an honorable handshake, constantly showcasing himself as one of the most brilliant and skilled villains in all the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse.
  • Hernán "Shades" Alvarez of Luke Cage is a charismatic criminal of Harlem who during his time at Seagate Penitentiary ran a prison fight ring along with Comanche and a corrupt warden. Upon returning to Harlem, he became the Hyper Competent Sidekick of the Stokes family, the most powerful crime family in Harlem, brokering deals for the family to gain high tech weaponry. Despite his loyalties, he has no problems turning against his masters when they turn against him, such as when he planned to kill Cottonmouth only to find Mariah Dillard committing the act which Shades helped her coverup by framing Luke Cage and Diamondback for the deed, killing any witnesses in the scenes, and successfully sending Luke back to prison. During that time Shades becomes enamored with Mariah helping her become the leader of her crime family with him as her lover, only to become horrified of her decision to massacre an entire restaurant full of innocents, so much so that he orchestrates her entire downfall by becoming an informant for the police. Always maintaining his cool and suave demeanor, Sades even accepts his final defeat with grace.
  • Appearing in Daredevil, Iron Fist, and The Defenders, Madame Gao is one of the mysterious leaders of The Hand. Introduced as a crime lord working with Wilson Fisk, she first comes into conflict with the heroes of New York through her heroin trade. To make her operations succeed she takes control of people with great power and utilizes their resources for her own ends. Danny Rand discovers she has deeply ingrained her people within his company and is using it as a front for her drug trade. Gao is shown to be exceptionally skilled at controlling people. She tempts a person by targeting their greed, and once she has a hold of them she continues to control them using fear, as seen with Harold Meachum. She also distills unwavering loyalty in her followers who will give up their lives to do her bidding. Her heroin factory workers are revealed to have all been blinded voluntarily as a sign of their faith towards her. Her influence can even be felt in those those she does not directly control, as Danny spends a large portion of the season feeling utterly powerless against her. She also displays an unflinching will, as even when things go south for her she never breaks character from her usual calm disposition. When she gets held captive by Danny and his friends, she is able to plant doubt in each of them with a Breaking Speech, as well as feigning she's under the effects of truth serum before revealing she was immune and was actually messing with them.
  • In Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, the man once known as Alveus, upon Kree experimentation, was forever transformed into "Hive." Through sheer intellect and force of will, Hive drove the Kree from earth, rallying all The Inhumans to his side in the process, and though banished from earth by treacherous followers, Hive nonetheless laid the groundwork for the formation of HYDRA, the death cult organization that has haunted the world for centuries after. In the present, Hive manipulates himself back to earth with help from Gideon Malick, and immediately amasses a small following of Inhumans. Using Malick before murdering him once he outlives his usefulness, Hive stays one step ahead of S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout the series, even turning Daisy Johnson to his side and using her as a mole. Though driven temporarily insane, Hive is revealed to have exaggerated even this as a plot to be captured then use SHIELD's own devices to enact his final plan of turning a chunk of humanity into Inhumans so as to create a perfect, peaceful paradise. Hive's final moments are spent calmly reflecting that he truly wanted what was best for Inhumans, and dies realizing and admitting that perhaps humanity isn't as deserving of destruction as he once thought.