TV & Movies

Meet The 16 Best, Most Compelling Marvel Female Villains

As Lady Gaga once put it, “I don’t believe in the glorification of murder. I do believe in the empowerment of women.”

Hela is one of the best Marvel female villains. Photo via Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

Villainy often feels like a male-dominated industry, so much so that we have a shorthand for it. Plus, there’s the universally understood “bad guy,” whereas “bad girl” is something else entirely. But there are still plenty of wonderfully evil women villains in the pop culture canon, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has supplied some of the best. From a witch to a death-obsessed goddess and several quantum criminals, the lineup is full of dynamic characters who do some awful stuff — but who you can’t help but love anyway. As Lady Gaga once put it, “I don’t believe in the glorification of murder. I do believe in the empowerment of women.”

Ahead, meet some of the best Marvel female villains from the films, series, and even some comics.

16. Eleanor Bishop (Madame Masque... maybe)

Hawkeye stopped short of confirming Eleanor Bishop was Madame Masque, as many viewers theorized. But Eleanor has proven herself to be an extremely cool quasi-villain, who aligned herself with Wilson Fisk in a misguided attempt to protect her daughter. That’s a good motive!

15. Proxima Midnight

There’s nothing scarier than an extremely competent villain — especially when she’s Thanos’ right-hand woman. Proxima Midnight is especially skilled with a spear (which, Marvel notes, is powered by an active star), but her loyalty to the Mad Titan makes her even scarier.

14. Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine

Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

Even though she’s appeared in two MCU projects now, it’s hard to tell where Valentina’s allegiances lie. That’s by design. In the Marvel Comics, she’s a triple agent with ties to S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, and Leviathan. Onscreen, as Polygon puts it, she’s like an “anti-Nick Fury,” assembling a team of powerful people with violent histories for, uh, we don’t exactly know what. Though, some theories suggest she could be setting up MCU’s version of the Thunderbolts. Valentina may not be a confirmed villain, but she’s definitely interested in that crowd, and she’s got the spy skills needed to pull one over on everyone.

13. Supreme Intelligence (Mar-Vell)

This extremely powerful Kree super-computer can assume the form of anything — like, say, Carol Danvers’ Air Force mentor Wendy Lawson, aka Mar-Vell, who was actually gender-swapped in translation from comics to screen. “She’s got the great mentor quality that we were looking for in that character, but she can also be really tough, and that was really necessary for both aspects,” Captain Marvel co-writer and co-director Ryan Fleck told Entertainment Weekly of Annette Bening’s casting.

12. Sylvie

The dynamic between variants Loki and Sylvie has been polarizing, but it’s hard to deny that the Goddess of Mischief is a compelling villain. Not only is the sorceress extremely powerful (and impulsive), having turned the Multiverse on its head, but she also serves as a ready symbol for inner demons. After all, who wouldn’t want to have a stern conversation with their troublemaking alter ego?

11. Ravonna Renslayer

Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

The MCU has seen spies, sorcerers, super-powered assassins — but rarely royalty. That’s where Ravonna Renslayer comes in. In the Marvel Comics, she’s a princess whose relationship with Kang the Conqueror gets her involved in some dangerous quantum crimes, ultimately taking up the mantle of Terminatrix, or Mistress of Time. As the Loki finale teased, there may be even more timeline chaos to come from the Time Variance Authority judge.

10. Nebula

The relationship between sisters (even the best ones!) can be fraught, but Nebula and Gamora take it to another level. Nebula’s a skilled, terrifying fighter until she breaks free from Thanos’ influence and fights for the good side. In fact, in the comics, it’s Nebula who reverses her Mad Titan dad’s infamous snap. Her redemption arc is one of overcoming trauma and confronting the fractures of your past self (the “I’m you” meme), making her a fascinating villain in reverse.

9. Sharon Carter (Power Broker)

Most of the characters on this list are already in their villain era by the time we meet them, but not Sharon Carter. Heroism is literally in her blood (hey, Aunt Peggy), and she even served as a loyal agent and Avengers ally under S.H.I.E.L.D. But when she went rogue for Captain America and co., they didn’t think to protect her from the inevitable legal fallout, so she had to forge a shadowy new life for herself. In doing so, she made a once-fairly 2D Marvel Comics foe, the Power Broker, that much more interesting. Of course, as Emily VanCamp told Bustle, Sharon may not be a total villain just yet. “I hesitate to call her the villain here, because we understand where this frustration and this anger comes from,” VanCamp said. “Did she need to take it this far? Absolutely not. [But] that is what works so well in making this turn for her, because in the films you do see her commitment to Cap, to the shield, to the cause, to the government.”

8. Titania (Mary MacPherran)

Reportedly set to be introduced in She-Hulk, Titania is a strong foe for Jennifer Walters. But while her green opponent’s brawn comes from an infusion of Hulk blood, Titania’s super-strength and durability comes from alien technology and a shady deal with Doctor Doom. Titania’s jealousy isn’t a power, per se, but it’s definitely part of what makes her a serious threat to She-Hulk — sort of like a Syndrome/Mr. Incredible situation.

7. Elektra Natchios

Assassin for the Hand and friend (but sometimes foe) to Daredevil, Elektra’s fighting prowess makes her a truly terrifying person to be on the wrong side of. But like many of the best Marvel female villains, her list of crimes isn’t born from some inherent desire to be evil — rather, in the Marvel Comics, she turns to the shadowy lifestyle in response to a major loss in her life.

6. Agatha Harkness

Marvel Studios

Agatha made MCU history as the first villain to have her own theme song, making the case for all future villains to have their own, too. A witch whose dark magic powers were too much even for her own Salem-era witch family, Agatha is the best kind of fictional villain. She’s one who unwittingly makes their hero foe realize just how capable they really are, like Supreme Intelligence.

5. Taskmaster (Antonia Dreykov)

Look, villains who wreak havoc just for the sake of wreaking havoc can be so much fun. But several recent MCU big bads have deconstructed (and humanized) their comic counterparts in a major way. Take, for example, Black Widow’s Taskmaster. In the comics, Taskmaster is an assassin-for-hire who can replicate his opponents’ fighting styles; on screen, she’s Antonia, the daughter of the actual villain, Dreykov, who controls Black Widows through the Red Room. She was also injured (and nearly killed) by Natasha as a child, further blurring the line between the heroic Avengers and their opponents in an interesting way.

And, of course, when it comes to fighting style, the Taskmaster is a major threat. Because she’s such a talented copycat, opponents like Black Widow have to work extra hard to fend her off. In a weird way, she encourages heroes to reach their full potential, lest they face extreme injury or death.

4. Ghost (Ava Starr)

Marvel Studios

Another gender-swapped villain from the Marvel Comics, Ghost (aka Ava Starr) suffered from a science experiment gone wrong as a child. Now, she phases in and out of existence in a painful half-life of sorts, and was even exploited by S.H.I.E.L.D. to serve as an assassin. So can you blame her for doing whatever it takes to get her hands on Pym technology that might ease that suffering?

The Ant Man and the Wasp foe may not have an impressive list of powers like many of her counterparts, but she more than makes a case for being one of the top five female Marvel villains. For starters, her phasing malady — though extremely painful — gives her the ability to sneak up on enemies and hurl punches without necessarily receiving them back, which is also a joy to watch. And her complicated villain-but-not-really status makes her a layered addition to the MCU, proof that villainy is a phase (excuse the pun) and not always a set-in-stone situation.

3. Mistress Death

Remember how Thanos had a logically-evil argument for wiping out half of the universe in Infinity War? In the comics, his motivations were hornier in nature: he wanted to impress Death herself. Though Marvel describes Death as (duh) an “abstract entity,” it can take on different forms — including that of a woman, with whom Thanos became quickly obsessed. The skull-faced villain is hardcore and one of Marvel’s most powerful characters.

2. Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch)

Wanda may be the most powerful Avenger, and she’s certainly sacrificed more than her fair share in the business of world-saving, but these deeds don’t preclude her from embracing her villainous side. As we saw in WandaVision (and are likely about to witness in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), Wanda is capable of immense tragedy born out of hurt. From mind-controlling the Avengers on their first meeting to tapping into chaos magic and holding Westview captive, Wanda is definitely not a traditional villain — we understand her motivations, and she’s helped *way* more people than she’s hurt. At the same time, it’s easy to see why a resident of Westview or Lagos (where Wanda’s inadvertent destruction helped spark the events of Civil War) wouldn’t be so quick to give her the benefit of the doubt. Either way, with powers that range from mind control to chaos-fueled reality-bending, it’s easy to see that Wanda is a capable hero and villain, depending on the day.

1. Hela

There is simply no MCU female villain cooler (or scarier) than Hela. Thor and Loki’s older sister is the Goddess of Death, a role she takes extremely seriously. Hela also has an extremely stacked set of powers, which we see only the beginning of in Thor: Ragnarok. She can age you (or kill you) with a single burst of energy, bring back dead deities, pack an extreme punch with her “hand of glory,” and astral project, to name just a few fun talents. If only she’d use her powers for good... but then again, that wouldn’t be half as fun.