Marvel Cinematic Universe is currently the most successful franchise, followed closely by the Star Wars series. Most of the movies in the franchise have been well-received by both the critics and the audiences. With the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, we are now into 19 movies in the franchise, with MCU getting better and better with each film. Their last movie, Black Panther, became a huge cultural phenomenon and earned more than a billion dollars at the box office worldwide. Going by the current predictions, Avengers Infinity War is set to do one better.

While MCU has given us really good heroes like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange etc., there is one accusation that continues to fixate for the franchise - the villain problem. Marvel has always been accused of having bland, one-note, similar villains. But I don't completely agree to it, unless your point of comparison in Heath Ledger's Joker from The Dark Knight. But that is a once in a decade phenomenon, which even Nolan couldn't follow it up in the sequel.

While MCU has its share of bland villains like Ronan (Guardians of the Galaxy), Yellowjacket (Ant-Man), Whiplash (Iron Man 2), Aldrich Killian (Iron Man 3), there are some really good ones in there. Like Thanos. I had the luck to see Avengers: Infinity War some time back, and found it to be an incredible experience. And Thanos turned out to be the most interesting character, the biggest takeaway of the film.

So where does Thanos fit among the best of MCU villains? Contrary to popular opinion, there are some really excellent ones out there. So here is my list of 10 best MCU villains, Thanos included.

#1 - Thanos

MoviesThe Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War

His previous cameo appearances may have turned him into a recurring joke, as all he did was sit, stand and snarl. But Avengers: Infinity War finally showed us why Thanos is such a big deal after all. He may be another megalomaniac bent on death and destruction, but Josh Brolin adds some really emotional beats to Thanos, making him one of the best superhero villains we have seen. As someone in a podcast, I watched, said, 'He makes Loki looks like Malekith'! That's saying something!

#2 - Loki

Movies: Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok

Before Thanos took his crown, Loki was considered as the undisputed king of villains in a franchise accused of having really bland ones. Starting off as a jealous sibling then becoming a snarky, wily conqueror to finally a scene-stealing anti-hero, Loki had everything in him to be a fan-favourite, sometimes even overshadowing his brother, Thor. Tom Hiddleston's terrific performance is just the icing on the cake.

#3 - Erik Killmonger

Movie: Black Panther

He may have had only one MCU movie to make an impact, but Michael B Jordan makes fine use of it. Working with his favourite director Ryan Coogler again, Jordan makes Killmonger an enigmatic, sympathetic antagonist with a tragic backstory and burdened with misguided intentions. You know his actions are wrong, but he only had the care of his people in his mind. And that made Killmonger a much more complex and ultimately better character than the straight-faced Black Panther.

#4 - The Vulture

Movie: Spider-Man: Homecoming

The Vulture aka Adrian Toomes is not interested in destroying the world or serve a greater cause; he just wants to take care of the ones relying on him, and their families too. That's what makes The Vulture such an unusual superhero villain. Like Killmonger, there is a tragedy imbued in his nefarious actions, when you finally find that he is just a regular dad with a loving family. Michael Keaton is awesome in the role, and he just kills it in that one scene with Peter Parker, that doesn't involve any masks and only has words and expressions.

#5 - Helmut Zemo

Movie: Captain America: Civil War

Zemo may not have any of the powers that his opposite camp, but he had brains to boot and his own words, managed to crumble a kingdom from within. His plan may sound too complex and may rely on quite a few coincidences, but it did end up dividing the Avengers, so it was effective after all. Daniel Bruhl is absolutely topnotch as the former Sokovian soldier, especially in that scene with Black Panther where he reveals the reason why he did what he did.

#6 - Ego

Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol II

The second volume may not be as great as the first, because it tried to do too much (and yet was very entertaining). But one thing it did right was having the right kind of antagonist. Unlike the one-dimensional character of Ronan the Accuser in the first movie, Ego gets it right from the casting itself - the charismatic Kurt Russell. He is very powerful and wants the world to be reinvented in his image, even if it meant tearing the one that exists. However, he doesn't reveal all his cards early on, instead, building a lovely rapport his son, Peter Quill. It's only when Gamora discovers the cave of innumerable skulls of Ego's other kids and that Quill finds out that it was Ego who put a tumour in his mother's head that we realise how evil he is.

#7 - Hela

Movie: Thor: Ragnarok

Hela could have made it to the top three of the MCU villains, all thanks to Cate Blanchett's scenery-chewing performance. Hela is powerful and she cannot be taken down easily, killing on some important character with consummate ease. It finally took a Ragnarok (destruction of worlds) to put her down, she is that awesome. The only reason she made it low on this list is that her development is cut brutally short by the director who was more interested in exploring the marvels of Sakaar, Jeff Goldblum included.

#8 - Ultron

Movie: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Ultron should have been a fine villain, a formidable foe that is a worthy opponent to all the Avengers. Despite being a robot per se, Ultron was menacing him, but he ends up being too quippy for his own sake. He is still very interesting and layered, but then you have to credit James Spader's silky voice for that!

#9 - Winter Soldier

Movie: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War

Bucky may have started off as a hero in the MCU and is currently put up as a hero. But the second Captain America made a chilling assassin out of him - an indestructible force that even Cap finds difficult to hold against. Especially when he finds out it is his former friend who managed to survive an icy fall years ago and has been brainwashed by the Hydra to do their killings. Sebastian Stan's incredible, conflicted performance does well to make us really feel for him.

#10 - Red Skull

Movie: Captain America: The First Avenger

Red Skull may just be an evil Nazi general - a typical villain in a superhero movie. But what works for him is that he relishes in the evilness, delivering a scary antagonist whose actions are unpredictable at best. Hugo Weaving is a pro in handling wickedness, and though Red Skull may not reach the levels of Agent Smith from The Matrix series, it is definitely one of his better works.

Avengers Infinity War is scheduled to release in India on April 27.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Apr 26, 2018 12:06 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website