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Every MCU Netflix Villain Ranked Worst To Best

While all of Netflix's original Marvel series had been canceled by early 2019, they've left us with some brilliant seasons of television. Netflix's Daredevil redeemed the embarrassing big screen adaptation of 2003Jessica Jones was a poignant depiction of surviving trauma, and Luke Cage gave us an energetic and socially relevant story with incredible music and even better acting.

With fewer content restrictions than an MCU film and more room to flesh out its characters, one of the best parts of the Marvel's Netflix series was its villains. In other words, with more room to breathe in engaging storylines, the series gave us the chance to better understand why these bad guys were bad. We got to put ourselves in their shoes so to speak, and while we might not have ended up rooting for them, in at least a few cases, it was tough to blame them.

From ninjas to mercenaries, from maniacs to crime lords, here are the MCU's Netflix villains ranked from worst to best. (Be warned — major spoilers below.)

The Hand (Daredevil, Iron Fist, The Defenders)

Like Hydra and A.I.M., the Hand is a criminal organization whose shuriken-tossing soldiers have been leaping through Marvel's comics for a long time, and they make their presence felt in half of Marvel's Netflix offerings. While making them an integral part of Daredevil's (Charlie Cox) story is accurate to the source material, you could argue that in the MCU Netflix series, they were a big part of the series' drop in quality.

The Netflix heroes were best when dealing with challenges grounded in the real world. Daredevil's greatest villain is a crime lord, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) wrestles with the trauma she endured from a sexual predator, and Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) goes up against corrupt soldiers for hire in The Punisher's first season. These are all exaggerated versions of people who, sadly, exist in the real world. Making a centuries-old clandestine organization filled with ninjas and superpowered warriors brought the narrative to a place that felt more like fantasy.

Colonel Schoonover (Daredevil, The Punisher)

When it comes to bad guys, you can't go wrong with Clancy Brown. The man who famously played the merciless Kurgen in 1986's Highlander shows up in season 2 of Daredevil as Colonel Ray Schoonover, one of the men responsible for the murders of Frank Castle's family. As one of the leaders of the Cerberus Squad, Schoonover secretly funneled heroin from Afghanistan to the United States in order to line his pockets. 

The colonel's low placement on the list is only because we hardly get to know him. Schoonover shows up for only two episodes Daredevil, and in his second appearance, he becomes one of Frank Castle's victims. Brown briefly reprises the role for flashbacks in the first season of The Punisher. He's great at conveying the feel of a once proud officer, who's now a slave to his need for power and wealth. But unfortunately, we only get so much time with him before Castle gives him what he deserves. 

Diamondback (Luke Cage)

Willis Stryker, aka Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey), starts off strong. He first appears halfway through Luke Cage's inaugural season, and he quickly becomes the biggest threat to the titular hero. It's Stryker who brings the Hammer Industries tech into Harlem to fight Luke Cage (Mike Colter), including the Judas Bullets — the only ammo capable of piercing Cage's skin — and the suit of body armor he wears to fight Cage in the season 1 finale. Of all antagonists in that first season, he's the only one who presents any kind of physical challenge to Cage.

But in part, it's the physical threat to Cage that ruins Diamondback. His Iron Man-light suit is just about the goofiest looking thing in the entire Luke Cage series and contrasts sharply against a show otherwise set in a world that doesn't feel too far removed from the real one. Their big brawl at the end of the first season, while engaging, can take you out of the story faster than just about anything else in the series.  

Sowande (The Defenders)

Sowande (Babs Olusanmokun) is one of the founders of the Hand. And as one of the so-called Five Fingers of the Hand, Sowande has had his life extended for centuries, and he hasn't been idle in that time. Sowande is a master of martial arts. Without any superhuman strength backing him up, he's able to make short work of Luke Cage through the manipulation of pressure points in The Defenders, and he's likewise undefeated by Iron Fist (Finn Jones).

But despite his martial arts prowess, Sowande is one of the more forgettable villains of MCU's Netflix series. He lives and dies within the only season of The Defenders, beheaded by Daredevil's mentor Stick (Scott Glenn) and denied the immortal life that he and the other leaders of the Hand crave. If most of The Defenders is best left forgotten — and it is — then Sowande has a head start.

Elektra (Daredevil, The Defenders)

Elodie Yung's portrayal of Elektra Natchios in season 2 of Daredevil is one of the bright spots in the weakest of the show's three seasons. Young perfectly embodies the deadly warrior who's both in love with Matthew Murdock and wants him to adopt less merciful tactics in his role as Daredevil. With her multiple deaths and resurrections in the source material, a tragic death and a dark return were all but guaranteed, but it's after her resurrection in The Defenders that this warrior loses her spark.

When she's brought back to life in The Defenders, Elektra may still be good at fighting and killing, but she simply isn't as compelling a character. As Alexandra Reid's (Sigourney Weaver) right-hand woman, Elektra is practically mindless, not truly emerging from her post-resurrection haze until she murders Reid. It's possible we could've seen a more interesting version of Elektra as a villain if Daredevil had continued, but unfortunately, her final appearance is in the series finale of The Defenders

The Bride of Nine Spiders (Iron Fist)

The Bride of Nine Spiders (Jane Kim) proves a worthy opponent for Danny Rand in season 1 of Iron Fist. The seductive and skilled martial artist comes close to defeating the hero, but compared to the other villains on this list, the Bride has a couple of things working against her. 

First, we never see the Bride again after "Immortal Emerges from Cave," giving her a distinct "villain of the week" feel. Second, while we normally wouldn't automatically fault a series from diverting from the source material, the Bride is a special case. 

In the comics, we first meet the Bride in 2007's Immortal Iron Fist #8 as part of a tournament with the champions of all the immortal cities, including K'un-Lun. When it's her turn to fight in the arena, the Bride displays the impressive and terrifying ability to summon seemingly endless swarms of spiders at her opponents. To adapt the character without that ability — particularly considering the incredible visuals it could've lead to — feels criminal.

Shades (Luke Cage)

Theo Rossi has a knack for getting memorable roles with unique nicknames. On Sons of Anarchy, Rossi played the biker Juice, while on Luke Cage, he played one of the series' more interesting crooks — Shades. In the first season, Shades is fairly low in the Stokes crime family pecking order, but even then, there's a lot going on behind the lenses of his namesake. While people like Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) and Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) may be the ones sitting on Harlem's throne at any given time, it's Shades manipulating things behind the curtain.

In the second season, Shades moves up the ladder, owing in no small part to his romance with Mariah Dillard. His cool, Machiavellian facade finally cracks when Dillard forces him to murder his true love, Comanche (Thomas Q. Jones). It puts him on the path of betraying Mariah, but he remains the same charismatic, cool bad guy to the end of the series. 

Will Simpson (Jessica Jones)

Few characters seem to bounce back and forth between friend and enemy as much as Will Simpson (Wil Traval) does in the first season of Jessica Jones, and his complex journey is as compelling as it is tumultuous. Introduced as a policeman manipulated by the mind-bending abilities of Kilgrave (David Tennant) to attack Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), Simpson tries to make things up to his victim once he's free of Kilgrave's influence. 

Simpson eventually wins Walker's trust, but his road to redemption takes dark turns. We learn that in the military, Simpson was a part of some scary experiments, including taking drugs to enhance his abilities, and he begins taking those drugs once more. While they may help him physically, the drugs wreck his sanity, putting him on a collision course with Jessica. 

Will reappears in season 2, but he doesn't last long. Once again trying to make up for his crimes, Simpson tries to protect Trish, but he's murdered by Jessica's mother. 

Davos (Iron Fist)

In some ways, you could say Davos (Sacha Dhawan) is to Danny Rand what the MCU's Loki is to Thor. Just as Loki is jealous of the love and admiration all of Asgard feels for the god of thunder, Davos envies Danny for winning the mantle of Iron Fist and hates him for what Davos sees as squandering that power. He's Danny's primary antagonist in season 2 of Iron Fist, going to increasingly darker lengths to claim Rand's power for his own, as well as getting revenge on Danny, who he blames for the Hand's destructive assault on K'un-Lun.

Since Davos is introduced in the first season, we get to watch his descent from Danny Rand's ally to his nemesis. Sacha Dhawan is believable as the villain known in the comics as the Steel Serpent, and his conflict with Rand is one of the things that makes Iron Fist's second season a vast improvement from the first.

Alexandra Reid (The Defenders)

While the Hand pops up in both Daredevil and Iron Fist, it's finally in The Defenders that we meet its leader, Alexandra Reid. Sigourney Weaver doesn't play villains often enough, and her time as Alexandra Reid is proof. Weaver is perfectly chosen as the Hand's otherwise immortal leader, who finally feels the approach of death. As Reid, she exudes power, ruthlessness, and nothing more than perhaps some dismissive pity for the band of heroes trying to stop her. 

Sadly, while Weaver is one of the best reasons to watch The Defenders, that list isn't very long. Among other flaws, the series was too short and packed with too many characters. Before we hardly get a chance to enjoy Weaver in this villainous role, Elektra murders her. It's a shame that when it was Weaver's time to join the MCU, it was in a role that didn't have the time to stretch its legs.

Harold Meachum (Iron Fist)

Sure, the first season of Iron Fist is probably one of the weakest seasons of all of Marvel's Netflix series, but as a bad guy, Harold Meachum is pretty great. The manipulative, solitary killer spends much of the series in his penthouse, plotting and abusing his grown children. When Danny Rand returns to New York City, Meachum initially fools the Iron Fist into believing he's on his side, when in fact it's Meachum who arranged for the deaths of Danny's parents.

David Wenham is great as Meachum, who delves deeper into insanity as the season continues, caught between Iron Fist and the Hand. Since Wenham is likely best known as Boromir's more resilient brother, Faramir, in the Lord of the Rings films, it's refreshingly unsettling to see him in a role that pushes so hard in the other direction. It's too bad the season as a whole wasn't as good as Wenham's performance. 

Alisa Jones (Jessica Jones)

Alisa Jones (Janet McTeer) never really has much of a chance. In Jessica Jones' second season, we learn she survived the car crash that killed her son and husband, after which she was nursed back to health and given powers by the scientist Karl Malus (Callum Keith Rennie). By the time Alisa and Jessica are reunited, Alisa's dedication to Malus reaches a manic pitch, making her dangerous to anyone near her, especially after Malus dies. 

After the much more cerebral and emotional threat of Kilgrave in Jessica Jones' first season, someone who could pose more of a physical challenge to the hero was the obvious choice, and McTeer is wonderful in the role. She brings a fierceness to Alisa that makes you believe she's capable of anything — including hurting or even killing the daughter she's just been reunited with — in order to protect Karl Malus.  

John Pilgrim (The Punisher)

The assassin John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart) is singular in the ranks of Punisher villains, if for no other reason than the fact that the guy actually survives his clash with Frank Castle. With his priest's collar and the unsettling calm with which he doles out violence, Pilgrim is one of the most chilling and disturbing villains to show up in The Punisher or any of Marvel's Netflix shows. 

We eventually learn that as skilled as he is at murder, Pilgrim is far from being a conscienceless killer. A former member of the Aryan Brotherhood, Pilgrim eventually saw the evil of his ways, converted to Christianity, and became a pastor. His bloody rampage through the second season of The Punisher is the result of the manipulative Schultzes keeping his children hostage. Its Pilgrim's dedication to his family that convinces Frank to spare his life in spite of his crimes.

Trish Walker (Jessica Jones)

Trish Walker is perhaps the most tragic character in any of Marvel's Netflix series. When we meet her in the first season of Jessica Jones, she's the titular hero's best friend and the survivor of a horrible assault. As the series continues, her desire to be more like Jessica leads her to increasingly dangerous extremes, including eventually ingesting and becoming addicted to the same medications that gave the late Will Simpson his enhanced abilities. 

Surprised to find herself with powers in the season 2 finale, Walker goes down roads she can't turn back from in the show's final season. She becomes a self-styled vigilante, but her time as a crime-fighter leaves a lot to be desired. Among other things, she accidentally causes one attacker to be stabbed on her own weapon and flees the scene rather than helping. She murders Gregory Sallinger (Jeremy Bobb) in the series finale, and the final battle of Jessica Jones proves to be between Jones and Walker. 

William Rawlins (The Punisher)

William Rawlins (Paul Schulze) is precisely the kind of guy Frank Castle was born to kill. When Castle first meets Rawlins in Afghanistan, the CIA agent seems like someone Castle is destined to lock horns with, even before Castle learns that Rawlins and Schoonover are using their squad to smuggle heroin back to the United States. It's Rawlins who orders the hit on Castle's life, leading to deaths of his wife and their two children, and it's Rawlins who meets his own brutal end at Castle's hands before The Punisher's first season is over. 

With his freezing glare and permanent scowl, Paul Schulze is utterly believable as the corrupt operative who left his conscience far behind long ago. He's the perfect villain for The Punisher's inaugural season, and his air of cold officiousness clashes wonderfully with the more likable villainy of Frank Castle's old friend, Billy Russo (Ben Barnes).

Gregory Sallinger (Jessica Jones)

What do you say about a man who almost murders a chef because he doesn't like how he cooks steak? Well, you call him whatever you want, just make sure it's out of his earshot. 

In the final season of Jessica Jones, Jeremy Bobb plays Gregory Sallinger, a serial killer who targets anyone he views as being morally bankrupt or unworthy of their place in society — whether they're bad chefs, blackmailers, or superpowered private detectives.

Bobb is fantastic as the man known as Foolkiller in the comics, who proves to be both complex and pathetically simple. Sallinger is highly intelligent and has spent his life honing the different skills he would need to be a prolific serial killer. But as challenging an enemy as he is to Jessica Jones, his crushing self-loathing and self-doubt shine through more than anything else. It's clear that no matter how much he accomplishes or what he proves himself capable of, the voices inside Sallinger will never allow it to be enough.  

Ben Poindexter (Daredevil)

In the source material, Bullseye is a sadistic mercenary, and little is known of his past. For the third season of Daredevil, the writers give their version of the assassin a more solid foundation. Rather than simply being a killer hired by Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio), Benjamin Poindexter (Wilson Bethel) is an FBI agent who Fisk manipulates into becoming his worst self. Bethel plays a man who's learned to manage his mental illness through rigid structure. Fisk learns Poindexter's coping skills and works to tear them all down so that all Poindexter is left with is madness. 

As a killer, Poindexter is arguably the greatest physical challenge Murdock faces in the course of his series. While Poindexter is never directly referred as "Bullseye," the end of season 3 strongly hints that we were going to see the return of the former FBI agent — possibly using the name Bullseye — had the series continued. 

Billy Russo (The Punisher)

Few villains change as drastically between seasons as The Punisher's Billy Russo. In beginning of the first season of The Punisher, Russo acts like Frank Castle's friend, but we soon learn he was in bed with Rawlins and Schoonover in the Cerberus Squad. Of all of Castle's enemies from his special ops days, Russo is the only one to survive the first season, but he doesn't do it unscathed. Castle leaves Russo with the scars that earn him the name Jigsaw. 

Traumatized by his confrontation with Castle, Russo temporarily loses all memory of the last few years in The Punisher's second season. Here, actor Ben Barnes shows us a more vulnerable side of Jigsaw, who spends months recovering mentally and physically. Ultimately, Billy Russo acts true to form, seducing his therapist and building a new gang of crooks and killers. But Castle gives Russo the death he deserves in the end. In his final moments, Russo apologizes to his old friend, but Castle hardly seems to care.

Cottonmouth (Luke Cage)

It isn't tough to imagine how Cornell Stokes, aka Cottonmouth, won the loyalty of the crooks under his command. Along with the more obvious threats and incentives someone like Stokes would use to build a criminal organization, of all the villains we meet in Luke Cage, he has the most magnetic personality. His hearty, infectious laughs are probably much more attractive when you're not the one he's beating the tar out of.

Mahershala Ali's brilliant performance is mesmerizing enough that you actually believe the confidence of that big laugh of his, even though one confrontation after another shows he has no good ideas about how to handle Luke Cage. His murder at Mariah Dillard's hands in the middle of the first season is that much more shocking because of Ali's work. Even as Mariah furiously finishes him off with a mic stand, it's tough to believe the series is getting rid of one of its most entertaining characters so soon.

Bushmaster (Luke Cage)

Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) is the first villain in Luke Cage to give the titular hero any kind of physical challenge without the help of Judas Bullets or power suits. In the opening moments of season 2's "I Get Physical," Bushmaster leaves Luke Cage unconscious on the Harlem sidewalk using only his martial arts skills, his speed, and his enhanced strength. The Brooklyn native uses the Jamaican herb Nightshade to boost his strength and durability, rendering his skin almost as impervious as Cage's.

Bushmaster is a clever, charismatic bad guy, and it's tough to not sympathize with him. He's in Harlem looking for vengeance on the Stokes. His own family was murdered by the late Stokes matriarch Mama Mabel (LaTanya Richardson Jackson) and her gang. Cage and Bushmaster eventually forge an uneasy alliance to stop Mariah Dillard, but it ends when Bushmaster proves more willing to resort to murder than Cage would like. 

James Wesley (Daredevil)

Two episodes before Wilson Fisk appears in Daredevil's first season, we're introduced to his most trusted adviser — James Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore). Well-dressed, soft-spoken, and eloquent, Wesley is likely one of the last men you'd guess is a high-ranking member in a violent criminal organization. Yet in his first scene, Wesley calmly sits on a park bench next to a man who owes Fisk money and delivers a monstrous threat against the man's daughter. 

It's because Wesley isn't the guy who works with guns or knives that he's such a great villain. He delivers his blows with a word or a look. Wesley represents the more civilized side of Wilson Fisk — the part of himself that the crime lord wants the world to see. That's a big part of the reason why when Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) kills Wesley, Fisk begins to do away with his photogenic facade and deal with his enemies much more brazenly.

Mary Walker (Iron Fist)

While it wasn't enough to save the series, Iron Fist's second season is a vast improvement on the first. One of the things that makes season 2 so much better is Alice Eve's portrayal as the mentally fractured Mary Walker. 

Known as Typhoid Mary in the comics, Walker is usually a memorable and destructive part of Daredevil's rogues' gallery. But while she doesn't share her comic book counterpart's mutant abilities or her crazy makeup, Eve delivers a powerful and disturbing performance as Mary Walker in Iron Fist. Every scene she's in makes you worry at what she might do. Employed by Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) first to follow Danny Rand and then to get more "hands on," Walker is one of the most intimidating and challenging foes Rand faces in the series. In spite of having no enhanced abilities, through skill and careful planning, Mary wipes the floor with Danny Rand in their first fight on a subway platform in "Target: Iron Fist." 

Madame Gao (Daredevil, Iron Fist, The Defenders)

As part the Hand's eons-old leadership, Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) is one of the most dangerous people you'll meet in Marvel's Netflix shows. She presents herself as a physically frail, elderly woman in order to give enemies and allies alike a false sense of security. She prefers to work from the shadows, letting her actions speak for her and foregoing the noise and bravado of other bad guys. While she tends to be a puppet master more than anything else, we learn in The Defenders that Gao has physical abilities that allow her to go toe to toe with Iron Fist.

Not only is Madame Gao one of the strongest pieces of connective tissue throughout Marvel's Netflix series — introduced in Daredevil's series premiere and making more appearances in Iron Fist and The Defenders – she's perhaps the absolute last person you want to mess with in all of Marvel's Netflix shows. She won't crush your head in a car door like Wilson Fisk or break your neck like Alisa Jones ... at least, not at first. She'll give you that wicked smile, and she'll wait until the time is right.

Mariah Dillard (Luke Cage)

In the first half of Luke Cage's first season, Mariah Dillard wants Harlem to see her as the legitimate face of the Stokes family, allowing Cornell to lord over the criminal elements of the neighborhood. Things change when — enraged when he says the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of her uncle was consensual — Mariah murders Cornell in his club, Harlem's Paradise. Supported by the manipulative Shades, Mariah (aka Black Mariah) soon becomes the queen of crime in Harlem.

Alfre Woodard may have already had a role in the MCU — as a grieving mother in 2016's Captain America: Civil War — but her performance in Luke Cage overrides any concerns a continuity stickler might have. Through Woodard, Black Mariah is a tortured villain, haunted by the abuse she suffered from her criminal family. Her rage and pain is bubbling at the surface of every scene, and she's merciless enough to leave no mystery as to how she could ever be a threat to a man with bulletproof skin.

Kilgrave (Jessica Jones)

Few of Marvel's Netflix villains could leave such a lasting impression as Jessica Jones' Kilgrave. Gifted with the ability to make anyone do what he tells them, Kilgrave makes every character a potential time bomb. Before the events of the series, he uses his powers to force Jessica Jones do a lot of things she doesn't want to do, including commit murder. The trauma she suffers at his hands is what makes the hero so miserable, and his presence is felt throughout the show's amazing first season, even long before he and Jessica finally reunite face to face.

David Tennant's performance is such that — even though Jones kills him in the season 1 finale — he never fully leaves the series. Kilgrave leaves scars in Jessica too deep to let him die for good. We see this most clearly in season 2's "AKA Three Lives and Counting," when Jones is plagued by visions of Kilgrave harassing her and tempting her to lash out with violence.  

Wilson Fisk (Daredevil)

It's unthinkable to imagine someone other than Vincent D'Onofrio in the role of Daredevil's most important villain, Wilson Fisk. For the show's three seasons — which is more than most of the Marvel Netflix series got and yet hardly feels like enough — D'Onofrio's time as Fisk was one of the best reasons to watch Daredevil. D'Onofrio provides the perfect mix of intelligence, civility, ruthlessness, rage, and turbulent pain to bring us the man the comic books call the Kingpin. It's probably not a coincidence that season 2 — when Fisk is absent until the final moments of the season's eighth episode, "Guilty as Sin" — is generally regarded as the weakest chapter of Daredevil.

Wilson Fisk embodies the incredible potential of the stories that were being told on Netflix's Marvel shows. Fisk is no alien warlord or an Asgardian god jealous of his brother. He's a man of wealth, whose childhood scars drive him to evil, and nothing about that sounds like make-believe. There's no reason why someone like Wilson Fisk couldn't exist in the real world, and that makes him more terrifying than any other MCU villain you can think of.