Skip to main content

The scariest MCU characters ranked

The MCU is famous for its lighthearted and kid-friendly vibe. Most of its films are notorious for their abundance of jokes and low stakes, amounting to colorful and visually dazzling but unimpactful stories. The heroes are all clean-cut and safe, paragons of correctness and physical beauty. Meanwhile, most of the villains in the MCU are somewhat forgettable, posing only a fleeting challenge to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and acting more like nuisances than genuinely dangerous threats. All in all, there seems to be no room for weird or unconventional in the MCU, much less scary.

Still, some MCU figures have enough creepy qualities to come across as scary. These characters are chilling, whether because of their eerie behavior, imposing physical appearance, wealth and influence, or a mix of all these. And while they might not send anyone running for the hills, they successfully unsettle audiences, especially considering the colorful and low-stakes universe they call home.

5. Wilson Fisk

Kingpin in the back of his FBI escort in Daredevil season 1
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Portrayed by Vincent D’Onofrio, Wilson Fisk is the main antagonist of the MCU series Daredevil. Fisk is ruthless and cunning, hiding his trauma and insecurities behind a veneer of confidence and soft-spoken contempt. Fisk has severe rage issues that come out at minimal provocation, surprising those who don’t know him and might even confuse him for something of a gentle giant.

Fisk is so scary because of his mercurial and unpredictable behavior. He has a grand plan for New York City and is convinced of his own greatness, thus making him unstoppable in his pursuit. Fisk avoids the spotlight and prefers to operate from the shadows, increasing the mystery around him. The Kingpin can go from a clever and well-mannered gentleman to a creature of animalistic-like rage; you never know where you stand with him, which makes him extremely unnerving. Fisk will reappear in the upcoming Daredevil: Born Again, and fans will get to see him in all his rage-filled glory.

4. Dreykov

General Dreykov talking to Taskmaster in Black Widow (2021).
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Black Widow movie is a mostly disappointing entry into a mostly disappointing phase. Scarlett Johansson is great, and Florence Pugh makes for a wonderful addition to the ever-increasing MCU roster of heroes, but the forgettable plot lets them down. Still, the film toys with insightful and, unfortunately, topical ideas about female trafficking and exploitation, making its villain, Ray Winstone’s General Draykov, an unexpected source of fear for audiences.

General Draykov is an enigma, a man only spoken of in whispers. His willingness to use everyone, including his daughter, makes him one of the most heartless characters in the MCU. There’s a callousness to the General that’s disturbing to behold, referring to young girls as “resources” and relishing his ability to use and discard them as he pleases. Draykov’s attitude and mindset are an unfortunate embodiment of several issues plaguing real-life society, making him an upsetting and potentially triggering character for many viewers.

3. Arishem the Judge

An image of the celestial Arishem from Marvel's Eternals.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Eternals are among the most powerful members of the MCU, and even they cower in fear before the Celestials. Said to be the universe’s creators, the Celestials are massive in size and mighty powerful, making them the greatest threats in the current MCU. Little is known about them, but that only makes them more frightening.

Eternals features Arishem the Judge prominently. The Celestial is in charge of the team’s mission on Earth, although he barely communicates with them unless strictly necessary. Stoic and decisive, Arishem is an absolutist who refuses to back down unless forced to; even then, his judgment will be harsh and unappealable, making him the ultimate decider in universal matters. Arishem is utterly frightening. The sheer size of him is scary enough — he makes Earth look like a football under his massive hands — but his power and vast capabilities make him, perhaps, the scariest being in the current MCU.

2. Thanos

Thanos looking serious with smoke behind him in Avengers Infinity War.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Mad Titan is still the greatest threat in the MCU. He remains the only villain to have prevailed against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and although his actions were ultimately undone, his rampage left considerable physical and psychological scars on the entire world. Thanos is patient, self-deluded, violent, prideful, and convinced of his superiority. He believes he knows what’s best for everyone and considers himself the only one strong enough to do what must be done.

Thanos is so scary because of how resolute he is. He will stop at nothing to fulfill his destiny, no matter how many people he has to kill to get it. Thanos sacrifices his own daughter to get the Soul Stone, and while he shows some regret, it’s not enough to stop him. There’s something incredibly terrifying about someone so enamored with their purpose that they’ll stop at nothing to achieve it. In many ways, Thanos is indeed inevitable, a force of nature that can’t be reasoned with, prevented, or defied. All we can do is deal with it as best as we can.

1. Scarlet Witch

Scarlet Witch levitates in a circle of candles.
Marvel Studios / Marvel Studios

Leave it to Sam Raimi to make the MCU scary. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Magic is messy, but it works thanks to the Evil Dead director’s unique approach to adapting Marvel’s most mystical property. Injecting the film with a clear sense of dread looming on every corner, Raimi crafts a horror film disguised as a superhero adventure.

In his world of madness and terror, no character is scarier than the Scarlet Witch. Going full villain and abandoning everything that made her a hero, Wanda is out for blood in Multiverse of Madness, and she’s willing to cross every line to get it. Raimi turns Wanda into a living, walking, breathing nightmare, a corruption of the hero mythos that abuses her considerable powers, leaving a trail of destruction behind.

Raimi goes further ahead than any other director, including sequences of body and psychological horror that effectively turn Wanda into a demon, or at least Marvel’s equivalent to one. The Scarlet Witch is the best character in the MCU, a complex and ever-changing figure who struggles to reconcile her heroic duties with her desires and losses. Multiverse of Madness allows her to go wild, and while Marvel will surely redeem her eventually, at least we got to see her as a true monster once.

Editors' Recommendations

David Caballero
Freelance Writer
David is a Mexican freelance writer with a deep appreciation for words. After three years in the cold world of Marketing…
The 7 best female characters in the MCU
Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3..

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to turn 15, and it's finally slowing down. However, before taking a much-needed hiatus, it will premiere James Gunn's highly-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the final send-off for everyone's favorite cosmic a-holes. The Guardians movies are among the best MCU projects for many reasons, including their abundance of incredible female characters. From Gamora to Nebula and Mantis, Guardians has some of the most complex and well-defined female figures in the ever-expanding MCU.

It's not like other corners of the MCU don't have great female characters, but it's undeniable that the world's biggest franchise has a problem creating three-dimensional figures, not just female but overall. Luckily, not all is lost, for Marvel has introduced several memorable and layered females throughout its numerous movies and shows. From space warriors to scarlet witches, these characters have considerably elevated the MCU's profile, becoming fan favorites as well as critical darlings.
Peggy Carter

Read more
How Guardians of the Galaxy changed the MCU forever
The Guardians in a prison line-up in Guardians of the Galaxy.

James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy remains one of the most beloved superhero movies in recent memory. Released during the Marvel Cinematic Universe's second phase in 2014, this acclaimed sci-fi adventure has since produced two sequel films, a Holiday Special on Disney+, and a series of shorts following one of the team's mascots, Groot.

While this film led to an expansive media franchise for Marvel Studios, it alone left a much bigger impact on the MCU that audiences can still see almost a decade after its premiere. Since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is just about to wrap up the team's final tour together, now's a good time to review how the original film forever altered the MCU.
It made D-list comic book characters into A+ superheroes

Read more
Can the MCU ever pull off another Avengers: Infinity War cliffhanger ending?
T'Challa, Captain America, and Black Widow stand in front of the Wakandan army in "Avengers: Infinity War."

Anyone who has kept up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe will know that it has definitely seen better days.

In recent years, the franchise that once dominated Hollywood has struggled to maintain the stranglehold it used to have over the theatrical market. Part of that has been due to Marvel’s increased focus on its Disney+ originals, which have greatly expanded the MCU’s roster of characters and made the franchise’s feature outings feel increasingly less important. Of course, another part of the MCU’s diminished importance is due to the franchise’s consistently shoddy visual effects and overly familiar storytelling tropes, most of which have been written about at great length over the course of the past three years or so.

Read more