The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s use of an overarching narrative has meant that character development is a constant work in progress. Villains aren’t always going to remain evil no matter what actions they’ve committed, with several baddies going on to become part of the team of good guys.
This includes everyone from evil overlords like Thanos to comedic villains like Trevor Slattery, a.k.a. the original, fake Mandarin. It’s interesting to map out these former villains’ story arcs to see what caused their changes for the better. It also goes to show how the MCU manages to turn fan opinions, as these characters have gone on to become well-liked as Marvel’s new heroes.
10 Scarlet Witch Joined The Avengers After Originally Working For Ultron
There’s no doubt that Scarlet Witch is a very powerful MCU character, but she was manipulated by Ultron to use her abilities for nefarious reasons. Alongside Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch was introduced as Ultron’s underling, fracturing the Avengers for him before she and her brother realized Ultron’s true intentions.
The character became a protagonist after defecting to the Avengers and stopping Ultron’s threat. She joined the superhero team by the film’s end and was part of the group that defied Thanos in the Battle of Earth. Scarlet Witch went through another villain turn in Doctor Strange 2, although this was due to succumbing to the Darkhold’s corruption.
9 Skurge Redeemed Himself By Defying Hela
Skurge sided with Hela to avoid being killed like the rest of the Asgardians who stood up to her. After guiding her to the vaults where she resurrected her army, Skurge started to have second thoughts about his betrayal. He finally came around when Hela’s army was about to overwhelm the Asgardians, mowing them down with his assault rifles.
Although he was swiftly killed off for turning on Hela, Skurge redeemed himself in death by fighting for Asgard’s cause. It’s more impressive considering he was initially in the clear to escape the planet and decided to sacrifice himself to aid the Asgardians.
8 Yondu Udonta Gave His Life For Star-Lord
Yondu was a supporting villain in his debut appearance, where he was a thorn in the Guardians’ side by intercepting their possession of the Power Orb. He was still villainous when the second film began, only to turn into a hero when he chose to head to Ego’s planet to fight him.
Yondu completed his turn for the better when he sacrificed his life Star-Lord, admitting he considered the latter as his adoptive son. The change in Yondu’s character garnered him the respect of the Ravagers, who decided his death was proof that he truly regretted his former ways.
7 Baron Zemo Allied With Avengers Members After Initially Breaking The Group
Baron Zemo was responsible for destroying the Avengers by making them turn on each other. The character was incarcerated for his crimes, which included causing the death of King T’Chaka. After years of imprisonment, though, Zemo returned to aid Avengers members Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes.
Zemo’s turn wasn’t because he was strictly a good guy now, but due to his belief that super soldiers like the Flag Smashers needed to be eradicated. In the end, Zemo was responsible for finishing the Flag Smashers’ threat by eliminating all of them. He was imprisoned once again, but having at least prevented the group from terrorizing the world.
6 Ghost Became Ant-Man’s Ally
Ghost was a villain by necessity since she was after the Quantum tunnel that Ant-Man and his friends were also pursuing. Her desperation to save her life caused her to nearly doom Janet van Dyne, although she was forgiven when the others realized her condition.
Ghost ended up becoming Ant-Man’s ally, as revealed by Scott by the movie’s conclusion. Her turn toward the good guys has been confirmed since she will be part of the Thunderbolts group. The character has some way to go to establish herself as a full-on protagonist, but her villain days are behind her.
5 Nebula Joined The Guardians Of The Galaxy
Nebula was part of Thanos’s side in her original appearance before joining Ronan to oppose the Guardians. She was firmly on the villainous end of things during the movie, escaping to avoid Ronan’s doomed fate. Nebula was still a baddie in the sequel until she dropped her vendetta against Gamora.
The character finally became a protagonist in Avengers: Endgame, where she joined the team and took part in the Battle of Earth. By now, she’s turned over a new and is even one of the funniest Guardians of the Galaxy members, which is a huge change from her initially ruthless persona.
4 Bucky Barnes Overcame His Mental Conditioning
The Winter Soldier is regarded as one of the coolest villains in the MCU, but he was a baddie due to HYDRA’s mind control. The character almost pulled off the World Security Council’s nefarious plans until Captain America reminded him of his past as Bucky Barnes.
Bucky was wrongfully accused of being King T’Chaka’s killer in Captain America: Civil War but still wasn’t a protagonist. It wasn’t until Avengers: Infinity War that he regained his true personality and fought against Thanos’s forces. By the time of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Bucky was back to siding with the good guys.
3 Thanos Decided To Be A Benevolent Person
The alternate version of Thanos from What If…? was nothing like the live-action iteration. This Thanos gave up his genocidal plans to do good with the Ravagers after Star-Lord T’Challa convinced him to. It was an incredible turn for the character since he’d spent centuries beforehand as a warlord.
Thanos became very sober by personality, even reconciling with his daughter Nebula for his past actions. Although he liked to suggest that his plan of culling half of the universe wasn’t a bad idea, it’s clear that the character had no intentions of following through with any evil plans.
2 Trevor Slattery Stood By The Forces Of Ta Lo
The status of Trevor Slattery was one of the biggest mysteries in the MCU for close to a decade before it was revealed that Wenwu had imprisoned him. This was due to his role in creating propaganda where he posed as the Mandarin, enabling Aldrich Killian to carry out his terrorist activities.
Trevor resurfaced to aid Shang-Chi in his mission to protect Ta Lo, redeeming himself in the process. He was still a coward to an extent, but Trevor aligned with the good guys without being tempted to betray them. The character was rewarded by being granted permission to reside in Ta Lo.
1 Loki Reconciled With Thor To Join His Cause
Loki was the original big-time villain in the MCU, as the Avengers formed to battle against him. He was a straight-up antagonist in his first two appearances due to his contempt of Thor and desire to be king. The character became an anti-hero after that but was nowhere near a hero.
Loki’s heroic turn finally happened in the climax of Thor: Ragnarok, where he brought back up for his brother to fight Hela. Ultimately, he died in an attempt to prevent Thanos from killing Thor, which cemented his status as a protagonist. The alternate Loki from the Disney+ series also experienced a similar arc, ditching his evil ways when he learned that Thanos had killed him in the Sacred Timeline.
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