There’s little incentive to choose a life of crime, as villains rarely get featured in their own films. Evildoers that steal the audience’s attention defy the odds and get awarded standalone projects.
Comic book characters like Joker and Venom are typically secondary characters in their adversary’s movies, but they have rich backstories that are primed for a feature presentation. Captivating criminals have left a mark as supporting characters and used their nemesis’ films to launch their own movies.
10 Thunderbolt Ross
General Thunderbolt Ross is the central villain in The Incredible Hulk that raises Bruce Banner’s blood pressure. Ross has been a supporting character in the MCU for fifteen years and is scheduled to headline his own film, Thunderbolts, next year.
After his MCU debut, Hulk’s adversary was given supporting character duties in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Black Widow. With enough key moments in the cinematic universe, the General is primed to take center stage and lead his ensemble film next year.
9 Kraven the Hunter
Kraven the Hunter is one of the founding members of the Sinister Six in Marvel comics. An easter egg reference in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 foreshadowed Kraven’s inclusion in the canceled franchise. The Spider-Man rival will make his cinematic debut in Kraven the Hunter.
After 11 television appearances and the reference in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the wall crawler’s adversary is getting his own picture. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is set to embody the character in the superhero film scheduled for an October 2023 release date.
8 The Scorpion King
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made his feature film debut as a supporting character in 2001’s The Mummy Returns. Johnson’s portrayal spurred The Scorpion King, a spin-off prequel film centered around the titular villain.
The film capitalized on Johnson’s favored WWE career and cast the wrestler as the menace Mathayus of Akkad. After landing his first movie role, Johnson transitioned to his first lead role as the Akkadian warrior in TheScorpion King. The Scorpion King was enough of a success that it spawned its own series, but Johnson did not reprise his.
7 Hobbs & Shaw
In Furious 7, former MI6 officer turned mercenary Deckard Shaw hunts down the heroes of the Fast and the Furious series. The villain creeps into the good graces of another supporting character, Luke Hobbs, and together, they embark on their own journey for their spin-off movie Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.
Alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jason Statham headline the spin-off series. Deckard Shaw was increasingly given more responsibility in three Fast and the Furious films, and after capitalizing on his small features, the villain was rewarded with top billing for his own movie.
The villain from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty manages to hog up all the screen time as a supporting cast member in the animation. Her dramatic appearance, powerful magic, and capacity for evil made her one of Disney’s most iconic antagonists. The Mistress of Evil is the subject of the villain origin film Maleficent.
The live-action fantasy film retells the classic fairy tale with Maleficent as the protagonist. Maleficent was a commercial success, and the villain is scheduled to star in her sequel, Maleficent: The Mistress of Evil.
Different incarnations of Marvel’s Eddie Brock and Flash Thompson have terrorized Peter Parker on the silver screen. Spider-Man 3’s Eddie Brock bore the symbiote and served as one of the villains in the superhero film. Tom Hardy was later summoned to portray Eddie Brock in the standalone origin film Venom.
The antihero’s standalone picture for Spider-Man’s enemy launched the Venom series in 2018. The film would receive a sequel in the form of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and the billion-dollar franchise is currently in pre-production for its third installment.
4 Hannibal Lecter
Hannibal Lecter is a supporting character in the Hannibal Lecter series. The serial killer helps detectives track spree murderers on the loose. Lecter is definitely the most fascinating character in the franchise and graduated from secondary to primary character in 2001’s Hannibal.
Jodie Foster and Edward Norton played detectives that the cannibal aided in the series’ first two installments. Lecter authors the most memorable moments of the first two movies, and it made perfect sense to make the villain the focus of his own movie Hannibal.
Cruella de Vil is the wrongdoer from Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians who’s on a mission to kill the titular dalmatian puppies and use their fur coat for a fashion statement. The fashionista plays the background in the animated film but takes center stage as the titular character in the live-action film Cruella.
Cruella de Vil is the most popular villain from Disney’s silver age of animation. The character’s obsession with fashion lends itself well to Academy Award categories, so Cruella garnered two Oscar nominations for Best Makeup and Best Costume Design.
2 Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker
Darth Vader is an iconic menace from the original Star Wars trilogy. The antagonist stepped out from the dark side and into the spotlight for his prequel trilogy focused around his origin story.
Although Darth Vader is a memorable character in the original Star Wars trilogy, the central antagonist plays second fiddle to his twin children and Han Solo. The Star Wars prequels establish him as the main character and track Anakin Skywalker’s progression as a Jedi Knight and his fall to the dark side.
Joker is Batman’s arch-enemy in the comics and served as a supporting character in Batman, The Dark Knight, and Suicide Squad. Joaquin Phoenix threw on face paint to portray the Clown Prince of Crime in 2019’s Joker.
When featured with Batman, Joker has arguably been the best part of those pictures. Heath Ledger’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor demonstrated the scope of the character. Joaquin Phoenix took home an Oscar for Leading Actor after his work in the standalone Joker project.
KEEP READING: 10 Wasted MCU Villains Who Deserve a Second Chance