The One Thing That Goes Wrong With Every MCU Villain's Plan

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Vote up the plans that would have succeeded if not for one small mistake.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe - or is it the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse now? - is a wild, wonderful place, where accidental exposure to lethal doses of radiation is just as likely to give you superpowers as it is cancer, and there's always a chance that one of your parents was secretly a cosmic demigod. It's also an extremely dangerous and frightening place plagued by every type of “villain” imaginable, from greedy industrialists and superpowered gangsters, to maniacal robots, genocidal aliens, and power-mad goddesses.

With so many terrifying villains, including one who had the power to literally erase trillions upon trillions of lives with a snap of his fingers, it's surprising the MCU is still intact. Sure, half of all sentients likely suffer from post-Blip PTSD, and the Indian Ocean now has a monolithic corpse of a dead Celestial sticking out of it, but things are still relatively normal for the average person living in the MCU. Superheroes are often credited for wrecking the villains' nefarious plans, but more often than not the villains are foiled by their own lack of foresight, their overconfidence, or their incompetence. Here's our list of the one mistake that every MCU villain made that prevented them from achieving their goals.


  • Hela Didn't Count On Loki Releasing Surtur And Losing Her Powers As Asgard Was Destroyed
    Photo: Thor: Ragnarok / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Master Plan: For millennia, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) ruled the Nine Realms from his throne in Asgard. But the Allfather's dirty little secret was that he had used his own bloodthirsty daughter, Hela (Cate Blanchett), to achieve his crown, and then locked her away when he had no further use for her. When Odin died, Hela was released and immediately set about claiming the throne of Asgard so she could once again wage war on the Nine Realms and beyond.

    As Odin's firstborn, with powers tied directly to Asgard itself, Hela was far more powerful than any other Asgardian, including Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston). She destroyed Thor's enchanted hammer, Mjolnir, with her bare hands, and generated “Necro” weapons capable of killing Asgard's Einherjar and the Warriors Three with ease. With an army of undead warriors to serve her, Hela was an unparalleled threat to the cosmos (until Thanos united the Infinity Stones).

    Fatal Flaw: The only being capable of stopping Hela was the mighty fire demon, Surtur, Lord of Muspelheim, a creature destined to bring about Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods. Realizing that the destruction of Asgard was a small price to pay to stop Hela from laying waste to the Nine Realms, Thor and Loki conspired to resurrect Surtur. While Thor kept Hela busy, Loki placed the Crown of Surtur into the Eternal Flame and brought the towering figure back to life. Enraged, Surtur began cleaving at Asgard with the Twilight Sword, each slash weakening Hela until she finally fell beneath the blade herself and all of Asgard was destroyed. 

  • Thanos Didn't Count On The Avengers Using Time Travel Without The Time Stone
    Photo: Avengers: Endgame / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Master Plan: Thanos (Josh Brolin) grew up watching his planet of Titan be ravaged by poverty and unchecked overpopulation. He proposed that the solution to the problem was to wipe out half of the population so that the remaining population could thrive. The Titans destroyed themselves, but Thanos remained, building an army and putting his plan into action from planet to planet. Discovering the power of the Infinity Stones, Thanos realized he could easily accomplish his goals more easily if he acquired them.

    Despite opposition from the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers, Thanos acquired all six stones: he wiped out the planet Xander for the Power Stone; killed Loki and countless Asgardians to claim the Space Stone; killed the Collector to get the Reality Stone; bartered with Dr. Strange for the Time Stone; ripped the Mind Stone from Vision's forehead; and sacrificed his adopted daughter, Gamora, to claim the Soul Stone. All Infinity Stones in hand, Thanos simply snapped his fingers and half of all life in the universe was “dusted.”

    Fatal Flaw: Thanos was a brilliant, ruthlessly relentless strategist who was able to counter the Avengers and Guardians at nearly every turn. He knew that it was “inevitable” that he achieve his goals, but he never considered that the heroes would figure out a way to undo what he had done. Developing a theory based on Scott Lang's (Paul Rudd) time in the Quantum Realm, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) created a functioning time machine. By pinpointing where the Infinity Stones were located in the past, the Avengers pulled off a “time heist” of the Stones and Hulk undid Thanos's “snap,” bringing back everyone and everything that had been dusted five years prior.

  • Obadiah Stane Failed To Account For Tony Stark's Spare Arc Reactor
    Photo: Iron Man / Paramount Pictures

    Master Plan: Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) spent years alongside Howard Stark (John Slattery) helping to build Stark Industries into a successful weapons manufacturer, so he was the natural successor when Howard passed away. However, when Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) was ready to take the reins, Stane was demoted to second-in-command and grew resentful. Determined to take control of the company, Obadiah hired a splinter cell of the Ten Rings terrorist network to kill Tony while he was in Afghanistan.

    When his first plan failed, Stane purchased the remnants of the Mark I Iron Man armor that Tony had created to escape the Ten Rings. Obadiah used Stark's designs to create his Iron Monger armor, which he hoped would prop up Stark Industries after Tony steered the company away from weapons. Unable to power his creation, Obadiah removed the Arc Reactor from Tony's chest and installed it in the Iron Monger armor, leaving Tony to suffer a slow, agonizing death.

    Fatal Flaw: Stane assumed that removing the Arc Reactor would not only help him power his armor - but kill Tony in the process. Had he but spent a few moments looking around Stark's workshop rather than gloating, Stane might have realized that Tony still had the original Arc Reactor he had created in Afghanistan. After finding Tony near death, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) inserted the original Arc Reactor into his chest cavity, saving his life. With his more powerful, more maneuverable new Mark III Iron Man armor, Tony, with the aid of Pepper, was able to thwart Obadiah's plans.

  • Master Plan: After his plan to ignite a war throughout the Nine Realms was thwarted by his adopted brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) allowed himself to be sucked into a wormhole and cast into unknown space. Transported to Sanctuary, the asteroid field home of the Chitauri, Loki encountered Thanos (Josh Brolin) and struck a deal to retrieve the Scepter containing the Mind Stone in exchange for use of the Chitauri to conquer the Earth.

    Even with the backing of Thanos, Loki knew that he would not succeed with Thor and the Avengers standing in his way. He allowed himself to be captured and imprisoned aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier so that he could manipulate the Avengers and seed discord with his lies. He played on their fears and doubts while using a mind-controlled Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to sabotage the Helicarrier and anger Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), counting on the rampaging Hulk to destroy the Helicarrier completely and neutralize the Avengers.

    Fatal Flaw: Even though he let slip his plan to Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Loki's plan seemed to work initially as the Hulk began tearing through the Helicarrier and the Avengers alike. What Loki didn't count on, however, was that the heroes, who were at their breaking point only minutes before, would become stronger than ever when confronted with a rampaging Hulk. The heroes put aside their differences to stop the Hulk and save the Helicarrier from crashing, finally coalescing into a true team.

  • Master Plan: Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) was just a child when his father was killed by King T'Chaka and he was cut off from his Wakandan birthright. Stevens focused his seething anger on becoming a deadly weapon, racking up such a high kill count as a Navy Seal that he was dubbed “Killmonger.” Determined to make his father's ambition to share Vibranium technology with disadvantaged Africans around the world, Killmonger set his sights on claiming the throne of Wakanda. 

    To gain an audience with the Tribal Council, Killmonger double-crossed his partner, Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who was wanted in the death of T'Chaka. Killmonger offered proof of his birthright and challenged King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) for the throne. Weakened after being stripped of the Heart-Shaped Herb that granted his Black Panther powers, T'Challa was defeated and tossed over a waterfall to die. To prevent anyone else from gaining powers, Killmonger had the Heart-Shaped Herb garden destroyed after taking it himself.

    Fatal Flaw: Killmonger took advantage of Wakanda's rigid adherence to ritual and ceremony in his plot to claim the throne. He assumed Tribal Council members would bow to his demands as the new King of Wakanda, and the smaller tribes would fall in line. What he did not count on, however, was that Lord M'Baku (Winston Duke) of the Jabari - who once challenged T'Challa for the throne and was critical of Wakanda - would help T'Challa. M'Baku kept T'Challa's body preserved on ice until he could be revived with the last remaining Heart-Shaped Herb and joined the Dora Milaje loyal to T'Challa in invading Wakanda.

  • Xu Wenwu Didn't Count On Shang-Chi Learning His Mother's Martial Arts Style
    Photo: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Master Plan: After discovering mysterious rings that granted him immense power and immortality, Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung Chiu-wei) spent the next thousand years waging war and building his Ten Rings empire. Ever in search of more power, he attempted to breach the mystical realm of Ta Lo, but was bested time and again by Ta Lo's gatekeeper, Ying Li (Fala Chen). The adversaries eventually fell in love and Wenwu gave up his warrior ways to settle down.  

    When Li was murdered by thugs, Wenwu rededicated himself to building his empire, but drove away his children. The whisperings of an ancient creature called the Dweller-in-Darkness convinced Wenwu that Li was still alive but held captive in Ta Lo. Sending his enforcers to gather Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Xu Xialing (Meng'er Zhang) for the green pendant necklaces given to them by their mother, Wenwu planned an assault on Ta Lo to free his wife.

    Fatal Flaw: Though Wenwu's entire plan was built upon a deception by the Dweller-in-Darkness, he executed it perfectly and would have succeeded in freeing Li, had she actually been a prisoner in Ta Lo. His mistake was underestimating Shang-Chi. While preparing to defend Ta Lo, Shang-Chi trained to use the same martial arts that his mother had used to best his father when they first met. In their final confrontation, Shang-Chi used his mother's wind form to fight his father to a standstill and then snatched the rings from the air, leaving Wenwu powerless.