There once was a time that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was thought to have a “villain problem” - but those notions have been left firmly in the past after the age of Killmonger, Hela, and Thanos. The bad folks of the MCU have become some of its strongest characters, and their individual arcs are sometimes more complete than the protagonists they’re battling - with a full origin, action climax, and demise often occurring within the course of a single film.
Traditionally, superheroes don’t vanquish their enemies - but the MCU’s mightiest heroes have frequently found cause to cross that ethical boundary and snuff out members of their rogues’ gallery for the greater good. Sometimes, these terminations are accidental and more often than not they’re the result of a villain’s own hubris - but almost all of them bring a satisfying conclusion to the story of a superhuman gone wrong. After all, it’s probably what they deserve.
What Happens: After briefly usurping the throne of Wakanda, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens has to fight the returning and rightful king, T’Challa. The two end up dueling deep within the Vibranium mines, where the Black Panther’s superior tactical talent allows him to bury a blade deep within his cousin’s chest.
Why They Deserve It: Killmonger did plenty to deserve his fate, including taking out Zuri, but his end is satisfying for entirely different reasons. Sitting together on a cliff, T’Challa is able to show Killmonger the true beauty of Wakanda one last time - whereas Killmonger has the chance to speak some important words to T’Challa that will inform his character arc for the foreseeable future.
What Happens: Hela is one of the few MCU villains to not be defeated by her rival hero. Instead, when Thor finds himself unable to dethrone his sister, he instructs Loki to initiate Ragnarok - thus summoning the fiery giant Surtur to take out Asgard. Hela makes a brave attempt against Surtur, but ends up squished by the point of his preposterously large blade as Asgard goes up in flames around her.
Why They Deserve It: Hela eliminates a lot of gods in her one-film MCU stint - including all of the Warriors Three and Skurge the Executioner. She also ends Mjolnir with her bare hands - and that’s just a warmup for the formidable goddess. With her heart set on multi-realm destruction, there’s really only one way to stop her - though the fact that she takes Asgard with her no doubt leaves a sour taste in the God of Thunder’s mouth.
What Happens: Thanos is just trying to make some soup for himself when the Avengers finally decide to live up to their name - tracking down the being that just wiped out half the life in the universe and taking him to task for his actions. Several of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes track the Mad Titan down to his retirement planet and aggressively accost him - with the Avengers holding Thanos down so Thor can chop the Infinity Gauntlet right off his arm. When Thanos doesn’t give them the answers they’re looking for, Thor finishes the job by lopping Thanos’s head off right then and there.
Why They Deserve It: Not only does Thanos eliminate trillions from existence, he also does away with the Infinity Stones so that the dusted cannot be brought back to life - at least, until Tony Stark invents time travel, that is. He definitely deserves to get axed, but the suddenness of his demise doesn’t make for a satisfying end to his villainous arc - fortunately, it isn’t quite the end of the Mad Titan.
What Happens: Avengers: Age of Ultron does not end well for its titular villain. His attempt to escape Sokovia in a stolen Quinjet is foiled by the Hulk, and then Ultron has his mechanical heart literally ripped from his chest by a vengeful Scarlet Witch. The destruction of Sokovia leaves only a single Ultron sentry intact, but when the villainous AI tries to sneak away he is stopped and ended - by his own “son,” Vision.
Why They Deserve It: Ultron is in the midst of an attempt to eliminate most life on the planet when the Avengers defeat him, so it’s tough to argue that he didn’t have it coming. He also ends an Avenger - Quicksilver - on his very first day as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. That the threat of Ultron was eliminated by his own creation adds an extra layer of satisfying irony to this demise.