The Smartest Villains In Superhero Movie History

List Rules
Vote up the supervillains that are toughest to defeat in a battle of wits.

Superheroes usually end up winning at the end of the day, but the smartest supervillains in film history deserve their day in the sun, too. The need to have the good guy win by the time the third act winds down means villains, more often than not, end up seeing their plans foiled. But that doesn't mean they weren't good plans to begin with. Maybe they just got unlucky?

Comic book fans know baddies like Lex Luthor, Doctor Octopus, and Victor von Doom are not easily trifled with. If these guys sat down with your favorite superhero for a good, old chess game, they'd probably win. As it stands, though, they will most likely always lose in the end. Except for that one time Thanos actually managed to wipe out half of life in the whole universe. He actually won that one. (At least, temporarily.)

Vote up the smartest supervillains of the bunch.


  • 1
    512 VOTES
    Photo: The Dark Knight / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Who Is He? The Clown Prince of Crime. What's his real name? Who knows? More importantly... who cares? Everything you need to know about the Joker is wrapped up in his face makeup and aggressive, homicidal tendencies. Everything else is useless. Don't try to figure this guy out. That is a fool's errand.

    Genius Bona Fides: It is almost impossible to count the many, many schemes the Joker has cooked up over the years. Whether it's trying to trademark a fish (yes, that happened) or nabbing all of Bruce Wayne's wealth, the Joker is really good at coming up with demented machinations.

    His Most Genius Movie Moment: With all due respect to Jack Nicholson, Jared Leto, and Joaquin Phoenix, Heath Ledger is the best film Joker, so let's go with him. Though his overarching plan in The Dark Knight failed, Ledger's Joker did succeed in tearing down Harvey Dent and sending Batman into exile for years.

  • 2
    492 VOTES
    Photo: Watchmen / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Who Is He? Adrian Veidt is the big bad of Watchmen. A former vigilante superhero, Veidt went public with his identity and became one of the most successful humans on the entire planet in the realms of both legitimate and illegitimate business. He's also got perfect hair.

    Genius Bona Fides: He's basically your prototypical supervillain: super smart, super rich, super smug. He's got a photographic memory and loves pulling strings from the shadows. The guy built a teleportation device in a world that is supposed to mirror our own. That's pretty cool.

    His Most Genius Movie Moment: Successfully convincing the world an alien invasion was happening in order to bring about world peace. Even if it only worked for a small amount of time, that's a serious ruse he pulled off. In Zack Snyder's Watchmen, this is changed from an alien squid to Doctor Manhattan, which is still pretty smart, if more inelegant.

  • 3
    442 VOTES
    Helmut Zemo
    Photo: Captain America: Civil War / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Who Is He? It's everyone's favorite dancing boy! The Zemo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe differs a bit from his comic book counterpart, but the generalities are basically the same: He's rich and doesn't like superheroes very much. He's less "Third Reich" and more "vigilante" in the MCU, but the broad strokes match up. He's even got the purple mask now!

    Genius Bona Fides: Zemo is just a normal guy with a masterful eye for tactics. He's also comfortable operating from the shadows. Zemo is the guy who came up with the initial idea for the Thunderbolts. Come on! That is some genius stuff right there.

    His Most Genius Movie Moment: It may have been an extremely convoluted and ridiculous plan, but causing the Avengers to break up during the events of Captain America: Civil War was pretty good work.

  • 4
    441 VOTES

    Who Is He? The trickster god and stepbrother of Thor, this Marvel Cinematic Universe favorite absolutely cannot be trusted on any level. He'll stab you in the back while smiling to your face. How will he do that? It's hard to say! But he will. How important is Loki to Marvel Comics? Well, he was the very first antagonist for the Avengers back in the 1960s, so that should tell you something.

    Genius Bona Fides: He is a master manipulator in the truest sense. Whether he is running for president of the United States or betraying the trust of pretty much every character involved in the War of the Realms at one point or another, Loki is the kind of guy who has backup deception plans whether his earlier plans fail or not.

    His Most Genius Movie Moment: He managed to convince Thor he perished in Thor: The Dark World, only to pretend to be Odin and take control of Asgard. It actually worked for a while, too! Between the end of Dark World and the beginning of Thor: Ragnarok, Loki was living his best life as the king of Asgard.