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What Sort Of Jail-Time Do The Villains Of The MCU Deserve?

Updated September 23, 2021 317.8k views15 items

By the end of any given movie, almost all Marvel Cinematic Universe villains are either in prison or deceased, with only a select few managing to eke out a kinder fate. Though we may see them for a moment or two behind bars, what is rarely discussed is the actual process of trying and convicting a supervillain. And that's unfortunate, because it would probably make for some of the most complicated legal drama ever put on film.

Given the mortality rate in MCU supervillains' line of work, a prison sentence might seem like a favorable outcome - but that could change once the jail-time is actually tallied up. The entire franchise might have leapt five years into the future in Avengers: Endgame, but it's going to take a lot longer than that for some of these characters to see the light of day again.

  • Photo: Spider-Man: Homecoming / Sony Pictures Releasing

    Adrian Toomes has one of the least violent rap sheets of any MCU villain, but he's still going away for a long time. First and foremost, each and every theft of technology committed by Toomes while in his Vulture get-up would qualify as grand larceny at least - making him eligible for 25 years per count in the state of New York. Presumably, the selling of said alien tech - like the ill-fated incident on the Staten Island Ferry - would be treated similarly to transactions involving nuclear materials, and net Toomes another 20 years.

    Then there's his slaying of Jackson Brice, the original Shocker. When Brice threatened to leave Toomes's illicit enterprise and expose his secrets, Toomes meant to detain Brice with an anti-gravity device, but he accidentally vaporized him with a Chitauri ray-gun instead. A good lawyer would argue this down to manslaughter in the first degree, but that's still another 25 years.

    Finally, the Vulture made his big play by hijacking Tony Stark's superjet full of goodies, which earns him at least 20 more years for aircraft piracy. Given the damage caused by the resultant collision and the dangerous nature of what he was trying to swipe, Toomes can count on another 20 years on top of that - and that's being generous.

  • Photo: Captain America: Civil War / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Helmut Zemo makes for an interesting case. His greatest act of villainy, splitting up the Avengers, isn't really against the law - there's no law against showing someone a video of his best friend's best friend assassinating his parents. But Zemo made up for it by committing some very serious offenses on the way to his big moment.

    Dressed as the Winter Soldier, Zemo bombed a United Nations event, resulting in dozens of casualties - an act of international terrorism that would garner either life in prison or capital punishment, depending on the court trying him.

    To get at the incarcerated Bucky Barnes, Zemo took out a UN psychiatrist in Berlin - in the first degree, no less, meaning life in a German prison - and then impersonated him, earning three additional years.

    To cap it all off, Zemo traveled to Siberia and executed five additional Winter Soldiers while they slept in cryogenic stasis - meaning five more counts of murder in the first degree. Since these five were committed in Russia, he wouldn't be slain himself, but he would pick up five extra life sentences.

  • Photo: Captain America: The Winter Soldier / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Alexander Pierce was the Secretary of the World Security Council. He was also an international terrorist, intent on launching an maneuver through Project Insight that would have resulted in 20 million targeted casualties. 

    Though the attempt was ultimately unsuccessful, several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents were still slain along the way, meaning Pierce should be charged to the full extent of the country's terrorism laws. He's looking at life in prison at a bare minimum, and possibly capital punishment. Add on additional life sentences for any other past HYDRA schemes he's been involved with.

    The fundamental question raised in Pierce's trial - had he lived to attend it - would have been whether his actions constituted treason. Technically speaking, HYDRA was neither a foreign power nor an active enemy of the United States at the time Pierce was working for the organization, so he would probably escape a treason conviction by a narrow margin.

  • Photo: Ant-Man and the Wasp / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Of all the MCU villains, Ava Starr is probably the least evil, and at the very least, she has one of the most relatable motivations: She just wanted to get her hands on the technology that would keep her alive.

    As Ghost, Starr definitely swiped some privately owned tech - including an entire miniaturized laboratory - which basically amounts to corporate espionage. At most, that's going to net her 15 years in prison. She may have also done some light kidnapping, but that charge would only be raised if Hank Pym made an issue out of it.

    Sure, Ghost's actions may have threatened the life of Janet van Dyne, but good luck trying to convict someone for attempted murder via botched quantum realm extraction. There's every chance Ava walks away clean from all this.