Hiring an Iconic Actor to Play the Villain is Just a Part of the MCU Formula Fans Can’t Get Enough Of

Many movie lovers will tell you that the better the villain, the better the movie. That’s believed to be true whether the franchise is James Bond, Star Wars or the MCU. Fans have been noticing that some of Marvel’s villains have been actors of particularly high caliber. 

Marvel movies have often been criticized for not having great villains, but a consensus has emerged that the villains have gotten better of late. And besides that, Marvel has an impressive array of Oscar-winning talent in its ensembles. 

Marvel’s Oscar winners

Jeff Bridges
Jeff Bridges | Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

People tend to think of Marvel overlapping with Oscar as a recent occurrence, especially after Black Panther became the first superhero comic book movie to score a Best Picture nomination. In fact, Marvel has had a close relationship with Oscar winners from the very beginning, thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow.

Iron Man featured Jeff Bridges as the villain and turncoat Obadiah Stane. Despite his long and acclaimed career, he was not an Oscar winner in 2008 when Iron Man came out.  He would finally get his trophy in 2010 for his performance Crazy Heart as a down on his luck country singer struggling with alcoholism.

Nevertheless, Business Insider includes him in the list of a dozen Marvel actors who have won Oscars. Bridges was one of the few who didn’t have an Oscar when Marvel called.

The list includes Cate Blanchett (Thor: Ragnarok), Brie Larson (Captain Marvel), Michael Douglas (the Ant-Man movies), Anthony Hopkins (the Thor movies) William Hurt (The Incredible Hulk), Tommy Lee Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger) Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3), Lupita Nyong’o (Black Panther) Paltrow (several, though she never remembers which ones), Natalie Portman (the Thor series), Robert Redford (Captain America: Winter Soldier) Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2) Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange), Marisa Tomei (the Spider-Man movies), Benicio Del Toro (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Forest Whitaker (Black Panther)

Fans discuss the heavy hitters in Marvel villains

Marvel fans picked up on this in Reddit. A behind the scenes photo from Thor Ragnarok with Hopkins, Chris Hemsworth and director Taika Waititi led to this observation: “I love how just about every MCU movie has an iconic older actor/actress (or two) to help anchor it, all the way back to Jeff Bridges in the first Iron Man.”

Another fan responded, “Off the top of my head:

Jeff Bridges – Iron Man

Hugo Weaving – Cap

Robert Redford – Cap 2

Kurt Russell – Guardians of the Galaxy V2

Michael Keaton – Homecoming

Jeff Goldblum (kinda)/Cate Blanchett – Thor Ragnarok. There’s definitely truth to this.” 

And a third fan elaborated on why this works, saying, “That’s the MCU formula at this point and works real well. Get an older or real famous iconic actor/actress to play the villain. This is the case in almost every movie. Like Thor Ragnarok they got Cate Blanchett for Hela.”

Why do these esteemed actors make Marvel movies?

It should be noted that some of these esteemed actors don’t always play the villains. Some, like Paltrow, Douglas and Tomei, play allies, and sometimes allies who turn out to be the opposite, such as Robert Redford’s devious secretary Alexander Pierce in Captain: America: The Winter Soldier.

Having Redford in that movie was partly a nod to the kind of paranoid political thrillers of the 70s in which Redford starred, like All the President’s Men and Three Days of the Condor

When asked why he agreed to sign with Marvel, Redford told the Los Angeles, “I’m doing [‘The Winter Soldier’] because it’s different,” Redford said. “It’s a new thing for me. I think these films are really powerful. I think they’re great. This is the kind of film I would have loved to see as a kid.”

He also said, “I like the idea of stepping into new territory. I’m excited by it. I also think it’s a good bunch of people who really know what they’re doing.”