17 Most Likable X-Men Villains in Marvel History (Ranked)
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17 Most Likable X-Men Villains in Marvel History (Ranked)

With the arguable exceptions of Batman and Spider-Man, few long-running comic franchises can boast a rogues’ gallery as deep and colorful as that of the X-Men. The famous mutant super-team has existed in one iteration or another since 1963, and they’ve collected an impressive list of foes over the decades. Much like the X-Men themselves, many of these supervillains have been presented with some degree of nuance. Many are the result of the world they were born into; they’ve suffered inconceivable tragedies, or perhaps circumstances demand they play the role of the antagonist. The line between “hero” and “villain” is murkier in the X-Men’s world than you may find elsewhere, resulting in some of the most compelling foes to ever grace the pages of comic books.

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The X-Men’s roster of villains is expansive, and even the most exhaustive effort is unlikely to capture every individual who could be included on this list. The following are undeniably some of the most likable villains to ever face off with the X-Men, but such a description is not exclusive to them. For every megalomaniac, rogue, and misguided zealot below, there are a dozen more whose placement would be warranted. Limiting us to only the following 17 standouts is a testament to the richness of the X-Men’s greater world and those who dwell within it.

17 Unit

unit

The cool, calculating Unit was the central villain of 2009’s S.W.O.R.D. from Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders with an interesting M.O.: it allowed itself to be captured. The charismatic machine used its captivity to observe its captors, determining whether they could be pacified or if their extermination would be more prudent. The last relic of a lost civilization, Unit has been undertaking this process for billions of years in the hope that, one day, his creators will return, and his efforts will have paved the way for the galactic dominion they sought eons ago. Unit is a diabolic machine, its cold ruthlessness only matched by its persuasive personality.

16 Blob

Blob X-Men Comics

Frederick Dukes is a self-described “big, fun lovin’ guy” and one of the X-Men’s original foes, having first fought them in 1963’s X-Men #3 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Blob’s power to control the gravity and density of his obese body are one of Marvel’s most memorable mutant abilities. Dukes is a sympathetic figure, a genuinely simple man just trying to get by in a world that hates and mocks him for his corpulent appearance and mutant status, leading him to become a member of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The Krakoan Era has been good to the big man, and Dukes has found peace working as the Green Lagoon’s bartender.

15 Cassandra Nova

Cassandra Nova sitting and thinking as an X-Men villain.

Compared to most of the X-Men’s rogues’ gallery, Cassandra Nova is almost refreshing in her unrepentant evil. Cassandra is Charles Xavier’s “Mummudrai,” a spirit that is both an individual’s equal and opposite. In other words, she’s literally Professor X’s evil twin. Nova possesses the same incredible psionic abilities of her brother, but his tolerance and idealism are replaced with an infernal, burning hatred for Charles. Cassandra’s glimmers of humanity are overshadowed by acts of unflinching evil – notably, she was responsible for one of the greatest atrocities in X-Men history, having orchestrated the genocide of the mutants of Genosha in Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s New X-Men #115.

14 Sauron

sauron x-men

Some supervillains want to right some perceived injustice, or lash out against a world that has taken everything from them. Meanwhile, Sauron spent 2014’s Spider-Man & the X-Men from Elliot Kalan and Marco Failla trying to turn people into dinosaurs. Sauron’s story is a simple one: mild-mannered Argentinean hypnotherapist Dr. Karl Lykos got bit by a mutant Pteranodon, altering his genetic structure and turning him into a vampiric, human-pterosaur hybrid. Lifting his name from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Sauron embraces his villainous role, often hunting mutants or occasionally trying to conquer the Savage Land. Ultimately, he’s a half-pterosaur man, and that alone makes him an easy X-Men villain to love.

13 Madelyne Pryor

goblin queen

Madelyne’s descent into villainy is among the most understandable – a genetic clone of Jean Grey, Pryor started a seemingly idyllic life with Cyclops after Jean’s “death”. In Uncanny X-Men #200 by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr, Pryor became a mother with the birth of the future X-Man, Cable. Despite being physically identical, Madelyne could never truly replace Jean – everything she’d built with Scott, her young family and perfect life, was slowly stripped away from her. Lashing out at the X-Men for repeatedly wronging her, the “Goblin Queen” has since forged her own identity, growing into a woman independent of the X-Men’s, and Krakoa’s, failings.

12 Pyro

pyro marauders

Torrid romance novel author-turned-mutant criminal, the unapologetically Australian St. John Allerdyce is difficult not to love. Originally written with a notably campy personality, this original characterization has slowly melted away in favor of the mischievous, pyromaniacal Pyro we know today. Pyro tragically died of the Legacy Virus while pleading for peace between humans and mutants, but his resurrection on Krakoa has seen him embrace his moderate insanity. As a notable member of the 2019 Marauders, Pyro had his face adorned with a garish skull tattoo and took delightful pleasure in burning his enemies alive, including immolating the KKK-inspired Hate-Monger with glee. Pyro does, however, draw a very emotional line against animal cruelty.

11 Selene

selene

One of the immortal “Externals,” Selene Gallio is an impossibly old mutant – she’s walked the Earth for more than 17,000 years. During this time, Selene has inevitably schemed her way into the highest echelons of power throughout the generations, from the halls of Ancient Rome to a stint serving in the American White House to the Quiet Council of Krakoa, which she would vote to dissolve in Immortal X-Men #13 by Kieron Gillen and Lucas Werneck. Blessed with the ability to drain life force from others, Selene encapsulates the archetypical vampire with her cold, malevolent demeanor and Gothic fashion sense. In fact, she’s the inspiration for another vampiric “Selene”: the Underworld franchise’s protagonist.

10 Nimrod

Nimrod attacks in the X-Men comics.

The Nimrod Sentinel was originally little more than a Terminator clone with an eye-catching color scheme. The Krakoan Era has brought with it a much-needed personality transplant for the merciless mutant hunter, and Nimrod’s new-found “ah, shucks” hyper-positive attitude makes him instantly endearing. He still hunts mutants with merciless brutality while utilizing a staggering array of weapons and abilities perfectly designed to counter all of mutantkind, but he does so with an intelligent, yet childlike, curiosity for the world around him. During the 2023 Hellfire Gala, Nimrod was even kind enough to apologize for (literally) crashing the party, killing most of the new X-Men team in the process.

9 Nanny & Orphan-Maker

nanny orphan-maker

There may be no more unsettling duo in Marvel than that of Nanny & Orphan-Maker. There’s a real twisted, unwholesomeness to them, with the bizarrely egg-shaped, lipstick-applied Nanny’s sickeningly motherly manner with Orphan-Maker, who appears to (at least mentally) be a child in a menacing suit of armor. Terrifyingly, Orphan-Maker’s codename is literal: Nanny used to regularly coerce him into gunning down parents, allowing her to take custody of the newly orphaned children. Unnerving as they are, there’s a genuine mother/son love between the two, and 2020’s Hellions saw the characters grow and mature – literally, in Orphan-Maker’s case, who has since been revealed to wield apocalyptic power within his hermetically-sealed armor.

8 Sinister

Sins of Sinister Dominion Cover Sinister Praying

Much like Pyro and Nimrod, there have been two characterizations of Mr. Sinister, both of which are respectively fabulous. Sinister of old was just that: “sinister,” a cackling, mustache-twirling villain fit for Saturday morning cartoons. Later interpretations have seen the character immerse himself in campiness while growing obsessed with his ludicrous fashion-sense. Sinister first came to fame during Chris Claremont’s time penning Uncanny X-Men in the 1980s, as he was revealed to be the mastermind of the convoluted plot to bring about the birth of Nathan Summers aka Cable. Innately duplicitous and self-serving, Sinister’s undisputed talents and flair for the theatric has engrained him forever as one of the X-Men’s most memorable foes.

7 Juggernaut

Juggernaut bellowing and wearing his signature helmet as he crackles with red energy in Marvel Comics.

Cain Marko has been an unstoppable force in X-Men comics ever since his debut in 1965’s X-Men #12 from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Juggernaut was originally what would result from giving a high school bully superpowers, and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy slapping around his stepbrother Charles and his X-Men while smashing things and committing generally petty crimes. A seed of good in Marko’s heart has grown over time, and the decades have seen him steadily grow from X-Men villain to genuine hero and champion of the mutant cause (despite not being a mutant himself). Marko’s redemption arc culminated with him properly joining the X-Men in 2023’s Hellfire Gala.

6 Sabretooth

sabretooth open season

Sabretooth is everything Wolverine is, only bigger and badder. Interestingly, Sabretooth original debuted as a reoccurring foe of Iron Fist in Iron Fist #14 from Chris Claremont and John Byrne, but soon pivoted into being the arch-nemesis of arguably the most popular mutant in all Marvel, Wolverine. The men share a very long, very bloody history and the rivalry has evolved into one of the most iconic in all comic book history. The duality in Sabretooth’s heart—man versus beast—has made him a viciously cunning, even monstrous foe. However, these shreds of humanity have seen him regularly tread into anti-hero waters in spite of his more overtly sociopathic tendencies.

5 Apocalypse

apocalypse in marvel comics

Ancient, unknowable and inevitable—Apocalypse has been little less than a force of nature in the X-Men’s world. Born En Sabah Nur thousands of years ago in Ancient Egypt, the being who would become Apocalypse has a singular ethos: “Only the strong survive.” Apocalypse has spent millennia putting that worldview into action, orchestrating conflicts around the globe to serve as a crucible to harden the mutant race. The 1995 crossover event Age of Apocalypse gave a glimpse into the genocidal dystopia Apocalypse would unleash should he ever claim full victory. The Age of Krakoa has seen a great deal of humanization regarding Apocalypse, redefining the meaning of his name and all he believes.

4 Emma Frost

Emma Frost Marvel Comics Cover Art

Emma Frost is like the diamonds which sometimes compose her skin: cold, hard, and beautiful. She’s a deeply complex character, serving as the linchpin of the Hellfire Club in their efforts to illicitly gather influence to themselves, while she once ran her own rival school for young mutants, the Massachusetts Academy. This rivalry evolved into cooperation, with Frost shifting from one of the X-Men’s most cunning foes into one of their most powerful leaders while remaining unflinchingly ruthless in how she operates. Emma Frost is not only a cornerstone of the X-Men’s world, her recent marriage to Tony Stark in X-Men #26/Invincible Iron Man #10 has solidified her importance as a central figure in Marvel.

3 Deadpool

Deadpool with Taco-1

Introduced as a lethal foe for Cable and his X-Force, Deadpool wasted little time establishing himself as a lovable rogue. Wade Wilson is certifiably insane – in Joe Kelly and Ed McGuiness’s Deadpool run he was so unpredictable Taskmaster was unable to copy his fighting techniques – while the nature of his healing factor is often played for laughs. Not only has Deadpool re-assembled himself from a single surviving cell before, but discarded parts of his body have at times re-assembled new, possibly “evil” Deadpools. With a knack for absurdity, immature humor, and a talent for breaking the fourth wall to poke fun the world of comics and his own existence, Deadpool has become one of Marvel’s most beloved properties.

2 Mystique

Mystique appears in Marvel Comics.

As mysterious as she is lethal, Mystique ranks among the most iconic female supervillains in comic history. Born Raven Darkhölme more than a century ago, the manifestation of her shape-shifting powers turned the cerulean-skinned young girl into a social pariah. This brutal life hardened her into the master manipulator she is today, and while Mystique is far from malevolent she’s also demonstrated a willingness to undertake increasingly extreme measures to ensure her (and mutantkind’s) survival. In one reality, she went as far as assassinating the anti-mutant Senator Robert Kelly, inadvertently triggering the dystopian Days of Future Past timeline. Mystique’s influence cannot be overstated, and she’s since played a central role in countless X-Men stories.

1 Magneto

Magneto wearing his red and purple suit with a metal

No villain may be as justified in his actions as “The Master of Magnetism”, Magneto. Born to a Jewish family in Nazi Germany, young Max Eisenhardt bore witness to some of the greatest atrocities humanity is capable of as documented in 2008’s X-Men: Magneto Testament. Recognizing that these same depravities will inevitably befall his fellow mutants, Magneto has long championed domination versus Charles Xavier’s cries for cooperation. An Omega-level mutant, Magneto’s mastery over metal is utter. He’s demonstrated this power with equal parts terror and awe matched only by the righteous conviction with which he wields it. Magneto is a commanding presence, making him not only the X-Men‘s most iconic villain but one capable of questioning whether he may actually be the hero.

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