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Best Iron Man villains of all time

interlocking Iron Man covers by Marko Djurdjevic
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Iron Man's MCU villains haven't had a ton of staying power outside his solo films (and some of them, like Whiplash, are likely to stay off the table thanks to actor Mickey Rourke's recent public disdain for Marvel Studios).

However, with Armor Wars on the horizon for Disney Plus, a ton of classic Iron Man villains could likely make their way to the MCU, many of whom have adapted and even stolen their tech from Tony Stark, as was the plot of the comic book 'Armor Wars' story.

And of course, Iron Man's long-time arch-foe the Mandarin will appear in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in a much more comic book-inspired form.

But who are the best Iron Man villains ever? We'll break it all down right now.

10. Ghost

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The enigmatic corporate spy known as Ghost was originally an engineer who developed intangibility — which he turned into a weapon when the corporation he worked for betrayed him and killed his colleague.

Over the years, Ghost has menaced both Iron Man and Tony Stark time and time again as both a spy and a saboteur, and even as an attempted assassin while Stark lay in a coma after his nanotech-altered brain rebooted. 

Ghost later partially reformed as part of the Thunderbolts before returning to corporate sabotage to steal from Parker Industries.

In the MCU, Ghost was reimagined as an Ant-Man and the Wasp villain in that duo's 2018 film. 

9. Fin Fang Foom

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Though he looks like a dragon, the towering Fin Fang Foom is actually a shape-shifting Makluan alien, the same race that created the Mandarin's ten power rings. Leading a crew of invading Makluans, Foom led several attempts to conquer and subvert the Earth.

The threat of Fin Fang Foom and his fellow Makluans is so great that it has even led to Iron Man teaming up with the Mandarin. Though the original Fin Fang Foom has seemingly reformed after converting to Buddhism, several duplicates and impostors have resurfaced over the years, using Foom's legacy of villainy.

With a version of the Mandarin that is closer to the comic book version appearing in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, could the Makluans and Fin Fang Foom also play a role in the story?

8. The Controller

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Basil Sandhurst, the Controller, was a sickly child who used his childhood ailments as inspiration for his research into the human mind's potential. 

After discovering a way to turn psychic potential into physical strength, he also developed a method of using unsuspecting victims as mental batteries for his power.

Over the years, Controller has battled Iron Man countless times using a variety of mind control techniques beyond simply sapping the strength of his victims. 

He's also used his victims as armies of mindless slaves and has even teamed with Thanos to upgrade his powers using technology derived from Stark's own inventions.

7. A.I.M.

(Image credit: Marvel)

The mad science collective known as Advanced Idea Mechanics has menaced multiple heroes throughout the Marvel Universe, but few so personally or as often as Iron Man. Bound by an obsession with power and super-science, A.I.M. has often tried (and occasionally succeeded) in stealing and copying Stark's dangerous technology.

AIM's most dastardly schemes have included creating the terrifying being known as MODOK (pictured), constructing the reality-altering Cosmic Cube, and capturing Iron Man to analyze and replicate his armor.

For a little while, AIM stood for 'Avengers Idea Mechanics' when Sunspot took over their leadership - but the organization has since reverted to its evil mad scientist ways.

6. Titanium Man

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The original Titanium Man was a gigantic suit of armor built by Soviet scientists working from the original Crimson Dynamo designs. 

Piloted by a Russian soldier named Boris Bullski, Titanium Man issued a challenge to Iron Man designed to shame the United States with Iron Man's defeat. However, Iron Man won the duel, and Bullski himself was shamed. 

Over the years, he has resurfaced time and time again, often with new, more powerful weapons both in the employ of his government and as a mercenary.

5. Zeke Stane

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Many villains have tried and occasionally succeeded in stealing or repurposing Tony Stark's technology, but few with such devastating effect as Zeke Stane, the son of Stark's longtime rival Obadiah Stane.

Using stolen repulsor technology, Zeke Stane was able to turn people into living bombs, causing numerous terrorist attacks throughout the world before eventually turning his own body into a living weapon, and decimating Stark's headquarters, nearly costing Pepper Potts her life.

4. Crimson Dynamo

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Numerous men have inhabited the various versions of the Crimson Dynamo armor, and some of them have even gone on to switch sides and join forces with Tony Stark. 

But as a concept, the Crimson Dynamo is one of Iron Man's most frequently recurring and difficult foes.

Originally conceived as a Soviet counter to Iron Man's armor, the first Crimson Dynamo armor was based around magnetic field technology designed to counteract Stark's repulsor tech. 

Over the years, the Dynamo armor has evolved to incorporate more varied weapons and is more like a platform for various technologies and armaments, similar to the Iron Man armor itself.

3. Madame Masque

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Madame Masque, a.k.a. Whitney Frost, is the daughter of super-criminal Count Nefaria, one-time head of the Maggia crime organization and enemy of the Avengers and X-Men. 

And like her father, Madame Masque has leaned into a life of super-crime, primarily going up against Iron Man as a corporate saboteur and head of the Nefaria family. She takes her name from the iconic golden facemask that she wears, which once covered up facial scars that have since healed.

Though she has no powers, Madame Masque is a ruthless criminal mastermind with the firepower and organizational strength to challenge not just Iron Man, but often the entire Avengers - though she holds a special place in her hateful heart for Tony Stark.

2. Iron Monger

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Though there have been a few Iron Mongers over the years, Obadiah Stane, the first and most effective, was an enemy of Tony Stark as much as Iron Man.

Stane ran Stane International, a corporate rival to Stark International, and used his analytical mind to manipulate Tony, eventually seizing control over Stark International and absorbing it into his own brand.

Now in control of Stark's company and technology, Stane built the Iron Monger armor and attempted to use it as a tool for world domination until Stark, in a newly built Iron Man armor, confronted and defeated him.

Refusing to be beaten, Stane committed suicide with the Iron Monger armor's onboard weaponry.

Fans of the MCU will remember Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger as the villain of the first Iron Man movie played by Jeff Bridges.

1. Mandarin

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The Mandarin is unquestionably the best Iron Man villain of all time - his greatest foe. 

Armed with 10 rings powered by alien technology and capable of 10 different incredible powers (including disintegration and matter-rearrangement), Mandarin is the embodiment of everything Tony Stark opposes; power for its own sake, the strong feeding on the weak, and the subjugation and domination of the world.

The times that Mandarin has menaced Iron Man are numerous, and each time is devastating, but Mandarin most recently appeared as a central figure in Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca's celebrated run on Invincible Iron Man, manipulating numerous villains and even Stark himself in a plan to destroy the world — before being seemingly killed by Zeke Stane during his final conflict with Iron Man.

The Mandarin's rings later resurfaced, seeking out ten new individual wielders who teamed up to fight Iron Man. The Mandarin was later resurrected - though he was subsequently killed again by the Punisher.

An adaptation of the original comic book version of the Mandarin will be the villain of the upcoming Marvel Studios film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, played by actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai.

George Marston

Newsarama staff writer who learned to read from comic books and hasn’t shut up about them since.