Captain America has had some seriously tough villains in his time. No matter who is carrying the shield and mantle of Cap- Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, John Walker (or others) - they face off against some of the most despicable comic book super-villains of all time, including numerous evildoers and war criminals who echo Cap’s longevity back to the '40s.
What makes his adversaries so deadly is that they're as devious and nefarious as Cap is loyal and virtuous. So, without further ado, here's a look at the the greatest threats Cap has ever faced – the 10 best Captain America villains of all time.
10. Batroc the Leaper
Batroc the Leaper is a little bit of a joke, but he’s also one of the best martial artists in the Marvel Universe – so much so that he’s gone toe-to-toe with Captain America time and time again.
And while his plum-and-mustard costume, crazy facial hair, and oddball accent make him seem like a cartoon, there’s no question that Batroc is one of the deadliest mercenaries in Marveldom, even occasionally leading his own team, Batroc’s Brigade.
9. Secret Empire
The Secret Empire is a world-conquering organization that tried to bring down the U.S. government by ruining Captain America’s reputation, and infiltrating the highest levels of government. Their machinations eventually lead to one of Steve Rogers’s first breaks with his identity as Captain America.
Steve found himself deeply disillusioned with the government when he discovered that Number One, the Secret Empire’s leader, was a high-ranking government official – heavily implied to be President Richard Nixon himself – an encounter that lead to Number One committing suicide, and Rogers walking away from the mantle of Captain America for a short time.
A disciple of the Red Skull, Crossbones assembled the Skeleton Crew, a team of neo-Nazi villains dedicated to the Skull’s teachings. Though he lacks superpowers, his fierce dedication to his dark ideals and his determination have made him a worthy foe for Captain America time and time again, even carrying out the apparent assassination of Steve Rogers after Civil War.
Crossbones appeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as his alter ego, Brock Rumlow. He’ll assume his identity as Crossbones in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War - the implications of which should not be understated.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may know A.I.M. best as the secondary villains from Iron Man 3, and though Advanced Idea Mechanics certainly have a history with the armored Avenger, in comic books, their ties run deeper with Captain America.
A.I.M. are responsible for creating the Cosmic Cube, an artifact of ultimate power that later became a powerful weapon in the hands of Cap’s arch-rival the Red Skull. Of course, now A.I.M. is Avengers Idea Mechanics, and provide support for Sunspot’s unsanctioned Avengers squad.
6. Serpent Society
A cadre of snake-themed super-villains may seem a little silly, but it’s hard to argue with the villainy the Serpent Society have perpetrated over the years. Though they started with only a handful of members, the Society grew to encompass a veritable legion of villains who have menaced Captain America for decades.
The Serpent Society’s membership has included everyone from Sidewinder, to Puff Adder, Madame Hydra, Copperhead, and Princess Python, and even Diamondback, who later reformed, becoming a longtime love interest of Steve Rogers.
5. Arnim Zola
Arnim Zola may be one of Captain America’s weirdest villains – but he’s also one of the most deadly. In his modern form, he’s a giant TV screen with arms and legs, but his history is as a Nazi scientist who transferred his consciousness into an artificial body.
While Zola has been responsible for numerous evil schemes over the years, perhaps his most dastardly was creating Dimension Z, an alternate, dystopian reality where Cap raised Zola’s son Ian as his own before seemingly losing both Ian and Sharon Carter to Zola’s doomsday weapon.
4. Tony Stark
One of Cap’s oldest allies – and the man who pulled him from the ice where he was frozen since World War II – may seem like an odd choice for a list of his greatest enemies, but it all comes down to Civil War, a story that pitted the old allies against each other over the Super Human Registration Act.
In Civil War, Cap and Tony went to battle, with the Marvel Universe’s heroes picking sides between them. In comic books, it eventually ended with Cap surrendering – an act that allowed Red Skull and his co-conspirators to assassinate him. Things haven’t quite been the same since Cap and Tony since Cap returned, and though they’ve been somewhat uneasy allies, they have also found many more reasons to be at each others’ throats such as in the recent "Time Runs Out" precursor to Secret Wars.
Hydra is a Neo-Nazi organization dedicated to world domination, which has often been seen as the antithesis of S.H.I.E.L.D. They’re also known for their history with Captain America, including his rivalries with Baron Strucker, Madame Hydra, and numerous other villains, stretching all the way back to World War II.
Hydra is well known to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where they have become something of the primary nemeses for Captain America, the Avengers, and the rest of Marvel’s heroes. Since their rise to prominence in Marvel’s films, they’ve also seen a resurgence in comic books.
2. Baron Zemo
There have been two Barons Zemo to square off with Captain America over the years. The first, Heinrich Zemo, was a Nazi scientist who was disfigured in a clash with Cap, and who was also indirectly responsible for the seeming death of Cap’s partner, Bucky. Heinrich later resurfaced when Cap was unfrozen – a condition he suffered as a result of the same explosion that nearly killed Bucky – forming the Masters of Evil, a squad of villains brought together to take on the Avengers.
The second Baron Zemo, his son Helmut, took over his father’s mantle, and the leadership of the Masters of Evil. He even lead the Masters in falsely reforming from villainy as the Thunderbolts, before turning back to villainy himself. Most recently, he attempted to sterilize a massive chunk of the world’s population, only to be thwarted by Sam Wilson in his first outing as the new Captain America.
1. Red Skull
There’s no menace in Captain America’s history more evil, more deadly, and more villainous than the Red Skull. Something of a Nazi equivalent to Captain America as a figurehead and super soldier for the Nazi regime, the Skull has survived death multiple times to continue threatening Cap – and the freedom of the entire world – for decades.
In recent years, the Skull committed one of his most heinous acts ever, stealing the brain of Professor Charles Xavier, and using his genetic tissue to give himself Xavier’s psychic powers. This allowed Red Skull to conquer the world, leading to many of the Marvel Universe’s heroes and villains to be “inverted,” something that still has ramifications even after Secret Wars.