When it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there have been a lot of good looking villains, from Tom Hiddleston as Loki in The Avengers to Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther to Hannah-John Kamen as Ghost in Ant-Man and the Wasp to Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Put simply, being bad seems to look really good on even the most awful antagonizers — and those are just the ones whose faces we can actually see in the films.
By peeling back all the masks and makeup of some of the other miscreants of the MCU, it becomes clear that the costume department had to work overtime to conceal much of the eye candy on display with these cast members. Here are some of the Marvel movie villains who are actually pretty stunning once you do away with all those dark disguises.
Josh Brolin as Thanos
To become the Mad Titan for Avengers: Infinity War, Josh Brolin had to sport a motion capture suit while acting out his scenes, and the character’s violet visage was added in by the visual effects team during and after production. Although certain parts of the actor’s appearance did make it through to the big screen — like the shape of his eyes, nose, and mouth — he does not share in Thanos’ gigantic chin, hairless head, purple skin or staggering stature in real life.
Sure, there were a lot of moviegoers who found the existence-snapping alien to be attractive in the films — the phrase "thicc Thanos" even found its way online soon after the flick hit theaters — but Thanos can’t hold a candle to the actor who portrays him when it comes to his hunk factor. Brolin, who donned an entirely different look for his other Marvel movie appearance as Cable in Deadpool 2, has traditionally handsome features and has even starred as the leading man in the romantic film scene as a result of his aesthetic appeal.
Cate Blanchett as Hela
As terrible as she was in Thor: Ragnarok, there was no denying that the Goddess of Death was working it with that goth getup; she even made those giant antlers look good when she strolled into Asgard to claim her place on the throne and destroy anyone who stood in her way. However, Hela has still got nothing on the actress who portrayed her in the film, Cate Blanchett.
The Oscar winner usually sports a blonde bob and has very fair features which, coupled with her strong cheekbones, make her look very striking. Although she has distanced herself from the pursuit of perfection that some of her peers have felt pressured into in showbiz, her beauty has been helpful in landing her brand ambassador gigs. "I just try to look the best I can at whatever age I am," she told The Cut of her approach to beauty. "I always find people attractive when they are comfortable with their own skin and not trying to be someone else, but their best selves."
Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser
Fans would be forgiven for not recognizing Lee Pace beneath all the blue and black facial makeup he wore to become Ronan the Accuser for Guardians of the Galaxy. The Golden Globe-nominated actor‘s mug was thoroughly concealed by those thick cosmetics, and on top of that, his costume was also fitted with a cloaking head piece and a bulky bodice that allowed him to completely disappear into the Kree character.
It’s not the first time the actor has been rendered unrecognizable in a major movie role; in the 2003 film Soldier’s Girl, he suited up in women’s clothing to become the eponymous showgirl Calpernia, and he also covered up his signature shaggy brown ‘do and ordinary human ears with a white-blonde wig and elf points to become Thranduil in The Hobbit trilogy. His turn as Thanos’ dubious deputy, however, was arguably the movie that made him look the least like himself on-screen.
Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen had a really big year in 2016. Coming off of his fan-favored TV turn as the kidney-and-fava-bean-slurping Hannibal Lecter, he starred in two franchise films back to back: Doctor Strange and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The latter would allow him to appear mostly true to his real-life form, but to become Kaecilius for the MCU, he had submit to some serious makeup that created a purple and gray raccoon mask effect to signify his allegiance to Dormammu and the dark dimension. If that didn’t undermine his naturally rugged good looks quite enough, there was also the matter of his long, faux-silver ponytail that aged him up quite a bit.
In reality, though, Mikkelsen is indelibly easy on the eyes and was even chosen to model for several of MARC O’POLO’s fashion campaigns. In other words, while the actor is more than happy to keep suiting up for whatever villainous roles the western world has to offer him, he could just as easily pass for the handsome hero.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Algrim/Kurse
Lost fans will no doubt recognize Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as the drug kingpin who survived in the tail section of Flight 815, only to — SPOILER! — succumb to the smoke monster. In Thor: The Dark World, however, the actor was very hard to make out beneath both of the costumes he wore throughout the film. The first look featured him with a bleached wig and white eyebrows while sporting bright blue contact lenses, and once he transformed into the monster Kurse, at the behest of his dark elf boss Malekith, his countenance was completely concealed beneath a hulking spiky bodice and bony headpiece.
Although the actor does have some serious swoon factor going on in real life, though, Thor 2 wasn’t the last comic-based movie to cover him up entirely; he was just as obscured by the scaly costuming and makeup involved in his turn as the Killer Croc for the DC Universe’s Suicide Squad.
Djimon Hounsou as Korath
Djimon Hounsou is probably best known for his impressive work in films like Amistad, Gladiator, In America and Blood Diamond — two of which even earned him Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor. Before he became such a renowned actor, though, he got his start as an international model after being discovered in Paris, France by the fashion house Thierry Mugler. Soon after making a splash on runway, the Benin, Africa native moved to America and started landing screen roles that capitalized on his staggering good looks and thespian talents.
For his appearance as Korath the Pursuer in Guardians of the Galaxy, however, contact lenses, a prosthetic headpiece, and some armored costumery took much of the focus away from his magazine-ready image to order for him to look a lot less likable. Even when portraying a good guy in a comic-based pic, though, he’s been hidden; for DC’s Aquaman, he has been given a reptilian exterior as the Fisherman King that bears virtually no resemblance to his real-life look.
Alexis Denisof as The Other
Another actor whose appearance was completely obscured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Alexis Denisof, who portrayed The Other in The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. To become the servant of Thanos, Denisof was trapped with multiple layers of covering, including a blue and purple makeup regime, covered with a wiry face mask and a hooded cloak. So, it is rather difficult to discern the actor’s appearance through all of that covering.
In real life, though, Denisof is definitely a looker. With dishwater blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, and a pearly white smile, the recent Emmy nominee (for his work in the short form comedy I Love Bekka & Lucy) could just as easily have been cast as Captain America’s long lost brother as he was The Other. Let’s just say that his wife (and costar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and How I Met Your Mother) Alyson Hannigan is a lucky gal.
Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha
Becoming Ayesha the Golden High Priestess of the Sovereign in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was no easy feat for Elizabeth Debicki. To achieve the look of being completely made of gold, the actress had to submit to a very unusual makeup regimen. She told Comicbook.com, "It was like a car wash. They built a sort of car wash where I sat. There was a lot of paint and a lot of sitting around and drying. It’s quite an intimate process."
Although she looked like a living trophy in the flick as a result of this intense transformation process, the actress is more like a runway supermodel in real life. While she’s relatively new to the industry, fans have already gotten to see her in more realistic form in films like The Great Gatsby, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Everest, and The Cloverfield Paradox. Her statuesque silhouette and arrestingly beautiful face had audiences especially captivated during her starring role in TV’s The Night Manager when she got to sport the same kind of red carpet-ready looks on-screen as she might during a big night out in Hollywood.
Michael James Shaw as Corvus Glaive
Another of Thanos’ minions whose appearance in Avengers: Infinity War did not quite showcase the physical beauty of the actor portraying it was Corvus Glaive, whose real-life counterpart Michael James Shaw is downright dashing, even if you would never know it from looking at the character in the film. When his face is not coated in grey paint and digitally rendered with motion capture technology to give life to the Black Order’s resident grim reaper, the up-and-comer has a strong face and sultry expressions that are sure to make fans melt.
Prior to Infinity War, Shaw might be recognized for his appearances on television shows like Constantine, Limitless, and the mini-series Roots, but even though earning a role in the MCU is a career-maker for many, chances are, fans aren’t likely to peg him as the glaive-wielding baddie on any ordinary day. Luckily, Shaw seems to have no trouble commanding a crowd with his small screen turns without all those pesky villain shrouds.
Jason Flemyng as Azazel
It may go without saying, but British actor Jason Flemyng definitely does not have the same fiery red skin, greasy black mane, sharp-spaded tail, or the poof-and-he’s-gone teleportation skills of his on-screen alter ego Azazel from X-Men: First Class. Instead, the actor has reddish blonde hair, blue eyes, and caucasian skin. Luckily for him, too, his eyebrows don’t rise to a menacing point, and he doesn’t bear the same facial scars as the character either, but what that meant was that he had to endure a daily makeup regimen that was "a lot of work."
When he found out he wouldn’t be hired on for the film’s sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, he was somewhat comforted that he would not have to submit to the intense makeover process again to reprise the role. "Initially I was gutted, but then, I remembered I had to get up at two in the morning, I had to be painted red and be slightly out of focus and posed a lot, and that was sort of it," the actor told MovieWeb. "Now I don’t have to do that."
Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Ebony Maw
You’d have a hard time picking the actor who portrayed the Black Order’s telekinetic baddie Ebony Maw out of a line-up if you didn’t already know it was Tom Vaughan-Lawlor beneath all the prosthetics. As Maw, he had a wide, long expanese in place of a nose, with speckled grey skin, wispy white hair, and almost reptilian wrinkles throughout.
In reality, though, Vaughan-Lawlor has brown hair, fair skin, and, of course, an actual nose. The actor has been seen before on the small screen with appearances in shows like Peaky Blinders, Love/Hate, and The Secret Agent, to name a few. However, none of his roles looked quite like this. The actor, who claims to have dressed up as the character while auditioning for the role, filmed his scenes while wearing a CGI suit and said that his son in particular enjoyed the results of his on-screen transformation, telling The Independent, "he thinks [it] is funny because I look so ugly."
Karen Gillan as Nebula
Nowadays, Nebula is fighting for the good guys after making peace with her sister Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. She started out as a villain, though, so she still counts for purposes of this list. You wouldn’t know it to look at Nebula, but the actress portraying her, Karen Gillan, is quite striking in real life.
To become Thanos’ least favorite daughter, Gillan donned metallic and blue makeup, shaved off her bright red locks, blacked out her already dark brown eyes, and added a few android body parts for good measure. "It’s really intense going through this makeup in the morning, but it’s amazing! I think it takes about four and a half hours now. I think it was five originally," she told ScreenRant of her preparatory process. "But also it’s so worth it, because I see bits of footage that we’ve shot and it’s just so amazing, it’s so worth it." Indeed, the result of all that time investment is that Nebula looks almost nothing like her real-life counterpart, save for her height and leonine frame.
Ryan Reynolds as Juggernaut
Ryan Reynolds’ ruggedly handsome visage was covered up quite a bit for his leading role as Wade Wilson in Deadpool — first with severe burn marks and then with his red and black head-to-toe costuming — but he was really unrecognizable as the villain Juggernaut.
The character was digitally rendered with computer-generating imaging, but Reynolds did don some "mocap gear" to act out some of Juggernaut’s facial expressions in his scenes, in addition to voicing the character. The director justified Reynolds’ double duty as a matter of sheer convenience for everyone. "Ryan did some performance capture for certain dialogue bits. And then he provided the voice, which we altered, which allowed us to, when we we’re [sic] in post, we’re [sic] doing some alts for Deadpool," he explained to CinemaBlend. "It’d be like, ‘Okay, let’s just switch into Juggernaut mode, try this.’ As opposed to ‘Let’s bring in somebody, wait for them, call time,’ all this. It was a tight unit. Ryan’s got another franchise!"
So, even though Reynolds bears absolutely no resemblance to the hulking and helmeted muscleman, fans might be able to notice a familiar expression or two buried beneath all that might and metal if they look closely enough.
Jamie Foxx as Electro
Even before his bad day at the electric eels tank turned him lightning bolt blue from head to toe, Jamie Foxx’s good looks were still pretty well concealed in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. In the beginning of the film, he’s shown as Max Dillon, a balding, buck-toothed, and bespectacled electrical engineer who carries an air of defeat, and Foxx’s visible charisma, head full of hair, and otherwise handsome features are nowhere in sight.
Then, when he transforms into Electro, he’s especially unidentifiable beneath all the luminescent skin and eyes. To create the look, the Academy Award-winner was drenched in veiny prosthetics and blue makeup that was later enhanced with digital effects, and Foxx credited the makeover with informing his performance. "Once I got into that blue, even my voice changed," Foxx said in a Sony behind-the-scenes feature. "It was more [huskily] ‘You have no idea what it feels like’ because his vocal chords had been burned. I would just look in the mirror for hours, just looking at the blue contacts and everything and then finally honing in [and] found him."
Ray Park as Toad
In 2000’s X-Men, Ray Park disappeared beneath a lime skin tone, a bright green spike ‘do, and a slimy smile, but in reality, the actor doesn’t look like he’s hungry for any flies and instead has dark blonde hair, grayish blue eyes and a bright white set of teeth. Being the amphibious bad guy with the dangerous tongue might’ve been a significant enough screen transformation for him to make, but it was hardly Park’s most image-obscuring role.
The year before he joined the X-Men universe, he starred as Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, for example, although it may be difficult to discern the Scottish actor beneath all those horns and red and black demonic makeup. The same was true when he reprised it for Solo: A Star Wars Story. He was even less visible in G.I. Joe: Retaliation as Snake Eyes, the helmeted ninja who didn’t speak. So, while his turn as Toad hid his real-life looks, it was still one of his least disguised franchise runs so far.
Evan Jonigkeit as Toad
Once the X-Men franchise got the requel treatment with treatment with the X-Men: First Class films, the character Toad got an overhaul by way of actor Evan Jonigkeit. Instead of sporting green everything, the actor wore some binocular-style spectacles, a sharp mohawk, and a turned-down grimace with scales and warts scattered across his skin. The look was a far cry from the actor’s usual image, which includes a full head of brunette hair, bright blue-green eyes, and a smooth-skinned grin.
"It was quite a process," he told Philly Magazine of his daily makeover for the film. "They began by sculpting several molds of my head. The mold would be the first thing I would put on in the morning. From there, they would fit in all of the other prosthetic pieces. It took about three-and-a-half hours in the makeup chair." Arduous though it sounds, Jonigkeit said it was over all a "fun" experience for him.
Christopher Eccleston as Malekith
If you didn’t care much for Malekith the Accursed in Thor: The Dark World, don’t worry. The actor portraying him, Christopher Eccleston, didn’t either. He’s since admitted that he took the role as a paycheck gig but that the sheer amount of time he spent in the makeup chair ruined the role for him. As he told The Express, "The first couple of days it was about seven hours, eight hours [in make-up]. I think we got it down to six and a half. It’s a day’s work before [anything] … Marvel were dishonest to me. Because they never, ever let me know that there’d be that amount of make-up."
Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to recognize the celebrated television star beneath all the layers of pale elfin prosthetics, metal armor and headgear, and inhumanly blue eyes. In real life, he’s got much more muted blue eyes and salt-and-pepper hair … when he doesn’t have it buzzed off for a moto-dad cool guy look, that is.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Dormammu
It is not traditional for the MCU to feature a titular hero in a face off with himself, but that’s what happened in Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch played both the time-warping wizard and the Dark Dimensional uberbad Dormammu — although the latter was in voice only, though he did do some facial capture work for the role. Cumberbatch has claimed it was his idea to voice the villain in the movie, saying, "I went, ‘Look, if this is going to work, rather than being a big ghoulish monster, if it’s some kind of reflection of him — if it’s something that he’s giving that’s coming back at him in a really horrific way, that would be fun! … a lot of the animation is sort of like a mirror reflection, a rippled mirror reflection, of him, of Strange."
Although Cumberbatch is tall, that’s about where the comparisons between his appearance and Dormammu’s end. On the other hand, it didn’t take much of a makeover to ready him for the role of Doctor Strange himself — apart from the grey streaks in his hair and his delightfully odd costuming, he was very recognizable in the film’s central part, even if no one realized he was fighting against himself there at the tail end of the pic.
Ben Mendelsohn as Talos
A lot of green goes into making Ben Mendelsohn look like Talos, a Skrull commander in Captain Marvel because in real life, the actor is an Aussie hunk through and through. Mendelsohn, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for his role in Netflix’s Bloodline, has been working his way onto the A-list in the United States ever since his appearance in 2010’s Animal Kingdom. Before he joined the MCU, you may have also seen his mask-free mug in a number of movies, including The Dark Knight Rises, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Ready Player One.
Mendelsohn has been hailed for his performance as Talos, and some Marvel fans even contend his turn in the film might single-handedly help solve the brand’s bogus villainy problem. Captain Marvel does show a bit of Mendelsohn in his real skin throughout the flick, too, but between those simple spectacle frames and his uptight S.H.I.E.L.D. gear, the actor’s rugged handsomeness is still very much concealed in the film.
Carrie Coon as Proxima Midnight
Shortly before Carrie Coon joined Thanos’ goon squad for Avengers: Infinity War, the actress was riding a career high with back-to-back celebrated small screen roles in HBO’s The Leftovers and Fargo‘s third season, the latter of which earned her a Primetime Emmy nomination. It was quite a surprise, then, when Coon was chosen to make her MCU debut in the film as Proxima Midnight, a part which largely covered up her increasingly famous (not to mention lovely) face.
Coon’s role in the film was shot using voice over and motion capture technology of her facial expressions so that animators could then add in the character’s grey skin, navy eye mask effect, blue hair and horns in post. The actress later admitted that completing the work felt "lonelier" than what she was used to doing, but she’s since made light of how unidentifiable she is on-screen. "To be fair, my face is in there somewhere," she joked.