The Best X-Men: The Animated Series Villains Ranked

The X-Men have one of the best rogues' galleries in superhero history, and the best of the best got to shine in X-Men: The Animated Series and X-Men '97.

Mister Sinister (voiced by Chris Britton) in Marvel Animation's X-MEN '97. Photo courtesy of Marvel Animation. © 2024 MARVEL.
Photo: Marvel Animation.

X-Men: The Animated Series became a ’90s sensation in part because it so faithfully translated the stories of X-Men comics into Saturday morning cartoon form. That included not only classic storylines such as “Days of Future Past,” “Broodfall,” and more recently “Inferno” on X-Men ’97, but also bringing in even deep cut characters.

At the center of the show was an all-star lineup, mostly consisting of the Blue Squad in the Jim Lee-driven comic series X-Men, with Wolverine, Cyclops, and Beast alongside Gold Squad transplants Jean Grey and Storm. But the real pleasure of the show came not from the good guys, but from the baddies, the many wonderful weirdos that the series brought from the comics into animated form. While that rogues’ gallery includes lesser-known greats like Mojo and fan-faves like the Nasty Boys, these 10 stand out as the best of the worst in the X-Men: The Animated Series universe…

X-Men: The Animated Series.

10. Omega Red

X-Men: The Animated Series drew from all eras of X-Men, but it was really a celebration of the ’90s. And no X-Men villain is more ’90s than Omega Red. Born Arkady Rossovich, Omega Red debuted in 1992’s X-Men #4, back when the Marvel Method allowed Jim Lee to draw a bunch of cool pictures and John Byrne wrote dialogue around them. A Russian ninja vampire with a shady Wolverine past, Omega Red typified the blender approach of the era.

Corny as his first comic book appearances were, Omega Red made quite an impression in his four animated series appearances. In the fourth episode, “Deadly Reunions,” Omega Red appears alongside Deadpool and Maverick in a glimpse at Wolverine’s pre-heroic past. A few episodes later, “Red Dawn” brings the team to Russia, where Omega and Wolves have an old-fashioned growl-off. Is it the stuff of high drama? Of course not! But Omega Red plays into the instant joy of beefy monsters wailing on each other.

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X-Men: The Animated Series.

9. Senator Robert Kelly

Senator Kelly doesn’t have the flash of the other baddies on this list, but he captures the raison d’être of the X-Men. He is the very manifestation of the humans who fear and hate mutants, who drive Magneto to seek mutant domination and drive Professor X to fight for coexistence with humans. That’s why Kelly was one of the most consistent villains on the series, appearing in the pilot episode “Night of the Sentinels, Part One” and continuing through the premiere of the series’ final season.

Kelly played a central role in one of the best stories in the original Animated Series, the two-part “Days of Future Past.” Beginning in a future in which the assassination of Senator Kelly intensified anti-mutant hysteria to a totalitarian level, “Days of Future Past” sends Bishop back to the past to prevent Kelly’s death. Not only does “Days of Future Past” force the X-Men to protect a man who hates them, but it also demonstrates what The Animated Series did best, bringing landmark stories from the comics to the Saturday morning masses.

X-Men: The Animated Series.

8. Proteus

Born Kevin MacTaggert, Proteus has all the qualities of the best supervillains, mixing the tragic with the horrific. Both of those qualities are present at the start of the season four two-parter that bears his name, which opens with Moira MacTaggert and Banshee performing experiments on Kevin in her lab off of Scotland’s Muir Island. As Proteus, in the form of a hulking energy monster writhes and screams, his mother Moira urges him to remain calm and accept the treatment.

The “Proteus” storyline doesn’t go quite as dark as the comics that introduced the character in the late ’70s, in which he plays like a vampire leaving drained bodies in his wake. But writer Bruce Reid Schaefer pitches the story just right to send chills down the backs of ’90s kids. Moreover, Proteus’ body-controlling powers lend themselves to that most beloved of superhero tropes, when the good guys must fight one another to save the day.

X-Men: The Animated Series.

7. Cameron Hodge

Cameron Hodge makes his animated debut in one of the most powerful episodes of the original series, “Slave Island.” That episode introduces viewers to Genosha, the island nation whose external appearance of peace and prosperity hides a history of mutant enslavement. In “Slave Island,” Hodge appears as a high-level official in the Genoshan government, the embodiment of the nation’s policies of hate.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Hodge goes full supervillain for his second appearance, in season five’s “Phalanx Covenant, Part Two.” There, he collaborates with the alien invaders called the Phalanx to aid their takeover of Earth. As thanks, the Phalanx give Hodge cybernetic enhancements, transforming him into an electric monstrosity. At that moment, Hodge embodies the irony at the heart of many X-Men villains, destroying his humanity to assert human domination.

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X-Men: The Animated Series.

6. Sabertooth

Look, Sabretooth isn’t the most complicated villain in the world. He’s got claws, teeth, and a bad attitude. But you really don’t need much more for a superhero cartoon, especially as Wolverine’s archenemy. Sabretooth appears in eight episodes of the original animated series (well, all of them if you count the opening credits), but most of the time he’s just a bruiser who can trade blows — but not cuts, thanks to Fox Standards and Practices — with Wolverine.

However, it’s that very connection to Wolverine that puts Sabretooth on the list of the best X-baddies. Part of the great appeal to Wolverine comes from his shadowy past, when he did things that he cannot remember but for which he can never atone. Sabretooth is a walking reminder of those things that Wolverine can never fully forget, as seen in the episodes “Cold Vengeance” and “Weapon X, Lies and Videotape.”

X-Men: The Animated Series.

5. Mystique

Mystique has one of the most complicated histories of all X-Men characters, and that’s saying something. The shape-shifter Raven Darkholme has not only served as a key member of the Brotherhood of Mutants and its U.S. Government-backed successor Freedom Force, but she is the wife of Destiny and the mother of Rogue and Nightcrawler.

The Animated Series replicates Mystique’s convoluted backstory by slowly weaving her into the world of the X-Men. She first appears as one of the captured mutants in “Slave Island” and later returns as a straightforward supervillain in “The Cure.” But in the stories “Nightcrawler” and especially “Bloodline,” Mystique becomes a mother forced to make terrible choices. These surprisingly deep stories explain Mystique’s motivations, revealing that she fights against mutant hate so that no one must make the same horrible choices forced upon her.

X-Men: The Animated Series.

4. Mister Sinister

Although he hasn’t made too many appearances in the new series thus far, Mister Sinister has already been established as one of the key villains of X-Men ’97. After all, he’s the mad geneticist whose obsession with the Summers family led him to create Madelyne Pryor by cloning Jean Grey, leading to the Inferno nightmare seen in “Fire Made Flesh,” which also resulted in the infant Nathan Summers being sent to the future to eventually become Cable. And Sinister’s not done with toying with the Summers family.

But this villain didn’t come out of nowhere. The man born Nathaniel Essex previously showed up to torture the mutants on the original animated series. Mister Sinister was first heard at the end of the season one finale “The Final Decision,” and appeared in full throughout the remaining seasons, including in the season two opener “‘Till Death Do Us Part,” which features the wedding of Cyclops and Jean Grey. Sinister’s opening salvo focuses on the return of Morph, but his involvement in major Summers events hints at plans that lead into X-Men ’97.

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X-Men: The Animated Series.

3. Sentinels

On one hand, the Sentinels are mere cannon fodder, giant robots that the X-Men get to trash, giving Wolverine the rare opportunity to actually use his claws. On the other hand, it’s really, really cool to watch the X-Men trash Sentinels. Huge purple robots with weird humanoid faces unnerve every time they show up, and it’s always a joy to see the X-Men let loose on them.

More importantly, the repeated use of the Sentinels shows just how normal it is for humanity to use death robots against mutants. Every time they show up again, the X-Men are reminded that Xavier’s dream is indeed a dream, something that does not exist in the real world.

X-Men: The Animated Series.

2. Apocalypse

No other character so perfectly combined the comics and the animated series like Apocalypse. No, it’s not because Rogue’s encounter with Apocalypse spawned one of the most infamous screenshots (and one of the most stupid culture wars). Rather, it’s because Apocalypse is a villain who lends himself to maniacal monologues, and writers of The Animated Series love to craft maniacal monologues. More importantly, Apocalypse is the evil mutant that Xavier fears his friend Magneto will become.

An ancient mutant who plays the longest of long games, Apocalypse makes his first full appearance in a season one episode with an appropriately grandiose title, “Come the Apocalypse.” From that moment on, Apocalypse only gets more over the top, dropping amazing lines such this: “I am the rocks of the eternal shore: crash against me and be broken.”

X-Men: The Animated Series.

1. Magneto

Of course, the greatest villain in X-Men: The Animated Series is Magneto. Who else could it be? Even in his earliest incarnations in the original comics by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Magneto was a compelling villain. The long-time friend of Charles Xavier who holds the exact opposite beliefs, Magneto is a perfect supervillain, even before Chris Claremont added levels of complexity to the character.

X-Men: The Animated Series does adapt some of the pre-Claremont Silver Age stories, which suit the stylings of a Saturday morning cartoon show. However, they also write Magneto from the perspective of the Claremont issues, which means that even at his most openly evil, Magneto has depth and pathos in The Animated Series. X-Men ’97 continues in this proud tradition by making Magneto the new leader of the X-Men, putting him on the side of the angels without completely sacrificing his devilish ways.

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X-Men ’97 is now streaming on Disney+.