10 Action Movies Where The Villain Was The Better Fighter (The Hero Should Have Lost)


  • Some action movies create villains who are better fighters than the heroes, making the suspense more believable and engaging, yet risking creating a scenario where the hero shouldn’t win at all.
  • In movies like Rocky IV and Black Panther, the antagonist proves to be a formidable opponent and should have won based on their superior skills.
  • Other examples include Bucky Barnes in The Winter Soldier and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.



Even the most iconic superheroes and action movie heroes did not deserve a few of their wins, as there have been many villains who were by far the better fighters. Having an antagonist who can go toe-to-toe with the hero of an action film adds to the experience. If it’s clear that the hero is far superior, the suspension of disbelief will not hold up. However, some action movies go too far and create villains who are better than the hero and should have beaten them in the end.

Naturally, it makes sense to expect that the hero will win at the end, especially when the hero in question is played by one of the greatest action movie stars of all time. Still, some of the best action movies have also cast incredible performers to play the antagonists. This, combined with a strong fight choreography that makes everything feel grounded, is often the key to crafting a good action film. That said. some villains were a little too powerful or skillful compared to heroes and should not have been defeated at all.

Related: 10 Best Martial Arts Ensemble Movies, Ranked

10 Ivan Drago

Rocky IV (1985)

Rocky IV

Release Date
November 27, 1985

Sylvester Stallone

Brigitte Nielsen, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Talia Shire, Dolph Lundgren, Carl Weathers


The Rocky and Creed movies include quite a few examples of fights where plot armor won, yet the biggest of them is Drago in Rocky 4. Known mostly as the man who kills Apollo Creed, Ivan Drago proves himself to be a daunting opponent in Rocky IV. Played by Dolph Lundgren, the Russian boxer has no fear and no reservations when in the ring, and even Rocky admits that Drago is beating him during the final fight. Even Dragon’s training montage feels more intense than anything Rocky ever did.

Drago’s use of steroids prior to his match with Rocky calls into question how much better he is when in a natural state, but it can’t be argued that he’s a powerhouse of a boxer. That is not to mention Dragon’s range, which Rocky could never match. Both Drago and Rocky put up a good fight, and while could have gone either way, it would have made far more sense for Drago to win.

9 Erik Killmonger

Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther

Release Date
February 16, 2018

Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Forest Whitaker


Sci-Fi, Drama, Action, Superhero

Erik Killmonger was born as N’Jadaka, the nephew of King T’Chaka. As such, he believes he has a claim to the Wakandan throne. He challenges T’Challa to a ritual fight and wins, injuring the prince so much that he falls comatose. Even though T’Challa later defeats Killmonger later in the film, it is clear that Killmonger remains the better fighter. Without the vibranium suits, Killmonger was able to overpower T’Challa due to the extensive training he undertook, as well as his time as a Navy SEAL. Although T’Challa’s victory, and Killmonger’s death, in the final fight, meant Wakanda stayed with the true king, Killmonger was still the better fighter.

8 General M. Bison

Street Fighter (1994)

bison street fighter

General M. Bison is one of the main antagonists of the popular Street Fighter video games and in the 1994 film based on them. Played by Raúl Juliá, Bison enters into hand-to-hand combat with the hero of the film, Colonel William Guile. Guile, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, is a skilled fighter, but Bison continuously outmaneuvers him. Even when he is electrocuted, the general is still able to inflict damage on Guile. While Guile is the hero and should always defeat Bison at the end of a Street Fighter story, this version of Bison should not have been defeated.

7 David Lo Pan

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

James Hong in Big Trouble in Little China

Played by the esteemed James Hong, David Lo Pan is the shady antagonist of John Carpenter’s action-comedy film inspired by old martial arts movies. Although most of Lo Pan’s fighting skills come from his magical abilities, he’s still more capable than the hero. Jack Burton, played by Kurt Russell, relies mostly on dumb luck as he travels throughout the underside of San Francisco, Chinatown. He defeats Lo Pan by catching a knife thrown at him and just throwing it back at Lo Pan. Had Burton’s friend, Wang Chi, been the hero, Lo Pan’s defeat would have been acceptable. As it is Jack Burton, it stands to reason that Lo Pan should have prevailed.

Drunken Master (1978)

Yim Tit-sam, the Thunderfoot, in Drunken Master

Also known as Yim Tit-sam, Thunderfoot is the antagonist of Drunken Master, a film starring influential martial artists Jackie Chan, Yuen Siu-tin, and Hwang Jang-lee. Played by Hwang, Thunderfoot’s main style of martial arts involves a technique called “Devil’s Kick”, which is so deadly that no one has been able to defeat it. In their first fight, Chan’s character, Wong Fei-hung, is handily defeated by Thunderfoot. It is only through intensive training that Wong is able to best Thunderfoot. Still, Thunderfoot’s martial arts prowess should lead to his defeat of Wong, even when the latter creates his own version of the “Drunken Miss Ho” maneuver to combat Thunderfoot’s “Devil’s Shadowless Hand”.

Related: 10 Best Villains in Jackie Chan’s Movies, Ranked By Toughness

5 Bucky Barnes

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

sebastian stan as bucky barnes in captain america the winter soldier
Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Release Date
April 4, 2014

Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Sebastian Stan


Superhero, Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller

After his fall from the train in Captain America: The First Avenger, Barnes was brainwashed by Hydra in order to become a super soldier for them. Despite both Captain America and Bucky’s natures being that of super soldiers, Barnes is a superior fighter to Rogers. Throughout his appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Bucky Barnes is shown to be an excellent and capable fighter. He is able to overpower Rogers in most of their encounters and even uses Rogers’s own shield against him. Even though Rogers didn’t technically win in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it shouldn’t have been much of a contest. Bucky would continue to be nerfed in other MCU movies.

4 Scorpion

Five Deadly Venoms (1978)

In Five Deadly Venoms, an aging master fears that his former pupils, the Venom Mob, are using the skills they learned from him for evil. The pupils, the Centipede, Snake, Toad, Lizard, and Scorpion, want to steal the fortune of the master’s clan, the Poison Clan. Although they were all trained by the same master, Scorpion’s skills rival the others’. Not only is he a good fighter, but he’s the most elusive of the pupils.

Scorpion always wears a mask, hiding his identity for the grand reveal at the end. He also knows the weaknesses of the others, despite not having trained with any of them, and uses that knowledge against them in fights. Scorpion was a formidable foe who should have come out on top, rather than being defeated.

3 Jade Warlord

The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

jade warlord in armor with his arms open in The Forbidden Kingdom

The Forbidden Kingdom follows a teenager from Boston who finds himself transported to ancient China with the staff of the Monkey King. He, along with his allies, is then hunted by the Jade Warlord, who wants the staff. Without the staff, the Jade Warlord is still a formidable opponent. He was the one who tricked the Monkey King into sending away his staff when he turned the King into stone. He’s an excellent fighter and is able to go toe-to-toe with the Monkey King, one of the most powerful beings. Being killed via a hairpin, especially coming from the one character who has very slim knowledge of martial arts, doesn’t make sense.

2 Bane

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises

Release Date
August 16, 2012

Christopher Nolan

Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman


Bane is incredibly strong, extremely intelligent, and one of the few people who knows Batman’s true identity. In The Dark Knight Rises, it is obvious that Batman is no match for Bane physically. In their first fight, Bane actually breaks Batman’s back over his knee. Even though Batman is able to recover from this brutal injury, which happened way too fast, it doesn’t feel right that he is then able to overpower Bane in their very next encounter. Bane has shown how much more powerful he is than Batman and should have beaten the caped crusader in their final fight. Someone as smart as Bane should’ve found a way to protect his mask’s weakness.

1 Shang Tsung

Mortal Kombat (1995)

Shang Tsung is one of the primary villains of the Mortal Kombat video game franchise and is undeniably the best character in the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie. Tsung is played by Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, and he outshines every other fighter in Mortal Kombat. One of Tsung’s abilities is that of devouring the souls of those defeated. This, combined with his martial arts acumen, makes him a clearly superior fighter. He overpowers, and outsmarts, Liu Kang in their final battle and is only defeated as he falls onto a bed of spikes on the floor. Tsung’s complete dominance over every other opponent should have led to Liu Kang’s defeat as well.


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