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HYDRA created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security. Once the purification process is complete, HYDRA's new world order will arise. We won, Captain. Your death amounts to the same as your life. A zero sum.
~ Zola explaining HYDRA's plan.

Arnim Zola is a major antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, serving as the secondary antagonist of Captain America: The First Avenger, the overarching antagonist of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a posthumous antagonist in Captain America: Civil War and a mentioned character in Avengers: Endgame.

He was formerly a Swiss weapons developer working for the Nazis, before working for Johann Schmidt's SS division called HYDRA, being its top-scientist, which was then fragmented from the Nazis, in order to save his life. While originally thought to just be working for HYDRA for his life, as it is revealed, he was actually fanatically devoted to HYDRA's philosophies and plans, rebuilding HYDRA within S.H.I.E.L.D. and was the developer of Project Insight, to which present-day leader of HYDRA, Alexander Pierce, is trying to carry out. Zola then physically died from a terminal illness, but before his death, he has copied his mind into a computer to make sure his plans will succeed.

He was portrayed by Toby Jones, who also played Culverton Smith in Sherlock.

What Makes Him Pure Evil?

  • Developed weapons for the Nazis, not caring about the destruction it can cause.
  • Agreed to work with Johann Schmidt out of fear for his life by helping him become a superior man.
  • In a canon tie-in comic to The First Avenger, he knew Schmidt's copy of the Super Soldier by Dr. Abraham Erskine was ineffective, and didn't tell him, letting him mutate himself into Red Skull and become a worse villain than he originally was out of glee, planning to use this as an opportunity to provide technical solutions so he can be a more trusted minion to Schmidt, and in turn, increase his chances of preserving his life even more. He then goes to Erskine's cell and taunts him about the failure of the serum and that Schmidt will have his family executed out of range. When Erskine tells that the serum just amplifies who the person is inside, and that this happened as Schmidt was never human at all, Zola gleefully says that Skull will never believe it to be true. So in turn, he is responsible for Red Skull being worse than he originally was and knew it as he knew he had the power to prevent it but did so anyway for his own gain.
  • He and Skull horribly experimented on and enslaved the prisoners of war, personally doing so on the best friend of Steve Rogers/Captain America, James "Bucky" Barnes.
  • While he is horrified by Red Skull's cruelty in multiple occasions, they are all for the wrong reasons such as:
    • He is noticeably horrified when he kills three Nazi soldiers who were rightfully scolding him for his plan that can nuke even Berlin, or other agents of HYDRA, it isn't out of genuine standards, but out of cowardice of his own life, fearing on angering Red Skull who will then kill him for his failures out of anger.
    • While protesting against his orders to increase the prisoners' workload exponentially as doing so may kill them, it is out of the fact that the prisoners are their slaves to make progress be faster and if their number decrease, progress will end up being slower, to which he will end up failing Red Skull and then he will end up being killed. When Skull told that they can always gets more, Zola contemplates and eventually went along with it.
    • While questioning Red Skull activating the self-destruction of the base, it isn't out of fear for the lives of the prisoners or other members of HYDRA inside the base, just about the loss of his data and work inside. Even if it was about the men and prisoners present, he eventually leaves them all behind to escape for his life.
    • Even if those standards were genuine, they are pretty much gone by the time of The Winter Soldier while Zola becomes as bad as Red Skull.
  • Is not truly loyal to Red Skull, revealing everything about Red Skull and his plan so he can have sanctuary working in S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • While it may seem Zola was forced to comply and work with Red Skull's plans out of fear of his own life, as The Winter Soldier revealed, that is not the case. Even though Zola's life is no longer threatened as HYDRA was disbanded after Red Skull "died", and is now in sanctuary working in S.H.I.E.L.D., Zola still ended up rebuilding HYDRA secretly within S.H.I.E.L.D. and planning to hijack it so HYDRA can succeed in ruling the world. This proves that Zola was actually working with HYDRA not just out of his life, but out of fanaticism of its' ideologies also.
  • In order to manipulate humanity into willingly surrendering their freedom, Zola caused mass chaos everywhere by causing multiple crisis and wars, which lead to the deaths of thousands, if not millions, which HYDRA continues to even after his death.
  • Has Bucky experimented on horrendously and having them endure painful mindwipes to brainwash them to HYDRA's control and make them mindless weapons. Due to him, Bucky's life was ruined and needed therapy as the crimes he was forced to do haunts him and is a uniquely personal crime to Captain America. He even ordered Howard and Maria Stark's assassinations during the time of Bucky's brainwashing.
  • Developed Project Insight to which Alexander Pierce is trying to launch after Zola's physical death, to which Zola develops an algorithm to stalk everyone in the world and see who are or will end up being threats to HYDRA's plan to rule the world, which are about 20 million people all across the globe, who will all be killed off. Behind Erik Killmonger and the Red Skull, Zola and Pierce share the third highest attempted kill count in the franchise, and unlike both of them, who have had more resources for their goals such vibranium and the Tesseract, Zola doesn't have any tools as powerful as them.
  • Sends a missile to kill Captain America and Black Widow when they know of his plans.
  • According to Wakandan Files, Zola does care about Pierce's position within HYDRA, however, it is because he views him as a valuable pawn to his scheme.


  • He is one of the three Pure Evil villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to never be the main villain of the films they appear in, along with Crossbones and Dormammu, whom the latter also has great potential to be a main villain later.
  • He is the first Pure Evil villain of Phase 2.
  • His What If...? versions don't count as Pure Evil due to different reasons:
    • His first What If...? version doesn't count as Pure Evil due to his minimal screen time and lack of heinousness, as he doesn't get to transform Bucky Barnes into the Winter Soldier nor it's shown if he was recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. after World War II and still hide HYDRA within its ranks.
    • His second What If...? version, however, has done all of his worst actions he did in the Sacred Timeline, but all of them are done offscreen and none of them were given any expansion to make him remotely heinous. He does join Black Widow and Hawkeye to stop Infinity Ultron, but does so out of fear for being destroyed. The worst he does is killing Infinity Ultron just because he ended up foiling HYDRA's plans for the world to be under their rule permanently and trying to steal the Infinity Stones from Prince Killmonger to use them for his own plans which are left vague.
  • He is one of the two incarnations of Arnim Zola to be Pure Evil, along with the original comic version.

External Links


           MarvelLogo.png Cinematic Universe Pure Evils

Red Skull | Arnim Zola | Crossbones | Ronan the Accuser | Dormammu | Ego | Hela | Mysterio | General Dreykov

Obadiah Stane | Abomination

TV Shows
John Garrett | Daniel Whitehall | Kilgrave | Agent Orange | D'Spayre | Foolkiller
Infinity Ultron

Video Games
Glenn Talbot | Malekith the Accursed

          Captain America Logo.pngPure Evils

Arnim Zola | Baron Wolfgang von Strucker | Herr Kleiser | Red Skull | Scarecrow | Ultron

Captain America: The First Avenger: Red Skull | Arnim Zola
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Arnim Zola | Crossbones
Captain America: Civil War: Crossbones