Top 10 Moments of The Marvel Cinematic Universe
With the addition of Doctor Strange, the Marvel Cinematic Universe now spans fourteen different films, and while some have been disappointingly average, the franchise has delivered many spectacular moments. In order to truly appreciate the massive MCU as a whole, I have looked back and ranked the very best moments throughout the series. Spoilers Follow.
– Captain America vs. the Winter Soldier (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2014)
– Ant-Man vs. Yellow Jacket (Ant-Man, 2015)
– Ultron and Vision (Avengers: Age of Ultron, 2015)
Doctor Strange vs. Dormammu (Doctor Strange, 2016)
The newest edition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe provided one of the cleverest and largest climaxes so far. As the third sanctum, the last thing between the Dark Dimension and Earth, is destroyed in Hong Kong, Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to reverse time and restore the sanctum. But the most powerful entity in the Dark Dimension, Dormammu, and his allies, still remain, and their combined force seems too powerful for Strange, Mordo, and Wong to fight. Instead to attacking his enemies head on, Strange flies towards the Dark Dimension, walks directly towards Dormammu, and delivers him one message “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain.”
Dormammu quickly kills the sorcerer, but is mystified when he reappears a moment later. Strange reveals that by using the Eye of Agamotto he is trapping Dormammu in an infinite time loop, that he will only break if Dormammu promises to leave Earth and never return.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this climax, is how it could have happened instead. Having already shown us what the villains were capable of during the battle in London, in which the city was inverted and stretched in mind-blowing patterns, I expected a simple brawl in Hong Kong that would tear the city apart. And honestly, I would have been perfectly satisfied with this outcome. However, by deciding to deliver to surprising final battle instead, Derrickson and company did something incredibly important: they gave us something original in the superhero genre.
With the genre beginning to fill the year end-to-end, it is incredibly important that each superhero film feels different than the last. Doctor Strange gave audiences a massive fluid-like monster fighting a surgeon turned sorcerer in a time loop. I’d say it did its job well.
Stark Escapes the Ten Rings (Iron Man, 2008)
Iron Man had a sense of realness and grit that, for better or worse, the MCU seems to have lost since its debut. The realistic style of the first Iron Man film is best showcased in Stark’s first action scene.
After a successful weapons test in the Middle East, Stark is assaulted by a group called the Ten Rings and taken into captivity. He is then forced to construct a Jericho missile for the terrorists, but instead of following their orders, he designs a suit of armor and plans an escape.
The suit of armor itself appears extremely realistic, as the Mark I armor has many details that its comic book counterpart lacks. And most importantly, the suit lacks any repulsor technology. The only weapons it boasts are rockets and flamethrowers.
It cannot even fly properly, but it does its job well enough to grant Tony a successful escape. While Stark eventually constructs several superior designs, the first Iron Man armor will always hold a special place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the first action scene the franchise delivered.
Veronica vs. the Hulk (Avengers: Age of Ultron, 2015)
This ranks as one of the MCU’s best action scenes to date. After being controlled by Scarlet Witch, Banner rages into the Hulk and begins attacking a city on the African Cost. Unfortunately, the Hulk is not the only Avenger Scarlet Witch has taken over, as the entire team has been rendered useless, with one exception.
Stark flies towards the city, as a satellite enters Earth’s orbit and delivers him the Hulkbuster armor, or as he and Banner call it, “Veronica.” Stark attempts to calm the Hulk down, but soon finds himself battling a creature far stronger than himself.
Joss Whedon did an exceptional job directing this scene, as it is bristling with humor and massive destruction. The fight is not excessively big, as the film’s climax was still coming further down the line, but it produces just enough damage to satisfy our action hungry hearts.
If one moment can encapsulate the sheer awesomeness of this fight, it would be just after Stark had thrown Hulk to the ground, smashed an elevator on him, socked him in the face, and knocked out one of his teeth, because after seeing Hulk’s reaction to the beating, Stark can say nothing but “I’m sorry.”
The Collapse of Shield (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2014)
This was one of the most important moments in the MCU’s history, especially since it was something I thought every Marvel film would avoid, for at least a few years.
In The Winter Soldier it is revealed that, not only did Hydra survive the events of The First Avenger, but that they had mutated into a virus lurking throughout Shield. Given Shield’s importance in Marvel Comics, and the Marvel films themselves, I assumed that Rogers and company would find a way to eliminate Hydra while sparing Shield. But the Russo brothers had a different idea.
In finale, Rogers is able to stop Hydra from utilizing the three newest and deadliest helicarriers by programing the ships to fire at each other. However, Steve is still aboard one of the helicarriers with the Winter Soldier, his old friend Bucky Barns, when the missiles start flying.
Hydra is broken down further by Black Widow, and Shield is killed in the crossfire. The helicarriers crash into the water, the Winter Soldier escapes, and Captain America is left unconscious at the bank of a river. Shield was destroyed, and still has yet to resurface.
Hydra survived, until it was truly demolished during that opening of Age of Ultron, and Barns remained missing until Civil War, where he would cause a fracture within the Avengers.
“I am Iron Man” (Iron Man, 2008)
While it may not be the flashiest moment in the MCU, this was where the Marvel Cinematic Universe truly began. It wasn’t the first event to happen chronologically, but everything after it consists of the MCU we know and love today.
After defeating Obadiah Stane, Tony Stark attends a press conference, in which he is ordered by Phil Coulson to deny any involvement in the battle against Stane’s armor.
But being Tony Stark, he rejects the orders and announces to the world that he fought Stane, stating “I am Iron Man.” Iron Man opened the flood gates, and in the years that followed we have been treated to some astonishing films, all of which had their own beginning in this moment.
“We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy” (Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014)
Though we view Guardians of the Galaxy as a success today, it holds the title of one of Marvel’s riskiest projects to date. In the film’s climax however, all of its great aspects came together.
After the team’s plan to kill Ronin fails, Quill attempts to distract his opponent through a dance off. Ronin, being distracted, soon loses control of the Infinity Stone to Peter Quill. However, given that Star Lord is mortal, Ronin expects him to die just by touching the stone.
However, one by one, the remaining guardians grab onto Quill and divert the power through themselves. Ronin asks how they are able to control the crystal, and Quill responds with “You said it yourself…we’re the Guardians of the Galaxy.”
The Guardians then lift Ronin into the air, and tear his body into dust in spectacular fashion.
The Battle of New York (The Avengers, 2012)
Few were certain that The Avengers would be a functional film, and fewer believed that it would shatter opening records and establish the MCU as a phenomenon. And while The Avengers had some truly fantastic character work and solid performances, it was the climax that carried this film to new heights.
After opening a portal in the sky (which at the time was something of a rarity) Loki fights alongside his army of Chitauri in an attempt to destroy New York City. Iron Man attacks the portal head on, and is quickly accompanied by the rest of the Avengers. As the wave of aliens spreads throughout Manhattan, the Avengers finally assemble in the most awe-inspiring moment of the film.
Hulk punches a colossal Chitauri whale, shattering its skull and armor, just before Stark blasts it into oblivion with a missile. The Chitauri continue to spread across the city, and some yell in protest at the Avengers. The Hulk roars back, and the team disbands in order to destroy as many Chitauri as possible.
While this battle is certainly notable for its adrenaline spiking moments, the sense of hopelessness that builds throughout the conflict allows the situation to rise above a basic action scene. This feeling of despair reaches its peak when the World Security Council fires a nuclear warhead at New York.
Stark catches the warhead with less than a minute to spare, takes it into the wormhole, and destroys the rest of the alien armada. The Avengers defeated the Chitauri, and sent a message, as Nick Fury puts it that “The Avengers are dangerous, very dangerous. And the whole world knows it. Every world knows it.”
The Avengers vs. Ultron (Avengers: Age of Ultron, 2015)
No franchise is perfect, and one of the MCU’s faults is that its second Avengers film ends almost exactly the same as its first. However, Age of Ultron has a leg up on the battle of New York in one outstanding regard, it tops the ‘Avengers Assemble’ moment in spades.
After realizing that Ultron has turned Sokovia into a massive asteroid, the Avengers circle the switch that would allow their enemy to send the city flying towards the Earth. Ultron arrives at the switch with nearly all of his drones, and attacks the Avengers with all the power at his disposal.
What followed was one of the most eye-popping and engrossing scenes in the MCU. The Avengers combated hundreds of Ultron drones simultaneously, and did so without letting a single one slip by. Ultron becomes enraged, and joins the conflict using his vibranium build. Vision overpowers him, and sends Ultron flying to the ground. Thor, Iron Man, and Vision all concentrate their energy on Ultron, until his vibranium body has been nearly melted.
While some were disappointed by the Avengers second outing, all can agree that this scene was phenomenal.
The Airport Battle (Captain America: Civil War, 2016)
Many may have expected that if the MCU ever grew to the point where a pair of directors could construct a scene with twelve heroes fighting each other, that the franchise would have outgrown itself and been on a path to implosion. Fortunately, that was not what happened.
Instead, as team Cap and team Iron Man met at an airport Leipzig, and we were treated to one of the most masterful action scenes in recent memory. A twenty-minute-long scene containing twelve combatants could easily have turned out to be a mismanaged mess, but the skilled direction of Anthony and Joe Russo made this battle a cinematic masterpiece.
The best part was that, not only were all the character motivations firmly established beforehand, but that we saw a plethora of match-ups during these twenty minutes. Captain America vs. Black Panther, Spider-Man vs. Ant-Man, Iron Man vs. Falcon, War Machine vs. Scarlet Witch; you name it and we probably saw it.
And of course, the highlight of the whole fight cannot be overstated. Ant-Man finally turns into Giant-Man, Spider-Man uses his webbing to tie him up, making an Empire Strikes Back reference while restraining him, followed by Iron Man and War Machine simultaneously pounding Scott Lang into submission.
After being defeated, Scott Lang asks the question: “Does anybody have any orange slices?”
As fun as it is, the fight ends on a serious note, as War Machine falls from the sky and shatters his spine, that warns of darker things to come.
Iron Man vs. Captain America and the Winter Soldier (Captain America: Civil War, 2016)
This was the moment that the Marvel Cinematic Universe finally took off its training wheels. By the time Civil War was released we had seen serious moments already, such as Stark’s captivity in Iron Man, but never before had the MCU been willing to subject its audience to such a depressing and destructive climax.
After discovering that the Winter Soldier was responsible for the death of his parents, Stark unleashes the anger that had been held back for decades. Tony angrily turned towards the Winter Soldier, as Rogers grabs his arm in an attempt to halt his ally.
Stark asks if Rogers knew, and after Rogers denies knowledge Stark presses him again. Steve finally admits that he was aware Barns was responsible. Tony strikes his friend, sending him flying across the room, and chases after Bucky with one goal: killing the Winter Soldier.
From here on, the climax is brutal and relentless. The fight itself is extremely gritty, as most of the hits come not from hammers or spider webs, but from fists and steel. Every hit is felt, and as the conflict continues the combatants becomes weaker and weaker. This scene was shot in a dark and grey setting, reflecting the sense of hopelessness and dread. This was not a fight between heroes and villains, it was a fight between fiercely loyal friends.
The three men fight until they have nearly killed each other. Bucky loses his robotic arm, Captain America forfeits his shield, and Stark is beaten into submission.
While the three will inevitably rejoin, a fracture was made here that may never fully heal. In this moment, the MCU finally showed its willingness to deliver tragedy, and it made for the greatest moment in the franchise so far.