There have been so many incredible moments in every Marvel Cinematic Universe film that they’re all impossible to list. With Avengers: Infinity War on the horizon though, it’s time to take a look at the best moment that each film had to offer…
When the first Iron Man film was released, nobody expected it would launch the most successful film franchise of all time. In fact, early expectations were that it would either fail or simply achieve modest success. A basic origin story, it surpassed all expectations by being instantly likeable and achieved huge success. While there are plenty of impressive moments – most notably Tony Stark’s first proper test flight – the most impressive moment came in the post-credits scene where Stark is visited by SHIELD’s Nick Fury, who teases the formation of the Avengers. In that one simple moment, backed up by box office and critical success, it suddenly seemed possible that fans were witnessing the dawn of a proper superhero universe.
The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk film surprised many, simply by being better than anyone ever imagined. Something else that also shocked people was how good the Hulk looked on screen, and seeing the self-proclaimed “strongest one there is” deliver incredible action scenes was a guilty pleasure. The story took the time to focus on Banner’s plight as a wanted fugitive, even going so far as to use the classic “Lonely Man” theme tune for him from the old TV show. However, what really pushed it over the edge were all the references to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – including its most jaw-dropping moment, a cameo from Tony Stark… who announced that Earth’s mightiest heroes would be joining forces soon.
Iron Man 2
Generally considered an underwhelming sequel (and rightly so), the seemingly cash-grab film of the Iron Man franchise delivered an average story. However, it still featured some decent action, plenty of laughs and the first appearances of Black Widow and War Machine. Unfortunately, it also featured a drunk Tony Stark peeing in his armour. Yet the most astonishing moment revolved around SHIELD agent Phil Coulson, who helps Tony Stark with one of his building projects – which involves using a destroyed prototype of Captain America’s shield to prop up a piece of equipment. Coulson’s astonishment at the item would tie in later with his hero-worship of Cap, and Stark’s lack of respect for it echoes his own sentiments for Cap later. But at that moment, seeing that shield, fans couldn’t help but be amazed!
The first outing for the god of thunder was a solid film, low on action but strong on a sense of wonder with a focus on developing his character. Initially arrogant, Thor is stripped of his armour and godly powers and sent down to Earth to learn humility. Struggling to adapt to human life, even breakfast in the local diner makes for entertaining viewing. The first Thor film skyrocketed Tom Hiddleston and his character Loki to public adoration, and some would argue that seeing a topless Thor showing off his abs was the biggest highlight. However, if there was anyone scene that defined the film, it was Thor’s attempt to retrieve his hammer Mjolnir from a SHIELD facility. As Thor battles against SHIELD agents, a storm builds and even Hawkeye is impressed by what he’s seeing. Yet Thor’s moment of glory is short-lived, as he tries to pick up his hammer but tragically can’t – proof that he isn’t worthy of it. It’s an emotional scene that turns Thor into a truly sympathetic character.
The first Avenger brought some good old-fashioned adventure with him in his debut outing. Set mostly during World War II, we see Steve Rogers’s transformation from scrawny nobody to Marvel’s living legend – with a fair amount of action thrown in. More than anything else though, we saw just what kind of a good guy Steve is… even going so far as to throw himself on a (dud) grenade just to save those around him. But for all the thrilling fights against Hydra and the Nazis and the sweet romance between Steve and Peggy Carter, the moment that gripped viewers was at the end – seeing Cap’s “arrival” in the 21st century, greeted by Nick Fury. Bewildered by his new surroundings, we realise how shocking it must all be for Cap… and how that final piece of the Avengers puzzle had suddenly clicked in to place.
The first team-up of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was groundbreaking, although looking back on it the film isn’t quite as impressive as it once was. It still delivered the good though, and while the scene showing all of the heroes contributing to the final battle in one continuous shot is a stand-out, it wasn’t the best moment of the film. Instead, it’s the simple – but shocking and hilarious – moment of the Hulk finally getting his hands on Loki. Up to that point, the arrogant Loki has been running his mouth and insulting everybody in sight. However, as Stark warned him, the Avengers have a Hulk. When the two meet, the Hulk picks the helpless Loki up like a rag doll and rapidly bashes him back and forth on the floor. Made even funnier by the Hulk’s dismissive line – “Puny god” – as he walks away from the demolished god of mischief, it’s a moment which had audiences cheering and laughing.
Iron Man 3
If there was ever a great action scene that defined the Iron Man films, it was the “Barrel-Of-Monkeys” rescue in Iron Man 3. It’s a moment that defies belief (and the laws of physics) as a beleaguered Stark is forced to rescue thirteen people in scattered mid-air freefall, and stands as one of the most impressive stunt action sequences ever. However, the most shocking scene of all is when terrorist supervillain The Mandarin is revealed to be… a drunken, moronic actor called Trevor Slattery?! After a terrifying build-up for the character, this twist angered some hardcore fans but made plenty of others laugh out loud. Love it or hate it, it was truly astonishing. A classic fake-out from writer/director Shane Black, it symbolised exactly the message the film was trying to make… or was there yet another layer to it, as seen in the Marvel One-Shot, All Hail The King? Fans can decide for themselves.
Thor: The Dark World
Generally considered the worst of all Marvel Cinematic Universe films owing to its wafer-thin plot and totally forgettable villain, even Thor’s second solo outing had some impressive moments – the reveal of Loki having replaced Odin at the end of the film in particular. Yet it’s another Loki moment which stands out as the most truly astonishing: his reaction to the death of his adoptive mother Frigga. While Odin and Thor are naturally upset at her murder, an immaculately-dressed Loki at first appears as haughty, arrogant and emotionally cold as ever. However, it’s all an illusion of his, and when it disappears we see the reality: he’s a broken shell of his former self, unable to cope with the loss of a parent who truly loved him.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Still possibly the best of all MCU films, this was the movie that finally showed Captain America’s full potential as a genuine heavy hitter. A tense political action thriller which just kept upping the stakes, it delivered on every level and pitted him against his old friend Bucky – now brainwashed and fighting as the Winter Soldier. The most jaw-dropping moment comes when Captain America and Black Widow break into an old SHIELD base to learn the truth about why Cap is suddenly public enemy number one. What they learn is terrifying: that the evil fascist organisation Hydra has not only infiltrated SHIELD, but has been a part of it for over 70 years. It’s a moment so unthinkable that it even took long-time fans by surprise, and the ramifications of it threw the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe in to complete upheaval.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel’s first big “surprise” movie, an adaptation of one of the least-recognisable teams in comics seemed like a serious misstep when it was first announced. Featuring little-known characters and set far away from the Avengers’ antics on Earth, it highlighted that the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was bigger than anyone had previously imagined. Bringing together Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax and Gamora, Guardians of the Galaxy managed to combine over-the-top science fiction with old-fashioned adventure and a lot of comedy, and it paid huge dividends. The characters provided memorable highlights too, including Star-Lord attempting a dance-off against intergalactic villain Ronan, and Rocket’s unscrupulous acquisition of a prosthetic leg just for a demented laugh. Yet the biggest moment came from Groot – changing his constant phrase of “I am Groot” to the more touching “We are Groot” – as he sacrifices his life to save those of his friends.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
It may have been an underwhelming sequel for Earth’s mightiest heroes, but it was still successful and delivered on the action. Sadly, the Pinocchio-like reveal of Ultron – voiced with creepy menace by Blacklist’s James Spader – was shown in the trailers so it didn’t quite have as much punch when the film came out. Likewise, while Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were good, many fans agreed that the Quicksilver sequence in X-Men: Days of Future Past was better. Yet there was still some outstanding action, and the finest moment has to be the now-classic sequence of Iron Man (in Hulkbuster armour) going toe-to-toe with a rampaging Hulk in the streets of Johannesburg. Causing destruction and chaos everywhere and upsetting the local Gautrain route, it was a battle for the ages and showed how easily the Avengers’ trust in each other could be torn apart.
Ant-Man may not have been a high-profile hero before his debut film, but that’s what made its success even better. While comic book fans knew for years that Ant-Man was actually one of the most underrated of Avengers, he gained respect from those new to his adventures with a mix of comedy, action and corporate espionage. There were many scenes which could have stolen the whole show, from Scott Lang’s first experience of being miniaturised to Henry Pym’s brilliant use of a shrunk-down tank as a keychain fob. But if there’s one moment which took everyone by surprise, it was the train set fight, where a Thomas the Tank Engine toy suddenly grows to the size of a real train. It’s the moment where viewers realised the full potential for size-changing fun in this franchise – something seen again in trailers for the Ant-Man sequel.
Captain America: Civil War
The third Captain America film scored for being about more than just Captain America. While the main focus was on Cap trying to redeem his old friend Bucky – now the Winter Soldier – all the Avengers showed up in force to debate the controversial Sokovia Accord. This creates a split in the team, with Tony Stark expressing a desire to punch Cap – teasing their epic final fight. Of course, the most amazing moment was the entire fight scene at the airport which everyone had been waiting for… and which surpassed all expectations. From the introduction of Spider-Man in all his web-slinging glory to Ant-Man going full giant, the whole sequence keeps building in intensity. There’s so much happening on screen that it stands as one of the best action sequences in movies of all time.
Expectations were muted for the debut of Marvel’s sorcerer supreme, despite his comic book powerhouse status. Despite being the origin story of a lesser-known character, it still managed to turn heads with its impressive (and mind-bending) effects and was more fun than many expected. Yet, for all of Doctor Strange’s coolness and the amazing visuals which showed a kaleidoscopic world bending in and out of itself, he was completely upstaged by his mystical (and sentient) Cloak of Levitation – which provided some of the best laughs and arguably the best moment of the film. In one scene, an overwhelmed Doctor Strange struggles in a minor fight at the Sanctum Sanctorum, so his cape steps up and does the job for him – single-handedly defeating one of his opponents! Exuding a hilarious puppy dog personality all of its own, the Cloak of Levitation stole every scene it was in and became a character in its own right.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
When it comes to great moments, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is packed full of them. From Rocket single-handedly taking down the Ravagers and Yondu’s Mary Poppins impression to a giant Pac-Man and the Watchers appearing on screen, hardly a scene goes by without offering something special. Yet it’s the opening title sequence itself which steals the whole show. After some initial build-up of a major fight brewing between our heroes and an alien monster, the audience is told exactly what kind of a film this is going to be by focusing on… Toddler Groot, dancing to ELO’s Mister Blue Sky. The big fight itself plays out in the background, but it’s unimportant; instead, it’s all about fun in the most warped way possible.
There are many things to recommend about Spider-Man: Homecoming, especially the fact that on its second reboot in five years they had finally gotten it right. A teen action/adventure/comedy that firmly established itself within the Marvel Cinematic Universe right from the start, it showed an up-and-coming web-slinger juggling home, school, young romance and the idol worship of Tony Stark. Not only that, but fans were treated to one of the best villains in MCU history with Michael Keaton as the surprisingly relatable Vulture. Yet one moment was so shocking that it made some viewers drop their tubs of popcorn: When Peter Parker shows up for date at Liz’s house, the door is opened by Liz’s dad… the Vulture! Peter’s own terrified surprise echoes that of the audience, and suddenly we realise just how much trouble Peter’s getting in to.
Like GotG2, Thor: Ragnarok offered countless moments for fans to cheer. Taika Waititi’s comedy background brought a new sense of fun and excitement to the Asgardian’s life, and even gave Thor a new haircut. Despite some truly serious moments including the deaths of Odin and the Warriors Three as well as the fall of Asgard itself, there’s plenty of fun to undercut the tension. Possibly the biggest stand-out moment of the film was, incredibly, one that the trailer had revealed well in advance and that fans were already expecting: the appearance of the Hulk, who Thor has to battle in a gladiatorial arena. Thor’s joy at seeing him is overwhelming, and while the moment wasn’t a surprise it still gave viewers a priceless moment.
Let’s be honest, the whole film itself is an impressive achievement. Just seeing Wakanda on screen is a treat, an action-packed side-trip to Korea is a thrilling mini-adventure, a trip to the Ancestral Plane is profoundly touching, and Killmonger turned out to be one of the best villains in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the standout moment of choice has to go to M’baku initially giving little solace to the defeated friends and family of the fallen T’Challa and threatening Everett Ross with being cannibalised… before revealing that he’s just joking, since his family are vegetarians! For a character who’s been a villain in the comics for years, here he’s presented in a new light as an honourable man who’s simply looking out for the good of his people – and he’s got a wicked sense of humour to boot!