Cosmic fights, brooding aliens, and family drama, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has been chock full of memorable moments, and with 13 movies of superhero mayhem to sift through, whittling it down to just ten is no easy feat. It’s like listing these films from worst to best, which we’ve done.
Everyone will have their own personal highlights from the past few years. In fact, I added a late addition after seeing Captain America: Civil War, so things will probably change yet again in the coming months. If you haven’t seen Civil War yet, the airport fight is worth the price of admission alone.
These picks are in no particular order and, believe me, the list could have been extended to 100—that’s how many great moments there have been in this universe. I’m just now realizing how many moments I chose from Age of Ultron, which many people consider the weaker of the two Avengers films.
Note that there are spoilers ahead. These moments are from the feature films from Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3.
Airport fight (Captain America: Civil War)
There have been some spectacular superhero showdowns in the MCU, but none as fun as the airport fight in Civil War. It was incredibly inventive and absolutely hilarious, and featured a number of jaw-dropping moment. But as cool as it was to see Spider-Man tango with the likes of Captain America, the standout was seeing Ant-Man turn into Giant-Man, only to be toppled over like an AT-AT.
Tony escapes (Iron Man)
After being captured by the Ten Rings, Tony Stark and fellow captive Yinsen secretly build an armored suit to aid in their escape. Not only does this moment serve as a wake-up call to Tony, but it marks the inception of his Iron Man persona—something he proudly reveals at the end of the movie. Iron Man was the first movie in the MCU, and Tony’s escape marked an important part of his growth, really setting the stage for things to come.
Cap becomes a super soldier (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Before he was pulling helicopters out of the sky, Steve Rogers was a wimpy kid from Brooklyn whose big ideas outpaced his physical shortcomings. It wasn’t until he underwent an experimental procedure that his physical stature matched his mighty heart. Now, Rogers embodies the best of humanity while possessing the physical presence to match.
Hulk goes bye bye (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Bruce Banner had a pretty rough time as Hulk in Age of Ultron, completely obliterating Johannesburg after rampaging through the city. So when he saw an opportunity to disappear as a way to protect those he cared about, he took it, escaping in a Quinjet that couldn’t be tracked. It was a pivotal moment because it meant turning his back on Black Widow, with whom he had been building an intimate relationship.
Avengers assemble (The Avengers)
After five movies of meticulous world-building, Marvel finally brought Earth’s Mightiest Heroes together in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. The entire movie was a triumph for comic fans, capped off with a thrilling shot of the group while they protected New York City from the Chitauri invasion. It was four long years in the making and really cemented the MCU as a bonafide Hollywood juggernaut.
Guardians save the Galaxy (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Faced with the destruction of Xandar, Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) distracts a monologuing Ronan for just long enough to allow Drax and Rocket to destroy his warhammer. As the Power Stone comes free, a selfless Quill grabs the freed stone, and joins hands with Gamora, Drax and Rocket, allowing them to share its burden and destroy Ronan for good.
Hammer lifting competition (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
This is one of the lighter moments on the list, but I couldn’t help but include it. With the gang all together in Stark Tower, they poke fun at Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, as nothing more than a gimmick, something anyone can wield. As the gang soon finds out, however, only those who are “worthy” can actually pick it up. None can, though Captain America makes it budge ever-so-slightly, which causes Thor to give a visible look of concern. Little does Thor know that it would actually be Vision who picks the hammer up later in the film.
Age of Ultron intro (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
While it’s not particularly flashy, the opening fight sequence in Age of Ultron is memorable because of its technical achievements. As one long tracking shot, Joss Whedon allows audiences to get a great view of what’s going on, while showing the different characters working together in unique and fun ways. We saw similar ideas in The Avengers, but this one raises the bar to another level, culminating in that glorious shot of the entire team in frame at once.
Hulk vs Hulkbuster (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
This isn’t the first time Hulk has engaged in a heavyweight fight with a fellow Avenger, but it was certainly one of the more destructive. While in Johannesburg, Scarlet Witch uses her powers to turn Hulk into a rampaging beast, sending residents screaming in horror. Luckily, Tony Stark built Hulkbuster armor just for the occasion, and eventually subdues the raging monster.
Puny God (The Avengers)
Annoyed by the Avengers and mankind in general, Loki begins monologuing to an enraged Hulk. Not one for patience, Hulk grabs Loki by his legs and starts thrashing him around like a rag doll. It was one of the more shockingly violent moments in the movie, and also one of the funniest. Not only was the look on Loki’s face priceless, but Hulk walks away with an assured swagger. “Puny god.”
And many more
As I said, this list could have been much, much longer, and with several more movies to come in Phase 3, I expect things to change drastically by the time things are said and done. On any other day, the top moments might look completely different; Ant-Man going sub-atomic, Hulk vs. Abomination, Bucky dying in The First Avenger, Nick Fury introduces the Avengers initiative, Spider-Man makes his debut, Black Panther kicks ass, Loki in disguise, etc., etc. See? The list could pretty much go on forever.
Again, these moments are solely from the feature films that Marvel has released over the past few years, which means we ignored what’s happening in shows like Daredevil, Agents of SHIELD, and so on. If your top picks didn’t make the list, let us know in the comments down below.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated the Hulk vs Hulkbuster fight took place in Wakanda, not Johannesburg. We regret the error.