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Ten years ago on May 2, the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced us to our favorite hammer-swinging Asgardian, Thor Odinson. As played by Chris Hemsworth in his self-titled first film, Thor was charismatic but impulsive, and eager to wield his legendary hammer Mjolnir in battle, no matter the cost. Seven MCU films later (eight if you count end-credit scenes), the God of Thunder’s journey has turned him into the nobler, wiser, but thankfully no less snarky leader we know and love today.
Thor was released in a time long before multiverses and made-for-streaming Marvel series. We had no idea of the emotional turmoil the MCU would put us through (and did anyone else forget that Darcy Lewis, WandaVision astrophysicist extraordinaire, started out as a political science major?). As the fourth film in Marvel’s Phase One, Thor fared well at the box office (to the tune of $181,030,624) and received fairly positive reviews. Audience enthusiasm for the warrior grew over time, however, as each sequel outperformed its predecessor.
As for the Asgardian Prince-turned-King himself, Deadline reported in 2009 that Hemsworth not only wasn’t the obvious choice to be cast as Thor, but that he was actually initially passed over before his rep convinced Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige to give him one more try. Then, Hemsworth himself wasn’t sold on the gig. As he told The Sydney Morning Herald years later, the six-picture superhero deal sounded like “a lot.” Thankfully, the Nine Realms aligned for this perfect casting, and Marvel learned that with Hemsworth at the helm, they had lightning in a bottle.
To celebrate 10 years of Thor, we’ve combed through the MCU for Thor’s 10 best moments, with an eye on epic scenes and character growth throughout his hero’s journey.
10. Thor’s grand entrance to the throne room (Thor)
Every hero needs a grand introduction, and (unless you count his being totaled by Jane’s car), we first meet Thor as we know him as he is about to be named Odin’s successor.
Decked in full Asgardian garb, Thor struts down the throne room red carpet tossing Mjolnir like a baseball. The overhead shot reveals a roaring crowd cheering for Thor like he’s a prom king in a John Hughes movie. In a matter of seconds, we see everything we need to understand Thor’s baseline personality. This is not our evolved Endgame Thor, this is the fresh-faced, self-absorbed deity who has no idea of the character arc he’s about to begin. He’s powerful, charming, and a total jerk. But, by Odin’s eyepatch, that guy can work a crowd.
09. Thor deserves an Oscar (Thor: The Dark World)
Although Thor: The Dark World may not have won all the fan accolades, the sequel contains an award-worthy performance by Thor himself as he and Loki dupe the dark elf Malekith. Enter Thor, Jane, and Loki on Svartalfheim with Malekith and his army as an audience. Thor releases Loki from handcuffs in an apparent act of goodwill, and Loki immediately stabs him in the chest. Thor rolls down a hilltop in agony, and Loki pursues him with his knife and a classic villain monologue in tow. The climax arrives when Loki kicks Thor as he’s down and slices his hand off completely. Thor yells in defeat, and just as all appears lost, and Malekith pulls the aether out of Jane, our heroes snap into action! It was a ruse.
Can you blame Malekith for falling for it? Not only are the brothers convincing (their acting skills are even reprised in Ragnarok’s “Get Help” scene), but Loki betraying Thor is a tale as old as the Infinity Stones. Evidently Thor knew he could trust one of Loki’s most redeeming qualities: his love for Frigga. And his knack for theatrics.
08. Thor defeats the apparent villain in 5 minutes (Thor: Ragnarok)
Thor: Ragnarok kicks off with our favorite Asgardian hero suspended in chains, but apparently unbothered as he banters with his captor, the fiery demon Surtur. Not only is this an intro to the film’s playful tone, but it’s also a few moments of pure Thor ownery. Surtur is prophesied to bring about Ragnarok and destroy Asgard, but as Thor summons Mjolnir and breaks free, we learn that the demon won’t be the real obstacle in Thor’s way.
“You have made a grave mistake, Odinson,” Surtur bellows over the opening chords of Led Zeppelin’s "Immigrant Song."
Thor’s reply? “I make grave mistakes all the time. Everything seems to work out.”
Cut to Thor taking Surtur’s minions out with one toss (and a few beautiful close-up shots) of his trusty hammer. Keeping time with Zeppelin, he spins Mjolnir to a shield against Surtur’s fiery blast and knocks him down like a playground bully. As Thor catches a ride home with a dragon head souvenir, it’s clear that this “grave mistake” worked out just fine.
07. Thor kicks butt as a mortal (Thor)
Exiled from Asgard by Odin, Thor is stripped of his powers and separated from Mjolnir in the first movie. Luckily, the hammer doesn’t wander far. Fifty miles from where Thor lands in New Mexico, Mjolnir becomes a sensation as a modern Excalibur stuck in the ground. Naturally, S.H.I.E.L.D. creates a perimeter (read: an entire laboratory compound) to study it.
Even without any godly displays of power, Thor’s break and entry into the S.H.I.E.L.D. perimeter to collect Mjnolnir is a sight to behold. Thor puts up serious fight choreography taking on agent after agent with brute force and martial skill. Of particular note, he pulls an impressive move using his poncho and his opponent’s own force against him, proving that the God of Thunder doesn’t need magic to make shockwaves.
06. Thor reunites with Mjolnir... just in time (Thor)
By the final action scenes of the first movie, our lofty warrior-prince Thor has gotten a little more…down to Earth. Still stripped of his powers but reunited with his best Asgardian pals, Thor takes on Loki’s fiery metal monster in the streets of New Mexico. They fight valiantly, but the giant machine overpowers our heroes. Rather than give into despair, Thor understands the only way forward is to make himself vulnerable, both physically, as he steps toward the monster unarmed, and emotionally, as he finally takes ownership for his mistakes and apologizes to his brother.
Unfortunately, Loki loves to hold a grudge, and Thor is knocked to the ground. But in putting his life on the line for his friends, he has proven himself worthy of his powers. Mjolnir comes flying back. Thor grasps his hammer, suits up into his royal gear, and shows the Earthlings those powers he’d been raving about.
05. Thor lights up the Chrysler Building (The Avengers)
If you’ve ever been in New York City during a holiday, you may have seen the lights on the Empire State Building changing colors to match the festivities. Thor’s Chrysler Building scene in the first Avengers is a little like that, but with tons of supernatural electricity and life-or-death stakes for the planet. Festive indeed!
It’s the Battle of New York, and the Avengers are cape-deep in Chitauri soldiers. The portal that Loki opened over Midtown is letting more and more of the alien army in, and someone needs to slow them down. With a spin of Mjolnir, Thor rockets up to the Chrysler, summons a massive storm, and turns the top of the building into the ultimate conductor, electrocuting the aliens at the portal’s mouth. Picture one of those electrostatic plasma lamps, but New York City skyline-sized. Though it may not have closed the portal, it was definitely postcard-worthy!
04. Thor vs. Hulk on Sakaar (Thor: Ragnarok)
When Thor is trapped on Sakaar, the planet “for all lost and unloved things,” he’s forced to face the Grandmaster’s mysterious champion, revealed to be the Incredible Hulk. This revelation could have either been a very good thing or a very bad thing, and it's the latter well before the former. Though Thor is initially delighted (“We know each other! He’s a friend from work!”), he immediately learns that the Hulk is in a smashing mood.
Sakaar is the one place where the Hulk’s aggression is valued more than Bruce Banner’s brain. This place was made for the big green guy, and he’s not about to turn down a gladiator performance. Thor puts up a solid fight against Hulk, but with no Mjolnir (after Hela shattered it to pieces), Thor can’t help but land on his back. The Hulk pummels him. But then, a sudden flash of Odin looking over Thor. Our Asgardian hero is filled with the power of lightning. He hits Hulk back with a massive shockwave, and the crowd goes wild as he lives up to his new misnomer, “Lord of Thunder.”
03. Thor takes on the full force of a star (Avengers: Infinity War)
In search of a weapon strong enough to kill Thanos during Infinity War, Thor heads to Nidavellir, the legendary forge that created Mjolnir. Unfortunately, Thanos arrived there first, commissioned his gauntlet, and shut down the forge. Thor and the gang have to assist Eitri, the forgemaster, in getting things back online. Like a supernatural cowboy, Thor lassos Rocket’s spacecraft to harness its energy and power up the dying star. But, the mechanism allowing the energy into the forge won’t stay open.
The only way forward is for something, or someone, to hold it open. Despite Eitri’s warning that taking on the full force of a star is suicide (“Only if I die!”), Thor puts his life on the line.
The visuals are spectacular as Thor becomes an Asgardian Atlas, and the star’s energy tears at his body. By the time he collapses, Thor looks to be down for the count, but Stormbreaker is complete. The power flowing through the axe pulls Thor awake, and he’s back in action.
02. Thor gets a pep talk and finds the power within (Thor: Ragnarok)
By the last quarter of Ragnarok, things are looking dire. Thor and his team have put up a good fight, but Hela, his embittered sister and Goddess of Death, is an unstoppable force. How do you defeat a goddess who draws power from the ground you’re fighting on? After she broke your favorite weapon with a single touch?
Not long after Thor confronts Hela with his signature swagger, she has him on his back, bleeding and weaponless. He watches his team struggling to defend the Bifrost. Hela stabs him for dramatic measure. And then, Thor once again finds himself receiving the counsel of his late father.
Thor, defeated, tells Odin he is nothing without his hammer. “Are you Thor, the God of Hammers?” No, Odin, reveals, the hammer was never his power; it was only the tool.
With his father’s confidence flowing through him, Thor’s hands tingle, and he rains down his most dramatic lightning yet. Hammerless, one-eyed, and fully electric, Thor leaps onto the Bifrost to join Valkyrie and team in one last Led Zeppelin-powered fight scene. This also leads Thor to the tragic but cunning strategy of defeating Hela by deliberately fulfilling Ragnarok. Is it just me, or has Thor turned into a leader?
01. Thor crowns Valkyrie... and begins the Asgardians of the Galaxy (Avengers: Endgame)
Though the events of Infinity War and Endgame were brutal for all parties involved, Thor perhaps manifested his damage most visibly. Five years after pointlessly chopping off Thanos’s head, after suffering the loss of his entire family and those who were snapped away, Thor reigns in New Asgard as king of beer bellies. Still, he perseveres one more time, and the Avengers manage the impossible.
When Thor returns home with the universe restored, it would seem that the Asgardian we met at the start of this saga would eagerly reclaim his throne. But in this moment, we see the culmination of all that Thor has learned, including the counsel of his mother.
“It’s time for me to be who I am rather than who I’m supposed to be,” he tells Valkyrie as he names her Asgard’s new king. Thor has embraced his identity, put the well-being of his people first, and, most importantly, set himself up for serious shenanigans with the Guardians of the Galaxy. With that many strong personalities crammed into one ship, sparks are undoubtedly going to fly.