Decades from now, when our children are all plugged into their Oculus Rifts watching the completely rebooted Marvel Cinematic Universe in virtual reality, they'll feel nostalgia for scant few details from the superhero films of the 2000s.
Maybe the memory of Josh Brolin's giant Thanos teeth will linger. Maybe they'll all assume James Gunn's Guardians soundtracks were curated using Top 40 hits from the time period.
One thing's for sure: Tom Hiddleston as Loki Laufeyson will continue to amuse and frustrate viewers who haven't quite figured out their sexualities.
Hiddleston has sashayed through five Marvel films as the slippery black sheep of Asgard, matching Chris Hemsworth's ever-changing performance as Thor with constant, beguiling, near-Shakespearean poise. At the beginning of his character arc in Thor (2011), Loki is simply Thor's petulant younger brother. When he dies in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), his throat crushed inside Thanos' meaty fist, well, he's still Thor's petulant younger brother, but Thor Ragnarok (2017) had just given us reason enough to mourn him.
Like any good chaotic neutral character, Loki functions best inside a story if the fate of the world falls into his hands more than once. That's the magic of Loki: neither fans nor Thor are ever 100 percent sure where his allegiance lies. That, and the sadomasochistic aesthetic that follows him.
Here are SYFY WIRE's 16 best Loki moments in the MCU, ranked by how much emotion we felt watching them for the first time.
The erectile dysfunction joke that launched a thousand Loki/Tony fics
Casual MCU fans may be surprised to learn that erotic fan fiction pairing Tony Stark and Loki Laufeyson is extremely popular. Granted, Loki is paired with a lot of MCU characters, including but not limited to Pepper, Jane, Rhodey, and JARVIS the computer system (seriously), but Tony Stark's hyper-masculine bravado makes him an interesting figure in Loki's world. Loki, by the way, appears in erotic fan-fiction as both a sub and dom, mirroring the way he flips his gender for fun in Marvel comics.
Anyway, in The Avengers, Loki tries to use the tesseract to possess Tony (Robert Downey Jr.), the same way he's just possessed Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Erik (Stellan Skarsgård), but the Infinity Stone doesn't work on Tony's arc reactor. The rare moment of intimacy between the two characters is punctuated with Hiddleston saying, "This usually works." The line always gets a laugh, and it's on our list because it's one of the few non-hetero euphemisms in the MCU.
Loki wears BDSM gear, Part 1
In Marvel Comics, Loki has a long, celebrated history of getting tied up. If the MCU directors had created a series of films featuring Loki and hadn't bothered to put him in chains at any point, well, it would have been a dark day for comic book fans. Luckily for us, Joss Whedon clamped a metal muzzle on Loki's face at the end of The Avengers, perhaps not realizing that it would satiate thirsty Loki fans for years.
Loki's god-tier ball gag also begs a few questions. Who put it on him? Why did he need one in the first place? Couldn't he just magic his way out without using his words?
'Damn' on Jotenheim
Looking back, any clip from the original Thor film is a little shocking. Hiddleston looks like he's 21 years old throughout the film (he was 30), and Kenneth Brannagh's directing requires that every actor do their best King Lear. In a couple of small spots, the script allows for some action-comedy levity, and Loki's little, muttered "damn" on Jotenheim is one of them.
When Thor and Loki and their buddies travel to Jotenheim, one of the guards tries to pick a fight with Thor, whom he presumably understands is a hot-head. At first, Loki's able to hold his brother back, but when the guard calls his masculinity into question, well… Loki knows Thor's not going to let that one go. The exchange goes like this:
King Laufey: You know not what your actions would unleash... I do. Go now, while I still allow it.
Loki: We will accept your most gracious offer. Come on, brother...
Frost Giant Sentry: Run back home, little princess.
It's a nice little moment during the boys' first appearance in the MCU that points to a shared history. Loki knows Thor can't handle being emasculated, which is extra funny if you consider that Loki sort of enjoys gender play.
Loki wears BDSM gear, Part 2
This is admittedly a sort-of throwaway moment, but when it's placed in context with Loki's other experiences with bondage, it's funny. In Thor: The Dark World, Loki is summoned to speak with his father, Odin, while wearing comically large chains that connect to his neck and wrists.
Again, who put these chains on? What are the odds that Loki made some kind of sexy joke as that was happening?
Thor and Loki in the elevator
Director Taika Waititi isn't just a bombastic storyteller; when given the chance to direct intimate scenes, he excels at coaching small but meaningful performances out of his casts. That's exactly what happens toward the end of Ragnarok when Thor and Loki are left alone in a galactic elevator to reflect on their brotherly journey.
Loki enters all conversations with his brother having already surmised what he'll say, so it's a fun change of pace when Thor actually surprises him. Here, Thor says, "Loki, I thought the world of you," using past tense, and Loki realizes the anxiety he's manipulated inside his brother is gone. He's given up. We see this realization blossom across Loki's face beautifully — it's clear he feels guilt, confusion, and affection for his brother, and the non-verbal moment gives an emotional gravity to his actions in the third act of the film.
Young Loki gets his 23andMe results
This was the moment that gripped an entire fandom. After Loki discovers that he's not Odin's biological son, he drops all mischievous pretense and cries out in rage, begging Odin to level with him. His emotion escalates quickly as he lobs several demands at his father, including "You were knee-deep in Jotun blood. Why would you take me?" and "No. You took me for a purpose. What was it?... Tell me!"
Loki actually manages to scream his father into a coma, and it appears the last words Odin hears are, "You know, it all makes sense now, why you favored Thor all these years, because no matter how much you claim to love me, you could never have a Frost Giant sitting on the throne of Asgard!" It's immediately clear that Loki isn't petulant for no reason; he spent his entire childhood suspecting that his father didn't actually love him. When the truth comes out, it's enough to physically impair Odin and send Loki on a self-destructive bender that nearly destroys the Earth (more than once).
Loki goes to a museum
So, yes, this is the scene where Loki extracts a man's eye, and that's unfortunate, but in this gruesome sequence from the original Avengers, he also appears for the first time in his version of Midgard plain-clothes.
Of course, Loki would jump at the chance to wear fancyman tails and a luxurious green scarf. He could have walked into the museum wearing any old rags, but he conjured himself into a black tie affair, and his love of style makes all the difference.
Loki gets cucked by a mewling quim
Loki's tete-a-tete with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) was bound to be cathartic. After all, Natasha Romanoff was trained to use the kind of emotional manipulation and trickery that Loki prides himself on having mastered. It's not enough for Nat to humiliate Loki on his own terms; she notices his distaste for humans and uses it against him.
Loki: I won't touch Barton. Not until I make him kill you! Slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear! And then he'll wake just long enough to see his good work, and when he screams, I'll split his skull! This is my bargain, you mewling quim!
Natasha Romanoff: (crying) You're a monster!
Loki: Oh no, you brought the monster.
Natasha Romanoff: (suddenly fine) So, Banner... that's your play.
Anytime we learn something about Loki and Thor's childhood together is a blessing, whether it's funny or tragic, but Ragnarok introducing the "get help" game is truly incredible. We learn that when Thor and Loki used to distract guards to pull off mischief together when they were boys, Thor would pretend Loki was ill and needed help. Then he'd throw Loki's body at whomever they were trying to distract, and they'd assumedly both have time to run away.
If there's one thing Loki deals with more often than being put into chains, it's having his body tossed around like a rag doll. Yes, it's funny when Hulk does it in The Avengers, but it's far funnier and more fraught with family history when Thor does it in Ragnarok.
The snake story
Speaking of Thor and Loki's childhood, the sequence in Ragnarok when Thor recounts his brother's weird pranks is divine. Of course, the moment is memorable because of Hemsworth's rapid-fire delivery, but the cut to Loki as he smiles demurely is a nice moment for Loki-stans. It’s also just funny to imagine child Loki biting his brother.
Loki experiments with patriotism
It's a well-kept secret that Loki-stans actually love Thor: The Dark World, not because it's a particularly good movie, but because it's chock full of playful asides featuring our favorite God of Mischief. In this moment, which ranks pretty high on our list because it's straight-up bananas, Loki uses his cloaking magic to try to needle Thor into reacting. He tries gender-swapping to flirt with Thor as Sif, and when that doesn't work, he turns into Captain America (Chris Evans), suggesting that Thor's emotions toward the Avenger are more complicated than they seem.
It's also pretty funny to consider that patriotism for a single nation on Earth would play as foolish to someone like Loki, a god whose kingdom is far, far larger than just the United States. That's like a mouse feeling really, really attached to a small corner of your bedroom.
Odin apologizes to Loki, sort of
At the end of all things, Odin says "I love you, my sons" before disappearing, and Loki looks over in surprise. It's possible this is the first time in decades that Odin has said he loves him. After all the torment, he realizes that his father still sees him as his son, and that sets the stage for Loki's choices in Ragnarok.
Loki's Grima Wormtongue moment
A quick explanation: in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) tells Saruman (Christopher Lee) that no army exists on the Middle-earth that could breach the walls of Helm's Deep and kill the citizens of Rohan. When Saruman leads Grima to their evil decorative balcony, he sees that the White Wizard has created thousands and thousands of Uruk-Hai, and a single tear runs down his face. Lord of the Rings fans love to debate this moment; it's not clear whether Grima is crying in awe of his master's power, or if he’s secretly horrified that the Uruk-Hai are about to murder all the people he's spent years living with, including Eowyn, the object of his obsession.
The moment at the end of The Avengers is nearly identical, when Loki's eyes wildly dart around New York City. He doesn't look exactly pleased that Thanos' rented army of Chitauri are destroying the city. In fact, he looks downright anxious. Thor, perhaps foolishly, tries to convince Loki that he's gone too far by trying to kill hundreds of Midgardians, and Loki stabs him, but not before a single tear rolls down his face. Is Loki in awe of his dream coming true, or is he just realizing he's in over his head? Unclear. Either way, it's a great little tear.
How did Loki get so close to Grandmaster so quickly?
Again, this is a nice little exchange that launched a bajillion erotic fan fics. Toward the beginning of Ragnarok, Thor watches as the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) looks mischievously at Loki, almost winking at him, and Loki appears flustered, as if he didn't want Thor to see him in this situation. We never find out how Loki endeared himself to the leader of Sakaar so quickly, but given Grandmaster's sensual ways, and the fact that Loki always appears alongside him like a concubine... one might imagine Loki checked his manipulation tool-belt upon arriving on Sakaar and chose seduction over intimidation.
Loki dons sad pajamas
We typically watch Loki use his cloaking magic to playfully tease Thor, but in The Dark World, he puts up a facade to make it look like he doesn't care that Frigga, he and Thor's mother, has been killed. When Thor pushes the issue a bit, Loki lets it go, and we see the aftermath of the breakdown he's had in his cell. He looks hungover and miserable, and his eyes are red from crying.
It's a great little scene, made only more painful once you've watched the top Loki moment on our list...
Frigga taught Loki her magic
In this deleted scene from The Dark World, in which Loki doesn't actually appear, Frigga tells Thor that she taught Loki all of her magic when he was just a boy. She tells Thor that she taught Loki how to use trickery and mischief because Thor cast a big shadow over him. She only wanted Loki to have "some sun of his own."
This little bit of dialogue, which didn't even make the theatrical cut, explains why it's so awful that Loki carelessly caused his mother's death. We can imagine how lonely Asgard must have been for Loki when he was a child, which means Frigga’s magic lessons were probably the only respite he had from feeling weak compared to his high-achieving brother. In another scene, Frigga points out that she did her best to make Loki comfortable in his jail cell, even including books to keep her smartest son occupied.