It's hard to believe, but Avengers: Endgame is rapidly approaching. It's coming faster than two gauntleted fingers can snap (should've gone for the head), and excitement is running fairly high. Before we all watch in amazement and see how "The Infinity Saga" ends, everyone seems to be revisiting many films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in preparation.
I certainly have been. I haven't just been rewatching all 21 movies of the MCU, I have been meticulously examining each one as part of a larger project for SYFY WIRE, one that will be unleashed very soon. Since I was already going through the canon, it seemed like the perfect time to pick out the best scene from each film.
That might not be entirely fair — I'm not really in a position to decide what the "best" scene is in anything. What I can do is pick my personal favorite scenes. Tastes vary, and when it comes to the MCU, mine are very odd. With some of these films, there are clear stand-outs, and with others, I was surprised, as the scene that I had thought would win the day didn't always win. Every so often one of these movies would make me want to list the best scene as "the entire movie." That's also not fair, so I only did it once. It's a one-off.
Throw that shield, toss that hammer, sling that web, hulk the hell out, Wakanda Forever, step out that door and be an Avenger — let's take a look at 21 brilliant scenes, as well as some runner ups.
Iron Man (2008)— Saki on a plane
This scene comes early in the movie, and I remember it as being the one that made me realize that this wasn't going to be just another superhero ride. I was watching something special, and this scene made it crystal clear.
Tony is flying with Rhodey, and they are arguing as per usual. Rhodey is calling Tony irresponsible (which is true), and Tony orders drinks for the two of them. They are offered hot saki, but Rhodey declares that they are not drinking, no how, no way.
We instantly cut to a drunk Rhodey, rambling on and on to a drunken Tony about how proud he is when he wears his uniform. The camera pulls back, and we see that the plane has poles, and that the poles have girls dancing on them. The cut itself is hilarious, the performances are perfect, and it immediately lets you know what kind of dynamic these two guys have. It also sets the tone for the rest of the movie, which is consistently funny without losing any stakes.
Runner-up scenes: Any scenes with Yinsen, particularly the last one.
The Incredible Hulk (2008) — Campus attack
This movie is almost always on the bottom of every MCU ranking, and I hate to say it but it probably belongs there. Not because I don't enjoy it — I do, very much. It's just that the rest of the MCU goes so much higher and further.
It remains a really fun movie to watch, a great deal more fun than Ang Lee's earlier take on the Hulk, and the scene when the army ambushes Dr. Banner on a college campus stands out. No matter what the army does, they cannot contain him. He takes care of their fancy sonic cannons, and even the juiced up Emil Blonsky. Best of all, the entire scene takes place in daylight! You can actually see what is going on!
Runner-up scene: Bruce and Betty get intimate, but have to stop because he can't get too excited. Betty asks him if he can get "a little excited" with hope in her voice.
Iron Man 2 (2010) — Glengarry Justin Hammer (Hammer sells guns to Rhodey)
I'm a fan of this movie, and once again I think that it gets a reputation for being bad that it does not deserve. It doesn't scale the heights that later MCU films do, but it's still a really fun watch.
Most (if not all) of my odd devotion to this movie is because of Justin Hammer. Any scene with him is cause for joy, but the scene where he sells weapons to Rhodey beats them all. Sam Rockwell is on fire in this scene, and the ending with his description of "the ex-wife" is glorious, especially when the payoff comes in the finale. If this scene was any better it would make Ulysses look like it was written in crayon, and it would read it to you.
Runner-up scenes: Any other scenes with Justin Hammer, especially scenes where he continually says the word "bird." Tony discovering the new element is also pretty good, and Black Widow's first big action sequence is great.
Thor (2011) — Thor's Sacrifice
We wait during most of this movie for Thor to prove himself worthy, to prove that he is not the selfish, arrogant boy that Odin accuses him of being. It's not until this moment that he fully does it, and decides to save everyone by sacrificing himself to the Destroyer.
With the line, "...so take mine..." Thor has taken his first step to true selflessness. He is struck down, but not for long. Worthy at last, Mjolnir flies to his hand, and he gains his powers once more. The score starts soaring, and Thor makes quick work of the Destroyer. He also gets to kiss Natalie Portman, so good stuff all around.
Runner-up scene: Thor and Jane's scene about science and magic being one and the same is romantic, sweet, and interesting.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) — "Grenade!"
Behold, this is who Steve Rogers is. He may turn into a superhero in this film, but this scene proves that the scrawny kid from Brooklyn was always, in his soul, something much more important — a good man.
Almost every male superhero in the MCU has to learn how to be selfless, adapting to a life of sacrifice. Steve is there from the start. He begins his very first movie by jumping on what he assumes is a live grenade, and then the rest of his life is one of sacrifice and service. He's perfectly fine with that. This is the reason that he's the Avenger I would gladly follow right into hell if he asked me to.
For a long, long time, he was the only one of which this was true. There was another, but more on that particular character later on in the list. As awesome as it is when Cap pulls a helicopter down to the ground in a later film, I still fondly think of the skinny kid who didn't hesitate to jump on a grenade.
Runner-up scenes: The "Star-Spangled Man With a Plan" musical sequence, the Howling Commandos montage, every scene with Peggy Carter.
Marvel's The Avengers (2012) — Assembled at last
They've fought amongst themselves for the entire movie until this moment. Finally, Earth's Mightiest Heroes assemble and get on the same page, in the same shot. The result is one incredible turn of their assembly, set to their iconic, soaring theme.
The entire Battle of New York sequence obviously stands out, but it wouldn't be fair to list all of it. If I had to pick one scene in a sequence of scenes, it would be the assembly. If I was allowed to pick two, then it would be "I'm always angry," with Hulk punching the giant flying robot worm-dragon in the face. That leads right into this, so let's just pretend it's all the same scene.
Runner-up scenes: Nick Fury's "there was an idea" speech, and Agent Coulson's death — especially his line to Loki, "You lack conviction."
Iron Man Three (2013) — Introducing Trevor Slattery
The Mandarin was working really well as the primary villain in this film, so well that I never... saw... this... coming. It's a divisive choice for sure, and some fans still aren't having it. I do hope that the real Mandarin will come along at some point (he's out there, at least according to a Marvel One-Shot), but that doesn't matter. What really matters is Trevor Damn Slattery.
I'm convinced that Ben Kingsley has never had as much fun in a movie as he did in this one. It really shows, and this blind side character shift is incredible to watch. Kingsley nails every single beat, and the look of Tony's complete disbelief at him only solidifies it. I hear that this scene made Trevor the toast of Croydon, wherever that is.
Runner-up scene: The battle of a million suits in the finale is a spectacle that I never get tired of.
Thor: The Dark World (2013) — Thor and Loki escape Asgard with Jane
This is another MCU entry that constantly gets the shaft, and I get it. It's not on the same level as many of the other films... but that doesn't make it bad. There are pleasures to be found within it if you just let go and surrender.
The relationship between Thor and Loki is a highlight of the entire MCU, and it is the best part of this film. Nowhere is it highlighted better than when Thor has to escape Asgard with Jane Foster, and he needs Loki to do it. The two bicker and snipe at each other every step of the way, and it works perfectly.
Runner-up scenes: Mjolnir being confused and speeding across countless realms during the convergence to try and get back to Thor, the final scene between Thor and Odin... who is really Loki in disguise.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) — "Does anyone want to get out?"
This is one of my favorite MCU movies, and I'm not alone there. It's an instance where it's hard to pick just one scene, but I've gotta do what I've gotta do. That said, the grand elevator smackdown gets the prize.
First, there's the escalating tension that leads up to the fight. More and more people keep getting on the elevator, and Cap knows that something is about to go down. Before anyone even throws a punch or looks at him funny, he gives them the instant classic line, "Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?"
He then proceeds to beat the crap out of everyone, without his shield, within an enclosed space. Throw in the window jump that follows, as well as his solo takedown of a quinjet, and come on. This is the scene. It has to be. It's a great bird!
Runner-up scenes: The final battle on the helicarriers is insane. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the scene that launched a million memes: Garry Shandling's Senator Stern whispering "Hail Hydra" into Agent Sitwell's ear.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) — Not 100% a dick
This is a weird pick, but it might be the one scene in the MCU that makes me laugh the hardest. When delivering a message from Peter Quill to Nova Prime, John C. Reilly's character quotes Quill, saying that Quill may be an a-hole, but he's not 100 percent a dick.
Nova Prime naturally asks him if he believes it, and Reilly's response is where the gold is. He doesn't know if he believes that anyone is 100 percent a dick, but of course that's not what Nova Prime was asking about. What a merry mixup!
Runner-up scenes: The Kyln escape, the scene with the Groot spores, the Guardians joining hands to channel the power of an infinity stone set to their own epic theme.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) — "...if you step out that door, you are an Avenger."
Clint "Hawkeye" Barton was fairly underused in the first Avengers film, so Joss Whedon made up for it in this one. Clint has plenty of great lines in the movie, but his best is when he and Wanda Maximoff are taking refuge during the Battle of Sokovia.
It's a well-written speech, and perfectly delivered by Jeremy Renner. I never expected such an inspiring moment to come from Clint Barton, but come from him it did. It had the desired effect, too — soon after, Wanda is blasting out of the door and shooting red magic blasts at every robot in sight. She definitely became an Avenger.
Runner-up scenes: The rotating shot of every Avenger taking on Ultron in the church is the stuff that dreams are made of, Nick Fury arriving on the hellicarrier for a last-minute rescue, Ultron and Vision's "Well, I was born yesterday" scene.
Ant-Man (2015) - Briefcase battle
Somewhere around this moment in the film I felt my cheeks hurt, and I realized that it was because I'd been smiling for the entire film. This moment made me realize it — it's a scene of total absurdity in a movie that has no shortage of them.
Many scenes have fun with size changing, but I'm partial to this fight scene between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket that takes place in a briefcase. It just fell out of a helicopter, the two have shrunk and are fighting inside it, and then Siri accidentally starts playing a song that neither character wanted.
Runner-up scenes: Anything with Luis, especially his stories.
Captain America: Civil War (2016) — Steve vs. Tony
Isn't this entire movie Steve vs. Tony? Yes, but I'm specifically talking about their final fight. The action and fisticuffs are on point, but it's the lines in between that make it great. When Steve says that Bucky's his friend, Tony's response of "so was I" is a killer. On top of that, we also get the return of "I can do this all day" from Steve.
Steve technically wins the fight in the end, but the reality is that we all lose. This fight has so much power because we've really gotten to know both of these characters, and it is surreally unpleasant to watch them hurt each other. They both have valid points, but it should never have come to this. It hurts you in the soul, and the wounds are still open. Maybe an upcoming film will finally give us some closure on this.
Runner-up scene: Airport.
Doctor Strange (2016) — "It's not about you."
Stephen Strange is an egomaniacal genius who has to learn the power of selflessness. Sound familiar? Sure it does, but this time we're doing the journey with magic. I'm not complaining.
The crux of the film's theme comes when The Ancient One is lying on an operating table about to die. She goes to the astral plane, where she shares one final truth with Doctor Strange. She builds up to it beautifully, and the wisdom that she tells him is, "It's not about you."
It's a simple message, but it's also one that is so easily forgotten. When life gets big, it's often the first thing to go.
Runner-up scene: The endless loop of "Dormammu, I've come to bargain" came very close to taking the prize. I'm surprised that it didn't. I reserve the right to change my mind.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) — Come a little bit closer
What's better than Michael Rooker and a talking raccoon killing an entire spaceship full of pirates to lovely strains of the song, "Come a Little Bit Closer"? Almost nothing is better. I said it.
You've got Rocket blasting away with a giant gun, Baby Groot doing his part, and Yondu going absolutely nuts with his magical whistling arrow. Just when you think that this scene can't go any further, it does. Then it goes even further than that.
Runner-up scenes: Nebula's talk with Gamora about their childhood, the entire "I'm Mary Poppins, ya'll" exchange, Yondu's sacrifice. (Yondu kind of steals this entire film.)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) — Meet the parent
We've seen it in plenty of movies before this one — the classic moment where a girl's overprotective dad gives the girl's date the "dad talk" before dropping them off. The father is usually a little scary.
This is that scene times ten. It's also in the middle of a superhero movie — not only is the dad in question the father of Peter's date, but he's also the main villain. The entire movie is layered in this fashion, but it's at it's best in this scene. Also, it needs to be said — Michael Keaton crushes it. Batman threatening to kill Spider-Man, as well as everyone that Spider-Man loves? Yep, here for it.
Runner-up scenes: Peter repeating the phrase "come on, Spider-Man" as he tries to escape from under a huge pile of rubble; Aunt May finding out Peter's secret at the very end.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) — The entire movie
I'm claiming my self-given right to do this. To me, this one is perfect, and my wasted heart loves it.
There's not a bad scene in it. Watch the entire movie. It's a miracle that this movie exists at all. It shouldn't work, but it does. Taika Waititi is a mad genius.
If I had to, had to choose? I'd likely choose Hela asking Thor "What are you the god of again?" leading into Thor almost exploding into thunder, blowing her back, and then jumping to the rainbow bridge with "The Immigrant Song" blaring.
The scene where Thor decides to intentionally make Ragnarok happen is another winner. Also good? Every scene with Grandmaster, Hulk, Loki, Valkyrie, Odin, Hela, Skurge, Heimdall, Korg, Thor, and composer Mark Mothersbaugh using some of Patrick Doyle's original Thor score at the end.
Runner-up scene: None, everyone wins.
Black Panther (2018) — Rhino charge
If I hadn't just used my "entire movie" coin on the previous entry, I would have used it here. There's too much greatness in this film to narrow it down to any one scene, so I just went with the one that stuck out in my head the most after I first saw it.
I was already loving the movie, every bit of it, and then a bunch of rhinos charged into the final battle and caused chaos. It took things up a level, and I didn't expect it. Also... I had to pick something. Seriously though, the whole movie.
Runner-up scenes: Shuri's first scene in her lab, the opening, Killmonger's entire arc (especially his death scene), M'Baku entering the final battle, the epic car chase with Andy Serkis blasting everything in sight, T'Challa in general... just everything T'Challa. Screw it, the whole movie. The best scene is the whole movie. I'm gonna do it again. Sue me. Do I care? To quote Killmonger, "Nah."
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) — Thor arrives in Wakanda
Things are getting interesting! Part one of Avengers: The Big MCU Payoff is packed with riches, but there's one scene that really sticks out. Thor using the giant forge to create Stormbreaker, Groot helping him finish it, and his very necessary arrival in Wakanda is the kind of scene that gets audiences screaming.
This Avengers entry doesn't have a team-up shot of the whole crew set to the main theme, but the main theme does come blasting in at the same time Thor does. Afterward, Thor lays waste to everything in sight using his new hammer, screaming "Bring me THANOS" for good measure.
Runner-up scenes: The battle with Thanos on Titan, Steve Rogers managing to hold back Thanos' gauntleted hand, Steve's perfect response to "I am Groot." Should I add the gut-punch, dust-in-the-wind finale? Probably, but I'm not going to.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) — Truth Serum
Luis' story montages are a highlight of the first film, and the sequel takes the formula to the next level. Luis has his best story in this film, and it includes most of the main cast. Seeing Evangeline Lilly mimicking Luis' body language would be enough to put it over the top, and there's so very much more.
Put some money in Luis, and you're gonna hear the whole story. The best part of it is that he's talking about where Scott Lang is emotionally, not physically (which is why he's being questioned in the first place), and the increasing frustration of the thugs that are questioning him makes it even better. Luis' realization that the truth serum he was injected with actually works is the perfect button.
Runner-up scenes: Hobbit Scott in the school, Janet Van Dyne temporarily taking over Scott's body.
Captain Marvel (2019) — She gets knocked down, but she gets up again
Here we are, at the end of a 21-film streak, and we come to a film where (for me at least), there is scene that clearly stands above all others. I love the entirety of this movie, but there's no beating the montage of Carol continually getting back up, again, and again, and again.
Carol Danvers has been pushed down (or has fallen) her entire life, but in this one montage, we see what makes Carol who she is — she always gets back up. It's "I can do this all day" played in a different key, and it's the reason that Carol Danvers is the other member of the MCU cast that I would follow into hell if she asked me to. I don't know why either character is going to hell or why they'd want me to come, but I'd do it.
This montage comes right before Carol has her greatest epiphany — she's been fighting with one hand tied behind her back, so what happens when she's no longer restricted? What happens when she's no longer being held in check by some crazy artificial intelligence? What happens when she stops trying to get control of her emotions, and just lets them fly free?
Honestly, the montage leading into the epiphany is one of the most powerful scenes in all of the 21 movies. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Thanos is toast.
Runner-up scenes: The Talos turnaround, any time the Flerken does their thing, Carol laying waste to Ronan's ship.
Higher, further, faster, baby. Help us, Carol Danvers. You're our only hope.