The 20 Best Scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Phase 1 & 2)
With the imminent release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron in May 2015, I thought I would write about some of my favourite scenes and sequences from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to date.
Whilst avoiding the SHIELD and Agent Carter spinoffs as well as the Marvel “one-shots”, I am sticking solely to the cinematic films which are (in release order) Iron Man, Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor 2: The Dark World, Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier & Guardians of the Galaxy.
I will set myself one caveat however. In order for a tiny bit of fairness I have decided to include at least one scene/moment from each of the films – otherwise I may just choose only The Avengers scenes – which for my money is the best of the bunch so far. Also, I’ve tried to choose a wide range of types of sequences from comedic, emotional, dramatic and (of course) amazing action that the Marvel franchise has tackled. With all that said, let the countdown begin...
20. Marvel comic book opening and Stan Lee cameos (All films)
Although the end-credit stingers have become a fan favourite (more of them later), the opening red Marvel logo which appears after the flicking-through-a-comic animation is now standard fare and sets the tone for these movies from the outset by wearing its comic book origins on its sleeve. The creator of many of these characters is writer Stan Lee whose cameo appearances have also become so commonplace that they now receive a collective “ahh” from audiences as he appears as an extra – usually with a deadpan quip about not liking the heroes themselves.
19. War Machine & Iron Man fight (Iron Man 2)
For me Iron Man 2 is the worst film in the Universe with only a handful of memorable moments such as the fight with Whiplash at the Monaco Grand Prix but the pick of the bunch is this first mini team-up of Iron Man and War Machine. It is the explosive climax of the movie as they tackle a horde of remote controlled bots at the Stark Expo with some great banter between Downey Jr and Don Cheadle thrown in to boot.
18. Gamma Intro Montage (Hulk)
After Ang Lee’s misstep, the Ed Norton-version harked back to the original TV series and wisely ditched the origin story – something the makers of Spider-Man (Sony) should take note of. Cleverly, this green-tinted montage showing Banner’s gamma-ray experiment gone awry summarises a whole heap of info and narrative in just a few minutes. Those with a keen eye may also spot some early nods to the weaponry of Stark Industries, as well as letters explaining the Hulk’s disappearance from one Nick Fury. Smash-ing!
17. Air Force One explosion (Iron Man 3)
Iron Man 3 improved upon its predecessor in nearly all departments and the highlight of the film was a realistic explosion on Air Force One that threw 13 Government officials out of the plane. Stark’s quick response to fly and subsequently catch all of them one-by-one is a genuine exciting free-fall action scene in a film more-known for its wise-cracking script from Shane Black
16. Battle between realms (Thor 2: The Dark World)
As Thor 2 comes to its conclusion, its narrative about worlds coming together reaches its peak at the end as Thor battles the Dark Elves in and around Greenwich in London. I have a soft spot for this film given its UK locations and the portals that open up mean the fight takes place here on earth and elsewhere. Objects like cars as well as people (and creatures) are transported between them and continue the battle wherever they end up. Comic moments on the London Underground and Thor’s Hammer (Mjölnir) trying to return to its owner serve to lighten the serious action beats. Very worthy.
15. Crashing the Hydra Bomber (Captain America)
The First Avenger’s climax ends with ol’ Captain realising there is little choice left but to ditch Hydra’s stealth bomber into the arctic. Together with a poignant chat over the radio with Agent Peggy Carter, he promises to take her to a dance before the communications go dead and our protagonist becomes an even greater hero by making the ultimate sacrifice. Showing how Marvel can handle emotional beats as well as consistent action ones, this ending was a fitting end of one story before beginning a new one back in the modern day.
14. Interrogation (The Avengers)
Joss Whedon apparently had a scene with a female assassin strapped to a chair for over 10 years and with The Avengers he finally found a place for this ingenious scene. As Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow teases her captors, we realise she is in full control of the situation before unleashing a barrage of fists and kicks to the kidnappers. With an overabundance of male centric heroes, Black Widow’s increasing prominence in this film showed not just her brawn but her brains too - as well as a foreshadowing of her similar skills with Loki later on.
13. Musical Montage (Captain America)
Once Steve Rogers had been pumped full of super-serum the audience is lulled into thinking he will be knocking off Nazis straight away. However, director Joe Johnston plays a neat twist to use Rogers as a propaganda tool in this musical montage. In a fabric outfit, Rogers is part of a military USO show which pays homage to the original 1940s comics and is a superb sequence to highlight the historical focus of this character – in particular as he punches Adolf Hitler square on the jaw. WANK!
12. Helicarrier Attack (The Avengers)
A bit of a cheat on this one as it’s more of a collection of sequences so I’ve not placed it as high up but with an attack starting with an explosion, causing the first transformation of the Hulk, this amazing sequence can take an audience’s breath away. After, Thor engages in a big punch up with Hulk and later Iron Man & Captain America “suit up” to help fix the ship, Black Widow then battles an infected Hawkeye. It gives glimpses of both the teamwork and rivalries at play whilst being a downright brilliant action sequence in its own right.
11. Small Town America (Thor)
After setting us up in the fantastical world of Asgard from the outset, Brannagh moves his serious Shakespearean family struggles away from that world to a small sparsely populated America town. The contrast of Norse God and Earth is summed up amusingly in two short hilarious sequences. In one, Thor eats breakfast at a diner before smashing his cup to the ground and demanding another. He then hears about his hammer in the desert and so pops along to the local pet shop with a shout of “I need a horse!” Funny and down to earth (literally) Hemsworth’s likeability was cemented with his satisfied grin and innocent charm
10. Nick Fury (Iron Man)
The first post-credits scene was a great Easter Egg that gave an indication that there was a much wider universe out there to explore. Nick Fury’s mention of the “Avengers Initiative” would have been a comic-readers in-joke back then but has now taken on a greater significance as the subsequent films have panned out. As each film built upon the one before it, Marvel continued to add further post credit sequences, teasing the next film or a new character and leaving us with a sample of what is to come.
9. Groot’s Nest (Guardians of the Galaxy)
A 10 foot tall plant who can only utter the words “I am Groot” is an unlikely hero to save the day in a Marvel film but the company’s risk paid off. At the end the group of intergalactic misfits are placed in a dangerous predicament before Groot begins to grow branches from his body creating a protective “nest” around his new found friends. A teary-eyed and emotional Rocket Racoon pleads with his friend to reconsider but his reply of “WE are Groot” brought a lump to many a viewer’s throat. The resulting events see Groot “re-born” as a smaller plant and from one of the saddest moments to one of the happiest; the newly rooted character begins dancing as the group continue their adventures.
8. Iron Man, Captain America & Thor Forest Fight (The Avengers)
After Loki’s capture post-museum heist, Iron Man arrives to the sound of AC/DC before Thor enters the fray to discuss matters with Loki himself. Iron Man returns quickly though and his first encounter with Thor is punctuated with sassy quips (“Shakespeare in the park”) and flying fists (Thor returns Iron Man’s head-butt) before Captain America shows up wanting them to cool down. Thor has other ideas but find his equal as the forest flattens when his hammer comes into contact with the Captain’s shield. Fun, ferocious, fiery and filled with wise cracks, Whedon shows the group have a long way to go in order to be friends but his handling of group dynamics is second to none in this spectacular sequence.
7. Puny God (The Avengers)
Sticking with The Avengers, Whedon had a chance to set Hulk’s new tone and nothing said more about the creature than this short scene that drew laughs and cheers in equal amounts. As Loki commences the beginning of another of his evil speeches, the Hulk stops him mid-sentence and thrashes him on the ground followed by Hiddlestone’s pathetic cry of pain. Howls turned to cheers as Hulk spat out his catchphrase line of “Puny God” and the Hulk’s cinematic rebirth was completed.
6. Attack on Asgard/Loki escape (Thor: The Dark World)
A longer sequence but one with highs and lows as Heimdall spots the Dark Elves attack ship entering Asgard and springs into action before a large battle begins in the kingdom. Elves fight the city’s guardians before culminating in the death of Thor’s mother. Post funeral, Thor reluctantly releases Loki (with the promise of revenge) and the dark tone is lifted with a Captain America cameo as Loki uses his cloaking powers to turn into his Avenger pal. A great sequence.
5. Leviathan Punch (The Avengers)
As Iron Man flies around a New York skyscraper to the mantra “I’m bringing the party to you”, the battle is in the balance as Banner arrives on a bike. However, after a quick chat the group hopes Banner can get real angry real quick but he simply says he’s always angry before punching The Chitauri leviathan in the face. Badass!
4. Escape from the Kyln (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Groot and Rocket all end up imprisoned in the Kyln – a cosmic jail whose inmates are ready to exact revenge on those they feel are responsible for their incarceration. The differing personalities soon have to work together in order to escape and after some violent encounters the team disable the gravity and float out of their confinement in style. Great special effects along with a colourful array of characters and vehicles, the movie throws these individuals into a lock up but they come out as a functioning faction of friends.
3. Freeway Fight (Captain America: Winter Soldier)
One of the best action sequences from all 10 films is this classic from the sequel to Captain America. With Steve Rogers on the run after being implicated in Nick Fury’s “death”, he teams up with Black Widow and Falcon as they drive along a freeway before a group of mercenaries led by the famed Winter Soldier attempt to kill the passengers. From cars, guns, fights, explosions, shoot outs, fists and knives, the sequence smoothly moves from the freeway to city streets as the action unfolds. Of course, the Captain and his shield are used to their full effect and with all the major characters involved the scene finishes with a huge emotional beat with the final reveal of Bucky himself.
2. Mark II Iron Man suit test (Iron Man)
The first Iron Man is still for me one of the top entries in the entire series and most of that is to do with the brilliant story build up of Stark’s origins. His escape from Middle Eastern terrorists sets him on the path from arms-dealer to peace-maker and one of the most enlightening moments comes when he tries on his first full suit (the silver one). As he is locked into it Robocop-style, his initial hesitation is replaced by pure elation as he flies around the West coast testing his toy properly for the first time. Although the later Mark III suit up sequence is ace, it’s just the cherry on a Mark II cake.
1. The Avengers (finally) Assemble (The Avengers)
I don’t think this one needs much introduction but as the group of heroes that make up The Avengers get together at the end of the movie, Marvel fans across the world had their dreams finally fulfilled. On top of this, Whedon’s rotating shot around the group is now firmly established in superhero (if not cinematic) history too.