The 25 Greatest Moments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far

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From the moment Back in Black first burst out of the “funvee” and every expansion that’s followed in the last 7 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown to become the template so many franchises are trying to stencil from. Along the way, it’s given us a lot of good times and some truly unforgettable moments. So as the MCU’s latest edition, the Netflix Jessica Jones series, drops this weekend it seemed like a good moment to stop and enjoy the view. To think back over all quips, jaw-dropping smackdowns, heartfelt exchanges, and Stan Lee pop-ins of the MCU to date, we compile a list of 25 greatest moments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. 

To clarify the rules, these are moments from all 12 MCU films from 2008's Iron Man to 2015's Ant-Man, and all tie in television shows: Daredevil, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. We’re being pretty loose with the definition of “a moment”. It can be anything from a few seconds to full scene if applicable. Just to make things interesting and dissuade from favouritism, no more than 3 choices will be made from any single film or TV show. Obviously, this will CONTAIN SPOLIERS (the most recent are from Ant-Man) so you’re not up to date in some areas you may want to hold fire on proceeding or get a friend to censor it for you. Finally, I must stress that this is a personal list. Some entries are those that I that feel don’t get always get the recognition they deserve and many may disagree. We’re not trying to objectify the MCU here... we’re trying to celebrate it. So with that in mind, suit up, start your Walkman, smash your glass demanding another for God’s sake watch your darn language as we count down the Top 25 moments of the MCU so far.

  1. “I require a horse!” – Thor

    After several subsequent film visits made him more accustomed to Earth’s ways it’s easy to forget just how good the “fish out of water” comedy elements were in the Thunder God’s first film outing. While the coffee cup smashing is worthy of mention, the best example by far came from the simple idea of Thor strolling into a small town pet store in spirited need of a horse much to the confusion of its employee. Chris Hemsworth’s dead pan delivery is brilliant as he tries to suggest an alternative.

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  2. Assault on Asgard – Thor the Dark World

    Not everything about The Dark Elves worked in this Thor follow up (particularly Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith as a villain) but their sequence of attacking and owning Asgard had a hell of a lot going for it. The fighters skimming round exterior brought in a feeling of Stargate meets Independence Day while visually impressing. Then, there’s the physical combat element where after an epic crash landing entrance, we witness the mighty Asgardian warriors completely outclassed by their technologically superior invaders. The self imploding vortex grenades used are even borderline horrific as we witness soldiers scream while they’re crushed into nothingness. It even includes some good personal character moments. None more so than the tragic death of Rene Russo’s Frigga, right after showing Malekith that it isn’t just the men in her family that are great warriors.

  3. Ward is Hydra – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

    Marvel’s first television venture struggled by underwhelming against the film level expectations of many throughout its first season. Yet in one shocking twist, it delivered its finest moment of that season or any since as one of its leading characters, Grant Ward is suddenly revealed to be a Hydra double agent at the climax of episode 17: Turn, Turn, Turn. Many were surprised and impressed with how the show incorporated The Winter Soldier’s fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. events as we witnessed the friend against friend betrayals on various smaller and more personal scales. This moment with Ward was the epitome of that, when such an audience invested character turned villain and to this day remains its best antagonist.

  4. Hulkbuster fight – Avengers: Age of Ultron

    It was teased in the first released concept art that this infamous Iron Man failsafe suit would be featured in Age of Ultron, and it similarly became the money shot of early teaser trailers that got a lot of people excited. The end result did not disappoint as the big red and green combatants smashed their way through downtown Johannesburg. Stark’s inner suit quipping giving the sequence a good comedic edge while the outstanding effects light up the screen.

  5. Barrel of monkeys – Iron Man 3

    In any superhero, whether powers or tech-based, the trick becomes finding more creative and innovative ways for the hero to use them in overcoming a villain or situation. This mid-film sequence in Iron Man 3 was one of the best examples of Marvel doing just that. A simple enough premise: as the dozen or so passengers of Air Force One get sucked out of the plane and plummet to the ground, Tony Stark quickly realises he can’t carry even half of them to safety in time. So he joins them together in a single airborne structure in order to just slow them down enough for a safe water skimming landing. It’s an excellent example of writing creativity in the face of a very easy cop out alternative. There’s even the nice little cherry reveal that Tony wasn’t even in the suit the whole time but remotely piloting it.

  6. The night before– Captain America: The First Avenger

    “Most people forget the first country the Nazi’s conquered was their own”. Stanley Tucci’s contribution to Captain America’s first outing is often overlooked due to his early departure. Yet in this tender “night before” scene between himself and Steve Rogers, his character reminds many of that there was a big difference between a German and a Nazi. With all the “red, white and blue” punching Hitler in the face that would follow, this was a wonderful and poignant statement that the film was capable of smarter character examinations.

  7. Opening Sokovia battle tracking shot – Avengers: Age of Ultron

    It was all over the trailers but that still didn’t take anything away from the fist pumping climax of all six Avengers lining back up into a slow motion mid-air shot after the fast cutting madness that preceded it. The Avengers sequel stepped back into the ring with all guns, repulsors, and lightning hammers blazing in this spectacular visual re-introduction to the principle characters amidst the chaos of an in progress battle. It’s almost dizzying to watch and like much of the film, gets even betting on repeat viewing.

  8. The car door – Daredevil

    Before Daredevil hit our screens, we’d seen plenty of evil characters in the MCU. We’d seen no shortage of anger courtesy of The Hulk but this moment, this was rage. Pure blood-boiling overwhelming fury. In Daredevil’s forth episode, In the Blood, Vincent D'Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk repeatedly smashes Anatoly’s head in car door until nothing but a bloody pulp remains. It’s all the more shocking by the fact his every preceding screen moment that series had been quiet, calm, and almost timid only to ignite like an electrified monster purely because Anatoly embarrassed him in front of his love, Vanessa. It was the moment that signified just how incredible D'Onofrio’s villain performance would be, and for all his awesomeness that followed this stands out as his most defining point.

  9. Fake Trevor/Mandarin reveal – Iron Man 3

    This was arguably the recipient of the biggest backlash in the MCU to date but that doesn’t take away how much of a tremendous achievement Shane Black’s rope-a-dope was in Iron Man’s 3rd solo outing. That what seemed like his greatest comic book nemesis, The Mandarin was nothing more than a soccer loving Shakespearian actor from Croydon (“wherever that is”). In this great age of spoilers, just the fact that this remained a twist is worthy of celebration, let alone that Marvel had the iron balls to go through with it. It even triggered the Hail to the King One Shot short in fan appeasement to imply the real Mandarin is out there somewhere.

  10. Prison escape - Guardians of the Galaxy

    One of the many things that made Guardians such a success was the way James Gunn seamlessly interwove humour into every part of it. There was no better example than the team’s impromptu escape from the Kyln prison. It’s a superb action sequence with Groot and Rocket madly smashing drones while Gamora acrobatically takes out guards. Yet it also contains some of the film’s best laughs right from the start of Rocket laying out the plan while behind them, Groot’s attempted help screws most of that up. The genius break in the action as Quill asks the inmate for his leg only to find Rocket didn’t really need it. This escape was the first time we get all 5 Guardians working together, and the point at which their emphatic group chemistry became the film’s driving force.

  11. Cap wakes up in the present – Captain America: The First Avenger

    This was a sequence that could easily have been a forgettable piece of setup for the upcoming Avengers movie but thanks to some stunning work from Chris Evans, it became the standout moment of The First Avenger as Steve Rogers rumbles S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fake 1940s hospital setting. The sharp contrasts in visuals as Steve smashes through the dim and plain settings of his holding to modern bustle of Time Square, and the sudden comprehension that everything he knew has changed. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s deception even feels understandable as we see the shock of Steve leaning the truth and the sad realisation that he and Peggy Carter will never be. It turns a required plot point into a very heartfelt moment.

  12. The bedroom fight – Ant-Man

    Over the course of its 2014-15 film offerings, one of biggest criticisms Marvel received was the repetition of big action finales. They had a point as Winter Soldier, Guardians and Age of Ultron all built up to large scale airborne CGI battles with huge crash based money shots. Then Ant-Man came along and beautifully flipped this on its head by framing its final showdown between Scott Lang’s Ant Man and Darren Cross’ Yellowjacket entirely inside the bedroom of Scott’s young daughter, Cassie. It seamlessly blends great action with ace comedy in the miniature scale of the epic showdown. Even placing the Thomas the Tank Engine joke in every single trailer didn’t stop it from inducing hysterics. The continued use of Scott’s ant-controlling powers gives it a unique and bizarre feel as he leads his ranks through the jungle of rug bristles like the world’s weirdest Vietnam War film. Like so much of this film, this moment truly showed that size doesn’t matter, especially when it comes to action finales.

  13. Lift beat down – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

    “Before we start, does anyone want to get out?”. You have to love the idea that in Hydra's vast planning and preparation of revealing themselves to the world, some of them actually sat down to devise ways of taking down Steve Rogers. The level of precision in their execution even suggests they’ve actually practiced it. The slow setup and building of the sequence is wonderful as like Steve, we slowly figure out that something isn’t right only to explode into violence. The vast numbers, confined space, and specialised equipment really present the believable chance that enough jackals can bring down even the strongest lion. The close camera work keep us feeling every blow as Steve gradually defies the vast odds against him. The Russo brothers absolutely nailed the action in The Winter Soldier, and this is not its last entry on this list.

  14. Star Lord opening titles dance - Guardians of the Galaxy

    Until the moment when a now-grown up Peter Quill puts on his headphones and pressed play, Guardians of Galaxy felt like a very routine science fiction movie. There was nothing overly special about young Peter’s Earth abduction. The scene along with Quill’s techy effects scanning of the ruins felt rather straight up and almost serious, then we get the single biggest tonal shift in any MCU offering to date as our lead character sings and dances his way the ruins and opening credits. It immediately established how the film would go forward with fun characters and an unorthodox but perfect soundtrack. It was moment everyone watching suddenly realised this was not going to be just another science fiction film or indeed just another Marvel, and the film has earned a cult following with many making their own hilarious Internet recreations.

  15. “Puny God” – Avengers

    In a way, it was little more than slapstick humour but at its very finest, with the power to reduce anyone to utter hysterics. For all the Hulk body-smashing, it’s Tom Hiddleston that really sells this moment as he summons up the full blown God Complex of Loki in angrily addressing what he judges as a simple creature only to be cut off mid-rant and owned in a way no Marvel villain had been before or has since. It was a wonderful irony to earlier jest to the Chitari’s The Other of “you are but words” as Loki finds he’s just the same to The Hulk.

  16. The first Mk3 mission – Iron Man

    With the exception of Sam Rami’s Spiderman (if applicable the Doc Oc train fight would be on this list), the prior years of pre-MCU Marvel films often struggled to make their heroes really look cool while using their powers and abilities. That all changed when Tony Stark took his newly completed Mk3 Iron Man armour out for a test drive in Gulmira. Suddenly, we have a superhero that doesn’t feel clunky or dorky but infinitely cool as he takes town the members of the Ten Rings with the suits various weaponry. The sequence was galvanized by the one sided showdown with a tank. As Iron Man easily ducks aside a launched shell, pauses for a moment before firing his own missile, and causally walking away while the tank blows up in a background, like a bowler that already knows he’s got a strike.

  17. Nick Fury car chase – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

    Although they’ve featured in some TV offerings, it’s surprising how little car chase scenes appear in Marvel movies despite their heavy action themes. Thankfully, this gem of a sequence from The Winter Solider makes it a case of quality over quantity as Nick Fury desperately tries to escape a mid-traffic assassination attempt by Hydra. It’s a fantastic blend of traditional car chase elements like high speed shoot outs, and dodging civilian traffic as well as more science fiction aspects like Nick’s vehicle countermeasures and the hilarious on-board computer voice (you could almost call this the Dark Knight Rider chase). It’s fast, frantic, and offers genuine feelings of character peril and desperation. And let’s not forget that, save the odd action moment in The Avengers, this was our first (and to date only) instance of seeing Nick Fury as a full blown action spy badass!

  18. The first shrink – Ant Man

    Up until Scott stepped into the suit and punched it, Ant-Man had been a good ensemble comedy film, but without anything to make it overly stand out beyond its laughs. Then with Scott’s first shrink, director Peyton Reed rolled up his sleeves and revealed the bulging film making muscles he’d been hiding. The result is something resembling Honey I Shrunk the Kids on fast forward with the TV being hurled around a gorilla enclosure. It finds joyful comedic innovation in the simplest of ideas like the bath tub tidal wave or Scott hanging on to the groves of a record. The plunging camera angles of the shrink really capture Scott’s surprise at the events and Michael Douglas’s ear piece narration just rounds it all off as a mentor gives his reluctant protégé a crash introduction to a much bigger world.

  19. Thor is unworthy – Thor

    This is hands down the best anti-climax Marvel has ever produced when what seemed like Thor’s return to power upon reclaiming Mjolnir left him broken and emotionally destroyed in the face of being deemed unworthy as if his last hope of reclaiming his former life was cruelly snatched away. It was superb moment of character weakness with the despair amplified by the pouring rain and some outstanding work from Chris Hemsworth. It even managed to delivery Hawkeye’s first appearance for good measure.

  20. “We are Groot” – Guardians of the Galaxy

    "We are Groot" --- The 3 words that can still reduce the biggest hulking grown man to tears. Nobody expected just how much of a lovable character the vocal challenged sentient tree, Groot, would become and this heart-warming moment of self-sacrifice managed to melt the heart and moisten the face of every geek in sight with merely a word change. Of course, that wasn’t the end of him/it, but even having a sense of that didn’t detract from the impact as it’s the magnitude of Groot and Rocket’s friendship that drives all the emotion, and the odd but charming branch cocoon visuals compliment this perfectly.

  21. Coulson’s death – Avengers

    Its lasting effect may be tainted by his small screen resurrection but there’s no denying the impact Joss Whedon’s first instance of “doing a Whedon” in The MCU. It worked so well because while Coulson was a liked figure in the MCU in his prior films appearances, it was only in the first half of The Avengers that most people fell in love with him: from Steve Rogers swooning to joking about his first name being Agent, and then just as we realised how much we liked him, he was taken from us! It still remains Clark Gregg’s finest moment in the character as he holds his trademark soft spoken tones before and after being mortally wounded. He even managed to trick the trickster for good measure.

  22. Winter Soldier street fight – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

    There have been no shortage of good punch ups in the MCU and a few on this list but the mid-street rumble between Captain America and The Winter Soldier. It was the single greatest offering of one on one combat the MCU has produced so far. While the pair had several clashes in The Russo brother’s hugely enjoyable Cap sequel, it was this clash in downtown Washington D.C. that stole the show. The sheer speed and ferocity of Winter Soldier's blows as his vast fighting skill makes him a rival for Cap’s strength and his bionic arm prove a pivotal difference maker. The film completely suspended itself from being a comic book adaptation to deliver its close and frantic struggle. Then to top it all off, despite being heavily known, the climactic bombshell reveal of Bucky Barnes being the Winter Soldier was still delivered with effect. If the Russos can apply this technique to the numerous character clashes of Civil War, the result will be phenomenal.

  23. Vision is worthy – Avengers: Age of Ultron

    Admit it, you’re entire cinema (even that annoying couple three rows back) went dead silent when this happened. Set up nicely by the fun first act sequence of various other team members trying and failing to lift it, the casual deadpan approach of the newly-birthed Vision handing Thor Mjolnir is like a set of car keys, and the bewildered looks of Thor and the rest are combined to make this a moment of comedic brilliance and fanboy fulfilment. For all the talk of Age of Ultron being too predictabl,e this was a pure unadulterated surprise.

  24. The Hallway fight – Daredevil

    There isn’t a single offering in the MCU without a good fight in it, but Netflix’s Daredevil took things to whole a new level of stunning physicality. With Its stunt-heavy approach and extensive choreography, the streets of Hell’s Kitchen delivered made every hit a knockout, but the sequence that stands out above the rest is the climax of the second episode, Cut Man. Inspired by Gareth Evans' 2011 smash, The Raid, it’s a single-tracked camera shot along a hallway corridor at times being perpendicular to the action (the microwave!). Yet what really makes this stand out is the feeling of utter desperation and exhaustion. Matt frequently looks on the verge of collapse (already suffering significant earlier injuries), but somehow pulls himself back to keep going and rescue the abducted child. For all the visually spectacular CG smash ups, the MCU has given us this simple, back to basics affair, and it's the finest it has ever produced and very nearly the MCU’s greatest moment.

  25. The Battle of New York tracking shot – Avengers

    Joss Whedon himself declares this as the point when Iron Man, Thor and the rest actually becameThe Avengers. When they stopped being the world’s greatest heroes and became something more. Cinematically, it was one long gorgeous and continually jaw-dropping camera shot that traversed all 6 team members as they worked together against the Chitari. Captain America arcing Iron Man’s repulsors off his shield, Hawkeye firing an arrow into Widow’s aircraft before Thor and Hulk take down a leviathan before Hulk punches Thor in celebration. It was the moment that millions of people truly understood just how incredible the Marvel shared Universe could be. It was the greatest moment in the MCU.... so far at least.

     

    Thank you checking this list out and be sure to let us know your own favourite moments in the comments and of course enjoy a weekend of binging on Jessica Jones. Keep a lookout Epicstream’s reviews of the series that will online as fast as we can get them.