The Marvel Cinematic Universe has changed cinema. That isn’t a debatable topic. Before the MCU, the idea of a shared universe seemed crazy to some. Movie studios had no interest in taking their time to tell a carefully crafted, connected story filled with different heroes. Marvel however, decided to take characters who weren’t the most popular at the time and make a multi-billion-dollar franchise out of it. Now, ten years later, Infinity War stands only a week away. It’s the biggest event of the MCU and some would argue it’s the biggest event in cinematic history. And the stakes couldn’t be higher with the Mad Titan Thanos coming to town. It’s truly going to be one of the greatest moments in superhero history.
But, before we get to that, I think it’s appropriate to look back at what’s come so far. 18 movies in and there have been some great moments. Who’s going to forget the time Tony Stark walked in that bar at the end of Incredible Hulk? What about the first time you saw Mjolnir? And I know for a fact know one is going to forget the first time the Avengers assembled, and that famous shot was born. These moments are why people love Marvel and why their films have continued to grow with each release. Today, I want to talk about my personal favorite moments from the MCU. You may see some you agree with, you may see some on here that make you question my nerd credibility. But that’s the great thing about how far along we are in this journey. There’s so many films, so many moments, and they’re going to impact people in different ways. So, let’s get started!
- Iron Man’s First Flight
First on my list is Iron Man’s first flight and his fight with the terrorists. Iron Man started all of this. Robert Downey Jr. was a risky choice when cast as Tony Stark, but this film blew us away. The humor, the heart, the visual effects, everything about this film is basically perfect. One of the things I think goes under the radar when it comes to this film is the themes. There’s a lot in this film about weapons of mass destruction and accountability of billionaires.
Tony Stark is a character who made his profit from war. War comes at a cost, but Tony of course never had to face the music. His origin film is a wake-up call for him and we see him struggle with the realization that his name is associated with mass murder around the world. The moment where Yinsen tells him not to waste his life is a powerful one, but I chose his first flight because it was the culmination of everything we see happen in the first act. Tony changes for the better and he pushes his genius to it’s limits to become a superhero. When he finally puts on his classic red and gold suit, the music was perfect. Now, Iron Man’s suits go on in half a second and he’s using a special nanotech style suit in Infinity War, but the first time? The first time, it was nice and slow. And when he flies into the air, the music is perfect as he boosts to hyper speed into the Middle East. There, he confronts the terrorists in a tense standoff. It was here where we got the first taste of the type of hero that Iron Man would be. If there’s a better way to do something, a smarter way to do something, he’ll figure it out. Pair that with the shot of him peaking over the debris after being shot by a tank, and you have one of my favorite moments in any film, period. It was in that moment, we witness the type of heroism that would become commonplace in the MCU.
- Killmonger’s Dream
Black Panther was a moment in time. When we’re all old and grey, we’re going to remember that film like the back of our hand. The thing I enjoyed the most about Black Panther was its themes. Director Ryan Coogler loves implementing themes of fatherhood in his films and this movie was no different. On one side, you have T’Challa. Wakandan royalty. A man whose life hasn’t been affected by hardships such as colonization and slavery. He got the best mental, physical, and emotional training a man could ever get and is the embodiment of a true King. On the other side, you have Erik Killmonger. He lived his life as a black American. Dealing with systemic and blatant racism his entire life. And he had to do so without his father. That does something to you. It’s something that can make you filled with nothing but hate and anger. And if you don’t have a father, or any type of father figure in your life to help you through that anger, you can become Killmonger. Killmonger is an interesting character because his anger also stemmed from him knowing exactly what was out there. Knowing that a place liked Wakanda existed every time he witnessed things such as police brutality, racial discrimination, and media bias. That only added to his anger, and he used everything in his life as motivation for when he would one day take over Wakanda.
In this movie, we saw these two characters clash and while Killmonger had valid points about Wakanda’s failure as a nation, that anger still ruled in his heart. After he beats T’Challa for the throne and is named King, he goes through the ancestral plane ritual just like all Kings do. This moment is so high for me because this is where we see that Killmonger isn’t all anger. Or at least he didn’t used to be all anger. He goes into an apartment that resembles his old one from when he was a child, and his father is there to greet him. Killmonger turns into the child he was when his father died, and he speaks with his father. There’s an incredible about of sadness in both their voices. Killmonger misses his dad, but he’s so far gone that he’s almost anxious to get out of this dream state, so he can fulfill his dream. Killmonger hasn’t known compassion and care for a long time, and this scene hurts me so much because he represents damn near every little black boy who doesn’t have a father. No one deserves that.
His father realizes he failed by not being there for his son. Sterling K. Brown is such a phenomenal actor and he sold me the pain in his heart during this scene. Father and son have one moment together, but each know this moment won’t last. They can hardly look at each other. One’s crying because of what he lost, and the other is crying because he knows what’s to come in the future. Compare that to the serenity and beauty of T’Challa’s moment with his father earlier in the film, and you can see why this moment stands out to me so much. Wakanda Forever.
- Dormammu, I’ve Come to Bargain
This may come as a surprise to some, but this moment made me appreciate Doctor Strange more than most heroes in the MCU. I’ve never been the biggest Doctor Strange fan. He’s always been one of those characters who I’ve known about, but have never known about, if that makes sense. His film was interesting to me, and while I didn’t think it was perfect, the ending stood out to me. Doctor Strange is one of those heroes who starts off as a real-life hero. He’s a doctor and it recognized for the outstanding work he does. He also enjoys the work he does. Yes, his film is about him overcoming his own ego, but deep down, Strange was already a hero before his accident. He just wasn’t the most gracious one. That hero element within him blossomed when he was faced with the challenge of learning magic and recovering from his accident. I love Strange because he values knowledge and hard work. He isn’t necessarily an off the charts genius, but his mind is so sharp because he works harder than others. It’s how he became a doctor and it’s how he became the Sorcerer Supreme.
In the last fight of the movie, he comes face to face with the villain, Dormammu. Strange goes from magic novice to realm protector in no time in this film. And while some find that an unlikely leap, I’d argue that this was always his dream. He’s been prepping for the day where he, Stephen Strange, would save humanity because of his skill and dedication. Only without the journey we see in his film, he would’ve been saving humanity for glory as well. When he faced Dormammu, Strange, an educated, middle-aged white man was able to put aside his personal beliefs for the sake of humanity. Not for glory, but because it was just. He put the common good above himself. It was the right the do to and he did it for its own sake. He was prepared to die for an eternity, and that will always stick with me so long as the MCU exists.
- Black Panther and Zemo
Captain America: Civil War was the most entertained I’ve ever been watching a superhero film. Captain America’s arc came to a climax and we got a chance to see some great action as well. Two characters made that movie stand out to me. Spider-Man and Black Panther. For Spider-Man, it was his homecoming as this was his first time on screen as a MCU hero. For Black Panther, this was a lot of people’s first time seeing the King of Wakanda. The Russo brothers did a fantastic job of blending different character arcs in this film, and one of the best arcs was T’Challa’s.
Before his solo film, T’Challa is a man who idolizes his father. We see the affect his father’s death had on him and his country in his solo film, but in Civil War, we saw his Killmonger side, if you want to call it that. All that anger and sadness that Killmonger felt when his father was killed, T’Challa felt too. Except, he had the means to bring his father’s killer to justice from the moment it happened. For most of the film, T’Challa is filled with rage as he tries to kill Bucky, who he thinks killed his father. Towards the end of the film, T’Challa follows Captain America, Iron Man, Bucky, and Zemo to Russia where it’s revealed that Bucky killed Tony’s parents. It’s also revealed that Zemo killed King T’Chaka. While the trio fights it out, Zemo is outside where T’Challa approaches him. This scene is great because of the work done with Zemo’s character. Throughout the film, he listens to a voicemail from his wife just so he can hear her beautiful voice again. This is impactful to me because of Age of Ultron. In that film, we saw the destruction the Avengers caused and it’s very reasonable that someone would die during that battle. Zemo lost his family and began his quest for vengeance.
During his quest, Zemo took a father away from his son. T’Challa stands outside and realizes the error of his ways. His first act as King is a difficult one. No one in Wakanda would have blinked twice if he killed Zemo, and Bucky for good measure. It made sense. But T’Challa realizes that if he gives into vengeance, everything he’s been taught in his life means nothing. He dishonors the member of his father if he strikes Zemo here in cold blood. He also realizes that while Zemo was a monster created by the Avengers, he was a monster nonetheless and needed to be dealt with. So, he says the memorable line about vengeance and captures Zemo alive. A noble act that helped define his character and helped him empathize with Killmonger in his solo film. This scene was also great because as Zemo talked, Iron Man and Captain America were beating each other to a pulp in slow motion. Marvel doesn’t usually use slow motion in their films and this was a good time to use it. They let the scene breathe and it will always stand out to me for it’s character development, tension, and the way it connects to the broader MCU in a matter of minutes.
Obviously, every scene can’t make a top 5. Here are some honorable mentions that I didn’t want to leave off because they helped define the MCU just as much as the ones on my list.
- “Come, on Spider-Man” Peter lifts the debris off his back in a moment where he fully becomes Spider-Man in his first MCU film.
- “M’Baku vs. T’Challa” this scene was magical. Wakanda is established in this early scene and M’Baku delivered one of the best opening speeches from any character in the MCU.
- “Youndu’s Sacrifice” I could hardly contain myself during this scene. From Yondu’s powerful line to his funeral. This will always stand out to me and make Guardians Vol. 2 a personal favorite.
- “Steve visits an elderly Peggy” This love story is an underrated one in the MCU. Steve never got a proper relationship with Peggy and that love he had for her never died, even when he was frozen for over 50 years. This moment is beautiful because it was top-notch acting from Chris Evans. He let the emotion show and it’s hard to keep a dry eye during this scene.
- “I’m always angry” We all know this line. Bruce Banner delivers it in Avengers right before he turns into the Hulk. It was the first time he changed on command and that quickly in a film. Not only that, but he easily stopped a Chitauri ship that had given the Avengers trouble up until that point. This will forever be one of the biggest “holy s*it” moments in the MCU
- WE. ARE. GROOT
My favorite moment from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is without a doubt the moment in Guardians of the Galaxy when Groot sacrifices himself for the team. Guardians of the Galaxy is still my top MCU film strictly because of how bad I thought it was going to be. I thought this was Marvel running out of ideas already, and not knowing where to take their universe after Avengers. Boy, was I wrong.
This film is filled with laughs and amazing visual effects. The cosmic side of Marvel has always felt epic to me, and this film delivers when it comes to feeling like something bigger. In this film, we see the plot revolve around an Infinity stone and it’s one of the first times we see and hear Thanos. The villain in this movie was okay, but what truly makes this movie stand out are the characters. Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot. The freaking Guardians of the Galaxy. This film is about a lot of things, but above all, I believe its about not letting your past define you. Not only that, each character in this movie has been through an immense amount of pain and trauma in their lives. Gamora is the daughter of Thanos, Drax’s family was slaughtered, Star-Lord lost his mother, so on and so forth. This movie put these screw ups together because director James Gunn wanted us to know that no matter your past, no matter the pain you have inside you, there’s still greatness to be found.
Throughout this movie the Guardians struggle with that concept. They have a moment towards the end of the film where they realize that they’re all they have, so they need to come together to save the galaxy. While aboard Ronan’s ship, the crew is trapped as the ship is falling to the ground. They fought valiantly, but in the end, they figured their lives were going to be cut short. That was until Groot, of all creatures, decides to encase them inside a shell of his own body so they can survive the crash. The music is somber, the scene is incredibly well lit, and Rocket’s expressions were heartbreaking. In that moment, the seemingly disconnected alien who only spoke three words the entire movie, became the fabric that literally and figuratively held the team together. I cry some serious nerd tears when this scene plays because it displays the themes of this film and the MCU so well. Right after this moment, Star-Lord and crew absorb the power of the Infinity stone and use its power to kill Ronan. One of my favorite shots in the MCU comes here as the camera pans around to show the team, filled with purple cosmic energy, as they unite for one cause. “We are Groot” solidified for me how special the MCU was and would continue to be. And they haven’t let me down since.
Next week, the MCU changes forever. We’re all going to remember this experience vividly and are going to be talking about it for years to come. I hope you enjoyed this list and my breakdown of some of my favorite MCU moments. Here’s to ten years. And hopefully, there’s ten more to come.