We’re less than weeks away from Avengers: Endgame’s official release and what better way to pass the time than talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole? For 10 years now, the MCU has brought some of the best moments in not just comic book movie history, but big screen entertainment. More specifically, there is a plethora of moments I’d call iconic.
‘Iconic’ can mean so many different things but, for me, it encompasses moments that creates its own emotional resonance that goes beyond dramatic heartache. It may be a line of dialogue, a single shot, or an entire action set piece; often these are taken from the pages of the comics that birthed these characters, but other times, they are creations of the wonderfully talented men and women responsible for bringing these larger-than-life characters to the big screen. Trying to maintain a somewhat condensed list was a difficult process and will no doubt birth both confirmation and hearty disagreements, these are, for me, the MCU’s most iconic moments.
This should go without saying but…SPOILERS!!!
“I am Iron Man” (Iron Man): The movie that started it all, Iron Man captures several comic book-worthy moments. From Tony’s escape from the cave in the Mark 1 armor to walking away from the tank before it explodes, any of these could have been placed here. But not even these powerful visuals compare to Tony’s final line of the movie when, after given the cover story by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Agent Coulson, he instead admits that he is Iron Man, quickly followed by his trademark smirk. Even the Nick Fury post credit scene, one that sets up the MCU like no other, doesn’t possess the power delivered in those four small words.
“I can do this all day” (Captain America: The First Avenger): When we first see a spindly Steve Rogers being given the business in an alley by a loud mouth bully, it’s a seminal moment for the character. Despite being outmatched, he faces the challenge, adhering to his principals, accepting the consequences as they may. This moral center is the defining characteristic of Cap, one that acts as the heartbeat of the Avengers and, in many ways, the MCU as a whole. His reiteration of this line, once to Red Skull but more specifically in Civil War, as he faces his former friend Tony Stark, is a call-back that it’s not something that “came out of a bottle” which makes Steve special, rather his uncanny ability to be true to himself.
Avengers Assembled (The Avengers):
I’ve seen this movie at least a dozen times since its initial release and that panoramic shot of the Avengers finally coming together on the streets of New York to battle the Chitauri still gives me goosebumps. It was the moment that told us the Avengers are here to stay. And now, seven years later, this, to me, is still the most important single shot the MCU has had.
Shield vs Bionic arm (Captain America: The Winter Soldier): While so much of this movie goes beyond the normal conventions of a superhero film, the shot of the Winter Soldier punching Cap’s shield is about as comic book-y as you can get. The distinctive ring of metal on metal and the tension between an irresistible force and immovable object is something to behold. It also sets off what is, to this day, one of the best hand-to-hand choreographed fight scenes of any movie in the last decade.
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Ant-Man riding an arrow (Captain America: Civil War): There are so many moments of this movie that could be listed here but two of the biggest include very different versions of Ant-Man. Early on in the Avenger vs Avenger airport throw down, Ant-Man rides Hawkeye’s arrow to disrupt Iron Man’s armor. That is directly from the comics (the cover of The Avengers #223, to be exact) and is such a geek-out moment for us comic nerds. Leave it to the MCU to make a guy named ‘Ant-Man’ cool, and hitching a ride on an arrow…he’s never looked cooler.
Cap vs Iron Man (Captain America: Civil War):
Infinity War aside, there’s no other MCU movie with a heartbreaking finale up to what we get in Civil War when Tony Stark and Steve Rogers face off. The Dragon Ball Z-like two-on-one aside, when Bucky and Steve wail on Iron Man with Cap’s shield has nothing on that slow-motion moment of Steve charging his friend, shield first, as Tony fires shot after shot from his repulsor rays. It culminates into an almost still shot that mirrors the one from the Civil War comic. It’s a comic panel come to life and, while maybe not as important as the panoramic shot from The Avengers, if I could have a single image from the MCU commissioned onto a wall of art, this would be it.
Thor arrives in Wakanda (Infinity War): Throughout the MCU history, there have been numerous examples of characters making scene-stealing entrances to save the day. None, however, are bigger or badder than Thor’s arrival in Wakanda, Stormbringer in hand. In all my theatrical viewings of Infinity War, no other character received the pop Thor did in this moment. Not only was this visually spectacular, and showcasing the most powerful Thor we’d ever seen, but he arrives in the darkest hour, just as the Outriders overruns Cap, Black Panther, and our other heroes. His rage-filled roar of “Bring me Thanos!”, followed by the slam of Stormbringer against the ground emphasized the true might of the God of Thunder and that he alone had the sole chance to take down the Mad Titan.
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The Snap (Infinity War): This was, for me, the most unexpected moment in the MCU. Though I believed that it would have been a disservice to Thanos for him not to reach this point, I did not think they would go through with it. This was nearly confirmed for me when Thor buried his axe into Thanos’s chest. Even now, I can still hear the weighted silence of my movie theater when the Mad Titan forced a grimacing smile and said “you should have gone for the head”. The snap that followed jumbled so many emotions within me. I didn’t want the Avengers to lose, no doubt, but Thanos was such a compelling antagonist that watching him fail would have been a disappointing end (I promise, I’m not psycho). Even now, nearly a year later, I still shake my head at the boldness of the Russos to have Thanos wipe out half of all living creatures in the universe with a snap of the fingers.
What moments did you feel were iconic? Let us know in the comments below!