Action: it’s the one thing that, even if a movie or its characters are uninteresting, can make a forgettable film an entertaining spectacle. Thankfully, for the majority of the MCU’s run, this universe has been able to do is provide that outstanding mix of good stories, great characters, and compelling action. What the MCU has done so well with its movies is to craft action sequences that matter beyond the fun of the kinetic thrills. And with 21 movies under the MCU umbrella, there are those that stand apart from the pack. For me, the scenes listed below are some of the most definitive facets of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the type of action scenes I’ll never get tired of watching.
This should go without saying but…SPOILERS!!!
The Expressway fight, Captain America: The Winter Soldier:
Encompassing every type of action one could ask for–car crashes, explosions, guns, and some great fight choreography—this scene finishes off the second act of The Winter Soldier. The Russos have mentioned in interviews how they had the bank job shootout from Heat as a barometer for what they wanted to create here and they did a damn fine job making something similarly captivating but with their own Captain America twist to it. Whether it’s the slick gunplay, amazing audio, or one of the best hand-to-hand fight scenes in the last decade, this helped solidify The Winter Soldier’s place among the MCU elite.
The Battle for New York, The Avengers:
Even now, watching this adrenaline-fueled climax to what was, at the time, one of the most anticipated movies in the last 15 years, the Battle for New York is still a sight to behold. Watching our Avengers—outmanned and outgunned—finally coalesce into “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” was one of those seminal moments in my movie-going experience. Whether it was Cap and Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye, Thor and Hulk, every Avenger was given their moment to shine, both as a team or separated from the group. Even with the advances in technology, this has remained in the upper echelon of how to put together an action finale.
The Airport scene, Captain America: Civil War:
There is no way to talk about great action scenes without having this one on the list. Whereas The Avengers’ Battle for New York were our heroes against a CGI army of Chitauri invaders, Civil War—as the name suggests—had our white hats doing battle against one another. The seamless nature of our heroes going from one versus match to the next was special and required a meticulous approach to the landscape as well as providing compelling storytelling through each character’s onscreen moments. Add to that the dialogue thrown in as these (mostly) comrades did their best to win without killing each other…it’s a comic book fan’s dream.
The Battle on Titan, Infinity War:
While the battle in Wakanda was on a grander scale, the personal nature of Tony, Peter, Dr. Strange, and the Guardians taking on Thanos elevates this to the top action scene in the movie. The back-and-forth as the Avengers use magic, technology, and acrobatics to take down the Infinity Gauntlet-wielding Mad Titan was magnificent. The massive stakes combined with each character having a role to play—not to mention the important story beats interspersed in the few instances of non-action—made every blow, every blast, every impact feel as if it could be the last for one of our heroes.
Hulkbuster vs Hulk—Avengers: Age of Ultron:
Unfortunately, much of the action presented in Age of Ultron was a kinetic mess. A heap of CGI thrown around with little story being told. And while this scene was littered with CGI out the ying-yang, watching Tony going against the Hulk using his Hulkbuster armor was a rare treat of fantastic from this movie. While both jarring and incoherent (like most barroom brawls), we’re consistently reminded that these are two men fighting…well, a man and a Hulk. Tony continuously tries reaching Banner while also keeping in mind the innocent civilians who could so easily become collateral damage. There are even bits of levity dropped in, particularly after Tony wrecks the Hulk with a vicious punch. His “I’m sorry” when a pissed-off Hulk spit out a tooth was priceless.
Battle for Asgard, Thor: Ragnarok:
Though the confined and linear space of this particular scene hamstrung what could be done, there’s something to be said for this type of battleground. Similar to the Hot Gates of 300, Thor and the fleeing Asgardians don’t have room to maneuver, especially considering their enemies approach from both sides. Though this may be the least flashy of scenes captured on this list, it’s extremely relevant. Not only does Thor lose, he has to abandon and destroy Asgard lest Hela gain her ultimate power. But even in that, we get a Thor more powerful than we’ve seen, his entry into the fray with Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song” blasting in the background is one of the greatest character reveals in the MCU, with only his arrival inWakanda in Infinity War topping this.
So what are your favorite action scenes in the MCU? Are any on this list? Are there some you think I missed? Whatever the case may be, let me know in the comments section below.