If you’re one of the brave souls who rewatched all 20-plus Marvel Cinematic Universe movies leading up to Avengers: Endgame, we salute you. But if you’re like us, you’ve spent the last few weeks revisiting your personal favorites several times over, savoring the best moments with beloved characters. From Iron Man to Captain Marvel, we’ve rounded up our favorite bits from across the MCU, from defining character beats and emotionally resonant fight sequences, to laugh-out-loud scenes and unexpectedly brilliant tonal shifts.
The future beyond Endgame is uncertain, but we’ll never forget the moments that brought us here…
“I am Iron Man.” (Iron Man)
My favorite storytelling trope in superhero tales is when the mask comes off—much as I love the Tom Holland Spidey, little surpasses that moment in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 when in halting the subway, Peter’s mask gets ripped off and everyone finds out that it was “just a kid” who saved them. But rather than try to convince the world, and the audience, that Tony Stark could pull off a Clark Kent, the MCU made an audacious opening gambit: Tony outs himself in his first movie, ending on the perfect self-satisfied note and setting up the extra dimension of the Avengers as very public superheroes, both their best and worst moments publicized for the world to follow along with. —Natalie Zutter
“I am looking for qualities beyond the physical.” (Captain America: The First Avenger)
This is the moment when Steve Rogers becomes Captain America. It’s also the moment that this movie, for me at least, earns all of its faux ’40s hokum. Steve thinks the grenade is live, he jumps, and is so dedicated and selfless that no one can laugh at him. Every choice Steve Rogers makes in the rest of the MCU flows from this moment when, with no serum or perfect jawline or magical beard, he becomes the shield. —Leah Schnelbach
“I’m always angry.” (The Avengers)
Poor Bruce Banner spends the entirety of The Avengers being the butt of everyone’s jokes. They’re dying to know how he manages “the Other Guy” (yoga? meditation?) but don’t actually listen when he lays it right out in his first scene: “Avoiding stress isn’t the secret.” Mark Ruffalo’s hand-wringing performance sells this notion of the mild-mannered scientist who can’t control his transformations. But when it comes down to the final battle, Bruce (and Ruffalo) (and Joss Whedon) reveal the unexpected but incredibly relatable truth—that Bruce Banner is as much of a disguise as Clark Kent is for Superman, constantly monitoring his anger so that he can funnel it into the perfect moment. —NZ
“Everybody grab your monkey.” (Iron Man 3)
It’s hard to keep action sequences fresh with the same characters movie to movie, but the Iron Man films were great at upping the ante by constantly upgrading Tony’s tech, and vastly changing the stakes of each narrative. Iron Man 3 particularly excelled at this, using a prehensile suit that Tony could call with a specific set of hand signals and direct remotely. The moment where he lends the suit to Pepper to keep her safe when his mansion is being blown to bits is high on the list (because Pepper is a boss in the suit and handles it like a pro), but the barrel o’ monkeys sequence where Tony saves the falling staff of Air Force One tops it for themes of cooperation and individual care, which so many superhero narratives often overlook. —Emily Asher-Perrin
“You should take another lap. Did you just take it? I assume you just took it.” (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
The meet cute between Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson is some of the best flirting we get in the MCU, and that’s without acknowledging that Steve would have had to take a pretty circuitous route to keep “on your left”ing Sam on the National Mall. It’s special to see Cap so instantly at ease with someone because that’s not really a strength of his. And since Winter Soldier focuses so carefully on who Steve chooses to trust and why, the quick bond he builds with Sam tells us a lot about both characters right from their first chat. It’s also extra funny to listen to Steve tout the benefits of the future, including the fact that “food is better—we used to boil everything.” —EAP
“He’s my friend.” “So was I.” (Captain America: Civil War)
The expectation of a Civil War plotline (as it had already been a major comics event several years previous) had been high on many fans’ lists years before CACW was released. Without secret identities, the ideological difficulties in this film came down to Avenger government oversight in the form of the Sokovia Accords. But in the end, this fight had to be deeply personal. And Civil War created that moment by making the final fight not about the Accords, but about what Steve Rogers had kept from his friend, Tony Stark. The break is so profound that it took the impending threat of Thanos to make these two even consider speaking to each other again. It still hurts. —EAP
“You care so much, don’t you?” (Doctor Strange)
My biggest critique of Doctor Strange was that it was a little too similar to the first Iron Man, but one scene that felt a bit more unique (if horrific) was the moment Strange allows himself to be genuinely monstrous to Christine Palmer. It’s not a fun moment, but it’s a realistically, coldly adult one. It raises the stakes by showing us how awful Strange can be, and actually gives the character a solid nadir to work from on his arc of redemption. —LS
“Get up, Spider-Man.” (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
I’ve written about the MCU’s fondness for dropping buildings on people, and many people have written about how this moment riffs on the all-time classic cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #33. But maybe nowhere else was this moment done as powerfully as when 15-year-old Peter Parker has to talk himself back to life. A real adult, his supervillain, has left him to die, and no one is coming to save him. He has to become a hero to himself before he can be the hero New York needs. —LS
Loki as Odin (Thor: Ragnarok)
Even by the end of Thor: The Dark World, Loki faking his death was starting to get old. Loki reappearing as Odin was an interesting button on that movie but mostly had me eager to see the trickster god back in his element. Well, turns out that that’s by impersonating his father for however much time passes between the second and third Thor films, complete with a garish tribute statue and a truly delightful play (starring Matt Damon! and Luke Hemsworth! and Sam Neill!) that is an exercise in tongue-in-cheek restraint. But the cherry on top of this Asgardian sundae is Anthony Hopkins’ line delivery of “oh shit” the moment he’s made. It kills, every time. —NZ
“I’m here.” (Thor: Ragnarok)
Thor and Loki have been through a lot in these films, from family deaths to hidden extra siblings to a secret Frost Giant heritage that Odin loved to helpfully gloss over. But the Thor films were excellent at prioritizing their growth and their love for each other, even when they were full of antagonism. Ragnarok saw Thor finally figuring out how to outsmart the God of Mischief and reach him, leaving Loki with little else to do than come to his brother’s aid when Asgard needed them most. At the end, Thor assumes that Loki has gone his own way, saying that he’d give his brother a hug if he’d truly shown up (he figures this is just another one of Loki’s projections). But when he chucks a bottle stopper at Loki’s head, it’s caught, proving that this is no mirage… and then we never get to see that hug because Taika Waititi thinks it’s funny to torture me, personally. —EAP
The wig-throwing fight (Black Panther)
This fight scene was one of the first details of Black Panther to leak out from early conventions, and automatically we knew what Ryan Coogler’s handle on the material would be: badass and funny in the same beat, the kind of movie that has you cheering and gasping in the same breath. No doubt Okoye will bring the same level of ingenuity to Endgame. —NZ
M’Baku and his guards bark (Black Panther)
You have Queen Ramonda, Princess Shuri, and super-spy Nakia, all asking their recently vanquished kinda-sorta enemy for help. Their kinda-sorta enemy who is the ruler of his own land. So why exactly does Everett Ross, who does not know these people or their backstory or their very complex relationship, take it upon himself to try to explain a situation he doesn’t truly understand himself? M’Baku barks at him until he takes the hint, and Ross hopefully learns that sometimes it’s better to stand back and listen than to crash into every situation assuming that you know best. In short: Thank you for helping but now hush, Everett Ross. —LS
“I have nothing to prove to you.” (Captain Marvel)
Those words, spoken by Carol Danvers to a supremely smarmy Jude Law, are the words that women the world over wish they had the opportunity to express to all the authoritative men in their lives. Yon-Rogg has spent a whole movie tearing Carol down, purporting that she’s too emotional to be effective as a fighter or as a person. But Carol isn’t emotional—this is just a tactic Yon-Rogg has been using to keep her unsure of her own potential. At the end, Carol finally understands this, and learns that she has more power than she ever could have dreamed at her fingertips… and that all it took to unlock that power was believing in herself and not giving a damn what the Yon-Roggs of the universe had to say. —EAP
Honorable Mention: Mjolnir Moments
In adapting decades of comic book source material, it would be easy to uphold the sanctity of various superheroes’ mythical weapons one hundred percent of the time. But part of what makes the MCU work is that it’s not afraid to poke fun at its own mythology from time to time. Thor’s hammer Mjolnir is one of the franchise’s MVPs, the star of more than one quotable scene: The Avengers tipsily competing over who is “worthy” enough to lift it! “Mew-mew”! Tiny Mjolnir getting its own drawer bed in Thor’s new digs! All of this, of course, made it so heartbreaking when Hela made an example out of our beloved hammer. We were the ones who were not worthy of the time we got with Mjolnir.
Honorable Mention: Unforgettable Sequences
More than once we found ourselves laughing over, then rewatching, then going down a YouTube hole, of our favorite extended sequences in various Marvel films—especially those which managed to sum up the movie’s motif, or signify a larger shift in tone for the MCU, in just a few minutes. The infectious fun of Peter Quill playing Indiana Jones to “Come and Get Your Love.” The big queer energy of the Bifrost battle to “Immigrant Song.” Peter Parker’s video diary! Sure, the Avengers movies have that one big GIF-able set piece fight, but these music numbers and delightful intros are the ones that stick with us.
What are your favorite MCU moments?