CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR goes wide in the US tomorrow and promises to bring the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe crashing to the ground. It is a benchmark moment in the continuation of a long game that started back in 2008 with IRON MAN.
These are a series of films that are chock full of amazing characters, scenes, and moments.
How about we take a look at the top ten…
10. The Mandarin – IRON MAN THREE (2013)
This one really got the fans all stirred up and I loved it. Marvel, Shane Black (Director), and Drew Pearce (Screenwriter) took a fan favorite (and increasingly problematic racially) villain and turned him on his head. The Caucasian man calling himself “The Mandarin” was no more than a drunk actor playing a part created by evil scientists to cover their explosive mistakes. It was a bold choice and absolutely fit the tone of the movie it was in. Sir Ben Kingsley has never been more fun than he was in this movie.
9. The Quantum Realm – ANT-MAN (2015)
The most recent MCU movie also featured the trippiest scene in the franchise thus far (although I’m sure November’s DOCTOR STRANGE will up the ante in that regard). To save his daughter from Darren Cross, Scott Lang/Ant-Man goes sub-atomic to destroy his super-powered suit. It is an extremely strange moment in an already strange film (they just fought on a Thomas the Tank Engine toy). Scott soars through the various levels of the Quantum Realm and each passing stage is more visually splendid than the last. It’s another moment of Marvel really pushing the boundaries of where they are willing to go in their films.
8. Thor’s Banishment – THOR (2011)
Marvel likes to go for the big, melodramatic moments. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. The sequence where Odin banishes Thor from Asgard is definitely in the category of “really freaking works”. Having newbie Chris Hemsworth go head-to-head with acting virtuoso Anthony Hopkins in the film’s first major emotional beat had to have been a little daunting. However, the scene works like gangbusters. We get two amazing performances from Hemsworth and Hopkins and a great score accompaniment from Patrick Doyle that makes the whole thing sing. No matter what I think of the first THOR… This scene is an all-timer.
7. Loki/Cap – THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)
This beat is just way too much fun. I had originally toyed with including the remarkable Viking Funeral scene that precedes this moment, but this moment is honestly one of the hallmarks of the Thor films. This is the perfect distillation of Thor & Loki’s relationship and Tom Hiddleston shows more shades of his THE AVENGERS’ Loki than his wallowing THOR Loki. We also get a cameo from Chris Evans as Loki magically disguised as Captain America. We knew that we would be getting crossovers in the Avengers films, but this was the first time that these movies had a little connective tissue show in the stand-alone movies.
6. Morag – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
There are so many amazing scenes to choose from in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, but the opening credits sequence on Morag is probably my favorite. After a great prologue where Peter Quill is whisked away from Earth after his mother’s death, this scene set the tone for the rest of the movie. Peter dances through the ruins of an old, alien temple while listening to “Come and Get Your Love.” It’s energetic, hilarious, and perfect. I can’t wait to see how James Gunn reintroduces us to the crew in the sequel. If it’s an eighth as fun as this sequence, we are in for such a treat.
5. The Vision Wields Mjolnir – AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)
This was a huge, crowd-pleasing moment in the film. Whedon perfectly set up that not one of the Avengers but Thor were worthy enough to lift Mjolnir (only Cap came close). In the third act of the film, when The Vision finally makes his debut, there is a sense of ambiguity to the character. Is he good? Is he bad? What exactly is he? All of this is put to rest when he capably picks up the hammer and returns it to it’s owner. The entire audience lost their damn minds and for good reason. The Vision rocks.
4. The Lemurian Star – CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)
In a few short moments, the opening action scene from CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER made the perfect adjustments to the character of Steve Rogers to take him from “Old Reliable” to “The Greatest Ass-Kicker Ever”. The way that he maneuvers around the ship and systematically takes down the thugs is nothing short of awe inspiring. The moment he kicks one stooge so hard that he flies off the deck? That is Cap at his most bad-ass and effective. The whole sequence is perfectly concluded with his fight against Batroc where he puts away his shield and helmet and just dukes it out with his opponent. It’s exciting to see a Marvel movie operating on such a raw, physical level. I can’t wait to see the sequel in a few hours…
3. “I’m always angry.” – THE AVENGERS (2012)
If The Vision picking up Thor’s hammer was a “show stopping moment,” then Bruce Banner transforming into The Hulk under his own volition is a “heart stopper.” This is the king daddy of payoffs. The whole movie had all of the characters wondering how Banner could keep a lid on his giant, green, rage monster alter-ego. Was it yoga? Pilates? Big bag of weed? No, it was Bruce realizing that by embracing the rage that governs him… He can control when he turns into The Incredible Hulk. It’s also the coolest moment in the whole movies and leads straight into the first moment of the Avengers working together as a unified team. That Alan Silvestri score didn’t hurt too much, either.
2. Tony Stark Escapes the Cave – IRON MAN (2008)
The first big moment of the entire MCU. When he is kidnapped by terrorists calling themselves “The Ten Rings,” Tony Stark decides to build an energy source and a giant mech suit rather than build the bomb that they are demanding. It’s a perfect sequence setting up the characters, the tone, the humor, and the pathos that will carry forward through the Marvel Cinematic Universe to this very day. There is also no greater moment than Yinsen telling Stark with his final breath to “not waste his life.” Well, there might be just one better moment…
1. Steve Jumps On the Grenade – CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011)
This is the most perfect moment in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Steve Rogers, a small guy from Brooklyn who only wants to join World War II like his friends, jumps on top of a dummy grenade to save those around him. It is the purest moment of self-sacrifice and character building that Marvel has ever done. He has no idea that it is a test to see what kind of person he is, but this is the moment that literally begins the MCU. This is the moment where these character’s stories actually are born. It’s a small moment, but it’s one that proves that these movies aren’t just built on men putting on iron suits or transforming into green rage monsters. These are stories about people just trying to do the right thing. No matter what.