Warning: Potential spoilers for every Marvel movie up to and including Captain America: Civil War
Over the past eight years and thirteen films, Marvel Studios has crafted some truly exhilarating action sequences into their Marvel Cinematic Universe. A superhero movie isn’t truly complete without a kickass fighting scene or a city getting blown to smithereens and the MCU has not disappointed in delivering some epic and unforgettable thrill rides.
With Captain America: Civil War packing one hell of a punch itself, we’ve decided to look back on the 12 greatest action scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just to be clear, this is MCU specific, so no Spider-Man, X-Men or anything like that. Also, it’s movie-specific so, as much as it pains us, we had to exclude some of the meaty action scenes in Daredevil.
12. Thor v Captain America v Iron Man (The Avengers)
Joss Whedon did a great job in showing how The Avengers really didn’t like each other very much. Here you have an out-of-time self-righteous soldier in Captain America, an egotistical billionaire in Iron Man and an insanely pretentious Asgardian with Thor. Of course there’s going to be a clash of personalities. The Hammer meets the Shield in pretty spectacular fashion here and we always loved Tony Stark thinking he could headbutt his way away from Thor’s attentions.
11. Prison Breakout (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Guardians of the Galaxy was much more than a cracking soundtrack set to snappy humour – James Gunn proved that he had Marvel-worthy action chops, orchestrating an operatic 10-minute sequence that really is a riveting centrepiece for the film. Rocket busts the gang out of the interplanetary penitentiary known as the Kyln in thrilling fashion and we also see that Groot could stretch himself bigger. We particularly loved the unassuming prisoner getting a bump on the head when Groot set the alarm off. Classic.
10. Hulk v Abomination (The Incredible Hulk)
The Incredible Hulk is far from the most popular MCU film, partly because of Edward Norton’s messy falling out with studio that eventually led to Mark Ruffalo replacing him as Bruce Banner. However, Norton’s solitary appearance as Hulk was a solid film with some speaker-busting action sequences, particularly this turbo-charged scene pitting the big green Avenger against Tim Roth’s gamma radiation-enhanced antagonist. It was a vicious and savage sequence – and one of the loudest parts of any Marvel movie ever.
9. The Briefcase Scene (Ant-Man)
This is the greatest fight scene you’ll ever see that takes place inside a briefcase. There, we said it. That’s this scene’s USP. We needn’t say more about it.
8. Monaco Fight Scene (Iron Man 2)
Say what you like about Iron Man 2 (yeah, it was a bit of a letdown), it still has some great scenes scattered throughout and this one, on the racing track in Monaco, was are favourite. Why? Because we love Mickey Rourke and although he didn’t deliver the epic villainous performance we were hoping for, this was his finest moment. Iron Man v Whiplash, played out in front of a terrified audience, almost like two Gladiators in Rome.
7. Attack on Nick Fury (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
HYDRA’s assassination attempt on the SHIELD director, led by The Winter Soldier, was such a tightly-directed scene from the Russos that it set up such a relentlessly thrilling film, packed with electrifying action sequences that set the bar very high for the brothers going into Civil War. Buried underneath a pile of cars and metal, escaping thanks to some impressive gadgetry that wouldn’t have been out-of-place in a 007 flick. It was also a highly significant scene in the wider MCU scheme, highlighting the immense threat after the director was ambushed in public in broad daylight.
6. Lagos (Captain America: Civil War)
One year on from the Sokovia disaster, Steve Rogers leads Natasha Romanoff, Sam Wilson and Wanda Maximoff on a deadly mission in Lagos, Nigeria, trying to stop Crossbones from stealing a biological weapon. We get several great Cap spots here but Black Widow really stole the show, her scenes were so immaculately choreographed that it just felt so slick. Of course, the scene ends in tragedy, with Scarlet Witch’s uncontrollable powers leading to the destruction of a nearby building, full of Wakandan humanitarian workers. It was the catalytic event that prompted the post-Lagos inquest into the Avengers acting without supervision – and it did it well.
5. Iron Man v Hulk (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
We always have time for a bit of Hulk-busting and when Tony Stark unleashed ‘Veronica’ in the second act of Ultron, the fanboy inside of us squealed with delight. The Avenger-on-Avenger brawl was a thrilling yet light-hearted piece in the second act, with Iron Man characteristically quipping his way through an intense brawl, countering Hulk’s raw, ferocious animalism. It’s a classic Marvel moment – and our favourite memory from Ultron.
4. Breakout (Iron Man)
The scene that set the bar very high for all future MCU action scenes was Tony’s breathless escape at the beginning of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. After weeks of imprisonment, Tony Stark finally unleashed his brand new armour on his captors, as the character got himself acquainted to having powerful flamethrowers on the end of his arms. It maybe pales slightly compared to the sheer spectacle of a 2016 Marvel action bit, but it was a crucial moment in the formative years that was brilliantly executed by Favreau and RDJ.
3. Highway Fight (The Winter Soldier)
Seeing this on the big screen was almost overpoweringly good. The constant barrage of bullets set a Heat-esque backdrop to proceedings as Cap and Bucky got laid into each other. Sebastian Stan was menacing in this scene, helping ramp up the suspense as the stakes got higher and higher. Also, there’s more kickass Soviet-inspired kung-fu action from Black Widow. Cap on Bucky was just mesmeric though. God, even watching that little YouTube clip makes us want to rush home and watch the film again.
2. Battle of New York (The Avengers)
After two years and five movies, the climactic battle sequence in The Avengers was everything Phase One of the MCU had been leading up to. And it didn’t disappoint. Whedon’s final act was beautifully orchestrated, putting thought and precision into every punch, swing and smash. Then there’s that shot, crunching up all the Avengers into one angst-ridden group, anticipating the imminent destruction of New York. Seeing all of the fighting in unison truly was the apogee of the MCU. Can they top this brilliance in Infinity War?
1. The Airport Scene (Captain America: Civil War)
Yes, we’ve all surely seen Civil War by now and, if you have, you’ll know there can be no arguing with this scene taking the crown. It’s simply the best. It’s the perfect Marvel trademark of funny and thrilling, from Ant-Man’s Finding Nemo reference to Spidey regarding The Empire Strikes Back as a “really old movie” (we’d take a cool Star Wars Easter Egg all day long). The chemistry between Falcon and Bucky here, too, is infectious and we loved Cap taking on Spidey, sharing that Queens/Brooklyn moment. It featured a whole host of superheroes, but never lost track of any of them and it’s this focus and consistency that means we had to place it at the summit. Hats off to the Russo Brothers.
Also: GIANT MAN!!!!
What’s your favourite Marvel Cinematic Universe action scene? Be sure to let us know!