Fight scenes have been a staple in superhero movies since the subgenre began, and throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first 21 films we've seen dozens of fight scenes ranging from one-on-one slugfests to massive battles with the fate of the universe dangling in the balance. But not all fights are created equal. Some made us pump our fists in the air and cheer. Others pulled at our heartstrings. And some left us feeling broken once the villain dealt the final blow.
As we gear up for Avengers: Endgame, which looks to be filled to the brim with climactic battles, it's time to count down the top 10 greatest fights in MCU history.
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10. The Hulk vs. The Hulkbuster (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Yes, Age of Ultron is the weakest installment in the Avengers lineup. And yes, the film's usage of Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner gave fans more than a few reasons to complain. But this fight definitely wasn't one of them.
After an unfortunate encounter with the mind-altering Scarlet Witch, Hulk goes into full berserker mode and wreaks havoc on Johannesburg, prompting Tony to break out his new Hulkbuster armor.
The fight works on a number of levels. After using the Hulk as an instant-win in The Avengers, Joss Whedon pairs him up with someone who can match his raw power. There's plenty of laugh-out-loud moments between Tony throwing an elevator at Hulk and the sucker punch that finally knocks him out, but the film also does a good job of making Hulk look downright terrifying after he spits out a tooth and batters Tony up the side of a skyscraper.
This fight doesn't match the viciousness of the other entries given that Tony is trying to subdue Hulk rather than kill him, but it still makes for a fun brawl.prevnext
9. The Elevator Fight (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
"Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?"
Captain America's fight against Rumlow and the S.T.R.I.K.E. team agents inside the Triskelion elevator clocks in at just under two minutes, but it still manages to be one of the most memorable fights in one of the MCU's most action-packed films. The scene does a great job of building up the tension as Steve realizes what's happening around him, then kicks things into high gear when everyone breaks out magnetic handcuffs and electric weapons. It's so rare to see an action sequence use claustrophobia to elevate a fight, but the Russo Brothers keep the scene memorable by constantly reminding you just how little room Steve has to work with. The choreography is also impressive given that Cap is restrained for almost the entire fight, yet still manages to knock nearly everyone out with just a few kicks and counters.
The shot of Steve surrounded by the unconscious agents kicking his shield back up to his hand is a perfect way to cap it off. If not for the fight's brevity, it'd be much higher on this list.prevnext
8. Iron Man vs. Thor vs. Captain America (The Avengers)
Joss Whedon took the classic "heroes fight at the beginning of a team-up due to a misunderstanding" trope in The Avengers and used it as a perfect opportunity to show the audience how well the MCU's big three stack up against each other.
Can Iron Man stand up to Thor's strength? Can Thor's lighting strikes hurt Iron Man's suit? How does Tony stack up to Thor in hand-to-hand combat? Is Cap's shield stronger than Mjolnir? Instead of just telling us the answers, Whedon shows us through an entertaining fight while also advancing the plot.
The sequence's skillful storytelling, along with a couple memorable one-liners ("Doth Mother know you weareth her drapes?"), makes it very worthy of being on the list.prevnext
7. Hulk vs. Thor (Thor: Ragnarok)
The higher you get up this list, the quicker you'll learn that most of the MCU's best fight tend to be group battles rather than one-on-one matchups. And while Thor: Ragnarok has one of the better group fights in the climactic Bifrost scene, the real standout comes earlier in the movie when Thor is pitted up against Hulk in the Grandmaster's fighting pit.
Much like the rest of the movie, the fight combines brutal violence with excellent comedic timing, first by Thor trying to calm Hulk down via Black Widow's lullaby and then with Loki and the Grandmaster's commentary. There's also an impressive amount of weapons choreography from both fighters before things turn into a hand-to-hand slugfest.
Finally, Thor's lighting punch serves as both an excellent, fist-pumping knockout while also foreshadowing him unlocking his full potential later in the movie. This was a fun one.prevnext
6. The Airport Fight (Captain America: Civil War)
Captain America: Civil War turned out to be about a lot more than just watching The Avengers split up and fight each other, but the Russo Brothers still managed to get a lot of fun out of just that.
The fight between Cap and Tony's respective team's at the Leipzig/Halle Airport clocks in at just under 12 minutes, and features some of the most entertaining action sequences in the entire MCU. Ant-Man reveals his Giant-Man form, Spider-Man takes on Bucky, Falcon, and Cap, we get another hefty helping of Black Panther in action, and Hawkeye even gets a few moments to shine against Iron Man.
If there's any knocks against the scene it's that while it initially appears to be a pivotal point in the movie, it actually amounts to very little. Rhodey surviving his fall from inside the War Machine suit takes away a lot of the drama -- there's really no way he should have -- and Vision's lack of involvement throughout most of the fight comes off as a bit of a head-scratcher.
And yet, this scene is just too much fun to hate. It's all pure fan service, but it's the best kind of fan service.prevnext
5. Captain America vs. The Winter Soldier Street Fight (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Many believe Captain America: The Winter Soldier to be the Russo Brothers' magnum opus, and it's not hard to see why based on how they use Bucky as an unstoppable force of a villain. After chasing down and seemingly murdering Nick Fury, Bucky reappears out of nowhere midway through the movie to attack Cap, Black Widow and Falcon as they try to formulate a plan on how to stop Hydra. After Natasha manages to get in a few good hits in, the fight turns into a one-on-one melee between Bucky and Cap, who doesn't realize until the final moments that he's fighting his not-so-dead best friend.
So much of what makes the fight scene work is how the Winter Soldier is presented. He barely says a word and moves at a slow, methodical pace yet trudges forward like a metal-armed grim reaper. Even the soundtrack helps out, with a low bass drum beat gradually getting louder and faster as the fight goes on. It's also one of the few times we see Cap on the ropes, as he's barely keeping it together while Bucky brings out a plethora of weapons to try and bring him down. The fight is so effective that by the time it's over you're led to believe that Steve probably would've lost had it not been for some help from Falcon and Natasha.
This is without a doubt the best one-on-one fight in the MCU.prevnext
4. Battle of Wakanda (Avengers: Infinity War)
Avengers: Infinity War is full of great fights, but the Children of Thanos' invasion of Wakanda earns a high spot on this list for giving us the biggest all-out battle to date in the MCU.
Each member of The Avengers gets a chance to shine, from Black Panther and Cap leading the charge to Okoye, Scarlet Witch, and Black Widow teaming up to take down Proxima Midnight to Banner stomping around in the Hulkbuster. The whole sequence is brought to a triumphant climax when Rocket, Groot, and a Stormbreaker-wielding Thor appear out of a bolt of lightning and wipe out the Outriders.
The fight is great, but looking back it feels like it was more of a time-filler as the movie waited for Thanos to finally arrive on Earth.prevnext
3. Battle of New York (The Avengers)
Before the MCU arrived, the idea of a cinematic universe bringing dozen of popular characters together seemed impossible. But Joss Whedon pulled it off flawlessly with The Avengers, blending together six of Marvel's most popular characters as they try to take on the MCU's most charismatic villain. And it all comes to a beautifully crafted climax in the Battle of New York.
There's a seemingly endless number of great moments in this sequence. The circular team shot with all six members together, Banner's transformation into the Hulk, "Puny god!", Cap giving orders to the NYPD, Iron Man bringing down a Leviathan, Hawkeye surprising Loki with an exploding arrow, Tony nearly sacrificing his life to send the nuke through the wormhole — it's all great.
Yes, having the Chitauri all collapse once the portal closed was a little weak. And yes, other fights on this list had more emotional stakes. But when you've just pulled off what many people believed was impossible and truly brought a cinematic universe together, the only thing left to do is put on a fireworks show. And what a show it is.prevnext
2. Iron Man vs. Captain America and Bucky (Captain America: Civil War)
After giving fans 12 minutes of non-stop fun with the airport fight, the Russo Brothers pulled the rug out from under us with the tragic climax of Captain America: Civil War.
It's so rare in this subgenre to see a fight that fans genuinely wish wouldn't happen. But once Zemo starts playing the video of Bucky killing Tony's parents, there's no going back. Robert Downey Jr. does a fantastic job displaying all of the pain and confusion on Iron Man's face once he puts it together that Steve was hiding the truth about Bucky, and his sudden burst of rage makes perfect sense given his emotionally flawed character. He doesn't care that Bucky was brainwashed. He doesn't care that Steve was trying to help his friend. Bucky killed his mom, and somebody has to pay.
The fight itself is exquisitely choreographed to play into the emotions of all the characters as Tony is trying to go for the kill shot with every attack he hurls at Bucky while Bucky fights back like a wounded animal by ripping away at the Iron Man suit. As the fight goes on, it looks like Cap is on the verge of losing it as he delivers some of his most devastating attacks, but between his "I can do this all day" line and his choice not to impale Tony with his shield, he shows that unlike Tony, he hasn't lost himself to his rage.
Captain America: Civil War isn't your average superhero movie — it's a tragedy. And if not for the final entry on this list, it'd contain the best fight.prevnext
1. Battle on Titan (Avengers: Infinity War)
For six years fans had been wondering how the MCU would deliver on its promise of having Thanos be the cinematic universe's ultimate villain. And for the first hour and 45 minutes of Avengers: Infinity War, it looked like the Russo Brothers might be able to pull it off. But from the moment he arrives on Titan to the moment he transports to Earth after retrieving the time stone, the movie shows Thanos at his absolute best.
We see his motivation behind gathering the Infinity Stones, we get to understand his thought process behind destroying half of the Universe, we feel his sorrow over having to sacrifice Gamora, and his utter rage that men like Iron Man and Doctor Strange are trying to stop him. And that's all before he starts chucking moons at people.
The fight itself is a ton of fun, as Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Star-Lord, Drax, Spider-Man, Nebula, and Mantis execute a nearly flawless plan to try and subdue Thanos and get the Gauntlet off his hand. And if not for Star-Lord being an emotional wreck, it would've worked. But once Thanos gets free, everyone goes into panic mode. Strange uses some of his most visually stunning spells, Spider-Man desperately tries to keep it together, and Tony throws everything but the kitchen sink at the Mad Titan yet can only manage a drop of blood before being stabbed, ultimately removing him from the fight.0comments
Thanos comes out victorious in the end, leaving fans clinging to hope that the one outcome Doctor Strange saw where the heroes won will come true.
We'll just have to wait for Avengers: Endgame to find out.prev