The Marvel franchise has brought more joy to millions of fans around the world than any series since the heyday of the Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings movies.
Over the course of 33 films, enormous star power, staggering earnings and some of the most imaginative and gripping blockbuster cinema in recent years has made the franchise a global institution.
While DC comparatively struggles to cement its place in Hollywood, producing both inspired (Wonder Woman) and woeful (Wonder Woman 1984) movies, Marvel is a model of consistency, turning out huge spectacles time after time.
Ever since Iron Man launched the modern Marvel franchise in 2008, the series has been stuffed with unforgettable scenes and set-pieces. With The Marvels set to open in cinemas in November, now’s the perfect time to take the perfect opportunity to revisit the films.
From epic superhero scraps to emotional payoffs, these are the 12 greatest Marvel moments.
12. Shang-Chi’s bus fight
Marvel’s fight scenes are second to none – how can they not be when nearly everyone has a super power or a technologically advanced superhero suit? Nevertheless, there was something standout about this five-minute action sequence in 2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Bass-heavy music plays in the background as Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) takes on opponent after opponent, each more terrifying looking than the next. Then a man with a massive hot red dagger instead of a hand steps up and the drama well and truly kicks off.
11. Nick Fury's offer
This was the moment that proved Marvel fans should never walk out of the cinema until the very final credits have rolled – Samuel L. Jackson appears in one final scene in 2008’s Iron Man, proving an indication of what was to come in the franchise. “You think you're the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet,” Fury says, hinting at the universe Stark – and the viewer – are about to enter into. It’s one of the shortest but most significant scenes in the series.
10. Thor vs Hulk
Director Taika Waititi brought great energy, humour and vivacity to Thor: Ragnarok (2017), creating one of the most enjoyable Marvel releases to date and proving the age-old theory that a little Jeff Goldblum goes a long, long way. Its most compelling moment came during the arena clash between Thor and the Hulk. "We know each other. He's a friend from work," Thor says, before the pair proceed to smash seven shades out of each other. All you need to know about the movie’s humour, flair and epic scale is contained within the scene. Unmissable stuff.
9. Puny God
The biggest mic-drop moment in the series comes from Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, who silences Loki with incredible style during the Avengers. “You are all of you beneath me. I am a god, you dull creature!” Loki screams, before being picked up and flung to the ground. “Puny god,” Hulk says. Seeing Tom Hiddleston’s villainous character thrown around like a rag doll was one of the most satisfying shots in the movie and one that fans aren’t likely to forget in a hurry.
8. Groot's sacrifice
Marvel might be known for its action and superhero bad-assery, but it knows how to deliver a knockout emotional blow too. The moment Groot selflessly sacrifices himself to shelter his friends in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is one of the most hard-hitting the studio has ever produced. The shot of smouldering ash and burned out twigs in the aftermath of the explosion is one of the most touching in all of the Marvel movies too. Many viewers found themselves welling up over the demise of a CGI tree voiced by Vin Diesel — something surely no other franchise could ever dream of achieving.
7. Killmonger vs T-Challa
This, the main showdown in Black Panther, helped make the film such a success, mixing gripping, claustrophobic combat with emotive performances. The sheer physicality of Michael B Jordan’s Erik Killmonger is pretty staggering, while Chadwick Boseman’s T-Challa hides behind a shield and cannot hope to match him. Forest Whitaker’s sacrifice allows Boseman to eventually survive, take leadership of Wakanda and fulfill his destiny as Black Panther.
6. Elevator escape
While most of the Marvel series is epic in its scale, bringing expansive set piece after expansive set piece to life on screen, one of the best moments actually happened in the most constricted of spaces. This incredible scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) sees Chris Evans's hero take down assailants surrounding him in an elevator. The tension builds as the elevator descends, before Hydra members attempt to capture him to no avail. The tightly-choreographed sequence remains one of Evans’s finest moments.
5. Air Force One rescue
This thrilling sequence from Iron Man 3 is a perfect example of the grand action sequences that Marvel does so well. Iron Man pulls off this incredible mid air rescue operation after 13 passengers are flung out of Air Force One following an explosion. Using his "barrel of monkeys" technique, Robert Downey Jr’s hero plucks them out of the air one by one, forming one of the highlights of the film. The scene showcases not only the filmmaker's vast creativity to conceive such thrilling set pieces, but also the execution to do them justice.
4. Spider-Man: No Way Home, the spider-men get together
In the 2021 released Spider-Man: No Way Home, meme became reality when the three latest Spider-Man actors all joined forces on screen. Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland’s Peter Parkers were brought together after MJ accidentally summoned the earlier Peters using Doctor Strange’s ring. The following scenes were pure joy for Spidey fans: the Spider-Men talk to each other about their different abilities and powers, share stories about monsters they have fought, and even crack each other’s backs.
3. Avengers Assemble
Comic enthusiasts across the world let out a collective, involuntary squeal of joy back in 2012, when some of the most high-profile superheroes of all time came together to fight the Chitauri in Avengers Assemble. Black Widow, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye gather together in one incredible, sweeping shot, leaving an indelible image in fans’ memories forever.
2. Captain America vs Iron Man
The showdown of all showdowns takes place in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Friends become sworn enemies as the group splinters, leaving Captain America, Iron Man and Bucky to slug it out in one of the franchise’s most gripping sequences. Every punch is loaded with pathos and everything is seen with the knowledge of the heroes’ past experiences together, elevating this far above the majority of fight sequences in the series.
1. Airport battle
Fans were bombarded with action in Captain America: Civil War (2016), which brought together a huge group of superheroes more coherently than ever before. Captain America, Winter Soldier, Falcon, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man, Iron Man, War Machine, Black Widow, Black Panther, Vision and Spider-Man all take part in the incredible series of set-pieces, proving that more is more, when done correctly. Team Cap and Team Tony go head to head in the breathtaking sequence, which delivered unforgettable moments, managed to do all characters on screen justice and form the highlight of the franchise to date,