For all their miraculous feats, astonishing tales of empowerment, and wondrous displays of strength, superheroes and supervillains still somehow manage to make us roll our eyes and sigh at their stupidity every now and then. Deep down, below their chiseled physiques, sky-high IQs and master dexterity, the truth is all comic book characters are actually human (in a sense). It explains why they’re always so preoccupied with either saving or conquering the human race. It’s a rare moment that these characters do something so wildly dumb that we’re forced to cringe while watching, but it happens. So far, the MCU has done it’s best to avoid making too many obvious mistakes, but when it comes to messing up in epic fashion, no one is impervious to a little criticism.
We’ve taken all the films from the MCU thus far and gathered just a few moments which stand out as particularly head-scratching. While not all of these scenes were perceived as terribly awful by everyone, there’s little denying that they could have used some more thought from the writers. So without further ado, we present the 15 Most Cringe-Inducing Moments in the MCU. See if you can make it through the list without wincing.
15. End of the World Dance-Off – Guardians of the Galaxy
In 2014, the MCU expanded its universe with its most off-kilter group of heroes yet. Led by half-human, half-alien Peter Quill, the Guardians of the Galaxy became the unlikeliest of saviors, showcasing their irreverent sense of humor and kicking some serious ass alongside some of the dreamiest pop rock ballads this side of Xandar. Visually splendid and full of heart, it was a rare blockbuster in which all the pieces fell into place; however, it was the film’s final climactic scene which left some viewers hoping for a more dramatic outcome.
After Ronan the Accuser steals the Orb from the Guardians, he uses the Infinity Stone as a source of power by embedding it into his warhammer. He then boards his flagship, the Dark Aster, and heads to Xandar to destroy the Nova Corps. In hot pursuit, the Guardians manage to penetrate the Aster, sending it hurdling to the planet below. In the final confrontation with the villain, Ronan tells the citizens of Xandar about his plans just as Star-Lord begins singing The Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child.” The performance distracts Ronan, which is enough to emphasize just how flawed of a villain he really was.
14. Supercomputer Nazi – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
As MCU’s origin stories go, Steve Rogers’ is one of the most bizarre. A man out of time, he served in World War II as a supersoldier after being recruited by the Strategic Scientific Reserve under Dr. Abraham Erskine. A few painful serum injections later, he goes from the good-willed skinny Brooklynite who was the butt of everyone’s jokes to the ripped Star-Spangled Avenger of the Allies, thwarting the plans of the Hydra leader Red Skull.
Flash forward several decades and the Cap is now a hero settling into the modern world. Despite being years removed from the war, he still can’t escape it. His best friend Bucky Barnes has resurfaced as the mysterious Winter Soldier and Hydra has secretly infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. In a moment of revelation, the Cap and Black Widow track down a set of clues to a remote bunker in New Jersey, where they discover a supercomputer containing the consciousness of Red Skull’s former protege Arnim Zola. The moment of sci-fi absurdity meshes poorly with the rest of the film’s political conspiracy story, distracting the viewers from one of the MCU’s more sensible movie plots.
13. Kaecilius Loses to the Cloak of Levitation – Doctor Strange
A selfish neurosurgeon turned Sorcerer Supreme, Stephen Strange rivaled the MCU’s most egotistical persona Tony Stark in last year’s Doctor Strange. Travelling to the Himalayas following a disastrous car crash, he discovered the hidden land of Kamar-Taj, where he trained under the Ancient One and unlocked his third eye, revealing the astral plane and other dimensions such as the Mirror Dimension. But despite his best pop culture puns and visual tricks, Strange’s thunder was stolen by the Cloak of Levitation, his very own CG-rendered piece of fabric with a mind of its own.
In one of the film’s more confrontational scenes, Strange comes face to face with the movie’s antagonist Kaecilius, a former deciple of the Ancient One intent on unleashing the Dark Dimension onto Earth. Facing his foe in the New York Sanctum, Strange is guided by the Cloak to pick up the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, which take ahold of the villain and lock him in an awkward, back-arching position. While the moment offers laughs as Strange tries to reject the Cloak’s suggestions, it’s a less than stellar moment for the supposedly powerful Kaecilius, who is outsmarted by a levitating article of clothing.
12. “Son, Just Don’t” – The Avengers
As the straight-laced, justice-for-all member of the Avengers, Captain America is responsible for more than a couple of moments on our list. It’s not his fault. His character comes from a time where heroes were people putting their lives on the line in the field of combat. He’s a true patriot, but his out of date way of thinking can often make him feel like the old man of the group.
After imprisoning Loki in the first Avengers film, the superhero group argues about how to deal with him. As they continue to fight, a brain-washed Hawkeye infiltrates the S.H.I.E.L.D. Hellicarrier, causing Bruce Banner to Hulk out. As panic ensues, Agent Phil Coulson is fatally wounded by Loki, resulting in Nick Fury motivating everyone to fight back. As Captain America boards a S.H.I.E.L.D. jet to New York, a young pilot refuses him entry. Before the pilot can finish his sentence, Rogers interjects, calling him son and showing signs of his old age. It’s a serious moment for the hero, but it plays off as ridiculous, since Cap doesn’t appear more than ten years his senior.
11. Toilet Flush Death – Ant-Man
For all the glee and wonderment superhero movies can provide, sometimes the death scenes can appear lackluster by comparison. In Ant-Man, Hank Pym’s former protege Darren Cross became obsessed with learning the secret to his mentor’s micro-suit. His obsession eventually leads to him replicating Pym’s formula, creating the Yellowjacket suit in the process. During a presentation in which he reveals the new tech to the company, a senior executive named Frank questions the risks of the suit. In retaliation, Cross confronts the dubious employee in the bathroom, zapping him with an experimental gun charged with unstable Pym Particles, causing the man in question to turn into a tiny organic mass of gloop on the floor. Cross then proceeds to wipe him up and flush him down the toilet.
Stories from the scene say that strawberry jam was used to create the organic substance that Frank is eventually vaporized into, with one outtake even showing actor Corey Stoll eating the poor guy. Still, as unglamourous as cannibalism is, no death really beats being flushed down the toilet. The scene left us feeling bad for Frank and rolling our eyes at how ludicrous the whole idea was to begin with.
10. Steve and Natasha Visit the Apple Store – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Product placement is everywhere in Hollywood. Nowadays, it’s impossible to escape, but it’s a necessary evil to keep funding big budget action pictures. That means until there’s another way around it, we’re stuck watching Tony Stark driving around in Audi convertibles and Scott Lang selling Mango Fruit Blasts at Baskin-Robbins.
One such moment of obvious product placement happens in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. After receiving a flash drive from Nick Fury containing encrypted data about Hydra, Rogers meets up with Black Widow to find out where the Winter Soldier is hiding, but rather than going to an undisclosed location, the duo travel to a nearby Apple store to borrow one of their computers.
Apart from the rather humorous exchange between the Apple employee and Rogers, in which the man fails to recognize the lazily disguised superhero couple, the scene doesn’t fit. After Rogers believes that Nick Fury has given up his life to protect the contents of the flash drive, he easily agrees to use a public computer to find out what’s going on. It’s among the most careless mistakes either hero could’ve made, and it was all for the sake of persuading viewers to buy more MacBooks.
9. Thor’s Cave Vision – Avengers: Age of Ultron
The MCU isn’t shy about hinting at future story arcs in their movies, but sometimes, writers can go so out of their way to set up a sequel that they’ll lose sight of the story at hand. That’s what seemed to have happened behind the scenes during production of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
In an egregious example of future story-building, Thor flies off to meet Erik Selvig after experiencing a haunting vision from Scarlet Witch. The two travel to a cave, where Thor immerses himself in a pool of water, sparking another vision in which Heimdall proclaims that Thor will destroy Asgard. Images of the Infinity Stones flash before his eyes, and he returns to the Avengers with all the answers.
As a whole, the scene doesn’t mesh with the Ultron storyline, but the biggest mess-up is that much of the exposition leading up to the sequence never made it to the film’s final cut. A deleted scene explains that the cave originated from the Norns and that the Norse characters were speaking through the Asgardian, giving him the visions. Of course, it didn’t come across clearly in the movie, leaving us wishing the whole scene would’ve been scraped.
8. Captain America’s USO Show – Captain America: The First Avenger
Compare the costume of Captain America to the shining, high-tech allure of Tony Stark’s best Iron Man suits and it looks like a piece of propaganda that’s aged poorly over the years. Oddly enough, the writers realized just how out of place such a costume would appear in the greater context of the MCU, so what did they do? They took America’s most patriotic hero, put him in a poorly designed version of the suit, and shipped him off to join the USO as a morale boost for the troops across the nation.
After emerging as a supersoldier, Rogers’ fate takes an unexpected turn. A Hydra assassin by the name of Heinz Kruger kills Dr. Erskine, resulting in the loss of his serum. Bystanders witness Rogers heroic efforts to capture Kruger, and he soon becomes a sensation across the country. U.S. Senator Brandt takes notice, and gives him the job of touring to entertain the troops and promote the purchase of war bonds. While the confetti-filled display was far from what the hero had in mind, the event distracted moviegoers from the seriousness of the star-spangled hero, even if it made him more laughable overall.
7. Obadiah Stane Leaves Incriminating Evidence on His Computer – Iron Man
No matter who you are, it’s a written rule in superhero movies that if you become a supervillain, you’re going to be served a cold slice of justice. Still, no bad guy goes into an intricate doomsday plot looking to be caught. Every plan begins with careful consideration, weighing the pros and cons before bringing the world to its knees. But in this particular case, Iron Man’s foe Obadiah Stane should have spent some time brushing up on the fundamentals of being a supervillain.
Plotting to replace Tony as CEO of Stark Industries, Obadiah arranges for his capture by the Ten Rings while in Afghanistan. When the billionaire playboy returns with a secret superhero identity, Obadiah recovers the remains of the Mark I suit in order to build his own enhanced version. Things turn south, however, when Tony sends Pepper Potts to Stane’s office to investigate. Hacking into his computer, she easily uncovers incriminating evidence implicating him in every crime he’s committed, including Tony’s kidnapping. Considering the computer’s location in Stane’s corporate office, one would think he could have at least moved it to a more secure location, but alas, that would make things too hard for the good guys.
6. “I Want My Bird” – Iron Man 2
The story of Mickey Rourke’s involvement in Iron Man 2 is a strange one. Apart from the character of Ivan Vanko being some weird amalgamation of Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo, the tattooed Russian was a villain with little motivation. It’s no secret that Rourke hated the experience on set. He reportedly disagreed with director Jon Favreau, who he accused of not having the gall to make changes to the character. In the end, some changes did make it to the final cut, and one of them was especially head-scratching.
As a foible to the character, Whiplash is shown in the film with his pet cockatoo. When he goes on a rampage, attacking Tony at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, he’s imprisoned and loses his companion. After Justin Hammer breaks him out of prison, Vanko requests that Hammer retrieve his pet. While Rourke claimed the bird connection was supposed to show a more sensitive side to the character, the bad guy was never developed enough to suggest that the bird had any real significance. So instead, viewers were treated to a bizarre, rather humorous scene in which Vanko exclaims “I vant my burd” under a thick, poorly executed Russian accent.
5. Hawkeye’s a Family Man – Avengers: Age of Ultron
Despite its chronic overload and fast pace, Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t so much a bad movie as it was a severely flawed one. In fact, with all the superhumans, androids and billionaire weapons experts running around, a gifted marksman somehow felt more inviting. When reviews for the second Avengers flick came trickling in, many readers were surprised to learn that Hawkeye was being pointed out among the more notable personas of the big budget picture. In the end, he proved to be a highlight, bringing a human feel to a film that could easily feel bogged down at times with all its big scale effects and out-of-place subplots.
With all his little moments of wisdom in the film, Hawkeye is given one big shining section of the story which seems completely unnecessary. Following a response from fans that the character was largely ignored in the first movie, Joss Whedon went overboard and gave the character a whole backstory, spending a lengthy amount of time introducing his family to the Avengers when the group decides to lie low for a while. While it added a homey feeling to the Avenger, it did little to add interest or propel the story forward.
4. Naked Selvig – Thor: The Dark World
If Hollywood comedies have proven anything, it’s that full frontal male nudity is timeless. Like a joke about flatulence, it will never lose its appeal, but it has to be done right and properly respected by all for it to work.
As a character rooted in Norse mythology, Thor was always kind of stretch to include into the Marvel cinematic fold. Unlike his fellow Avengers, he existed long before Marvel Comics, and was never really the invention of Stan Lee. Because of his otherworldly origins, it was important to address his god-like powers with an element of humor, but in Thor: The Dark World, the writing went a step too far.
After succumbing to the mind tricks of Loki in The Avengers, astrophysicist Erik Selvig reappears in the second Thor film as a mentally deranged version of his former self. Spouting claims that the world will end with the Convergence of the Nine Realms of Yggdrasil, he’s arrested for running around Stonehenge in the nude, while his genitalia is blurred out by local news stations. The scene does little to make Selvig a more credible side character, and it remains a controversial punchline that makes light of mental health issues.
3. Iron Man vs War Machine – Iron Man 2
In the comics, it’s well known that Tony Stark has had some serious bouts with alcoholism, but the subject has been continually tiptoed around in the MCU. In the franchise’s second movie, Tony’s darker side is made a mockery out of when he dons one of his suits during a birthday party. Concerned about the high amount of palladium poisoning in his body, the billionaire drinks away his worries, shooting repulsor blasts and endangering the lives of his guests. When James Rhodes catches sight of the damage, he retrieves the Mark II armor and throws down the gauntlet.
The fight scene in question loses credibility instantly due to its overall lack of seriousness, appearing more as a scuffle between two besties than a real brawl. To add to the debauchery, Tony insists that the DJ stay for the spectacle as he plays a few “phat beats” for the two to square off to, including hits like “Another One Bites the Dust” and “It Takes Two.” It’s an infuriating scene that not only makes light of some of Tony’s more human elements, but also serves as Rhodey’s official debut as War Machine, showing a lack of commitment to truly developing the character’s story.
2. Bruce Faceplants into Natasha’s Cleavage – Avengers: Age of Ultron
If anyone has proven they’re capable of crafting strong-willed heroines who can beat your ass, it’s Joss Whedon. The man responsible for Buffy the Vampire Slayer has created female characters who have passed the Bechdel test with flying colors while defeating some of the biggest baddies film and television have to offer. With news now out that the director will direct a solo Batgirl movie, it appears that this trend will only continue, but even the best talents can sometimes find themselves giving into gender stereotypes.
Read any reviews for Age of Ultron and you’ll find complaints about the Hulk-Black Widow romance. Apart from the fact that Johansson’s character had previously flirted with both Hawkeye and Captain America, her attraction to Banner seemed to have come from nowhere. During a party at Avengers Tower, the two talk flirtatiously until Ultron ruins the evening. As the two duck behind the bar to avoid the crossfire, Bruce lands face first into Natasha’s chest, apologizing for his awkward landing. The moment objectifies Black Widow as little more than a sex symbol and does little to convince fans that the heroine should be viewed as an equal player among her male colleagues.
1. The Mandarin Reveal – Iron Man 3
There’s a lot of things comic fans can forgive, but mess with a major character’s entire story arc and you’re asking for trouble. When news broke that Iron Man’s biggest nemesis The Mandarin would make an appearance in Iron Man 3, it was a sigh of relief from the fans. The character was an obvious choice for the first two films, however, his origins and connection to the ten power rings of Axonn-Karr felt like too convoluted of a plot for the MCU. Reworking the character as the leader of a terrorist organization seemed like a reasonable compromise. The plot twist that followed, however, was another story entirely.
Upon visiting The Mandarin’s lair, Tony stumbles onto Trevor Slattery, a washed-up British actor paid by the mad business man Aldrich Killian to act out the persona. Slattery willingly accepts the job to feed his drug addiction and get on the good side of Killian, who has been covering up his involvement with the explosive Extremis virus. The MCU would receive its fair share of backlash for the move, which they later retconned in the Marvel One-Shot “All Hail the King,” but by then, the damage had already been done.