Luke Cage, the latest TV installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just hit Netflix, and it probably hit it really hard because that’s most of what Luke Cage does. And with this new entry into the live-action Marvel world, we’re looking back at the previous 17 movies and shows that make up the MCU.
Before director Zack Snyder arrived to show us that it was possible to tell a story about costumed heroes with ridiculous abilities without including a single joke, the Marvel movies were keeping it relatively light. Sure, some of Marvel’s contributions are funnier than others, but even the gloomiest and bloodiest output from the Disney subsidiary contains at least some levity.
Here are 17 lines from Marvel movies and TV series that made us laugh. Keep in mind that we picked one entry from each film or show because that was the only way to keep us from just doing an entire list of jokes from Guardians of the Galaxy. And honestly, that was a real possibility.
17. Daredevil – Foggy knows how weird this sounds
We mentioned that Marvel likes to keep it a little lighter than its counterparts at DC, but the MCU’s debut Netflix series is almost completely unfunny. That’s unless, of course, you find some amusement in Daredevil‘s weird blood fetish, but we didn’t.
Matt Murdock’s best friend and law partner, Foggy Nelson, provides what little humor the show contains — all of which occurs in the first season, by the way, because Season 2 anti-hero Frank Castle is so tough that he can even kill levity. Foggy eventually discovers that Matt has been dressing like the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride and punching bad guys in hallways, and he’s understandably upset and confused. But he sticks around long enough to hear about how Murdock learned to fight and control his abilities from his also-sightless sensei, Stick. And his reaction is pretty on point.
“A blind, old man taught you the ancient ways of martial arts?” he asks. “Isn’t that the plot to Kung Fu?”
We like any moment that shows that the Marvel Universe doesn’t take itself too seriously, especially in a series in which the opening credit sequence is made of blood. On a more basic level, however, we also enjoy this line because that is literally the plot to Kung Fu.
16. Iron Man 2 – Nick Fury, pastry cop
The second Iron Man movie is the only MCU entry to address the alcohol problem that’s plagued the comic book version of Tony Stark since the landmark 1979 story arc “Demon in a Bottle.” We almost got some more of this in the third film, but the studio asked co-writers Shane Black and Drew Pearce to remove it from the script, presumably as a concession to “mommy bloggers.”
Iron Man 2 has Stark turning to drink as he faces his impending death by palladium poisoning from the toxic battery that powers his suit. After an embarrassing, drunk night at his “last” birthday party, the hero works off his hangover at Randy’s Donuts. But he is Iron Man, so he enjoys his breakfast — in full costume, minus the mask — while sitting inside of the store’s iconic, round sign.
Nick Fury shows up to progress the plot, and he bids the hero to abandon his lofty, delicious-looking perch.
“Sir,” he says, “I’m gonna have to ask you to exit the doughnut.”
15. Captain America: The First Avenger – Steve Rogers is not a good tour guide
Brooklyn-born Steve Rogers returns home to undergo the procedure that turns him into the world’s first — and only successful — super-soldier in his first solo outing. During the ride to the Strategic Scientific Reserve facility full of doctors preparing to inject him with blue goop and bombard him with radiation, the soon-to-be Captain America shares his extensive familiarity of the area with SSR agent Peggy Carter.
“I know this neighborhood,” he says. “I got beat up in that alley. And that parking lot. And behind that diner.”
We kind of hate laughing at this line because Chris Evans doesn’t deliver it for humorous effect, and that backstory is kind of sad. But his history of getting punched in the face and refusing to back down is part of what makes Rogers the perfect candidate for the program, and we can’t feel too sorry for a guy who’s mere moments away from gaining amazing superpowers. So we’re keeping this one low on the list, but we still laughed, because we might be terrible people.
14. Ant-Man – You can’t keep Luis down
Michael Peña’s performance as Scott Lang’s buddy and former cellmate, Luis, steals the show in Ant-Man. And it’s not just because of his hilarious, rambling stories or his surprising knowledge of fine wine; Peña plays the role with an infectious, childlike enthusiasm that’s impossible not to love. And one of his first lines after picking up the newly released Lang from his three-year stint in prison captures this perfectly.
“Hey, how’s your girl, man?” Lang asks.
“Oh, she left me,” Luis replies.
“Yeah, my mom died, too. And my dad got deported,” Luis continues before suddenly beaming. “But I got the van!”
Like the Captain America line, this one is potentially a huge bummer. But Luis is genuinely excited about his crappy set of wheels, and that makes all the difference. It really is too bad about the poor guy losing his girlfriend and both parents, but at least he’s keeping his chin up.
13. The Incredible Hulk – A tragic failure in branding
Director Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk — which we usually forget is part of the MCU thanks to the recasting of its hero starting with The Avengers and its general lack of impact on the other movies — has Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) hiding out in Brazil while he tries to find a cure to his condition. While working in a bottling plant, he runs afoul of a few of his coworkers while they’re harassing another, female one.
This is the moment that every Hulk story builds to: an opportunity for Banner to unleash the catchphrase that the classic TV series created and popularized: “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
The 2003 film has that version (Eric Bana) reciting the line in Spanish before he Hulks out in the middle of a South American jungle. And The Incredible Hulk‘s Brazilian setting demands a Portuguese version, which it gets. Kind of.
It seems Banner is smart enough to both create the Hulk and perform complicated genetic experiments on himself in a tiny apartment with very few resources, but not so much that he gets his linguistics right before he lives and works in another country. So instead of the usual line, what the hero says in his broken Portuguese is, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.”
He realizes his mistake almost immediately — the confused looks on the bad guys’ faces is probably a pretty good tip-off — but we liked this little subversion of expectations. And we were still about 15 minutes away from finally seeing the Big Guy, so the filmmakers had to give us something in the meantime.
12. Thor: The Dark World – Darcy still doesn’t get it
If we’d made the first Thor movie, we probably would have eliminated the role of Darcy (Kat Dennings) and given all of her lines to Jane (Natalie Portman). Also, we would have cast Dennings instead of Portman because she was way more fun. But we have yet to make any Thor films (outside of our garages), so we just have to settle for the comic relief being way more interesting to watch than the female lead/love interest. And at least we have that much going for us.
The Dark World gives Jane a little more to work with, but we still prefer Darcy because she still has all of the best jokes. And our favorite is the most simple. At one point during the climactic — and endlessly confusing — final battle between Thor and the evil Dark Elf, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), the thunder god and his hammer, Mjölnir, get separated because of all the flying around between the Nine Realms and stuff. It’s a head scratcher, for sure. But Thor’s hammer will always come when it’s summoned, even if it takes a while. So we get a bunch of shots of Mjölnir flying around, trying to get back home, while Thor and Malekith punch each other in the face and say overly dramatic things about the Nine Realms or whatever.
Meanwhile, Jane and Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) are running around with their “make things go somewhere else” device that they never properly explained, and suddenly find themselves reunited with Darcy and her intern, Ian. They do that thing where everyone says each other’s names in surprise, and then Mjölnir flies by with uncanny comic timing.
“Mew-mew!” Darcy yells.
It’s a callback to the first movie, in which she has no idea how to pronounce the hammer’s name, and we were glad to see the joke return.
11. Captain America: Civil War – Even superheroes need a pep talk
We didn’t want to leave Scott Lang out of this list, especially since he and Spider-Man are about the only funny characters in Civil War. It’s not really the movie’s fault; all of the principles have serious issues of revenge, loyalty, accountability, and fighting their former friends for maximum drama. During the huge airport showdown between Teams Iron Man and Captain America, Rogers calls for a distraction so that he and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) can make their escape and beat up more important people.
“I got something kinda big,” he says, “but I can’t hold it very long. On my signal, run like hell, and if I tear myself in half, don’t come back for me.”
He’s referring to his Giant-Man suit upgrade that lets him grow to ridiculous size, but his intro isn’t the part that gets us. That comes when he’s actually getting ready to use the maneuver and has to psych himself up.
“I’m the boss,” he mutters to himself. “I’m the boss, I’m the boss!”
It’s easy to lose track of the idea that some superheroes are just regular people with amazing abilities, and this is especially true in the middle of a rumble that includes two guys in high-tech armor, a brainwashed assassin with a metal arm, a kid with spider powers, and an android who draws his power from a rock in his forehead that is the super-condensed form of a singularity that existed before the universe began.
Ant-Man’s call for confidence isn’t just funny — it’s also one of the most grounded, human moments in any MCU movie, and his post-transformation joy-filled giggle was echoed by every fan boy in the theater.
10. Iron Man 3 – we’ve all had coworkers like that
We’ve already mentioned Iron Man 3 and how Marvel/Disney didn’t want Tony Stark to drink too much because kids might see it. But what remained was still decent, thanks to the considerable dialogue skills of co-writers Black and Pearce. The script is clever without being too quippy, and it contains some genuine surprises.
Most of these moments come from Tony Stark’s less-than-heartwarming relationship with a boy he meets (Ty Simpkins from Insidious), but our favorite comes near the end when Iron Man escapes his captivity in a stronghold of terrorist group The Ten Rings. A thrilling action sequence follows, during which Stark takes out his guards and their reinforcements using a combination of guns and the glove and boot of his costume, which show up well before the rest of it does.
With everyone else dispatched, Tony turns his gun on the single remaining thug, who immediately puts his hands up.
“Honestly, I hate working here,” he says. “They are so weird.”
9. Thor – Summoning an epic mount
Thor’s MCU debut features Shakespearean drama, cosmic adventure, and all of the off-kilter camera angles anyone can stand. But it also contains an amusing fish-out-of-water story as the former God of Thunder deals with the loss of his powers and banishment to Earth.
It takes a bit of adjustment, especially when he realizes that his new, mortal form has to eat regularly and stuff. But it isn’t all biological surprises; he also has to deal with some cultural differences like the impoliteness of smashing one’s glass after finishing a drink. You just aren’t supposed to do that, you guys. Thursday’s namesake also runs into some confusion when it comes time to obtain transportation. Being unworthy of Mew-mew, he can’t fly anymore, so he needs something to bear him. Obviously, his first choice is a horse, but the only place he can find with any animals is a shop called Pet Palace.
“I need a horse!” he bellows upon entering, because Thor has not learned humility yet.
“We don’t have horses,” the poor clerk replies, “just dogs, and cats, and birds.”
“Then give me one of those large enough to ride,” Thor says with zero irony.
We aren’t sure which image is funnier: Thor galloping down the street astride a huge puppy with just the softest of paws or the Asgardian taking to the air on a gigantic parakeet. Either way, the viewers win.
8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Oh no, she didn’t
We like Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow the most in Captain America movies. We think it’s because she’s free to just be awesome and play off of Steve Rogers’ clean-cut, Boy Scout demeanor without the possibility of romantic entanglement making things feel all weird and forced. You know, like that time she had a weird, forced romantic entanglement with Bruce Banner in Age of Ultron. Also, she body-shames an infant at the end, and that’s just bizarre.
Agent Romanoff’s great in The Winter Soldier, however, as she and Cap work together to uncover and take down HYDRA, the evil organization that has quietly — and almost completely — taken over S.H.I.E.L.D. after decades of infiltration and subversion. And it’s not just the partnership aspect that we enjoy; the banter is also very real. It starts with her first line, when she drives up to meet Rogers and his new buddy Sam Wilson after they’ve finished a painfully unmatched morning run.
“Hey, fellas,” she says. “Either one of you know where the Smithsonian is? I’m here to pick up a fossil.”
We love Cap Widow so much that we were divided on whether to use Ant-Man’s line from Civil War or her response to Falcon asking her if anyone’s told her she’s paranoid (“Not to my face. Why, did you hear something?”), but we’ll just throw that in as an honorable mention here and ask Marvel if they could possibly find a way to get her and Darcy to meet in Infinity War.
7. Iron Man – Let’s be honest here
The first entry in the MCU was a revelation for a couple reasons. First, because it was better than most people expected, and second, because we never expected mainstream audiences to care that much about Iron Man.
This was thanks to great casting in Robert Downey, Jr. and some crisp, Howard Hawks-style banter that’s smart without feeling forced. And the interaction between Stark and his long-suffering assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the best of this. Our favorite expression of this relationship comes immediately after Stark’s first mission as Iron Man, when he has a little trouble with his suit-removing robots. While Tony struggles in the grip of his mechanical dressers, Pepper walks in behind him. She struggles to understand what her boss is up to until both he and the metal arms realize she’s there, and they all freeze comically.
“Let’s face it,” Stark says, “this is not the worst thing you’ve caught me doing.”
6. Jessica Jones – It’s a real concern
The hero (?) of Netflix’s Marvel’s Jessica Jones likes whiskey even more than she likes justice. But to be fair, she’s usually less a fan of justice than she is closing cases so that her clients will give her more money so that she can restock on whiskey. Jessica Jones, you are basically all of us.
We love her because she knows her limitations but also doesn’t let that stop her from straight-up throwing a guy into a tree if she thinks he needs to spend some time up there. Hers is a special brand of crimefighting that looks a little less like what Daredevil does and more like what would happen if any one of us gained superpowers and also just wanted everyone else to leave us alone. That’s not to say she’s a bad or uncaring person; she’s just been through a lot, and the first season is all about her overcoming her past trauma to do what’s necessary to keep everyone safe. And in this case, that means murdering David Tennant. Hey, we’ve all been there.
Meanwhile, she’s mostly happy keeping to herself and being casually alcoholic, and our favorite line comes in a scene in which she’s joking about her professional future with her best friend, Trish.
“I need to update my résumé,” Jessica says. “Would I put ‘day drinking’ under Experience or Special Skills?”
Can we have another season right now, please?
5. The Avengers – They aren’t actually that close
The mighty Thor gets his second spot on our list with this exchange from The Avengers, which has Earth’s mightiest heroes assembling for the first time to face the threat of an alien invasion via a wormhole that opens in the sky above New York, courtesy of trickster Loki and Thanos, the mad Titan. Or, as the Avengers call it, Tuesday.
The good Asgardian joins the fight to take in his brother and stop his hostile takeover of the planet, and the Avengers discuss what to do with him after his too-easy capture and imprisonment on a SHIELD helicarrier.
“I don’t think we should be focusing on Loki,” Bruce Banner suggests. “That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.”
“Have a care how you speak!” Thor warns. “Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard, and he is my brother!”
“He killed eighty people in two days,” Black Widow points out.
We like the rhythm of this exchange and the speed with which Thor tosses his baby bro under the bus to keep from looking dumb in front of his new superhero buddies. You could say it was … lightning fast.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy – He’s really quite fast
One of the biggest surprises in director James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy is that every member of the team of misfits gets their chances to be bad-ass, emotionally moving, and hilarious, sometimes all in the same scene. That even includes the giant tree who only says five different words the entire movie, four of which are just different conjugations of the verb “to be.”
We were especially pleased to see that Drax the Destroyer (former WWE superstar Dave Bautista), gets his own funny moments on a par with anything the generally comical Rocket Raccoon can dish out. While the comic book version of Drax is a human, Rocket describes the film incarnation as coming from a race of people who “are completely literal,” adding, “metaphors are gonna go over his head.”
“Nothing goes over my head,” the big guy protests. “My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.”
Gamora (Zoe Saldana) gets her own shot in here, saying, “I’m going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy,” but we were laughing too hard the first time we saw Guardians, and we missed that bit.
3. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The prickliest of file notes
The TV series based around the continuing adventures of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division starts with Agent Grant Ward’s induction to the super-secret security level that lets him in on the fact that Phil Coulson, who “died” in the first Avengers movie, was still alive. And part of that clearance involves a thorough review of his mission assessments. And in doing so, Coulson finds a puzzling entry from his fellow agent, Maria Hill.
“Combat: top grades,” Coulson reads. “Espionage? She gave you the highest grade since Romanoff. Under ‘People Skills,’ she drew a … I think it’s a little poop. With knives sticking out of it.”
“What?” Grant asks.
“That’s bad, right?”
After Ward leaves, Maria assures Coulson that what she had drawn was not a “a little poop,” but was actually a porcupine. But considering Ward is a HYDRA agent who ends up betraying and trying to kill his entire team, Coulson’s interpretation was probably a bit more on point.
2. The Avengers: Age of Ultron – Hawkeye keeps it real
We had our problems with Age of Ultron, but Hawkeye was definitely not among them. After an emotional range in previous movies that included brainwashed, slightly grumpy, and nothing else, it was good to see the guy loosen up a little. He gets actual development this time around, including a wife and children, and he’s also gifted the best lines of anyone.
Our favorite comes near the end, during the evil, artificially intelligent Ultron’s attack on the city of Sokovia, which he plans to rocket up into the air and then release to create an extinction-level event, thus “saving” the world from humanity. Or, as the Avengers call it, Sunday.
Hawkeye rescues Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) from death by murderbot, and they take cover in a building. He then asks her, in the most human way possible, if she’s ready to join the fight.
“Are you up for this?” he asks. “Are you? Look, I just need to know because the city is flying. Okay, the city is flying? We’re fighting an army of robots … and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.”
This was one of those fun moments in the middle of an extended and insane action sequence in which characters realize that what’s happening to them is completely baffling. It would be like if, at the end of Man of Steel, Superman had taken a minute and said, “Wow, we’re really killing a lot of people here” and then done something about that instead of just throwing Zod through another building.
1. Agent Carter – She will take you down to Sesame Street
We miss the tragically cancelled Agent Carter terribly. It was a solid series featuring one of the MCU’s most beloved characters, and it ended before its time with a massive cliffhanger that we may never see resolved. So that’s also great. Thanks for that, ABC.
But Agent Carter is great for the story it tells of a capable woman in the ’40s living in an unaccepting environment. And it avoids the trap of having her entire goal be to gain acceptance from her male coworkers; she just does her job as well as she can (which is pretty damned well) and figures that anyone who dismisses her isn’t worth impressing, anyway. But that’s not to say that the men around her don’t try some really idiotic stuff.
During one early scene, one of her fellow SSR agents, Thompson, suggests she stay in the office and work on filing his surveillance reports because “you’re really so much better at that kind of thing.”
“And what kind of thing is that, Agent Thompson?” Carter replies. “The alphabet? I could teach you; let’s start with the words beginning with ‘A.'”
It was hard to pick just one awesome quotation from Agent Carter for this list because the whole show is just full of them. We’re just going to go watch it again and wish there were more of it coming.
Which jokes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe are your favorites? Be sure to let us know in the comments!