Of all the characters in the MCU, Hulk is arguably the character audiences have seen change the most. We're not just talking about his transformation from Ed Norton to Mark Ruffalo, but the monster himself has evolved into a person almost unrecognizable from when his story first started 11 years ago.
We've seen Hulk go from a monstrous outcast loathed by society to one of the most integral people on the planet. There have been plenty of twists and turns along the way, but Ruffalo's character is now something new. We've seen brutish Hulk, emotional Hulk and now, in 2019, intellectual Hulk. Here are his best and worst MCU moments throughout his time on screen - and why they are so significant to his journey.
10 Best: Defeating Abomination
The Incredible Hulk spent most of its time showing us just how much everybody HATED Hulk. Here he was, this big violent green thing that was loathed by everybody. He was seen as stupid and dangerous, a beast that would compromise the safety of civilians around the world. The film's conclusion sees that all change, however.
Hulk becomes a hero for the first time, defeating Emil Blonsky (Abomination) in the film's final showdown. Sure, he leaves a huge mess behind, but he is ultimately able to better somebody even more threatening than himself. That makes it a breakthrough moment, with the Hulk winning over the city (even General Ross, who had spent the entirety of the film trying to bring him down). Edward Norton would make way for Mark Ruffalo after just one film, but he was able to portray the first huge moment of the character's journey so far.
9 Worst: Leaving Betty Behind
Sure, we get it. You can't really have a romantic Hulk, and when it came to Betty Ross, he was exactly that. Banner loved her to pieces. He did everything to protect her and prove to her father that he was worthy of her affection, despite their contrasting circumstances. However, to leave her behind after just one film made little sense, given how The Incredible Hulk's whole plot had been all about his desire to be with her.
In the end, it works out well. Hulk is able to become a core member of the Avengers team, and would later save his former loved one (when performing the snap to undo Thanos' villainous decision to wipe out half of all life). Still, at the time, many were surprised by the sudden U-turn right at the end. After all these years, we're still waiting for Betty to reappear. Maybe with Black Widow out of the picture, their story can have another chapter in Phase 4.
8 Best: "I'm Always Angry."
What a line. When Banner --having been adamant that he was going to stay human -- utters the words "I'm always angry" before seamlessly transitioning into his other self, it makes for one of the most cinematic moments of the first Avengers film.
It also shows that Bruce is able to embrace the other side to his personality and use it for good. He had previously been afraid that a transformation would lead to chaos, but he turns it on like the flick of a switch in order to help the Avengers overcome the Chitauri fleet. The moment was the first time we see Banner on board with being a monster, with the scientist previously loathing what he could do. It makes for one heck of a finale.
7 Best: Puny God!
There's a moment in Thor: Ragnarok where Banner looks at Loki with such fear in his eyes, after hearing about his terrorizing of brother Thor as children. Earlier in the movie, the god of mischief shows his own fear, due to the events of the first Avengers film, where he is royally beaten to such an extent that the usually troublesome character goes quiet.
Loki provokes Hulk by calling him a 'dumb creature,' and is halfway through an arrogant monologue when the monster grabs him by his ankle, throws him around and smashes him into the ground. Loki lies on the floor for a few seconds afterward, crippled and unable to muster a response. It is proof that Hulk can compete with those intellectually superior to him while in his Hulk state. It also showed his immense power and became one of the most iconic moments of the entire movie in the aftermath of the film's release.
6 Worst: Turning Against His Team
Though it made for one of Avengers: Age of Ultron's biggest action sequences, Scarlet Witch's manipulation of Hulk leads to one of the worst moments for the character himself. He's powerless to prevent himself from wreaking havoc on New York City and nearly destroying the population within its borders.
Had it not been for Tony Stark and his array of superbots and gadgets, the death toll could have been catastrophic. The moment was a turning point for the character and showed that even somebody as powerful as he could be subjected to subterfuge from forces beyond his control. Our Incredible Hulk suddenly wasn't Incredible. He was a liability, and Banner would later factor the experience into his decision to go off the radar at the conclusion of the film.
5 Best: The Sun's Getting Real Low
Prior to the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, much focus had been placed on making Hulk as formidable as possible. We had seen him pummel Loki into submission, destroy Abomination to save New York City and embrace his inner monster if it means protecting those around him.
We get our first glimpse of the character changing in Ultron, where Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow is able to calm him down. She uses the words "the sun is getting real low," before placing her hands on his oversized ones in a moment where the connection between the two characters is made abundantly clear. The emotion is too much for Banner, who reverts back to his true self. It is the first true indication of the character being able to feel emotions as Hulk - and his capacity to listen to those around him when his alter ego is in control.
4 Best: Fleeing To Save Black Widow
Avengers: Age of Ultron may not be many people's favorite MCU movie, but the film sure does hit the emotional notes more than any other prior to its release. There's the introduction of Hawkeye and his family, the death of Quicksilver, the taming of Hulk and then, in its closing stages, the sucker punch. Just as Banner and Nat seem destined to be together, he takes off and won't be seen again for another two years.
The monster is told to turn the Quinjet around and return to earth, to reunite with the team that has beaten Ultron and his army of robots. He defies them and takes off, to ultimately be warped into a warrior by Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster. The moment made audiences feel saddened at the self-loathing of Banner's character. It was a huge moment for the brute, whose gesture was anything but monstrous, and, in hindsight, would cost him the girl of his dreams.
3 Best: Taking On Fenris
Hulk and Banner both go on a heck of a journey in Thor: Ragnarok. The monster transforms from his green self to his usual self and then back to his incredible self. While Banner's humane side offers some of the film's more comedic moments in its latter stages, it is his monstrous side that allows the Asgardians to escape in one of the movie's gigantic action sequences.
Idris Elba's Heimdall and the Asgardians appear to be facing certain peril as Fenris, pet wolf of Thor's villainous sister Hela, races towards them chomping his jaws. He nearly makes it to them, too, only for Hulk to grab his tail and throw him around. Ultimately, Banner is able to defeat the monster, and Thor and his people are able to do the rest of the job. To his discredit, he nearly blows it all by leaping into the flames emitting from Surtur. Still, nobody's perfect.
2 Worst: Being Battered By Thanos
Up until Avengers: Infinity War, nobody had beaten Hulk in a fist fight. Abomination had come closest, but had been unable to compete with his rival and would ultimately lose having given his all. However, Thanos' blitzing of the Asgardian people leads him into a confrontation with Hulk, who begins by reigning punches down on the mad Titan.
Then comes the twist: Thanos, with just one Infinity Stone in his gauntlet, is not just reliant on the powers of the cosmos. He's a formidable fighter too, and he batters Hulk into oblivion. Ultimately, the beating would prove to be so severe that Banner's alter ego would refuse to come out when confronting Thanos on Wakanda, making it another huge chapter for the character. As when Scarlet Witch influenced his mind, it also gave viewers the impression that their hero was not as strong as you might think.
1 Best: The Snap
Of all the Hulk moments of the MCU, his highlight comes in Avengers: Endgame, when he performs the snap to bring the fallen back to life. Though he is upstaged by Tony Stark - whose own snap eliminates the threat of Thanos, his Children and the Chitauri at the expense of his life - it ranks as his most significant of the series by a country mile.
Despite Thor's determination to perform the dangerous act, Bruce Banner insists it has to be him. The radiation, he explains, is mostly Gamma, therefore he has the capacity to survive. Though it costs him his arm for the final battle (and sees him rely on Paul Rudd's Ant-Man for survival as the Avengers compound comes under siege), Hulk's big moment is what allows the Avengers to level the playing field and ultimately overcome Thanos and his army.