Ever since the release of X-Men nearly two decades ago kicked off the world's love for superhero films, Marvel has dominated the box office. Eighteen movies based on Marvel Comics' most iconic characters are in the Top 100 All-Time Worldwide Box Office Grosses, and with highly-anticipated films like Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix coming out later this year, that number is likely going to increase very soon.
Comic book lovers initially flocked to theaters simply to see their favorite heroes and villains face off on the big screen, but Marvel's ever-growing film fanbase and the continued success of the superhero genre is largely thanks to the fantastic writing involved in most of Marvel's top cinematic entries. Some Marvel movies have done well because they did a great job of staying true to the source material that inspired them and felt like a comic book come to life, while others actually excelled because they added some unique and unexpected twists that kept even the most comic-savvy readers on their toes and unsure of what exciting developments could happen next.
While some Marvel twists come to mind as being far more game-changing than others, nearly every Marvel movie includes some sort of unexpected turn to avoid predictability. A few of these alarming plot devices hurt their films for being too far-fetched or ridiculous, but most of Marvel's biggest and most memorable twists succeeded in helping their films. Here are 10 Wild Twists That Hurt Marvel Movies (And 10 That Actually Made Them Better).
20 HURT MARVEL: THE MANDARIN IS AN ACTOR
The most memorable twist in Marvel Cinematic Universe history thus far was definitely the reveal in Iron Man 3 that the Mandarin was actually just derelict actor Trevor Slattery, because it was also the franchise's worst twist.
The film initially set up the Mandarin to be one of Tony Stark's most formidable enemies, as he openly spread fear throughout the entire country. When Tony challenged him, the Mandarin answered by sending his minions to attack the Avenger at his own home, destroying the billionaire's mansion and nearly ending his life. When Tony mustered up enough strength and technology to fight back, he discovered that the Mandarin was just a diversion tactic created by the real antagonist, Aldrich Killian.
Since the Mandarin is a real villain in the comics, and an incredibly powerful one at that, fans understandably couldn't get behind this disappointing development.
19 MADE MARVEL BETTER: X-MEN 3 WAS UNDONE
Comic book fans have had mixed reactions towards nearly all of Fox's X-Men entries, with some viewers praising the films' fun action sequences and performances from stars like Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman, and others criticizing the writing and a few changes the films made from the source material. That being said, the response towards the third entry in the original trilogy, X-Men 3, has been overwhelmingly negative.
Fans didn't like the film's treatment of the Dark Phoenix, criticized its take on the mutant cure, and couldn't get over Vinnie Jones' over-the-top portrayal of the Juggernaut. So when X-Men: Days of Future Past ended with a reveal that all of the time-traveling changed Wolverine's future and resulted in the events of X-Men 3 being completely undone, audiences were actually relieved.
18 HURT MARVEL: DEADPOOL STOLE EVERYONE'S POWERS
Another X-film that failed to satisfy nearly any fans was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, because while it did a good job explaining Wolverine and Sabretooth's unique connection and featured Taylor Kitsch's excellent portrayal of Gambit, it was also filled with weak writing and completely wasted Ryan Reynold's flawless take on Deadpool.
Origins reduced Deadpool to a minor character at the beginning of the film, and then brought him back in the finale as a villain that didn't resemble the Merc with a Mouth at all. He apparently was given all of the powers of the film's fallen mutants to become a ridiculously over-powered super-mutant, something that never happened in the comics. Worst of all, his mouth was glued shut, taking away Deadpool's ability to make viewers laugh. Luckily, Deadpool ret-conned all of this and Reynolds has gotten to do the character justice.
17 MADE MARVEL BETTER: RED SKULL IS STILL ALIVE
When the Red Skull held onto the Tesseract at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger and disappeared in a beam of blue light, most viewers assumed they'd seen the last of Steve Roger's most iconic adversary. Some fans speculated that the Red Skull might still be alive when it was revealed that the Space Stone was hidden inside of the Tesseract, but no one was expecting to find Johann Schmidt on Vormir, acting as the guardian of the Soul Stone.
This major twist made Avengers: Infinity War even better. The Red Skull spent his life on Earth in pursuit of power, but when he finally obtained it, the notorious HYDRA leader was sent to another planet and cursed with having to watch over another Infinity Stone as its unwilling protector.
16 HURT MARVEL: MYSTIQUE'S CONNECTION TO XAVIER
When Fox launched their First Class series of X-Men films set several decades before the events of the original trilogy, the studio was given the chance to explore the origin stories of some well-known, popular characters. These new films have given us new information about beloved mutants like Professor X, Beast and Magneto, but the changes to Mystique's origin have been both alarming and disappointing.
Rebecca Romijn's take on the shape-shifting villain was praised because she was powerful, manipulative and dangerous, just as Mystique always has been in the comics. Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique, however, was apparently close friends with Xavier and a member of his first batch of X-Men. It seemed like Lawrence's Raven was finally heading down an evil path in Days of Future Past, but she's now back with the good guys and void of any characteristics comic fans expect of Mystique.
15 MADE MARVEL BETTER: HYDRA INFILTRATED S.H.I.E.L.D.
One of the best twists to ever take place in the MCU was the big reveal in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that HYDRA has been infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. since the organization's inception. When S.H.I.E.L.D. foolishly took in the Red Skull's top scientist Armin Zola, he secretly started recruiting HYDRA agents to corrupt S.H.I.E.L.D. from the inside. HYDRA leader Alexander Pierce managed to climb to the top of his rival organization and used its resources to launch Project Insight, a program which nearly gave HYDRA absolute control over the world.
The film was filled with nonstop excitement, as the Star-Spangled Avenger was forced to fight off an organization he once trusted and people he used to work with, all while battling his brain-washed former best friend. The twist then carried into Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show, strengthening its connection to the MCU.
14 HURT MARVEL: STAR-LORD IS EGO'S SON
When Star-Lord managed to hold onto an Infinity Stone at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy without instantly evaporating from its unparalleled power, it became clear that he wasn't fully human. Fans scoured Marvel's comics to figure out who his father might be, but Marvel Studios provided viewers with a twist that no one could have expected—Peter Quill was actually Ego the Living Planet's son.
While Kurt Russell was a welcome addition to the MCU and did a solid job bringing a classic character to life, comic fans couldn't get over the idea of a human personification of Ego or the dramatic change to Star-Lord's origin story. The twist didn't really add anything significant to the franchise and seems like it was created just to alarm fans. Peter no longer has his god-like gifts, so his once seemingly-important family drama didn't really affect the MCU in any significant or lasting way.
13 MADE MARVEL BETTER: LOKI'S ODIN DISGUISE
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a tendency to eliminate villains before viewers can really get to know them or witness any sort of character development. Tom Hiddleston's Loki is one of the few exceptions to that, as we've gotten to see him grow from being Thor's jealous brother to Earth's near-conqueror to a fairly well-intentioned (yet still occasionally selfish) antihero.
When Malekith and his army ended Frigga's life, Loki put aside his feelings towards the rest of Asgard and swore revenge on the Dark Elves. Fans were distraught when he sacrificed his own life to help Thor take down Malekith, but we discovered at the end of Thor: The Dark World that he survived and managed to claim the throne of Asgard by impersonating Odin. It made an otherwise weak film significantly better and had audiences actually cheering for a villain for a change.
12 HURT MARVEL: VENOM'S ALTERED ORIGIN STORY
Ever since 2007's Spider-Man 3 tried and failed to provide viewers with an acceptable live-action depiction of fan-favorite Marvel character Venom, fans have been desperate to see a more comic-faithful representation of Eddie Brock and his symbiote. It seemed like Sony was finally going to make that happen in Venom, but the film completely altered the character's origin story by removing Spider-Man from it entirely.
During filming for Venom, rumors spread that Tom Holland was seen on set, so the Internet speculated that Peter Parker would appear in the film as the symbiote's rightful first host. Spidey wasn't in the film, however, and Eddie Brock bonded with the symbiote and became an antihero without squaring off against the wall-crawler first. The film still did well and earned slightly positive reviews, but Marvel would have been better off sticking to the Venom and Spider-Man rivalry source material.
11 MADE MARVEL BETTER: SPIDER-VERSE'S DOCTOR OCTOPUS
Sony has released six different live-action Spider-Man films since 2002, so audiences have already gotten to know most of the friendly neighborhood web-slinger's top villains. Alfred Molina's portrayal of Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2 was practically flawless, so fans understandably didn't think the character could really be improved upon or changed significantly in future films.
Then Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse shocked everyone by altering Otto's gender and making Doc Ock a female villain for a change. This twist caught everyone off-guard, including Peter Parker himself, who didn't expect the seemingly mild-mannered female doctor he was talking to, to reveal herself to be his notorious tentacled adversary. In a film that was all about supplying Spidey fans with fresh content and new characters, this twist was much-appreciated, even if it strayed from the comics.
10 HURT MARVEL: THANOS' LOVE FOR GAMORA
Thanos is the greatest villain the Avengers have ever faced, but he may just be misunderstood. All the Mad Titan wants is to save the universe from experiencing his home planet's tragic fate, and he truly believes that wiping out half of all life across the cosmos is the only way to make that happen.
In an attempt to make Thanos more sympathetic, Infinity War explored his connection with Gamora and made it seem like he really cared about her. When Thanos had to give up something he loved to obtain the Soul Stone, he cried as he ended Gamora's life for the good of the universe. Unfortunately, viewers had just as hard of a time buying the surprise that Thanos really "loved" Gamora as Gamora herself did. We appreciate Marvel's attempt at providing Thanos with some character development, but this twist felt too forced.
9 MADE MARVEL BETTER: BUCKY AND THE STARKS
Captain America: Civil War forced Cap to square off against Iron Man in a battle over the fate of his former best friend, Bucky Barnes. Bucky stood accused of attacking a meeting for the Sokovia Accords, and Steve Rogers was willing to do whatever it took to clear his childhood friend's name.
Tony Stark eventually figured out that Bucky was framed by vengeful Sokovian citizen Helmut Zemo, and it seemed like there was going to be no further cause for Iron Man to clash with Captain America. Then Zemo revealed the massive twist that while Bucky was the Winter Soldier, he ended the lives of Tony's parents. Tony was too furious to care that Bucky had been brain-washed into doing so, and his resulting fight against Captain America and Bucky was tragic yet amazing to watch.
8 HURT MARVEL: QUICKSILVER'S SACRIFICE
When Clint Barton introduced his fellow Avengers to his secret family in Age of Ultron, many fans assumed that this reveal was just a way to make his passing at the end of the film more dramatic. Our fears were nearly realized when Ultron fired at Hawkeye during the battle on Sokovia, but then Marvel threw a twist at viewers that no one could have anticipated.
Quicksilver, who had an amusing rivalry with Clint throughout the film, ran in front of Hawkeye and sacrificed his own life for the archer. Fans expected Pietro to become an Avenger for years to come, but he turned out to be a mere blip in the history of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. The surprise value definitely made this moment memorable, but it wasn't worth sacrificing such a popular and powerful character just to surprise fans with this twist.
7 MADE MARVEL BETTER: VULTURE IS LIZ'S FATHER
It's incredibly difficult to surprise certain viewers because people who are familiar with the comics Marvel bases their films on often know what to expect. Infinity War's tragic ending shocked those who assumed good would triumph over evil as always, but comic fans always suspected the film would end with Thanos assembling the Infinity Gauntlet and snapping half of all life out of existence.
Spider-Man lovers know pretty much everything there is to know about iconic villains like the Vulture, so it seemed impossible for the MCU to throw any real surprises into Homecoming. Until, of course, Peter found out that his antagonist was also his crush's father. As Spidey fans assumed Liz was Peter's friend Liz Allan from the comics, this twist even caught them by surprise and helped make Homecoming exciting and unpredictable.
6 HURT MARVEL: THE OTHER WINTER SOLDIERS
Captain America: Civil War had a lot going on. There was the Avengers' clash over the Sokovia Accords, Steve and Tony's feud over Bucky Barnes, the introduction of Black Panther and Spider-Man, and Helmut Zemo's attempt to obtain some information about the Winter Soldier. All of that was more than enough to carry the film, but then Marvel added a random twist that HYDRA had created several other Winter Soldiers that could be used to take over the world.
It initially seemed like Zemo's ultimate plan was to use these highly-trained super-soldiers for some sort of global domination scheme, but when he arrived at their location, Zemo simply terminated all of the Winter Soldiers. The twist was nothing but an unnecessary red herring to throw viewers off the scent of his true plan to trick the Avengers into tearing themselves apart.
5 MADE MARVEL BETTER: OBADIAH'S BETRAYAL
The Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it likely never would have been created if not for the success of the Iron Man film which started it all, and while the success of that movie was largely thanks to Robert Downey Jr.'s flawless take on Tony Stark and the film's epic action sequences, it also helped that it featured an absolutely amazing twist.
Since Tony's parents passed away when he was still a young adult, he was raised by Stark Industries' interim CEO Obadiah Stane. Tony trusted his mentor completely, so he never suspected that Stane actually hired the criminals who stole and tried to eliminate him, all so he could take complete control over Stark Industries. This twist surprised fans as much as it surprised the billionaire genius, and Obadiah set the bar for all MCU villains moving forward.
4 HURT MARVEL: ROGUE TOOK THE CURE
While audiences praised most of the casting decisions made in the original X-Men trilogy, comic book enthusiasts just couldn't get behind Anna Paquin's portrayal of Rogue. In the comics, Rogue is confident, fun, and sassy, but Paquin seemed to only really focus on her character's anxiety and depression over her inability to touch people without draining them of their energy or superpowers.
The response towards Paquin's Rogue only got more critical when X-Men 3 revealed the twist that she actually chose to take a cure that promised to strip mutants of their abilities. This decision made her seem like the franchise's weakest character, and while it was understandable given the complex nature of her "gift," Rogue fans couldn't forgive her for it.
3 MADE MARVEL BETTER: THE GRANDMASTER'S CHAMPION
When Scarlet Witch enhanced the Hulk's rage and prompted him to fight against Tony Stark's Hulkbuster in Age of Ultron in an epic and very destructive showdown, the giant green Avenger became afraid of his own power. At the end of the film, he chose to fly a Quinjet into space where he couldn't hurt the people of Earth anymore, and we were left unsure of when, or if, we'd ever see him again.
Then Thor was stranded in Sakaar in Thor: Ragnarok, and the Grandmaster forced him to face off against his champion in the ultimate gladiator match. Viewers sadly knew to expect the twist that his champion was the Hulk because it was spoiled in promotional material for the film, but that somehow didn't make it any less enjoyable. The MCU has featured several hero versus hero fights, but the Thor versus Hulk battle was its best.
2 HURT MARVEL: GALACTUS, DEVOURER OF WORLDS
Galactus is one of the most powerful characters in the entire Marvel Universe, and he's also one of the more ridiculous-looking villains in the comics. He's meant to stand at over twenty-eight feet tall, and that's when he doesn't decide to grow large enough to consume an entire planet. When his iconic herald warned Earth of Galactus' impending arrival in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Silver, fans weren't sure what to expect... but no one anticipated the cosmic entity looking like a giant storm cloud.
Galactus looked nothing like the purple and blue sentinel we've always known him to be. The storm cloud might have looked better than a gigantic CGI supervillain, but since fans demanded accuracy, they were furious about this dramatic alteration.
1 MADE MARVEL BETTER: THE KREE ARE THE VILLAINS
Throughout Captain Marvel, Kree soldier Vers struggled to remember her past and had frequent glimpses of a forgotten life on Earth. She spent several years thinking she was a Kree and that the Skrulls were her enemies. When she actually met the leader of the Skrulls, however, she learned that everything she had been told by her mentor Yon-Rogg had been a lie.
Talos helped Vers remember that she was really Carol Danvers, a human pilot who was taken from Earth by Yon-Rogg after she absorbed cosmic energy from an explosion. He'd tried to use her as a weapon in his war against the Skrulls, an alien race which simply wanted to find a home. This was one of Marvel's most unexpected twists—between the shape-shifting Skrulls and this revelation that the Kree were evil, viewers had no idea who they could trust.