With the premiere of Spider-Man: Homecoming and the most recent announcement from Marvel Studios that the second Spider-Man film will launch a new overarching multi-film storyline following the conclusion of Avengers 4, the MCU suddenly finds itself on the cusp of a new era. The future of Hollywood’s biggest moneymaker hangs in the balance with an outlook that appears much less predictable than it did just a few years ago. With many of the original Avengers’ contracts expiring soon and new stars making their way into the fold, we’re left wondering if some of our favorite heroes may be meeting a grim ending or if Kevin Feige and company will be leaving the doors open for some of their most notable names to return somewhere down the road.
Starting with Iron Man in 2008 and ending with the web-slinging kid from Queens, we’re rallying behind each member of the Avengers Initiative as we celebrate the journey so far. While not every member of Earth's Mightiest Heroes has been lucky enough to get their very own solo adventure on the silver screen, each has had their standout moment where they showed up and showed out in typical heroic fashion. So before the next notable name bites the big one, we're honoring each one of them with a recap of their very best scenes. Share the memories with us as we count down Each Avenger’s Greatest On-Screen Moment So Far.
16 Bruce Banner/The Hulk - “I’m Always Angry” (The Avengers)
As the hands-down star of the first Avengers movie, there were several “Hulk smash” moments we had to take into consideration, from Bruce’s freefall from a helicopter in The Incredible Hulk to his duel with Tony Stark’s Hulkbuster in Age of Ultron. As the big guy of the group, there’s nothing more satisfying than watching Banner bulldoze his way through enemies. Still, out of all his moments, nothing remains more iconic in the MCU than Banner’s epiphany revealed during the Battle of New York.
In the midst of a hostile takeover by the Chitauri in downtown Manhattan, Banner returns to the Avengers after a long absence. As Captain America goes over everyone’s plans, Iron Man leads a Leviathan warship straight towards the group. When Captain America suggests that Banner should start getting angry, he reveals that he’s always angry and proceeds to transform into his alter-ego before taking out the Leviathan with a single smash. Not only is Bruce’s line a badass moment, but it’s also a revealing truth that speaks to Bruce’s control over the Hulk, as the Avenger shows how he has learned to harness his anger, making the Hulk a weapon that can be unleashed when necessary.
15 James “Bucky” Barnes - Highway Fight (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
A former soldier of the 107th Infantry Regiment and the childhood best friend of Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes is the ultimate foil to Captain America. When operating without the memories of his past, he’s able to reach Rogers on an emotional level by appealing to his days before he became a super soldier. Fitted with a cybernetic limb and an artificially upgraded physiology, he can match Rogers step for step in hand-to-hand combat and is quick to improvise on the spot.
In the most thrilling action sequence of The Winter Soldier, Bucky intercepts Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon as they attempt to kidnap HYDRA agent Jasper Sitwell. After launching a grenade in the trio’s direction, Bucky looks to finish them off with a machine gun. Failing to kill his opponents, he chases Black Widow through the streets of Washington D.C. before finding himself in a one-on-one tussle with Rogers. In a brilliantly choreographed scene, the two counteract each other’s every move before Bucky retreats. As expert martial artists go, the Winter Soldier shares the talents of his best friend, who's easily one of the most capable antagonists in a MCU movie so far.
14 Clint Barton/Hawkeye - Pep Talk (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
After a disappointing debut in The Avengers where he appeared as a brainwashed minion of Loki’s army, Hawkeye finally made a strong impression in Age of Ultron with a performance that many called the highlight of the movie. Doubling as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and part-time family man, his character was redeemed with a scene which Jeremy Renner would call Barton’s “f-ck you moment,” becoming the only member during a pivotal sequence to not be seduced by Scarlet Witch’s hallucinatory charms. But his greatest surprise came when he gave one of the best pep talks in superhero movie history.
After having a change of heart, Scarlet Witch finds herself cowering in a ramshackle building as Ultron’s army decimates the country of Sokovia. As she debates returning to the fray, Barton coaches her up by addressing the ridiculousness of the situation and questioning his own usefulnesses fighting an army of robots with nothing more than a bow and arrows. It’s a bit of light-hearted humor that blends well with the heat of the moment -- and solidifies Hawkeye as not only an equal among his peers, but the most logical Avenger of the group.
13 Scott Lang/Ant-Man - Getting Big (Captain America: Civil War)
For a hero whose powers allow him to shrink to a microscopic size, Scott Lang’s first solo feature felt appropriately small compared to the grandiose scale of other MCU flicks. With the exception of a few key fight sequences, Ant-Man’s biggest criticism was that it was a heist movie at heart, arguably detracting from the MCU’s more epic superhero feel. With fans wondering how Lang would fit in with the other Avengers, Ant-Man finally got to make a name for himself by going big for Civil War.
After being recruited by Captain America and Falcon, Lang found himself rallying against the likes of Iron Man, War Machine, Spider-Man, and the Vision. Despite some high quality comedy moments such as tearing up Stark’s body armored suit from the inside, Ant-Man’s best moment came when he blew up to the size of a skyscraper, giving viewers their first look as his alter-ego Giant-Man. Although he was ultimately tripped up by Spidey in a fit of web-slinging heroics, he made an impact, becoming the central focus of the battle as the entirety of team Iron Man worked to bring him down.
12 Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver - Stopping the Train (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Gone just as fast as he came, the MCU’s version of Quicksilver was a hero that was born to die. Written as yet another character, alongside his twin sister Wanda, who sought revenge on Tony Stark for the destruction brought on by Stark Industries, the fleet-footed speedster was given only a handful of heroic moments after spending a majority of Age of Ultron as an antagonist.
Compare the Quicksilver of the MCU to the one of the X-Men movie universe and it's easy to understand why fans prefer the latter. Whereas the Quicksilver of the X-Men films takes out a kitchen full of guards in mere seconds, the Quicksilver of the MCU can't outrun a few bullets in time to prevent Hawkeye from getting shot, leading to a meaningless sacrifice. What makes the death scene more infuriating is that the hero saved a street full of pedestrians from a derailed train minutes before his death. In his best moment, Pietro teams up with his sister as he whips across the busy road saving one innocent bystander after another as Wanda slows the oncoming train. It's a moment of teamwork for the twins, but it’s all thrown out the window with the newest Avenger’s sudden departure.
11 Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch - Escaping the New Avengers Facility (Captain America: Civil War)
Although Scarlet Witch’s time in the MCU has lasted longer than her brother’s, things still haven't gone swimmingly for the psionic heroine. Starting as an enemy of the Avengers, she shared his tragic backstory as an orphaned child growing up in Sokovia. After joining the superhero team, she watched as her brother died saving the remaining citizens of their hometown. To make matters worse, she was unable to contain an explosion while hunting down a biochemical weapon in Lagos, leading to a catastrophic accident which cost many civilians their lives. Without anything to do but sulk, she was labeled a murderer by the media and confined to the New Avengers Facility with the Vision left to look after her.
As things heated up between team Iron Man and team Captain America over the Sokovia Accords, Wanda attempted to escape the compound with the help of Hawkeye. When the Vision steps in to stop her from leaving, she uses her powers to blast him through the floor and several meters into the ground below. Despite her mistakes, Scarlet Witch’s actions over the Vision are a strong indicator of her convictions and shows the strength she’s capable of putting to good use.
10 Thor Odinson - Thor’s Arrival (The Avengers)
Following the destruction of the Bifrost at the end of Thor, many questioned how the God of Thunder would return to Earth in time for the events of The Avengers. By the time the Initiative came together, Loki had already wreaked havoc on a remote S.H.I.E.L.D. testing facility and stolen the Tesseract for the Chitauri. After being subdued by Captain America and Iron Man, Loki is being transported back to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s custody in a plane when a thunderous storm rolls in, signaling Thor’s return to Earth and a triple threat match-up for the ages.
Aided by his father Odin, who pulls some strings to send his son back to Earth, Thor lands atop of the plane before entering through the back, grabbing his adoptive brother and flying off with him. Stark and Rogers follow suit, and as Thor and Loki share words, Tony quickly disrupts the family reunion. As the Iron Avenger exchanges blows with the Asgardian, Rogers intervenes, stopping a blow from Mjolnir with his shield, causing a near cataclysmic reaction. It's a battle of brawn and inflated egos that makes for one of the finest superhero entrances in cinematic history.
9 Peter Parker/Spider-Man - The Lift (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Although he’s technically still not an Avenger following the events of Homecoming, we’ve included Spidey on our list after witnessing Tony Stark’s willingness to welcome him into the group. As the latest Marvel icon to get his own movie, Tom Holland’s version of Spider-Man finds himself eagerly waiting to become the next big superhero while learning some tough life lessons along the way. For Parker, those lessons come in the form of the blue collar family man Adrian Toomes, a former construction worker with a knack for creating high-tech weaponry.
In a final act which pits the web-slinger against his newfound nemesis, Peter tracks Toomes to a nearby warehouse, where the villain uses his winged suit to collapse the building onto Spidey’s head. Battered and bruised, Peter finds himself trapped underneath the rubble calling for help. With no one to answer his call, he finds his inner strength and deadlifts the remains off his back in a tribute to one of Spider-Man’s greatest comic book moments from the “Master Planner” story arc. For fans, it's an ode to a well-known issue, but for Peter, it's the moment that he recognizes his inner hero beyond just a person in a cool suit.
8 James “Rhodey" Rhodes/War Machine - Hammer Drone Battle (Iron Man 2)
Much like his friend and fellow Avenger Tony Stark, Colonel James Rhodes has been a part of the MCU since the beginning, initially acting as a liaison between Stark Industries and the U.S. military. First played by Terrence Howard, Rhodey was depicted as a man of high character, adhering to the chain of command as a member of the United States Armed Forces. Since Iron Man, Rhodes has undergone significant changes, including a change in appearance with Don Cheadle taking over the role and a change in personality as he begins to ever so slightly loosen his grip on Tony’s methods.
For a character who has been around for the entirety of the MCU, Rhodes’ on-screen heroics have sadly always played second fiddle to Tony's. Because Rhodey’s best action scenes are often shared with Iron Man, War Machine’s greatest standout moment comes at the end of Iron Man 2, when the two team up against Justin Hammer’s drones in a joint effort to share the spotlight. To date, it’s the best example of the duo working together to take down the enemy, and it's evidence that War Machine is a hero worth developing as more than just a secondary character.
7 Steve Rogers/Captain America - Taking the Elevator (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
As a hero who knows what it's like to be the little guy, Steve Rogers is a man with a moral code. He’s the kind of hero who avoids confrontation when he can, even going so far as to warn you not to tempt him. In our favorite Captain America scene, he does just that. After being labeled a fugitive by S.H.I.E.L.D., Rogers has a run-in with a number of agents inside the elevator at the Triskelion. Led by Brock Rumlow (a.k.a. future-Crossbones), Rogers proceeds to beat the daylights out everyone inside, shortly after giving everybody one last chance to exit while they still can.
According to Chris Evans and Frank Grillo, the four minute scene was among the hardest to complete, leaving both actors severely bruised. Because Rogers had no room to operate with his usual amount of strength, he’s forced to resort to his training, landing a series of well placed punches and elbows. By the time he leaves, the glass box is piled with unconscious bodies and the audience has been treated to one of the most unique action scene locations in the MCU.
6 Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow - Hammer Security Face-Off (Iron Man 2)
In a cinematic universe that emphasizes boisterous action sequences filled with loud explosions and death-defying stunts, a well choreographed fight scene can appear as a much welcome surprise. Sadly, those great fight scenes were far and few between at the start of the MCU, which makes Black Widow’s skill set particularly compelling, especially compared to Tony’s armored suits, which do all the heavy lifting for him.
Introduced as Tony’s assistant in Iron Man 2, Natasha watches over Stark as a covert agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. It isn't until the final act that her training as a former member of the KGB is revealed. After Ivan Vanko takes remote control of Justin Hammer’s army of drones, the Russian-born agent infiltrates Hammer Industries Headquarters. Stopped in the hallway by a group of guards, she hastily removes them from her path, making use of her taser disks and flash bombs. The scene is one of the more well-thought out sequences of the MCU, as Black Widow slides underneath the guards and makes use of her legs to choke them out. As one of the only Avengers capable of such moves, Black Widow's first big on-screen moment doesn't disappoint.
5 Tony Stark/Iron Man - Going Out the Window (The Avengers)
Apart from being the Da Vinci of our time, Tony Stark is also a wise-cracking, smooth talker who can quip his way out of a bad situation. As a hero who must often wait for his suit to warm up before springing into action, this skill can come in handy, providing enough distraction for the ironclad Avenger to get into gear. In a confrontation with Loki, his mouth becomes his greatest asset, saving his life as he gets underneath the Asgardian's skin.
With the Tesseract in place on top of Stark Tower, Tony meets with Loki in his penthouse floor without his armor to defend him. As Loki unveils his master plan, Tony offers him a drink, stealthily slipping on an electronic bracelet as he coyly reminds the evil mastermind who he’s dealing with. As Tony calls upon J.A.R.V.I.S. to retrieve his Mark VII armor, Loki gets close enough to the defenseless Avenger to chuck him out the window. Narrowly escaping death, his suit arrives just before he hits the ground. For Tony, it’s a scene that shows off his best qualities, as he delivers his one-liners to perfection shortly before going into full-on Iron Man mode.
4 Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange - Dormammu’s Time Loop (Doctor Strange)
Easing his way onto the big screen with his signature cynicism, Doctor Strange already possessed the larger than life persona to launch him to superhero status. All he needed was a tragic backstory to help him reach that next step, but once he arrived at the sacred location of Kamar-Taj, that's when things really started looking up for the magical hero. Taken under the wing of the Ancient One, the studious Strange opened the MCU to a another plane of consciousness, tapping into multiple parallel dimensions and bringing with him a new bag of tricks without losing an ounce of his charisma.
In a final epic showdown, Strange thinks outside of the box to take down Dormammu, the Lord of the Realm of Darkness. Stealing the Eye of Agamotto, Strange creates a time loop which prevents Dormammu from raining down on the innocent civilians of Hong Kong. Caught in a Groundhog Day scenario, the Sorcerer Supreme pesters his way to victory, being killed an innumerable variety of ways before Dormammu submits. Not only is the scene a crucial introduction to the powers of another Infinity Stone, but it's an example of how intellect can be just as resourceful as any superpower.
3 T’Challa/Black Panther - Bucharest Chase (Captain America: Civil War)
Set off by an orchestrated attack at a United Nations conference in Vienna which killed his father, T’Challa’s rise as King of Wakanda and heir to the mantle of the Black Panther started with a feud between himself and the Winter Soldier. Framed by Helmut Zemo, Bucky Barnes is widely accused of the terrorist attack and broadcast on the news worldwide. When T’Challa finds out, he uses his own resources to seek out Captain America’s former best friend, resulting in one the Marvel's best chase sequences.
Wearing a vibration-absorbent Vibranium suit, T’Challa shows off his remarkably fast pace as he hunts down Bucky, leaping from rooftops and following him on foot to a nearby highway. Chasing him through a traffic tunnel with Captain America and Falcon in hot pursuit, he is able to outrun the Winter Soldier. After Bucky jumps onto a motorcycle to make his escape, T’Challa claws his way onto the side of a car to pick up speed, eventually hitching a ride on top of Falcon as he passes by. Before T'Challa makes his move, everyone is apprehended by a police squad, putting an end to an impressive chase which could have ended badly for everybody involved.
2 Sam Wilson/Falcon - Ant-Man vs. Falcon (Ant-Man)
As a former test pilot for the EXO-7 Falcon wing pack jet, Sam Wilson has perfected his craft of maneuvering through the air. Although his biggest on-screen moments have consisted of him fighting alongside Captain America, he has yet to be outmatched by his patriotic companion. Enhancing his suit with a wrist-mounted miniature rocket launcher, magnification goggles and a Redwing surveillance drone, Falcon has proven to be an elite tactician capable of fighting alongside even the most superpowered personalities.
Given Falcon’s many accomplishments in the MCU so far, it feels almost dishonorable to call his best scene a defeat at the hands of Marvel’s smallest Avenger, but it’s the unconventional match-up that makes the brawl so memorable. After Scott Lang sneaks onto the roof of the New Avengers Facility, Wilson detects the microscopic hero with his goggles and engages him in a comedic one-on-one match-up. Although the size/experience advantage seemingly makes Falcon the odds on favorite, he disappointingly loses after Lang is able to shut down his suit from the inside. As Wilson accepts his defeat, he warns the rest of the facility that Captain America better not find out about his humiliating loss.
1 The Vision - Lifting Mjolnir (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Created from a synthetic Vibranium body brought to life by the power of the Mind Stone (complete with the remnants of Tony Stark’s personal artificial intelligence system J.A.R.V.I.S. uploaded into it), Vision is a sentient being with the same thought patterns of Ultron minus the megalomaniacal tendencies. Although it struggles to understand the reasonings behind many human interactions, it has expressed sincere compassion for its fellow Avengers, most notably Scarlet Witch, whom it watches after during the events of Civil War.
Powered by the Infinity Stone in its head, Vision’s powers are otherworldly, given such abilities as density manipulation, superhuman strength, and flight. Although the limitations of its powers aren’t known, it does possess enough strength to lift Thor’s hammer despite not being the chosen suitor. The scene comes shortly after the Vision’s creation. After examining its reflection in a window, it addresses the Avengers before expressing a concern to them about the actions of Ultron. As a sign of good faith, the Vision lifts Mjolnir from the ground, returning the hammer to Thor, much to everyone’s astonishment. The moment immediately illustrates the Vision’s unprecedented power and establishes the sapient being’s ability to express kindness despite not being human.
Did we miss any of your favorite moments from Earth's Mightiest Heroes? Let us know in the comments!