At this point, the average Marvel standalone entry tends to cost around $150-200 million, while the Avengers movies tend to cost around $350 million and up. Avengers: Infinity War looks like it is going to wind up being the most expensive movie ever made. Looking back, it seems almost obvious that it would be.
While these features might cost a ton, they consistently break box office records. People love them and demand more of them, which is the only reason why they’ve gotten as massive as they have.
However, what is it that leads them to cost so much in the first place? A lot of it comes down to the huge cast and above-the-line costs that factor in before the movie ever even begins shooting.
When it comes down to it, though, these movies are known for their astonishing visual effects. Some of these expensive sequences will be extremely obvious, while others are less so— not every special effect draws attention to itself, after all. For the purposes of this list, we’ll only be looking at films that take place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Here are the 15 Unbelievably Expensive CGI Scenes In MCU Movies.
15 De-Aging Robert Downey Jr. for Captain America: Civil War
Most people don’t think about how much a scene like this might cost. They’ll think about Giant Man and the airport battle, both of which are insanely expensive, but turning Robert Downey Jr. into 1991-era Downey is not cheap by any means.
According to the VFX artists, the hardest thing about this shot is actually how long it is. That makes sense, too. It’s a lengthy sequence designed to look like one take, all of the focus is on young Robert Downey Jr. in the foreground, so he needs to look really good.
This is a technique that Marvel has used in several films, from a younger Michael Douglas in Ant-Man, to older Haley Atwell in Ant-Man and Winter Soldier, to the very recent young version of Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
However, young Downey might still be the best example, given the attention to detail and the fact that it still looks authentic when sharing the scene with the “real” Robert Downey Jr.
14 The Final Battle in Avengers: Age of Ultron
The final fight in Age of Ultron pulls no punches, mostly because it’s one of the most expensive Marvel movies to date. The Avengers films in general cost way more than the solo entries.
Granted, a huge chunk of that goes to the ensemble cast, but they also have a bigger focus on large-scale action. When the Avengers get together, they need to feel like they have a reason to get together, which this movie accomplishes. There are over 3,000 VFX shots in this film, which was more than any other Marvel Studios feature when it was first released.
The final battle goes for all of the astonishing wonder and high stakes that it could possibly muster. The Avengers, along with newest members Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver— all three of whom require complicated special effects of their own— face off against Ultron and his never-ending swarm of robot doubles atop a floating Eastern European city.
While many fans have mixed reactions to the movie itself, there’s no question that it genuinely feels like a big, team-up event.
13 Skinny Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger
For nearly the first hour of Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers is a composite CGI/live action creation. Filmed with both Chris Evans and a stand-in body double, it results in a much scrawnier Steve to make his transformation into a super-hunk all the more drastic.
While the creation of skinny Steve has been the butt of some jokes since the movie came out, it looks believable enough to make the transformation work. It also looks a lot more believable in its few appearances in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but that might be because it is brief.
Either way, despite all of the Indiana Jones-style action in Cap’s underrated debut theatrical feature, it’s the skinny Steve Rogers that winds up being one of the most complicated, expensive things to pull off in the entire film.
At the end of the day, audiences bought it enough to go along for the ride.
12 Ego’s Planet in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
While there’s a ton of CGI in both Guardians of the Galaxy films, there are also an impressive amount of practical effects as well. Many of the sets— many of the aliens, even— are mostly practical.
However, when it comes to introducing Ego’s living planet in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it becomes a whole new ball game. This entire planet is a character, it’s alive-- it has to look unlike anything that’s been seen in this franchise before.
Director James Gunn even calls Ego’s planet “the biggest visual effect of all time.” He explains, “We have over a trillion polygons on Ego’s planet … there’s nothing even close to it. Which is cool.”
On screen, it works amazingly well-done. The planet looks exactly like the “too good to be true” paradise that it obviously turns out to be, and it’s the amazingly complex VFX work that helps pull that off.
11 The Final Battle in Doctor Strange
Strange and Mordo arrive to stop Kaecilius from opening a portal to the dark dimension, but they’re too late. Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to reverse time so that they’re able to fight off Dormammu’s followers while the world is moving backwards around them and fixing itself.
Instead of dodging exploding buildings, they’re dodging rubble flying up through the air and cars frantically driving backwards. It’s one of the most impressive effects in recent memory.
It was also this scene that got Scott Derrickson the job directing Doctor Strange. He pitched the film to Marvel by taking them through this scene in particular and they were clearly impressed enough to put their faith in someone who had never done a movie of this size before. Once again, they managed to prove that they know how to pick the right director for the right project.
10 The Stark Expo Battle in Iron Man 2
Given that it's Marvel’s first solo feature, Iron Man doesn't have a massive budget approaching that of the later features. After that huge success, though, Iron Man 2 gets a little bit more to work with.
The third act of the sequel sees Iron Man not only face off against an army of drones and an armored-up Whiplash, but the first team-up between Iron Man and War Machine as well. It’s bigger in every way, and while the movie might not be as critically acclaimed as the first, it’s still entirely impressive in its visual FX.
Iron Man 2 will also likely draw some new viewers for this scene alone, now that Marvel has confirmed that the kid in an Iron Man mask that Stark saves from a Hammer Drone is none other than future protégé Peter Parker. Even if retroactive, it’s a little scene that helps the MCU movies feel like individual pieces of a much larger puzzle.
9 The Seoul Chase in Avengers: Age of Ultron
While it comes in the middle of the movie, this feels big enough to be the third act of any other Marvel film. This chase scene involves Captain America facing Ultron on his own, airborne Black Widow fighting Ultron drones, and Scarlet Witch stopping a train.
Scenes like this, which are just big set pieces to keep the momentum going, show just how huge of a movie Age of Ultron really is. The effects on this scene were primarily provided by none other than Industrial Light and Magic, who lent over 800 VFX shots to the film.
Fans may still be split on the movie as a whole, but with tense and exciting sequences like this, there’s no question that Age of Ultron at least boasts some of the best action scenes out of any of the MCU movies. That’s at least enough for it to satisfy fans as a popcorn movie.
8 De-Aging Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
For fans of early eighties cinema, this is pretty insane to see. For all intents and purposes, this is a throwback to what most consider “classic era” Kurt Russell.
Through a digital de-aging process very similar to what Downey Jr. went through on Civil War, Kurt Russell is transported back to the heyday of movies like Escape from New York and The Thing. While it’s not as lengthy of a scene as Civil War, it’s impressive nonetheless. Russell has some crucial dialogue in his scene that basically sets up the entire plot.
If audiences don’t buy him, then the whole scene doesn’t work and it starts the movie off on the worst possible note. Thankfully, audiences have been incredibly responsive to seeing Kurt Russell de-aged in an impressive and realistic way.
It’s incredibly unlikely we’ll ever be seeing this character again, so it’s good that the movie gives the most to his performance.
7 The Multidimensional Fight Scene in Thor: The Dark World
Other than an exciting siege on Asgard, there’s not a lot of insane CGI work in Thor: The Dark World. It’s considered to be one of-- if not the weakest-- entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything going for it. Even if Malekith the Accursed is a less-than-stellar villain, the fight scene at the end is pretty amazing.
Thor faces off against Malekith just as the realms are starting to converge, so they fight from dimension to dimension, with Mjolnir racing to catch up. This scene is visually stunning, exciting, drops in a few Easter eggs, and packs in some genuine humor all at the same time.
While it might not be the most beloved film in the MCU canon, this sequence kind of represents everything that’s fun about the MCU, all at once. It’s at the very least an underrated battle, even if the overall feature does have its problems.
6 The Hydra Base Battle in Avengers: Age of Ultron
Unlike The Avengers, which didn’t bring the team together until the third act, Age of Ultron kicks off the film with a lengthy sequence of the group bringing down one of the last remaining Hydra bases.
No buildup, just straight-up action. At the very least, it starts off an anticipated sequel with a well-deserved adrenaline rush. The scene itself is impressive, if unexpected. It’s got everything people loved about the last movie, all at once. The team is working together as a unit, everyone gets a moment to themselves, Hulk goes on a brief rampage. It’s the whole package, leaving fans to wonder what the stakes will be for the rest of the film.
Like the Seoul chase, the bulk of the VFX shots in this sequence are provided by ILM. They’re the first indicator that this is an altogether bigger, more expensive, more visually bombastic movie than the original.
5 The Helicarrier Hulkout in The Avengers
Avengers spends a lot of its running time building toward this now iconic scene. At the beginning of the movie, Banner has been without an incident for a while, possibly since the end of The Incredible Hulk.
Obviously, audiences know going into it that his winning streak is not going to last very long. Every time he's on screen it becomes a question of when he's going to Hulk-out again. In typical Joss Whedon tradition, when the moment finally comes, it comes at the worst possible time.
Banner transforms into Hulk while the Helicarrier is already under siege from Loki and his mind-controlled soldiers-- including Hawkeye. Black Widow is trapped alone with Banner when the transformation happens. It's exactly what fans wanted.
This Hulk is an impressive, more expensive motion capture performance than previous films had the chance to do. It's the most expensive sequence until the dynamic third act, and the fact that it culminates in a fight between Hulk and Thor is just icing on the cake.
4 The Oil Rig Fight in Iron Man 3
Many fans don’t love Iron Man 3, which definitely won over some critics for its fresh approach and pure Shane Black style. One of the biggest criticisms is that there’s actually very little Iron Man in this sequel. It’s much more of a Tony Stark movie, and intentionally so. Often, when we are treated to an Iron Man scene, it’s not even Stark in the suit.
However, all of that feels intentional, so that the final fight feels as insanely big as it is. Stark, realizing he’s outgunned against the Extremis soldiers, calls on his entire array of suits, all manned by Jarvis.
Every Iron Man suit shows up for this battle, most of which audiences hadn’t even seen before this moment. It’s a huge, dynamic, insanely fun sequence.
Not only does it feature Stark in a suit, it’s basically centered on Stark jumping from suit to suit as he makes his way to the top of the rig to face off against Aldritch Killian. However, bringing a scene like this together takes up a huge chunk of the budget, which is probably why there’s so little suit action beforehand.
3 The Hulk vs. Iron Man Fight in Avengers: Age of Ultron
Once again, another scene from this ridiculously expensive movie makes the list. It has to be one of the biggest, most memorable sequences in the MCU to date.
It’s something fans had wanted to see as soon as Avengers was announced. Many were even expecting to see the Hulkbuster armor in Iron Man 3. Instead, we get it in this movie and it’s completely worth the wait.
It works not only because it’s an amazing visual FX scene, but mostly because the relationship between Stark and Banner is clearly established by this point. They’re friends, they relate immensely to one another and that makes the fight between them bittersweet.
It’s also a knock down, drag out action scene, though. This is a huge fight, as is to be expected between two huge combatants. Hulk is even more out of control than usual, Stark has to do whatever it takes to bring him down. They throw each other through buildings, heck, they even level buildings over the course of this fight.
2 The Airport Fight in Captain America: Civil War
It has to be the best all-out fight scene in the entire MCU to date. It’s the biggest, it’s the most dramatic, it has virtually everything. It goes on so long, but never outstays its welcome.
In this one scene, we see Avengers fighting each other, we see Spider-Man in the midst of the action, we see Ant-Man turn into Giant-Man, and we see Ant-Man riding one of Hawkeye’s arrows.
It should come off feeling like nothing more than fan-service, but it functions amazingly well. Much of that is do to the insanely strong VFX, which look and feel real, bringing the appropriate weight to the situation.
Civil War became a much more expensive movie when Robert Downey Jr. and the rest of the Avengers cast were brought on board. That ballooned the budget just in terms of casting, and it took some convincing to get Marvel to sign off on it. However, when they did, it allowed for huge, elaborate sets like this one.
1 The One-Take Epic Hero Shot in The Avengers
Even now, this might be the most iconic shot in the nine year history of the MCU. This is what all of Phase One had been building toward. This is a scene designed to look like a single shot, with all of the Avengers fighting in unison, at once.
It doesn’t look any bigger than the rest of the fights in the third act, even as dramatic and important as it is. However, this one shot actually takes a lot to pull off. First, it’s got the Hulk taking down a giant Chitauri leviathan and it’s got everyone working together, but obviously it’s not actually one take.
The thing that makes this shot that much more complicated, though, is that it moves from Avenger to Avenger in what appears to be a single fluid motion, with the camera circling around the entire team.
That’s a lot more complicated than you would think. While it’s a seamless shot on screen, it’s made up of a lot of moving pieces. Even that supposedly seamless fluidity has to be rendered in post. The finished effect is one of the most stunning scenes in any superhero movie to date, however, showcasing just how much great VFX can add to an already impressive story when it's done right.
Do you know of any other MCU movie scenes that contain expensive CGI? Let us know in the comment section!