The twist has been a common element in storytelling for as long as there have been stories - it leads the audience to zig where the story zags. A well executed twist can be something spoken of for years after. Most notably, M. Night Shyamalan has built a career around the twist. This storytelling technique appears in superhero comics a lot, to various effects and reception.
A long perished team member returns from the dead? A villain turns out to actually be on the good side? These twists are essential parts of the superhero's story, it only makes sense that they appear in our superhero media. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has separated itself from the comics with a series of shocking twists over the course of the last decade.
Some of these twists shook audiences to the core, while others have both fans and critics alike cringe in horror. Even worse, the twists may have made sense at the time, but now, only appear to have been added for shock value. A twist only works, after all, if it is explored and built upon after its reveal.
With that in mind, let’s look at the 8 MCU Twists That Left Us Shook (And 7 That Were Terrible).
15 SHOOK: Wanda and Pietro (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
No one was expecting Wanda and Pietro Maximoff to appear in any MCU film. Why? While they both are famously mutants in the comics, fans had known for a long time they could not be part of the MCU. For several decades, it was confirmed that they were Magneto’s children, so people expected to see them appear in the Fox X-Men film franchise.
In the mid-credit scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the fact they appeared left comic fans amazed. Did it mean that mutants were coming to the MCU? No. Due to a legal technicality, both Marvel Studios and Fox could use the characters in their films. but Marvel couldn't refer to them as mutants. Seeing Wanda and Pietro within the MCU was very shocking to fans, regardless of whether it would affect their original story.
Needless to say, it definitely generated hype for Avengers: Age of Ultron.
14 TERRIBLE: Janet Passing Away (Ant-Man)
As a beloved character, Janet van Dyne has a very loyal fanbase from comics and cartoons alike. Needless to say, when Ant-Man really gained traction, fans got excited at the thought of Janet in live-action - she is just such a bright and fun character.
Boy, were fans disappointed and angry when it was revealed that Janet was already gone in the MCU. So many people were hoping to see her, but audiences only got to see her pass away in an attempt to move the story forward for Hank Pym? It hurt a lot to see Janet van Dyne put aside in such a way.
Still, it seems as though lessons were learned. Michelle Pfeiffer will portray Janet in the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp. Fans were hopeful she'd return and the hoping paid off. At the time though? It wasn’t a well-received twist.
13 SHOOK: Hela’s Origins (Thor: Ragnarok)
Going into the film, everyone knew that Hela was going to be the villain for the movie. They however, also assumed that she had a similar backstory to the comics/mythology. In both cases, Hela is the daughter of Loki. As explained in the comics, she’s a daughter of a previous Loki who died during a previous Ragnarok cycle.
Fans weren’t that surprised when she appeared. What was surprising was that she was instead the oldest child of Odin and eldest sister to Loki and Thor. Audiences and characters alike experienced a similar level of surprise upon that bombshell revelation. It changed everything audiences knew about Asgard and the royal family - it was the beginning of the end for that part of the Marvel comic.
12 TERRIBLE: Ronan’s Betrayal Of Thanos (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Is it really a twist when you can see it coming? Unfortunately, the MCU has had a few missed opportunities. The fact that Obidiah Stane was the mastermind behind Tony’s kidnapping in Iron Man, for example. When the twist is revealed, it tends to feel insulting that they expected audiences to make a big deal out of it. When Ronan broke off from Thanos, everyone was expecting it to happen. Ronan clearly wanted to be a solo act from the start.
So when he betrayed Thanos and took the Power Stone, it just made Thanos look really weak - Thanos is supposed to be the big bad guy. When he didn’t do anything against Ronan, his credibility as a villain was hurt. The twist was predictable and consequently affected Thanos’ villain cred with the audience.
11 SHOOK: Vulture’s Family (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Spider-Man: Homecoming had a couple of twists, such as Aunt May learning about Peter’s identity or Michelle preferring the nickname “MJ”. Arguably, the biggest twist of the film centers around the villain, Adrian Toomes a.k.a. the Vulture. Although he mentioned his family throughout the film, no one ever expected him to be the father of Peter’s crush, Liz.
When Peter picks up Liz for Homecoming and Toomes opens the door, everything immediately becomes more sinister. Every look, every gesture, every word takes on a new meaning. When Peter and Toomes stay in the car to talk, the tension ramps up even further.
It’s what actually makes it a good twist! Once it’s revealed, the build on it only serves to move the story forward and gives Peter a personal stake in trying to reach Toomes.
10 TERRIBLE: Frost Giant Loki (Thor)
The twist that Loki is a frost giant comes straight out of comics, which was why no one was really surprised by the revelation in Thor. This makes it a weak twist, which gets worse once it is revealed, as it’s never really brought up again. With such an important element, making Loki the child of Asgard's greatest enemies, it should be emphasized. After all, a twist only works when it is built upon. This one helps define Loki’s character - he’s not only adopted, but he’s adopted from a race of monsters.
It just seems bizarre that it’s not really addressed in subsequent MCU films. It’s more of the madness that Loki's thirst for power that drives him over his feelings of adoption. As Thor: Ragnarok showed, it was always in Loki's character to be a little twisted, which made this an element that amounted to nothing.
9 SHOOK: Ego Took Out Meredith Quill (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
The death of Meredith Quill is the defining experience of Peter’s life for a couple of decades. She clearly influenced his taste in music, the references he makes, and even had her own part in saving the universe. Peter loves his Mom and hates that she died at such a young age. Both fans and Peter alike, accepted that she died from cancer - audiences know the signs of it and saw how sick she was.
So the fact that Ego placed the tumor in her brain to kill her was a major shocker, as he purposefully killed Meredith in a horrific way. Not only did he father and kill a ton of kids, he also killed the one woman he professed to truly caring about? Psycho.
8 TERRIBLE: Tony’s Condition (Iron Man 2)
Something that always feels cheap in hindsight is when a lead character is “dying” or near death. Nine times out of ten, the character will: a) live or b) return in some fashion. It may not always be the case, such as if the actor has died or refused to come back for the role. Usually, however, it can feel like a ploy to garner attention.
When it was revealed that Tony was dying in Iron Man 2, it just felt…um…cheap. Cheap’s a good word. Audiences knew that Tony was going to come out of it okay - usually the stars of such properties do. It ultimately just seemed like an ineffective ploy to move along the incoherent plot. Tony had a much better near death scene in The Avengers anyway, which ends up having a better emotional pay-off in future films.
7 SHOOK: N’Jobu’s Identity (Black Panther)
Everyone knew that Sterling K. Brown was going to have a small, yet pivotal role in Black Panther. Many people theorized that he was previously a Black Panther, so the fact that he turned out to be T’Chaka’s brother and Erik’s father was a huge shock. When Jimmy Fallon had Brown on his show, he freaked out over the twist. The whole movie’s plot was based on the execution of that twist and keeping the relation of Brown’s character in the strictest of confidences.
Not even fans could guess about his origins, as N’Jobu doesn’t exist in comics (he technically does, but T’Chaka’s brother is named S’Yan). The best part was that twist being revealed so early on, which set in motion the events of the movie and legitimately shocked the context of the world. Kudos to the writers for handling that.
6 TERRIBLE: The Other Winter Soldiers (Captain America: Civil War)
Captain America: Civil War was a film that had a lot going on. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as it still told a coherent story, filled with references to characters encountered over the course of other MCU films. The only thing that did not really make sense? The revelation that HYDRA made more Winter Soldiers. It’s an interesting idea - the fact that Zemo seemingly goes to wake up a team of HYDRA-loyal super soldiers is terrifying in context, especially with the political climate and the fractured Avengers.
Then everyone arriving to find the Winter Soldiers had already passed kind of felt like a letdown. Sure, a fight followed between Tony, Bucky, and Steve, but the fact that there was so much focus on these soldiers that to have them eliminated so suddenly felt like a waste of an interesting idea.
5 SHOOK: The HYDRA Reveal (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Now we’re getting into the twists that had a major lasting impact on the MCU. The revelation that HYDRA had survived into the present day and led the world into chaos was a twist no one saw coming. Ever since the reveal, repercussions rippled in the MCU - from the creation of Wanda and Pietro to the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. It even hints at Steve’s opinions in Civil War when he says the safest hands are still their own.
The HYDRA reveal also immediately casts suspicion on everyone that Steve knows. As the film progresses from there, it’s up to Cap and the audience to learn who is on his side. The tense atmosphere rockets the audience along and makes the Bucky reveal a fresh and exciting twist.
4 TERRIBLE: Clint’s Surprise Family (Avengers: Age Of Ultron)
One of the more baffling aspects of Avengers: Age of Ultron was the reveal that Clint Barton had a secret family. The fact that he had a farm and a legitimate family with multiple children blew fans’ minds. Not in the way that Joss Whedon was probably hoping for though. It was part of the, now defunct, Ultimates universe in which Barton’s family dies.
Many fans thought this was: a) an obscure choice and b) shattered their hopes for a romance between Clint and Natasha Romanoff. At the time, the Matt Fraction Hawkeye series was big. So a lot of people were hoping for the hot mess that Clint is in the regular Marvel continuity to cross onto the big screen.
3 SHOOK: The Thanos Reveal (The Avengers)
Many people may think that Thanos has lost his intimidating appeal. Way back in 2012, however, he was pretty intimidating. During the mid-credits scene of The Avengers, Thanos appears with a challenging smirk when the Other tries to warn him away from Earth. Fans lost their minds with that reveal. It became clear that the MCU was going to go cosmic; that there was a bigger threat everything would build up to.
Going into Infinity War, fans hope for more gravitas from the Mad Titan. Back in 2012 though, all we needed was a smirk to get our blood pumping. Who knows? Maybe the next major villain will also pop up in a post-credits sequence - fans can only hope.
2 TERRIBLE: The Mandarin (Iron Man 3)
The Mandarin is Tony Stark’s greatest enemy in the comics, which excited many fans when they found out he would be in Iron Man 3. Ben Kingsley is such a great actor, so what could possibly go wrong? Quite a few things apparently. It turns out that The Mandarin is actually some guy named Trevor. In fact, the real mastermind behind everything was Adrian Killian, who created The Mandarin as a distraction for Tony.
Needless to say, fans weren’t pleased at this revelation. While the more casual moviegoer liked the twist well enough, it’s something that still makes diehard fans mad to this day. Marvel did try to salvage the situation with the one shot short production “All Hail The King”, that actually hinted at a real Mandarin. By then, however, it was too little too late.
1 SHOOK: Iron Man Post Credit Scene
Behold, the king of MCU twists. When Nick Fury steps out of the shadows to tell Tony Stark about the Avengers Initiative, fans lost their minds. Not only did it confirm by Tony's presence that these Marvel films would inhabit the same universe, but it pretty much confirmed an Avengers movie down the line. With this twist, a whole universe developed over the course of a decade.
Just think about it for a second: it takes one post-credit scene to make a whole universe. It was such a risky move for a relatively young studio with a hero that few people knew about. Fans can thank this twist for 10 years of joy. Kudos and congratulations are in order to the first and greatest twist to leave us salivating for more.
Which twist shocked you the most? Let us know in the comments!