The opening scene is arguably the most important scene in any movie, because it has to introduce us to the characters, invite us into the world of the story, and establish the tone of the whole film. This is particularly important in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a franchise that thrives on the strength of its character arcs and the fact that every installment falls into a different genre construct.
Naturally, across a grand total of 22 movies, there have been some opening scenes in the MCU that were stronger than others. So, here are The MCU’s 10 Greatest Opening Scenes, Ranked.
10 Avengers: Age of Ultron
Joss Whedon’s sequel to The Avengers didn’t quite live up to it, and on the whole, it feels more like a bridge between various other MCU movies than a movie that stands on its own. But its opening scene, which sees Earth’s mightiest heroes breaking into a Hydra compound to take back Loki’s scepter, is a breathtaking action sequence.
Fans can’t complain whenever those characters are all fighting together and they’re all on spectacular form in this scene. It also has some great character moments, like Cap telling Tony to watch his language and Black Widow coaxing Banner back out of the Hulk.
The first Ant-Man movie opens in a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in 1989, as a young Hank Pym discovers the government’s plans to duplicate and weaponize his shrinking technology. The scene also features a young Howard Stark and an older Peggy Carter. Hayley Atwell was digitally aged, while John Slattery and Michael Douglas were digitally de-aged to draw all of their characters into the same point in history.
It was a great way to pull a bunch of MCU movies together before diving into Scott Lang’s story, to show us that even though Lang’s story seems completely removed from the rest of the MCU, it’s still very much rooted in it.
8 Captain America: Civil War
The opening scene of Captain America: Civil War sees Bucky getting brainwashed in the ‘90s and then going out to complete a mission for Hydra, shooting out a car’s tires and eliminating the people inside.
It’s a lot darker and more unnerving than the audience would expect from a superhero blockbuster, and unlike most of the MCU’s opening scenes, this one has an integral link to the plot of the movie. Bucky’s targets turn out to be Howard and Maria Stark, which is what drives Tony Stark and Steve Rogers’ rivalry from Civil War into an intense final battle sequence.
7 Guardians of the Galaxy
The trailers for the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie geared audiences up for a rollicking intergalactic adventure starring bickering aliens, so it was a surprise when the movie opened on Earth in the ‘80s with a young kid struggling to accept his mother’s death.
However, in retrospect, that scene provided the perfect beginning to Peter Quill’s story arc. He’s not a superhero – he’s just a regular kid from Missouri who lost everything (and later discovered he had latent cosmic abilities). He never learned to properly deal with his emotions, and it all stems from his life-changing moment from his childhood.
6 Avengers: Infinity War
The Russo brothers’ biggest challenge going into Avengers: Infinity War was to live up to the six-year hype surrounding the MCU’s big bad, Thanos. He didn’t just have to be a great villain; he had to be the best villain yet, and he had to feel like a real threat to Earth’s mightiest heroes.
The opening scene of the movie establishes this perfectly as Thanos and his minions board the Asgardians’ ship and the Mad Titan bests the Hulk in combat. The Hulk! And he also leaves Thor unconscious and floating through space and kills Loki. Immediately, we’re terrified of Thanos.
5 Spider-Man: Homecoming
What makes the Vulture a truly great MCU villain in the vein of Thanos and Killmonger is that we can understand his motivations. Adrian Toomes is just a blue-collar working-class guy who struggles to make end’s meet in a world dominated by Tony Starks.
The opening scene establishes this as Toomes and his crew are cleaning up wreckage from the Battle of New York before getting shut down by Damage Control. Angered that Stark is being paid to clean up his own mess, Toomes decides to leave legitimate business behind and become an alien arms dealer. The only thing that lets down this scene is the “Eight years later” inconsistency.
4 Doctor Strange
2016’s Doctor Strange is a pretty generic superhero origin story, but it’s elevated by its astonishing visual effects. In the opening scene, Kaecilius and his goons steal some sacred texts from a library in Kathmandu and get pursued through the streets by the Ancient One.
Along the way, they launch magical attacks on each other and bend the roads and buildings in on themselves, toying with the fabric of reality. It might seem unusual for the opening scene of a movie called Doctor Strange not to feature Stephen Strange, but it does immerse us in the weird and wonderful world of the Masters of the Mystic Arts.
3 Avengers: Endgame
Apparently, the opening scene of Avengers: Endgame was originally meant to be included in the finale of Infinity War. However, since Hawkeye hadn’t been featured in that movie up to that point, the Russo brothers felt that it was out of place and instead used it as the opening scene of Endgame.
The scene sees Clint Barton enjoying a family picnic when, all of a sudden, his wife and kids turn to dust. What adds a layer of raw authenticity and human emotion to the scene is that Jeremy Renner wasn’t told where his family had gone, so he was just as clueless as Clint.
2 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The opening scene of Captain America’s second solo adventure is more than just a thrilling action sequence in which Cap and Black Widow free some hostages from a ship and extract some data from the servers.
It also serves the plot: it tells us that Cap has been working for S.H.I.E.L.D. as he adjusts to life in the modern day, and it also tells us that there’s something fishy going on in the organization and that not everybody can be trusted. It was the perfect way to begin a big-budget comic book version of a ‘70s political thriller about a government conspiracy.
1 Iron Man
It’s easy to forget how grounded the original Iron Man movie was. In fact, it was surprisingly political, with musings on the War on Terror and the ethics of militarization. The opening scene sets the tone brilliantly, with Tony Stark being escorted through Afghanistan by soldiers who want to take pictures with him, establishing him as a high-profile figure.
Suddenly, the convoy is hit, and Stark finds himself dodging bullets and explosions. He takes cover behind a rock when a bomb lodges itself in the sand next to him. And here’s the kicker: it has the Stark Industries logo on it.