While many action movies prefer to wrap things up with epic boss fights or huge battles, no one does it quite like those featuring Marvel superheroes. From Iron Man to X-Men: Days of Future Past to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, audiences can set their watches to when the forces of good and evil end their conflict with a round of kick-punching.
As Guardians of the Galaxy, with one hell of a climactic battle, surpasses $222 million at the domestic box office, let’s look back at some of the big screen’s best final showdowns featuring Marvel characters.
Combatants: Blade vs. Deacon Frost
Finishing Move: Wesley Snipes kicks a vial full of anti-coagulant into Stephen Dorff’s face.
Blade and Deacon Frost engage in a furious, shirtless brawl when the latter becomes possessed by the Blood God. But a Stephen Dorff skin suit provides little protection from Blade’s face-seeking kicks, or his amazing (but cheesy) final one-liner: “Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill.”
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Combatants: Iron Man’s drones vs. Killian’s Extremis goons
Finishing Move: After a lengthy CG spectacle, an Extremis-powered Pepper Potts dispatches Killian with a rocket
Tony Stark calls in the cavalry in the form of several drone-like Iron Man suits flying in to battle the bad guy’s collection of super-soldiers. This sequence features many fun and inventive action beats, culminating in the “resurrection” of Pepper Potts just in time to take out Killian.
The Avengers (2012)
Combatants: The Avengers vs. Loki’s alien army
Finishing Move: Iron Man flies a nuke through a tear in space-time, delivering a mushroom-cloud welcome to the Chitauri
“Hulk? Smash.” With the immortal words of Steve Rogers, the big guy sets out on a rampage while the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes battle to save New York from giant space eels and Thor’s adopted brother. The end result isn’t perfect, but it makes for a great time at the movies.
Our favorite fight? Hulk vs. Loki. “Puny god” indeed.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Combatants: Hulk vs. the Abomination
Finishing Move: Hulk chokes out Abomination with industrial-sized chain, naturally
Speaking of the Hulk, he certainly managed to amp up the action in his second big-screen outing. Using Harlem as their boxing ring, Hulk and Abomination go 12 rounds – Hulk even uses two halves of a car as boxing gloves to go all smash-happy on Blonsky’s alter ego.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Combatants: Cap vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. Winter Soldier vs. gravity
Finishing Move: Falling into a body of water after crashing a Helicarrier
Friends-turned-enemies Captain America and Winter Soldier throw punches and exchange verbal blows in one of Marvel’s best films, with their confrontation packing as much emotion as it does fisticuffs.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Combatants: Thor vs. Malekith and the laws of physics
Finishing Move: A strong dose of fists and Mjolnir
For most of its run time, The Dark World is a fairly underwhelming affair, until the third act kicks in with one of Marvel’s most inventive set pieces. Thor and Malekith teleport-ish from realm to realm, battling as they go, delivering a fight that feels like splash pages come to life. If only the rest of the movie could be as engaging as this.
Combatants: Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin
Finishing Move: Death by self-inflicted glider to the torso
In the end, just like in the comics, Green Goblin was his own worst enemy. Norman Osborn attempted to remotely control his glider and skewer Peter Parker. Instead, a blast of Spider-Sense and a quick dodge ensured that Goblin was hoisted on his own trident-like petard.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Combatants: Past and future X-Men vs. past and future Sentinels
Finishing Move: Young Charles Xavier convinces Mystique to change the fate of mutantkind
Wolverine goes all T2 in Bryan Singer’s entertaining X-Men film, which leads to a battle across time for the preservation of both mutant and humankind. Sentinels 1.0 threaten our heroes in the 1970s while the Sentinels of the future morph and adapt into perfect killing machines, culminating in one of the series’ best sequences. Glimpse some of the battle in the trailer below:
Combatants: Wolverine vs. Lady Deathstrike
Finishing Move: Adamantium overdose
Wolverine’s six claws were nearly no match for Lady Deathstrike’s 10, a fact made apparent when she Ginsu'd the X-Man something fierce.
But Wolverine is nothing if not a scrappy, crafty fighter, and he found a way to defeat his enemy by injecting her with the very substance that made them who they are. Deathstrike’s life ends in the place where Wolverine was born.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
Combatants: Magneto vs. Sebastian Shaw
Finishing Move: Nazi coin through the brain
What a great and intense way to end this fight. The feud between young Erik and Shaw spans decades, starting with Shaw executing Erik’s mother because the mutant couldn’t move said coin. But Magneto had no problem manipulating the coin during their final fight, and the end is quite chilling.