Scarlett Johansson has made an appearance in 5 of the 14 MCU movies as Natasha Romanoff, better known as Black Widow. In every film, she has portrayed Natasha with an air of confidence and complexity that only she can. Just when we think she is the damsel in distress or emotionally vulnerable, we are shown that she was in control all along. Taking a page out of Fury’s playbook, Black Widow seems to always have a backup plan for her backup plans -- a skill that has proven invaluable to the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. alike.
This has garnered strong support for a Black Widow solo movie, and why shouldn’t she have her own film? She goes toe-to-toe with the same villains the rest of the Avengers battle, but she doesn’t have a suit of armor, magical powers, or a serum that puts her in pique physical condition. She doesn’t even have a preternatural ability to always hit her target. From her intro in Iron Man 2 to her most recent outing in Captain America: Civil War, she has always done one thing very well: Kick butt. In no particular order, here are some of her most unforgettable moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Hardcore fans already knew who Johansson was playing before the release of Iron Man 2, but when she walked into Randy’s Donuts after Tony’s birthday party, casual viewers were treated to, well, a treat. They already had a hunch that something was up with the Natalie character when she took down Happy Hogan earlier in the movie (more on this later). To casual moviegoers this scene solidified that hunch by giving them an “Aha!” moment.
For the hardcore fans, however, it was opening up the MCU to more of their beloved comic book source material. We already had Nick Fury, and now we were being given one of the greatest covert operatives in the Marvel Universe. It made us hungry for more. It made us impatient for the eventual and inevitable The Avengers.
It’s The Avengers. We are finally being shown the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in one film and the first time we see Natasha Romanoff since Iron Man 2 she is tied up to a chair, being interrogated by a Russian officer and some goons. She looks to be in trouble until a phone call from Phil Coulson prompts her to reveal that not all is as it seems. There is definitely an interrogation going on, but it’s not the Russian officer asking the questions. It’s Natasha.
“This moron is giving me everything,” she says just before instigating an escape. Most of which she does bound to a chair. It caught the audience off guard and showed just what kind of operative Black Widow is. She is always in control despite appearances, an ongoing theme with her in The Avengers.
When Natasha gets changed in the back of the car while Happy is driving her to Justin Hammer’s factory, we all knew we were about to see her unleash a butt kicking the likes we haven't seen in the MCU yet. That probably depends on where you rank the Iron Man vs War Machine fight from Tony’s birthday bash, though.
Anyways, Black Widow’s first fight in the MCU put her agility and preference for taking down opponents with her legs on full display. This gave the audience a taste of what we would be seeing in the future and left us wanting more. And in true MCU fashion, her fight had a pleasant blend of stunning choreography and humor that would go on to leave a lasting impression.
Here was her actual introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course we weren’t introduced to her as Natasha Romanoff. Instead we first meet her as Natalie Rushman, a replacement for Pepper when control of Stark Industries was being transferred, an obvious alias to the hardcore fans that don’t mind spoilers and follow casting news.
It became even more clear to everyone else when she entered the ring with our favorite chauffeur, Happy Hogan, that she was not who she said she was. Happy’s gloved hand gets too close to Natalie’s face when he attempts to teach her a lesson, but her reflexes kick in, putting him flat on his back faster than you can say Iron Man 2. Not typical training for an executive assistant.
Besides being beautiful, calculating, and agile, another word that can best describe the character of Black Widow is resourceful. She exhibits this trait in the critically acclaimed Captain America: The Winter Soldier when her and Cap are trying to avoid capture in a D.C. mall. First when they leave the Apple store, she orders Steve to put his arm around her and laugh after he had already devised a plan to engage their pursuers -- her plan worked better.
Immediately after, on the escalator, she spouts off a tidbit about public displays of affection making people uncomfortable and then kisses Captain America. They are avoiding highly-trained soldiers that have worked with the two of them on more than a couple of missions. They should know what to look for, but her tactics successfully keeps them under the radar, another beautiful display of her many talents.
This was a fun side of Black Widow to see in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It wasn’t another choreographed fight where she is spinning around the head of a henchman or a show of her tradecraft. It was a human moment that revealed she thinks about stuff unrelated to work or kicking ass. It might even be a hobby of hers, hooking up coworkers, and were kind of curious to see how it went when/if she tried to set Rumlow up with someone.
When in her line of work, it's important to have an escape. It was a fun run of dialogue that gave us a glimpse into her’s and Cap’s relationship since The Avengers. Considering what was coming throughout the rest of the movie, this was a nice breath of fresh air before delving into a darker espionage story.
This moment took us by surprise the first time we saw it, and we're sure it surprised you too. Questions raced through our heads before the big reveal like “Does this elderly lady know how to hold her own like she’s 20 years younger?” and “Does every member on the World Security Council know martial arts?”.
Of course the stun object she throws at the Hydra soldier should have been a big tip off, but when she takes off the digital mask to reveal who she really is, that sent goosebumps up our arms. It was one of the best executed scenes in that movie alone, and that's saying something considering how great that film is. We got to see technology utilized by S.H.I.E.L.D. not yet utilized in the movies and it was one of those “gotcha” moments that make the fans feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
An interesting stray from the source material for fans to witness was the relationship between Natasha and Bruce in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, especially since it had been hotly anticipated that her and Hawkeye may be an item. Whedon probably isn’t sorry to disappoint, but let’s focus specifically on that soothing ability Black Widow had to calm the Hulk, reverting him to puny Banner after he had just ripped apart an army.
Singing Hulk a lullaby, as the team called it, which is rather motherly (more on this later) seems to calm the monster down. Here we have this small woman in comparison to this giant green behemoth that can put said behemoth at ease with a simple caress of his wrist/palm. It's poetic, in fact, to give that role to her when she had been specifically trained to kill people from such a young age.
Well, yes, she has killed hundreds, she was an assassin after all. However, it's more shocking to discover that she killed a man during Civil War as an Avenger during their mission to Lagos. When she's fighting two of Crossbones’ mercenaries to retrieve whatever biological agent they stole, she kills one of them with a bullet to the head. It could be argued that she simply shot the man in the shoulder to incapacitate him, but upon closer inspection, the man’s head flings back like he was shot in the skull. Executed.
He wasn’t a good guy, but Widow is supposed to be a superhero. It is never explicitly stated that Avengers don’t kill, but that has to be a bylaw, right? “We’re heroes, we do NOT kill”, could be tough to stay true to especially when you have a former assassin and giant green killing machine on the team.
We got a nice glimpse of this in the first Avengers movie when Hawkeye is being controlled by Loki’s spear (or Mind Stone). He infiltrates the Helicarrier and it comes down to this moment. We can see the emotion on Widow’s face because she really doesn’t want to hurt Clint -- he means a lot to her, even though we don’t know the whole story at this point.
Later down the road we get a fun duel between them during the airport scene in Civil War. It could have answered the obligatory “who would win in a fight” question had it not been for Wanda, who breaks up the fight because she feels that Barton was pulling his punches. Such a party-pooper, Wanda. It was still fun to watch these two former S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives fight hand-to-hand while it lasted.
To be a more effective killer without having to worry about the possibility of birthing children, Natasha was sterilized on the day of her graduation from “The Red Room”. “It’s effective,” she tells Banner. This is an important moment for her character and drives home the motherly theme she was given in Age of Ultron. It reveals that she feels a sense of shame for not being able to bare children, and maybe even a sense of regret.
It further shows that she feels closer to Banner because of this. They both view themselves as monsters, and why wouldn’t they? It's in their nature to kill, and they have been fighting against that nature for some time. To top it off, they are incapable of reproducing, making them feel that their only purpose on Earth is that very nature they have been struggling against.
Who knew Hawkeye had such a big secret? Well, Fury, of course and evidently Black Widow since she had a good enough relationship with Clint’s family to be called Auntie Nat. There was even a plan in the works to have the newest addition to the Barton family be named after “Auntie Nat”. But this is an unforgettable moment for her because we continue to see this motherly theme pop up for her throughout Age of Ultron.
It is cinematically expected for her to end up in a relationship because this is the fate that Hollywood lays upon its female leads. But to see her be a part of an entire family already, with the only hint being that her and Clint are close is good writing. Enough of the motherly theme, let’s move onto something that we expect from Black Widow.
Black Widow is nothing if not pragmatic -- she doesn’t let her emotions cloud her judgement. She might have made a great Jedi. Despite her feelings toward Bruce, she knew what was needed at that moment in time when Sokovia was lifting off. They needed the monster that Bruce didn’t want to be anymore, so she pushed him off a cliff.
That would infuriate just about anyone, to be pushed off a ledge toward potential death by the person they love, and that is what Natasha was hoping for. They needed all hands on deck, including the big, green rage monster. Unfortunately, Widow wasn’t expecting that Sokovia would be the last time she would see Bruce. His resolve to fade out of the team was strong, even in the form of Hulk.
This might not seem like an important moment for her because she's a good guy and fighting for the right side is expected of her (and sort of her job). What is important here is the fact that she was leaking every S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra secret onto the internet for the whole world to see -- including her own secrets.
Where she came from, who trained her, what she did before she came to America to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. is leaked for anyone to see -- literally every dirty detail about her. It is a metaphorical self-sacrifice that is just as courageous as Tony flying through the portal above Manhattan with no guarantee that he will make it back to Earth alive. She knew what had to be done and didn’t let her emotions get in the way of the greater good.
While these entries are not ranked, this should absolutely be everyone’s number one moment for Black Widow in the MCU. Loki, the Trickster God, was tricked by a mere mortal -- an exceptional feat by any standard. It is a callback to the beginning of the movie when she is being interrogated by the Russian. Loki thinks she’s vulnerable, that she is weak, and then he lets it slip that he is there because he wants to unleash Hulk.
That’s when we learn that she was, once again, always in control of the situation. Widow got exactly what she wanted and it saved the team. The results could have been much worse had Natasha not learned Loki’s true intentions and the damage could have been much worse and devastating than The Hulk chasing Black Widow across the Helicarrier.
Did we forget any other Black Widow moments from the MCU that should be on the list? Let us know in the comments section!