The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for its big battles, as Helicarriers come crashing down to the Earth and spaceships are shot out of orbit and cities float off into the air, but it also has some terrific ground-level fight scenes as well. The franchise is about to come to a head as the Avengers’ scuffle with Thanos is resolved and half of them are, hopefully, restored to life in the known universe.
There’ll be plenty of fights along the way, for sure. So, ahead of Avengers: Endgame’s waves of destruction, here are the 10 best fight scenes in the MCU so far.
10 IRON MAN VS WHIPLASH
Many fans were disappointed with Iron Man 2, because it focused more on setting up the wider universe than telling its own story. They were particularly irked by Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash, who felt unnecessary in a movie where the real villains were rival tech developers and the U.S. government.
However, if there’s one thing the movie has plenty of, it’s action, and Whiplash is responsible for the most intense and exciting action scene in the whole movie as he comes after Tony on a racetrack in Monaco. The character might be pretty lame, but his electrified whips are very cool.
9 STAR-LORD VS EGO
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is all about fatherhood. Peter Quill meets his father, Ego, who turns out to be a Celestial who impregnated his human mother. At first, it seems great. He’s finally met his dad and he’s a living planet who can shapeshift and looks like Kurt Russell.
However, in a pretty predictable plot turn, he turns out to be evil and Star-Lord has to destroy him. Just like the best fight scenes, this one combines the emotion of a son having to kill his long-lost father not too long after meeting him with the all-out action of fighting a living planet.
8 THANOS VS THE HULK
The Hulk has lost very few fights, as we’ll see later on in this list since he’s the biggest, baddest, strongest, meanest Avenger there is. So, it was a wise move by the Russo brothers to have him fight Thanos in the opening moments of Avengers: Infinity War.
We go in thinking no one can beat this guy and then watch him get thrashed around and tossed down to Earth in a matter of moments by the Mad Titan. It really introduces us to just how powerful Thanos is – and how much danger the Avengers are in, now that he’s arrived.
7 IRON MAN VS TERRORISTS
Iron Man is the movie that kicked off the MCU in the first place. It tells us a visceral, modernized version of the character’s origin story, as he is taken by terrorists in the Middle East and made to build technology in a cave. Instead of giving them what they want, he decides to make a metal suit and bust out of there.
As the clunky, early version of Iron Man plows down dozens of terrorists on his way back to America, the MCU is born. Cue twenty more movies over ten years chock full of this kind of action.
6 CAPTAIN AMERICA VS THE WINTER SOLDIER
After Hydra sent the Winter Soldier to assassinate Captain America, Black Widow, and their allies, it was only a matter of time before it came down to gritty hand-to-hand combat and Cap realized the guy trying to kill him was his childhood best friend. The best fight scenes in the MCU – and movies in general, for that matter – work because of the emotions behind each punch.
It has nothing to do with the choreography, although that is also fantastic – it’s all about the audience’s engagement with the characters and their conflict, on an emotional as well as physical level. By that count, Cap fighting Bucky is one of the best.
5 IRON MAN VS THE HULLK
While there were a lot of things in Avengers: Age of Ultron that fans were disappointed with, like the plot being basically just a bunch of bridges between different movies, there were few people complaining about Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor. This was likely a holdover set piece from the first Avengers movie, since Joss Whedon’s original plan was to make the Hulk the villain.
Here, he is caught under Scarlet Witch’s spell, and his battle with Iron Man across Johannesburg is one of the most spectacular sequences in the MCU. Iron Man finally gave the Hulk a physical match: himself in a huge suit of armor. The finest moment in the scene is the rapid-fire “Go to sleep” fist cannon.
4 CAPTAIN AMERICA VS S.H.I.E.L.D./HYDRA
This is a truly epic brawl, as Steve Rogers finds himself in an elevator surrounded by bad dudes from Hydra out to get him. As he realizes he’s about to fight a group of ten guys in an enclosed space, he calmly asks them all, “Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?”
And then one of the most brilliantly choreographed fight scenes in the MCU breaks out as Steve takes out all these guys, one by one. It’s the crown jewel of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, combining the gritty, hard-hitting violence with campy one-liners in a way that doesn’t feel weird. The DCEU should take note.
3 THOR VS THE HULK
Fans rejoiced when the Hulk was announced as Thor’s co-star in Thor: Ragnarok, because they had accepted by then that they probably wouldn’t be getting a Hulk solo movie, so having him share one with Thor seemed like a fair compromise. The Hulk is introduced into the story as a gladiator who Thor is stuck in the ring with.
Our favorite Norse god doesn’t think his “friend from work” would fight him – except Banner is too far Hulked and doesn’t recognize him. The gladiatorial battle between Thor and the Hulk made a great teaser for the Ragnarok trailer and a thrilling midpoint for the movie itself.
2 T'CHALLA VS ERIK KILLMONGER
Coming to the MCU hot off Creed, Ryan Coogler was no stranger to directing visceral fight scenes – and he was also no stranger to letting Michael B. Jordan win them. This is one of those great movie fights that is helped by its context in the story. It isn’t just there for an action set piece; the villain is challenging the hero for his throne.
And he wins! We know that all of our beloved characters are going to have to worship the bad guy if T’Challa loses this fight, so we’re really rooting for him. That’s what makes this such a fantastic scene.
1 CAP & BUCKY VS IRON MAN
The climactic battle in Captain America: Civil War doesn’t involve all of the Avengers. The airport scene with everyone going at it is a great spectacle, but it’s the final fight between Cap, Iron Man, and Bucky that takes the title of best fight scene in the movie.
It’s wrought with emotion as Tony Stark discovers his parents were killed by Bucky and Cap tries to reason that Bucky wasn’t himself – he’d been brainwashed. Cap wants to protect his childhood friend, while Tony wants revenge. So, an intense, brutal, no-holds-barred battle between three superheroes breaks out and it’s incredibly cinematic.