With Infinity War in theaters, we've finally had a chance to see all six Infinity Stones in action. The first of the Infinity Stones (the Space Stone) debuted all the way back in Captain America: The First Avenger, although we didn't get so much as a glimpse of the final Stone (the Soul Stone) before Thanos came to assemble them all in Infinity War. As the most powerful forces in existence, the Infinity Stones have done quite a lot to shape the MCU. Over the years, heroes and villains alike have used them to accomplish some of the most powerful, strange, and outright crazy things in the multiverse.
When you can command time, manipulate space, and wield unlimited power (among other powers), things are bound to get interesting. Add in the fact that some of these stones have their own personalities and agendas, and you never quite know what you'll get when Infinity Stones are in the mix. Infinity Stones have done it all: created life, trapped insanely powerful beings, and caused loss on a scale hitherto unknown. In commemoration of all six Infinity Stones finally coming together, we found 20 of the most memorable and craziest MCU uses for the Infinity Stones.
WARNING: Spoilers for Infinity War ahead.
20 THE REALITY STONE TURNS HEROES INTO CUBES & RIBBONS
We would almost have been upset if we hadn't seen a few unusual moments with the Reality Stone in Avengers: Infinity War. The Reality Stone's powers give it nearly unlimited potential, and we didn't get much of a chance to see that until this most recent Avengers flick. After Thanos took the Stone from the Collector and desolated Knowhere, he remained on the outpost and waited for the Guardians of the Galaxy to arrive.
Thanos grabbed Gamora, and when Drax and Mantis tried to help her, he showed them just how powerful the Reality Stone could be.
With a wave of his hand, Thanos turned Drax into blocks and Mantis into ribbons, and they crumpled and fell to the ground. While the effect was only temporary, Drax and Mantis were completely awake in their altered states, and if the comics (Jim Starlin's Infinity Gauntlet miniseries) are any indication, it was also incredibly painful. Anything goes when the Reality Stone is in play. Before Infinity War, all we saw of the Reality Stone/Aether was a water-like entity bent on destroying the universe. After Thanos got his hands on it though, he was more than happy to put its true power to use.
19 THE POWER AND SPACE STONES REPEL THE MIRROR DIMENSION
When Thanos arrived on Titan and met Dr. Strange, he commented that Maw accomplished his evil task, even at the cost of his life. Strange replied that Thanos may regret that, as it brought Thanos "face to face with the Master of the Mystic Arts." With four Infinity Stones on his gauntlet though, Thanos wasn't phased -- he knew he had what he needed to ward off Strange. During the ensuing fight between Thanos and the heroes assembled on Titan, Thanos eventually faced off with Dr. Strange. During the skirmish, Strange tried to trap Thanos in the Mirror Dimension, which would have kept the Mad Titan from harming the real world.
It's unlikely that Thanos would have remained in the Mirror Dimension if Dr. Strange had succeeded. Thanos had the Time, Space, and Power Stones by this time (he had the Soul Stone too, but that wouldn't have helped), and he almost certainly could have used them to get free. Thanos didn't need to try though, as he was able to use the Space and Power Stones to shatter the opening to the Mirror Dimension as it came towards him. Even magic has its limits when it comes to Infinity Stones.
18 THE REALITY STONE TURNS WEAPONS INTO BUBBLES
Thanos might have a twisted solution to saving the universe, but we have to hand it to him, he certainly has a sense of humor. After he took the Reality Stone from the Collector on Knowhere, he knew the Guardians of the Galaxy didn't a chance against him. So when Gamora asked Star-Lord to kill her to keep the Soul Stone's location a secret, Thanos didn't try to stop him -- he even encouraged Star-Lord to shoot. When Star-Lord finally pulled the trigger, though, Thanos used the Reality Stone to turn the blaster beam, and then the blaster, itself into bubbles.
Imagination is the only limit to the Reality Stone (especially since Thanos already had the Power Stone), so it's not surprising that Thanos chose to toy with Star-Lord.
What is just a tad surprising is that he used the Reality Stone the exact way on Gamora later. When Thanos and Gamora were on Vormir, Gamora realized Thanos couldn't earn the Soul Stone if she killed herself. She tried to stab herself with the knife Thanos had given her as a child, but he quickly turned the knife into bubbles with the Reality Stone. It's kind of a strange way for him to save his daughter so he can sacrifice her to the Soul Stone, but Thanos was a pretty strange guy.
17 THE MIND STONE GIVES THE MAXIMOFFS POWERS
In theory, the Infinity Stones have domain over their particular niche. The Space Stone does space-related things and the Mind Stone has power over the mind, etc. Of course, they are also the most powerful forces in the entire universe, so there are a few gray areas that they have sway over as well. For example, during Avengers: Age of Ultron, both Pietro and Wanda Maximoff have superpowers that they gained from exposure to Loki's scepter, which housed the Mind Stone. The Scarlet Witch's powers include things we'd expect after exposure to the Mind Stone, like telepathy. Quicksilver, on the other hand, is just fast, so there is no logical connection there.
As explained in the comic Prelude to Age of Ultron by Will Corona Pilgrim, Loki's scepter was supposed to unlock the natural superpowers hidden within a person's DNA. The process was quite dangerous, and out of all the Sokovians who volunteered for the experiment, only Pietro and Wanda survived. While unlocking dormant genes would explain why the Maximoff twins have such different powers, it is a stretch to think that something relegated to mind-related powers caused this. Maybe it was a combination of the Mind Stone's powers and Loki's specter?
16 THE SPACE AND POWER STONES TURN A MOON INTO METEORS
Thanos' battle with the Avengers, Dr. Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy on Titan was an awesome display of what the Space, Power, and Reality stones could do. In the beginning of the fight, Thanos used the Power Stone to protect himself when Iron Man dropped wreckage from the spaceship on him. When he recovered, he also used the Reality Stone to turn said wreckage into birds (not super helpful, although Iron Man definitely didn't see that coming). As the fight continued, Thanos found more and more ways to use the combined powers of the stones against his adversaries.
One of the more notable displays was in the second half of the battle.
The heroes momentarily had Thanos in their power but were unable to remove the gauntlet before Thanos could break free (nice going, Star-Lord). When the Mad Titan recovered, he renewed the fight with vehemence. Using the Power Stone and the Space Stone, Thanos blasted a nearby moon. The surface of the moon broke apart, and the rocks came hurtling down on Titan as meteors. With four of the Infinity Stones in his possession, Thanos could turn an entire moon into a weapon in seconds. It's not surprising he won the fight.
15 THE SPACE STONE TURNS THE RED SKULL INTO A GUARDIAN
Occasionally in the MCU, we see the Infinity Stones behave as if they have minds of their own. The Red Skull found this to be true when he decided to hold the Tesseract/Space Stone in his hands. All the way back in Captain America: The First Avenger, the Red Skull grabbed the Tesseract and teleported away, not be seen or heard from again until Avengers: Infinity War. When he finally reappeared, it was as the ominous, floating guardian of the Soul Stone, warning Thanos that going after the Soul Stone "exacts a terrible price."
The Skull proceeds to tells Thanos and Gamora that he went after the Infinity Stones once but was not up to the task. The Space Stone rejected him, and as punishment for his inability to control the Stone, Red Skull became the Soul Stone's guardian, guiding others to the Stone and explaining the sacrifice that the stone demands. It's not how we pictured the Red Skull would make his return, but it did show that going after the Infinity Stones was not something a person could just wake up and decided to do. It required a level of purpose and commitment that few truly possessed.
14 THE SPACE STONE MAKE HYDRA/S.H.I.E.L.D. WEAPONS
The first time someone used an Infinity Stone in the MCU, it was on a relatively small and narrow-minded scale. The Tesseract first appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger. As we would later find out that the Tesseract was actually the Space Stone in disguise, Cap's first movie also marked the first Infinity Stone appearance. After the Red Skull found the Tesseract/Space Stone, he used it as an unlimited power source for Hydra's weapons. Not exactly the most optimal use for an Infinity Stone (it's like taking a highly versatile substance like vibranium and making a shield), but it was also the '40s, so we'll cut him slack.
Over half a century later, S.H.I.E.L.D. decided they would try the exact same thing.
While they knew the Tesseract was supposed to be a portal to other worlds, all they truly seemed concerned about was the amount of power it could generate and the weapons they could use with that power. What can we say? Secret organizations -- whether good or evil -- just cant's resist a chance to make weapons with an unlimited power source. It was probably for the best that S.H.I.E.L.D. didn't realize they had an Infinity Stone in their possession, especially since Hydra agents were still mixed in with their ranks at that point in time.
13 THE SPACE AND POWER STONES TRAP BLACK WIDOW
Thanos reached a point in Infinity War where he's really just showing off. By the time he came to Wakanda for the Mind Stone, he knew there wasn't anyone or anything that could possibly stop him. After spending so many years in search of the Infinity Stones, Thanos was clearly eager to complete his mission, and he quickly repelled any hero who stood in his way. However, that didn't stop him from showing off some of his newly acquired powers. When Black Widow attempted to stop him Thanos didn't even let her get close. Instead, he used the Infinity Stones to bring rocks out of the ground to trap her.
We can't really blame Thanos for flexing his muscles a little. After spending ten years collecting a set of infinitely powerful rocks, it's only natural that he'd want to play with them a little before destroying half of the universe? Sure, making rocks come out of the ground to trap someone without superpowers or a fancy weapon does seem a bit excessive, but Thanos had nearly unlimited power at this point. With all that power, who wouldn't want to show off in front of their enemies before killing half the universe?
12 THE MIND STONE CREATES THE VISION
The Infinity Stones have caused a lot of damage in the MCU. They made portals that enabled the Chituari to invade earth, they powered weapons of mass destruction, and they turned half of the universe's population to dust. In the right hands though, the Infinity Stones are occasionally used in ways that impact the earth in a positive way.
In one particular circumstance, the Mind Stone actually helped create a life.
Back in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ultron incorporated the Mind Stone into the android body he created. Ultron planned to upload himself into this better-than-human body, but the Avengers managed to steal it before he could do so. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner worked on the android and uploaded the J.A.R.V.I.S. matrix to it. While this was in process, Thor arrived and blasted the android with Mjolnir's lightning, overloading its power cells. When the lightning stopped and the dust steeled, the Vision was born. As we later learned in Avengers: Infinity War, Vision could exist without the Mind Stone (in theory). However, would we have gotten the same tender-hearted, phase-shifting Avenger if the Mind Stone hadn't been a part of his creation? Not a chance.
11 THE TIME STONE SEES HOW THE HEROES COULD WIN
The Time Stone always makes an impressive showing. It was crucial to defending the world from Dormammu and it was the only reason Thanos could reconstruct the Mind Stone. Quite possibly its most important use, however, was when Dr. Strange used it to look into the future in Infinity War. While Star-Lord and Iron Man fought over the best way to fight Thanos, Dr. Strange used the Time Stone to examine some potential future timelines -- 14,000,605 potential timelines, to be exact. There was only one potential future where the heroes were able to defeat Thanos, and they adjusted their plan accordingly.
As Thanos won at the end of Infinity War, we're hoping all the movie's events were part of this one potential future, and that Strange just didn't tell the rest of his team that Thanos would assemble the Infinity Gauntlet. This would make sense, as nearly everyone with him on Titan didn't survive Thanos' snap of death. When Strange surrendered the Time Stone to Thanos, he told Iron Man that "this is the endgame now." Along similar lines, right before Strange disappeared with half of the universe, he told Stark that "It was the only way," hinting that everything that happened was part of the plan.
10 THE TIME STONE TRAPS DORMAMMU IN A TIME LOOP
Out of all of the Infinity Stones, the Time Stone had the most impressive pre-Infinity War display of powers. In the final face-off between Dr. Strange and Dormammu in Dr. Strange, the new Sorcerer Supreme told the ruler of the Dark Dimension "I've come to bargain." Dormammu simply killed him. Seconds later though, Dr. Strange returned. "Dormammu, I've come to bargain." It takes the giant, insanely powerful being a couple of exchanges like this before he realizes that he's trapped in a time-loop. Even after Strange explains the situation, Dormammu still tries his hardest to escape -- to no avail. Desperate to leave the time-loop, Dormammu finally agrees to leave the earth alone.
With such an awesome display of power, it's a tad surprising that we didn't see Dr. Strange try something similar in Avengers: Infinity War.
Even Thanos appeared surprised that Strange didn't utilize the Stone's powers. He clearly wasn't afraid of using the Time Stone -- when Iron Man suggested he put it somewhere safe when Thanos' children attacked, he responded that he "might want to use it." Our best guess is using the Time Stone in that way wasn't part of the one future where the heroes could beat Thanos.
9 THE TIME STONE RESURRECTS VISION
One benefit of the Time Stone is that nearly anything can be undone. Following the attack on the Hong Kong Sanctum in Doctor Strange, the Master of the Mystic Arts used the Time Stone to reverse time in localized areas, essentially putting Hong Kong back together after the fight. He used the same process to resurrect Wong, who had died when Dormammu's forces invaded.
During Infinity War, Thanos used the Time Stone in a similar manner when he took the Mind Stone from Vision. By the time Thanos reached Vision, the Scarlet Witch had already destroyed the Mind Stone, which killed Vision in the process. Thanos used the Time Stone on Vision to bring him back to a point before the Mind Stone was destroyed, and then ripped the Stone off Vision's head. So far, the Time Stone is the only Infinity Stone to exhibit a power that can bring characters back from the dead. Whether or not another Stone has this capability remains unclear, as we have yet to see the full scope of the Soul Stone's powers. For the time being though, the Time Stone alone has the power to resurrect someone. This arguably makes it the most powerful of all the Infinity Stones.
8 THE SPACE STONE CREATES AN INTERDIMENSIONAL PORTAL
The Tesseract (aka the Space Stone) mostly served as a glorified battery when first it appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger. However, when Loki used it during The Avengers, he was more than happy to use the Stone's power to manipulate space. At the beginning of the movie, Loki was able to open a small, unstable portal from across the universe to bring himself to earth. With the help of Eric Selvig, a brainwashed Hawkeye, and Stark Tower, the god of mischief tapped into enough of the Space Stone's power to open up a portal over Manhattan.
The portal was large enough for the Chitari army to come through with ease, and was stable enough to remain open perpetually.
To close the portal, Eric Selvig had created a failsafe that would allow Loki's scepter to pass through the Space Stone's pure-energy force field. The explanation was that the Tesseract and scepter were connected, so the Cube wouldn't repel it. The scepter also housed the Mind Stone, and it's hard to imagine that an energy barrier could have kept an Infinity Stone back if it tried. Either way, it marked the first time two Infinity Stones interacted with one another in the MCU.
7 THE MIND STONE BRAINWASHES HAWKEYE
All the way back in The Avengers, before there was any hype about Thanos or the Infinity Stones, Loki used the Mind Stone when he tried to invade the earth. When Loki first arrived on earth, he was in the heart of a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. He blasted most of his opposition, but when he found someone he deemed useful, he used his Mind Stone-powered scepter to brainwash them. Loki took Eric Selvig to build a portal and then took Hawkeye for his skill and spirit. Consequentially, Barton spent most of the film fighting the Avengers as Loki's minion (instead of joining the team and fighting among the ranks like everyone else).
Interestingly enough, the Mind Stone showed some clear limitations when it came to brainwashing. The Stone was powerful enough to completely turn a trained spy like Barton in a matter of seconds and the experience itself was so traumatizing that he constantly mentioned it in Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, the mind control was easy to break -- one hard blow to the head was all that was needed. It also appeared to only work if the scepter touched a certain part of the body, as Iron Man's Arc Reactor made it impossible for Loki to brainwash him. Perhaps it was the scepter's limitations and not the Stone itself?
6 THE POWER STONE DESTROYS XANDAR'S FLEET
The Power Stone is fairly straightforward. Unlike some of the other Infinity Stones, it doesn't exhibit any type of will or personality and its powers are fairly predictable. When combined with another Stone, the Power Stone will augment the other Stone's powers. By itself, it is essentially unbridled destruction. Just holding the Stone is lethal, as even a group of people cannot contain the Stone's power for more than a few seconds (unless one of those people holding it is half-Celestial, of course). And if holding it isn't destructive enough, a blast from the Power Stone can cause a chain reaction, destroying everything it comes into contact with.
We saw just how devastating the Power Stone can be in Guardians of the Galaxy when Ronin the Accuser used the Stone to attack the planet Xandar.
To protect the planet's surface, Xandar's Nova Core fleet connected their starships together to form a blockade around Ronin's ship. Unfortunately for the fleet, Ronin only needed a single blast from the Stone to touch one of the interconnected ships, and the destruction cascaded to the other ships in seconds. Had the Guardians of the Galaxy not stopped Ronin with a dance-off, he would have wiped out Xandar's entire population.
5 THE REALITY STONE PROTECTS ITS HOST
Like several of the Infinity Stones, the Reality Stone didn't have a chance to show off many of its classic powers when it first appeared in the MCU. We didn't see much of the Reality Stone's ability to bend reality when it appeared in Thor: Dark World, although we did see it display some other powers. When Odin realized that the Reality Stone (aka the Aether) had bonded with Jane Foster, he explained to Jane and Thor that it was different from the other Infinity Stones or "relics." In addition to usually taking a liquid form, the Aether had a tendency to turn things into dark matter and suck the life out of people. Or as the All-Father put it, "It seeks out host bodies, drawing strength from their life force."
As it turns out, there is one benefit to being bonded with a watery, parasite Infinity Stone: it doesn't want its host to die (from external factors at least). In order to protect itself, the Reality Stone is more than happy to throw a little power around if its host feels threatened. So when a few of Odin's guards tried to take Jane back to earth by force, a wave of energy burst out of her and sent them flying across the room. Not exactly what we'd expect from the Reality Stone, but it was pretty cool to watch.
4 THE SOUL STONE FINDS THE REAL DR. STRANGE
The Soul Stone hasn't had many opportunities to shine in the MCU. Thanks to Gamora, who wisely burnt the map with the Stone's location, the Soul Stone remained hidden on Vormir until Avengers: Infinity War. Even after Thanos found it, he used the Power, Space and Reality Stones much more frequently. One of the few times Thanos used the Soul Stone was during the fight on Titan, when he faced off with Dr. Strange for the Time Stone.
During the standoff, Strange used magic to duplicate himself several times, which accomplished two very important things.
Firstly, it made it impossible to keep track of where the Time Stone was. Second, the act also gave Strange a small army of Sorcerer Supremes to attack Thanos with. While an admirable effort, the illusion didn't last long. Thanos used the Power Stone to blast the duplicates. As the Soul Stone blinked when the real Doctor Strange was the only one left standing, it appears that Thanos used the to Soul Stone to find his true enemy. So far, we've only seen a fraction of what the Soul Stone can do in the MCU. Hopefully, we'll get to see more of its powers in Avengers 4.
3 THE REALITY STONE CHANGES THE HULK'S DENSITY
When Thanos came to Wakanda for the final Infinity Stone, he didn't let anyone stand in his way. Every hero in close proximity took a stab at the Mad Titan, and with one Stone's power or another, he shrugged them all off, hit them to one side, or didn't even let them touch him. Banner's attempt to stop Thanos with the Hulkbuster armor stands out because unlike the majority of heroes, Banner wasn't cast to one side. Instead, Thanos used the Space Stone to change Banner's density so that he walked right through Thanos. Thanos waited until Banner had tumbled into some rocks before he changed him back to normal, which trapped Banner in the rocks.
Much like Thanos' encounter with Romanova, it's not surprising that he used some excessive powers to keep Banner at bay. Besides, Thanos had already pulverized the Hulk earlier, so taking down Banner in his human form with sheer force posed no challenge. And he had five Infinity Stones at the time, so why not put them to use in some new, creative way? Again, we really can't blame him for wanting to see all the different ways he could use his new, all-but-unlimited power.
2 THE REALITY STONE TEMPORARILY RESTORES WORLDS
The Reality Stone had quite a few opportunities to shine during Avengers: Infinity War, although its first use in the film is arguably the most impressive. When the Guardians of the Galaxy arrived on Knowhere, they found the outpost all but deserted. They made their way to Thanos, who was still trying to learn the Reality Stone's location from the Collector. Gamora attacked Thanos and managed to stab him twice, and it appeared that the Mad Titan would die before he accomplished his task. To Gamora's horror though, Thanos had been using the Reality Stone the entire time. When he stopped using the Stone, she found Thanos was not dead, the Collector was nowhere in sight and the majority of the outpost was burning and desolated.
Thanos used the Reality Stone in a similar manner when he confronted the heroes on Titan.
Dr. Strange asked if the planet was Thanos' home, and Thanos used the Gem to show Strange the planet's former glory. It's unclear why Thanos didn't simply restore his homeworld to its former state. Perhaps he was too intent on fulfilling his mission, or maybe he wanted it to remain an example of what happens when a planet ignores his population solution.
1 THE INFINITY STONES DESTROY HALF THE UNIVERSE
Out of all the ways the Infinity Stones have been used in the MCU, one particular instance, of course, trumps them all. Without a doubt, the craziest and most horrifying use of the Infinity Stones was when Thanos assembled all six Stones and brought "balance" to the universe. With a snap of his fingers, half the universe's population turned to ash, shocking Infinity War audiences to tears, screams, or dumbfounded silence. MCU favorites such as Black Panther, Groot, and even Spider-Man were just gone, with little or no time to say goodbye.
It's not like we didn't see it coming. We knew Thanos would assemble the Infinity Gauntlet, and as wiping out half of all existence was his mission from the beginning of the movie, it was only a matter of time before he completed his goal. Still, it's one thing to mentally prepare for a few characters to die on-screen, and another to see them confused and frightened as they dissolve in front of their best friends and mentors. And to make matters worse, most of the characters speculated to die (like Captain America and Iron Man) were spared while characters we for sure thought would like (like Spider-Man -- how could they kill off Spider-Man?) were killed. Our only consolation is that some of these characters should come back in Avengers 4... right?