With the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) being the highest-grossing film franchise in history, many have tried to imitate its success by copying the formula. But it's not that easy.
The problem? Too many copycats think it's all about the fights and action sequences. Sure, the fights are great—but it's the drama and character work that gives stakes to those fights.
Furthermore, Marvel's cinematic success goes beyond just the MCU. Between the X-Men and Spider-Man films, it's downright impressive how much good stuff they've put out over the last few decades.
And it's the characters that make these films exceptional—their backstories, their motivations, their chemistry together, their personalities, and their emotional story beats.
Here are our picks for the best Marvel movie scenes and the elements that make them so memorable and effective.
15. I Am Iron Man (Iron Man)
The narcissism of Tony Stark is difficult to beat. When faced with numerous allegations that he's involved in the catastrophe between two mechanized opponents, he bats away the questions.
But before moving on, he just can't help himself. With great relish and dignified poise, he confesses: "I am Iron Man."
The journalists are excited, but more importantly, we are excited—and that's how you kick off a major franchise.
14. Peter Quill's Introduction (Guardians of the Galaxy)
On a dark, distant planet, a ship lands on a desolate terrain. Out steps a man wearing a futuristic mask, who enters a mysterious cave.
Then... Wait? Is that a Walkman?
As soon as "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone starts playing, we know that we've been introduced to another fun addition to the MCU—and an entertaining new hero to boot.
13. Thor Needs a Horse (Thor)
Thor may be far from the best entry in the MCU, but it was also far from the worst. In fact, it featured plenty of great moments.
One of the funniest was when Thor attempts to purchase a horse by going to the local pet shop. "I need a horse!"
When the store clerk informs him they don't sell horses—only dogs and cats—Thor acquiesces and says that he'll just take one of those that's big enough to ride. It's a perfect fish-out-of-water sequence.
12. Training Montage (X-Men: First Class)
The ragtag team of mutants in X-Men: First Class need a training montage if they're ever going to save the world. Fortunately, they get one—and it's actually pretty good.
It's exciting to watch this crew become more competent with their skills and confident within themselves, and it makes the overall arc of X-Men: First Class that much better.
11. We're a Time Bomb (The Avengers)
The Avengers was one of the biggest films of all time—and if you think about all the hype that surrounded the heroes of this landmark crossover event, it might even be the most anticipated film.
However, few viewers expected them to bicker so much.
This scene from The Avengers encapsulates what would probably happen if so many big egos were collected into one small room. The fast quips and badinage is enough to make this scene very memorable.
10. Doc Ock's Sacrifice (Spider-Man 2)
Perhaps one of the most sympathetic villains in the MCU, Doctor Octopus was a genius that was held back by the technology of his time.
Sure, he robbed a few banks and tried to kill Spider-Man a bunch of times. But when he decides to sacrifice himself to save the city and the people in it, you can tell he's not a bad person.
"I will not die a monster." He still has a conscience in there somewhere, even if he lost control of himself. And as he destroys his life's work, we can empathize with his struggle.
9. Vision Lifts Thor's Hammer (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
After Tony Stark created an artificial intelligence that was hell-bent on destroying the world, his co-workers were pretty annoyed.
But supposedly all he needed was a second crack at it to make it work. Just look at Vision! He turned out fine, right?
Though they're all initially skeptical of him, when Vision surprisingly (and nonchalantly) hands Thor his hammer, all doubt disappears from their minds: he's worthy, alright.
8. Wolverine Wakes Up in the Past (X-Men: Days of Future Past)
In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine is elected to travel back in time since he's the only one who can mentally handle the trip.
But he didn't exactly live a holy life back in 1973. In fact, he wakes up in bed with the daughter of his boss.
As he struggles to piece things together, a few goons show up and threaten him. He tries to explain the reality of his situation, but things take a bit of a violent turn. It's just a well-put-together scene.
7. Yondu's Funeral (Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2)
Yondu was a really great character. While he may not have been exactly pious, and while he may have been a mercenary with a checkered history, he was ultimately good at heart.
So, when he dies helping the Guardians of the Galaxy, a funeral is thrown in his honor—the very funeral he was told he would never receive for transporting children on his vessel.
He's been forgiven, and it's a moment that brings out the tears.
6. Sandman Confesses (Spider-Man 3)
Though Spider-Man 3 wasn't especially well-received, it did feature one of the most heartbreaking moments in the trilogy.
Just as Peter Parker destroys evil Eddie Brock, Flint (a.k.a. Sandman) appears behind him. He confesses everything that happened the night Uncle Ben died.
He explains how desperate he was. He conveys how sorry he was that he killed him, and how much it has haunted him. And Peter, with tears in his eyes, forgives him.
It's a touching moment that reminds us that the motives behind people's actions are not always black and white.
5. Thor and His Mother (Avengers: Endgame)
Avengers: Endgame had several superlative moments. (It's the most frequently mentioned movie on this list!) Many of those moments were absolutely devastating and heartbreaking.
Thor, depressed and out of shape, disappears when it's his turn to help in Asgard. That's when he encounters his mother, who immediately knows that she's speaking to a Thor from a different time.
This is the last time they ever get to speak to each other—something that isn't lost on Thor, which makes it especially tear-jerking.
4. Logan's Death (Logan)
Hugh Jackman's tenure as Wolverine came to an end in Logan, and it all transpired in the most gut-wrenching of ways.
After losing his last fight against a younger version of himself, his daughter blows his head off, saving his life. Unfortunately, the damage is already too severe.
As Laura cradles her father, he holds her hand and finally—gracefully—lets go of his hold on life. "So this is what it feels like..."
3. The Snap (Avengers: Infinity War)
One thing that makes superhero movies so predictable? The fact that the heroes always end up saving the day. But in Avengers: Infinity War, that was finally turned on its head.
Just as Thor thinks he's saved the day, Thanos snaps his fingers... and then everything changes.
Few moments in cinema history have ever been as viscerally shocking as it was to see so many beloved characters disintegrate and disappear. For the first time, they really felt vulnerable.
It's the kind of story beat that usually happens halfway through a film, not at the end! It was a huge gamble for the franchise—and it paid off.
2. I Am Iron Man (Avengers: Endgame)
In the final battle of Avengers: Endgame, Iron Man and Thanos battle for the Infinity Gauntlet. When it appears that Thanos has won, he laughs and declares: "I... am... inevitable!"
But when he snaps, he realizes his mistake. Stark had cleverly outwitted him and now wears the Infinity Gauntlet himself.
He looks Thanos in the eyes and speaks the line that launched the entire MCU back in Iron Man: "And I... am... Iron Man."
Of course, the force of his endeavor ends up killing him, and the heroic sacrifice only adds to the glory of the moment. Tony Stark saves the universe by paying a price he was never willing to pay before.
1. Steve and Peggy (Avengers: Endgame)
Finally, the moment that everyone needed to see after so many years of anguish and conflict: a happy ending for Captain America.
After saving the world countless times and always putting himself last, Steve Rogers does the right thing for himself in the end and returns to his one true love, Peggy.
Watching the pair slow-dance is enough to give you chills. It's romantic. It's subtle. It's enormously powerful.
And it closed out the main storyline of one of the most prominent characters in the MCU in the most touching way. For that, it's our pick for the best Marvel movie scene of all time.