The greatest fight scenes in the MCU

When it comes to superhero smackdowns, no one's quite as good at making them as consistently entertaining as Marvel. Across the Marvel Cinematic Universe's plethora of blockbuster adventures, countless epic fights have unfolded. We've seen incredible showdowns between the likes of Thor and Hulk, Hulk and the Hulkbuster, Captain America and Red Skull, and so many more. So how does one go about finding the absolute greatest fight scenes the MCU has to offer?

The answer, plainly stated, is that it's ultimately completely subjective. However, for as many cool fight scenes as there are across the MCU's filmography, it's pretty obvious that some stand above the others from a technical and artistic standpoint. Whether it be because of intense emotional stakes, ultra-creative fight modifiers, or plain old cinematic grandeur, some conflicts in the MCU are inherently more captivating than their peers. This list seeks to find the best of those moments, narrowing down the double-digit list of Marvel flicks to their best, cinematic-universe-defining moments. These are the greatest fight scenes in the MCU.

Captain America vs. Iron Man (Captain America: Civil War)

You knew this would be on the list. As expected, it's here, and for two very good reasons.

First, it's the payoff to over half a decade's worth of tension-building between the MCU's two biggest heroes. Across both Avengers movies we'd seen these fan-favorite characters butt heads, their ideological differences only diverging further from each other within their respective solo movies. That kind of friction could only be resolved in one way, and every fan knew it. So when Civil War came around, expectations were high. Would we see an emotionally charged climactic fight between the red and gold metal man and his patriotic ex-compatriot? The answer this beautifully grim finale so deftly gave us was a resounding "yes." The scene let us revel in seeing our preferred hero beat the snot out of the other guy, and gave us an MCU fight with some actual stakes.

The second great aspect of the fight is how painfully close it is to its comic book counterpart in terms of general tone and shot composure. Seriously, the poster-ready and movie-defining shot of Captain America deflecting Iron Man's point-blank repulsor blast single-handedly sums up why this movie deserves to have been made. It's a shot that pays tribute to its source material, catches the eye, shortens the breath, and raises the MCU's cinematography standards all inside a few short, impossibly sweet seconds. It's a masterful moment of film brought to life by directors Joe and Anthony Russo and cinematographer Trent Opaloch.

The Hydra Fortress Assault (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

After the Avengers' historic New York showdown, an event that defined the entire superhero film genre and illustrated its cinematic potential, Joss Whedon knew he had a tough act to follow. Thankfully, if there's one man capable of living up to the challenge he inadvertently set for himself, it's Whedon. Using the intro of Avengers: Age of Ultron to prove he still had it, the acclaimed director pulled out all the stops in order to produce one of the most revelrous, fanfare-infused and adrenaline-pumping opening superhero set pieces of all time.

This fight scene, from the moment it begins, is an absolute joy. Not only does it display each of the core Avengers in all their glory, but it does so through the use of one continuous, seamless tracking shot that strings together miles of geographic land in sweeping, interconnected style. We get epic moments with everyone: Iron Man blasts baddies from above, Thor smacks around goons like they're plush toys, Cap knocks out a gazillion Hydra soldiers with his shield while ripping around on his motorcycle, Hulk smashes, Black Widow and Hawkeye man a kickass battle truck — every Avenger gets their time to shine. And all of this exhilarating action is topped off by Brian Tyler's take on Alan Silvestri's Avengers theme, which blares to life alongside the heroes onscreen. As icing on the cake, the opening scene caps off with a beautiful group shot of all the Avengers leaping into battle as a combined unit, and it's at that moment you're reminded why Marvel's interconnected universe was worth all the effort.

Black Panther vs. Ulysses Klaue (Black Panther)

While this one's a sort of fight-race hybrid, that doesn't change how freaking cool it is. The scene, which follows Ulysses Klaue attempting to escape the clutches of T'Challa, has a lot going for it. First of all, there's the fact that it takes place in nighttime Seoul, meaning in between the cool blues and blacks of night there are waves of neon signage and lights that infiltrate every onscreen shadow and fill each frame with distinct, exciting colors. Beyond an electric color palette, there's the kinetic nature of the scene's choreography. Director Ryan Coogler outdid himself with this sequence, which steals the show due to its organically flowing, visceral motion: one second T'Challa is riding atop a remotely driven car, the next he's flipping over said car in slow motion, and the beat after that he's running across the side of a building. It's absolutely bonkers stuff, and yet, it's connected via such smart shot transitions that the film never confuses you with its highly mobile, visually busy action. Couple all of that with an amazingly fun performance from Andy Serkis, who throws in a ton of snarky and memorable lines during his race-fight with T'Challa, and you've got a surefire recipe for one of the best fights in the MCU.

Iron Man's assault on terrorism (Iron Man)

This fight scene, which features Tony Stark taking down terrorists in the Middle East right after he's developed his Mk3 Iron Man suit, is an instantly classic collection of badass moments. Seriously, everything about this scene screams "get ready for twenty-something more movies of this over the next decade, guys."

What specifically makes this scene so great? Put simply, it's the grand entrance of Iron Man's first proper suit. Red, gold, and dangerous, the Mk3 suit makes its debut to the tune of exploding tanks and dead terrorists, and it is glorious. This fight scene showed us things that, at the time, weren't even conceivable. Lock-on shoulder rockets that kill targets with zero collateral damage? A flying super suit that can eat a tank missile head-on and shrug it off? A wrist-mounted missile from said super suit that's capable of blowing up the aforementioned tank in one go? This single scene was a milestone for superhero cinematography, displaying a whole new breed of power fantasy that fans of the now-massive genre likely didn't even know they wanted.

Iron Man and War Machine team up against the Hammer drones (Iron Man 2)

This is one of the MCU's greatest fight scenes for two big reasons: aesthetics and characters.

First of all, the whole fight takes place in a dome-covered Japanese garden. How cool is that? Seriously, no other fight scene in the MCU's history has filled its frames with cherry blossom petals swirling around two guys in robot suits, and that can only be considered a huge missed opportunity given how cool it looked in this scene. The shallow streams of shimmering water, hilly terrain (which adds variety to the planes of action), and aforementioned pink trees of wonder all help to set up a very surreal and visually arresting scene composition, the likes of which the MCU has unfortunately yet to see since.

Secondly, and more importantly, this scene is one of the only times we get to see Rhodey use his War Machine armor to its fullest potential. Close-up shots of him slicing open Hammer drones and covering himself in black oil are some of the most metal (excuse the pun) shots in the whole movie, and it's one of the rare times in the MCU that Rhodey's superhero alter ego lives up to its name. While he and Iron Man get a cool team-up throwback scene in Age of Ultron, nothing quite compares to their first go-around at the end of Iron Man 2.

The Guardians of the Galaxy kill Ronan with his own infinity stone (Guardians of the Galaxy)

This one might be the most inventive fight scene on this list, if only because it's more of a dance fight than a traditional bare knuckles beat-up. Toward the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, Ronan the Accuser saddles up to declare his triumph over the Nova Corps and the Guardians, until Star-Lord interrupts and challenges him to a fight to the death… death by rhythm. Peter Quill, a.k.a Star-Lord, a.k.a the man with no fear, challenges the blue dude with an Infinity Stone hammer to a dance-off. It's great.

What comes after, however, might be even better. After the initial dance challenge is posed, it's quickly revealed that Star-Lord's fleek moves were just a gambit by Quill to buy his team time. It pays off, and the Guardians help him knock the Infinity Stone out of Ronan's control, which they then turn against him. The Guardians, united, join forces in the most unironically epic hand-holding session in the history of cinema, insulting Ronan and literally vaporizing him with his own glowing rock. Needless to say, this definitely deserves a spot on anyone's list of the best fight scenes in the MCU.

The tarmac throwdown (Captain America: Civil War)

Not counting whatever surprises await us in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4, the tarmac showdown in Captain America: Civil War remains the scene with the most superheroes we've ever had onscreen together at the same time, and it will forever remain a glorious moment in the MCU's history. So far, not one other movie in the massive, multi-franchise saga can claim to have a scene with as much raw, literal superheroism as this one, given that there are no fewer than twelve Marvel superheroes throwing down at the same time. Does The Avengers have a scene where Rhodey sonic-blasts Scarlet Witch while Spider-Man takes down Ant-Man like an AT-AT from Star Wars at the same time as Vision saves Black Panther from an incoming bus? Nuh-uh. Does Age of Ultron have anything comparable? Nope. Civil War's tarmac scene is a cacophony of comic book noise crammed into frames that are barely big enough to hold all the action. For the sheer scope of the fight alone, this scene easily earns its slot on this list.

Captain America and Bucky's final fight (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

There's not a single fight in the MCU's history that's quite as painful to watch as the one between Bucky and Cap at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Not only are the stakes ridiculously high — after all, Cap's trying to deactivate a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier that's set to gun down the world's most intelligent people — but they're also intensely personal. The only person keeping Cap from saving the lives of millions is the titular Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes, otherwise known as Cap's longtime best friend. It's absolutely heartbreaking to watch Bucky mercilessly abuse Cap, knifing him and smashing his body to a pulp as the latter desperately tries to deactivate the helicarrier and save innocent lives all while avoiding death blows from his best friend. And then, at the end when the sad soundtrack is playing and Cap's just taking the beatings from Bucky, refusing to punch back because he won't hurt his best friend, it's just — jeez, it's hard to even talk about it. Someone pass the tissues.

Ultron crashes the party (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

While this one is nowhere close to being the most bombastic fight scene on the list, it's great for a whole different reason: without a doubt, it's the coolest entrance of a villain in the MCU's history to date. The scene starts off calmly enough, what with the Avengers schmoozing and boozing together, enjoying the cool-down phase of their big post-Hydra-defeat party. Life looks good, for a brief moment. However, as Black Widow will say later on in the film, "nothing lasts forever." Just as the Avengers begin to think all is well, a deafening screech is heard and a mangled, leaking Ultron makes his debut. Trapped inside the body of a broken Iron Legion soldier, Ultron says some harrowing words before siccing a bunch of hijacked Iron Legion troops on the Avengers in their own meeting room. 

From there, caught with their pants down, all the Avengers scramble to defend themselves. Cap's got his shield, Thor's got his hammer, and Stark has a gauntlet, but overall armaments are pretty lacking in this scene — and that's what makes it great. Instead of Iron Man just pointing his hand at things or Hulk smashing, the Avengers actually need to display some slick moves and dodge attacks with acrobatic finesse. It's one of the more interestingly choreographed fights in the MCU and, at the same time, displays a reserved elegance in both its narrative delivery and action, the likes of which are hard to come by in Marvel movies.

The entire New York finale fight (Avengers)

You'd be hard-pressed to find a soul alive that wouldn't qualify this as one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's greatest fights. From top to bottom, this thing's an absolute behemoth: it's nearly 40 minutes of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye smashing the ever-living crap out of Chitauri warriors, in increasingly impressive ways. While the big New York finale scene features its fair share of regular punches, kicks and gunshots, the action really spices up when the Avengers begin tag-teaming the opposition. Before you know it, Iron Man is bouncing his repulsor beams off Cap's shield to wipe out entire conga lines of bad guys in a single blow. Hulk is guarding Thor while he summons lightning bolts directly into massive alien slugs' spines. Hawkeye actually manages to be a badass solely through otherworldly archery skills. Black Widow is slave-piloting chitauri soldiers' dead bodies. The whole fight is absolutely insane, once the Avengers band together. Not to mention, this whole scene starts off with the historic "I'm always angry" moment when Banner decimates a giant alien slug with nothing but his fist and a little assist from Iron Man. It's a legendary scene from start to finish.

The actual greatest fight in the MCU

As great as the Avengers' throwdown in New York was, let's not pretend its glory came from heroes like Iron Man or Captain America. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking Hawkeye, with his Robin Hood parlor tricks, was the star of the show. And Black Widow? Nah, she didn't do anything that special. These characters were all fine, sure, and we paid them their due above, simply because it would've been rude to do otherwise before we arrived at the real champions.

These two mystery contenders and their absolutely glorious brawl have, and will, reign supreme over the MCU fight scene hill today, yesterday, and tomorrow, and it's highly unlikely Infinity War will feature anything capable of dethroning the moment these two titans of war chose to go at each other. Who could it be, you ask? What two MCU characters gave us the fight of the century, the one hidden away behind this elaborate, multi-paragraph veil of secrecy? Well, at long last, it's time to reveal the winner of this whole competition. The characters: Thor, the God of Thunder, and the Incredible Hulk. The fight scene: when Hulk one-punches Thor offscreen. It's brutal. So brutal. Brutal enough to oust every other fight on this list from their shot at being number one. Seriously, a big green dude, in one hit, declares ownership over a deity that controls storms. Thanos has no clue what he's about to go up against.

(We're joking, of course. Nevertheless, it's still a great scene with some serious punch. Heh.)