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MCU scenes that are practically flawless

There's no doubt, at this point, that Marvel has set a gold standard of cinematic superhero success — one that few people saw coming just a few short years before Iron Man kicked things off back in 2008. Over the years since, Marvel Studios has taken a lineup of its B-list characters and managed to create a pop culture phenomenon that has been nothing short of spectacular. From triumphant box office numbers to incredibly intricate continuity and crossover connections, the Disney-owned franchise has managed to find its way into an unparalleled level of success over the last decade and change.

The question is, with thousands of minutes of film already released, what are the high points? With the benchmark of cinematic quality and entertainment value set so high, what scenes transcend the stories around them and stand out on their own merits? While no movie can claim to be perfect, we've gone ahead and come up with a list of some of the best MCU scenes out there — scenes that were so good, they bordered on perfection.

Kicking things off with the Mark I

Iron Man is a masterpiece of a movie. Robert Downey Jr.'s performance as Tony Stark is exactly what the MCU needed to gain some momentum right out of the gate. While it's a great experience from one end to the other, though, there's one scene that stands out above the rest. We're talking about Stark's emergence from captivity, decked out in the towering first version of his Iron Man suit, the Mark I.

The clunky armor is a rough start compared to the nanotech that Stark eventually creates. It gets stuck in the wall and requires a handmade spark to launch its missiles. But it's all he needs to blow that popsicle stand and then hightail it out of there, leaving the astonished survivors of the Ten Rings in the rearview mirror.

The death of Yinsen adds some emotional fuel to the fire, too, as he emplores Stark not to waste his life. The emergence of the MCU's first bona fide superhero was pulled off with a precision that simultaneously cut to the quick and had us on our feet cheering.

The Decimation

Everything hits the fan when Thanos arrives on the scene in Avengers: Infinity War. While Endgame would eventually even the score by dusting the Mad Titan and seeing the good guys back on top, its predecessor marks one of the first times Marvel actually ended things on a sour note — and we mean a really sour note.

The story comes to a fever pitch as Thanos plucks the Mind Stone out of Vision's forehead, completing his gauntlet, and then snaps his fingers after Thor fails to "go for the head." The sequence that follows takes us across the universe, showing the effects of the snap as half of all life in existence crumbles to ashes on the spot. One moment on Titan is particularly emotional as Spider-Man bids a desperate farewell to his mentor, Tony Stark.

Back on Earth, Steve Rogers' slow realization that they have just lost is just as moving, as he sits, slumped on the ground in defeat with his friends turned to dust around him. While it may not be fun, the Decimation (as it has been dubbed) is one of the most flawlessly executed moments in the entire MCU.

A super-duel

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have brought us many of the MCU's most compelling moments, and their work makes it onto this list more than once. A particular highlight, though, is the Captain America: Civil War's climactic confrontation.

The final moments of that film see Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes face off against a furious Tony Stark, who has just discovered that it was none other than Barnes himself (during his brainwashed days as the Winter Soldier) who killed his parents. The scene is set against a cold, hard backdrop of snow and stone as the heroes tangle through an abandoned Cold War facility in Siberia. Stark's superior armor seems to put him at an advantage, but it's ultimately Rogers' "I can do this all day" attitude that helps him defeat the Iron Avenger by putting a shield through his arc reactor.

From stellar cinematography to the wrenching emotional conflict to the choreography of the fight itself, everything about this scene is a home run.

Come a little bit closer

Michael Rooker's Yondu Udonta steals the show for a lot of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. However, the scene in which Peter Quill's violently flawed father figure stages a jailbreak and then retakes his entire ship with the help of Rocket and Baby Groot is particularly priceless. The scene, cheekily set to the needle drop of Jay and the Americans' "Come a Little Bit Closer," perfectly embodies the spirit of the Guardians franchise.

Irreverent, careless, mindlessly violent, unpredictable, self-destructive, and downright hilarious, the sequence shows Yondu's Yaka Arrow speed around the ship, hunting his mutinous crew one by one until he finally takes out Taserface… and the entire ship to boot. The legendary feat firmly establishes Yondu as a Mary Poppins level hero, y'all… and just in time for him to make the sacrifice play as the film wraps up. The scene is deliciously tongue-in-cheek and masterfully leaves the audience struggling with a brand of morbid humor that only James Gunn can so casually invoke.

Swinging into action

The airport fight scene in Captain America: Civil War is incredible on so many levels. The one and only time that the MCU's heroes have taken each other on "en masse" — they've fought one-on-one plenty of times — it's positively dripping with quality action beats. Naturally, the fighting is preceded by some light banter, because even at their lowest points, Marvel's heroes can't contain their sarcasm. Once the joking is finished, though, the divided team gets down to business, and boy is it fun to watch.

The scene has Tom Holland's Spider-Man swinging into action for the first time, even nabbing Cap's shield while's he's at it. Scarlet Witch continues to showcase her impressive powerset as well, and newcomer T'Challa cuts a dashing figure in his vibranium Black Panther suit. Even Ant-Man makes a huge splash by transforming into Giant-Man and wrecking everything in his path. The thrilling moments just keep on coming with this one. From start to finish, the airport fight is one of the best action sequences that the MCU has ever produced.

If he be worthy...

Remember that party scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron where the team takes turns trying to lift Mjolnir? Thor watches, amused as his "unworthy" teammates struggle to no avail. The only point where he genuinely looks concerned is when Steve Rogers manages to budge the hammer, only to give up after a few seconds.

It turns out, Cap has been able to lift the hammer all along — seriously, the Russos said so — and has simply been sparing his friend some embarrassment. The whole event is brushed under the rug going forward… that is, until the closing act of Avengers: Endgame.

As Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor confront Thanos in the smoldering rubble of the Avengers compound, they find that even un-gauntleted, the Mad Titan is a tough nut to crack. Then it all comes together when Rogers lifts Mjolnir from the ground and hurdles it at the unsuspecting villain just as he's about to finish off Thor. The scene is perfectly timed, and stands out as one of the most satisfying moments in the entire MCU to date.

From another world

For a significant portion of Thor's first solo outing, the God of Thunder himself is unworthy of Mjolnir. After disobeying his father, Thor finds himself exiled to earth, where he stands out like a sore thumb. In one of the best sequences of the entire movie, Thor heads with Jane Foster and company to a diner, where the god's enormous appetite amuses the whole crew, and his cup-shattering call for more coffee attracts the attention of all and sundry.

Realizing that Mjolnir isn't far off, Thor decides to head out in search of it. However, without his hammer to pull him, he must search for transportation. He enters a pet shop demanding a horse. When he's told they aren't available, he asks for a pet large enough to ride. The entire sequence is filled with lighthearted humor, driven primarily by the yet-to-be-humbled hero himself. The scene is also the first time Chris Hemsworth showed off some acting chops that belied the fact that he was more than just a musclebound dude with a cape.

Gladiators extraordinaire

Thor's character has come a long way since those early Phase 1 days. While his second solo outing, Thor: The Dark World, is not exactly a fan favorite, the God of Thunder's story had new life breathed into it with Thor: Ragnarok. In this wild adventure, the hero finds himself stranded and enslaved on the garbage planet of Sakaar. This ultimately leads to his being forced to don armor and enter a gladiatorial arena to face the Grandmaster's Champion, who turns out to be none other than Hulk.

The entire scene in the arena is perfectly executed, from Thor's "friend from work" line to Jeff Goldblum's eccentric portrayal of the Grandmaster, to Thor and Hulk's raucous brawl that ends with the so-called "Lord of Thunder" electrifying the Jade Giant before being incapacitated by his obedience disc. The scene also serves as a sweet shout out to Hulk's own Planet Hulk story from the comics, all while kicking off his own three-story arc within the MCU.

The first assembly

The first Avengers movie follows Earth's Mightiest Heroes as they get together for the first time, iron out their differences, and stop a Chitauri invasion of New York City led by Thor's trickster brother Loki. With so many great scenes unfolding throughout the film, though, there's one that has to be called out every time: the shot of the six heroes, suited up together in the ruined streets of the Big Apple.

With a portal open above the city and the fate of the world at stake, the team finally gets their act together just in time for one of Steve Rogers' first great moments as a leader of the Avengers. With Tony Stark's blessing, Cap takes charge, assigning roles to each hero and helping contain the unfolding disaster long enough for the Iron Avenger to fly an inbound missile through the wormhole to wrap things up. But it all starts with that one shot, circling around the six heroes as they stand, back to back, ready to fight and die doing their duty. Marvel had been building to that exact moment for four straight years, and it serves as a perfect crescendo.

Thor's arrival in Wakanda

The MCU has a lot of last minute arrivals and nick-of-time heroic entrances that make you want to get up out of your chair and start cheering at the top of your lungs. But there's one scene, in particular, that has to make it onto the shortlist of greats: Thor's arrival in Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War.

After spending the bulk of the movie off on his own side quest in search of a new weapon, the God of Thunder's arrival on the battle-swept plains of Wakanda is electrifying. It breathes new life into his allies and utterly terrifies his enemies — those that don't get blown to smithereens within the first few seconds, at least. His added war cry of "Bring me Thanos!" sends shivers down the spine as he charges into the fray with Stormbreaker in hand. The entire event is an energizing positive in a movie that generally grows ever bleaker from the beginning, and the thrilling change of pace is inserted into the narrative at the perfect moment.

Avengers (really) assemble

While you can argue that the first time the Avengers "assembled" to ward off a threat is in the streets of New York City during Avengers, it isn't quite satisfying, because it's missing one key ingredient: Steve Rogers calling for the team to, well, assemble. Over the next several years, the MCU continued to stubbornly avoid the team's iconic line at all costs… until the end of Avengers: Endgame.

The three-hour epic's climactic final battle launches with one of the most visually stunning shots in the history of Marvel movies. A bruised and battered Steve Rogers cinches his damaged shield, stands up, and faces down Thanos' entire army in his ultimate "I can do this all day" moment of glory. It's clear that he's ready to go down fighting, even though he knows there's no way he can win. But just as all hope seems lost, a host of sling ring portals open up around him, bringing together seemingly every hero from across the Marvel Universe for one final fight. It goes right over the top, though, when it turns out to be the scene that finally sees Rogers announce, "Avengers, assemble!" It took over 20 movies, but the uttering of the phrase was well worth the wait.

Rock, paper, scissors

Sometimes the best scenes come in the form of unexpected sidebars between characters. In Thor: Ragnarok, the tensions are high when Thor is thrown into the Grandmaster's prison after arriving on Sakaar. He knows that he must face a champion and still, somehow, find a way to stop his sister Hela. And yet, with so much at stake, the narrative pauses to introduce two new lovable characters: Korg and Miek, fellow gladiators who quickly bond with the Asgardian and end up following him beyond his own film and into Endgame.

Upon their first meeting after Thor arrives in the "freaky circle," Korg goes off on a string of dialogue that simultaneously informs the God of Thunder about his newfound captivity, fills him in on numerous details about the Kronan warrior and his compatriots, and even goes off on a tangent about a failed revolution that he tried to start up. The impressive thing about the scene is how seamlessly it's woven into the greater story, casually introducing two lighthearted characters who end up having a massive impact on Thor's destiny.

Escaping assassins

Of all his teammates, Steve Rogers had perhaps the most dramatic post-Avengers character arc, and in Captain America: Winter Soldier, his own narrative really hits the ground running. Winter Soldier is brimming with refined action sequences, deep character development, and several tweaks to the larger MCU narrative — e.g. the return of Bucky Barnes and the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. — that make the movie a bright spot in Marvel's Phase 2 lineup.

One of the best scenes, though, takes place when Nick Fury's car is attacked by assassins disguised as local law enforcement. The seriously injured S.H.I.E.L.D. director calmly yet sarcastically discusses the situation with the vehicle's AI while the SUV's armor takes a beating from bullets and a battering ram. Switching to the offensive at the perfect moment, Fury uses a machine gun hidden in his center console — yes, you read that correctly — to mow down his opponents and create havoc before ordering the car to escape the scene. While Fury spends most of his MCU career busy orchestrating and operating from the shadows, this sampling of his strength and poise under pressure makes for a welcome sight, indeed.

Does anyone want to get off?

Winter Soldier gradually turns up the tension as Captain America begins to realize the full extent to which S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by Hydra. It all comes to a head during a long elevator ride. The slow tension of the scene ramps up beautifully as Cap stands, hands crossed, while more and more bruisers step onto the lift, filling it up to maximum capacity. His line, "Before we start, does anyone want to get off?" is the perfect kick-off to a fight of claustrophobically epic proportions.

Within moments, Rogers takes on the entire elevator, carpeting the floor with his opponents' knocked out bodies. The final line, "It kind of feels personal," followed by the kick-and-catch of his shield is pure gravy for a scene that leaves no doubt that Steve Rogers is a guy you don't want to mess with. He may be soft and warm on the outside, but backed into a corner — or an elevator — the guy simply can't be brought down.

Taking one for the team

Sometimes it's an unspoken understanding between characters that makes a scene truly flawless. Few action movie moments have done this as well as Steve Rogers' reckless sacrifice at training camp, when he throws himself on a grenade that he doesn't know is a dummy. This moment in Captain America: The First Avenger punctuates a debate between Colonel Chester Phillips and Dr. Abraham Erskine about who should be recruited as the first "super soldier" in their program. Phillips casually tosses the grenade into the midst of the new recruits, at which point everyone scrambles. The one exception? Rogers. He dives on the grenade, ordering everyone to get back.

The scene is a splendid illustration of Rogers' ideals, all wrapped up into a single action. Compare that to the moment in Endgame when he faces down Thanos' entire army or the numerous occasions where he has professed that he could "do this all day." That guy started as a skinny fella with a heart of gold, ready to jump on a grenade if that's what was required. Even a superheroic transformation, decades spent frozen in ice, and cosmic confrontations with unimaginable evil couldn't take that away from him.