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MCU Twists Ranked Worst To Best

The MCU has some pretty standard trademarks these days. Cosmic battles are run of the mill, origin stories are commonplace, drama between friends has become a regular occurrence, and cameos and crossovers are to be expected. The behind-the-scenes presence of personalities like James Gunn and Taika Waititi has also ensured that a steady stream of nonsensical comedy will remain on the menu for the foreseeable future.

There's one other element that has become an MCU staple at this point: the twist. Whether it's a massive turn that impacts a movie or even an entire phase or whether it's something as insignificant as a minor tweak in the source material, the creators behind the MCU have become masters at the art of the unexpected. Of course, not all twists are created equal, and some work better than others. With well over 20 movies already behind us and countless more to come, we've taken the liberty of gathering up a handful of the most fascinating MCU twists out there and ranking them from worst to best.

The truth about Star-Lord's dad

Star-Lord is the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy — just don't tell Thor. He's also a Celestial. Well, at least he was ... partly, anyway. While there's no doubt that the Guardians franchise marches to the beat of its own drum, the reveal of Star-Lord as "half-god" in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was certainly a twist that few people saw coming. 

That's not to say that Peter Quill isn't half-human in the comics. He is. But the half-alien side of things, well, it just isn't Celestial in nature. Comic book Quill is the son of J'son, the emperor of the Spartoi, and while still royalty, it's definitely a bit of a different pedigree from having a patriarch of the family who's literally a living planet. 

While Star-Lord's altered origin had the potential to be interesting, his father's reveal of the information, quickly followed by his turn for the worse and subsequent death by the end of the film, left a bit to be desired. Even Star-Lord's newly discovered god-like status seems to be up in the air at this point, with it looking like the Celestial part of him has passed on along with his father. The fact that it was a fairly major twist that was followed by so few repercussions (so far) is why it falls far down the list.

That controversial Mandarin twist

In Iron Man 3, everyone got excited when it appeared that the Mandarin, one of Iron Man's greatest comic foes, had finally arrived on the scene. The Ten Rings had been there from day one, but their infamous leader? Not so much. 

Of course, all of this was thrown for a loop when the actual villain turned out to be none other than the puppet master and inventor of Extremis, Aldrich Killian. The simple if deflating explanation was eventually revealed, exposing the fact that Killian had set up a fake Mandarin by hiring former actor Trevor Slattery in order to impersonate the feared terrorist leader of the Ten Rings. 

In all honesty, the fact that one of Iron Man's greatest opponents never actually appeared on the screen during the movie was a bit of a letdown, which is why this twist falls so low in the rankings. Why dangle such a juicy treat in front of all of the fans only to yank it away with no further fanfare for two entire phases? The only thing that salvaged this one from falling lower on the list is the promising fact that the real Mandarin should be showing up in the MCU before long. All hail the King!

Thor initiates Ragnarok

It wouldn't be taking things too far to say that Thor: Ragnarok in its entirety is one giant twist. It takes the vanilla character from the first two MCU phases and has him take a hard left into completely new territory. From Thor's shaven hair and the death of his father to the destruction of Mjolnir and the battle of the workmates, the film is riddled with unexpected plot developments.

For all of the twists and turns that the story takes, though, there's one specific sequence that stands above the rest. Thor initiates Ragnarok. From the beginning of the film, the god of thunder is on a mission to prevent the catastrophic event from taking place. Right in the opening scene, he converses with Surtur about the impending catastrophe before putting the fiery fellah in his place, nabbing his crown, and high-tailing it back to Asgard. 

However, as the climax of the film plays out, Thor realizes that it's actually his job, nay his duty, to unleash Ragnarok in order to stop his sister, Hela, and protect what's left of his people. While it's an impressive twist on its own, it lacks some of the oomph it could've delivered if only because it's preceded by all those other twists earlier in the movie.

J. Jonah Jameson jumps into the MCU

Spider-Man: Far From Home is an excellent palate cleanser after the one-two punch insanity of the third and fourth Avengers films. It takes things back down to Earth (for the most part) and brings Phase 3 in for a nice, calm landing. While it's fairly self-contained, the film does feature some unexpected connections to earlier MCU films, such as Quentin Beck's professional relationship to Tony Stark and Peter Parker's E.D.I.T.H.-powered inheritance from the Stark estate.

But there's one connection that stands out above everything else, and it doesn't even have to do with the MCU. The sudden appearance of J. Jonah Jameson in the mid-credits scene — played by J.K. Simmons, no less — is an incredible crossover that absolutely no one saw coming. Why? Because this version of Jameson isn't even from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, the actor-character combo became famous in the Sam Raimi-Sony films, so seeing Simmon's angry, sweaty face raging on-screen was a huge crowd-pleaser that promised more excitement to come.

And then Sony and Disney went and pulled the plug on Spidey's MCU career shortly afterwards. 

Honestly, this twist would've landed further up our rankings if Jameson's MCU career hadn't hit a brick wall before it even got off the ground. Here's hoping Parker returns to the MCU someday if only so we can get a little bit more J.J. Jameson. That's not too much to ask, is it?

A pair of snaps and a tragic MCU twist

When Avengers: Endgame first came out, there was rampant speculation that another Infinity Gauntlet was going to see some action, and sure enough, Tony Stark ends up building his own gauntlet partway through the movie. Donned by none other than Smart Hulk, the green machine does a great job snapping everything back into existence before the final act kicks off. From there, the Avengers have one goal and one goal only: stopping Thanos from simply reversing the snap. 

The twist, though, comes as the climactic end battle heats up. When Iron Man gets his cue from Doctor Strange that, yeah, this is the one in 14 million chance they have to save the day, he wrestles the stones from the Mad Titan and snaps his own fingers, eliminating Thanos and all of his soldiery in the process. Of course, Stark's mortal body can't handle the power, and it proves to be his final act.

This unexpected "second snap" is an epic way to kill off such a massively important character. Not only that, but the twist is a little bit of a twofer. While some fans guessed that Stark would die in the film, the general consensus beforehand was that Steve Rogers would be the one to bite the dust. The fact that it was indeed Stark who died, and that he did so by snapping the Infinity Gauntlet himself, made it a perfectly placed twist in the fading moments of the Infinity Saga storyline.

Zemo's trap

The ending of Captain America: Civil War is heart-wrenching. In fact, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark finally, tragically coming to blows is one of the most dramatic moments in the entire MCU. However, that's hardly a twist by itself. In fact, it's just a natural continuation of what'd been going on throughout the film up to that point. 

The twist, of course, comes just before, when Helmut Zemo reveals his true colors. It turns out that the man is a Sokovian on a mission of revenge for the damage the Avengers caused in his home country during Avengers: Age of Ultron. His plan? Revealing to Stark that it was none other than Bucky, operating as the Winter Soldier, who'd assassinated his parents way back in the early '90s. 

The twist was the first time that the MCU took a direct turn for the worse in the closing act of a film. The leaked information, backed up by the fact that Rogers had been aware of it all along and had hidden it from Stark, took all of two seconds to bring the former teammates to blows. It left the Avengers shattered and didn't find a proper resolution until Avengers: Endgame, nine long movies and nearly an entire phase later.

Spider-Man meets his girlfriend's dad

The genius of this next twist is that it doesn't come at a predictable point in the film. While many of the twists in the MCU take place near the end of the story, the twist in Spider-Man: Homecoming is actually sprung on everyone when they least expect it: on the way to the homecoming dance. 

Peter Parker is heading to Liz's house on the night of the dance, jittery like only a pubescent high school boy can be. While in this nervous state, who should greet him at the door but Adrian Toomes, aka the Vulture. While in some scenarios this would've been the introduction to a sequence revealing that the villain had figured out Parker's identity and kidnapped someone he loved, in this case, it ends up being quite a bit more sinister in nature. It turns out that Toomes is a happily married family man — and Liz is his daughter.

While it doesn't take long for the scoundrel to discover Parker's superhero identity after that point, the initial shock and horror of the scene is one of the truly tense moments of the film. It's perfectly timed and expertly presented in a way that delivers maximum fear and concern, both for Peter and for the rest of us, and it's definitely worthy of a solid spot on the list.

We finally know who's a Skrull

Everyone has been busy guessing who in the MCU could be a Skrull ever since Nick Fury faded away in the post-credits scene of Avengers: Infinity War, leaving his pager on the ground behind him. The token of the impending arrival of Carol Danvers, along with her Skrull and Kree companions, sparked a guessing game of who'd been a Skrull all along. The predictions varied from fairly mundane characters like Secretary Ross all the way to Odin himself. 

However, while the occasional Skrull-induced misdirect slipped into the mix — like Talos' impersonation of Phil Coulson early in Captain Marvel — there wasn't a big Skrull reveal ... until Spider-Man: Far From Home. As the film wraps up, it cuts to Nick Fury and Maria Hill driving along together in a car. The two have been busy throughout the film, although they haven't quite been themselves. Of course, they've been dealing with the frustration of operating in a post-Endgame world without Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, or Captain Marvel available to help. However, it turns out that that isn't the only thing fueling their strange behavior. 

In the post-credits scene, the two characters are suddenly revealed to be none other than everyone's favorite Skrull couple, Talos and Soren. As they communicate with the real Fury, apparently out in space somewhere, we finally see what a true MCU Skrull infiltration can to do wrinkle all of our brains. The only question that remains is who else is a Skrull?

The return of Red Skull

Red Skull was an iconic Phase 1 villain. He paved the way for Steve Rogers to fully come into his own as Captain America before disappearing in the final act of The First Avenger. At this point, his MCU career was put on ice, along with Captain America. He disappeared for most of the next century without a trace, with everyone assuming that he'd died or taken his nefarious plans somewhere outside of the MCU's scope. 

By the time Avengers: Infinity War rolled into town, Cap's first villain was as far off of everyone's radar as possible. The gargantuan star-studded crossover film was already bursting at the seams with big-wig characters, all vying to soak up a little more precious screen time, and the red-faced villain just wasn't in the conversation ... until Thanos and Gamora arrived on Vormir. The Mad Titan, fervidly pursuing his crusade to end half of all life and bring balance to the universe, came in search of the Soul Stone, and before long, he found its guardian: Red Skull.

The twist that Red Skull's obsession with the Infinity Stones had ultimately led to his being trapped as the eternal guardian of one of them is certainly fitting, and the utter surprise of the reveal makes it one of the greatest twists in the entire history of the MCU. Here's hoping the character has a future beyond Phase 3.

Wait, whose side are you on?

When Captain Marvel was released, everyone was excited to see Carol Danvers join forces with her Kree brethren and duke it out with the villainous Skrulls. Except, that wasn't exactly what happened. In one of the greatest hoodwinks in the entire cinematic history of the MCU, everyone involved, including Miss Danvers herself, was kept in the dark about the true motivations of the shape-shifting aliens until near the end of the film. 

See, when Talos and company finally have a chance to get a word in edgewise without being shot at, it turns out that they themselves are the victims of a genocidal war. Sure, Talos admits that nobody's a saint, and they've all got blood on their hands, but the twist is still remarkably bold. To take a race of aliens that have figured prominently as villains throughout Marvel's comic history and make them the pitiable victims was a revelation that nobody saw coming, and it promises to deliver copious amounts of story fodder for future MCU events.

Thanos enters the MCU

Finally, we have Thanos' first on-screen appearance in The Avengers. The revelation takes place at the tail end of the movie, and looking back at it all these years later, that scene turned out to be a doozy of a twist, all things considered. At the time, only diehard comic fans knew what that big ugly purple nutsack of a chin meant for the MCU's future, but Marvel simply carried on, playing their cards close to the chest and proceeding to unveil the approach of the Mad Titan extremely slowly over the following two phases. 

In retrospect, the fact that the creators were ready to introduce Thanos as the mastermind behind the entire Chitauri invasion that early on in the Infinity Saga was a genius twist that took over half a decade to come to fruition. It has to earn major props on this list, if only because of the incredible patience and clever wisdom that it took to unveil Thanos that long before his official MCU debut took place.