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The MCU's Most Visually Stunning Moments Of 2021

This article contains spoilers for the entire slate of 2021 MCU releases.

2021 was quite the year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was a year of firsts. The first year to premiere four feature films; the first year to debut an animated project; and the first year to introduce live-action series. We met a handful of new heroes; were reacquainted with familiar faces; and were treated to the most visually beautiful year in the MCU to date.

There was something different about the nine MCU offerings we were given this year in terms of visuals. Even the projects that were more than subpar in terms of storyline — hello "Eternals" and "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" — still had stunning cinematography, effects, and set pieces that made them worth a re-watch.

Selecting the most beautiful moments from the MCU's 2021 lineup proved to be no easy feat. Some projects were loaded with an abundance of visually stunning scenes — ahem, "WandaVision" and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" — and we probably could have loaded this list up with moments just from a few MCU projects. Thankfully, there's something from every 2021 series and movie on this list, proving it was an unparalleled year for Marvel Studios. No disrespect to 2008-2020, but 2021 in the MCU was truly a sight to behold. Check out our list below to see if your favorites made the cut.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — John Walker entering the football field in

"The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" was the second original series of 2021 from Marvel Studios and Disney+. Debuting just a few weeks after the finale of "WandaVision," the Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan-led series had big shoes to fill and didn't quite live up to the challenge. According to audience scores, it's the lowest-rated 2021 MCU series on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Not only was the story lacking, but the visuals, overall, were nothing to write home about either.

That doesn't mean it didn't have its moments. One of the best visuals of the series comes in Episode 2 when John Walker (Wyatt Russell) attends a "Good Morning America" taping at a high school football field. When he runs onto the field, he's surrounded by dancers, a marching band, and fireworks which display a gorgeous array of colors. The music, motion, and vibrant colors make a beautiful scene that unfortunately doesn't carry the show. Despite being completely bummed that an imposter was running around with Steve Rogers' (Chris Evans) shield, we couldn't help but appreciate the patriotic vibe of the scene.

Hawkeye & WandaVision — Yelena and Monica return from the Blip

Hands down, one of the coolest visual effects we've ever seen in the MCU is a person returning from the Blip. We saw countless heroes dusted at the end of "Avengers: Infinity War." We know what it looks like to watch someone disappear, but what does it look like when they come back? According to "WandaVision" and "Hawkeye," it's pretty much the same thing, but in reverse. In Episode 4 of "WandaVision," Monica (Teyonah Parris) returns from the Blip while she's sitting in a hospital room. The camera is zoomed in on her face, as tiny looking dust fragments slowly start to come together to form her outline, with Monica taking a deep breath when she's back from the dead.

We saw it for the second time in "Hawkeye," when Yelena (Florence Pugh) returns from the Blip while she's in the bathroom at a Widow's home. Only this time, we watch Yelena dust away and then quickly come back together. Within seconds, her surroundings start to peel away, reflecting a remodel that happened before and after the Blip.

These quick moments are so incredible to watch, and the special effects are spot on. They are moments worth pausing and re-watching. It's impossible to find an imperfection, and despite it being a tragic sort of moment, it's quite beautiful to watch unfold.

Black Widow — Natasha fighting the Widows

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) finally got her solo film in "Black Widow," the first MCU film of 2021. After a year of delays, we got to see the only original female Avenger at the forefront of a film and were introduced to her sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). As the duo and their adoptive parents try to free the still-brainwashed Widows from Dreykov (Ray Winstone), they battle Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), an avalanche, and their feelings.

"Black Widow" is eerie at times, thanks mainly to the red theme it adopted. The color is woven throughout the film and is extremely prevalent in the final act when the family foursome makes their way into Dreykov's hideout high in the sky. The best visual moment in the film lasts several minutes when a gaggle of Widows attempt to terminate Natasha in Dreykov's office. The women deliver blow after blow to Natasha as the red glare from the room's sizable digital map beats down on them. The red streams of light not only contrast perfectly against the Widows' black leather suits, but also highlight the smallest dust fragments during their ferocious fight.

When Yelena enters Dreykov's office to help her sister, she launches the brainwashing antidote above their heads — setting off a large red cloud of billowing and streaming smoke. It lights up the dark room and the women's heads, and within seconds everyone comes back down to Earth — literally.

WandaVision — Monica becomes Spectrum

"WandaVision" was something very special and a series like nothing we'll ever see again. While we were trying to figure out what the heck was going on 90% of the time, we were at least distracted by the visual beauty the nine episodes had to offer. One of the most stunning moments came in Episode 7 when Monica (Teyonah Parris) crosses the Westview border without any protection. She digs her hands straight into the wall and walks through the relatively thick barrier, and throughout her short trek, we see her body go through different types of phases. There are all sorts of pixelated blue and purple hues as Monica battles through the difficult walk, and it's a visually powerful moment.

There are also several voiceovers playing as she walks through the barrier, including dialogue from "Captain Marvel," which includes the voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, and Lashana Lynch. As Monica continues to fight through, it's like we're watching her at different stages in her life. As different versions of herself break away from her body, we see her in multiple outfits, playing different roles. It's a transformative moment for Monica as she makes the transition from a normal person to a superhero.

Eternals — Final sunset

"Eternals" is proof that a movie can be visually stunning but emotionally empty. The most critically-skewered MCU movie ever on Rotten Tomatoes, "Eternals" was bashed for its lackluster story and subpar acting performances. Nevertheless, it's still worth a watch for the sheer scenic beauty brought to life by director Chloé Zhao. Honestly, we could have filled this list with just scenes from the team-up film because it was that incredible to look at.

One of the final scenes in the film is the remaining Eternals — R.I.P. Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Ajak (Salma Hayek) — on a cliff by the beach. Perfectly spaced out from one another and looking on ominously (which was a theme here), the team watches Sersi (Gemma Chan) hand Sprite (Lia McHugh) the dagger that the latter uses to try and kill her. Despite the fact that this moment makes no sense at all, the perfect sunset in the background makes for one heck of a visual. The wind and the light are just right, illuminating the Eternals to make them look like shadowy figures.

Eternals — Arishem

While most of "Eternals" is spent on Earth, the action moves into space several times, mostly to witness chats with Arishem. The celestial is the creator of the Eternals and uses them to fight the Deviants on different planets. By preventing Deviants from destroying intelligent life, a planet reaches its prime, so it can be destroyed to create another celestial. This is all the doing of Mr. Arishem, who we get to see several times throughout the film.

He is a looming presence, not just in the movie but now in the MCU as a whole. The first shot of him is grand, as Ajak looks at her red robotic-looking leader in the black sky. Arishem is terrifying despite not having any moving body parts. He's a sheer force of size, built of red matter and sporting six eyes (at least we think they're eyes) and a stature that embodies judgment. To glance at Arishem is terrifying, and it's because he is so visually stunning that you cannot look away. 

Loki — The TVA

Speaking of visual masterpieces, let's talk about "Loki." The third series from Marvel and Disney+ in 2021, the Tom Hiddleston-led show was not just beautiful to look at; it had a whopping storyline that changed the face and future of the MCU as we know it. The first tease we got of just how beautiful this show would be came in Episode 1 after Loki was captured by The Time Variance Authority (TVA) and escorted through the compound by Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson).

Even Loki cannot contain his shock as he looks out over the vast landscape that is the TVA. Statues of the Time Keepers hold up buildings; small ships float through the skies; yellow and orange lights blink endlessly. The scene is "Star Wars"-esque, right down to the accompanying music. The shot of the TVA mirrors everything the "Loki" series is: vast, larger than life, and jaw-dropping. Every scene that follows is more beautiful than the last, and it really is a marvel of a series.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings — Wenwu vs. Shang-Chi

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" was the underdog of the Marvel Studios 2021 slate, and boy did it knock it out of the park. The film is a triumph and one of the best origin stories of an MCU hero to date. "Shang-Chi" was praised for its fight sequences — a few of which land on our list.

In the final one-on-one battle in the film, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) takes on his father, Wenwu (Tony Leung). Wenwu has the upper hand at first, possessing the ten rings, but Shang-Chi eventually holds five of them, wielding them most beautifully. The father-son duo's fight is taken to the next level, and their back and forth is highlighted by the weaving colors of Shang-Chi's yellow rings and Wenwu's blue ones. The way both men manipulate their weapons is stunning, and the use of a mix of fighting styles, which Liu described in a Marvel Entertainment featurette as Tai-Chi, Wing Chun, and "certain regional styles," ups the ante. Beautiful movement mixed with yellow and blue auras makes this moment not just one of the best scenes in 2021, but the MCU as a whole.

Loki — The destruction of Lamentis-1

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) are on the run from the TVA in Episode 4 of "Loki" and try to hide out in apocalypses. While on the moon Lamentis-1, the duo realizes they won't escape and are preparing to meet their end. Loki and Sylvie sit down and watch Lamentis-1's planet start to inch closer, hurling large rocks into the atmosphere. The wide-angle shot shows the two variants sitting patiently, waiting to die, as a crackling planet creeps up on them in the sky.

As is traditional with all "Loki" scenes, the destruction of Lamentis-1 is somehow dark and colorful at the same time. The incoming planet is shades of gray and green, while Lamentis-1 has a purple tint to it. Bright yellowy-orange stadium-like lights are beaming down on them, which causes a reflection in the dark water at their feet. It's a really stunning moment, despite how much despair is in the air. Thankfully, Loki and Sylvie create a one-of-a-kind nexus event, and they're "saved" by the TVA just in time.

WandaVision — Wanda fully becomes the Scarlet Witch

We knew it was coming. It just took us six years to get there. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) officially becomes the Scarlet Witch in the finale of "WandaVision" after Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) said the moniker for the first time in the MCU at the end of Episode 8. Wanda doesn't fully embrace her powers until Episode 9, in her final battle with Agatha in the skies over Westview. She conjures up hidden runes, which makes Agatha powerless, and then slowly starts to transform into the Scarlet Witch as she embraces her chaos magic.

As Wanda officially transforms, the scene is full of blood reds and shining lights which outline her body. She's faceless, but we slowly see her character's canonical costume take shape, including Scarlet Witch's signature headpiece. When we zoom in on her face, Wanda's eyes glow red (a very popular color for the MCU in 2021, by the way) as she floats in front of the red-pixeled walls of Westview. It's an eerily beautiful moment, solidifying a transformation we've been waiting for and is a crucial moment for a beloved character.

Loki — Branching of the Sacred Timeline

In the finale of "Loki," Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) decides to ignore all sense as vengeance consumes her. She kills He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) and basically changes everything we know about time in the MCU. The Scared Timeline branches into infinite timelines, allowing all the variants of He to run loose, vying for power. While the ramifications of Sylvie's actions here are catastrophic, our minds are at ease as we stare at the beauty that is the Sacred Timeline.

There's a shot of just the timeline itself, with one strong horizontal base. However, there are several branches off the main timeline, which then branch into an endless among of smaller timelines. Basically, the timeline is a cluster-you-know-what, and life will never be the same for Loki or anybody, for that matter. The bright white of the timeline is highlighted by the vast darkness around it, with the branches featuring different hues of purple, blue, and pinks. It's the most beautiful disaster in the world and one of the best visuals ever in the MCU.

Spider-Man: No Way Home — Three Spidey's swinging together

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" was everything fans wanted it to be and more. A year's worth of rumors were confirmed when Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire returned to play their versions of Peter Parker from past Spidey flicks. While watching the three Spider-Men interact was stunning just due to sheer shock, their best moment comes when they are swinging in full gear alongside one another just before the final battle. 

Watching Garfield, Maguire, and Tom Holland in their Spider-Man suits shooting their webs and swinging alongside one another was one of the coolest superhero moments ever. The way they fit together like puzzle pieces in the sky was visually stunning and choreographed to perfection. Pair that up with their three landings on top of the Statue of Liberty one right after the other (in their signature forms, by the way), and you've got one of the best MCU visuals ever.

WandaVision — From black and white to color

"WandaVision" was bizarre from the get-go, but it kept viewers enticed because of that simple fact. All of Episode 1 and most of Episode 2 were in black and white, which can be fun for a while but eventually... you're ready to see some color. Thankfully, that's just what happens in the final moments of Episode 2 when the world around Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) changes from dull to colorful.

The duo notices the change is happening as well, it's not just something the audience is privy to, and there are moments when Wanda and Vision are both black and white and colorful. Vision's face changes first, then the walls of their home start to fill with color as they remain dull and gray. Vision's fingers are the last thing to change into full color, and the world we have become so accustomed to has been given new life. Watching this transition is dazzling, as we're stuck in between these two sort-of worlds. While it might be colorful and bright, that doesn't mean things have gotten better, however.

Spider-Man: No Way Home — Mirror dimension fight

We got a hefty dose of the mirror dimension in "Doctor Strange," but seeing it for the second time in "Spider-Man: No Way Home" didn't make it any less fantastic. The "Inception"-esque scene shows the New York City skyline falling in on itself like it's sinking into a hole, which is perfectly mirrored on the other side. Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) continues to manipulate he and Spider-Man's (Tom Holland) surroundings, making for a geometrical spectacle consisting of buildings, train cars, and canyons.

No matter how many times you see it, watching the world fold in and turn upside down is one of the most beautiful things to see on the big screen. The symmetry in these scenes is astounding, as the world infinitely reflects on itself. The introduction of portals only makes things more complicated and mind-bending, and the stunning visuals have your eyes darting all over the screen to make sure you don't miss anything. We're sure it'll be just as gorgeous in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," where we fully expect another go in the mirror dimension.

Shang-Ch and the legend of the of the Ten Rings — Scaffolding fight

Let's run it back to "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." As we said, the choreography in these fight scenes is virtually unparalleled in the MCU. There is something so special about these battles, which can largely be attributed to the beauty of martial arts. In one of the second acts biggest fights, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), Katy (Aquafina), and Xu Xialing (Meng'er Zhang) are trying to escape their father's henchmen, and when all the exits are surrounded, there's only one way out of the skyscraper — through the windows.

The trio is forced to fight off the Ten Rings on the tall scaffolding outside the building. If you have a problem with heights, this scene might be particularly difficult to watch. The scene takes place at night, so most of the action is in the dark. However, the glass windows mirror the lit-up skyline opposite of it, making for a striking look. The glow from nearby signs and buildings lights up Shang-Chi, Katy, and Xu Xialing as they swing between different levels of the bamboo scaffolding. This is another example where the movement of the characters is just as stunning as the scene itself. The way all the characters swing around from level to level so effortlessly is quite the spectacle.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — Sam is officially Captain America

In Episode 6 of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," Sam (Anthony Mackie) officially becomes Captain America. It's not a title that's given to him, but one that he takes. He suits up in a brand new uniform, which is a far cry from the different getups of Steve Rogers. This suit is predominately white on the top, but red and blue on the torso and legs. His Falcon wings have also gotten a makeover, looking much more patriotic than ever before.

The first glimpse we get of it is when Sam comes flying into the building of the Global Repatriation Council to take down some of the Flag Smashers. He launches the legendary shield through the window of the building, and it's a major moment for Sam's character. Watching Sam embrace his new title and responsibilities as he comes jutting into the scene flashier than ever is a beautiful moment, and his look is further highlighted by the glowing red lights (again, red) of the alarms in the building.

Shang-Ch and the legend of the of the Ten Rings — Ying Li vs. Wenwu

Setting the tone for fight scenes in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is the battle between Ying Li (Fala Chen) and Wenwu (Tony Leung). When the latter is trying to find the entrance to Ta-Lo, Ying Li uses her power to stop him. Their back and forth is so beautiful, thanks to the stunning background scenery and the use of airbending by Ying Li. Wenwu meets his match, and his ten rings prove to be no advantage against the mysterious woman who can manipulate the weapons herself through effortless-looking moves.

The scene is visually stunning and is brought to another level thanks to the acting by Chen and Leung. This is when the two characters meet, and it's also when they fall in love. Their interest in one another is evident throughout their fight, and you can immediately feel the connection between the two. Their budding love makes the scene that much more beautiful and it's one that you can watch over and over again — each time finding beauty somewhere you never saw it before.

WandaVision — Westview barrier disappears

When Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) comes to the realization of what she's done at the end of "WandaVision," she ends the charade, and her false reality dissipates. The barrier surrounding Westview starts to close in, letting everyone free of the mind control they were under so Wanda could live out her fantasy. Despite the total necessity for what Wanda is doing, you still feel bad that she's losing Vision (Paul Bettany) for the 893rd time. It's a tragic scene as we watch her perfect world dissolve around her, but there's beauty in it.

Wanda and Vision hold one another as the walls of the fake reality close in, with one of the last things it consumes being the synthezoid's face. The beautiful reds and purples of Vision's face are eaten away by golden shining lights until he is again taken from existence. Watching the switch from a perfect world to a cruel reality is a pleasure to watch, despite the hurt it causes Wanda. The colors and visuals in "WandaVision" are a delight to witness, with the barrier closing in one of the most stunning moments in the entire series.

What If...? — Infinity Ultron vs. the Watcher

"What If...?" might not have been the most buzzworthy MCU project of 2021, but it certainly was fun to watch. Seeing our favorite heroes as animated characters was interesting enough, but to see them in a completely different storyline took that interest to another level. Everything in the series led up to the formation of the Guardians of the Multiverse, who were created to take down Infinity Ultron.

The team was desperately needed after Ultron discovered the Watcher in his pocket dimension and attacked him. That initial battle went from universe to universe, as the scenery changed with the snap of a finger. The Watcher and Ultron's first encounter in that pocket dimension was beautiful, as the duo was surrounded by the mirrored shapes that made up the narrow halls where the Watcher resides. They were encompassed by yellows and purples, which constantly changed as the shiny walls reflected everything around them.

This was just one of the many scenes in "What If...?" that was beautifully constructed. The faraway shot of Zombie Wanda in Episode 5 and the universe's collapse in Episode 4 were also both tragically breathtaking shots, despite being digitally created.

Eternals — Sersi discovers the memory wall

Another dull "Eternals" moment is saved by an absolutely awe-inducing visual. When Sersi (Gemma Chan) becomes the Prime Eternal after Ajak's (Salma Hayek) death, she soon learns the truth about her existence. As Arishem narrates how and why the Eternals are created, Sersi sees projections of where everything happens. One of these brief moments is in front of the Eternals memory bank wall, where Arishem stores every single memory from all of the Eternals.

It's a large green and gold wall, which seemingly goes on for days, with glowing golden pockets of memories. The size of the wall versus the size of Sersi proves how small she and the rest of the larger-than-life Eternals really are. It's quite a beautiful shot of the hero standing there in awe of the wall as she tries to comprehend everything that she's just learned. It's one of the most gorgeous visuals in any MCU project from 2021 and truly one of the saving graces of "Eternals."