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Ranking Every MCU Movie's Opening Scene Worst To Best

One of the most lucrative film franchises of all time is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the shared cinematic universe starring Marvel's colorful heroes and villains ruling cinemas worldwide since 2008. Earning billions at the global box office, the MCU has unveiled over two dozen blockbuster feature films and counting, thrilling audiences right from their opening scenes, with many MCU movies hitting the ground running. However, just not all films are created equal, the openers are also of a wide range of cinematic quality, often with the starting scenes serving as a clear indicator of the movie's overall merit.

Here is a complete ranked list of the MCU movies' opening scenes, ranked from worst to best. From the MCU's early, pre-Avengers days to its embrace of the cosmic and supernatural, some movies' beginnings have stood the test of time while others were lukewarm on arrival and have only grown worse.

27. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Only the second ever Marvel Studios production, 2008's "The Incredible Hulk" is one of the more overlooked entries in the MCU. One of the more welcome aspects of Edward Norton's sole turn as the Green Goliath is that it eschews a typical superhero origin story showing how Bruce Banner got his powers. Instead, "The Incredible Hulk" is a story where Banner has already been living with his gamma-radiated alter ego for some time and accustomed to surviving off the grid.

The opening credit sequence to "The Incredible Hulk" recaps the experiment that unleashed Banner's super-strong counterpart in a montage leading to him fleeing the authorities to South America. This is immediately followed by the film showcasing Banner's life living incognito in Brazil before eventually being discovered by the U.S. military. While not a poorly executed opening scene, it's also not a particularly memorable one that does more to catch audiences than actively engage with them.

26. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

"Ant-Man and the Wasp" is an odd sequel, one that follows Scott Lang's life significantly being altered by "Captain America: Civil War" and has the scepter of "Avengers: Infinity War" looming overhead. With these major events taking place outside of Ant-Man's solo adventures, the opening to the 2018 film had to quickly establish the stakes and new status quo in an awkward start. What results is one of the weakest opening scenes to any MCU film that feels more like wasted time than meaningful setup.

A cold open between Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne reveals Hope's mother Janet is still alive in the Quantum Realm, setting up the movie's big rescue mission. Following the familiar Marvel Studios logo, Lang's life under house arrest for his role in "Civil War" is revealed, showing the size-swapping superhero just as lovably goofy as ever. While the Lang reintroduction is fine, if a bit overlong, the father-daughter cold open is one of the MCU's most throwaway scenes and starts the film on a clumsy note.

25. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Just as the original "Thor" began with an extended prologue providing the history of Asgard and one of its enemies, so too does its sequel "Thor: The Dark World." But whereas the 2011 film featured a cold open to draw audiences in, its 2013 follow-up dives headfirst into the history lesson. Once again narrated by Sir Anthony Hopkins, "The Dark World" starts with Odin recounting how his father Bor led the Asgardians to wage a costly war against the Dark Elves millennia ago for supremacy over the Nine Realms.

In a way, this opening scene demonstrates everything wrong with "The Dark World" in comparison to its immediate predecessor. Darker and more action-packed than "Thor," the sequel also feels a bit more shallow and lifeless, evident from its two-dimensional antagonist Malekith and murky battle scene. "The Dark World" is a prime example of Marvel Studios experiencing growing pains developing the MCU and that's visible right from its opening.

24. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

While the Captain America trilogy is perhaps the most consistently solid saga within the MCU, it also has one of the more forgettable starts. A cold open has an arctic expedition unearth a crashed aircraft buried in the ice, with the Star-Spangled Avenger's iconic shield found inside. This is followed by the Red Skull's MCU debut, attacking a small Norwegian village at the height of World War II, kicking off the events of the main story.

The Red Skull's introduction really is one of the more effective ways to bring in a supervillain, while setting the unabashed old school sensibilities of 2011's "Captain America: The First Avenger." However, the cold open is relatively pointless in the grand scheme of things, telegraphing too much of the story and needlessly connecting the story to present-day before it starts. This is underscored by the manner in which Steve Rogers awakens decades after WWII, undercutting the tension and shock of his reemergence by this awkward prologue.

23. Captain Marvel (2019)

"Captain Marvel" expanded the cosmic side of the MCU and gave the shared universe its most powerful superhero to date in the titular character. However, rather than provide any grand introduction in its opening scene, "Captain Marvel" begins instead with a typical day in the life of Carol Danvers among the Kree Empire. Unable to sleep after dreaming of her past, Danvers spars with her Kree commander before being dispatched on a mission against the Skrulls to kick off the movie's story.

There is a lot to like in "Captain Marvel," but its opening feels particularly rushed rather than lead off with a more accessible and inviting opening. As effective as actors Brie Larson and Jude Law's performances are, "Captain Marvel" the opening scene just feels clumsily handled overall. There's a lot to like in "Captain Marvel" but its pacing issues are among the most noticeable in the MCU and that's clear right from the start of the film.

22. Thor (2011)

"Thor" feels like one of the earliest gambles for the MCU, bringing in cosmic space gods to a shared universe previously exclusively populated by science fiction superheroes. With that in mind, the 2011 film starts with a down-to-earth cold open before blasting off into space. The prologue has astrophysicist Jane Foster and her friends drive through the New Mexican desert tracking an anomaly only to accidentally strike a mystery man with their van, changing their lives –- and MCU -– forever.

It makes sense that "Thor" would want to kick things off with a focus on its human characters before launching into an Asgardian history lesson, narrated by Anthony Hopkins. Still, the in media res opening, which includes a scene featured later in the movie, does throw off the overall pacing a bit. This prologue perhaps highlights Marvel Studios playing it a bit too cautiously in introducing the cosmic and fantasy sides of the MCU, taking the time to literally ground the story as it introduces its eponymous superhero.

21. The Avengers (2012)

"The Avengers" delivered on the promise of its five preceding films, bringing together Earth's Mightiest Heroes for an all-star battle to save the MCU from certain evil. The opening scene quickly establishes the epic threat facing SHIELD and the fledgling superhero team, as Loki is entrusted by shadowy benefactors to obtain the Tesseract from Earth at any cost. This leads the godly trickster to decisively strike, forcibly converting Hawkeye to his cause while Nick Fury and Maria Hill barely escape with their lives.

The MCU and filmmaker Joss Whedon's worst storytelling tendencies are on display, from awkwardly placed, unfunny jokes, to a curiously muted action sequence as Loki is unleashed. Much of the MCU's penchant for razor-sharp dialogue comes from Whedon's 2011 blockbuster, but it feels misplaced here in establishing such harrowing stakes. The awkward exposition introducing the Tesseract and Chitauri army before any characters enter the frame makes this opening all the more uneven in its execution.

20. Iron Man 2 (2010)

Expectations were riding high for the first "Iron Man" sequel, with the 2008 film such an incredible commercial and critical success, while teasing even bigger things to come. 2010's "Iron Man 2" opens with reframing of its predecessor's memorable finale, as Tony Stark defiantly confirms his superhero identity to the world. As the villainous Ivan Vanko observes this, he sets out to become a twisted inversion of what Iron Man could be and avenge his father Anton's memory.

Like its primary antagonist, "Iron Man 2" largely exists in the shadow of its preceding film and struggles to find its own voice beyond it. To actor Mickey Rourke's public chagrin, Whiplash never comes off as more than a shallow reflection of his nemesis and this opening scene similarly fails to sell him as a credible threat. "Iron Man 2" has the distinction of being the MCU's first true sequel and those hard lessons are apparent as soon as the movie begins.

19. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

"Spider-Man: Far From Home" ended with the shocking twist of Peter Parker's superhero secret identity being exposed to the world in a posthumous message from Mysterio broadcast worldwide. The 2021 sequel "Spider-Man: No Way Home" begins immediately after this bombshell is dropped, with Peter and his girlfriend MJ trying to evade the public eye and return home. And though "No Way Home" is one of the undeniable triumphs of the MCU, its opening scene is frankly not one of its highlights.

To its credit, "No Way Home" hits the ground running, as Spider-Man does whatever a spider can to get home as quickly as possible, while his personal world crumbles around him. However, once Peter and MJ finally return to Queens, this frenetic pace quickly drops, as the main characters live within their consequences before the true stakes of the film really kick in. This opening scene feels like something of a necessity, resolving its predecessor's cliffhanger ending before setting the stage for Doctor Strange's magical hijinks.

18. Eternals (2021)

With its opening text crawl and sci-fi introduction of its core cast, it's immediately clear that "Eternals" is going to be unlike any MCU movie that came before it. There is a clinical precision to filmmaker Chloé Zhao's approach to the movie's opening scene, as the Eternals awaken and accept their Celestial destiny. This continues as the Eternals arrive on Earth during prehistoric times to battle the Deviants, showcasing each of the ensemble's powers.

"Eternals" is one of the more divisive entries in the MCU, with a perhaps overly solemn tone and issues with pacing. All of these elements are present in the film's prologue as well as some of its strengths, including its gorgeous cinematography and imaginative array of powers. "Eternals" is a movie that possibly caught audiences off-guard and everything they either loved or that rubbed them the wrong way is in its opening.

17. Black Widow (2021)

There had been preliminary plans for Scarlett Johansson to star in a solo Black Widow MCU film since at least 2010, though these plans went unrealized until 2021's "Black Widow." This lengthy development cycle gave the movie a strong sense of emotional poignancy; with Natasha Romanoff's endpoint depicted earlier in "Avengers: Endgame," "Black Widow" explored her origins. This scope is apparent right from the movie's opening, covering young Natasha's family being summoned back to Russia in 1995 after living in the United States as a sleeper cell.

The family stakes at the heart of "Black Widow" are introduced, and that aspect of the story hits the ground running with this action-packed prologue — most notably Natasha's dynamic with her younger sister Yelena. This opening is definitely one of the more gripping ways an MCU movie has began, and it finally gives its greatest super-spy her own origin story. There is a certain tragedy inherent with Black Widow as a character, and the foundation for this is introduced in her solo movie while giving the Romanoff family a high-octane escape.

16. Ant-Man (2015)

One of Marvel Studios' earliest planned projects was "Ant-Man," with acclaimed filmmaker Edgar Wright signed on to develop the film as far back as 2006. Eight years later and with a different director in Peyton Reed, the movie finally debuted. The 2014 film's opening scene took full advantage of the shared universe that rose in the interim. Hank Pym's history among the historic pillars of SHIELD stands revealed, as the original Ant-Man retires in the wake of his wife's apparent death before the modern-day hero is introduced.

The passage of time and growth of the MCU across the movie's lengthy development history ultimately benefited the film. The opening immediately plays into the idea that Ant-Man is an unseen, integral element of the MCU, further positioning Lang as a legacy superhero while bringing in Pym. "Ant-Man" is perhaps one of the more overlooked MCU movies, but its opening scene underlines its true importance.

15. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

"Spider-Man: Far From Home" had the unenviable distinction of being the first MCU movie released after the massive success of "Avengers: Endgame." With high expectations about where the cinematic universe would go without many of its biggest icons, "Far From Home" explored how "Endgame" impacted the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. A prologue introducing the movie's central antagonist Mysterio gives way to an opening title sequence that melodramatically mourns the Avengers, and provides a different perspective on how the world reacted to the climax of "Endgame."

The opening scene to "Far From Home" highlights just how chaotic a place the MCU had become in the immediate aftermath of "Endgame." Nick Fury and Maria Hill are barely able to keep up with crises around the world, unaware that the mysterious hero appearing before them is the cause. With its cold open and subsequent post-Blip recap, "Far From Home" proved there were plenty of interesting places for the MCU to go next with its original Avengers to save the day.

14. Iron Man 3 (2013)

After repelling an alien invasion, Tony Stark's next enemy was literally more down-to-earth and a forgotten figure from the entrepreneur's more checkered past. Turning back the clock to a New Year's celebration during Stark's more morally ambiguous past, "Iron Man 3" introduces its antagonistic players while reminding audiences what a cad its hero used to be. And from its use of Eiffel 65 to set the time period to Happy Hogan's ridiculous appearance, it's clear "Iron Man 3" is going to be lighter fare than its immediate sequel.

So many MCU movies open with a flashback, but "Iron Man 3" weaves several important details into its holiday prologue. Iron Man has had a hand in creating some of the most terrifying MCU villains, and the idea of Stark being his own worst enemy is clear here. "Iron Man 3" is not without its fair share of flaws, but its fun opening is Stark at his most rascally.

13. Black Panther (2018)

While Black Panther made his debut in "Captain America: Civil War," the opening scene to the character's solo movie plays up the legend behind the superhero mantle. With vibranium playing such a pivotal role in 2018's "Black Panther," the movie opens with an explainer on the strange substance, presented as a fairy tale from father to son about Wakanda's history. This is followed by T'Challa's father T'Chaka on a mission in the 1990s that will inadvertently set the main story's conflict into motion.

"Black Panther" is really a movie about fathers and the legacies they leave behind for their sons, and this opening scene subtly sets up that theme. And even though it's a relatively small role, Sterling K. Brown's portrayal of Erik Killmonger's father N'Jobu is one of the more heartbreaking performances in the film. The heartfelt sensibilities of "Black Panther" are on full display in the opening.

12. Doctor Strange (2016)

Martial arts and reality-bending magical derring-do didn't seem like a natural combination on paper, but 2016's "Doctor Strange" effectively proved it could work and fit in the MCU. Despite Asgard and Thor being such prominent parts of the MCU for five years, the shared universe had veered more towards science fiction than the outright supernatural. "Doctor Strange" finally embraced magical possibilities in a visually dazzling opening scene as the evil Kaecilius led his followers against the powerful Ancient One.

"Doctor Strange" works best when it leans into the psychedelia and its characters' unique mastery over time and space itself. This is clear with its opening, as the Ancient One rotates and folds the fabric of reality to keep her opponents on their toes, using the environment as a weapon. As the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange was always going to have some of the most innovative powers in the MCU, and its opening scene capitalizes on that promise.

11. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

When Spider-Man made his MCU debut in "Captain America: Civil War," the character nearly stole the show during the film's epic airport fight sequence. This scene helped set up his solo MCU film the following year. The opening of this new Spider-Man's solo movie "Spider-Man: Homecoming" provided an alternate look at one of the MCU's most iconic moments, specifically the aftermath of "The Avengers" climactic battle. As New York City cleaned up from the devastating alien invasion, contractor Adrian Toomes found himself forced out of legitimate work, leading him to break bad.

If Peter Parker is something of a working class hero, often relying on his own wits and determination to save the day, Toomes is a working class villain. The opening of "Homecoming" not only firmly entrenched this Spider-Man into MCU beyond "Civil War," but provided its antagonist with a memorable, understandable entrance. The only thing keeping "Homecoming" from ranking higher is its own visible confusion over its placement in the MCU timeline.

10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

"Guardians of the Galaxy" was always going to be one of the quirkier installments in the MCU, with its relatively unknown heroes and cosmic setting. However, its opening made it clear that it would possess a surprising amount of heart, as young Peter Quill witnesses his mother die before being whisked off into outer space. And after this emotionally raw prologue, an opening title sequence showcases the musical proclivities that have made the Guardians such a colossal MCU success story.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" has the most heartbreaking opener of any MCU film, and that's a testament to filmmaker James Gunn's storytelling ability. As an audience, we've only just met the Quill family, yet the movie effectively and unflinchingly captures this familial grief that will haunt Peter the rest of his life. And to counterbalance this searing cold open, the sight of an adult Peter dancing to Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love" lets the audience know they're in for a fun time.

9. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Say what you will about "Avengers: Age of Ultron," but the 2015 film not only features a much more impressive opening scene than "The Avengers," but one of the best openers in the MCU. After spending much of the 2011 film bringing the eponymous team together, "Age of Ultron" kicks off with the heroes working together as a cohesive unit. As the Avengers battle the remnants of Hydra, the prologue takes the time to show each of its stars in action and how well they play off each other, both strategically and in terms of banter.

Whedon didn't quite get the voices down for characters like Hawkeye and Captain America in writing and directing "The Avengers." By "Age of Ultron," Whedon has a better understanding of his main cast, and that's evident from this all-star jam session to launch the super-powered proceedings. For all of the shortcomings in "Age of Ultron," the movie's opening sequence certainly is not one of them.

8. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

MCU opening scenes are replete with sequences that reveal how exactly the movie and its characters fit in the shared universe's wider history. 2021's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" appears to follow this formula, before stylistically turning to reveal what makes it so special. The opening scene showcases the rise of Wenwu, the villainous father of Shang-Chi who quietly steered the course of humanity for centuries before meeting Shang-Chi's mother Ying Li.

The encounter between Wenwu and Ying Li unfolds over the course of a martial arts skirmish in a bamboo forest, with the two seasoned warriors gracefully trading blows. The wushu cinematic influences behind "Shang-Chi" are beautifully incorporated here, from a lush color palette to the balletic differences between the two characters' fighting styles. It's a gorgeous and unique way to start the film, and a style that "Shang-Chi" could have benefited from more had it been employed beyond the movie's opening.

7. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" established Steve Rogers' best friend Bucky Barnes as a brainwashed killer for Hydra, and its 2016 sequel "Captain America: Civil War" reveals the Winter Soldier in action. With a cold open set in the 1990s, the Winter Soldier is revived from cryogenic sleep and dispatched on a lethal mission that will alter the trajectory of the MCU forever. "The Winter Soldier" established Bucky as something of a shadowy legend in the intelligence community, and "Civil War" revisits that legend in its prime.

Rarely does the MCU start on such a decidedly dark note, with the Winter Soldier unleashed in all his murderous might. More tellingly, the prologue is vital in setting up how "Civil War" plays out, from its remote Siberian setting, to the mental conditioning controlling Bucky, to the mystery surrounding Hydra assassin's fateful mission. There are few opening scenes in the MCU that are more important than that of "Civil War" — and, given the scope of the film, that makes it especially pivotal for the entire shared universe.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is a film that goes deeper and more bizarre than its predecessor, rather than bigger and more bombastic like most sequels. However, the 2017 film's opening scene is perhaps the most unabashedly enjoyable sequence in the entire movie, and the clearest reminder of what made the original so great. As the Guardians defend a power station from a ravenous monster, an infant Groot happily dances to Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr. Blue Sky" in the foreground.

Bathed in neon light and explosive action, this opening is the MCU at some of its most joyous, with most of Groot's dance captured in a single take to maintain the audience's attention. This juxtaposition of chaotic violence and unbridled musical joy is what the Guardians are about in an abstract sense and the prologue channels that perfectly. That James Gunn himself provided the motion reference for Groot's dancing is really just behind-the-scenes icing on the cake.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

There is something perfect about Steve Rogers relocating to Washington, D.C. and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" opens with a tour of the city before Rogers embarks on high-stakes mission. Framed by a sunrise over the city's iconic monuments, "The Winter Soldier" kicks off with Rogers and Sam Wilson meeting each other with the banter that would define their friendship. This jovial prologue is followed by a reminder why Captain America is a super-soldier that turned the tide of World War II, with him following a group of hijackers on the other side of the world.

For as taut and action-packed as "The Winter Soldier" is, its opening scene provides a wink to the audience how much fun they're about to have. Rogers' introspection about his place in the world will come soon enough, but his natural rapport with Wilson lets the normally stoic superhero lighten up somewhat in a welcome change. And the hijacking incident gives viewers a chance to see Rogers' other major friendship in the film, when he's paired with Black Widow to lead a rescue squad and save the day.

4. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

"Avengers: Infinity War" ended with Thanos achieving his shocking victory and eliminating half of all sentient life in the MCU with a snap of his fingers. "Avengers: Endgame" provides a different perspective on this tragic twist, as Clint Barton witnesses firsthand the might of the Infinity Gauntlet on his entire family. For all the super-powered punching and time-bending scope, the first scene of "Endgame" quickly reminds its audience of the emotional stakes.

On some level, we know exactly what is about to befall the Bartons during an unassuming lunch on their farm. Clint thought he had left his superhero career behind when he was remanded to house arrest after "Civil War." There is a sense of dread with the realization that Clint is going to pay a dark price to rejoin the Avengers, and that tension is slyly delivered as "Endgame" begins.

3. Iron Man (2008)

Even though it was the MCU's first film and came out over a decade and a half ago, 2008's "Iron Man" still holds up and offers a clear blueprint for the shared universe that would follow. Opening with the iconic guitar riff from AC/DC's "Back in Black," billionaire playboy Tony Stark's convoy through Afghanistan is ambushed, with the amoral arms dealer gravely wounded in the exchange. The scene is a harrowing one, sharply cutting off Stark's banter with his escorts in a merciless hail of bullets, before diving into an expository flashback.

Even before the shooting starts, Stark's irreverent demeanor among the U.S. soldiers informs the audience exactly who this guy is before his change of heart. While in media res MCU prologues would resurface in plenty of subsequent films, the technique is at its most effective in "Iron Man." From its dialogue-driven humor to this attention-grabbing opening technique, "Iron Man" set the standard for the MCU, and continues to stand a cut above most of its successors.

2. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

After the lackluster response to "Thor: The Dark World," the Asgardian Avenger was stuck in the cinematic doldrums as Marvel Studios mulled their next move with the character. This set the stage for filmmaker Taika Waititi to move forward with a full course correction in 2017's "Thor: Ragnarok," shifting to absurdist humor while maintaining the story and characters' heart. "Ragnarok" opens with Thor recounting what he's been up to since the events of "Age of Ultron," only to reveal he is in the fiery clutches of the wicked Surtur.

Right from Thor's opening dialog, it's clear that "Ragnarok" will not be as overly self-serious as its immediate predecessor. This is a Thor with a clear sense of humor, who has evolved into a full-blown himbo as he busts Surtur and his fire demons. And backed by Led Zeppelin's hard-rocking "Immigrant Song" and fire-lit vistas, "Ragnarok" features the most heavy metal start to an MCU movie to date.

1. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

While audiences had caught glimpses of Thanos ever since "Avengers," the Mad Titan would decisively take center stage in 2018's "Avengers: Infinity War." Picking up immediately from the mid-credits sequence of "Ragnarok," Thanos attacked Thor and the Asgardian refugees for the Tesseract in Loki's possession, easily crushing all opposition in his path. By the time the dust settled, there was no question that Thanos was the greatest villain the Avengers ever faced, making the stakes more dire than ever.

"Infinity War" carried the burden of great expectations but, with two major character deaths right from its starting skirmish, the movie lived up to its claim that nothing would be the same. There was a great deal of anticipation riding on "Infinity War" and Thanos' opening attack delivered on the hype. "Infinity War" marked the beginning of the end of the MCU's initial overarching story and Thanos' attack on the Asgardians made that unmistakably clear.