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Thanos' Best MCU Scenes Ranked By Brutality

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the most successful franchises in the history of Hollywood films, it doesn't have the best track record when it comes to creating memorable villains. With a few significant exceptions here and there, most villains in the series can be described as "functional" at best and easily forgotten after watching a film. 

But one villain who bucks the trend dramatically is Thanos the Mad Titan, as played by Josh Brolin. Thanos was the big bad of the first three phases of the MCU, which means his arrival was massively hyped across several movies before he ever stepped into the limelight. It's only in "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame" that the Mad Titan has a chance to properly make a case for himself in front of audiences. And boy, does he make a good case of it. 

From the moment he appears in front of the camera at the start of "Infinity War," Thanos commands the screen with an authority and menace never seen before in an MCU villain. Despite having limited screen time compared to the Avengers, Thanos proves he's more than capable of exceeding their power with a series of brutal actions and a steely intellect that makes him much more complex than a generic bad guy. Let's take a look at some of the most brutal things the Mad Titan has done during his time in the MCU.  

14. Thanos will do it himself

Before making his proper debut in "Infinity War," Thanos appears in brief cameos in several MCU films. Usually, he's seen sitting in a chair or leering at the camera in typical bad guy fashion. Back then, there was no plan for Thanos to be the main, overarching villain of the MCU or that the Infinity Stones would play such a big role in the franchise. 

As the chief architects of the MCU formed a plan around what's since come to be known as the "Infinity Saga," Thanos began taking a more proactive role in his cameo appearances. The most memorable of those moments occurs in the post-credits scene featured at the end of "Avengers: Age of Ultron." After getting hints throughout the film about the existence of the six Infinity Stones, the post-credits scene features the iconic Infinity Gauntlet being kept in storage. 

Suddenly, the back of the storage room opens, and Thanos — frustrated with the failure of lackeys like Ronan the Accuser — appears, saying, "Fine, I'll do it myself." With that simple statement, the Man Titan signals the start of his personal quest to gather the stones and end half the universe. At the time, general audiences had no idea what Thanos intended to do with the big, shiny glove thing, but they could tell by the Mad Titan's foreboding tone that he was going to be a big problem for the Avengers one day.

13. Explaining his logic to Gamora

Despite being portrayed as an unstoppable force who's too much for even the combined might of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thanos does stop from time to time to reveal hidden depths to his nature. While being deemed mad by his own people, Thanos actually has a singular logic behind his actions.

He explains that logic to his adopted daughter Gamora (and the audience) after he kidnaps her and brings her to his lair in "Infinity War." Sounding more like a tired headmaster than a genocidal dictator, Thanos tells Gamora how important it is that he succeed in his mission to collect the Infinity Stones and wipe out half of all living things in the universe. 

"It's a simple calculus," Thanos informs an angry Gamora. "This universe is finite, its resources finite. If life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist. It needs correction." The Mad Titan lays out his case for wanting to kill off half of all life with such conviction that, for a moment, audiences almost buy into his logic. While Thanos doesn't perform any brutal actions in this scene, the brutal worldview he reveals shows just how dangerous the Mad Titan is to the safety of the universe. 

12. Revealing his new plan

Although technically the same character, the Thanos audiences get to know in "Infinity War" is a much different person from the Thanos who shows up at the end of "Endgame." The Thanos who succeeded in gathering the Infinity Stones and snapping away half of all life was a much older and seasoned warlord. But the Thanos who shows up in "Endgame" is from the past, and thus, he's younger and with a preferences for far more brutal methods of achieving his goals. 

This difference carries over to their overarching plans. The older Thanos only wanted to kill off half of all life and was even willing to destroy the Infinity Stones to keep his power in check, but the younger Thanos decides that's not enough. In a chilling speech, younger Thanos tells Thor, Captain American, and Iron Man that he now intends to use the Infinity Gauntlet to destroy the universe as a whole in order to remake it in his own image. As far as brutal plans go, it doesn't get much worse than wanting to destroy all of creation, even if Thanos gets defeated before he can make his goal a reality.

11. Shutting down Wanda

The events of "Infinity War" are difficult for all the Avengers, but Wanda suffers a great deal more than most. After losing her parents as a child, losing her twin brother as an adult, and living the last few years in hiding after being declared an international criminal, there aren't a lot of good things left in Wanda's life. 

The only thing that gives Wanda comfort is her relationship with Vision. The android and the witch had fallen deeply in love, and Wanda is horrified to discover that in order to stop Thanos from getting the Mind Stone attached to Vision's forehead, her lover would most likely have to be destroyed. Even worse, it eventually falls to Wanda to deliver the killing blow to Vision. So when Wanda meets Thanos again at the end of "Endgame," it really hits close to the hearts of audiences when she tells the Mad Titan, every syllable quivering with rage, "You took everything from me." 

In response, Thanos simply looks at Wanda coldly and dispassionately remarks, "I don't even know who you are." To take Wanda's great love from her and then to dismiss her anger over it so casually shows this younger version of Thanos is far more callous and brutal than the one Wanda fought in "Infinity War," who actually comforted her over the loss of Vision at the time. 

10. Fighting the main trio

In the MCU's first three phases, it was spearheaded by the three most popular superheroes in the franchise: Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. Together, these heroes are seen as the unofficial main trinity of the MCU, and the events up until "Avengers: Endgame" very much put them at the center of the narrative. 

Given their importance to the franchise as a whole, it was only fitting that the trio would have a climactic battle against Thanos, the biggest threat their world had ever faced. At the end of "Endgame," the moment comes after past Thanos invades the Avengers headquarters, and he's met by Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Thor Odinson looking to kill him off before he can find the Infinity Gauntlet. 

Despite facing three opponents at once, Thanos proves he's more than a match for them with a fast, brutal form of combat using his gigantic, double-sided sword. The heroes throw everything at the Mad Titan, yet he refuses to stay down. From using Thor's new axe against him to breaking Captain America's shield to battering Tony's armor, Thanos comes very close to single-handedly winning against the main MCU trio.  

9. Stabbing Iron Man

Things seem to be looking up until the third act of "Infinity War." Sure, Thanos and his Black Order are a bigger threat than anything the MCU heroes have ever faced. But the movie also sees the Avengers teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy and many other heroes. Surely their combined might will be enough to save the day?

The answer to that question is brutally answered by Thanos on his home planet Titan. The villain walks alone and unaided into an ambush orchestrated by Doctor Strange, the Guardians, Iron Man, and Spider-Man. At first, it seems the surprise attack has succeeded. But then Thanos finds his bearings and starts fighting back in earnest. The result is a towering display of power by the Mad Titan. 

No matter what the heroes throw at him, Thanos has a way to counter the attack. In the end, only Iron Man is still on his feet, using the full power of his new nano-suit against Thanos. And still it isn't enough. In the fight's most heart-wrenching moment, Thanos takes Tony's own sword and stabs him in the chest with it. The look of pain and horror on Tony's face is like a knife in the hearts of fans.  

8. Killing Gamora

As a massively powerful genocidal warlord with dreams of universal destruction, Thanos is a very intimidating figure. But there's one aspect of his personality that takes the overpowering villain and turns him into an all-too human figure — his twisted form of love for his adopted daughter Gamora, who hates him with a passion.

All through "Infinity War," Thanos tries to make peace with his daughter and have her at his side on his mission to collect the Infinity Stones. For Gamora's sake, Thanos even spares the lives of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and it's generally made clear that the Mad Titan does love his daughter in his own manipulative, monstrous way. And that makes it all the more gut-wrenchingly brutal when Thanos accepts that he must personally sacrifice Gamora's life in return for gaining access to the Soul Stone. 

In slow, dreamlike steps, Thanos takes the struggling and yelling Gamora to the edge of the precipice on planet Vormir and hurls her into the abyss. Although a tear rolls down the Mad Titan's face, he accepts the price he's been forced to pay in return for the Soul Stone. Talk about putting your work before your family. 

7. Killing Vision twice

The first thing you notice about Thanos in "Infinity War" is that he's a terrifyingly powerful figure, especially when equipped with a couple of Infinity Stones. You also notice pretty quickly that Thanos is the ultimate pragmatist. That means, when it comes to achieving his goals, Thanos will do absolutely anything, no matter how brutal his actions. For example, take the moment when the Mad Titan arrives on Earth, showing up in Wakanda to finish collecting his all-powerful gems. It's here that he sees Wanda personally destroy Vision along with the Mind Stone. Although Thanos sympathizes with Wanda's sacrifice and even comforts her, he does not hesitate to use the Time Stone to turn back time, reassemble Vision, pluck the Mind Stone from his forehead, and kill him once again. Then he coldly tosses Vision's body to the ground ... all in front of the horrified Wanda's eyes.  

6. Firing at his own troops

Thanos doesn't like to lose. After snapping away half of all life, he destroys the Infinity Stones — ensuring no one can ever undo his work. When the time heist foils his plans, he decides to destroy the universe and create a new one. But perhaps his pettiest movie comes at the end of "Endgame," during his quest to retrieve the Infinity Gauntlet.

As he stalks his way across the battlefield, he comes face to face with a very angry Wanda Maximoff. As they square off, Wanda almost overpowers Thanos. In a bid to escape, the Mad Titan orders his ship to fire at the masses below, knowing full well that his own troops — even his own Black Order — will be caught in the crossfire. Ironically, Thanos' troops are saved by Captain Marvel when she bursts through the ship and disables its cannons.

5. Snapping away half of all life

"Infinity War" did a very unusual thing for a crowd-pleasing blockbuster. Despite featuring plenty of fan-service moments and seemingly being designed to give as many thrills and joyful moments to the audience as possible, the film ends on a huge downer note with the victory of the villain over the heroes

All through the movie, the Avengers and their allies are on the backfoot, racing from one place to another in a bid to stop Thanos from collecting the six Infinity Stones he needs to snap away half of all life. Despite giving it their all, the heroes are ultimately unsuccessful as Thanos plucks the final Mind Stone out of Vision's forehead, completes his Infinity Gauntlet, and performs the snap.

Then in front of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man's horrified eyes, their teammates start disappearing one by one. Thus it's confirmed that Thanos really did snap away half the living beings in the universe. The only reason this feat isn't ranked higher on the list is because it's impossible for the human brain to completely wrap its mind around genocide on such a universal scale, and getting dusted away is an easier fate than Thanos affords many other characters. 

4. Killing Loki

Many argue that the main character of "Infinity War" is Thanos instead of the Avengers. From the moment the movie starts, the Mad Titan dominates every frame. We get a measure of Thanos' power at the beginning of the film when his army attacks and captures the Asgardian ship containing Thor and his allies. 

We see Thor has already been captured and beaten into submission, with the once mighty God of Thunder being propped up like a helpless puppet and made to watch Thanos' army kill the people of Asgard. This lets us know immediately that Thanos is Thor's superior when it comes to physical strength. But Loki is still free and trying to make a last bid for victory. 

The trickster god pretends to be on Thanos' side to get close enough to stab him. But then Thanos proves he is not only stronger but also smarter than the Asgardians. He catches Loki's hand midway and chokes him to death in front of Thor. The roar of anguish the God of Thunder lets loose upon seeing his brother die before his eyes underlines the true brutality of Thanos.

3. Torturing Nebula

While Thanos is single-mindedly devoted to his cause of ending half of all life, he's also had time to gather a family around himself. Chief among them are Nebula and Gamora. The two were brought to Thanos when they were children, and he raised them to be his closest aides and highly skilled warriors in their own right. 

Unfortunately, Thanos also sowed the seeds of discord between them by always favoring Gamora over Nebula. This made the two sisters hate each other, and for the longest time, Nebula was consumed with the thought of destroying Gamora. Fortunately, the two found a way to one day set aside their differences and turn their backs on their father who'd abused them both terribly. 

When Thanos finds Gamora in "Infinity War," he knows she's aware of the location of the Soul Stone. But she refuses to tell Thanos where the stone lies. In order to force the information out of her, Thanos tortures Nebula in front of Gamora. The former is kept in state of suspended animation and constant agony with her various body parts being slowly pulled apart one by one. The fact that Thanos is willing to do something so cruel to his own daughter shows how far his obsession with his mission has taken him. 

2. Thanos' hands-on approach to genocide

Whenever we see Thanos in "Infinity War," he's always shown to be the voice of twisted logic. He never yells or threatens his opponents but always speak in a calm and dispassionate voice. Thanos sounds so reasonable you almost forget he's talking about committing genocide on a universal scale. 

It's hard to imagine this version of Thanos being the dreaded warlord who's feared throughout the universe. But then we get a scene that shows this aspect of Thanos' personality in action. In a flashback, we watch Thanos invade young Gamora's planet with his army. We see Thanos give the order to his men to execute half of the planet's entire population. When Thanos eventually meets Gamora, he admires her lack of fear. 

But this doesn't mean he spares her family. Instead, Thanos simply tells little Gamora to ignore the massacre of her people going on in the background just like he's doing. The scene makes it all too clear that Thanos appears disinterested in violence not because he dislikes it but because he's committed such violent atrocities against so many that the whole thing has become unremarkable to him, and he's now completely indifferent to the sufferings he visits on other people.

1. Beating Hulk

Thanos has done terrible things on a universal scale, but ultimately, it's the things Thanos does to the MCU characters we know and love that hit us the hardest. That's why the most brutal feat the Mad Titan pulls off in his time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not him killing off half of all life or executing half the population of an entire planet. Instead, it's personally taking down the one hero in the franchise whose name is synonymous with strength and power. 

The Incredible Hulk is well-established as the strongest hero in the MCU. He can toss gods arounds like rag dolls, and his physical strength knows no limit. But then Thanos enters the scene at the start of "Infinity War" and squares off against the Hulk. In a brutal beatdown, one-on-one and with no help from his allies, Thanos pummels Hulk into submission so badly that the green behemoth refuses to appear again throughout the film. In that moment, audiences know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this new villain is unlike anything the MCU heroes have ever faced before.