The Marvel Cinematic Universe will launch its long-awaited Phase 5 with the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania February the 17th. Nearly 15 years into its existence, the MCU is still on top of the world, even if it’s not as big a failure as many had thought. Yet the sprawling franchise keeps on winning, delivering more of the same fan-pleasing spectacle that made it a phenomenon in the first place with each new entry.
A big reason the MCU is so successful is its larger-than-life action set pieces. Audiences go gaga watching their favorite superheroes clash with their favorite supervillains and make their comic book dreams come true. And while it’s true that the MCU rarely experiments with its formula — in fact, the franchise is notorious for actively resisting change — it does try to change things up when it comes to the action department. From interstellar battles on dilapidated moons to multiverse-shattering sequences against multiple villains, these battles stand out as the most memorable and exciting in the MCU.
5. The Helicarrier Attack – The Avengers (2012)
The first Avengers the film was the official launch of the MCU. Of course there were more movies before that, but The Avengers confirmed that this wasn’t just a dream and these characters could actually co-exist in an organic and entertaining way. The film spends a lot of time setting the stage for the team to come together, showing how different they are and how chaotic throwing them together can be. There are several Avenger-versus-Avenger scenes in the film, but the helicopter attack at the end of the second act remains the best.
The extended sequence features two major battles – Thor vs. Hulk and Black Widow vs. Hawkeye – plus a chase sequence straight out of a horror movie and even a brotherly therapy session. It’s an exciting battle that successfully moves the story forward and even provides valuable character development too some of its key players. The Avengers holds up surprisingly well, mainly because it understands that big set pieces can work with good, albeit basic, character development to create an above-average superhero movie.
4. Cap & Bucky Vs. Tony – Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Is Captain America: Civil War a good adaptation of its now iconic source material? Not quite. For starters, it’s not really a war; it’s more of an exaggerated conflict. However, the stakes are high on a personal level for boy scout Steve Rogers, whose insistence on saving his “friend” Bucky Barnes goes from stubborn to downright obsessive. Tony Stark is a compelling antagonist, thanks largely to Robert Downey Jr.’s devilish charm, and Daniel Brühl is an excellent villain. Overall, Civil war is a serviceable entry into the MCU, with two big fight scenes that place it among the franchise’s most memorable images.
Of course the airport fight Civil war‘s pièce de résistance, but the final battle between Steve and Bucky against Tony is the film’s true standout. Fast-paced, surprisingly brutal, and with a genuine emotional backstory to justify it, the fight is one of the rare instances where the MCU lets go of its self-imposed boundaries and lets its godlike characters rage on. Tony in particular goes all in on the action, creating an exciting scene where anything seems possible, even if only for a fleeting moment.
3. Battle on Titan – Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Thanos is the best villain in the MCU, and Avengers: Infinity War is his finest hour. Thanks to a truly convincing Josh Brolin, Mad Titan rises above the barren landscape of MCU villains and presents a nuanced take on ambition and villainy. The film revolves around his efforts to collect the Infinity Stones, showcasing his determined and resourceful ways and cementing him as the ultimate threat to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Although he owns the film from start to finish, Thanos’ key moment comes near the end of the film. Arriving on his destroyed homeworld of Titan, Thanos faces the combined might of three Avengers (Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange) and three Guardians (Star-Lord, Drax, and Mantis). The fight is the first and arguably only time in the MCU where the characters fully use their abilities and display all the power they supposedly have to stand a chance against a four-stone wielding Thanos. Doctor Strange is the MVP of the match, showing off his impressive abilities and giving the mad titan a run for his money. Unfortunately, we all know stupid Quill ruins everything, but at least the fight is spectacular.
2. Spider-Men Vs. The Sinister Five – Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Fanboy dreams came true when the MCU brought cinema’s three Spider-Men together in the 2021 crossover Spider-Man: No Way Home. The film has a frankly ridiculous plot that would justify bringing in beloved actors from previous films, but it gets away with it through sheer spectacle. There are plenty of villains—almost every major Spider-Man villain appears, except for those introduced by the MCU, which is telling. The fights are big and loud, with respected actors like Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe bringing their signature flair to elevate every scene they’re in.
No way home has two impressive matches. And while the condo clash might be the better of the two, the final sequence on the new Statue of Liberty easily takes the cake. There’s Tobey Maguire reuniting with Molina! There’s Andrew Garfield snapping Zendaya and bringing everyone to tears! There’s Tom Holland as Tom Holland! VFX is very lopsided, and the action is sometimes unclear, but the scope of the battle is so great that the scene’s many flaws become background noise. After all, three Spider-Men are better than one.
1. The Last Stand Against Thanos – Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Avengers: Endgame is the conclusion of 11 years of continuous storytelling. Each main character gathers on Earth for a final showdown against the Mad Titan, resulting in arguably the most iconic scene of the 2010s. The set-up isn’t perfect – far from it, in fact – but the MCU got the job done, and audiences let it reap the benefits of going along for the intense ride that is Final gamelast match.
From the moment the portals open to Tony’s final snap, the scene is an explosion of adrenaline and emotion. People screamed at the theater; they clapped and cheered like baseball fans after a home run. The last match in Final game is the stuff of comic book fans’ dreams, a gigantic clash of epic proportions featuring everyone from Iron Man and Cap to the freaking Rocket Racoon. From the moment Cap uttered those long-awaited words, fans knew they were in for the fight of a lifetime. Collect, indeed.