To celebrate this milestone, here are 22 of my favourite moments from the 21 films preceding the eagerly anticipated fourth Avengers installment. And though it's ostensibly the next in the series of Superhero team ups, it's not just an Avengers sequel, but the culmination of over 20 films' worth of story-telling. Here are just some examples of what has made this series so successful with critics, audiences and fans across the world.
In no particular order...
1. Black Widow gets 'interrogated' (Avengers Assemble, 2012): this film has so many great moments (some which will feature later on), but this is a scene that combines humour, character and cool action beats - it sets the tone for not just the character, but the film as a whole.
2. Ned geeks out over his friend being Spidey (Spider-man Homecoming, 2017): The introduction of a new take on Peter Parker in to the MCU really captured the feeling that he's a genuinely teenaged super-hero, something that's underlined by his friendships at his High School. When his friend Ned finds out his secret, his reaction is as believable for a teenager, as it is funny.
3. "Dormammu - I've come to bargain!" (Doctor Strange, 2016): while this film follows the comicbook super-hero origin story template in a somewhat standard fashion, it has a few moments that make it stand out - such as the dazzling introduction to the multiverse, or the climactic battle that skews the usual city-trashing spectacle by, well, repairing the battle-damage. But this scene really sets this film, and character, apart from the usual comicbook finale - instead of punching a villain in to submission, here a bit of sly trickery saves the world (though not without any risk to the protagonist).
6. The 'House-party Protocol' (Iron Man 3, 2013): Although not the best action sequence in this film (more on that later), Tony Stark's PTSD-inspired suit tinkering pays off in this reveal that he's not just been busy working on one suit - but quite a few of them..! The result is a cool battle scene, peppered with some fun beats (like the appearance of the suit nick-named 'Igor').
7 - 10: All of these jokes/lines that I still can't believe made it in to 12A/PG-13 films..!
Loki's Shakespearean profanity (Avengers Assemble, 2012):
Peter Quill's Jackson Pollock joke (Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014):
Banner's 'huge bag of weed'? (Avengers Assemble, 2012):
...and the best of all, Korg's comment about Thor's hammer (Thor Ragnarok, 2017):
11: Loki's impression of Captain America (Thor The Dark World, 2013): the first Thor sequel isn't a highly regarded MCU entry, but it does have its moments - and amongst the best of these are the scenes with the two 'brothers'. The scene that includes this cheeky cameo is a really fun moment..!
12: The Hulkbuster fight (Avengers Age of Ultron, 2015): while this sequel does sit firmly in the shadow of its predecessor, there are some great sequences in this film, including this truly 'smashing' fight scene (sorry not sorry).
13: Siri plays The Cure (Ant-Man, 2015): Though initially overshadowed by the troubled start to its production, this film is now regarded as an entry of the MCU that stands on its own, and is good fun to boot. This gag is one of my favourites in all the MCU - a miniature sized fight goes in to a suitcase and sees the villain threaten to 'disintegrate' Ant-Man, which Siri hears as a request to play the album 'Disintegration' by The Cure.
14. The elevator fight (Captain America The Winter Soldier): I think this scene speaks for itself. Outstanding set up and fight choreography, this ranks as one of the best fight scenes in the MCU. "Before we get started, does anyone wanna get off?"
15: The 'Barrel of Monkeys' Rescue (Iron Man 3, 2013): something the MCU delivers on is showing the heroes not just taking on the bad guys, but doing all they can to protect the innocent. This scene is a tremendous achievement in stuntwork and vfx, and is arguably the most impressive action sequence in this film.
16: 'Hail Hydra' (Captain America The Winter Soldier, 2013): the entire revelation mid-way through this film, that not only did Captain America not entirely defeat Hydra during WWII, but that they secretly have infiltrated SHIELD, is one that really turned the MCU on it's head at that point. It was a twist that it committed to and stuck with, all the way through the rest of the series. This moment shows just how far the nefarious organisation has spread it's tentacles, and gave birth to some amusing memes along the way.
17: 'The living are not done with you' (Captain America Civil War, 2016): If putting 6 super-heroes in to a coherent movie seemed like one of 'Avengers Assemble's greatest achievement, then Civil War upped this and then some. We get (what was at the time) the biggest ensemble cast of Marvel characters in one MCU film, and to top that, two new ones are introduced - a new Spider-man, and Black Panther. Whereas previous films in the genre have struggled to introduce new characters or juggle their multiple story-arcs, just look at what this film did with Black Panther: he is introduced, fleshed out, and given a proper character arc, which culminates in this scene. If we hadn't got a full Black Panther film (thankfully we did!), this film gave him - a supporting character! - a fully rounded depiction - more than some films in the genre manage to achieve with their central protagonist..! This scene also gets to the heart of the emotional drive of this film, which benefits from a nuanced, sympathetic villain portrayal in the form of Daniel Bruhl's Zemo. When we realise his motivation for wanting the Avengers to tear each other apart, it is hard not to feel for the loss and anguish that have driven his actions; since then we've started to see other films in the genre take this approach with their villains - moving away from the traditional, moustache-twirling tropes. A welcome move indeed.
18: 'What are those?!!?' (Black Panther, 2018): this film benefited from a 'supporting' cast of characters that were so great - funny, bad-ass, entertaining in their own right - that they were just as essential to it as the title character. Each stole the film in their own way, and this moment just emphasizes why; when Shuri (Letitia Wright) makes fun of her brother's choice of footwear, it felt like the film cuts through all the super-hero stuff, the sci-fi portrayal of an independent African state, and just captured a pure, true moment of how brothers and sisters usually relate to each other.
19: These lines from Drax *...
(Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014)
(Avengers Infinity War, 2018)
21: 'Okay, the tiny dude's big now. He's big now.' (Captain America Civil War, 2016): I've already mentioned how, in their MCU films, directors the Russo Brothers fill every action scene with as many cool, thrilling or funny beats as they can. They also have a knack of employing these characters' 'super' abilities in this way (for example, I love how Bucky uses a railing to rappel down the stair well in an earlier scene in this film). The airport battle in Civil War is full of these, but the stand-out is the moment Ant-Man reveals his suit has another big trick up it's sleeve! Although some have criticised the choice to film this battle in a drab, grey environment (perhaps chosen to reflect the grey moral areas of the conflict it depicts), after this moment we get a couple of shots that could be taken straight from the panels of a comic book. When Spider-man wraps his webs around Ant-Man's legs, then Iron Man and War Machine swoop in side by side, before delivering the blow that sends the giant sprawling - you could take these shots, put in the sound effect lettering and it'd be at home in any comic.
Well, those are my top favourites - I could probably pick another 22 (at least) from the rest of these films. I'm beyond excited to see what great moments Avengers Endgame will add to this list..!
* If you wondered where the line about Drax standing still was, perhaps it actually is there - and you just couldn't see it? 😉😄