With Marvel’s insanely ambitious 23 film arc – starting with Iron Man and culminating with the release of Avengers Endgame – finally coming to a close, now is the perfect time to offer up what I think is the top 100 moments from superhero movies. Superhero movies have been around for a while, but they weren’t a common thing till around the turn of the century, with even more films being pumped out at the beginning of the MCU in 2008. To honor these movies that have entertained us so much, I have compiled a combination of entries that have a bit of everything. Moments that have thrilled us inspired us, made us laugh, and even some that made us cry.
*Warning! Possible SPOILERS below! Proceed with caution!*
Lastly, I wanted to share a few of the rules of my list to help clear up any questions you may have:
1) For a scene to be included, it had to be one continuous scene. The entire Battle of Wakanda, for example, didn’t make the cut due to it jumping back and forth between the action on Wakanda and the forging of the ax with Thor.
2) The movie must have had a theater release. No direct to DVD. Endgame was the cut-off, so no Far From Home.
3) I limited a film to no more than four entries or otherwise, I would have just put the entire Dark Knight movie on here.
4) Most likely I broke these rules and you will just have to get over it.
On to the Top Ten Superhero Movie Moments!
10. No Man’s Land | Wonder Woman (2017)
I am Wonder Woman! Hear me roar! This list has been full of heroes realizing their full powers and figuring out how to best utilize them. Diana Prince knew her powers, but this was the moment she understood what they could stand for by not sitting on the sideline anymore. In arguably the best superhero introductions to the world moments, we see Wonder Woman on full display as she simply cannot take standing by and doing nothing any longer.
Gal Gadot is absolutely wonderful as Wonder Woman and she commands the screen at this moment better than most other superhero actors. She is completely believable. Steve tries to reason with her to stay on mission as there is a reason this field is called No Man’s Land. We then see her emerge from the foxhole drawing the enemy’s fire, swatting bullets away like flies. The music swells and the rest of the soldiers see their chance to take the ground and that’s what they do with Wonder Woman leading the charge. I’m just glad we didn’t the obligatory, “I am no man!” line. Just a badass taking out some enemy soldiers.
9. White House Attack | X2: X-Men United (2003)
Many have held X2 in high regard of being one of the best comic book movies ever made. I am one of those and one of the biggest reasons is this scene. Coming off the success of the first X-Men movie that had several fan favorites, one of the most anticipated aspects of X2 would be not only who they would add next, but how would they showcase their powers. Well, we didn’t have to wait long to meet one of the new characters and see one of the coolest powers realized on screen.
We see this odd-looking individual making his way through the White House with his tail whipping through the air as he begins dispatching Secret Service Agents. As panic sets of possible multiple targets, the agents begin to lock things down in order to deal with this threat. It’s Nightcrawler and we get to witness one of the most unique fighting styles in an incredible way. He not only dispatches agents physically but his ability to teleport to avoid bullets and surprise attacks is just thrilling. He is able to infiltrate the Oval Office by BAMFING his way through every agent insight in a matter of minutes in an attempt to assassinate the POTUS. It is an incredible set-piece with top-notch effects to showcase Nightcrawler’s teleportation abilities which quickly made the character one of the coolest comic book characters on screen.
8. “Who’s got you?” | Superman (1978)
The Man of Steel’s big-screen debut is simply classic and timeless. Not only do we get to see the red, blue, and yellow fly through the air, but we also get to see the instant connection of one of the greatest couples that were discussed back in entry #26. Through a freak helicopter accident, Lois Lane is put in harm’s way as she tries to hang for as long as she can before falling from the top of the Daily Planet. Onlookers, well, look on from the street below as we see Clark Kent find Lois’ hat that has drifted to the ground. He immediately rushes into action but unable to find a phone booth to change in, we get the classic John Williams theme and the iconic Clark pulling his shirt apart to reveal the red and yellow ‘S’ symbol before fully changing and flying off to save the day. Lois finally falls and the people of Metropolis witness something darting through the air.
“Easy miss, I’ve got you”, Superman calmly says as he catches Lois in midair. Then Margot Kidder delivers one of the best lines just perfectly as frantic and shocked as can be in the most Lois way, “You got me? Who’s got you?!” He nonchalantly chuckles as he flies her to safety and catches the falling helicopter likes it nothing in the process. He lands both of them safely back on top of the roof to deliver another classic Superman line about flying being the safest way to travel. “Wait! Who are you?” Lois inquires. The gorgeous mug of Christopher Reeve replies, “A friend.” It’s about as perfect moment as there can be.
7. “Avengers, Assemble” | Avengers: Endgame (2019)
You don’t know how happy that this entire final battle meets my rules and I can include the entire thing because there are so many great moments in this whole sequence that a quarter of my list would have been from this one battle. This is what all MCU fans have been waiting for from the moment we were teased with the Avengers Initiative at the end of 2008’s Iron Man. It was inevitable and it did not disappoint. I don’t think the entire battle was perfect as I have a couple a very minor issues and that’s why it’s not higher on the list. However, it is an incredible moment that will be talked about for years to come.
Following the attack on the Avengers Compound, we see the original three, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, emerge from the wreckage to see a resting Thanos. Thanos gives another great Thanos speech as we get a three on one fight with Thanos holding his own with him getting the upper hand on downed Thor and then it happened. We see Mjölnir begin to float and then smacking Thanos in the back of the head only zip back to the hands of…Captain freaking America! And the crowd roars as Cap begins beating the snot of Thanos with the hammer by even summoning lightning from above. The Titan begins decimating Cap leaving all three heroes laid out as his forces begin to arrive. Captain America stands ready to face the entire army when we all hear a familiar call back to the Winter Soldier as Sam simply says, “On your left.” Portals begin to open as we see Black Panther walk up, Sam flies by then the Guardians and everyone else who was snapped away at the end of Infinity War. As every character over the past 11 years and 23 films prepare for battle, we finally get what we have all waited for as Cap catches the Hammer…oh boy, I need a minute…” Avengers, Assemble.” Hell to the mother fudging yea!
The next few minutes of battle is an intense game of keep away as the Avenger tries to prevent Thanos from getting his hands back on the Infinity Stones and there are so many amazing and badass moments I could write for days about, except for Captain Marvel of course. Last thing I want to talk about though is the death of Tony Stark. The moment we see that he has the stones and is about to make that ultimate sacrifice, we all knew what was coming. The good guys would win, and the bad guys would simply fade away, but we would witness the death of a legend in the fictional universe and on our screen. Robert Downey Jr. personified Tony Stark/Iron Man like no other actor had ever embodied a character before. This was done to perfection with everyone paying the respects as he slowly slipped away.
6. “With Great Power” | Spider-Man (2002)
This is a message that every single superhero should listen to before actually becoming a superhero. This is also a message every person should hear once or twice in their life. Most of us can relate to this “father to son” type of talk as we have all been on one or both ends of this conversation. Here it is done effectively and very simple. Credit goes to the writing but also to Cliff Robertson’s delivery as Uncle Ben. Watching this scene transports me back to being a teenager and having to hear some speech instead of just letting me out of the damn car. I feel like this talk ranks so high because of how we all can relate to the situation, the meaning behind it, the acting, and the delivery one of the greatest quotes in movie history that were ripped straight from the comics.
Uncle Ben recognizes that Peter is going through something as he is acting out of character. So, he does what any good Father figure would do and that’s check-in by having a little conversation. Ben does his best to relate to Peter’s situation, but we all know he can’t exactly understand. After a little back and forth, some amazing words of wisdom come out. “With great power, comes great responsibility”, Ben advises Peter, but in that moment, Peter isn’t hearing it. We all know the travesty that takes place next, but somehow, as they always do, that pearl of wisdom was able to sink into Peter’s brain and help him become a great superhero.
5. The Death of Logan | Logan (2017)
We met Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine back in the year 2000. That intro landed at #42 on this list and who would have known that this ornery, cigar-smoking, long sideburn having loner would go on to be one of the most beloved superhero characters spanning 17 years and 9 movies? Jackman not only nailed the look but, over time, was able to give Logan the much-needed depth to his character to make his swan song very impactful.
We had seen Wolverine overcome all obstacles by sheer brute force combined with his powers and gifts. However, there was one enemy that he could not outrun and it was killing him from the inside out. With essentially his only reason for living in Charles Xavier being killed, the hard-hearted Wolverine found another purpose in the end. To protect someone who was created from his own DNA. After Laura and the other children mutants were captured, Logan takes a serum that helps his healing and his strength like before he was sick. As the children are being chased, we hear this guttural roar as the Wolverine goes berserk! Slicing and dicing fools like he was 170 years old again. We get to see the old Wolverine again as he battles to protect the kids from an army of mercenaries and goes toe to toe with the X-24. As they battle, the X-24 gets the upper hand one Logan impaling him on a tree branch. Laura is able to blow half of X-24’s head off with the adamantium bullet Logan had been saving for himself.
It is rare that we get to see a beloved movie character be able to have the staying power and impact that Logan has had on-screen go out on his terms. Not only was this a great movie, but this scene was done perfectly. You could understand his pain at this moment but also feel the peace he had at finally being able to rest. Logan was the heart and soul of the X-Men Franchise and he will be extremely hard to replace.
4. The Snap | Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Honestly, this is my favorite MCU moment for the very reason that it was so unlike the MCU. We knew something had to give with this being basically a part one of the finale, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be what we were smacked in the face with. Like some other moments on this list, I feel you must look this moment by itself. Not what came after that undid everything, but this moment that had every theater across the world go completely silent with the only sound being jaws hitting the floor. I’ll never forget just how quiet my theater was at that moment. I love unhappy endings, and this was so well done from the storytelling standpoint along with the actors just killing it.
Thanos had all but one Infinity stone and he was coming for it. The entire atmosphere changed once he arrived in Wakanda as he bulldozed his way to Vision. This was an absolute emotional roller coaster. Your heart is already pounding, then you have the sadness of Visions sacrifice at the hands of Wanda just to have Thanos undo that to rip the stone straight from Vision’s head killing him. As we held our breath, we became excited as Thor delivered what we all thought was the final blow. “You should have gone for the head…” SNAP! I’m getting chills just writing about it. We didn’t know what it all meant until we saw Bucky begin disintegrating before our very eyes. Wankandan warriors began to fall. Next was Black Panther. Groot dusting away started the knife in the stomach while Rocket looked on. Wanda. Sam. The Guardians. Doctor Strange. “Mr. Stark.” Oh, and the knife begins to twist. Peter and Tony’s moment got to me more than anything as that father and son dynamic was playing out as tragically as it could. Peter begging, Tony at a loss for words with Peter saying, “I’m sorry” as he faded away in Tony’s arms. Pure shock and confusion.
I just loved the somber note Infinity War ended on. Not only did we lose some characters we had grown to love, but we also saw our heroes fail massively. We almost never see the villain win at the end by carrying out his mission, but this was the way to do it. It was a long gamble that paid off 3 billion times over and made everyone rush to see how this travesty would be undone. Entry #7 does not work without this moment being as brilliant as it was.
3. The Interrogation | The Dark Knight (2008)
It is near impossible to hear or see Batman and not think of the Joker and vice versa. These two will forever be linked as one of the greatest hero and villain duos in history. They have battled for decades on the pages of comics, on TV shows, in animated versions, and even once before on the big screen, but never in this realistic and well-done setting with two actors at their characters peak. Christopher Nolan’s direction along with the dialogue and two perfect performances easily makes this one of the top moments in superhero movie history. This is the defining Batman and Joker face to face that all future attempts will be held against and there is no denying that. To see Christian Bale’s Batman go toe to toe in a confined space with heat Ledger’s incredible Joker was simply masterful.
The Joker has been up to no good and through a highly secretive scheme Batman and Gordon were able to apprehend the Clown Prince. However, the Joker had a trick of his own up his sleeve with Harvey Dent being kidnapped. Once Gordon realizes he isn’t getting anywhere with him, he allows Batman to take over the interrogation. We get some absolute classic back and forth between Joker and Batman. Well, mainly from Joker. Joker never loses his composure as he is in complete control without Batman even knowing it. Once Batman turns on the bad cop routine, Joker lets him in on a little secret. Harvey isn’t the only one kidnapped. Yes, Bruce’s love Rachel Dawes has been taken as well and we see Batman start to unravel while the Joker just toys with him. I mean he laughs as Batman lays into him blow after blow. “Where are they?!” Batman screams as Joker continues to bait him on by letting Batman know he has nothing to threaten him with which is pretty chilling. This is something new to all of us including Batman.
This scene was enough to award Heath Ledger the Oscar he so deservedly won for his portrayal of this iconic character. Bale held his own playing Batman just as well by being the normal in control Caped Crusader, but you could see he was boiling underneath till it was time to explode. Everything about this moment just worked and is one of the most talked-about scenes from arguably the greatest superhero film of all time. I can honestly say this was one of the few moments I knew would be in the top 5 when I started this list and here it sits at number 3.
2. 360 Shot/New York Battle | The Avengers (2012)
Much like the Endgame Final Battle, I am glad I am able to put this entire moment as one entry. There are just too many fantastic moments during this battle, but this one had the added weight of having to work. If it didn’t, we may have not been able to get to the point of the Infinity War or the Endgame moments. A butt load of money and investment and time and future decision making all rode on the back of this epic battle. Joss Whedon had the enviable task of having to tie five previous films with multiple characters into one coherent movie and deliver the goods during its two hour and twenty-three-minute run time, especially in its final battle or it may have all been for not. Boy, did it deliver.
Loki and his Chitauri army were taking over New York while these six individual heroes needed to band together to stop the threat. We learn the secret to Bruce Banner’s method in taming the Hulk, “I’m always angry.” He says right before smashing the massive flying creature. Epic Avenger music plays, and we get the fantastic 360 shot of Hulk, Hawkeye, Thor, Black Widow, Captain America, and Iron Man stand shoulder to should reading for battle. Goosebumps. Cap barks out strategy to the Avengers with the most important being, “And Hulk…Smash.” The rest is just pure action with some great one-liners and each character showcasing their strengths. There are too many to list off but here are a few of my favorites: Iron man flying into fire his blasters off Cap’s shield taking out multiple enemies, Hawkeye’s no-look shot, “Puny god.”, and lastly, Iron Man saving the day by flying the bomb into the portal to end the battle. He loses power and begins hurling toward the earth with Hulk making the save and then just tossing him aside.
It’s nuts that this movie even works half as well as it does and will probably always remain as my number one MCU film. This is the standard that all superhero team-up movies will be compared. The direction and effects are top-notch here in this battle with every actor bringing their A-game. This whole battle was just stellar combined with the cherry on top in the iconic 360 shot.
1.“I’m Batman” | Batman (1989)
The movie that kicked off the modern age of superhero cinema by bringing a dark and more realistic tone to the usually colorful and goofy genre. Tim Burton made waves by casting an actor more known for his comedy films than anything else. How could Michael Keaton ever deliver as a serious Dark Knight? Well, this opening put all those questions and concerns to rest by ushering in a Caped Crusader as we had never seen before on screen. This opening scene does a fantastic job of letting you know this wasn’t your daddy’s Batman from the ’60s. No, this ushered in the grit and the grime that we would see in the coming years in most of pop culture. On top of all that, we get the most iconic line in superhero movie history that helped define a hero while being imitated, ripped off, mocked, said countless times by millions, and is still going strong today. There was no doubt in my mind what would be the number moment the minute I thought about this list and it is the only entry that never moved from its spot.
The opening gives us an idea of the world we are in by showcasing the dingy hustle and bustle of Gotham City. An out of town couple and their child try to find a cab but have difficulty, so they decide to duck down a dark alley. Because that’s ever a good idea. As they turn a corner the dad is knocked out by a thug as he points the gun at the kid warning the mom not to scream while his partner robs the dad. Then we see a dark and shadowy figure watching from high above. The thugs begin to count the earnings as one begins to wig out about rumors swirling about this Bat creature. As they argue, we see a dark figure slowly descend behind them, eventually appearing from behind freaking them out. One shoots and he falls, thinking he is dead, they are shocked to see him rise. He dispatches one thug while getting his hand on the other. As the thug pleads for his life the dark creature tells him he wants him to do him a favor, “I want you to tell all your friends about me.” The mortified thug asks, “What are you?!” And then we get it the most classic of classic lines, “I’m Batman.” You all just said it in your Batman’s voice, didn’t you? Admit it.
That one line would echo throughout a generation of superhero fans and would become the defining battle cry for this beloved character. Burton created the world and Keaton delivered this line to perfection. It is extremely difficult to think about Batman and not think of this line. No other moment helped create a timeless character as much as this one line which is why it is my number one best superhero movie moment.
Honorary Entry | Stan Lee’s Cameos
There isn’t a whole to be said that hasn’t already been stated or written about the legend that is Stan Lee and what he meant to this crazy world of superheroes from page to screen. His cameos in early films were cute and funny or extremely quick but then they morphed into a phenomenon type craze where every time an upcoming Marvel film was set to be released people would wonder more about Stan Lee’s cameo than the actual film. What are they going to do this time? How are they going to fit them in? Theories began swirling about if there was more behind his cameos and if he played a bigger part of the universe. No matter what every time his mug graced our screen we smiled and made sure it was pointed out.
I just thought this would be a perfect place to honor a man who helped make most of these moments a possibility by sharing all his cameos at once. Just a few of my favorite of his cameos: The Amazing Spider-Man as the library teacher listening to classic music with headphones while chaos happens behind him, Is Stan Lee a Watcher in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2?, horny old man DJ in Deadpool, and perhaps my favorite is one of his most simple in Spider-Man 3 where says to Peter Parker, “You know, I guess one person can make a difference.” Thank you, Stan Lee.
Well, what did you think of the list and the number one moment? What is your number one superhero movie moment?