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 List!
20. We Are Groot | Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Oh, the emotionality of it all! I don’t know about you guys, but Guardians of the Galaxy slapped me in the face as almost no other superhero film had before. I didn’t know anything about this crew of misfits and wasn’t expecting much, but I fell love with every one of these characters almost immediately upon being introduced to them. Some great laughs, some excellent music with some fun action scenes all culminated in one of the most heart-wrenching superhero movie moments.
These five extremely different individuals were all brought together for different reasons and had a difficult time working together to accomplish a goal because each had their own agenda. Quinn, Rocket, and Groot were all about selling the stone for as much money as they could get, Gamora was tasked with finding the stone and Drax just wanted revenge for his family. As they finally start to become a unit, they are put into danger while on a ship headed for a fatal crash landing. With no other option, Groot decides to pay the ultimate sacrifice for his newly found family. As Rocket begins to tear up, along with the rest of us, Groot finally says something different than the only three words he has uttered the entire movie, “We are Groot.” And gut punch.
19. “Is This Your King” | Black Panther (2018)
Earlier in this list, we talked about Killmonger’s death and what a great scene that was. Here we see a much different type of scene with a shocking outcome. Killmonger has demanded and been granted the right to fight for the throne of Wakanda. We are back in the gorgeous waterfall setting from earlier in the movie where T’Challa was already a victor in battle. We get a great villain speech before the battle commences with Killmonger telling of all the death he has handed out just for this moment.
As T’Challa’s family and we watch this fight, we realize he has his hands full with a very different opponent this time. With the drums banging in the background and the water splashing, we are witnessing an intense battle. Killmonger is able to get the best of T’Challa and ready to strike the final blow, Zuri steps in to save his king stating he was the cause of Killmonger’s father’s death. Erik turns the blade on Zuri killing him while he continues to beat T’Challa, he begins to taunt the on-lookers including T’challa’s family. “Is this your King?!”, he repeats before throwing Black Panther over the edge of the waterfall to his “death”. “No, I’m your king now!” The fool is a badass.
18. “Have You Seen My Super Suit” | The Incredibles (2004)
I can’t even with this scene. It simply kills me every time I watch it. I have also been known to yell this at my wife when I am having a hard time finding a piece of clothing of mine. It never gets old. Well, at least not to me. The peak behind the superhero curtain here is genius. We are used to our heroes simply being able to go from their mild manner appearances to their superhero looking selves in a manner of seconds. Ain’t no one got time to wait for you get your suit out of the closet and change while that fate of the world is at hand.
But what if you can’t find you super suit in the middle of a crisis? As catastrophe takes place outside of his window, Frozone rushes to get ready for the fight, but can’t find his super suit. The back and forth between Frozone, voice by Samuel L. Jackson, and his wife is side splitting hilarious. “You tell me where my suit is, woman!” Also, there is nothing trying to help the greater good just to have your wife somehow turn that around and throw in back in your face. She did have this dinner planned for two months though.
17. Transport Chase | The Dark Knight (2008)
The best and most realistic vehicle chase in superhero movie history. There is so much to unpack in this scene that several moments from this chase could have made this list by themselves. It’s dark and has a frantic pace that pulls you right into the middle of the action. It also just has a different feel compared to your typical chase scenes. Lack of music so all you are hearing is the tires, engines, roaring, the crashing with debris flowing, and the sounds of the weapons.
Harvey Dent has confessed to being the Batman and is being transported by way of convoy because everyone knows who is coming after him. Honestly, my favorite moment may just be right off the bat as the convoy begins rolling and the sound just drops, and then we see an aerial view of what looks like an abandoned city. We then get some Joker goodness as he unloads gun and after gun into the transport vehicle holding Dent going bigger and more powerful with each weapon. With the tumbler crashed and Joker’s men able to bring down the police helicopter, we get the emergence of the Batpod which is pretty freaking cool. Next, we get one of the coolest practical effects (yes, practical) where an 18-wheeler was flipped perfectly upside down, going vertical and crashing topside. Seeing that in the theaters on IMAX was jaw-dropping.
The Batpod does a neat wall flip as the Joker staggers from the wreckage, gun in hand, and the two begin making their way toward each other. Joker baits Batman in mumbling “Come on. I want you to do it, I want to do it…Hit me!” Batman contemplates hitting him and ending this just to pull away at the last second to crash. As the Batman lays motionless and it seems Joker is finally going to unmask him, we get a pleasant surprise to end the scene in a resurrected Jim Gordon. This by far my favorite chase scene in superhero movie history hands down.
16. “Time in a Bottle” | X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
One of the more difficult superpowers to realize on film is super speed. Yes, you can show a lightning-fast person just zipping from place to place, but that doesn’t have a lot of panache or substance. So, one of the best ways to showcase this blazing type of speed on the big screen is to actually slow it down a bit. Add the classic Jim Croce song “Time in a Bottle” while throwing in some hilarity with a fan-favorite scene-stealing character, and you have one of the most well-liked scenes of superhero movies.
Some may argue the same scene for Apocalypse is better and I am fine with that. I definitely like “Sweet Dreams” way more as a song, but this one came out of nowhere and gave much-needed character development to what could have been just a stock character. Quicksilver would race into our hearts with this scene being what most were talking about once the credits rolled. One of the most fun moments on this list.
15. Taking Flight | Man of Steel (2013)
We had seen Superman fly on the big screen before. Christopher Reeve and co. did the best they could with what they had at the time. It wasn’t until 2006’s Superman Returns that we saw what Superman could really do with one of his coolest superpowers because the technology was finally there to showcase his flight. Several years later, with technology slightly more polished, we were able to see him take flight again in 2013’s Man of Steel. So, what makes this time different than the others?
In the previous films before Man of Steel, we saw a polished and mature Superman who had been able to train with his powers where we weren’t able to see him struggle. I think that is why this moment is so beautiful in a gorgeous setting. It starts off with us seeing this Clark emerge for the first time in the red, blue, and yellow as his cape flaps in the wind. As we hear his conversation with the biological father about testing his limits, Clark looks to the sky and takes off! But he doesn’t fly yet. We see him take one enormous bound after another till, he finally struggles to steer himself straight, and then it happens. He begins to fly letting out a nervous and joyous laugh almost like a kid who figured out he could do something cool. Of course, he then loses control and comes crashing to earth. Which is why I love this moment so much.
More of Jor-El’s encouraging words plays through his head as head steadies himself for another attempt. The ground around him shakes and tiny parts begin to rise as his body sucks the gravity from the surface and he is off! Not only is the moment shot extremely well but being able to see Earth’s mightiest warrior struggle and not be the perfect hero, really helped pull part of this story together.
14. Train Scene | Spider-Man 2 (2004
Another part two that is often considered one of the best superhero films and I am inclined to agree as we were able to get some of the best from Sam Raimi here in this sequel. Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man had already endeared himself to us, but we were also witnessing one the best casting jobs with Alfred Molina personifying what many of us expected the live-action version of Doc Ock to be.
Fights on trains were nothing new. Fights on top of trains had been done before, but a fight between to superpowered individuals on top of a fast-moving train like this was something else to behold. What about fighting on the side of the train while standing on the side? Extremely neat. Doc Ock being sinister as ever by grabbing helpless passengers and tossing them like wadded papers of trash to try and slow down Spidey to dismantling the breaks in order for the train to reach uncontrollable high speeds and forcing Spider-Man to abandon his pursuit to save the innocent passengers is just all great. Even the effects till seem top-notch.
However, the real meat of this scene is the ending. Unmasked Peter Parker put his life on the line in order to save numerous strangers and when he does just that, he collapses from exhaustion just to be gently caught by several of the passengers that just witnessed this heroic act. It’s my favorite part. We go from chaotic to near silence where we can hear the hands grabbing him before he falls. Next, we see them carefully caring their savior to a safe location only to hear one say, “He’s just a kid.” As Peter comes to, he realizes he mask is off, but we get the cherry on top. A boy hands him his mask, “We won’t tell nobody” as others nod in agreement. Ah, it’s so touching. Till Doc Ock shows up to ruin it, of course.
13. Opening Credits | Watchmen (2009)
“Really, Kane? You have opening credits this high on the list?” Yes, because there is more story told in these few minutes here and in better style than some superhero movies in their entirety. Zack Snyder gave us an incredible opening scene by showing us a glimpse into the world of the movie we were about to watch. Then came these opening credits that gave us more background and world-building than any opening monologue or scrolling prologue. It’s essentially a mini prequel that showed us we were going to be in an alternate universe of the history we already knew.
Set to Bob Dylan’s classic “The Times They Are a-Changin”, we are introduced numerous different characters past and present while seeing many familiar historical figures and moments we know with slightly different tweaks. Some of these characters we meet again and already have an idea of what they are about. Others only mentioned later but this helped fill in holes. I would put these opening credits up against any other movie’s opening credits any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
12. Warehouse Takedown | Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Oh boy. With this entry, I feel like I’m Jon Snow ready to face down an entire army alone at the Battle of Basterds. Let me prepare myself…
This is hands down the best Batman action sequence in the history of Batman on film and TV. I feel if people could look at this scene in a vacuum by itself without carrying their issues with the rest of the film into their viewing of this scene, they could appreciate it even more for what it is. And that is an absolute kick-ass Batman fight in a warehouse where he demolishes armed thugs with brutal and efficient tactics like a good Batman should. No, I don’t want to hear about the manner he dispatched these armed thugs and whether or not he killed any of them, ya pansies! “Don’t do evil stuff and evil stuff won’t happen to you”, is what I always say. Well, I said it once…just now.
We get to see all the Dark Knight’s abilities on full display here. The new Batwing looks amazing. His fight skills, gadgets, and smarts are utilized to take out the armed thugs and save Martha Kent. “Martha!” The fight choreography is on point and some of the hits are just brutal. This is just a thrilling fight scene that every action and superhero fan should love. I think Ben Affleck did an incredible job as old gruff Batman and wish we had been able to see him get his own solo film.
11. The Avengers Initiative | Iron Man (2008)
We didn’t know what to expect from 2008’s Iron Man film. It was a superhero character that we hadn’t seen on the big screen yet, and the casting of Tony Stark was arguably the most well liked and less argued superhero casting ever to that date. We had just sat through 126 minutes of being convinced that Robert Downey Jr. was perfect as Tony Stark, and right before the credits rolled, we witness the most fundamental superhero rule being broken. “I am Iron Man,” Tony stated loud and proud in front of the press letting everyone know his secret identity. However, the coolest part of all would come at the end of the credits.
I don’t about y’all but I had heard rumblings about the need to stay for the credits. We had seen mid or post-credit scenes before, and they were usually funny or cool little additions that ultimately meant nothing to the overall story. What we all witnessed was something like we had never seen before. Tony enters his awesome looking living room (I’m guessing it’s his living room?) as we see a figure in the shadows. We hear a familiar voice, considering you have watched more than five movies, repeat Tony’s famous words of “I am Iron Man. You think you are the only superhero in the world?” The next part is what would subtlety blow our minds and have us guessing at what is all meant.
“Mr. Stark, you have become a part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it, yet.” Stark replies, “Who the hell are you?” Stepping out of the shadows we see the baddest mofo on the planet, Samuel L. Jackson, announce himself as the Director of S.H.E.I.L.D. Nick Fury while adding this little nugget, “I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.” OH. MY. GAH. Are you freaking kidding me?
What we didn’t know is that this was Marvel Studios and co. telling us that we were about to get an interconnected cinematic universe of superheroes like never before. It would be called the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this was simply Phase One. End credits scenes would become an integral part of almost every MCU film going forward to help tell a small part of the whole. Its biggest legacy is that it would jumpstart a franchise that is still running strong after more than 10 years and 24 movies that have all connected to tell a bigger overall story. The franchise would set all the records while making all the money by culminating in one of its own films taking hold of the number one box office of all the times. And it was all launched by Iron Man and this 30-second post-credit scene. I tip my hat.
What do you think of the selection so far? What was your favorite superhero movie moment?