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!
30. Zod’s Dead | Man of Steel (2013)
Probably the controversial entry on this list, but I do not care what anyone says, this is an incredible scene. It was one of the few moments where I actually said, “Oh Shit!” out loud in a theater. I was expecting the typical Superman figures out a way to save the day and incapacitate the villain before he could do any more harm. When Superman snapped Zod’s neck like a twig and his limp body fell to the floor, I was in shock. I loved it and will defend it till my death.
I understand the argument that “Superman doesn’t kill” and can agree with that. My issue is why, when, and how did he decide to not kill? In the comics? In the Christopher Reeve’s version? During Lois and Clark? On Smallville? My point is this Superman story was different and he had to come to that conviction in his own way. This was that way. He wasn’t full-blown Superman yet. He didn’t put on the tights and automatically know exactly the right thing to do. He knew one purpose in that moment and that was to protect innocent life that couldn’t protect themselves. This was a learning moment that he could build his values upon. The guttural yell he lets out after tells you that he didn’t take this action lightly and he felt like there was no other way. Come at me!
29. Killmonger’s Death | Black Panther (2018)
Usually, when the villain dies, we aren’t left with heartbreak and it doesn’t feel this tragic. Killmonger was right, like most good villains he showed the “good guys” their own flaws. What makes them the villain is that we don’t agree with how they go about it with the usual debauchery and loss of innocent life. Erik had every right to claim the throne and to help liberate his people after his father was killed and he was abandoned by his family. After successfully taking over as king of Wakanda, he set his master plan into motion, however, his pain went from simply wanting to liberate his people to build an empire.
That is where I think the heartbreak and tragedy come into his death. After a thrilling one on one battle, T’Challa was able to deliver the fatal blow but was able to help Erik to a gorgeous view of the land they both love so much. We see that had circumstances been different these two could have been brothers who worked together to make the world a better place for all.
28. “Would You Care to Step Outside” | Superman II (1980)
One of the most Superman things that Superman has ever done on screen. When Zod and his minions are threatening innocent civilians, he flies up to the window and calmly asks them to step outside to settle their differences. Once they do, we get a pretty great practical effects street fight with Superman doing his best to defeat his foes and protect the civilians.
What makes this even more of a big is that this was the first-ever superhero/supervillain fight filmed in live-action. There are two versions, the more comical version from Richard Lester and the Donner Cut without much of the slapstick. Both are great (Donner Cut is better though) and the “Would you care to step outside” line was from the Lester version.
27. Upside Down Kiss | Spider-Man (2002)
In the middle of all this action, death and sadness, why don’t we take a little time for the romance portion of this list? If you knew anything about Peter Parker before Sam Raimi’s version was released, you probably knew at least two things about the character. He was Spider-Man and he was in love with Mary Jane. Not only were we getting a grade A live-action Spider-Man movie, but we were also getting a really good love story. Of course, we get the typical nerdy boy loves girl, girl probably doesn’t have the same feeling, boy doesn’t share those feelings, girl falls head over heels for the guy in tights, nerdy boy can’t tell girl he is the guy tights because it’s complicated.
What isn’t complicated is this moment. Spider-Man had saved Mary Jane before, and this time he swoops in to save her from a bunch of thugs who have chased her down a dark alley. It’s raining, they are toying with her before they pounce, and maskless Spider-Man fights them off saving M.J. once again. Before she can thank him, he webs out of there. Completely drenched she looks around for her hero, mask, and all this time, slowly webs behind hanging upside down. They flirt. She wants to thank him. She slowly pulls down his mask, and they embrace in a sexy upside-down kiss. Saucy.
26. Lois and Superman Flying | Superman (1978)
Okay, one more sappy romance entry before we get back to badass superhero stuff. Romeo and Juliet, Anne and Gilbert, Lucy and Ricky, Ross and Rachel, Zach and Kelly! The list goes on and on, but there is one couple that has stood the test of time and is arguably one of the most famous relationships in a fictional history of any medium. Superman and Lois Lane have been attached at the hip since 1938 and it was only fitting that their romance would take flight in the first big-budget live-action Man of Steel film.
Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder were living embodiments of the comic book couple and they had incredible chemistry on-screen which helps make this scene work even more. As Superman whisks Lois off of her balcony, we all feel her trepidation. People aren’t supposed to fly, but as Superman holds her close, her fear subsides and she begins, along with all of us, to enjoy the flight. After a brief slip from his grasps, she falls, and he is there again to hold her in his big arms. Kind of hard to beat that first date.
25. Captain America and Bucky vs Iron Man | Captain America: Civil War (2016)
We are coming off that anti-climactic albeit awesome “Civil War” showdown and are getting to the meat of this story. Tony has been through hell lately. He has lost Pepper, the guilt over Sokovia, he just battled his teammates, saw one of his best friends critically injured, and now learns that his parents weren’t killed in an accident after all. What hurts most at this moment is not only seeing that his parents were murdered but his buddy and fellow Avenger, Steve ‘Captain freakin America’ Rogers, knew about it. Tony’s reaction is completely justified, and we get the real showdown of this film.
In perhaps one of the most beautiful showdowns in the MCU, everything is just stellar here. The fight choreography, the setting, cinematography, just everything. Iron Man trying to kill Bucky for killing his parents while Cap helps his oldest friend in a two on one battle is more dramatic and has higher stakes than the previous Airport fight. We witness some amazing teamwork by Bucky and Cap as they try their best to just disable the Iron Man suit. Bucky loses his arm, again. The last thing I want to point out is we get to see one of the best comic book illustrations to film representations ever. Iron Man blasting Captain America’s shield is simply gorgeous.
24. “I Didn’t Count on Being Happy” | Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Batman movies have numerous great moments and the animated classic Mask of the Phantasm is no different. Usually, they are of Batman doing Batman things faced with danger, up against a villain, or something extremely cool with gadgets and toys. However, there is no better representation that shows the humanity of the man behind the cowl like this scene.
Bruce Wayne has recently become infatuated with Andrea Beaumont and he has a difficult decision to make. Live a happy life with the one he loves or fulfill the promise he made to his dead parents. We see this struggle play out with Bruce on his knees at his parent’s grave, pleading to be let go of this promise. “I didn’t count on being happy.” Those words break my heart every time I watch this part. Just well-done storytelling and an extremely emotional moment for our Caped Crusader like we’ve never seen.
23. Cave Escape | Iron Man (2008)
Before Iron Man became this mega hero with the slickest of slick suits and fanciest of fancy gadgets, I think a lot of people forget how real the first Iron Man movie felt. This scene where Tony Stark builds and ultimately escape his prison cave in the Mark 1 helps solidify that. This wasn’t some futuristic unbelievable suit that manifests out of nothing to cover Tony. No, this was a clunky as a real-world type of suit as you could get, and it was awesome.
Being in a cave setting, the scene is very dark where you don’t get to see much outside of gunfire and this bulky suit tearing through Tony’s captors.
Not only do we get to see some great action along with some hilarious moments (the guy shooting the suit at point-blank range just to have the bullet ricochet and kill himself), but we also get the emotional scene where Tony gets some words of wisdom from his fallen helper. This is my favorite action sequence of all three Iron Man movies.
22. “I Can Do This All Day” | Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Defining a superhero usually happens in a more glorious and cool moment. But not for Steve Rogers and that’s why we love him. He is one of the few regular people that didn’t need powers or cool technology to have what it took to become a hero. Steve Rogers had the heart of hero before he ever gained his powers which makes all the more special. This scene alone would exemplify what we all would grow to love about Captain America and eventually what would annoy his own future self.
This little pipsqueak with a heart of a lion would stand up to a bully in a theater just to be taken out back to an alley and take a beating. Even with the bully being much bigger than Steve and continuing to knock him down, Steve would not stay down. Getting back up at one point with a trash can lid in his hand kind of like a shield…wait I just got that. “You just don’t know when to give up, do ya?” asked the bully. Next would come the line the would define one of our favorite heroes till his retirement.
21. Airplane Kidnap | The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
One of the few moments on the list without a superhero and mainly on here this high due more with the people behind the camera than the ones on camera. Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone in the scene did a fine job including Little Finger and Tom Hardy as Bane. I know a lot of people didn’t like his voice, but I was hooked from his first words. The real star here is Christopher Nolan and everyone else who helped put this practical effect heavy scene together. With very little CGI, we get a masterpiece to kidnap thousands of feet in the air like never before. Nolan himself claimed this scene to be one he is most proud of.
We get to see Bane’s cunning smarts and power in one fell swoop at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises. We are led to believe these are just three random thugs captured by the CIA and are going to interrogated for answers. As this begins to play out, we get to meet our big bad right off the bat. Little Finger and Bane begin to banter back and forth as we see another airplane fly above theirs with men repelling out of it. They sink their hooks in the CIA plane turning it upside down. The rest is some grade A heist stuff, like Bane dropping one row to the next with menacing ease as the agent’s struggle. Next, draining blood from the person they are kidnapping to a corpse for DNA purposes. Also, some great quotes and we are only six minutes into the movie. It is a heart-pounding scene masterfully done by all involved.
What do you think of the selection so far? What was your favorite superhero movie moment?