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!
40. Airplane Rescue | Superman Returns (2006)
This is how you make a return after being gone for five years. An absolutely thrilling ride that was a blast to watch on the big screen. 2006’s Superman Returns may not be heralded as one of the best superhero films, but one thing you have to give it credit for was the effects, especially in this scene. Add in that iconic score and goosebumps abound.
Of course, Lois just happens to be in the middle of all this trouble when an experimental flight begins to malfunction putting all the passengers in danger. As chaos ensues inside the plane, we see an unidentified bogey rapidly approaching. Is it a bird? Or plane? No, it’s Brandon Routh doing his best Christopher Reeve impersonation by saving the day. The anti-gravity part along with Superman crashing through the broken-off wing to safely catch the massive airplane by gently sitting in down in the middle of a baseball game while the crowd roared was cool as hell.
39. Hospital Horror | Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Fans of Sam Raimi would get would recognize several staples of directing style during his first Spider-Man in 2002. Some of us, especially me, wondered when or if we would get any of his horror elements added into any of these superhero movies. He did not disappoint. In Spider-Man 2, we watched Doctor Octavius’ experiment blow up in his face effectively fusing his robotic tentacle-like arms with his nervous system. Unconscious while on an operating table with surgeons trying to remove those arms, all hell breaks loose.
We finally get Evil Dead Raimi in all his glory and in a family superhero movie no less. Right before the procedure takes place, the robotic tentacles come alive and begin attacking the doctors and nurses in a grizzly fashion. Blood-curdling screams, chaos, and some ultra-violence made for one of the most terrifying scenes in superhero movie history. We even get an Evil Dead first-person POV tracking shot from one of the arms right before it dispatches one of its victims.
38. Elevator Fight | Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
They are a lot of places that make for great fight settings, but one of my favorites is the narrow or closed room type of settings. When done right the intensity and claustrophobia can be felt through the screen. There is no time to breathe and there is constant movement. This makes the elevator fight scene one of the best to be done. By this time, we were all aware of the double-cross coming, we just didn’t know when or how.
Once Brock Rumlow entered the elevator with other agents, we all knew something was about to go down. Cap started to put two and two together as well. Elevator stops and more men get on crowding Cap. The sound that was made every time the elevator passed a level was like a heartbeat that starts to get your pulse racing. More men get on the elevator. More crowding. Cap knows what’s up now. “Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?” What a classic line. 1 vs 10 in a freaking elevator! Simply a heart-pounding scene.
37. The Issue with Capes | The Incredibles (2004)
Mr. Incredible has been out of the game for a while and is in need of a new suit. He turns to a trusted suit maker and two-foot spark plug, Edna. As she begins her creative magic, Mr. Incredible sits back and offers up some suggestions. One in particular that draws the ire of Edna. “No Capes!” When then get a darkly hilarious montage of superheroes dying because of their capes. Capes may look cool, but they aren’t always practical.
36. “You Ever Dance with the Devil in the Pale Moon Light” | Batman (1989)
We are all used to Batman vs the Joker by now. Joker tries to sadistically outwit Batman, as Batman tries to reason or just beat reason into the Joker. It’s a lovely and twisted dance. Here though, we get to see a different dynamic play out. Bruce Wayne was all set to let the lovely Vicky Vale in on his little secret. Before he is able to spill the beans, they are interrupted by none other than the Clown Prince himself, the Joker.
Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson play off each other extremely well during one of the only scenes on the big screen where we get to see Bruce and Joker interact with one another. Every time Keaton loses it and yells “Now you wanna get nuts? Come on! Let’s get nuts,” just makes me picture Beetlejuice. Joker then delivers one of the greatest one-liners in film, “You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” It is such a sadistic Joker thing to say and Nicholson delivers it perfectly.
35. Trying to Lift the Hammer | Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The MCU is chalked full of fun scenes and moments. They are usually used to break up tense moments or to help tell a story. I think what makes this scene so much fun and memorable is that you almost feel like these are that actual actors hanging out and letting their hair down as opposed to them just playing their characters. By this point in the MCU, they were all pretty familiar with their roles, and it shows. The party scene had some funny bits and comments, but watching the Avengers trying to pick up Thor’s hammer was fantastic. It felt like any other group of friends who have had too much to drink trying to one-up or best the other.
Hawkeye begins talking trash about it being a trick and Thor challenges him to try and lift Mjolnir. After he fails, Tony is then challenged and is of course cocky till he fails and has to pull out the big guns. An awkward Banner attempt leads to Captain America’s turn. Thor sitting back as confident as ever, Cap wraps both hands around the handle and pulls. Slight movement and Thor’s smirk is quickly erased and then turned to relief when Steve fails as well. Yes, this is a fun scene, but it also does some character-building at the same time.
34. Bane Breaks the Bat | The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
From the moment this hulking villain was announced as a part of The Dark Knight Rises, this was the scene we were all waiting to see. A face to face showdown between Batman and Bane. Fans knew the comic book story of Bane not only defeating the Dark Knight but breaking him physically. Would we see this version of the Caped Crusader broken and defeated?
I really love this scene. From the betrayal to the cold and calculating voice of Tom Hardy’s Bane letting the Bat know is in trouble. Bane reveals he knows Batman’s true identity, so Batman does what he always does and meets the threat head-on. Bane absorbs his blows like they are nothing, even catching one of Batman’s punches like an older kid does to their little sibling. The setting is great and the lack of music, except the waterfall in the background, makes you hear and feel every punch, movement, and grunt. Bane never looses his cool while speaking some of the most eloquent trash talks during a fight ever. “Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but BLINDING!” (You know you just read that in Bane’s voice too)
After cracking his cowl with a fury of punches, Batman mounts one last attack. “Ah, yes… I was wondering what would break first…” Here it comes, Bane lifts Batman over his like a ragdoll. “Your spirit, or your body?” And breaks his back over his knee with a resounding thud and crack echoing in our ears. Did I mention how much I love this scene?
33. Yondu’s Funeral | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
One thing Vol. 2 had over the original was spectacular visuals. This scene is case in point, but they were tough to appreciate through all the tears. We witnessed Peter meet his father who turned out to be a real jackass, and we saw his real daddy comes to his rescue. Yondu seemed like a side villain throughout the first and part of the second film until he was overthrown by his own crew. He was also an outcast from his Ravager community and had been trying to get back into their good graces.
After coming to Quill’s aid to help defeat Ego, Yondu sacrificed his own life so that his boy could live. That self-sacrifice endeared him even more to our hearts but was also repaid justly by his Ravager family showing up and accepting him back as one of their own. With Cat Stevens playing in the background, we witness one of the most emotional and dazzling send offs ever on film.
32. A Leap of Faith | Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018)
“What’s up danger? Come on, I said, ‘what’s up danger’?!!!” I freaking love this song. I freaking love this scene. I freaking love the song and scene together. One of my favorite superhero happenings is that moment it all comes together and the hero realizes their full powers and potential. That was the whole point of Miles’ arc. Even before the powers, he struggled with his finding a balance his full potential. Getting powers just complicated that even more, and with even trying to the right thing, he still failed his expectations. All he need was a kick-ass song, a kick-ass new Spider-Man suit, and a leap of faith. This scene gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. From hearing words of encouragement play through his to the glass shattering at his fingertips as he takes his literal leap of faith to the…Have I mentioned the song yet? “Like, what’s up danger?!”
31. The Will to Act | Batman Begins (2005)
Bruce recounts a memory from after his parent’s funereal, where tells Alfred he blames himself for their death. Ras Al Gul begins to train Bruce in the ways of the League of Shadows and how to confront his guilt. Next, we see a gorgeous scene in some snowy mountains while the two train on a frozen body of water. Cinematography isn’t one of the first things you think about when it comes to superhero movies. The beauty of this scene alone would put this scene on the list. Liam Neeson’s sultry voice moves it up this list even more. Add in the montage of how Bruce Wayne learns the skills need to become the Batman and you get moved way up the list. Stellar storytelling and great dialogue help round out this scene.
What do you think of the selection so far? What was your favorite superhero movie moment?