Avengers Moments That Took Things Too Far

Debuting in 2008 with "Iron Man," the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has grown into a 29-film, interconnected saga and the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. Unlike the more grounded aesthetic of Christoper Nolan's Batman trilogy, the MCU has fully embraced the full-color insanity of its comic book heritage. Its stories unfold across space and time, and therefore, often bypass plausibility to pursue the rule of cool.

This list is a celebration of moments that are so ludicrous they become awesome. Legolas surfing down a flight of stairs on a shield while no-scoping Uruk-hai in "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" would make the cut. However, his gravity-defying run up a collapsing bridge, as seen in "The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies," would not make the list because it is completely implausible and also dumb. One last note: This list only includes the mainline Avengers films, with one exception. "Captain America: Civil War" is an Avengers film in all but name, featuring the entire team minus Thor and the Hulk. Given the film introduces Black Panther and Spider-Man, we'll call it even.

I'm always angry

One of the ongoing subplots in "The Avengers" is the thin green line Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) walks, where one misstep transforms the quiet scientist into an enormous green rage monster. As Harry Dean Stanton helpfully points out after Banner awakens in a pile of wreckage, "Son, you've got a condition." Indeed, the film derives a lot of tension from this predicament, and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) memorably leverages the Hulk against the heroes. Ever the perceptive one — but with no regard to possible collateral damage — Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) prods Bruce quite literally. "What's your secret? Mellow jazz? Bongo drums? Huge bag of weed?"

It's mostly played as a joke, but it turns out that Bruce really does have a secret, and it's a big one. As one of the Chitauri Leviathans comes bearing down on the team, he gives them the skinny: He's always mad! Despite outward appearances, Bruce Banner lives in a state of perpetual rage. Here's a Fun anecdote from Rolling Stone: "The Avengers" writer-director Joss Whedon retroactively realized this statement was semi-autobiographical.

So Banner can Hulk out at will, just like flipping a switch. He calmly walks toward the Leviathan, shreds another shirt as he becomes mean and green, and socks the flying armored whale in the jaw, bringing it to a dead stop. Bruce's staggering wardrobe costs aside, this reveal — and its implications — remains one of the MCU's wildest moments.

Infinity stone relay race

The entire climactic battle in "Avengers: Endgame" plays like a fan's wildest dream and includes any number of moments that could earn a spot here. However, the one that takes the cake is the relay race across the battlefield as the heroes try to get the Infinity Gauntlet and all its gems to the time machine in the back of Luis' van. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) starts with the Gauntlet but smartly passes it off to Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). Despite his super strength and vibranium suit, Black Panther is overpowered and passes the baton to Spider-Man (Tom Holland).

Spider-Man is quickly imperiled by the hordes, thus prompting one of the most awesomely outlandish sequences ever committed to film. Spider-Man catches a ride from Mjolnir — which was thrown by Captain America — and is caught by Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) in her rescue armor and then is thrown onto the back of a pegasus ridden by the last Asgardian Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). They never reach the van, but that is beside the point. For sheer zany ingenuity, this one can't be beaten.

Captain America vs. Iron Man

The entire premise of "Captain America: Civil War" is built toward provoking the super-friends toward inner conflict and dissolution — sort of like the breakup of The Beatles but with more explosions and one-liners. Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) masterfully manipulates the heroes, but it all boils down to this: Who is Steve Rogers' (Chris Evans) bestie? As in "Highlander," there can be only one.

In one corner, Tony Stark, the good-times guy with all the toys. His opponent: Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), an emo former assassin looking to turn over a new leaf. In the end, it's no contest. Steve is with Bucky till the end of the line, even if the tracks plummet off a cliff. The ensuing fight is one of the MCU's most poignant because this time there are no winners. Everyone loses. The fight is cool and the film earns it, providing proper motivation to everyone involved, but it earns a spot here because it still strains credibility. Are these people so broken they can only settle differences with their fists? 

Hot Tub Thor Machine

While hammering Ultron bots into bits in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," Thor (Chris Hemsworth) encounters Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). She tries to bewitch him, which is utter folly. He brazenly tells the other Avengers he is impervious to such sorcery. The very next moment finds Thor wandering in a creepy Asgardian reverie — sort of a Viking "Eyes Wide Shut" meets "The Shining." A blind Heimdall (Idris Elba) then tries to strangle Thor. Lightning shoots out of Thor's pecs, dusting the dancing onlookers. 

If you haven't figured it out yet, this is one of the more bizarre items on this list.

Amid all the chaos, Thor glimpses shiny gems floating in space. Troubled, he later locates a mystical pool. "If the water spirits accept me, I can return to my dream and find what I missed." You read that right: Water spirits. Thor flounders around the pool, yelling as lighting shoots out of his chest again. From that, somehow, he comes to understand the nature of the Infinity Stones and the importance of having Vision on their team. It's a super clumsy narrative device and not one of the MCU's finest moments, but it's also hilariously memorable.

Back to the future, 14 million times

After crash landing on Titan in "Avengers: Infinity War," the Avengers join forces with the plucky Guardians of the Galaxy to take on Thanos (Josh Brolin). Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) decides to use the Time Stone to scout into the future and maybe avoid dying. After viewing a staggering 14 million outcomes, the news is grim. The Avengers only win once. It's a grim prognosis, especially since the Avengers remain undefeated to that point, their only L self-inflicted. 

The stakes are high when Thanos finally arrives, but the Avengers-Guardians team-up only manages to extract a single drop of blood from the Mad Titan. Yikes! Considering everything goes as Doctor Strange had foreseen, there is something else that is a bit hard to stomach. No, not Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) deciding to beat on a dazed Thanos when the gauntlet was in their grasp. Consider this: The fate of the galaxy and untold billions of lives hinged on a rat inadvertently rescuing Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) from the Quantum Realm. Even when dealing with the fantastic, that is one thin margin.

Hawkeye's whole deal

In a world of gods and monsters, super soldiers, and science experiments, Hawkeye is just out there with a bow and arrow. His whole deal is pretty ludicrous. He's not hiding any shocking and fantastic abilities. He's just super accurate with a Stone Age weapon. Idiosyncratic aesthetics of the bow aside, a gun is eminently more useful. When it comes down to it, Hawkeye isn't all that different from Black Widow in terms of capabilities or skills. Anything he can do, she can do better — except the whole bow thing.

"Avengers: Age of Ultron" shines a light on the utter ridiculousness of the situation. While fighting Ultron's minions on a floating island, Hawkeye himself provides a bit of fourth-wall-breaking commentary. "Ok, look, the city is flying, we're fighting an army of robots, and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense." It's a cheeky way of winking at the audience and telling us Marvel is in on the joke, and in doing so, seeks to exonerate Hawkeye from serious scrutiny. Even with far-out things like time travel, multiverses, and quantum realms, the guy with the bow remains the most ridiculous thing in the MCU.

Thanos throws a moon

A big part of the MCU's charm is the sheer spectacle. These are impossibly powerful characters doing incredible things (give or take Hawkeye); Captain America arm wrestling a helicopter back to the helipad, Spider-Man straining to hold a ferry together, and the Guardians of the Galaxy withstanding the Power Stone. Yet, among all the displays of power we have witnessed across the MCU, one remains undefeated. 

After escaping from the trap laid for him on Titan in "Avengers: Infinity War," Thanos wastes no time subduing the heroes. He tosses Doctor Strange like a sack of potatoes and lays out the Guardians with a blast from the Power Stone. He saves the most brutal counterattack for last. Reaching into the sky with his gauntlet, Thanos shatters a moon and uses the fiery pieces to rain destruction on Iron Man. It's a devastating reversal from what seemed like an Avengers victory and lays bare just how outmatched the heroes truly are.

Hulkbuster as a Hulk-suppression tool

The two smartest members of the Avengers concoct a solution to their uncontrollable raging green monster problem. It's not a sleeping gas, a mix tape of Black Widow's lullaby, or pictures of puppies and kittens, any of which would probably do the trick. Their solution is a really big Iron Man suit with which to punch the Hulk in the face, but like most of us, the Hulk doesn't like getting hit. It only makes him angrier. The angrier he gets, the stronger he becomes, which begets more punching in the face, and so on. Does that make any sense to you?

The Hulkbuster suit is a logical fallacy arrived at in large part because Tony Stark is an engineer and therefore he tried to engineer a solution the only way he knows how: by building something. The resulting mayhem is one of the best scenes in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," as the situation tips from bad to much worse with collateral damage galore. As a solution to a specific problem, the Hulkbuster suit was super shortsighted, but it made for an awesome scene.

Ant-Man becomes Giant-Man

Paul Rudd is a national treasure. He's just so darn likable. His addition to the MCU has provided some much-needed levity amid all the world-ending threats. Likewise, Rudd's appearance in "Captain America: Civil War" provided a dose of laughter in an otherwise somber story. And he singlehandedly stole the stage in the movie's best scene.

Unable to compromise on the Sokovia Accords, Captain America and Iron Man are eventually goaded into confrontation by Zemo. They initially come to blows at a German airport in a sprawling fight as Avenger turns on Avenger. It's a jaw-dropping bit of nerd nirvana as 12 superheroes partake in a Royal Rumble-esque battle royale, with all their flashy powers on display. Ant-Man takes things to a surprising new level by suddenly growing 60 feet tall. Dwarfing the battlefield, Ant-Man toys with team Iron Man. He throws them around while laughing maniacally and joyfully destroying vehicles. In all honesty, it's a miracle he didn't kill anybody. Most of the characters were pulling punches, but Ant-Man was out there trying to crush people underneath his size 100 boots.

Captain America vs Ultron

One of the reasons "Captain America: Winter Soldier" is so beloved is it finally delivered a Captain America that was truly a super soldier — with emphasis on "super." Up to that point, Cap just seemed like a guy who was moderately stronger than normal but was honestly kind of meh. "Winter Soldier" changed that by showing just how strong Steve Rogers truly is. Five minutes into the movie, he kicks a terrorist off a boat with such velocity that you have to assume the guy broke his neck when he hit the water. 

"Avengers: Age of Ultron" carries that 'holy crap' energy forward, which leads to an exciting encounter that is nonetheless a bit silly. While trying to prevent Ultron from absconding with a sleek new vibranium body, Cap finds himself isolated against the rampant AI bot. After losing his shield in the encounter, Cap fights the only way he knows how: punching and kicking. Considering Ultron is a robot, it doesn't seem like a good strategy. Oh, and at one point, Cap tries to choke Ultron. I guess he forgot that robots don't breathe? It's still a great fight though.

The Snap

A quick synopsis of how we got here: A genocidal purple space alien collects gems for his shiny new glove and, once he has them all, wants nothing more than to use his newly bejeweled gauntlet to kill exactly half of all life everywhere, all at once. It sounds silly, and easily could've drifted into farce, but Marvel has always done a good job of playing things loosely but for keeps. A large part of the credit for Thanos must go to Josh Brolin, who gave the Mad Titan conviction and gravitas, enough to make you wonder, even if fleetingly, is he right?

The Snap makes this list in part because it is out-there plot-wise. More than that, the sheer audacity to not only let the heroes lose but to do so in such a brutally dramatic fashion is legendary. Never mind that the damage would (mostly) be undone later. That inkling was little consolation to the shell-shocked audiences stumbling out of the theater.

Hail Hydra

One of the best parts about "Avengers: Endgame" is its time-hopping elements. The film uses these scenes to great comedic effect — Banner's irritation at the Hulk's clumsy brutality, for instance — but also finds in them a way to both acknowledge the journey and illustrate just how much the characters have changed. While "Endgame" has fun lampooning the physics of "Back to the Future," there is something very Marty McFly in the way the characters react to their past, knowing what they know now.

When Captain America once again finds himself in an elevator full of Hydra agents, we think we know what's going to happen. And given the incredible elevator scene in "Captain America: Winter Soldier," we're excited to see it. However, the film is just baiting the audience, setting up our expectations and then cleverly subverting them. When Cap leans in toward Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández) and says simply, "Hail Hydra," we're as shocked as Sitwell looks. In one of the wildest and most unexpected turns in the entire MCU, Cap simply walks out, taking the scepter without throwing a punch.

Thor vs a dying star

After getting royally stomped by Thanos in the opening of "Avengers: Infinity War," Thor undertakes a heroic journey to find a weapon that can level the playing field. His quest eventually takes him to the same dwarves that constructed Mjolnir. Unfortunately, Thanos got there first, killing everyone and maiming the lone surviving dwarf, Eitri (Peter Dinklage). On top of that, the forge is out of order.

To restart the forge, Thor takes on the full force of a star, and he somehow isn't killed outright (nor does he die). Anyone else would be atomized, but Thor comes through it with nothing worse than a bad sunburn. He succumbs eventually, falling into a coma, although it could just be a bad case of sunstroke. It seems like maybe Thor will die after all. There's no aloe and the nearest drugstore is a million miles away. Groot, a sentient adolescent tree-man, cuts off his arm and uses it for the handle of the magic axe crafted by the enormous space dwarf. The axe brings Thor back from the brink. This whole plot line is just insanity.

Puny god

Loki spends almost the entire runtime of "The Avengers" gleefully doling out punishment to the heroes, often by pitting them against one another. He's always one step ahead, even when the Avengers have Loki under house arrest. As Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) points out, "Why do I feel like he's the only person on this boat that wants to be here?" Bruce Banner can smell the crazy on Loki but ends up the butt of the joke when a dangerously out-of-control Hulk enables Loki to escape.

Therefore, when a sorta-in-control Hulk later encounters Loki during the battle for New York, it's personal. Despite Loki's arrogant self-assurance in his godhood, the Hulk makes quick work of the Asgardian prince, savagely beating him against the ground like he's a dirty floor mat. It's absurdly comedic, tiptoeing toward outright slapstick — the sort of thing you'd expect in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

Avengers assemble

The climax of "Avengers: Endgame" finds Captain America holding a broken shield and standing alone against Thanos and his army. There's no quit in Cap, but despite his "I can do this all day" mantra, it's clear the end is nigh. He'll go down fighting, but he's going to go down. And then, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) appears to speak from the grave. "On your left."

In movie history, few moments can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the portals scene of "Endgame" for sheer awestruck spectacle. Certainly, no other movie can match "Endgame's" 21-film build-up, nor the catharsis of seeing almost every hero we have ever met (RIP Nat) return to stand behind a bloodied Captain America, especially since many of those heroes had recently been dusted in "Avengers: Infinity War." 

The Avengers have been called to battle for decades in the comic books through the iconic catchphrase, "Avengers assemble!" but Marvel Studios had thus far withheld it from the films. "Avengers: Age of Ultron" notably goes to black just as Cap is about to say it. They were saving it for the perfect moment, and this is it. "Avengers assemble!" sends the heroes charging toward Thanos' hordes. It's a "dumping the toy box out" moment, and it's utterly breathtaking.