Despite what some critics might say, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not just a long string of epic fight scenes tied together by the loose threads of a plot - but that doesn’t mean the MCU is lacking epic fight scenes. Modern-day superhero flicks have a lot more depth and nuance than those of generations past, but the large-scale, superpowered fights remain a third act staple - and fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
While many of the most memorable brawls in MCU history take the form of ensemble encounters - like the airport throwdown or Endgame’s climactic clash - it has also had its fair share of notable one-on-one fights. Unlike the more sprawling scenes, where the focus is on spectacle, one-on-one superhero fights bring more personal drama and emotion to the table. Arguing about which superheroes would be able to beat up the others is a classic playground discussion, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has managed to adapt the concept to the big screen time and time again.
When: Avengers: Endgame (2019)
With Iron Man unconscious and Thor beaten to a pulp, Captain America does what fans have been waiting a decade for and picks up Mjolnir - proving himself worthy of laying a powerful whooping on Thanos. Without hesitation, Steve Rogers begins to lay a series of shield, hammer, and lightning combos on the unsuspecting Mad Titan - and the result is a visual feast.
Rogers wield Mjolnir like he’s been holding it for centuries, but even that isn’t enough to overcome the might of Thanos. The genocidal giant chokeslams Cap into the ground, recovers his dual-bladed sword, and uses it to smash the Avenger’s iconic shield to pieces. Thanos then bats Rogers a solid half-mile away so that he can regroup with his forces.
When: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Tony Stark pulls no technological punches when he finally comes face-to-face with Thanos. With Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy out of commission on Titan, it’s up to Iron Man to take on the Mad Titan by himself - and he puts up an impressive, if futile, fight.
Stark busts out turbo-powered punches, an Infinity Gauntlet-disabling projectile, and a shield that can resist the power of the Infinity Stones. When that’s not enough to do more than draw a “drop of blood” from Thanos, Stark makes one last desperate attempt by converting the nano-particles in his suit into a massive sword - only to have Thanos rip it off his arm and run him through with it.
When: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
When Thor finds himself in the Grandmaster’s gladiator arena on the planet Sakaar, he’s initially overjoyed to see his “friend from work” - only for the dual-ax-wielding Hulk to unleash some pent-up fury on him. Thor manages to swipe one of the Hulk’s hammers and the two exchange mighty blows - and the Hulk manages to toss Thor around like a Loki-esque ragdoll.
The God of Thunder decides to start fighting smart, allowing him to briefly gain an advantage over the Jade Giant - but that only makes the Hulk madder. Bruce Banner’s alter ego gets on top of Thor and smashes him in the face repeatedly, causing Thor to lapse into unconsciousness and have an inspiring vision of his father - resulting in his own power-up and a lightning-fueled punch that sends the Hulk flying. At this point, however, the Grandmaster activates Thor’s control disk and shocks him into paralysis, allowing the Hulk to finish the fight with a 200-foot flying knockout punch.
When: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Steve Rogers arrives on the scene shortly after Natasha Romanoff has put up an impressive, if futile, showing against the Winter Soldier, only to be shot for her efforts. Mysterious metal meets mysterious metal as Captain America’s shield clashes against the Winter Soldier’s mechanical arm over and over again - all the while Cap dodges sporadic fire from the HYDRA super-spy.
The shield ends up in the Winter Soldier’s hands, but he misses his chance by hurling it into a van. He busts out a knife and does his level best to slash Rogers, only to be disarmed - and then the fight descends into intense hand-to-hand combat. Captain America’s superior skills ultimately win the day, but not before he regains his shield and rips the Winter Soldier’s mask right off - only to see the face of the long-lost Bucky Barnes underneath.