Since 2008’s hit film Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic universe has provided nonstop action, cheer worthy moments, and interconnected story telling. The films have reached global audiences and perfected a formula all their own. Since Iron Man came out, the MCU has brought in over $ 25 billion dollars in box office results.
The franchise has also made audiences shed a few tears along the way. From older entries like Captain America: Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxyto brand-new shows like Moon Knightthis following list highlights some of the most emotional moments in the almost 14-year journey spanning 27 films and several television series.
5 The Tragic Truth – Moon Knight (2022)
As the newest MCU series on this list, Moon Knight quickly interested audiences in its protagonists and complicated world building. Part of its ability to do this was through a series of flashbacks that took place in Episode 5. Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac) and Steven Grant, his other self, are experiencing visions from shared memories. These shared memories tell a dark and disturbing backstory that not only reveals the moment the identity of Steven is created, but shatters his image of who is mother was.
Marc’s mother blames him for the accidental death of his little brother, and she torments him for years over it. Steven Grant was born from that tragedy. Oscar Isaac is an established actor known for any number of great performances. He gets to show off his range during this scene. His emotional vulnerability, as well as the interplay between identities, makes this one of the most emotional scenes in the MCU so far.
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4 I’m Sorry Little One – Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
How do you humanize a villain that wants to kill half of the entire universe? Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely were tasked with this seemingly impossible idea ahead of the release of Avengers: Infinity War. They were able to sell a complicated, haunted and often merciless villain. Thanks in no small part to this tearjerker of a scene.
Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) arrive on Vormir in search of the Soul Stone. They are met by a mysterious gatekeeper, who lets Thanos know that the only way to obtain the Soul Stone is to sacrifice something he loves. The scene plays an interesting game with the audience as they slowly start to realize what’s going to happen. By the time that they have – it’s too late. Thanos sacrifices his daughter Gamora for the Soul Stone. The pain on the face of Thanos sells the scene with the help of a sweeping score by Alan Silvestri. The emotional hammer drops with one line from Thanos: “I’m sorry, little one.”
3 Peter Saves MJ – Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
It’s been clear since the release of 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man that Andrew Garfield has loved the role of Peter Parker. He embodied the character despite the many, many flaws in his two entries as the web-slinger. Due to some poor marketing, bad reviews, and less than impressive box office results, Andrew Garfield never got to make his third film.
Flash forward to 2021, and Andrew serves up an incredible performance as a surprise, but not so surprising, return as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home. The film is a well-deserved redemption tour for not only the actor, but the character as well. Amazing Spider-Man 2 famously ends with the climactic death of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Peter Parker attempts to save her from a fall, but just barely comes up short. The final act of Spider-Man: No Way Home cleverly plays into this as he saves Tom Holland’s MJ (Zendaya) from an eerily similar fate. The look on his face during this scene says it all.
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2 We Are Great – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
When Guardians of the Galaxy came out in 2014, the average movie fan had never heard of these characters. It was a tough task to not only introduce them, but to endear them to audiences as well. This is exactly what filmmaker James Gunn pulled off with the fun and irreverent superhero film.
The crew is full of ragtag, “not your normal hero type” adventurers. Despite being flawed anti-heroes, the entire crew is completely endearing and relatable. Perhaps none more so than Groot. Despite only ever saying “I am Groot” on repeat, Groot shows himself to be a caring and brave part of the team. Near the end of the film, Groot sacrifices himself so that the other Guardians can survive. Rather than saying his normal line, he changes it to a subtle but profound, “We are Great.” Hearing Groot say something new for the first and only time in the film was a stroke of genius by Gunn. It plays perfectly into the major theme of ‘found family’ that was deeply rooted in the DNA of the film. It did not leave a dry eye in the audience.
1 Tony’s Funeral – Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Robert Downey Jr. took on the role of Iron Man in 2008, and audiences have followed him every step of that journey since. He’s been the heart and soul of the franchise from the start and represents the strongest character arc out of the Avengers. Tony Stark, tragically, sacrifices his life at the end of Avengers: Endgameand the film ends with a funeral scene full of heroes and antiheroes that looks like it came straight from the pages of a comic book.
The scene has a lot of tear-jerker moments, but the moment where Tony talks to his daughter from beyond hits the hardest. Even the actor himself was emotional, “When we started winding down the pitch, and getting to his death, Robert started crying,” shared Joe Russo. “And when we were done, he said ‘That’s f – king awesome.’ That’s when we knew we had to do it. Because he felt it. “
The emotional core of the franchise has always been rooted in Tony Stark. Seeing his journey from start to finish is one of the things that makes these films so special. It was a tragic moment, but one beautifully handled.
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