Approaching its 25th film with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the MCU has presented countless fight scenes and thrilling action sequences that have captivated audiences. Some fight scenes feature fans' favorite heroes in large-scale battles while others may feel more grounded, involving interpersonal conflicts.
From early reviews, critics are claiming that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings contains some of the MCU's best fight scenes and action, as director Deston Daniel Cretton has taken inspiration from many martial arts films such as 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and other works involving icons like Jackie Chan. Including a new intense style of fighting that the MCU hasn't seen before is exactly what the expanding universe could use and it seems to be paying off. But before fans rush into theatres for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it feels like an appropriate time to look back at some of the biggest and best fight scenes throughout the MCU.
Captain America and Bucky vs. Iron Man (Captain America: Civil War)
Instead of teaming up to take down a common enemy, the two leading heroes battle it out against each other. Throughout Civil War, the heroes are divided into opposing factions due to much disagreement over the Sokovia Accords. Going after Steve Rogers and Bucky, who both are on the run from the U.S. government, Tony finds out the truth about his parents' deaths and how Bucky (who was still brainwashed at the time as the the Winter Soldier) was the one that killed his parents. A distraught Tony tries to take down Bucky, but when Rogers sides with Bucky, Tony feels the betrayal, leaving him no choice but to fight both of them.
The fight, which is not only really well choreographed and provides some of the MCU's most famous shots that are ripped right out of the comic book, carries a lot of emotional weight to it. What makes the fight great, like the whole film itself, is how audiences can understand both sides and where the heroes are coming from and what they're fighting for. There's no good vs. evil. The stakes feel higher than ever for these heroes, as they're not just fighting an ordinary, disposable villain, but rather a close friend. The consequences of the fight would go on to create an even greater divide amongst the Avengers.
Elevator Fight Scene (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
One aspect about this film that really stands out is the grounded, more brutal action scenes. Instead of relying heavily on over-the-top CGI spectacle (while there's plenty), the fight scenes resemble espionage, spy films like the Jason Bourne trilogy or James Bond franchise that really hit home the political thriller genre that the Russon Brothers were going for. In particular, the elevator fight scene between Captain America and Brock Rumlow/the S.T.R.I.K.E. operatives is one that many fans couldn't get out of their heads.
After learning of that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised, Rogers goes on the run, but not before taking down almost a dozen S.T.R.I.K.E. operatives who believe they have Rogers secured. The tension builds for a while as more operatives keep making their way into the elevator. Rogers realizes the conspiracy involving HYDRA and knows he has to act quickly. The scene demonstrates Rogers'/Captain America's full strength, as he is able to escape with ease. The scene ends with an overhead shot of Rogers standing over the bodies, flipping his shield back up to his arm.
Battle of New York (The Avengers)
This is the first time that the Avengers team up, trying to take down Loki and his Chitauri army. It is an iconic moment not only in the MCU, but for superhero films in general. The MCU has been building to this crossover after a few solo films, and learning to put their conflicts aside, the heroes finally work together in this exciting, fun battle that extends almost an hour.
This battle sets up a lot of plot points moving forward that future MCU films come back to and presents some of the best, most memorable character moments to date. And without a doubt, this battle features one of the most iconic shots in MCU/superhero films.
Highway Fight Scene (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
When Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) attacks Rogers, Romanoff, and Wilson, it sets up one of the MCU's greatest hand-to-hand combat scenes. The tone of the scene, and much of the film, is much darker and grittier than other MCU entries. With minimal music, the tension builds off of the threat that Winter Soldier imposes.
The action, while fast-paced and featuring some incredible stunt work, is all captured within frame. Instead of relying on quick edits, the scene has some of the MCU's finest choreography that helps elevate the tension. On top of that, it is the first time Rogers realizes that his enemy is actually his closest friend, pinning him in a conflicting situation that impacts the future MCU films (leading into Civil War).
Battle of Wakanda (Avengers: Infinity War)
Avengers: Infinity War finally gave fans the villain they have been eagerly waiting for. From the Battle on Titan that depicted Thanos' power to other fight scenes, one stands out the most. In the finale, the Avengers and their Wakandan allies would go against Thanos' Black Order in a climatic battle outside of the Golden City. Featuring one of the most visually stunning cinematography along with powerful character moments like Thor's arrival, the battle immediately became one of the MCU's most tense and emotional fight scenes. Besides the heroes demonstrating their full strength throughout the wonderful choreography, the stakes felt higher than ever which created a more memorable sequence. In the end, what really made this battle stand out is the shocking defeat of the Avengers, as Thanos was able to achieve his ultimate goal.
Battle of Earth (Avengers: Endgame)
It all comes down to this. What is considered the best, more epic fight in the MCU, Endgame's finale was worth the hype, as it is the culmination of the entire Infinity Saga. Starting with Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man battling it out with Thanos, the mad titan seems to be too much to handle, as Captain America is left with a broken shield. In desperation and outnumbered, every hero in the MCU appears from Doctor Strange's portals, providing hope to help take down Thanos and his army. As the Avengers theme swells, Rogers calls for the Avengers to assemble in one last stand to save their world and universe.
Where Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will rank amongst the other MCU entries is unknown, but there is no doubt that the action and fight choreography will help elevate the film. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be released in theatres on September 3, 2021.