One of the most exciting and cathartic parts about a superhero movie is the inevitable climactic clash the protagonist has with the villain towards the end of the film. Avengers: Endgame hits theaters this weekend and is sure to provide eager moviegoers a fair share of highly-anticipated super-charged showdowns. It’s also the highly-anticipated (and hopefully satisfying) conclusion to an 11-year, 22-film story. In preparation for the event, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and re-examine the reigning five best final fights that satisfyingly closed out their respective superhero films. Obviously, it’s difficult to talk about the final face-offs in superhero movies without giving away some endings, so here it is:
THE FOLLOWING POST CONTAINS SPOILERS. CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED.
Alright, with that out of the way, let’s start the countdown:
5.) Here to Bargain– Dr. Strange vs. Dormammu, Doctor Strange (2017)
Funny enough, the fist pick on my list doesn’t include any fighting at all. Instead of the typical VFX-heavy fist fest where the hero and villain slug it out to the end, Doctor Strange subverts audience expectations by having the two parties mutually agree to leave each other alone. Alright, it’s more like blackmail with the mystical Dr. Strange threatening to trap the dimension-eating Dormammu inside an endless time loop unless he promises to leave Earth alone, which of course Dormammu agrees to do because nobody wants to relive the same few seconds over and over and over and over and over again for all eternity. (Talk about a drag.) It was such a bold and unexpected turn of events that I couldn’t help but gleefully appreciate what the filmmakers decided to do.
4.) We Are Shazamily!– Shazam vs. Dr. Sivana, Shazam! (2019)
I was positively thrilled with Shazam! This film is such a delight (for more on why I thought so, check out my full review)! One of the reasons I enjoyed DC’s latest as much as I did was because of how it made the special effects-driven third act face-off in a superhero film feel new again. Yes, it boasts a good amount of laughs, but that’s not what made the last confrontation between Shazam/Billy Bitson and the heinous Dr. Sivana so fresh. What Shazam! did so well was successfully integrate the film’s theme of family in such a way that was heartfelt and relevant, both to the narrative and its characters. Plus the focus was continually kept on saving innocent lives, which is ultimately what being a superhero is all about.
3.) Small Soldiers– Ant-Man vs. Yellowjacket, Ant-Man (2015)
Like this year’s Shazam!, I absolutely adored 2015’s Ant-Man. The film’s literal small scale was the perfect compliment to the MCU’s previous film, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Like previous entries on this list, Ant-Man earns its spot here for its inventive and compelling take on the superhero end brawl. It kicks off with an effective tug at the heartstrings when Yellowjacket breaks into the home of Scott Lang aka Ant-Man’s daughter and threatens her life. Immediately, you’re invested not just in the spectacle of the conflict, but in every punch, kick, smack, jab, and blast that the hero lands on his opponent. Then there’s the signature shrinking technology shared between the two. This allows for some of the most hilarious and creative set pieces and size-related sight gags ever in a superhero showdown.
2.) Magneto’s Killer Migraine– Charles & Erik vs. Shaw, X-Men: First Class (2011)
It’s tough to believe that it’s been eight years since the excellent X-Men: First Class, which reintroduced us to iconic characters whom we first met in 2000’s X-Men. This time, though, was our first look at the new cast, which includes James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto. It’s also the first time we got to see these characters meet, which is important because still in 2019, Charles and Erik’s relationship is the main focus of this younger brand of X-Men movies. No moment better encapsulates this tumultuous relationship than the ultimate exchange between Erik and Shaw, the mutant who unlocked Erik’s superpowers as a child by taking away his parents in the Nazi concentration camps. Because of this, the scene already has a lot of weight to it. The emotions only grow once the X-Men gain the upper hand. Charles forms a telepathic link with Shaw to freeze him in place just before Magneto drives a coin through Shaw’s head. All the while, Charles pleads with Erik not to do it. Because of their link, Charles feels the agonizing pain of Shaw’s death. Not only does Erik put Charles in a situation where he must experience the physical repercussions of Shaw’s death, but also where he must live the rest of his days knowing he aided in a murder. It’s an emotionally compounding scene that hits harder thanks to the powerhouse performances.
1.) Avengers: Disassembled– Steve & Bucky vs. Tony, Captain America: Civil War (2016)
By the time Captain America: Civil War hit theaters in 2016, the Marvel Cinematic Universe had been flying high for eight years. That was more than enough time to get attached to each of the Avengers. Consequentially, Civil War was a heartbreaking experience because we were watching the dismantling of something we’d seen build over almost a decade. The repercussions were so huge, that we still have yet to see how it will all resolve, if it even does. The linchpin of it all came during the climactic struggle. Tony Stark, aka Ironman, put everything he had into trying to kill Bucky, aka the Winter Soldier, after finding out he was the one who murdered his parents. Being the Avengers’ moral compass, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, intervened, trying to talk sense into his fellow Avenger all during the bloody fracas that followed. Tears inevitably start flowing thanks to a couple perfectly-delivered lines from Robert Downey Jr. You know the ones:
- “So was I” (in response to Steve calling Bucky his friend and siting that as a reason for protecting him)
- “That shield doesn’t belong to you. You don’t deserve it. My father made that shield!”
The latter hit even harder when Steve, in compliance with Tony, threw his iconic shield to the cold cement ground before he and Bucky turned their backs on Tony and hobbled away. It’s arguably the most powerful scene in all the MCU and if not, all of comic book movies. Hopefully, Avengers: Endgame is able to bring Tony and Steve together again so that they can reconcile.
There are my top five favorite final showdows in superhero movies! What do you think about my list? Do you agree or disagree? What does your list look like? Sound off in the comments below and let me know!