5 best Marvel movie moments of 2021
This article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home, Eternals, Shang-Chi, and Black Widow.Needless to say, it’s been a busy year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since the start of 2021, four new MCU movies have been released in theaters, along with a host of other Disney Plus shows.
Each of the MCU movies released this year offered plenty of memorable moments that fans probably won’t soon forget. As such, listing all of the best scenes from Marvel Studios’ big-screen offerings this year would take way more than an article. So, for the sake of brevity, here are just five of the highlights of the 2021 MCU movies.
One of Phase 4’s greatest strengths has been its emphasis on characterization, exploring new depths and nuances for familiar characters. Just look Black Widow – it might be a globetrotter spy thriller in the vein of James Bond, but the action isn’t even the best thing about the movie. The real highlight of the film is the tragic, quirky but ultimately heartwarming dynamic between Natasha and her surrogate family. The short stories Yelena, Melina and Alexei (hosted by Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbor) all leave a big impression not only because of their action scenes, but also because of the quiet moments that flesh out them as characters.
One of the film’s most compelling scenes comes after an awkward family dinner that turns into a heated argument. Natasha resents her foster parents for letting the Red Room turn her into a weapon, while Yelena still cherishes her family – after all, it’s the only one she’s ever had. Yelena retreats to her room to be alone, only for Alexei (still in his red warden’s uniform) to try to comfort her. Of course, he’s not doing well. However, Alexei manages to reconnect with his estranged daughter by singing a song from his childhood: “American Pie” by Don McLean. Before long, Yelena can’t help but join in as well. It’s a little while, but it’s a perfect encapsulation of what makes Black Widow so awesome – it’s a story of broken and troubled people who struggle to connect with each other, but ultimately find happiness in their bonds.
From one dysfunctional family to another, this list wouldn’t be complete without the dramatic confrontation between Shang-Chi and her father Wenwu at the height of Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings. This intense martial arts duel is a serious contender for one of the best fights in the entire MCU based on choreography alone, but an already epic battle is made even better by the massive narrative weight behind it.
The conflict between Shang-Chi and Wenwu is much more than a simple confrontation of good and evil. Wenwu isn’t a mustache supervillain like his comedic counterpart, the Mandarin – he’s a grieving father desperate to find his wife. Shang-Chi isn’t just another selfless hero, he’s a traumatized son who intends to take revenge on the man who turned him into a killer. But in the end, Shang-Chi chooses to spare Wenwu, reaching out to the once kind man who raised him instead of becoming the murderer he was trained to be. It’s a poignant and heartfelt ending to a truly action-packed battle.
Speaking of memorable final battles, the climax of Eternals is very exciting in itself. While the film generally prefers existential reflections to typical superhero action, Act 3’s big showdown is well worth the wait. To prevent humanity from being destroyed by Emergence, Sersi leads his Eternal comrades into battle against one of their own: Ikaris, the paragon hero of Superman, now revealed as a cold and ruthless fanatic.
While the real meat of Eternals is in its philosophical themes, it still offers a spectacular climax. Watching the Eternals fight hard is a sight to behold, from Makkari unleashing the full power of his super-speed to Phastos becoming the team’s unexpected MVP with his high-tech gadgets. Ikaris is arguably one of the most unique antagonists in the MCU, and he absolutely gets the fight he deserves.
Spider-Man: No Path HomeThe trailers were reluctant to reveal much of its plot, and it’s easy to see why. No way home is the emotional roller coaster of a story, filled with triumphant highs and devastating lows. But of all the tragic moments in Spidey’s latest cinematic adventure, none are as heartbreaking as Aunt May’s death at the hands of the Green Goblin.
At first, it looks like Peter managed to save May. She gets up long enough to give Peter some much-needed words of encouragement, urging him not to give up on saving Norman. She even utters the iconic phrase “with great power, there must also be great responsibility” for the very first time in the MCU, invoking the motto that defines Spider-Man as a character. But then, tragedy strikes. May collapses, her injuries being too heavy to bear. Peter desperately urges her to wake up, but it’s too late. May Parker is dead. It’s an absolutely heart-wrenching scene – arguably the most important in the film – which is driven by the phenomenal performances of Tom Holland and Marisa Tomei.
But of course, we can’t evoke the greatest moments in Spider-Man: No Path Home without discussing the incredible climax (pun intended) of the film, in which Tom Holland’s Peter Parker teams up with his multiversal variants played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, reprising their roles from their respective Spider-Man films. Just watching the three Spideys interact is pretty fun, but seeing them take on their villains together at the Statue of Liberty is a whole new amazing level.
The final battle of No way home is filled with almost too many memorable moments to mention, from Andew Garfield’s Spidey tearing up after rescuing MJ to Doctor Octopus arriving to help the Spider-Men, to the chilling face-to-face showdown between MCU Peter and the Green Goblin . It’s almost cheating to list the whole battle as a highlight, but it would be a crime to leave it out.
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