Early in 2016, Captain America: Civil War pitted the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) pantheon of heroes against themselves. Former friends became enemies, and in some cases former enemies became friends, culminating in a battle royale the likes of which the MCU has never seen before. It wasn’t the first time our favorite heroes have battled each other though. There’s a history of infighting that dates back to the early days of the franchise, making the all-out war of the latest Captain America more of a logical next step for the series.
Tracking that history isn’t difficult either. The heroes that compose the MCU have always been far from perfect, having spent much of their early time together at constant odds. As recently as Age of Ultron, we’ve seen them go at it on the regular, and similar tensions boiled over in Civil War. Let’s look back at some of the best superhero throwdowns the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer.
1. Jessica Jones vs. Luke Cage, Jessica Jones
Infighting even exists in Marvel’s Netflix universe, with the best example coming from Jessica Jones. For this battle, our titular hero goes toe-to-toe with the nearly indestructible Luke Cage. Cage, under the mind-control of Kilgrave, uses all of his considerable strength to nearly fight Jones to a standstill, providing a dynamic in which one side is actively trying to not harm the other. We won’t spoil the outcome for those of you who haven’t seen the show, but it’s an emotional powerhouse of a showdown that we’d be remiss in not including.
2. Captain America vs. Thor vs. Iron Man, The Avengers
One of the first major battles for the fledgling Avengers, this marked the first meeting between Thor and his future teammates. Things of course got off to something of a rocky start, as the fight levels half a forest, while serving the dual purpose of showing us just how each hero’s powers and abilities interact together. It’s a draw in the end, and yet still one of the crowning examples of how the Avengers never really got along well from the very beginning.
3. Ant-Man vs. Falcon, Ant-Man
As one of the newer additions to the MCU, Ant-Man hasn’t been around long enough to fully meet the Avengers team. But the one Avenger he did meet was less than welcoming. Falcon and Ant-Man went at it for a solid two and a half minutes, in a fight that was surprisingly evenly matched given the massive advantage a shrinking suit gave Scott Lang.
4. Iron Man vs. Hulk, Avengers: Age of Ultron
The volatile nature of Bruce Banner’s powers are likely a common worry among the Avengers, evidenced by the armor Tony Stark specifically built to fight an out-of-control Hulk. Age of Ultron saw that armor put to good use, with the Hulk rampaging through an unsuspecting city under the mind control of Scarlet Witch. A few city blocks are leveled in the process, but eventually the Hulkbuster suit lives up to its name, showing the full potential of Bruce Banner’s rage problems.
5. Captain America vs. Bucky Barnes, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Strictly speaking, this one isn’t technically a “hero” fight, although Bucky Barnes’s role in Civil War puts it on the list regardless. As Steve Rogers’s only surviving friend from his life in World War II America, Barnes (aka the Winter Soldier) was more than a worthy adversary. It was an emotional scene all around, as Cap is forced to choose between saving the world and keeping his best friend, a choice that plays heavily into the conflict in Captain America: Civil War.
6. Daredevil vs. the Punisher, Netflix’s Daredevil, Season 2
Part of what made the Punisher such a formidable character in the second season of Daredevil was the fact that he could go toe-to-toe with Matt Murdock himself, and come out victorious. Frank Castle’s military acumen and Special Forces training put him a cut above the usual thugs Daredevil beats up, making their first fight scene together that much more exciting. The Punisher ends up getting the drop on Murdock at the end of the scrap, shooting him directly in the head (albeit with Daredevil being mostly protected by his nigh-bulletproof suit).
7. Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man, Captain America: Civil War
We’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on the massive airport fight scene from Civil War, pitting Team Cap against Team Iron Man in a full-on brawl. Many of the head-to-head match ups play wonderfully throughout, giving us our first real look at Blank Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in action. Team Cap eventually prevails at a huge cost to Tony Stark and his crew, after War Machine suffers brutal injuries after accidentally getting blown out of the sky by friendly fire from Vision.
8. Ghost Rider vs. Quake, Agents of SHIELD
Following two disappointing Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider movies, many thought the character had been shelved forever. Agents of SHIELD saw fit to bring him back into the fold though, and it’s proven to be a fruitful decision all around. It’s in an initial throw-down with Daisy (Chloe Bennet) where we really see him shine, as he puts his full range of considerable (and terrifying) abilities on display. Suffice it to say, Ghost Rider has been an exciting addition to the MCU in 2016.
9. Thor vs. Hulk, The Avengers
The Iron Man/Cap/Thor three-way fight wasn’t the only infighting we saw in The Avengers. After Loki causes Bruce Banner to Hulk out, it’s up to Thor to save the rest of the team before Banner inadvertently destroys the entire Helicarrier. Beyond the head-to-head battle, it was a solid way to fully establish just how strong the Hulk can be, and how he could very well be the most powerful hero in the entire MCU.
10. Daredevil vs. Stick, Netflix’s Daredevil, Season 1
There seems to be a common thread throughout Netflix’s Daredevil series concerning beautifully realized fight scenes. Back in Season 1, one such encounter involved Daredevil and his former mentor, Stick, as the allies-turned-enemies take out their anger in a destructive and bloody brawl. Much of it is buoyed by Scott Glenn’s incredible performance as Stick, but there’s also a good deal of credit to dole out to the show’s creative direction.
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