Marvel Cinematic Universe: 13 moments that made us cry

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is famous for making us laugh and making us cheer, often within the course of the same scene. But what about those hard-hitting sequences that had us wiping away a tear?

There are plenty of them within the rich history of the franchise, so scroll down to discover our choices. And we take no responsibility for any crying that ensues.




1. Odin's betrayal – Thor (2011)

Kenneth Branagh's Thor movie tends to get overlooked nowadays, especially in the wake of Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok. However, it was a pivotal film in Phase One of the MCU, expanding the reach of the franchise beyond Earth into the realms of Asgard. And a breakout Tom Hiddleston gives it a lot of emotional oomph as the conflicted Loki, half-brother of the outcast Thor (Chris Hemsworth).

The moment where Loki discovers he was born to frost giant Laufey (Colm Feore), but raised as the son of Asgardian ruler Odin (Anthony Hopkins) strikes a raw nerve in an otherwise fantastical, goofy adventure.



2. Bucky dies – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Here's an MCU scene whose repercussions can still be felt nearly a decade later. The first Captain America movie is directed by Joe Johnston, and absorbs the delightful spirit of adventure that pervaded the director's earlier movie The Rocketeer. Everything from the pitch-perfect World War II set design to Alan Silvestri's rousing score crafts a solidly old-fashioned thrill-ride that deserves more love.

The movie also knows how to hit hard. The moment where Captain America (Chris Evans), on a mission to disrupt the evil forces of HYDRA, loses his friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) strikes a moment of real loss. It establishes the conflict to come in the later The Winter Soldier, not to mention Bucky's eventual redemption after being reborn as a brainwashed pawn of HYDRA in the 21st century.

3. Coulson's farewell – Avengers Assemble (2012)

Not just a Captain America fanboy (he had all the baseball cards), the likeable Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) was instrumental in the early days of the MCU. He was the one tasked with bringing the Avengers initiative together to battle diabolical threats, something that was established with his appearance in the very first Iron Man (2008).

Having grouped our disparate heroes on the helicarrier, Coulson then suffers a terrible fate at the hands of the teleporting Loki. The exact nature of his demise has subsequently been muddled by the events of TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but at the time it was heartbreaking to see him pass away so early into the franchise. Still, he at least gets a killer send-off line.



4. Tony's mansion is destroyed – Iron Man 3 (2013)

Tony Stark's (Robert Downey Jr.) hubris gets the better of him in the third and final Iron Man solo movie. Having warded off the likes of Loki, not to mention transporting a nuke through a wormhole to destroy the Chitauri, Stark could be forgiven for thinking there's not much left to face.

However, in Shane Black's controversially playful Iron Man feature, a new threat emerges in the form of The Mandarin. This feared comic book nemesis initially appears in the guise of Ben Kingsley, but, of course, things later take an unexpected turn. Putting that aside, however, it still pains us to watch the scene where Tony antagonizes his nemesis to the point that his Malibu mansion, laboratory, Iron Man suits and all, are reduced to rubble. Only by being cast out on his wits does Tony learn how to rebuild himself.

5. Meeting old Peggy – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Steve Rogers/Captain America must adapt to the needs of modern society in The Winter Soldier. It's the first MCU movie helmed by the Russo brothers, Joe and Anthony, and is widely considered one of the best in the series. By foregrounding a sense of paranoid espionage and Steve's partnership with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the movie strikes a somewhat more grounded chord than its brethren.

Quite apart from the aforementioned Bucky Barnes revelation, the movie also has another moving scene up its sleeve. We're talking about the bit where Steve, who's been cryogenically unthawed after 70-odd years, meets up with his aged former love interest Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). The convincing performances and make-up brilliantly sell us on the years that have been lost, prior to Peggy's eventual death in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Still, as 2019's Avengers: Endgame made clear, it all worked out in the end.

6. "We are Groot" – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

A Marvel movie that pairs a walking, talking raccoon and a walking humanoid tree? The odds were truly stacked against Guardians of the Galaxy, which adapted one of the more obscure comics in the Marvel canon. That director James Gunn's film succeeded magnificently is a testament to the excellent character-building and infectious soundtrack.

Chris Pratt may be the nominal lead as quip-tastic hero Peter Quill/Star-Lord, but the show is stolen by another figure who can't speak more than three words. We're talking about the endearing Groot, whose limited vocabulary ("I am Groot") is delivered by Vin Diesel in a remarkable series of nuanced variations. The tear-jerking moment where Groot adjusts his speech ("We are Groot") to save his new-found group of friends still hits us hard. Thankfully, we get a Jackson 5-scored punchline to make everything happy again.



7. Tony discovers the truth about his parents' death – Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Many chickens come home to many roosts in pivotal MCU movie Civil War. This is the moment where the already fractious Avengers initiative splits into two teams, with characters loyal to either Tony Stark or Steve Rogers. The plot is being organised by the nefarious Zemo, who also exploits the disagreements within the Avengers team about their accountability as heroes.

The events of Civil War loop back towards earlier moments in the MCU, making this one of the most important movies in the series. In the most emotional scene, it ret-cons the deaths of Tony's parents, making it clear that the brainwashed Bucky Barnes, controlled by HYDRA, killed them. The ensuing fight, which stems from Steve's defence of his old friend, breaks down any sense of loyalty, and eventually, Steve and Bucky are forced to take refuge in Wakanda.



8. Yondu is remembered – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Michael Rooker's blue-skinned, arrow-firing mercenary Yondu was one of many memorable side characters in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Actor Rooker is a favourite of director James Gunn's, having appeared in the director's earlier horror-comedy Slither.

So, it's perhaps unsurprising that Yondu's role is boosted in the second Guardians movie, as his quasi-parental relationship with Peter Quill, whom he took from Earth and raised as a thief, is laid bare. The moment where Yondu dies in the climactic battle with Peter's father Ego (Kurt Russell) is powerful for how it brings the film's various characters together in a sense of unity. And if that wasn't enough to finish you off, the emotive strains of Cat Stevens' 'Father and Son' should do it.

9. T'Challa confronts his father's legacy – Black Panther (2018)

Back in 2008's The Dark Knight, we were introduced to the Joker (Heath Ledger), a villain with a scarily accurate point to make about society and human behaviour. The MCU tackled this in 2018's Black Panther, the triumphant solo movie debut for Chadwick Boseman's Wakandan ruler T'Challa.

As directed by Ryan Coogler, the Black Panther movie triumphantly drinks in the beauty and technological prowess of this vibranium-rich kingdom. However, in an audacious move, the isolationist strategy of Wakanda exposed via the machinations of baddie Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), whose claim to the throne is justified. More than that, he exposes doubts in our title character before apparently killing him. This causes T'Challa to confront his late father T'Chaka (John Kani) in the ancestral realm, accusing him of culpability in turning Killmonger into a hateful villain. Boseman's acting and Ludwig Goransson's music make this an especially powerful MCU scene.

10. "Mr. Stark, I don't feel so good" – Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War remains one of the bravest MCU movies, building inexorably towards a moment of universal devastation. Ever since his appearance was teased in Avengers Assemble, the diabolical Thanos (Josh Brolin) had been gearing up to rip the Avengers apart. And, shockingly, he got his way by dusting 50% of all life in the universe via the power of the Infinity Stones.

Not even the intervention of Thor is enough to stop it, causing the film to end on the eeriest and darkest note in the series so far. It's a sign of rock-solid character investment that the deaths of key figures like Spider-Man (Tom Holland) are genuinely upsetting to watch. Reportedly, Holland improvised the dialogue during the scene where Spidey crumbles into nothing in front of his mentor Tony Stark. That sound we heard in the cinema was everyone taking a collective breath, wondering how on Earth the surviving Avengers would turn this around in the next movie.

11. Tony meets his father – Avengers: Endgame (2019)

The monumental Avengers: Endgame was stuffed with enough emotional moments to power a dozen MCU movies. We'll get onto the more famous scenes in just a second. But first, we want to flag up a sequence that, we feel, has been somewhat overlooked.

We're talking about the moment where Tony Stark, via the magic of time travel, is finally able to reunite with his father. Of course, Tony can't let his dad Howard (John Slattery) know who he is, lest the entire fabric of space and time come undone in the ongoing fight against Thanos. The set-up allows Robert Downey Jr. to deliver some of his most beautifully subtle and nuanced work in the entire franchise, Tony's face rippling with unspoken thoughts and hidden regrets.

12. Black Widow's sacrifice – Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Throughout the MCU, we've become accustomed to characters surviving the most dangerous of encounters. Even the climax of Avengers: Infinity War was somewhat mediated by the thought of, "they'll all come back to life in the end". 

However, Endgame pulls the rug out with not one but two deaths of longstanding Avengers figureheads. Upon landing on the planet of Vormir, Black Widow and Hawkeye (Clint Barton) discover what is needed to claim the Soul Stone. Johansson gives an emotive performance as Natasha offers her own life up for the greater good – it's possibly the greatest act of sacrifice in the entire series. After all, the Avengers would have been able to progress no further without her actions. Her demise sets up the events of 2020's Black Widow movie as a prequel taking place between Civil War and Infinity War.

13. Tony's funeral – Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Not just a movie but the culmination of 11 years' worth of story building, Avengers: Endgame was on a mission to deliver a payload of emotional catharsis. And it more than delivered with the climactic death of Tony Stark, the unassuming B-level Marvel hero who singlehandedly launched the MCU to world-beating success with the first Iron Man movie.

Composer Alan Silvestri's score reaches an appropriately grandiose and celebratory note during the lauded single take tracking shot sequence through the attendees of Tony's funeral. It's a sign of how embedded Tony is within the wider MCU franchise and the various characters that populate it. We particularly love how Joe and Anthony Russo's camerawork comes to settle on Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) during the end of the shot, bringing us full circle back to the post-credits scene of Iron Man.


What do you consider to be the most emotional moment in the MCU? Let us know @Cineworld.