Every movie needs a good ending. If the audience is satisfied with the final moments before the closing credits, they’ll forgive any missteps made throughout the film. The installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have often gone out on a high note. The very first entry in Phase One, Iron Man, has one of the most memorable movie endings of all time, with Tony Stark ignoring S.H.I.E.L.D.’s request because he can’t help taking credit for his superhero antics.
The MCU movies that followed had some unforgettable endings, from Bruce Banner teasing a controlled transformation at the end of The Incredible Hulk to Steve Rogers finding himself flung into a futuristic world he doesn’t recognize at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger.
The first Thor movie wraps up too neatly for its ending to be effective. No one has to give anything up to save the day. Loki sacrifices himself in the final battle, but still survives somehow. Thor admits to Odin that he’s not king material yet, resuming the status quo from the beginning of the movie.
The ending of Thor doesn’t set up anything significant for the future. Jane Foster starts working on opening a portal to Asgard from Earth, but this plot point ultimately went nowhere. By the beginning of the next Thor movie, Jane has moved on from her romance with the God of Thunder and only rekindles it when he opens a portal back to Earth, not the other way around.
5 Iron Man 2
The final battle of Iron Man 2 culminates in an all-too-convenient “deus ex machina” as Tony Stark and James Rhodes attempt a Hail Mary by shooting their repulsors at each other and hoping it’ll defeat Whiplash and, lo and behold, it does. For their bravery in this battle, Tony and Rhodey are rewarded with a pair of medals by Senator Stern. Introduced at the beginning of the movie trying to convince Tony to give his Iron Man armor to the U.S. government, Stern is pretty reluctant to give him a medal in the final scene.
It’s not as memorable as the first movie’s “I am Iron Man” ending, but the late, great Garry Shandling nailed the begrudging smile that Stern puts on for the photo op.
4 The Avengers
In the final scene of The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes go their separate ways in the aftermath of the Battle of New York. Thor returns to Asgard with an imprisoned Loki, the Science Bros. head off in a sports car to make bold new discoveries, and Cap, Black Widow, and Hawkeye all return to S.H.I.E.L.D. duty. This ending provides closure on the current story while leaving the door open for future adventures. At the time, it was unclear if the ambitious crossover would pay off. But, of course, it paid off handsomely and the Avengers team-up movies became some of the highest-grossing films ever made.
The first Avengers movie closes on a tantalizing shot of Stark Tower with the S, T, R, and K letters all scorched off the sign during the skirmish, leaving behind a prominent “A” for “Avengers.” This image set up a bright future for the team.
3 The Incredible Hulk
The Hulk’s only MCU solo movie to date – The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner – culminates in the green meanie having an uncharacteristically quiet, tender, peaceful moment with Betty Ross in the aftermath of his Harlem scuffle with the Abomination. The Hulk promptly leaves New York and the final scene catches up with Banner hiding out in British Columbia a month later. With a smirk on his face, Banner begins a controlled transformation into the Hulk.
This final twist set up Banner’s arc in The Avengers (when the role was recast with Mark Ruffalo). Ahead of the climactic battle in The Avengers, Banner confesses that he’s “always angry,” which has allowed him to get the Hulk under control.
2 Captain America: The First Avenger
The final scene of Captain America: The First Avenger completes Steve Rogers’ origin story. The majority of the movie is a pulpy World War II actioner. Throughout the first and second acts, Steve takes the Super Soldier Serum, gains superpowers, and becomes a war hero who liberates P.O.W.s and vanquishes Hydra bases. In the third act, he takes control of a plane full of W.M.D.s and crashes it into the ice to save the world.
Before the plane hits the ice, Steve finally gathers the courage to tell Peggy Carter how he feels. Steve and Peggy arrange a date right before his apparent death. When Steve awakens in the modern day and runs out into contemporary Times Square, Nick Fury informs him that he’s 70 years out of his time. This is a huge bombshell for Steve, but the only thing on his mind is that he “had a date.”
1 Iron Man
The very first movie in the MCU, Iron Man, doesn’t just have the best ending in Phase One; it’s still one of the most memorable endings in the entire franchise. To cover up for Tony’s superhero antics, S.H.I.E.L.D. has requested him to host a press conference where he claims that the ironclad superhero is his personal bodyguard.
But, Tony being Tony, he can’t resist taking credit. He goes out in front of the reporters, discards the script that S.H.I.E.L.D. gave him, and boldly declares, “I am Iron Man.” According to IndieWire, this line was improvised by Robert Downey, Jr., eradicating secret identities from the MCU (Donald Blake who?) and making superheroes the celebrities of that world.
NEXT: The Biggest Twist In Each MCU Phase One Movie, Ranked