For the past 10 years, Marvel has been the undisputed king when it comes to comic book movies. Starting with Blade and continuing this week with Iron Man, Marvel has expanded to become a powerhouse in comics, movies and general entertainment. They have produced some fantastic films that have had their share of memorable moments. This month, in honor of Marvel Studio’s latest outing, Iron Man, Comics Bulletin’s “Marvel Top 10 List” takes a look back at 10 of the most memorable moments, and some runners-up, from the Marvel movies.
10. Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer: The Silver Surfer
I’m going to be honest, I love the Marvel movies, but Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is my least favorite. It has its moments, but for the most part, I cannot stand Jessica Alba in anything. I also didn’t feel the general excitement surrounding the Fantastic Four sequel like I had for other Marvel movies. However, there was something really quite wonderful, something majestic about the Silver Surfer. A mix of CGI, Doug Jones and Laurence Fishburne, there wasn’t a scene in the movie where I wasn’t captivated by the Silver Surfer. From his first appearance being chased by Johnny Storm, to his encounter with Doom, to his final act against Galactus, the Silver Surfer was unbelievable.
Doug Jones, the man behind Hellboy‘s Abe Sapien, brought an elegance and grace to the Surfer’s every movement. Without Jones and the amazing special effects work that turned him into the Silver Surfer, the film may have been completely without merit. I remember reading early reviews of the film before seeing it myself and every reviewer commented on the elegance and graceful presence of the Silver Surfer while he rode his board. At first I thought “just another new kind of special effect,” but when I saw it for myself, I couldn’t believe it. Top that off with the fact that when the Surfer was separated from the board, his skin “tarnished.” His skin took a dull metallic look rather than the reflective shiny silver. To this day, with all the wild special effects we see regularly, I am still awestruck by the Silver Surfer in this film.
Of course, the character’s depiction does not come full circle without Laurence Fishburne’s voice. Fishburne has a very distinctive voice, and he reminds me of James Earl Jones. Both men have an unbelievable level of articulation when they speak, and their voices are extremely elegant. Fishburne’s voice was a perfect addition to the Silver Surfer, and I really could not picture anyone else doing it.
Of course, we have not seen the last of the Silver Surfer as it is rumored that in lieu of a third Fantastic Four, Marvel and 20th Century Fox are going ahead with a Silver Surfer solo film with a screenplay penned by J. Michael Strazcynski.
9. Ghost Rider: Ghost Rider rides with the Phantom Rider
A few years ago, I spent a semester of college in Los Angeles. While in the City of Angels I worked as an intern for Marvel Studios. Those who frequent this site have more than likely heard me mention that before. While I was there, Ghost Rider was gearing up for production, and I remember getting a look at some of the fantastic concept and production art for the coming film. Personally, I found Ghost Rider fairly entertaining. A lot of people I talk to can’t stand Nicolas Cage, but he is the star of some of the most important action movies of my adolescence, including The Rock and Con Air. Anyways, I remember seeing one concept art portrait of Ghost Rider blazing through the desert on the hell cycle, next to him was another figure with a flaming skull riding on a “hell-horse,” if you will. At first, the horse rider’s identity didn’t occur to me. But when I was told that it was Carter Slade, the original Ghost Rider, everything started to click.
Sam Elliot portrayed a grave-keeper called Caretaker in the film. Of course, these days any film that takes place in the West isn’t complete without Sam Elliot, and to me, this was his second perfect Marvel outing. Elliot also played General Ross in the soon-to-be replaced Ang Lee Hulk movie. But Elliot is the consummate Western actor. He can play any role, and he usually fits into it extremely well. This was very much the case for Ghost Rider. I also remember seeing the script for Ghost Rider and having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that Elliot was called “Caretaker.” In the comics, Caretaker is a mystic dedicated to fighting evil. He oversees a cemetery as the guardian of a family line directly related to the Medallion of Power. Elliot’s “Caretaker” is a man who awaits the coming of the new Ghost Rider so that he can be freed of Mephisto’s curse.
However, towards the end of the film, viewers discover the true identity of Elliot’s “Caretaker.” His real name is Carter Slade. He is the original Ghost Rider as the film suggests, but in the comics he is referred to as the Phantom Rider. While his appearance is updated for the film, the original Phantom Rider wore an all white costume with hat and cap, and rode on a white horse. In the film, “Caretaker” becomes the Phantom Rider and rides alongside Ghost Rider before Ghost Rider delivers the contract of San Venganza to Mephisto. Like in the original concept art, this scene was beautiful. The way that Marvel and 20th Century touched on the legacy of the character was fantastic and seeing this moment really took the film to another level.
8. Daredevil: Bullseye kills Elektra
There are few, probably zero, love stories in comic books more tragic than Matt Murdock and Elektra’s. In the comics, they had a long history of “on and off” dating, going back to their college days. In the comics, Elektra was hired by the Kingpin to kill Foggy Nelson. She couldn’t do it, realizing who he was and his relationship to her lover, Matt Murdock. The Kingpin then ordered Elektra and Bullseye to fight to the death to determine who would become his chief assassin. She would, of course, met her demise at the hands of Bullseye and crawled to Murdock’s doorstep, dying in his arms. However, it was the fight scene between Bullseye and Elektra that was truly memorable. In the 2003’s Daredevil this battle and Elektra’s death were captured near perfectly from panel to screen.
Personally, I didn’t mind the theatrical cut of Daredevil, but if you see the Director’s Cut, you are treated to an entirely different and much better film. Anyways, one of the greatest performances in Marvel movie history was given in this film. While I thought it was cast rather well, there was one star of the film who stood out the most. Colin Farrell gave one of the most convincing socio/psychopath performances ever as Bullseye. While Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is no stable individual, Colin Farrell played Bullseye with such heart and such psychosis, that to this day people still tell me they were cheering for Bullseye. Farrell’s Bullseye was completely insane; he rarely spoke until the end, but when he did speak, Farrell’s natural Irish accent made the character that much more mad.
The final fight between Elektra and Bullseye was captured brilliantly. Elektra has no chance against the insane assassin as Jennifer Garner and Colin Farrell deliver a fight scene that clearly depicts Bullseye’s completely unbalanced advantage. He throws her sai through her hand, dodges every attack she tries to maneuver and eventually beats her down to the ground. Then, almost as if it were ripped out of the comic itself, Bullseye throws a playing card, slicing Elektra’s neck. He grabs her sai and sticks it straight through her. This scene, like the final Spider-Man vs. the Green Goblin scene, is so memorable because of how well the comic book translated onto film. In the Director’s Cut not only is this scene longer, but you also see the truly chilling and brilliant moment when Bullseye kisses Elektra as she is hoisted into mid-air by her own sai.
7. Spider-Man 2: MJ finds out Peter Parker is Spider-Man
Spider-Man 2 is revered by many as one of, if not, the greatest superhero film ever made. It was an extremely strong sequel and really continued the stories established in the first film. There were moments that I felt the romance became too whiny and sappy, but I did enjoy the film. The film is also full of memorable moments from the opening scene where Peter Parker delivers pizza through a broom closet to the breathtaking moment where Spider-Man stops a car from squashing a crowd of pedestrians to the very humorous scene where Bruce Campbell prevents Peter from seeing MJ’s play. However, there is one moment in this film that will forever stand out to me. In fact, if I had to come up with a Top 10 “Holy Sh*t Movie Moments of All Time,” this moment would be very close to the top.
Of course, the scene I am referring to is during Spidey’s final battle against Doc Ock. After Peter talks to Doc Ock, the latter takes control of the situation and decides he is going to destroy his fusion mechanism, sacrificing himself. Peter turns to see MJ, staring in disbelief at what she sees. Peter stands before her in full Spider-Man regalia, minus the mask. Director Sam Raimi’s use of dramatic pause is fantastic. I remember my jaw on the floor along with MJ’s. The moment was pure gold. While I could have done without some of the more sappy aspects of the film, I remember being totally immersed inside the world of the film and ultimately by this moment. That scene stood alone in time, as if nothing else in the world mattered, and honestly, at that moment I felt like nothing did. Mary-Jane just found out that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. So she says she always knew, and the chemistry between Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire–not just in this scene but also throughout the first two films–was astounding. I was never a big fan of Dunst as MJ, but she definitely played off of Maguire very well.
While this moment is truly breathtaking, it doesn’t last as the entire side of the abandoned warehouse nearly crushes MJ. Peter literally hops in just in time and in a fit of Superman strength, keeps the wall from collapsing atop his love. Raimi also manages to throw in some humor by including the classic “hi” between MJ and Peter. At any other moment the “hi” would have seemed cliché, but here it worked so well.
6. The Punisher: Punisher vs. The Russian
For me, 2004’s Punisher is full of memorable moments. Sure I’m excited for the Lexi Alexander “redux” of the character, but I love the 2004 version. Tom Jane was perfect, the theme music was unbelievable, and Mark Collie’s song, “In Time,” has become one of my favorite songs of all time. Oh, and I love the final battle scene where the Punisher tears up the Saints and Sinners club. Yes, I do love that movie and only wish that Tom Jane was returning as the Punisher, or that the Gulf War scene was included in the film. While I think the scene where Mark Collie’s Harry Heck sings “In Time” to Castle before trying to kill him is brilliant in its own right, the fight between the Punisher and the Russian probably takes the cake for this film’s most memorable moment. In fact, Garth Ennis’ battle between the Russian and Frank Castle inside Castle’s apartment had not only been adapted for this film, it was also adapted for the video game.
Pro-Wrestler and seven footer, Kevin Nash played the Russian. While the Russian did not speak like his comic book counterpart, Nash’s memorable facial expressions were really all that was needed to capture the effect of the character. This scene was entertaining, funny and cringe-worthy all at once. Frank Castle gets his ass kicked and does his best to stay conscious as the Russian stalks him throughout the apartment. Being tossed around like a ragdoll, the Punisher can barely muster the strength to use the tools lying around his apartment as his only line of defense. Even when he tries to stab the Russian, he gets lifted into mid-air and stabbed himself. This fight really has it all: knives, grenades, a toilet, a refrigerator door, just the worst things a human being could possibly be hit with. All of this taking place while Spacker Dave, Bumpo and Joan are in the apartment down the hall cooking dessert and dancing to classic opera music. I remember the film’s producer, Ari Arad, telling me that Tom Jane performed most of, if not all, the spots in the fight. He said Jane and Nash were so into the fight that there were times that the two would get so carried away, Nash even really got stabbed. There is also a moment where Tom Jane gets thrown through a wall, I can’t remember the exact moment because there are a few, but Ari told me that Jane was nearly knocked out during filming. Like this scene, that is just insane. Of course, like his comic book companion, the Russian met his demise at the hands of a boiling pot of water and a trip down a flight of stairs.
5. X2: X-Men United: Nightcrawler infiltrates the White House
One thing movies often hit or miss on is setting its tone in the opening scene. Sometimes an opening scene is only part of the plot, sometimes it’s crucial to the plot and can involve a character moment, or like a James Bond film, a wild action scene that tries to rope in viewers. One of the most memorable opening scenes that not only set the tone for X2, but also wowed audiences, was the scene where Nightcrawler infiltrates the White House. This scene directly ties into the plot as well as offers up the first live action sequences of BAMPFS ever.
Alan Cumming looked like a demon possessed in the few brief moments that we actually saw his face during this scene. The direction was amazing as Nightcrawler seemed to know exactly where and how to strike. He knew how to maneuver around gunshots, multiple Secret Service agents as he made his way towards the Oval Office. The general look of confusion and fear on the actors portraying the President and Secret Service agents felt genuine. They had no idea what was happening. It was madness. I remember seeing the film in theaters on opening day and there were gasps and “YEAHS!” that filled the packed theater. The CGI was also flawless as Nightcrawler left a cloud of blue “smoke” whenever he BAMPFed.
Nightcrawler gets all the way to the President and nearly assassinates him before being shot, forcing him to teleport away. While on the surface it appeared that Nightcrawler was some kind of mutant terrorist, that was far from the case. Not only do we discover that Nightcrawler is a very religious individual, he also suffers inner turmoil because of his identity. This opening scene also plays a very important role in the rest of the film as Nightcrawler was under William Stryker’s control when he attacked the President. There have been few scenes, especially in the Marvel movies, that establish a story as well as this scene did. Not only was it intense, it also captivated audiences for months after the film and DVD release.
4. X2: X-Men United: Wolverine goes berserk
I thought X2: X-Men United was an excellent sequel to the original. While movie-goers were treated to Wolverine fighting classic villains such as Mystique and Sabretooth in the first film, the ol’ Canucklehead felt like a bit of a caged animal. The chemistry between Hugh Jackman and James Marsden (Cyclops) was on point, the individual fights, first against Mystique and then Sabretooth on top of the Statue of Liberty were great, but Wolverine seemed a tad neutered. Then the second film came. Usually, sequels present a character’s true colors. They can be unleashed in their full glory and filmmakers are more poised to take risks. While the opening scene of this film where Nightcrawler infiltrates the White House definitely sets the tone, William Stryker’s invasion of the X-Mansion makes this film an entirely different ballgame.
Wolverine has always had a certain feral instinct, a rage built up inside of him, not only because of his animalistic mutant powers but because of his past as well. When Stryker launches an invasion of the X-Mansion, that animalistic rage inside Wolverine is unleashed, better known as his feral or berserker rage. Honestly, this is one of my favorite action scenes of all time. I’ve always liked Wolverine but never been a huge fan. However, this scene is sure to turn even the most die-hard Wolverine haters into Wolverine nuts. The scene where he goes berserk is excellently crafted; he stops a soldier from shooting Bobby Drake and fends off a knife. You can see the rage building in Hugh Jackman’s eyes and it seems like Wolverine is trying to suppress his inner animal as a knife wound across his face heals. Finally, he pops out the claws to a great reaction by the soldier, lets out an anger-filled scream and sticks the soldier through the chest, leaving claw marks in the refrigerator. Wolverine breathes heavily and looks around. That’s when you know he’s gone into berserker mode.
In one of the best comic book movie action scenes, Wolverine runs through the mansion taking down every soldier that crosses his path, all the while protecting the kids inside the mansion. It’s also during this scene that viewers are treated to another memorable moment (a runner-up on this list) as Colossus is seen for the first time in the X-Men movie franchise. Wolverine is only stopped by Iceman when confronted by William Stryker himself and an entire brigade of soldiers. One can only hope that the coming Wolverine film will give us even more of a feral Wolverine.
3. Blade: Club Blood
It would be wrong not to include a moment from Blade on this list. Why? Because Blade was not only the first Marvel movie of the modern era, it was also the first comic book movie of the modern era. Blade revolutionized the way the world looks at comic book films. It wasn’t overly stylized like the Burton Batman series, it wasn’t campy and ridiculous like the Schumacher Batman films. It also didn’t sugarcoat the character or story to appeal to a wider audience. The film was dark, scary, and very violent. The scene inside the vampire club established not only what to expect from this film, but also from the coming onslaught of comic book movies. In this scene, we discover the vampires, we meet just about every major villain of the film and of course, we meet the Daywalker, Blade.
This scene and this movie, for that matter, are perfect for anyone trying to come up with a thesis driven paper as to why comics aren’t for kids. Not only does former underage porn-star Traci Lords give a convincing performance as a vampire succubus, but the unsuspecting guy she brings to the club is genuinely terrified when the sprinklers explode with blood and cover the vampires, who dance to that memorable techno theme. It’s really kind of frightening. I was 14 when the film came out, and I vaguely knew who Blade was. I knew he was a Marvel character, and I totally didn’t expect what I saw then. The bloodbath is then followed by the first appearance of Blade, who proceeds to start killing the vampires without pulling any punches. While I can live without Wesley Snipes, there is no one else I could ever imagine as Blade. His name brought attention to the film, and the level of violence that Blade brings into the vampire club was surely unexpected by anyone expecting a classic “superhero film.” Tim Burton’s Batman was indeed a dark film, but let’s face it, Blade is on an entirely different level. Not only does the hero kill his vampire enemies, he also drives a stake into one of the main villains, Quinn, followed by a second stake nailing him to a wall. But Blade doesn’t stop there; he proceeds to toss an incendiary charge on Quinn, turning the vampire into a screaming fireball. Blade changed the way the general public and movie going public look at comic book movies. They can be dark and violent because you know what, sometimes they are meant to be that way.
2. The Incredible Hulk: Tony Stark meets up with General Ross at a bar
Okay, so I know the movie hasn’t come out yet and that I might get some flak for throwing this scene in over a few others. And it’s also entirely possible that this scene may not make it into the final cut of the film, but those few who attened The Incredible Hulk panel at this year’s New York Comic Con were treated to a comic book movie moment that fans have been waiting for. Before Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, all of the movies featuring Marvel characters were licensed out to studios: Spider-Man to Sony, X-Men to 20th Century Fox and so on. However, a few years ago Marvel made a deal where they were able to purchase back the film rights to some of their characters including Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Nick Fury and Black Panther to name a few. With this deal in play, they inked another deal with Paramount to distribute their films, save for Incredible Hulk which will be distributed by Universal. In that respect, Iron Man will essentially be the first “real” Marvel movie, and the Hulk will be the second. There’s been plenty of talk lately about a possible Avengers movie within the next ten years. With Iron Man and the Hulk redux in the bag, next in the line-up is rumored to be Thor, Ant-Man, Black Panther and Captain America. With this in mind, the movies will begin to start tying together. Already rumors have run rampant about Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury, while early screenings and reviews say he is not in Iron Man, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s presence is very visible. It is possible that Fury will pop up in the general release of the film as opposed to early screenings to keep movie-goers surprised. However, those who attended the Hulk panel at the New York Comic Con were treated to the first moment of the new Marvel movie continuity. While it’s uncertain if this scene will appear in the final cut, you could literally feel the excitement in the room.
For those who haven’t seen the scene I am referring to, it went like this: General Ross (William Hurt) sits drunk in a bar when Tony Stark (Downey) approaches him and says “I hear you’ve got an unusual problem.” Ross turns to Stark and says “You should talk.” In suave Tony Stark style, Stark replies, “You should listen.”
Hopefully, this scene will indeed be included in the final cut of the Incredible Hulk, bridging the film with Iron Man. I also hope the scene featuring Nick Fury and the rumored scene Stark shares with Fury is included in Hulk, and the Marvel movie continuity starts to become fully solidified.
1. Spider-Man: The Upside Down Kiss
While Blade and X-Men came before it, the first Spider-Man film is what truly set the tone for the comic book movies we have seen since it premiered in 2002. While Blade and X-Men proved a comic book film could be done right, Spider-Man opened up the floodgates and took in billions of dollars. While I can probably make a Top 10 list out of this first Spider-Man movie alone, there is one moment that stands out and connects through the entire film series. It was also one of those small moments that really captured the essence of not only Spider-Man, but the romance between Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson.
“The upside down kiss” is probably one of the most important moments of the Spider-Man franchise. You might roll your eyes at reading that, but hear me out. Not only is it one of those classic Spider-Man moments, but it also marks the first kiss shared between Peter and MJ. It’s the one thing Peter has wanted since they were in high school and he only gets it after he saves her life as Spider-Man. Spidey saves MJ from being attacked by a group of hooligans, and when he appears behind her upside down, she slowly rolls down the mask to reveal his mouth. The kiss, in the rain and all, is hot, don’t deny that fact. Of course, you can also see some feminine features of Kirsten Dunst with the rain and all, but it’s the kiss that really signifies the relationship.
This moment would also be referenced not only at the end of this film when MJ kisses Peter in the cemetery, but also in the sequels as well. The first film ends with MJ kissing Peter, and as he walks away, she recognizes something about their kiss. In the second film, MJ is engaged to John Jameson and confused over her feelings for Spider-Man, she kisses John upside down to see if she gets the same feeling. Finally, in the third film, during “Spider-Man” day, Gwen Stacy rolls down an upside down Spidey’s mask and kisses him in a similar fashion to MJ in the first film. Of course, this happens in front of MJ, and she gets really upset that Peter used “their kiss” on Gwen. The kiss is undoubtedly memorable because of the way that it was done, parodied in other media and how it tied into the rest of the films in regard to Peter and MJ’s relationship.
Ultimate Avengers: Ultimates vs. the Hulk
X2: Colossus powers up
Spider-Man 2: Spidey vs. Doc Ock (the Train battle)
Spider-Man: Final Battle with the Green Goblin
The Punisher: Harry Heck sings the “Funeral Song” to the Punisher in a diner
The Hulk: Hulk tosses Talbot out the window of his house and Talbot slams into a parked car