Family is shown in many forms in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with some heroes adopted by others, such as Yondu and Star-Lord, or Iron Man taking on Spider-Man as his protégé. All families, however, have conflict, and in the MCU this usually manifests as sibling rivalries, or flashy battles to determine the fate of a planet.
The best family fights have an emotional core that gets the audience to care about the characters and their rivalry. Marvel movies usually look great, but it’s the character drama that keeps fans invested, and waiting to see the payoff of a built-up family feud.
Updated on July 29th, 2022 by Stacie Rook: With the MCU’s most recent releases, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, placing such emphasis on family connections, it seems the franchise’s use of family drama to fuel cosmic-level plots is set to be a continuing trend. These relationships can help to humanize otherworldly stories, and act as the instigator to fantastic battles.
10 Hela’s Entrance Scene
Hela is undoubtedly one of the most powerful characters in the Thor trilogy. In her very first scene, she establishes her power by taunting Thor and Loki, mocking Odin’s death, and ensures that the brothers know she isn’t scared of them in the slightest.
The audience knows the power of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and Loki’s cunning strength, but Hela shatters Mjolnir and any hope the brothers might have had in one fell swoop. The emotional core of the fight is that the brothers have discovered their long-lost sister, but reconciliation is never on the table, as Hela is determined to overpower her family at all costs.
9 Gamora Vs. Thanos
Thanos’ fight against his adopted daughters had been built up from the very first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, creating trauma and motivation for both Gamora and Nebula. Gamora’s desperation to kill Thanos before he obtains the Infinity Stones leads her to attack him head-on, eventually stabbing him in a short but emotional confrontation.
However, Thanos’ death in this scene was a fake-out, and his true power and manipulation are put on full display when he reveals the truth of the situation. Gamora was led to think she had power, but really Thanos was in control, pulling her strings and forcing her to realize that she was never going to win. This fight shows Gamora’s determination to do what is right, and it is very satisfying to watch her stab Thanos, getting a glimpse of victory before it is cruelly taken away.
8 Hela Vs. Thor
The final fight in Thor: Ragnarok opens with a brilliant shot of Hela striding towards the Asgardian throne, her helmet unfurling its horns, signaling the start of something epic. The fight between Thor and Hela is intercut with Heimdall trying to save the Asgardians by taking them onto the Bifrost, but the slices of action the audience sees of Thor versus Hela are exciting and impactful.
Hela throws Thor around and scratches out Thor’s eye, making him roar in pain, and causing a permanent mark on the character that he must learn from. The fight also has elements of comedy, with Hela grimacing at the gory sight and quipping, “Now you remind me of Dad.”
7 Natasha Vs. Yelena
Yelena and Natasha have many deadly fighting skills as Black Widows such as using their environment to kill people with ordinary objects. In Black Widow, their skills are on full display as they throw each other around a kitchen, using mundane items such as countertops, cupboard doors, and cutlery to attack one another.
The two women consider themselves sisters by the end of the film as they grew up together—if only for a short time—and their family feud is brought to a head in this fight, letting out the pent-up aggression they had both been harboring since they were cruelly torn from their foster family all those years ago.
6 Star-Lord Vs. Ego
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Peter Quill finally meets his biological father, a living planet called Ego. Although Peter wants to have a relationship with his father, Peter’s main motivation to keep going in life has always been his mother, so when Ego admits to killing her in front of Peter, it is natural that he would fight against Ego’s evil plan with everything he’s got.
Peter uses his god-like abilities to combat Ego in a CGI-fueled epic fight, which includes throwing each other into walls and Peter turning into Pac-Man mid-air. Peter and his adopted dad, Yondu, also fight a lot, but they clash because they genuinely care, in comparison to Ego whose affection is just a means to an end to taking over the universe.
5 T’Challa Vs. N’Jadaka (Erik Killmonger)
Erik Killmonger challenges T’Challa to a duel to see who will become King of Wakanda in Black Panther. The audience is well-acquainted with the two characters’ fighting styles, and Erik proves to be much more ferocious in battle, picking up T’Challa and hurling him off the waterfall.
Erik’s motivation for this fight is sound, with his family turning their back on him, and he feels that this fight—regardless of the outcome—is entirely justified. The fight at the end of the film between Black Panther and Golden Jaguar—Killmonger in a gold Panther suit—is a fun time but the fight is shrouded in darkness, taking away from the emotional core of the two family members fighting.
4 Wenwu Vs. Ying Li
Wenwu ventures into Ta Lo, a mystical village, but is stopped by the village guardian, Ying Li, a beautiful woman with incredible martial arts skills. Wenwu vs Ying Li is a genuinely beautiful fight. Without dialogue, the fight conveys their genuine attraction to each other and demonstrates the balance between Wenwu’s external ten rings and Ying Li’s inner elemental power.
The acting is incredible, the emotions of the characters written on the actors’ faces as they trade blows, clearly enjoying their scene together. Wenwu is a top-tier villain in Shang-Chi, brilliantly acted by Tony Leung, and it is a genuine shame that these two characters have very few scenes together in the film.
3 Wenwu Vs. Shang-Chi
In one of the best hand-to-hand fights in the MCU, Wenwu vs. Shang-Chi is an incredible, emotion-driven conflict that pulls in the audience from the very moment it begins. The characters’ initial confrontation in the shrine dedicated to Shang-Chi’s mother is tentative and one-sided, and although both characters stick to their convictions, Shang-Chi loses and is plunged into the lake.
However, the final confrontation is choreographed and animated expertly, with both characters using the rings in creative and unexpected ways, such as whips and stairs to climb on. Wenwu and Shang-Chi’s passion and emotion pour from the screen in this fight, even amidst the usual Marvel CGI creatures, to give the film a satisfying ending to the father-son conflict.
2 Xu Xialing Vs. Shang-Chi
Xu Xialing ran away from her home and started an empire of her own, established in Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as a fighting tournament. Having taught herself martial arts, Xialing is adept and agile, easily able to defeat the out-of-practice Shang Chi when he steps into the ring, despite his exceptional bus fight earlier in the film.
The rocky reunion of the two siblings is appropriate for their upbringing, having been raised in a tough environment with survival on their minds at all times. Xialing is a badass character and this fight is an excellent way to introduce her, bringing up her martial arts prowess as well as her emotional trauma in one smart and well-choreographed fight.
1 Gamora Vs. Nebula
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, as Gamora contemplates her future on Ego, the beautiful cinematography of her moment alone is broken by Nebula crashing a ship into the planet. The fight is shot wonderfully, with lots of long camera shots to allow the audience to take in the surroundings and the impact of every strike and bullet.
The fight also shows two kinds of strength: the first being physical strength, with Gamora holding up a giant gun to shoot Nebula’s ship and explode it, and the second being emotional strength, with Nebula finally letting loose her true feelings and admitting that all she wanted was a sister.
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