Whether you like it or not, we’re living smack dab in the middle of the superhero movie era. Like the era of Western movies that ran from silent film era, then from 1939 (thanks to Dodge City) through the 60’s, Super Hero movies are seemingly omnipresent at this point. Between Warner Brothers/DC, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Fox’s X-Men/Fantastic Four films and Sony’s planned Spider-Verse, it seems like we’re going to end up with even more Super Hero movies before Hollywood moves onto something else (maybe a cinematic universe featuring Archie, Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost? Yuck). So, before that happens, let’s take advantage and break down the top 10 Super Hero movie endings of all time!
This first entry on the list may surprise a lot of people as Thor is considered to be the red-headed stepchild of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or really, the Loki of the MCU). However, the ending to 2011’s Thor is just objectively amazing. First, there’s the scene on earth with the destroyer, who Thor (in his mortal body) uses to speak to his brother Loki, while also essentially creating a diversion so his friends can escape. It was that act of bravery, combined with the sacrifice (along with everything else he learned while on earth, like that you can’t smash coffee mugs and that tasers hurt) ends up making him worthy once again and turning him back into Thor. After that most epic of super hero origins, Thor returns to Asgard and confronts his brother and ends up in one of the most epic one-on-one battles in the history of the genre atop the bifrost, which is the rainbow bridge that Asgard uses to teleport all over the universe. That final scene was one of the few that has made the cost (and headache) associated with 3D worthwhile for once. The fact that it’s this scene that almost directly leads into The Avengers doesn’t hurt it’s cause, either.
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Winter Soldier is often talked about when people discuss the best of the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s at least partially due to the fact that it did the nearly impossible, in making Captain America cool. Tying back into it’s first movie a lot more than other MCU movies do, The Winter Soldier brings back Captain Steve Rogers’ best friend from The First Avenger in Bucky Barnes. It’s Steve’s commitment to his best friend, who is (outside of a senile Peggy Carter) his only connection to his life before going into the ice, that makes the ending so great and so gut-wrenching, as Captain America ends up dropping his shield and refusing to fight his BFF. While Marvel has been criticized for always having an air battle during it’s third act, the fact that the movie destroys not one, but three helicarriers while the much more personal battle between Steve and Bucky takes place in one of them, makes this an amazing ending that capped an amazing movie (get it?).
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
The most recently released film on this list, Spider-Man: Homecoming had a lot going on in it and the ending continued that trend. After defeating/saving the Vulture in a one on one slugfest on the beaces of Coney Island, Peter is finally accepted by his mentor Tony Stark into the Avengers. It’s what Tony shows him next that makes this ending so epic and different from others on this list, as it creates a cliff-hanger that the other films on this list don’t have (unless you count their after credits scenes, which we aren’t). Tony shows him his Avengers suit which looked a lot like the Iron Spider suit from the Civil War arc in the comics and while Peter turns him down (to be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man for a bit longer), it’s an epic precursor of things to come. The fact that Tony decides to propose to Peter Potts after that that is like the whipped cream ontop of the ice cream sunday that is the ending. So, when Peter returns from upstate New York and sees that Stark has returns his second suit, you think the movie is over. But, as Peter is putting on the suit, Aunt May opens the door and the movie ends with her screaming… “What the F….”, talk about a great cliff-hanger, a great ending and a great cherry on top.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy could’ve had a very generic ending considering the fact that the entire plot essentially surrounded a Macguffin in the Orb/Power Stone. However, despite the cliche nature of what got the plot going, the film was anything but cookie cutter as it defied expectations at every turn. That included it’s ending where Writer/Director James Gunn expertly balanced humor and emotion better than any other movie on this list (outside of… You guess it, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). The emotion begins when the Nova Corps pilots all form an amazing blockade that is incinerated by Ronan and the Power Stone, is just the tip of the iceberg. When all seems lost and Ronan is seconds away from destroying Xandar, the fact that Star-Lord breaks out in a faux-dance off was both unexpected and hilarious. A child of the late 70’s, it was all Peter could think of to distract Ronan long enough for Rocket and Drax to reassmble their weapon. It’s after that hilarious scene that we get the closure that Peter needs from his mother in a scene that is just…It’s just so… sad. Rocket picking up pieces of Groot doesn’t help. Man. Who started cutting onions?
6. The Avengers
The Avengers changed everything. While not the first MCU movie to end with a big battle in the sky, it perfected it to the point that almost every movie afterwards ended with a gigantic laser shooting into the sky (even Les Miserable). The entire battle of New York scene took advantage of the team based element of the Avengers and even when you rewatch it in 2017 you get the feeling like you’re watching history. Never before had a film brought together characters from their own films like Marvel did with The Avengers so when you see the camera panning from character to character, finding increasingly awesome ways for them to work together as they fight the endless hoards of Loki’s army, it’s just good old fashioned fun. It’s not all just fun, though, as Iron Man essentially “lays on the wire” (take that, Cap!) and carries the nuclear warhead meant for Manhattan through the portal and into the Chitauri mothership. While some have criticized the Phantom Menace-esque hivemind clean ending, it’s hard to nitpick an ending that is so good that it even has Shawarma.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2
Outside of perhaps The Dark Knight Rises, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 gets the award for the most emotional ending on this list. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, prepare for some spoilers here as the final battle while big on spectacle, ends up being the perfect way to show the difference between Star-Lord’s father and his “daddy”. After the Guardians defeat Peter’s father, Ego, with the help of Yondu, the ravager who abducted Peter from earth and who raised him after refusing to deliver him to Ego, Yondu sacrifices himself so Peter can live. Peter’s pained reaction would’ve been enough to make even the coldest person melt, but when Yondu says “he might be your father, but he aint your daddy” it’s enough to make a robot cry. The first film focused on Peter’s relationship with his mother and that ending was also highly emotional, but by deftly balancing humor and emotion, writer/director James Gunn shows why he’s so valuable to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future, especially as they expand into the cosmos even further.
4. Captain America: Civil War
The Marvel Cinematic Universe gets flak for having endings that end up being like the end of each episode of The Simpsons. While a lot may happen during the movie, nothing of consequence ever carries from movie to movie. While some have criticized the fact that Steve Rogers ended up sending Tony Stark that letter and cell-phone, the fact remains that the end of Civil War changed the MCU forever. Outside of fracturing the Avengers into two groups, one of which is essentially the Secret Avengers of the comics (as they’re all wanted fugitives), the final showdown between Iron Man, Captain America and the Winter Soldier is one of the most intense in any movie ever, let alone comic book movie. When Tony Stark notices the date and location on Zemo’s video and says “What is this?” you can feel the Captain America’s dread as he realizes what they’re about to see. While Civil War could’ve gone the spectacle route, it instead decided to make the final battle about as personal as one can get. While Stark knows that Barnes was brainwashed while killing his parents, the look on his face and pain in his voice when he says “I don’t care, he killed my mom” shows that Tony has just reached his breaking point. The final fight is brutal and the consequences are final and that’s what makes the ending of Civil War, and the movie in general, so awesome.
3. The Dark Knight Rises
Say what you will about The Dark Knight Rises, sure it wasn’t as good as Batman Begins or The Dark Knight, but condering the circumstances under which it was created, with the death of Heath Ledger shortly after The Dark Knight was completed (which may or may not have changed the plans for Rises) and you have to tip your hat to Writer/Director Christopher Nolan and company for what was still a borderline great movie. The ending was especially great, as it teased fans by showing what appeared to be the death of Bruce Wayne. They showed us the explosion, the statue being dedicated in his honor, the funeral and the heart wrenching tears from Michael Caines Alfred. While some people still argue that Alfred was somehow delusionally invisioning Bruce Wayne and Cat-Woman during the restaurant scene that was a call back to a speech Alfred gave earlier in the movie, everything about the ending pointed towards the fact that Wayne did indeed fix the autopilot, escape and start his life anew with Selena Kyle in Europe. Great way to end the trilogy while leaving the door open for another Batman (or Night Wing?) as well.
Hugh Jackman played Wolverine over the course of 17 years. It’s the role that made him world famous and because of that, even up until recently, he had said that he would play Wolverine forever. That is until he was literally inspired/convinced by a conversation that he had had with Jerry Seinfeld, the Michael Jordan of sitcoms (at least the first TWO times Jordan retired), where Seinfeld told Jackman that he should go out “on top”. So, Jackman went to the The Wolverine Director James Mangold and said he wanted to adapt the Old Man Logan comic arc that was released in June of 2008. Because of character rights issues, obviously Jackman’s Logan couldn’t mirror the comics exactly (or really at all) so instead they took the general idea and combined it with the more recent Death of Wolverine arc to give the character the death and goodbye that he apparently wanted for himself for a really long time (if the adamantium bullet from Logan or really the entire beginning of The Wolverine are any indication). While it was extremely hard to watch a character a lot of us grew up watching die in such a violent way, he did end up finding peace and the unconditional love he never had (despite living the better part of two centuries) and while that is a tragedy in and of itself, it was the best way for this character to go out possible.
1. The Dark Knight
One could argue that The Dark Knight isn’t only the best comic book movie of all-time, but one of the best movies of all-time, period. Thanks to a brilliant story and brilliant performances by everyone involved, this is the comic book movie that all others are compared to. Of course the best performance in the film ends up going to Heath Ledger for his performance as the Joker, who says during the scene at Gotham General with the recently burned Harvey Dent, “Do I really look like a guy with a plan?”. Well, if you think about it, yes. He does. Because his plan(s) ended up working to (near) perfection with only one caveat, he didn’t expect Batman to let people think that he had broken his one rule. For most of the movie the Joker is trying to get Batman to break his one rule, which is that Batman doesn’t kill anyone. Even if he kills the Joker himself, the Joker wins because he gets to prove his point to Batman. So, while the Joker’s “social experiment” with the two ships failed, his plan to “bring Harvey Dent down” to his and Batman’s level succeeded, in part. It succeeded because he did turn Dent into a murdering psychopath who believed that the only fairness in an indecent world was chance, but it didn’t succeed as Batman ended up taking the wrap for Dent’s crimes which, while making Batman a fugitive and presumed murderer didn’t accomplish the Jokers main goal which was showing Gotham that even the “best” person can turn bad after only one bad day…