Art is subjective, and good art can mean different things to different people. But for long-time comic book fans, there are moments in Avengers: Endgame that have more emotional weight than others. This is a film that relies on those emotional connections to drive the story forward, almost from the first frame, and it succeeds in almost every way.
There are many emotional beats at work in this film, and everybody will have their own list of what did it for them, but there are five that brought me to absolute tears during my screening, and have haunted me in the days since.
There are spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame. If you are the one person in the world who hasn’t seen the film yet, please don’t continue. But if you are one of the people who contributed to the $1.2 billion box office take worldwide on opening weekend, enjoy.
Our Top Five Emotional Moments Of Avengers: Endgame
5. Steve Rogers Going To Space
This one is a very subtle scene, which takes place in Endgame’s first 20 minutes. Having tracked down Thanos (Josh Brolin) at his summer home (seriously), the remaining Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) shoot into space to try and get the Infinite stones back to right the wrong. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo made a point to focus on an extreme close up of Steve Rogers’ eye getting larger as the ship prepared to hit the warp drive. Why this resonated with me is because of Steve’s arc through the 21 previous films.
Here’s a guy from a different age, born in the early 20th century, who spent the majority of that century frozen. Of all the technological advancements that humanity has achieved while Captain America was on ice, space travel is one of the most important. And here we see Steve taking it in, burdened by the extreme loss from Avengers: Infinity War, and going off to try and make it right — as a hero would — yet still in awe of something that many of us take for granted. This little guy from Brooklyn was going into space and that close-up shot of his eye said it all. This simple scene felt very heavy to me, and my eyes welled up with tears. It was a hint to the bigger emotional beats to come.
4. The Ancient One’s Realization
During the Time Heist in the second act of Avengers: Endgame, Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is tasked with seeking out Doctor Strange to get the time stone from him in 2012. The only problem is, Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is still a decorated, cocky surgeon at that point in the timeline, and the time stone rests with the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). She knocks Banner’s soul/essence out of the Hulk and Banner all but begs her to give up the stone, which she, as its protector, refuses.
But when Banner tells her the story of Thanos and that Strange gave it up in the future, the Ancient One suddenly realizes what’s at stake, and you can see it on Swinton’s face that she realizes that she has to give the stone to Banner, as that is what Strange had seen in his one-in-14 million-plus visions of how they could win.
The scene is, again, subtle, but Swinton nails it. When the realization hit her, my heart stopped for a second and goosebumps cascaded over my body. Even her insistence that Banner hurry helped to flesh out the scene, adding even more weight to it. She understood. She trusted Strange, though she hadn’t even met him yet. The Marvel magic universe is a weird place, but it works, and in Avengers: Endgame, this scene worked well.
3. Steve Sees Peggy Carter
Their’s is a love that has spanned over 80 years. Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). It’s been featured in all three Captain America movies, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and even in ABC TV’s Agent Carter series. This is one of the better fleshed out relationships, even if it has always ended in tragedy, and with one person almost always being absent. Peggy promised Steve a dance when he returned from the mission that sent him to his icy 70-year hibernation. When Steve came back, Peggy was old, married, and had lived her life, yet they remained friends.
But during another phase of the Time Heist, Steve and Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) travel back to 1970 to get the space stone after a botched attempt in 2012, and also to get a refill of Pym Particles from a much younger Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). While Tony runs into his dad, Howard Stark (John Slattery), Steve finds himself hiding out in Peggy Carter’s office, and through a plate glass window, he sets eyes on the woman he has loved for most of his life. She is not an old woman. Her life hasn’t been lived, with a husband and kids. And Steve watches her from the shadows, his heart aching — and mine was too. This love story has been the heartbeat of Steve Rogers’ story arc from the first film, and it was a nice emotional call back to that — even if it was only a precursor of what was to come in the denouement.
Honorable mention here also goes to Tony and Howard’s conversation as they parted ways. I probably could have numbered this one “The Events in 1970,” but that was a little too broad. These scenes are both moments worthy of inclusion, but Steve and Peggy’s story is one that matters more to me in the end.
2. The Trinity vs. Thanos
Now we’re getting into the action. Less subtle than the previous beats, when Thanos destroys Avengers headquarters and begins his assault to get the collected Infinity Stones, the first to meet him on the battle field is Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, Marvel’s “holy trinity” of heroes: The First Avenger, The Armored Avenger, and The Mighty Avenger. Seeing them together onscreen took my breath away, as I’ve waited over 11 years to see this grouping — these three Marvel icons — together as a unit to face off with an adversary so strong that they needed to be a group — needed to be brothers. And Alan Silvestri’s score for this scene helped highlight the epic moment.
Sure, all six Avengers had moments together as a group in 2012’s The Avengers, but this was the core group of heavy hitters that drove the comic book series early in its run. Seeing them work together, after all that has gone down between them in the last few films, in this, the final battle against their strongest enemy, was absolute magic, and I’m not sure I took a breath during their melee.
The excitement that coursed through my body as I sat in that theater could be felt by those around me. If this was the last battle of the Trinity, they were gonna go out swinging, and swing they did with so many other, smaller beats happening left and right — including Cap taking another weapon. This was only the beginning of the fight scene that would carry the film — and the Infinity Saga — to its end, and my emotions were running high, only to completely lose it in my No. 1 choice for most emotional moment.
1. Avengers Assemble
Finally, after 22 films and 11 years, the phrase that comics fans have waited to hear was spoken by Captain America, and the wait was worth it. After Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) calls back the “on your left” from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the portals begin opening up with nearly every character and army from the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe gathered to confront Thanos and his invaders, Cap turns to face the Mad Titan and defiantly says, “Avengers… Assemble!”
And I completely lost it.
As a 45-year-old man who’s read comics for most of those years, it was the absolute perfect time for the slogan to make its debut. I sobbed. Not just tears, but actual sobbing occurred. Avengers: Endgame became perfect at that moment. I could overlook all the flaws and silliness. I could ignore the missed opportunities, time travel loopholes, and more, because here it was, finally, every Avenger — past, present, and even future — assembled to take on Thanos to save the entire universe. It was a scene I had hoped for and even dreamt about for the last few years, and the Russos completely delivered.
In the days since my viewing at a press screening, I have thought back to this scene and I can still hear Cap say the words, and every time — Every. Time. — I well up again. This was the most important scene for me in Avengers: Endgame and will go down in history as one of my favorite scenes of any film ever.
The emotions I felt in this movie were real, and they carried me through the story all the way to the end. I know that Tony Stark dying — and his scenes with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) — were meant to be the emotional send-off that ended this chapter, or even what Cap ended up doing when he left to return the stones to their places in the timeline, but those moments were a little too on-the-nose and were designed to create emotion. I more enjoyed the five times I felt something real in other points of Avengers: Endgame, as those meant more to me on a personal level.
Avengers: Endgame has plenty of other emotional beats and callbacks that others may find bigger than my list, and that is fine. Art is subjective. I just hope that now that you have read my list, you too will find five (or more) important scenes in the film where you felt something, and will relive those moments over and over as time goes on.
Avengers: Endgame is in theaters now. All images courtesy of Marvel Studios.