(Welcome to Great Moments in MCU History, where we fondly recall great little bits that made us fall in love with the MCU.)

Two episodes of WandaVision are out now on Disney+, with seven more on the way before Marvel Studios’ first proper foray into television wraps up. But even two episodes in, it’s safe to say Wanda and Vision’s life of domestic bliss has issues. For one, it appears to be some kind of fantasy based around sitcom episodes. For another, one of the participants had his forehead crushed by Thanos and is supposed to be very dead. And to add a third thing, neither Wanda nor Vision seem to be themselves on the show. Vision was never meant to slave away in a generic office and the Sokovian Wanda Maximoff is a far cry from an American-as-Apple-Pie housewife.

But Wanda and Vision’s courtship has always been weird. This is true in the comics (leading to extremely depressing rabbit holes for both of them), but it is also true in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as the following clip from Captain America: Civil War reminds us…

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Best Scene in Guardians of the Galaxy

(Welcome to Great Moments in MCU History, where we fondly recall great little bits that made us fall in love with the MCU.)

Some early Marvel movies are smaller blockbusters than you might remember, getting by on the charm of their leads and one or two modest action scenes. Revisiting Guardians of the Galaxy reveals a different mainstay left behind with Marvel’s massive success: a willingness to get a little grimy with it.

Led by Troma wild child James Gunn, the first Guardians was pretty weird when it came out but only grows weirder as its characters soften to fit the Marvel mold. Star-Lord’s sleeping around the whole galaxy. Groot for-real kills a ton of bad guys. Gamora still works with her tyrannical father Thanos. Drax is a murderous prisoner. Rocket’s status as a failed science experiment is way more pronounced. Eventually they would all become a bickering family taking care of a cute infant, but in the early days, the Guardians of the Galaxy lived in an especially PG-13 corner of the Marvel universe.

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(Welcome to Great Moments in MCU History, where we fondly recall great little bits that made us fall in love with the MCU.)

Normally, the scenes in this column are chosen for their thematic significance or because they briefly display an example of why the MCU has been a gift that’s kept on giving since 2008 (excluding this year, of course). The point is, I usually pick big, obvious, and singular scenes. This week’s entry, however, is not that.

Instead, this is more an opportunity to broadly look back at Iron Man 3, Marvel’s Christmas movie. The clip is filled with adventure, excitement, jokes, and a full fleet of Iron Men fighting villains. Really, it was chosen because it features a lot of Christmas talk.

But hey, while we’re gearing up to bid 2020 adieu, might as well take the opportunity to examine what makes Iron Man 3 such an interesting entry in the MCU.

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(Welcome to Great Moments in MCU History, where we fondly recall great little bits that made us fall in love with the MCU.)

Recall – if you don’t mind being bossed around a bit – that viral video of an Avengers: Endgame audience losing its mind at the sight of Captain America wilding Mjölnir for the first time. What a huge moment. Endgame wasn’t so long ago that we forgot how that felt as it happened, but the existence of that video also helps make sure we never forget that elation, the straight-up childlike joy that moment produced.

Now – sorry, I am still bossing you around – imagine the first Avengers film. Compared to Endgame, the Battle of New York almost feels like a Max Fischer production (something Endgame actually gives you an opportunity to consider). Thor’s hair still isn’t quite the right mixture of prettyboy beauty and sweaty-warrior disgusting. Captain America’s costume is a little too plastic and cheesy. No one had any idea what to do with Hawkeye yet.

Nevertheless, Marvel was creating show-stopper moments even this far back. Not in every film, but certainly in the big ones. And The Avengers was their first attempt at a really big one. It seems quaint now, but at the time, the first fight between members of Marvel’s super-team was jaw-dropping.

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(Welcome to Great Moments in MCU History, where we fondly recall great little bits that made us fall in love with the MCU.)

Once upon a time, Guardians of the Galaxy was not a beloved corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe featuring characters that would become eventually become Avengers. If you’d told me back in 2014 that both Rocket Raccoon and Nebula would be major players in the fourth Avengers movie, I would have had to look up who Nebula even was.

In its sixth year of existence, Marvel was not yet so bulletproof that a team of new characters would automatically succeed at the box office. This is especially true of a team with a talking raccoon, a sentient tree, and only one human. Movie fans waited nervously for Guardians, wondering if Marvel – having put their fate in the hands of known weirdo James Gunn – would finally make their first major misstep.

The answer was no. A very big no. Guardians went on to become one of 2014’s biggest films. But more than that, its emotional story of found family built a stronger than normal bond between the audience and its characters. To say we were hungry for a sequel would be an understatement, particularly given how the first film ended with the death of Groot and his resurrection as an adorable baby twig. We couldn’t wait to see the team again (or learn more about Star Lord’s mysterious father), but more than anything, we just needed to learn more about this new Groot.

James Gunn obliged with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and the cockiest victory lap in opening credits history.

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(Welcome to Great Moments in MCU History, where we fondly recall great little bits that made us fall in love with the MCU.)

Travel with me back to ancient times. Joe Biden was merely Vice President. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice still had potential to be the greatest movie ever made. Prince and David Bowie were still with us. The year was 2015, approximately one hundred years in the past.

In terms of Marvel, this was the year of Avengers: Age of Ultron and today’s subject, Ant-Man. One film couldn’t be bigger. The other couldn’t be more dependent on charm. Between the two, Ant-Man has aged better simply because successful charm will always outlast confused, if well-meaning, bombast. 

This was also a Marvel era where characters had to earn their place in the Universe all by themselves. More recent Marvel films have gone heavy on team-ups to get more bang for their buck (Thor & Hulk, Captain Marvel & Agent Fury, Spider-Man & Iron Man). Ant-Man had to develop its own characters, joke structures, and action aesthetics. It also has to overcome behind-the-scenes drama as acclaimed filmmaker Edgar Wright left the project late in development, handing the reins off to the less obviously exciting Peyton Reed.

And (spoiler alert) it did overcome that drama. Ant-Man succeeded. The character immediately returned in Captain America: Civil War and later become a huge player in Avengers: Endgame. But people fell in love with him in a vacuum that had very little to do with the Marvel Universe. Having said that, the film’s best sequence does happen to be when it fully crosses over into the larger Marvel world.

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Best Scene in Spider-Man Homecoming

(Welcome to Great Moments in MCU History, where we fondly recall great little bits that made us fall in love with the MCU.)

Spider-Man! What a cutie pie. After a couple goes with actors who looked to be in their early 30s (but in a very handsome way, fellas), we finally got to see what an actual young person might bring to the big screen as Peter Parker. It turns out High School is a good age for Spider-Man. Who knew?

A smaller Spider-Man meant smaller Spider-Man stories, but the MCU had no problem introducing their most famous character as little more than a spice in the Superhero stew that was Captain America: Civil War. What would normally be their biggest character introduction ever was more of a charming comedy scene where Iron Man hits on Aunt May, and audiences ate it up.

Of course, Spider-Man would eventually get his own movie(s). A character that big, played with the amount of charm wielded by Tom Holland, isn’t something you let go to waste, especially if you’re the MCU. But that doesn’t mean they put their new hero in the middle of a galactic war or anything (that would come with the next movie). Instead, Spider-Man: Homecoming is just a little film about a little hero dealing with little things. And through these modest pursuits, it also contains one of the MCU’s most menacing scenes.

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(Welcome to Great Moments in MCU History, where we fondly recall great little bits that made us fall in love with the MCU.)

After all these years, it’s fun to look back at early Marvel Cinematic Universe efforts. They’re all so quaint in retrospect, so tiny. Thor loses his hammer and has to fight a big metal guy who breathes fire. (Yes, I know he’s called the Destroyer, but he destroys little more than a block of New Mexico’s smallest town). Tony Stark makes his suit, flies around a bit, and has to fight a slower, chunkier Iron Man. Hulk fights some army guys on a college campus and then has to fight an uglier Hulk.

But we didn’t fall in love with them for their bombastic, non-stop action. Early Marvel films succeeded –  allowing bigger Marvel films to mature – due to their casting, their wit, their heart and their willingness to get a little weird with it. This was the age of Nolan’s Batman films, after all. It took guts to make a colorful, pop-Shakespearean Thor film filled with Dutch angles.

Heart is front and center in the first great MCU moment I’d like to discuss: the famous grenade scene from Captain America: The First Avenger.

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