10 MCU Phase 1 Moments That Defined The Franchise’s Next 15 Years

  • Tony Stark being taken hostage shaped the entire MCU, sparking his transformation into Iron Man and setting the framework for the franchise.
  • The Avengers assembling as a team of heroes set the framework for countless subsequent team-ups, blending high-stakes story with comedy, drama, and epic action.
  • The use of levity, like Hulk smashing Loki, to offset the self-seriousness of the genre is a trick that defines the MCU and will continue to be employed in upcoming Marvel movies.
The first entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, identified as Phase 1 of the franchise, featured several moments that have defined the MCU in the years since. Beginning in 2008 with Iron Man, the MCU’s Phase 1 marked the beginning of the most successful franchise in cinematic history. In the years since, the movies of the MCU have proven both remarkably popular and incredibly financially successful, breaking multiple box office records on several occasions. Much of this success is actually owed to the very first entries into the MCU, as they set a framework for the franchise that subsequent movies continue to follow.
As the movies of Phase 1 marked the start of the franchise, they feature a wealth of moments that have shaped the MCU’s entire future. Many specific moments in the franchise’s early movies can be cited as pivotal in the MCU’s movie timeline, establishing tropes or ideas that have become standard in subsequent releases. Equally, there were also moments that served as lessons to be learned, with less well-received elements of Phase 1’s movies being avoided in the franchise in the years that followed. With that in mind, here are 10 MCU Phase 1 moments that defined the franchise’s next 15 years.
RelatedRanking All MCU Phase 1 Films According To Rotten TomatoesIt wasn't all smooth sailing for the MCU in its first phase. Here are all Phase 1 films ranked, according to Rotten Tomatoes 10 Tony Stark Being Taken Hostage Iron Man (2008) Close As one of the very first movie moments in the entire MCU, it’s fitting that Tony Stark being kidnapped actually shaped the franchise as a whole. Stark’s stint in captivity precipitated his entire hero arc, sparking his transformation into Iron Man and his role as the leader of the Avengers. The impact that being captured by the Ten Rings had on Stark shaped him into the hero he later became – a character who then went on to shape the franchise itself. It may be one of the MCU’s earliest, but it’s also one of its most pivotal moments.
9 The Avengers Assemble The Avengers (2012) Close Across the many movies and TV shows of the MCU, few moments are as iconic as that in which the Avengers first appear as a bona fide team of heroes. 2012’s The Avengers brought the heroes of Phase 1 together, and the film’s climactic battle saw them finally join forces in earnest to battle Loki and the Chitauri army in the Battle of New York. The Avengers coming together set the framework for countless subsequent team-ups, blending a high-stakes story with comedy, drama, and epic action.
8 Hulk Smashes Loki The Avengers (2012) As the Battle of New York reaches its conclusion, Loki finds himself face-to-face with the Hulk. It finally sees the villain come face to face with an Avenger at full power, and it ends with the Hulk grabbing the Asgardian and unceremoniously smashing him repeatedly into the ground. The use of comedy at such an unexpected moment would come to define the MCU, appearing in most films from that point on. The use of levity to offset the inherent self-seriousness of the genre is a trick that will undoubtedly continue to be employed in upcoming Marvel movies, and it started back in Phase 1.
7 Captain America’s Heroic Sacrifice Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) The MCU’s Phase 1 saw multiple moments of heroic sacrifice, with both Captain America and Thor making difficult personal sacrifices in service of the greater good. Captain America’s moment in particular proved massively influential for the MCU’s future: after making the impossible choice to sacrifice himself, he awakes in the future to be faced with the impact of his decision. The heroic choice, the complex emotional fallout, and the eventual happy ending is something that has become a part of multiple narrative arcs in the MCU, but it all started with Phase 1’s own origin stories.
6 Black Widow’s Introduction Iron Man 2 (2010) Close Iron Man 2 may not be the most popular entry in Phase 1, but it featured a moment that started a specific MCU trend. The introduction of Black Widow in a supporting role only to later have her act as a major character in the franchise is something that has been revisited in multiple MCU projects since. Black Widow was an excellent addition to the film, and her popularity confirmed her viability as one of the franchise’s key players. In the years since, many movies and TV shows have employed similar tactics in introducing new characters to the MCU, following Iron Man 2’s example.


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