The finale of the entirety of the MCU and the third act of the Infinity Saga, Avengers: Endgame is merely a few days away. In preparation for it, I revisited some of the best finales of the cinematic universe to date. Note that these picks don’t exclusively make up the entirety of all the killer MCU finales out there. These are simply personal picks of mine. Check some of them out!
Daredevil Season 3
If there’s one silver lining to be had with the sudden cancellation of Daredevil, it’s that we got the best finale to any Marvel TV episode ever. Season 3’s finale sees Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk reach the epicenter of their conflict spanning years. Throw in one of the most iconic comic book psychopaths in the mix, you’ve got a showdown for the MCU books. The whole sequence goes through a fascinating ebb and flow as targets shift on a whim. Fisk takes a moment to hurl Bullseye through a barrier and follows it by slamming Daredevil down a table. Fisk and Murdock work together to keep Vanessa safe from Bullseye as they beat each other to a pulp.
The entire showdown is unrelenting as these characters actually do serious damage to each other. Kingpin gets impaled multiple times by Bullseye’s projectiles. Bullseye’s back gets completely crushed. It’s a fight that’s weighty and thematic, elevated by the raging subtext fueling these characters. Matt accepts the need to bury Fisk’s legacy in the ground while Fisk willingly surrenders his fate for the safety of Vanessa. All of this culminates in Matt Murdock’s cathartic scream as Fisk accepts defeat in his hands, capping off a three-season long conflict in the most satisfying way.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always had its share of ambitious movie-quality sequences in its impressive 100-plus episode run but it wasn’t until the end Season 5 did their ambition feel truly realized with the final fight of Quake and Graviton. If you’d have told me that an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season set primarily in the far reaches of space involving time travel and an alien invasion would culminate in a superhero clash, I’d have called you insane because no way was that going to work.
A true spectacle in its own right, it was the show echoing the high-flying scale of the Battle of the New York. It’s the first time we get to see Daisy extensively use her abilities in an Avengers-esque battle with Avengers-tier baddie and former ally Graviton. Even though the VFX does decline halfway through the fight, you gotta admire their balls to end their best season with the most ambitious action sequence Marvel TV has seen. On top of the spectacle, you have two major character deaths with Fitz and Coulson. The former coming in the form of an unexpected tragedy while the latter being a bittersweet goodbye.
Captain America: Civil War
It’s almost impossible to reach the highs of the Leipzig showdown in Captain America: Civil War. The Russos and the partnership of Markus and McFeeley likely knew this hence why they resolved to give us a violent raw brawl between two good friends, stripped of all the razzle-dazzle and penned with such vulnerability, to cap off the biggest turning point in Avengers history.
The fight comes with major character-defining moments. We learn of Cap’s fallibility in sparing himself from the Stark’s truth. For all his intellect and cool, we see Tony at his rawest and most primal. Bucky’s teary rock-bottom moment when he’s confronted with his most heinous assassination is painful to watch. The heartbreak continues as a barrage of blows crescendos into what looks to be Cap’s killing blow. His life may have been spared but the look on Tony’s face says it all; there’s no turning back from this moment. The ramifications of this finale are so monumental that it’s arguably the most crucial contributor in the Avengers’ defeat against Thanos.
There are several moments of triumph and victory in the MCU but none of them have ever come close to the rousing highs of the Battle of New York. I distinctly remember the overwhelming surge of emotions watching moments play out for the first time. When Bruce Banner willingly transforms to the Hulk with his now-iconic “I’m always angry,” line, I cussed in awe. Iron Man using Cap’s shield to reflect his repulsor blast made me clutch my cousin’s arm left me in total shock. More than anything, I think I’ll always put the Battle of New York above all MCU finales just for the experience seeing it. It’s an experience that’s never been replicated for me with any other MCU film thus far.
Experiences aside, this finale will likely be the most enduring of them all. It’s representative of Marvel’s cinematic history thus far. The company’s struggles and successes distilled into 20-minutes of pure awesomeness. Just as the Avengers coming together was a game-changer for the MCU, the film broke new ground for the movie industry as a whole.
While most MCU finales tend to take place in larger-than-life locations like far away planets and futuristic African kingdoms with world-ending stakes on the line, Ant-Man scales it all down (pun intended) to a little girl’s bedroom as Scott Lang puts himself on the line to keep his daughter Cassie safe.
From the moment they kick it off with that amazing briefcase fight with The Cure’s Plainsong blasting in the background to the moment they arrive in Cassie’s bedroom, it’s an absolute blast. It’s one of the few MCU fights where the gags tie the whole thing together as opposed to ruining it. The hilarious Thomas the Tank Engine moment is an instant all-timer for me. But the thing that truly makes this finale a great one is how real and heartfelt that stakes are. Scott isn’t out to prevent the world from ending but to save his daughter from getting hurt. In a universe populated with a staggering amount of awful fathers, it’s so refreshing to see Ant-Man give us a loveable one and have the film’s third act fulfill his wishes of being a good father.
As an origin story, Doctor Strange is just sort of okay for me. It doesn’t reach the charms of the first Iron Man film nor does hit the earnestness found in Ant-Man. But what sets it apart from the rest of the origin stories are how audacious its sequences are. Sorcerers toying the New York skyline like a Rubix cube. Acid trips on an interdimensional plane. Dimensions made of glass. Ghosts duking it out in a hospital. Strange is Kevin Feige‘s love letter to Steve Ditko‘s kaleidoscopic scheming and it’s none more evident in the film’s backmasked final set piece.
The Hong Kong Sanctum has just been besieged by Kaecilius and his sorcerers with buildings surrounding it spanning several blocks totaled. On top of that, the Dark Dimension is about to eat a portion of the city. What does Doctor Strange decide to do? Undo everything with a flick of his hand. What follows is a Prince of Persia game come to life as toppled buildings and rubble fall back into place. Director Scott Derrickson and his crew do a fantastic job making the most of the sequences backmasking conceit as they pit physical fighters with one another.
For the grand finale, the film resolves its common villain problem by giving us the weirdest showdown between Strange and Dormammu. No punches are pulled here as Strange resolves the showdown by engaging in a battle of wits. It’s a funny and totally odd way of turning Marvel’s villain problem in on its head. Yes, Doctor Strange‘s final fight may lack the dramatic strife compared to the more emotionally-charged picks on this list but it totally makes up for giving something ingenious.
What are your favorite finales in the MCU? Let us know in the comments below!