Well, Thanos has won and half of the universe has been turned to dust. To quote a certain Doctor Strange, we are in the endgame now. The Avengers: Endgame to be precise, and wondering how in the world our heroes are going to save the day when the day has already been lost.
Before we bear witness to the end of phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), we look back fondly at the most heroic moments from each of the beloved MCU principals.
13. Captain Marvel – Unlocking one's full potential
We've yet to see how she'll mesh with the wider Avengers ensemble, but Captain Marvel's (Brie Larson) powers speak for themselves.
Divided between her past life as a human air force pilot and her current status as a Kree warrior, Captain Marvel takes the best part of an entire movie to come to terms with her abilities. But when they finally emerge, transforming her into a surging, glowing onslaught of energy and destruction, it makes us anticipate her arrival in Avengers: Endgame all the more.
12. Scarlet Witch and Vision – Love and sacrifice
We continue with the ultimate heroic sacrifice made by Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) during the final stages of 2018's Avengers: Infinity War.
As Thanos (Josh Brolin) comes close to collecting all of the multi-coloured infinity stones, Vision persuades Wanda that only the destruction of the mind stone, currently residing in his head, will stop the Mad Titan's plan. In a terribly tragic twist, the love of his life Scarlet Witch is the only one powerful enough to destroy it and save the universe.
Yet ultimately, it's all for nothing: Thanos uses the time stone on his infinity gauntlet to reverse events and SW is ultimately powerless to stop the super-villain extracting the stone from Vision, killing him in the process. Although their mission fails, the gallantry and sacrifice on display is laudable.
11. Ant-Man – Goin' subatomic
A small-time thief and ex-con turned superhero, Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) doesn't exactly start out as the conventional heroic type. But put his daughter in danger and he can stand tall amongst any of The Avengers.
As the villainous and unimaginatively named Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll) threatens Lang's little girl in the first Ant-Man movie, the title character decides to go against mentor Hank Pym's (Michael Douglas) dire warnings, risking his life to shrink between the molecules and stopping Yellowjacket in his tracks.
10. Spider-Man – Rubble trouble
Towards the end of 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming, our friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler (Tom Holland) is in deep trouble, buried underneath a copious amount of rubble. After helplessly screaming and whimpering, he shows us what kind of power comes with an irradiated spider bite, heaving the ludicrous amount of concrete up and setting himself free.
It is in this very moment that he truly achieves the mantle of Spider-Man, foreshadowing his rise to official Avengers member.
9. Doctor Strange – "I've come to bargain"
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has emerged as one of the more powerful MCU heroes, having already stopped an interdimensional demigod, Dormammu, in his first movie outing.
Trapping Dormammu in a time-loop using an infinity stone, Doctor Strange also trapped himself in an endless cycle of painful death after painful death in order to convince the giant demon to leave Earth well alone.
8. Black Panther – Lessons learnt
Black Panther's villain Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is angered by the African kingdom of Wakanda's lack of involvement in the wider world. After vanquishing his foe, our titular hero T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) realises the error of these isolationist ways, he opens up and shares the Wakandan technology with everyone.
T'Challa's moment of heroism is not action-packed, nor does it involve his vibranium suit; instead it comes from maturing and learning from his enemy's and his own mistakes.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy – All together
The Guardians' most heroic moment finds them at their best: united and standing together. As mysterious artefact the power stone (one of the all-powerful infinity stones seen in Avengers: Infinity War) tumbles through the air, Guardians leader Peter Quill/Star Lord (Chris Pratt) grabs hold of it.
When the stone begins to overpower him, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) takes his hand, then Drax (Dave Bautista) and finally Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) as the team share the power and destruction of an infinity stone as one courageous team, defeating evil Ronan (Lee Pace) in the process.
6. Hawkeye – "None of this makes sense!"
Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is set to make a big impact in Endgame, arriving in his ronin costume from the comics to no doubt kick some butt. But it's his pep talk to Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron that really hits the target.
In the midst of the battle of Sokovia, as the city begins to float above the ground and our super-powered heroine doubts herself, Hawkeye merely reminds her of the complete insanity of the situation, and the fact he's just a guy with a bow and arrow.
A great demonstration of Hawkeye's rarely seen leadership qualities, it also works as a reminder that amongst these gods and super soldiers, he's just a brave guy with a knack for archery.
5. Black Widow – No more secrets
Despite all of her fancy kicks and flips, Black Widow's most heroic moment comes with the tapping of a keyboard. During the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Cap discover that evil organisation HYDRA has been deeply embedded in government organisation S.H.I.E.L.D. for decades.
Widow then makes the decision to leak every S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA secret onto the internet – even her own. Quite the gesture for a spy with a dark, troubled past.
4. Hulk – "I'm always angry"
Another day, another huge battle and, to begin with, the battle of New York, as seen at the end of 2012's Avengers Assemble, is lacking something. Indeed, our heroes appear to be losing the fight against the chitauri aliens. But, as Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) sputters into frame on a little moped, we realise what that 'something' is.
As Captain America pries into what exactly Banner's secret is, Banner declares that he is always angry. In that moment he transforms into the big green smashing machine, taking out an equally hulking alien craft with a single, powerfully heroic punch – at the same time that we all collectively punch the air.
3. Thor – What an entrance
The beefy Asgardian's (Chris Hemsworth) most heroic moment couldn't be easier to choose. During the seat-gripping climax of Avengers: Infinity War, as our heroes are overwhelmed by an all-new race of invading aliens on the plains of Wakanda, thunder booms and lightning crackles as Thor descends upon the battleground.
Bruce Banner's elation at his arrival reflects our own, as Thor demonstrates wonderfully why he is the self-proclaimed strongest Avenger. Plus, his ensuing banter with Captain America and Guardians member Groot is one of the most entertaining parts of the movie.
2. Captain America – So… many... moments...
As 2011's The First Avenger demonstrated, genetically enhanced super-soldier Captain America's (Chris Evans) origins stretch way back to World War II. Meanwhile, his subsequent adventures The Winter Soldier and Civil War have unleashed him on the 21st century. That means we've got a lot of material to choose from.
In the first movie, before he had the muscles and was plain old Steve Rogers, he throws his skinny physique onto a grenade to save his comrades during a boot camp drill. This heroic act made Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) choose the scrawny soldier for his super-soldier experiment.
The second moment we've chosen, in The Winter Soldier, is much more muscular. Here, Rogers partakes in arm-wrestling with a helicopter to show us all why he is the worthy leader of this superhero team.
1. Iron Man – The nuke
Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is the one who birthed the MCU, and so it stands to reason that his most heroic moment is one of self-sacrifice and growth.
As a host of deadly chitauri aliens invade Manhattan during Avengers Assemble, shadowy S.H.I.E.L.D. bureaucrats decide to nuke New York city to eradicate the threat altogether. As the nuclear bomb launched by S.H.I.E.L.D. hurtles towards the Big Apple, Stark, usually a man of hubris driven by his own desires, puts all that aside to divert the nuke into a wormhole on a one-way suicide mission.
He lives, of course, but not before learning a valuable, heroic lesson – one that will haunt him in the subsequent Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).
Jon Fuge is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team