Summary

  • Regular humans in the MCU have displayed some brilliant feats of power, strength and quick-thinking, proving that valiant actions make someone a hero, not just superhuman gifts.
  • Human characters have contributed to some of the MCU’s most thrilling and impactful moments.
  • These powerful moments from regular humans in the MCU show that even average individuals can be great and make a difference.

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Many of the most impressive displays of power in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been carried out by characters that don’t have any superpowers whatsoever. Since Marvel Studios kicked off the MCU with 2008’s Iron Man, the franchise’s superhuman, enhanced and technologically-advanced heroes have been front-and-center in almost every adventure. However, many of the MCU’s most powerful characters don’t have any superpowers at all, and have provided the MCU with some of its greatest moments over the last 16 years, with these sometimes being even more impactful as they prove even average humans can display the power of a superhero.

One of the strongest aspects of the MCU’s development since 2008 has been Marvel Studios’ excellent world-building, and this has gone hand-in-hand with introducing a plethora of regular human characters inhabiting the world of enhanced heroes and villains. While the likes of Steve Rogers’ Captain America, Asgardian God of Thunder Thor, Bruce Banner’s Hulk and Master of the Mystic Arts Doctor Strange have showcased incredibly powerful abilities, the MCU’s average humans have also delivered their own feats of strength and quick-thinking. Both heroes and villains, Marvel Studios’ human characters have contributed to some of the MCU’s most thrilling moments.

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10 Harley Keener Incapacitates Savin With A Flash Bomb

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Harley Keener trapped by Savin in Iron Man 3

Back in 2013’s Iron Man 3, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark employed the help of Harley Keener, portrayed by Ty Simpkins, after finding himself stranded in Tennessee. Keener helped the armored Avenger in his fight against Aldrich Killian’s Extremis-empowered soldiers, and in return, Stark gave Keener advice on how to deal with bullies. This led to Keener’s show of strength when taken captive by Savin, one of Killian’s henchmen, as Keener ignited a flash bomb, distracting the villain and allowing Stark to incapacitate him. This was an incredibly rewarding moment, perhaps teasing Harley Keener’s future as an MCU hero.

9 Yinsen Sacrifices Himself For Tony Stark

Iron Man (2008)

Marvel Studios’ first live-action project, Iron Man, marked the origin story of Tony Stark’s titular Iron Man, but he couldn’t have done it alone. After being taken captive by the Ten Rings in Afghanistan, Stark worked with Shaun Toub’s Ho Yinsen to create the miniaturized arc reactor and the first Iron Man suit, using scraps from Stark Industries weapons. Yinsen’s greatest feat of strength, however, came when he chose to sacrifice his life to ensure Stark had enough time to suit up and escape the cave, paying the ultimate price to give the world one of its most beloved superheroes.

Shaun Toub reprised the role of Ho Yinsen in the opening moments of 2013’s Iron Man 3, where he attended a lecture given by a drunk Tony Stark at the Bern 2000 conference in Bern, Switzerland, in 1999. He referred to this event in Iron Man after the pair became Ten Rings captives together.

8 Peggy Carter Saves Captain America’s Life

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Peggy Carter saving Steve Rogers' life in Captain America The First Avenger

During Steve Rogers’ final attack on the Red Skull’s compound in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, there was a moment where Chris Evans’ super soldier was cornered by a HYDRA soldier armed with flamethrowers. Thanks to the entrance of Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter, however, Captain America’s life was saved, and subsequently, the Red Skull was defeated and the world’s end was prevented. This was a very powerful moment for Carter, whose variant has gone on to be a cornerstone of the MCU’s What If…? stories, with her actions allowing Steve Rogers to save the world and become an Avenger.

7 Yelena Belova Takes Down General Dreykov’s Helicopter

Black Widow (2021)

Yelena Belova taking down General Dreykov's helicopter in Black Widow

Although 2021’s Black Widow had its problems, the Phase 4 project marked the strong introduction of Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, the surrogate sister of Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff. Yelena had also been raised in the Red Room, yet helped her sister take down the organization after breaking free from General Dreykov’s mind control. Yelena surely expected to sacrifice herself by jamming her staff into the engines of Dreykov’s helicopter, but this would have been a small price to pay for taking out the villain. Thankfully, Yelena survived, making this one of her most powerful moments – despite dodgy visual effects.

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6 Phil Coulson Throws A Final Punch At Loki

The Avengers (2012)

Phil Coulson taking a final shot at Loki in The Avengers

One of the most emotional and heart-wrenching casualties of the MCU’s Phase 1 was Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson, though his death in 2012’s The Avengers did inspire the team to band together to take on Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Before dying, however, Coulson managed to get one final shot at Loki, blasting the God of Mischief through a wall with the weapon created from Asgard’s Destroyer. This cathartic moment saw Coulson got one last swing at Loki, though he would pass away soon after – and his subsequent career in Agents of SHIELD may not actually be canon to the MCU.

5 Wilson Fisk’s Kingpin Almost Bests Daredevil In Battle

Daredevil (2015)

In conjunction with the release of Echo, Marvel Studios integrated Netflix’s Defenders Saga into the MCU’s timeline on Disney+, suggesting the events of the Marvel Television shows may be MCU canon. This could include Daredevil and Kingpin’s battle in Daredevil season 1’s finale, which saw the rivals engage in a brutal and aggressive brawl in Hell’s Kitchen. Matt Murdock’s enhanced senses suggest he’d best Wilson Fisk in this battle, and even though he did, Kingpin certainly held his own. Granted, Fisk is immensely strong, but he has no superhuman abilities, making him holding his ground against Daredevil even more impressive.

4 Killmonger Defeats T’Challa In Ritual Combat

Black Panther (2018)

Killmonger defeating T'Challa in Black Panther

Black Panther saw Michael B. Jordan’s Erik “Killmonger” Stevens travel to Wakanda to oust his cousin, the late Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, from the throne, hoping to use Wakanda’s advanced resources to start a global race war. Killmonger proved his power during his challenge for the Wakandan throne, even though T’Challa had also been stripped of his Black Panther powers, as the villain easily defeated his cousin, throwing him from the cliff and into the waters below. Killmonger would later be bested by T’Challa’s Black Panther, but this was still an intense and emotional display of strength from the hardened soldier.

3 Katy Shoots The Dweller-In-Darkness

Shang-Chi & The Legend Of The Ten Rings (2021)

Katy shooting the Dweller-in-Darkness in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Phase 4’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings introduced Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi and Awkwafina’s Katy to the MCU. While Shang-Chi became a master of martial arts in Ta Lo, Katy was given a crash course in archery, and put her new skills to good use when the Dweller-in-Darkness attacked. Moments away from consuming the soul of the Great Protector, and therefore becoming unstoppable, the Dweller-in-Darkness was defeated by Shang-Chi with the help of Katy’s accurate aim. Both Shang-Chi and Katy have been teased as new Avengers members in the MCU’s future, though neither has been seen since 2021.

2 Baron Zemo Uses His Intelligence To Divide The Avengers

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Baron Zemo bringing down the Avengers in Captain America Civil War

Many villains have tried to destroy the Avengers since their formation in 2012’s The Avengers, but only one has actually succeeded. Daniel Brühl’s very human Baron Helmut Zemo succeeded in driving the Avengers apart during 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, using only espionage techniques, his advanced intelligence and the Avengers’ own paranoia. The final nail in the coffin was Zemo’s acquisition of a tape depicting Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. the Winter Soldier killing Tony Stark’s parents in 1991, proving villains don’t need physical strength to take on the Avengers, but need only use their own incredible strength against themselves.

Despite leading various iterations of the Thunderbolts team in Marvel Comics, Daniel Brühl’s Zemo has not been included on the first line-up of the team in Marvel Studios’ upcoming Thunderbolts project, though there is speculation he will be making a surprise appearance.

1 Sam Wilson Becomes Captain America

The Falcon & The Winter Soldier (2021)

Following his retirement in Avengers: Endgame, Steve Rogers passed the Captain America shield and mantle on to Sam Wilson, who had previously operated as the Falcon. 2021’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier explored Sam Wilson’s hesitation at becoming Captain America as a Black man in the United States, but he eventually decided to embrace the mantle, even without having super-soldier serum running through his veins. The fact that an average human such as Sam Wilson could become Captain America and be celebrated brings hope to every regular person hoping to do something heroic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe​​​​​​​.

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