The MCU relies heavily on superhero clichés, perpetuating common tropes and stereotypes in its movies and TV shows. The franchise often features the destruction of cities in epic superpowered showdowns, offering massive action spectacles. The MCU frequently utilizes clichés such as inspirational third-act moments, reluctant mentors, fake character deaths, and parallels between heroes and villains.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has come to define modern comic book movies, but it still leans heavily on a number of superhero clichés. Superhero stories have enjoyed many decades of pop culture success, and a number of tropes have been established within the genre that endure to this day. The movies of the MCU adapt some of Marvel’s most beloved characters and their stories to the big screen, but in doing so, they often perpetuate a number of superhero stereotypes. As a franchise that continues to define the genre, the MCU relies heavily on its use of superhero clichés.

As the MCU has established itself a formula that has made it the most successful and profitable movie franchise of all time, it’s only logical that it continues to tap into the same ideas. However, from the beginning of the MCU’s movie timeline, the franchise has adapted the stories of the comics which are responsible for the birth of many common superhero tropes. These narrative or visual elements usually link directly to the moral simplicity and duality of superhero stories, but some have become more specifically part of the superhero movie genre. With that in mind, here are 10 of the biggest superhero clichés the MCU still uses.

10 Cities Keep Getting Destroyed

The Avengers (2012), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), Etc.

One of the most common superhero movie clichés is that a metropolitan area becomes collateral damage in an epic superpowered showdown, and it’s an idea that the MCU has tapped into many times. From Phase 1’s Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and The Avengers, to Phase 2’s devastation in Sokovia, all the way through to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which sees Namor and his Talokan army attack and destroy much of Wakanda’s Golden City. It’s a cliché that runs through the heart of the movies and TV shows of the MCU, offering massive action spectacles with each new instance.

9 The Inspirational Third-Act Moment

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Etc.

Though a big emotional boost during the third act isn’t specific to superhero movies, it’s a trope that’s found all too commonly in the genre. With such high-stakes stories, the MCU often needs to amp up its drama, which is regularly achieved through a late-stage moment of hopelessness and despair for the heroes. This is almost always offset by an inspirational act of heroism or sacrifice, or occasionally a poignant speech that uplifts the crestfallen characters. Perhaps the MCU’s best examples of the cliché are in Quicksilver’s sacrifice in Avengers: Age of Ultron or Yondu’s in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

8 A Massive Battle That The Hero Only Briefly Takes Part In

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

As superhero movies commonly depict potentially world-ending conflicts, it’s only logical that some result in huge, large-scale battles. However, some, such as that in the ending of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, only actually draw the hero’s attention for a few brief moments, withthe protagonist instead ignoring the plight of the unfortunate masses in order to face off with their nemesis (often in a separate location). It’s a common superhero movie cliché, and the MCU perpetuates it as much as any other franchise.

Ant-Man (2015), Captain Marvel (2019), Moon Knight (2022)

Making a hero feel relatable to the audience in spite of their remarkable abilities isn’t always an easy task, but the MCU uses one of the oldest superhero clichés there is. When introducing heroes, their stories almost always link to past trauma or misdeeds, attempting to overcome their past to become the strongest version of themselves. Almost every MCU hero can be squared away with this particular cliché, because it’s such a well-established way of helping the audience connect with protagonists wielding god-like powers.

6 The Reluctant Mentor Learns To Appreciate Their Sidekick

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Hawkeye (2021), Etc.

With the MCU beginning to move on from its original cast of heroes, the franchise has begun introducing new characters to replace them. In many cases, these characters act as sidekicks to the franchise’s original heroes, being mentored by their predecessors before stepping into their heroic shoes. A common trope regarding this relationship is the reluctant older hero begrudgingly embracing the younger hero, with the MCU doing so using the likes of Iron Man and Spider-Man, Hank Pym and Scott Lang, and Hawkeye and Kate Bishop. The grouchy mentor with the heart of gold is a standard superhero cliché, and the MCU uses it perfectly.

5 Death Is Rarely Permanent

Thor: The Dark World (2013), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Etc.

In the dangerous field of hero work, death is an occupational hazard. However, much as in Marvel Comics, the MCU is filled with death fakeouts, where characters appear to be killed only to shockingly return shortly after. One of the most common culprits of this cliché is Loki, the Asgardian trickster god, but other characters have also been used to the same end. Star-Lord, Vision, Bucky Barnes, and Nick Fury have all been “killed” only to return to life through various narrative means. It’s a superhero cliché for a reason, and it’s something that the MCU certainly doesn’t shy away from.

4 The (Secondary) Villain Having A Change Of Heart

Thor: The Dark World (2013), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), Etc.

Though superhero stories are commonly categorized as relatively simple iterations of good versus evil, there are always characters with more complex moral depth. In fact, throughout the history of the franchise, antagonists have been turning good after understanding the error of their ways. It’s rarely the major villains, but secondary antagonists who follow this cliché – Loki, Nebula, Wanda Maximoff, MODOK, Adam Warlock, Ms Marvel‘s Kamran, and many more all fit the profile. It’s made clear that not all antagonists are incapable of redemption in the MCU, playing directly into one of the most common tropes in the genre.

3 The Villain Is Accidentally Created By The Hero

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), Etc.

Another common superhero cliché that the MCU often plays into sees superheroes creating their own villains. This almost always occurs when the hero acts with the best of intentions, only for it to go awry and create or facilitate a dangerous villain. Most of the best MCU examples stem from Iron Man, such as Ultron or Whiplash, but Spider-Man is another culprit, gifting Mysterio the EDITH glasses and accidentally summoning multiple villains from other realities in Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s perhaps not the most common trope in the MCU, but it’s a cliché that the franchise often subtly uses.

2 Post-Credits Scenes

Almost All MCU Movies

Though post-credits scenes are not specifically a superhero cliché, the MCU popularized the idea to the point that the mid-credits stinger is now synonymous with superhero cinema. Iron Man began the trend, with Nick Fury appearing to tease the existence of other heroes within the wider universe. In the years since, the MCU has made repeated use of the idea, often hinting at future projects or setting up sequels within the franchise. As a result, it has become something of a cliché, and it’s one that the MCU continues to employ in almost all of its projects.

1 Parallels Between The Hero & Villain

The Incredible Hulk (2008), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Black Panther (2018), Etc.

One of the most common clichés in the superhero genre is that the hero and villain are dark reflections of one another. This is an idea that the MCU cannot seem to leave behind, with countless examples of the cliché appearing throughout the franchise. Captain America and the Red Skull, Hulk and Abomination, Black Panther and Killmonger, Iron Man and Iron Monger – all of these MCU pairings share a near-identical set of powers, with the only crucial difference being their personal qualities. It’s a superhero cliché as old as time, and it’s one that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has used to great effect.

Key Release Dates

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 The MCU still leans on certain clichés.  Read More