9 MCU Moments When Heroes Were Colder Than The Villains

When Yondu Whistled As He, Groot, And Rocket Eradicated The Ravagers

With a new supervillain making their arrival in nearly every film in the franchise, there’s no shortage of cold-blooded Marvel Cinematic Universe characters. But the harshest Marvel moments of all are not necessarily exclusive to the baddies. In fact, it’s always a little more impactful when the ruthlessness is committed by the heroes that audiences have come to know and love.

Obviously, no hero is going to match the sheer evil performed by the MCU’s greatest villains. But sometimes they’re equally capable of turning off their emotions and making heartbreaking decisions for the good of the Marvel Universe – or, even more rarely, for some less noble goal. Sometimes, cold-bloodedness is as cold-bloodedness does.

1. When Melina Vostokoff Showed Off Her Mind-Controlled Pig

When Melina Vostokoff Showed Off Her Mind-Controlled Pig

For someone of a generally heroic alignment, Melina Vostokoff has committed some truly horrific acts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, she was a maternal figure to Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova and helps them shut down the Red Room in Black Widow, but she also helps develop the brainwashing technology that empowers the Red Room in the first place – and she’s not shy about showing it off in the most disturbing way imaginable.

When her adoptive family tracks her down on her farm in Saint Petersburg, Melina is all too happy to show them what she’s been working on – namely, more mind-control tech. She summons a pig into the room and commands it to stop breathing, only to become visibly confused when the suffocating animal on the floor seems to bother everyone else.

Creating technology like that is heinous. Using it to force a creature to stop breathing is sadistic. Doing all that and not understanding why anyone else would have a problem with it? That’s just detachment to the point of cold-heartedness.

2. When Tony Stark Invited A Person With Physical Disabilities To A Fake Rooftop Meeting

When Tony Stark Invited A Person With Physical Disabilities To A Fake Rooftop Meeting 

It’s no real secret that, prior to becoming Iron Man, Tony Stark was a bit of a jerk. Really, it’s the whole point of his character arc. But it didn’t become apparent until Iron Man 3 just how much of an unrepentant bully he could really be, and by then, it was far too late to prevent the consequences of his past actions from catching up with him.

A flashback scene reveals Stark meeting the physically disabled Aldrich Killian at a party in 1999 and feigning interest in Killian’s Extremis project. Not content with merely teasing Killian, Stark tells the would-be entrepreneur he will meet him on the rooftop to discuss their future collaboration – but then he leaves to cavort with Maya Hansen instead.

Left alone on a cold rooftop that was presumably fairly difficult for him to access, Killian considers jumping over the ledge and ending his life right then and there. That he decides otherwise – and goes on to found a multi-billion-dollar criminal science collective – doesn’t do much to take the sting out of Stark’s wanton cruelty in this instance. 

Stark isn’t just rude to Killian – he zeroes in on the most spiteful prank he can think of and goes for it, just to get out of a conversation. It’s enough to make Killian’s villainous turn almost seem justified. 

3. When Thor Tried To Incite A Genocidal War Against Jotunheim

When Thor Tried To Incite A Genocidal War Against Jotunheim

Thor reaches the climax of his heroic journey when he comes face-to-face with the genocidal Mad Titan, Thanos. That’s fairly significant, too, because Thor starts out his time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe trying to incite a genocidal war of his own, and for far less benevolent reasons.

Whereas Thanos wants to commit a mass random slaughter to balance the universe, the God of Thunder just wants to do it because he’s bored – and because the Frost Giants ruined his big day.

Thor’s coronation is interrupted by a Jotunheim incursion, and that’s all the impetus he needs to launch a counter-invasion, against the strict orders of his father. Once there, Thor and his allies break the peace treaty and start a fight that will almost certainly end in the near-eradication of the Frost Giants – and when Odin shows up to save the day, Thor is still blood-lusted and shouting for his father to join in on the rout. 

By that point, Thor is more than a thousand years old, which is more than old enough to understand the full implications of an ethnic war. And yet, he tries really, really hard to start one, and there’s nobody waiting around to bury an ax in him for his hubris. 

4. When Maria Hill Tried To Shoot Hawkeye Minutes After He’d Been Brainwashed

When Maria Hill Tried To Shoot Hawkeye Minutes After He’d Been Brainwashed

Maria Hill is sort of omnipresent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – never in the forefront, but always lurking somewhere in the shadows ready to act. The reason why she is Nick Fury’s most trusted deputy becomes apparent as early as The Avengers, in which she demonstrates how quickly she’s willing to follow orders without questioning them, even if those orders involve firing on her friends.

Moments after Clint Barton is Mind Stone-washed by Loki and turned over to the dark side, Hill passes him in the hallway before hearing a single, two-word message from Fury over the radio: “Barton’s compromised.” By that point, Hill had worked with Barton for years, but those two words are all she needs to hear to turn and start firing at Clint and his entourage. 

She has to duck out of the way of Hawkeye’s return fire and doesn’t actually manage to land any shots herself, but she’s undoubtedly trying to. Without knowing the full circumstances of the situation, Hill doesn’t try to reason or negotiate with Barton, or to subdue him peacefully. Instead, she starts shooting first and leaves the question-asking for later, because that’s what her mission calls for, and that’s all that ever matters to Maria Hill.

5. When Black Widow Took Her Shot At Dreykov In Budapest

When Black Widow Took Her Shot At Dreykov In Budapest

Unlike most heroes in the MCU, the Black Widow made her reputation on mercilessness. By the time she became an Avenger, she’d built up a ledger so red that even saving the world a few times couldn’t make up for it – and no moment was redder than the infamous “Dreykov’s daughter” incident. 

Natasha Romanoff’s goals in Budapest were noble, as she tried to simultaneously escape her life of bondage and put an end to the Red Room once and for all by assassinating General Dreykov. Doing so would have saved countless young women from being abducted, trafficked, and indoctrinated into Black Widow training. 

The plan, however, involved confirming Dreykov’s location via the presence of his daughter, Antonia, and when Antonia stayed in the building with her father, Natasha gave the order to blow it up anyway. In doing so, Romanoff thought she’d sacrificed the life of an innocent young girl in order to bring her criminal father to justice – and though the mission would haunt her for the rest of her life, Romanoff was ultimately able to convince herself that it was a necessary action.

Blowing up a child is ruthless any way one slices it. Doing so and still managing to feel mostly okay about it? That takes nerves of ice. That both Antonia and her father happened to survive the incident does little to change the implications.

6. When Ayo Unapologetically Disconnected Bucky Barnes’s Prosthetic Arm

When Ayo Unapologetically Disconnected Bucky Barnes’s Prosthetic Arm

Through appearances in Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther, Ayo has established herself as an important supporting character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but she doesn’t get to show off much of her personality until The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. There, her close bond with Bucky Barnes, forged in Wakanda, is revealed, but that only serves to further accentuate the cruelty of her actions when the two find themselves in conflict.

In the heat of a battle over Barnes’s freeing of Baron Zemo from prison, Ayo reaches out with her hand and presses a secret button on Bucky’s Wakandan-made prosthetic arm, causing it to disconnect and fall to the ground immediately. The look on Bucky’s face says it all: It’s an act of betrayal, to be sure, but it’s also a pretty callous thing to do to a person with a physical disability. Ayo, dedicated member of the Dora Milaje that she is, doesn’t seem to have the capacity to care any less.

Ayo might as well have said, “Just remember, Barnes, you’ve only got two arms because of us, and we can take one of them away at any time.” How could a guy not come away from an interaction like this with some serious trust issues?

7. When Yondu Whistled As He, Groot, And Rocket Eradicated The Ravagers

When Yondu Whistled As He, Groot, And Rocket Eradicated The Ravagers

When Yondu Udonta strolls through the Eclector, accompanied by Rocket and Groot and laying waste to his former crewmates in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, he has every right to be upset. He has just been subjected to a mutiny and came within a breath of being ejected into space alongside those Ravagers still loyal to him. Slaying Taserface isn’t just justifiable at that point, it’s downright desirable to everyone involved.

But Yondu doesn’t just target Taserface and his lieutenants. He wholesale slaughters everyone on board, and he whistles as he works – both for enjoyment, and to facilitate his Yaka arrow plunging through the dozens of bodies falling all around him.

Surely, there are some members of the crew who have been pressured into mutiny and regret their decision, much like Kraglin. There may even be those who are biding their time and waiting to overthrow Taserface at their first opportunity. But Yondu doesn’t care. He massacres each and every one of the crew he’d just been palling around with the day before, and he doesn’t even take a second to feel bad about it. 

Neither do Rocket and Groot, for the record, but they don’t have the same emotional attachments, so their ruthlessness is less morally problematic. 

8. When Doctor Strange Made Sure Kaecilius Was Punished As Part Of The Deal With Dormammu

When Doctor Strange Made Sure Kaecilius Was Punished As Part Of The Deal With Dormammu

At the climax of Doctor Strange, the titular sorcerer heads to the Dark Dimension for some especially terse and lengthy negotiations with Dormammu. After trapping Dormammu in a time loop and getting slain a few thousand times, Strange manages to extract a deal out of the extra-dimensional entity: Leave Earth forever and take the zealots with you.

Strange returns to Hong Kong just in time to watch Kaecilius and his followers get sucked into the Dark Dimension for an eternity of torment. It’s an incredibly awful fate to consign someone to, even someone as troublesome as Kaecilius, and it’s also something that Strange absolutely chooses out of myriad other options.

This is, after all, the extremely well-read Sorcerer Supreme-to-be Stephen Strange, and he’s got a lot of resources at his disposal. Surely, with the threat of Dormammu off the board, there was a more peaceable way to deal with the suddenly limited threat of Kaecilius and the zealots. Honestly, just outright slaying them would probably be kinder. Instead, Strange makes the efficient but ruthless decision to have them removed from the picture entirely, forever.

It’s a practical choice, but an undeniably harsh one.

9. When Star-Lord Tried To One-Up Thor’s Tale Of Family Grief

When Star-Lord Tried To One-Up Thor’s Tale Of Family Grief

It’s clear from the get-go in Avengers: Infinity War that Peter Quill feels intimidated by the presence of Thor on his ship. Amid comments from his crewmates about Thor’s angelic nature and fibrous muscles, Star-Lord starts to overcompensate – and then, as he often does, he takes things way too far. 

When Thor learns that Gamora is the daughter of Thanos, he doesn’t react angrily. Instead, he meets Gamora with sympathy, acknowledging that families can be tough, and opens up again about his own recent familial tragedies. Quill takes this as an opportunity for one-upmanship, immediately launching into a tirade:

“I feel your pain, as well, because… I mean, it’s not a competition, but I’ve been through a lot. My father killed my mother. And then I had to kill my father. That was hard. Probably even harder than having to kill a sister. Plus, I came out with both my eyes, which was…”

It’s a bit of dialogue that is played for laughs, but it’s also really, really callous. Hearing someone tell you that their entire family is recently deceased, and trying to top their trauma, isn’t very funny at all. It’s just cold-hearted, even if it’s driven by warm-blooded jealousy.