We come to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the epic battles, the sweeping sci-fi spectacle, and the motivating stories about making good on the utmost of which we're capable. But more than any of that we come to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the friendships.
Corny though it may be, no critical punch or expertly slung web can compare with the oomph of Steve Rogers' love for Bucky Barnes, or Natasha Romanova's dry-witted banter with Clint Barton, or the beautifully toxic affections coursing every which way throughout the Guardians of the Galaxy. In 10 years and 18 films, we may have thought we'd seen the very best of the MCU's exploits in esprit de corps. But with more new pairings than we could have ever dreamed to see, the veritable buffet of BFFery that is Avengers: Infinity War has proved us delightfully wrong.
But which of these budding friendships ranks the most heartwarming? The most badass? The most bizarre? We've got thoughts on the lot right here, with a ranking of Infinity War's best new pair-ups!
17. Tony Stark and Doctor Strange
The collision of two egos of caliber fueling the every word of Tony Stark and Stephen Strange seems like it would spoil any group retreat to the Titan countryside. And sure enough, Infinity War treads mighty close to overdoing it when it comes to Iron Man and the Sorcerer Supreme’s interplanetary squabbles. Luckily, neither of these self-styled alpha dogs can get away with commanding as much attention as he’d like, thanks to some valiant hamming by Spider-Man, Star-Lord, Mantis, and Drax. As such, the Tony/Strange material we do get keeps within the margins of the good kind of obnoxious.
16. Peter Parker and Mantis
Peter and Mantis don't exactly kick things off on the right foot; upon first sight of each other, Mantis attacks Peter for his perceived allegiance to Thanos and Peter accuses Mantis of trying to lay eggs in his corpse. But soon enough, these two make good on every entomophile's dying wish and join forces to wage a blitzkrieg on the Mad Titan. Peter's web-slinging and Mantis' mind-controlling prove a stunningly effective means of containing Thanos, as a matter of fact... that is, until Peter Quill screws things up.
15. Tony Stark and Drax
Despite spending a healthy sum of time together camping out on the desolate Titan, plotting to get the drop on Thanos, and marinating in the existential turmoils of the impending halfpocalypse, Tony and Drax the Destroyer don't purvey a ton of memorable interactions. But they do earn placement on this list thanks to what is at once Infinity War's dumbest joke and that at which I laughed the hardest:
Peter Quill: "Where is Gamora?"
Tony Stark: I'll do you one better: Who is Gamora?
Drax: "I'll do you one better: Why is Gamora?"
14. Tony Stark and Peter Quill
Just a touch more affable than Stark's ongoing pissing contest with Doctor Strange is his concurrent showdown in bravado with the self-ascribed Star-Lord. Swapping out the Doc's haughty eye-rolls and highbrow tongue-lashings for Quill's bridge-and-tunnel brand of cocksure, we get a breed of alpha male better suited to spar with Tony: one who hasn't had everything handed to him, rather who's managed to earn that undue confidence all on his own.
13. Doctor Strange and Peter Parker
Strange spends much of his time onscreen talking down not only to Tony, but to his (the Doc's words) ward Peter Parker. Pete gets the better of the self-serious wizard early on, however, with a winning jab at his ridiculous name. Leave it to the indelibly earnest young buck to take the Sorcerer Supreme down a few pegs without even trying.
12. Thor and Rabbit… I mean, Rocket
The Prince of Asgard has thus far undergone three standalone exploits in personal growth, and yet he still can’t be bothered to learn the name, or even species, of his newest friend and copilot. On the other hand, this pair-up allows Rocket to show off some newfound maturity, namely when he tries to pep-talk Thor through his mourning of his brother and parents, and tosses him a spare eyeball for good measure.
11. Thanos and Red Skull
This one earns recognition for the sheer "What?!" factor.
10. Peter Parker and Doctor Strange's cape
Landing somewhere between early MCU Jarvis and mid MCU Bucky on the Is This Guy Actually Sentient, or What? spectrum, the Cloak of Levitation has shown off something of a personality all its own in its first two big screen appearances. The feisty mantle generally just keeps close to its chosen master, but it gets a few fun moments with some of the Doc's new colleagues in Infinity War—particularly with Spider-Man, the only of the bunch who treats COL with the dignity it deserves.
9. Okoye and Bruce Banner
Wakanda's fiercest warrior and the Avengers' most huggable liability don't share a single line of dialogue in Infinity War. What they give us instead is one wordless, soon-to-be-GIFed-to-excess moment in which Okoye tosses Bruce a look of absolute disgust when she catches sight of him tripping over his own Hulkbuster-armored feet on the battlefield of her home turf. It speaks volumes.
8. Thor and Groot's arm
Groot himself doesn't so much as give Thor the time of day for the bulk of Infinity War. But when it gets down to the wire, the Guardians' taciturn brute sets aside his teenage ambivalence for one shining moment to give a god on the brink of death a literal hand. Groot's voluntarily severed arm becomes the helve for Thor's replacement Mjölnir (a.k.a. Mew Mew Two Two), and as such his entryway into the film's grand climax, thusly the demise of countless pitiable outriders.
7. Wong and Tony Stark
Before Infinity War opts to confine Wong to oblivion in the Kamar-Taj Library, he gets the chance to show off some of that mystic artistry we’re always hearing about on the mean streets of New York, with new friends Tony Stark and Bruce Banner at his side. (Quick note: Did no one think said magic artistry could have come in mighty handy in combat with Thanos in Wakanda? Couldn’t Rhodey have kept an eye on the sacred texts for a couple days? He’s responsible!) Wong and Tony make for a formidable pair on the battlefield—so keenly in step are they, in fact, that one particularly swift maneuver prompts Tony to promise Wong an invitation to his impending wedding—but also in the far more important department of shtick. One of Infinity War's funniest comic routines involves Wong and Stark ruminating on their favorite Avengers-inspired flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream (much to Bruce Banner's bemusement).
6. Rocket and Bucky
I can’t say that #Rucky was high on the list of MCU pair-ups I was expecting to be enchanted by, but the reformed sleeper agent and the genetically engineered procyonid made for a pretty stalwart force amid a herd of attacking outriders. Better even than Bucky employing his new bionic arm to wield a trigger-happy Rocket was the latter’s avowal to swipe his new friend’s superpowered limb when all is said and done. Something tells me Avengers 4 will make good on that promise.
5. Drax and Thor
Peter Quill stands alone among the Guardians of the Galaxy in his ambivalence over the Milano's newest visitor, a bruised and beat-up Thor. In fact, the rest of the group is quite taken with him, but no one more so than Drax the Destroyer. So overwhelmed with awe over Thor's Asgardian physique, Drax suggests that Thor is what would would result if "a pirate had a baby with an angel." Preach, Drax.
4. Black Widow and Okoye
By far the greatest exhibition of badassery in all of Infinity War comes from the teaming up of everyone's favorite KGB defect and the Dora Milaje's head honcho. They don't share too much dialogue, but they sure do seem perfectly in sync when laying waste to one Proxima Midnight.
3. Peter Parker and Quill
It should come as little surprise that one of the funniest moments in the joke-heavy Infinity War spawned from the union of the Marvel universe’s two most reliable purveyors of sass and pop culture savvy. Upon first crossing paths on Titan, the Peters engage in a battle over a matter far more important than the salvation of half of all life in the known universe: the good name of Footloose, which Quill contends is "the best movie ever made" and Parker insists is... not. The vexed expression that Chris Pratt tosses at Tom Holland when the latter besmirches the 1984 danceterpiece is, perhaps, his greatest actorial feat since he first spilled his guts to Hannah on Everwood.
2. Shuri and Bruce Banner
Not since the Hulk unleashed his rage upon a bloated-headed Loki has the Marvel canon seen such an exhibition of pure, unfiltered pwnage. This time, Bruce Banner is on the receiving end of the shame phasers, wielded to great delight by the incomparably brilliant Shuri. The Wakandan wunderkind may have pulled no punches when schooling Bruce in the delicate science of Vision-splicing, but both parties' good humor throughout has us dying to see the ingenious pair become permanent lab partners.
1. Steve Rogers and Groot
To most of the world, Groot is an adorable oddity. But Captain America, agent of diplomacy, instantly accepts the adolescent Floral Colossus as his equal. Perhaps no interaction in all of the MCU has packed quite as much charm as this pair’s exchange of pleasantries on the battlefields of Wakanda:
Groot: “I am Groot!”
Steve Rogers: “I am Steve Rogers.”
If only we could all see the world through your eyes, Cap.
Which is your favorite of Infinity War's new pair-ups? Let us know!