Very little makes my fangirl heart happier than superheroes hugging each other.
It doesn’t matter if the hug is romantic or platonic, or even if it’s a sad hug instead of happy one; I’m a fan of seeing comic book characters giving and seeking emotional support, and hugging, specifically, is an act of warmth and kindness that can bring more humanity and depth to larger-than-life personalities. Call me a softie, but people embracing one another is such a common gesture for greetings and reassurance that when it’s absent from character interactions, onscreen relationships can start to feel a bit stiff and lacking to me.
So, imagine my delight when Avengers: Infinity War gave us FIVE hugs in its two and a half hour runtime—yes, five. In the midst of huge stakes, wild action, and quite a few somber moments, this movie was still able to squeeze in a handful of solid hugs.
This is how it should be.
Beyond fangirling, these moments serve as great reminders, for viewers of all ages, that our personal connections are our greatest strength—and that this is true even for people with extraordinary abilities.
Here, I’m ranking all five hugs based on emotional impact and character enthusiasm. Please join me on this quest of feels.
5. Rhodey and Natasha
To start things off, let me be clear that there are no losers on this list. Every hug is a good hug! But this particular one is also easily the least memorable in the movie—I had honestly forgotten about it until I rewatched. Still, it’s a happy little hug between two friends who haven’t seen each other (or, presumably, communicated at all) in a quite a while.
This hug occurs just after Natasha, Steve, and Sam arrive at Rhodey’s lab with Wanda and Vision in tow. As the group greets Rhodey, Natasha steps forward and happily embraces him. Blink and you could miss it, but I love that it was included, since it makes the scene and their greeting feel that much more personal and realistic.
In a movie with only one or two hugs, this one might have been more of a standout, but in this case, we have four more to go! So, respectively, this hug gets a 5/10.
4. Steve and Bucky
I was pretty excited for all the Stucky shippers when this greeting played out, only to later discover that many of them apparently found it far too brief and casual … which, you know, I can kind of understand. I mean, I’m pretty neutral on this ship, but everyone knows these two love each other.
The directors did confirm that they approached this greeting as though the two had already interacted in the time since Bucky’s recovery in Wakanda—which strikes me as a good move, since it’s hard to imagine Steve postponing their reunion for any reason. So, while a more dramatic “at long last” embrace might have worked well, here, the current tone does make sense in context. (And I’m confident that fanfic writers are filling in the gaps!)
As it stands, this hug serves to put their friendship in quick context, while also becoming somewhat heartbreaking in retrospect: Since Bucky is one of many characters who dissolve at the end of the movie, this becomes their last-ever hug (as far as they know). It’s probably not a stretch to say that Steve also wishes it had lasted a little longer, in hindsight. (Am I right, shippers?) If the results of the snap are undone in next summer’s sequel as so many fans expect, I’d wager we’ll see another hug—and a much less casual one, next time.
Looking at the current, final hug on its own, I’m calling it a 7/10.
3. Young Gamora and her mother
As heartbreaking as it is to consider all Thanos stole from Gamora by invading her homeworld of Zen-Whoberi, I was genuinely excited to catch a glimpse of her planet and gain some new insight into her backstory. This tender moment with little Gamora, held tightly in her mother’s arms as they hide from the chaos outside, reveals Gamora’s final memories of her life before Thanos appointed himself as her adoptive father.
The tragic scene on Zen-Whoberi is also one of many reasons my mind is boggled by fans who try to assert that Thanos’s actions and goals are even partially justified. We plainly see a child ripped away from her loving mother, who is then mercilessly executed along with half of the planet’s population. The scope of the grief and psychological damage Thanos leaves in his wake is unimaginable—no end goal could ever be defensible at such a high price. For anyone out there still hanging onto that “devil’s advocate” position, I invite you to visualize how Gamora might react if you said it to her face.
What’s more, hugs between mothers and daughters are something I’d love to see more often in all genres of film, but maybe especially in sci-fi. Altogether, I’m giving it an 8/10.
2. Tony and Peter Parker
Yes, we’ve arrived at the film’s most distressing hug. This, of course, comes during the post-snap scene on Titan, which nearly everyone can quote by now: “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good.” The directors confirmed that Peter’s Spider-sense allows him to feel the effects of the dissolve earlier than others, and as it takes hold, he throws himself against Tony. Helpless to save him and undoubtedly in shock, Tony holds him for a moment before easing him down onto the rocky terrain, where Peter turns to dust.
It might seem odd not to rank this hug as #1 given its likely place in MCU history as the most gut-wrenching embrace of all time. But in that same vein, I actually think the shock and sadness of Peter’s death (and Tom Holland’s heartbreaking monologue) somewhat override the impact of the panicked hug, by itself. Still, I’m giving this extremely sad hug a 9.5/10.
1. Bruce and Tony
In my super official Hug Scoring Book, Bruce totally takes the gold for the way he doesn’t hold back in throwing his arms around Tony and leaning into the embrace. (I also just really want to end on a happy hug, alright?)
Not only has Bruce missed his close friend, but it’s a pretty surefire bet that he’s relieved to finally be back on Earth after his (mis)adventures in Thor: Ragnarok. Tony is understandably stunned, sparing a disbelieving glance at an equally speechless Pepper as he returns the hug. Fans have been waiting for Tony and Bruce to reunite since the Hulk went off the grid at the end of the previous Avengers installment, Age of Ultron—their geeky friendship was a major strong point in that otherwise messy movie—and now we finally have science bros bro-ing once more!
On top of all that, Bruce knows that he’s going to have to deliver the worst news his friend has ever heard, which is a shitty way to make a comeback—so it’s sort of an apologetic, happy, and reassurance-seeking hug all at the same time. For his part, Tony finally has confirmation that Bruce is still alive after he vanished without a trace.
This is the type of hug fangirl dreams are made of! Before anyone asks: No, I’m not wearing shipper goggles here, either—I just can’t help but adore this moment since their greeting could have played out with no hug, and that might have seemed appropriate, with Doctor Strange practically muttering “tick, tock” nearby. But given this established friendship, the hug is just so much better. It has the added bonus of making us laugh a little, both at Bruce’s characteristic awkwardness and Tony’s bewildered reaction, before they get into the heavy stuff. 10/10, flawless hug!
Although this rollercoaster of a film blessed us with several hugs, I think there was room for even more—particularly with such an enormous cast of heroes! In a movie that featured multiple romantic relationships, I’m actually surprised that we didn’t get a genuine embrace between any of the established couples—kisses, yes, but no full-on hugs. There’s nothing lesser about platonic/friendship hugs, of course, and this movie really delivers for mushy hug-loving softies like me.
Looking to the uncertain future of the MCU, with so many unanswered questions and lives lost, one thing remains certain: There could never be too many hugs in any given film. The sequel could be titled Avengers: Infinity Hugs and open with a massive group hug including all the surviving Avengers, and I’d be on cloud nine.
Which of the Infinity War hugs carried the most weight for you? Every fan’s takeaway is different, so let me know how you’d rank them in the comments!
Alicia Kania is a writer and publishing professional based in Dallas. Frequently seen fangirling, reading sci-fi novels, and taking photos of her cat. Follow her on Twitter at @aliciaofearth.
(images: Marvel Entertainment)
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