We all wish we could be superheroes. While we may not be able to take some Super-Soldier serum, summon thunder and lightning, or fly around in an Iron Man suit, we can embody the spirit of our favorite Marvel characters by remembering the many pearls of wisdom they’ve dropped over the years. Here are 20 of our favorite inspirational quotes from the MCU:
1. "Don't waste it. Don't waste your life." (Ho Yinsen, Iron Man)
The final words of Ho Yinsen served as a wake-up call for Tony Stark and inspired him to become a hero. But every once and awhile, we can all use a reminder like this that our lifetimes are limited and we should use the time that we have wisely, especially since we don’t know when we’ll reach the end.
Tony took this sentiment to heart and spent the rest of his days being Iron Man and working to protect not only his world, but eventually the entire universe. While we might not have the power to do this in as flashy a manner, even seemingly small actions can be a force for good.
2. “I shouldn't be alive... unless it was for a reason. I'm not crazy, Pepper. I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it's right.” (Tony Stark, Iron Man)
The sentiment of this quote goes off the previous Iron Man quote listed above. Tony Stark has had an epiphany; he’s found his purpose in life and is now determined to follow it, even if others don’t understand.
It can be difficult following our dreams and passions when others don’t “get” them, and it’s often hard to explain to these people exactly why you care so much about them. Tony actually faced this a lot throughout the Infinity Saga; his loved ones and even the other Avengers were often perplexed by what he wanted to do to fulfill his mission of protecting the world.
Fortunately for him, they eventually understood where he was coming from, and that’s often the case in real life too. Even if those around you don’t initially support your aspirations, follow them anyway. Those pursuits might just pay off one day in the future.
3. “Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are, not a perfect soldier, but a good man.” (Dr. Abraham Erskine, Captain America: The First Avenger)
This quote not only sums up Steve Rogers very well, it reminds us that we can be the most highly-skilled person in our pursuits, but the most important thing we can be is a good person. Just like how Steve was chosen for the super-soldier experiment over physically stronger soldiers because of his willingness to put the needs and lives of others above his own, attributes like being a team player can often get you farther in life than fancy credentials and job-specific skills.
Also, it should be noted that Erskine says “good man”, not “perfect man”. Making mistakes and messing up is inevitable even for super-soldiers, and that’s okay as long as you learn from them and don’t allow them to define who you are.
4. “My armor was never a distraction or a hobby, it was a cocoon, and now I'm a changed man. You can take away my house, all my tricks and toys, but one thing you can't take away - I am Iron Man.” (Tony Stark, Iron Man 3)
Iron Man 3 finishes with a monologue from Tony Stark, ending with this sentiment. At this point in the saga, he has been Iron Man for several years and has saved the lives of millions of people, but here he reflects on how his heroics have changed his own life.
Before becoming Iron Man, things like his fancy house and “tricks and toys” were what defined him in the eyes of the world. But now it’s being Iron Man and helping the world. By the end of the Iron Man trilogy, Tony has reached the point where “Iron Man” doesn’t just refer to his suits anymore, but to the hero he has become inside and out of them.
Being defined by being a good person instead of things like fancy accolades and job titles truly is freeing. Even if the world wants to label you by these things, if you define yourself by your character then someday that’s how others will come to view you.
5. “It’s not about saving our world. It’s about saving theirs.” (Hank Pym, Ant-Man)
The MCU has included plenty of examples of children wanting to fix the mistakes of their parents, but Hank Pym’s statement to Scott Lang in Ant-Man shows a positive example of parenting. However, this sentiment can go beyond parental love.
Much like many of the other of the MCU’s most resonant quotes, this one is all about creating a better world. And most of us know children - even if they’re not our own children - whom we would do anything to keep safe and happy.
Sometimes we’re faced with tough decisions in life, and sometimes those result in sacrifices. But keeping in mind that many of those sacrifices are for the betterment of the future (maybe not for the entire planet, but likely our own families) usually makes those decisions a lot easier.
6. “If we can’t accept limitations, then we’re no better than the bad guys.” (Tony Stark, Captain America: Civil War)
Tony Stark says this in reference to the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War, but whether or not you’re on his side of that particular conflict this quote can still apply to your life.
There’s a saying that “you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. Sometimes we start an endeavor with good intentions, but get so caught up in it that we resort to methods that go against our morals or values, whether it be neglecting to take proper precautions (as the Avengers did in this movie), cheating to get ahead, stooping to a new low to get revenge on someone who has done us wrong, or something else entirely.
Next time you’re tempted to do something of that sort, it might be beneficial to keep this quote in mind. Yes, it might take longer or be more difficult to do things the “right” way, but doing so could be the difference between being a hero and being a villain.
7. “Compromise where you can. Where you can't, don't. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say 'No, you move'.” (Peggy Carter; as spoken by Sharon Carter, Captain America: Civil War)
Here’s a quote from the other side of the Civil War conflict, but again one that can serve as a positive takeaway to fans on either side of the debate. When faced with a conflict, the solution that has been pressed upon us since childhood is to come to a compromise with the opposing party. In most cases, this is usually a good way to resolve a disagreement, but there are sometimes situations in which we can’t compromise; usually when it’s a matter of personal morals rather than simply a difference of opinion on more trivial matters.
That’s not to discourage you from talking with those who oppose your viewpoint in order for you to understand each other (in fact, if the Avengers had done a little more of this, things probably wouldn’t have escalated to the point that they did) but it’s okay - even important - to stand firm for what you know to be right, even when those you love don’t agree.
8. “I can’t control their fear, only my own.” (Wanda Maximoff, Captain America: Civil War)
After her accident that resulted in the deaths of several dozen people at the beginning of Civil War, Wanda Maximoff feels guilty for the damage caused and experiences a lot of self-doubt and even fear of her own capabilities. She is one of the strongest Avengers, but that kind of power can cause a lot of destruction and despair if not handled correctly, and this has caused many civilians to become afraid of her.
However, later on in the film, she realizes it’s not right for her to be cooped up away from the world (as well-intentioned as Tony Stark may have been). She may have made a mistake, but she knows she is a capable fighter and can get back out to battle, regardless of whether everyone else knows it.
As much as we try, we ultimately cannot control how others view us, but we do have the power to control how we see ourselves. In the end, we are the ones who know ourselves and our abilities best and we shouldn’t let the way others look at us dictate how we live our lives.
9. “Vengeance has consumed you. It’s consuming them. I’m done letting it consume me.” (T’Challa, Captain America: Civil War)
Marvel fans have had a lot of fun over the years arguing for Team Iron Man or Team Captain America, but Civil War is ultimately a cautionary tale about the dangers of vengeance. T’Challa sums it up very nicely here; after hearing Zemo’s motivation behind breaking up the Avengers, he chooses to show him a surprising level of mercy for someone who has been out for vengeance after the murder of his father earlier in the film.
This is a great quote to keep in the back of your mind the next time you feel the urge to even the score with someone who has done you wrong.
10. “I know you were only doing what you believe in, and that’s all any of us can do, it’s all any of us should. So no matter what, I promise if you — if you need us, if you need me, I’ll be there.” (Steve Rogers, Captain America: Civil War)
At the end of Civil War, Steve Rogers sends a letter to Tony Stark after the Avengers have broken up. These last couple of sentences are definitely something to think about. We won’t always agree with the people we live or work with, even when we’re ultimately trying to accomplish the same goal. But it’s important for it to be clear that at the end of the day, we’ll be there for the people we love and care about, even if there are times we don’t see eye to eye.
Alas, the Avengers continued to struggle with this even in later movies, and it’s important to remember that not being there for each other is the reason they lost in Infinity War...and won when they ultimately came together again in Endgame.
11. "We never lose our demons, Mordo. We only learn to live above them." (The Ancient One, Doctor Strange)
There’s both darkness and light to this particular quote It presents the idea that things like doubt, fear, and regret will never fully leave our minds...but reminds us that even though it will likely take a fair amount of work, it is possible to move forward in life despite these experiences staying with us.
This quote acts to give “permission” to let the negative experiences and trauma we face in life become a part of us, rather than suppress them. This is an important step in accepting ourselves and a key to beginning to move forward.
12. “He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn't your daddy.” (Yondu, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2)
Several MCU movies have touched upon the idea of found family, but none of them have gone as deep into the concept as the Guardians of the Galaxy films. The Guardians themselves are a prime example of a chosen family, but Vol. 2 explores the impact non-blood-related parental figures can have on people.
Peter spends much of the movie excited to finally get to know and bond with his biological father, Ego, having written off Yondu, who raised him for most of his life. But by this moment - right before Yondu sacrifices himself to save Peter and the other Guardians - he has realized the promise of a perfect life with Ego was all a facade, and that Yondu’s far-from-perfect but definitely sincere attempt to raise him was what made him his real father in the end.
This moment is sure to resonate with anyone who has adopted or been adopted as part of a loving family. We may have conflict within our families, but if they truly love us they’ll be on our side when it matters most.
13. “I make grave mistakes all the time. Everything seems to work out.” (Thor, Thor: Ragnarok)
This is a comedic, lighthearted line, which may cause some not to view it as one of the MCU’s great “inspirational quotes”. However, it’s actually one of the ones that has resonated with me the most. People always say “don’t sweat the small stuff” and not worry too much about minor mistakes. But what about when the thing you did wrong is actually a big deal? Well, that’s when keeping this quote in your back pocket comes in handy.
Despite every mistake you’ve made, every wrong you’ve done...you’re still here. You’re alive and living your life. Even though some decisions you’ve made may have led to major consequences, none of them have been the literal end of the world.
There is always a way to move forward as long as you haven’t died. And if you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure you’re still living. So it’s true: no matter how many “grave mistakes” you’ve made up to this point in your life, everything has worked out.
14. “I choose to run towards my problems, and not away from them. Because that's what– because that's what heroes do.” (Thor, Thor: Ragnarok)
Thor is absolutely correct here as well. In most cases, the avoidance of facing troubling or scary situations only serves to make them worse. So it’s only natural that a big part of what defines a hero is their willingness to jump into action to solve problems.
Facing your troubles can be uncomfortable or even frightening, but it’s ultimately the right thing to do.
15. “Just because something works, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.” (Shuri, Black Panther)
This one is pretty self-explanatory. A lot of things in this world are good, or at least functional, but there’s always room for improvement. While Shuri says this in reference to various technological endeavors, this quote works in so many situations and is actually one of the main messages of the MCU as a whole. From the major technological advancements like in Black Panther and the Iron Man movies, to political matters like in Captain America: Civil War, and in our own neighborhoods like in Spider-Man: Homecoming, there will always be ways to make things better.
Even if you’re not a genius in your field, you can apply this mindset to everything from study habits, to workplace systems, to even something as mundane as household chores. For the world to move forward, we as its inhabitants should be constantly on the lookout for ways to make it better, from the ground up.
16. “But in times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.” (T’Challa, Black Panther)
The world is dealing with a lot right now. We’re facing a global pandemic, political unrest in quite a few countries, and sharp divisions on many key social issues. The current events happening now have made this particular quote even more topical and resonant than it previously was. It’s during times like these in which the world must work together to survive and advance as a global community.
17. “I've been fighting with one arm tied behind my back. But what happens when I'm finally set free?” (Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel)
It’s such a great feeling to fully discover and realize your full potential, especially after others were holding you back from doing so. This epic quote from Carol Danvers right before she removes the inhibitor that the Kree had used to hold back her full powers shows how liberating it is to take control of our own destiny.
This could even be read as Carol taking back control of her own body, since the Kree used her and her powers to further their own agenda. No matter how you look at it, it’s definitely an impactful and inspirational moment.
18. “I have nothing to prove to you.” (Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel)
What looked to be a climactic one-on-one showdown between Carol Danvers and Yon-Rogg in Captain Marvel was resolved in quite a different way than we’re used to seeing in the MCU. The latter challenges the former to a duel, insisting that the only way she can prove herself is to defeat him “as [her]self”, without her newly discovered flashy powers. But Carol simply blasts him backwards into a boulder and then delivers this epic line.
I think this scene and quote send a great message, especially to kids and young adults. At this point of the film, Carol knows exactly who she is and what her capabilities are, and that she doesn’t need to prove herself to anyone. All of us, but particularly children and teens, are often told we need to prove our worth by living up to a certain set of abilities or criteria. It’s important to keep in mind that not only are these types of rigid sets of expectations impossible for nearly everyone to live up to, but that the people pushing them onto us sometimes do so because they want to see us fail.
People aren’t designed to fit into such small boxes, and we all have our own unique strengths that are valuable to the world. Most of the time, those who try to discourage us from using our unconventional abilities only do so because they feel threatened by them, like Yon-Rogg.
19. “I just want peace. Turns out, resentment is corrosive and I hate it.” (Tony Stark, Avengers: Endgame)
This is another quote that doesn't get talked about enough. In Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark makes it crystal clear that he is not happy with how the other Avengers - particularly Captain America - didn’t listen to his previous warnings about Thanos and now the entire universe has paid the price for it. And while it’s not explicitly confirmed, the film gives us the impression he has little-to-no contact with his former teammates for the next five years and turns them down when they come to him for help after brushing off his efforts in the past.
And the thing is - he’s not wrong. Tony did try to protect the world from the impending threat in his head (which was later revealed to be Thanos) and made numerous efforts to prevent the world from destruction from an existential threat. Unfortunately, this caused his friends to turn against him and resulted in Steve Rogers breaking his promise that he would be there fighting alongside him when Tony needed it most. Of course he has the right to hold all of that against them.
But the thing is, doing so isn’t productive. It’s not going to solve anyone’s problems or bring any of the dusted back to life. So Tony chooses forgiveness. Forgiving someone isn’t always about whether or not they “deserve” it, but allowing all parties to move forward. And sometimes the biggest weight it can lift off the chest isn’t of the person who did the wrongdoing, but the one harboring the resentment.
20. “Everyone fails at who they are supposed to be, Thor. The measure of a person, of a hero...is how well they succeed at being who they are.” (Frigga, Avengers: Endgame)
We all have expectations put upon us regarding who we’re “supposed” to be, usually from a very young age. They come from everywhere - friends, family members, society, and even ourselves. But this generally sets us up for failure as these expectations often involve a very specific list of goals and attributes that just aren’t fully suited to most people in one way or another.
Like many other great lines from the MCU, this one encourages us to work to be the best we can be; specifically, the best version of ourselves.
The MCU has given us so many wise words to look to during tough times, and there’s no way we would have been able to feature all of them on a single list. So let us know some of your favorites we didn’t include here in the comments below!