If there's one thing the Marvel Cinematic Universe does better than any other superhero franchise, it's balancing the breathtaking action, the well-rounded comedic chops and the deep emotional struggles that make our heroes feel so real. The most recent MCU installment, Captain America: Civil War, focused intensely on bringing these character's conflicts to light, and some of them are truly heartbreaking.
The marriage of spectacular writers and talented actors have made our heroes' struggles feel as though they're our own. Let's take a look at seven Avengers whose moral conflicts really hit us where it hurts.
1. Steve Rogers/Captain America
Steve Rogers has always had our sympathy, ever since his initial MCU appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger. Ever since he woke up from his 70-year hibernation, the Cap has struggled to keep up with the times, updating himself on over half a century's worth of technological advances, world history, and pop culture.
Not to mention, the lives of the ones he left behind. He missed out on a potential lifetime with love interest Peggy Carter, whose funeral he wound up attending in Civil War. He also dealt with the loss of comrade James "Bucky" Barnes, whom he was later pitted against in The Winter Soldier.
Now, in addition to his personal issues, Steve also finds himself fighting for the freedom to keep doing what he does best. The casualty rate of the Avengers franchise is drawing a dark cloud of disgrace over Rogers and his team, and he has managed to make himself one of the world's greatest fugitives in his efforts to make the world a better and safer place.
2. Tony Stark/Iron Man
Up until Iron Man 3, Tony Stark seemed rather proud of his contributions to the superhero community, making good out of technology initially used to make weapons of mass destruction. The film delivered the greatest deal of character development the character had ever received on screen when he destroyed all his preexisting Iron Man suits and threw the title away for his love, Pepper Potts.
By the time we get to Avengers: Age of Ultron, however, Stark has returned to the suit, aiding the Avengers in a fight against Hydra terrorists and Ultron, his artificial intelligence project-gone-bad. While we don't see any Dark Knight Rises-esque reluctance to reprise his Avenger role, we learn in Civil War that Tony's Iron Man life has driven a wedge between Pepper and himself.
Tony also takes on a great burden in Civil War, as he claims all responsibility for the failure of the Ultron project and all lives lost in the matter. His insistence that the remaining Avengers sign the Sokovia Accords drew opposition within the team, pitting former allies against each other and bringing a whole new world of grief and betrayal to the character.
3. Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
She may have perfected the practice of "playing it cool," but this special agent has been through a world of hurt to do so. The overwhelming events of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War make it impossible for Miss Romanoff to cope with the disappearance of her lover, Bruce Banner.
Black Widow finds herself in her most compromising position yet in Civil War, as she is forced to choose between her loyalty to Steve Rogers and her instincts that lead to her alliance with Tony Stark, who agrees that signing the Sokovia Accords is the right thing to do.
But by the end of the film, Romanoff makes a decision that will impact the trust of her allies. When the opportunity to bring the renegade Avengers into custody, she allows Rogers and Barnes to escape. When we last see her, she makes the difficult decision to exile herself from the rest of the team.
4. Bruce Banner/The Hulk
Unfortunately, Dr. Bruce Banner's major conflict is one that he's always had and always will. Rising levels of anxiety cause the good doctor to transform into the iconic, raging monster we all know as the Hulk. While he manages to gain some control over his abilities in The Avengers, and manages to get some good use out of them, he still struggles with his inability to control himself in touchy situations.
This loss of control occurs in briefly in The Avengers and more prominently its sequel, Age of Ultron. In the latter film, the Hulk takes on close friend and ally Tony Stark, who fights diligently thanks to the Hulk-Buster suit the two developed in case such an event took place.
But, as of Age of Ultron, Banner's taken on an even greater burden through his romantic relationship with Natasha Romanoff. Fearing further damage caused by his failure to control his emotions, Bruce abandons his lover and fellow Avengers when he takes off in one of Tony Stark's Qunjets, leaving absolutely no clues pertaining to his whereabouts.
5. Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Hawkeye doesn't see too much character development in his first few film appearances, but he does manage to touch all of our hearts in Avengers: Age of Ultron, when we learn that while he aids Earth's Mightiest Heroes in epic battles for justice, a loving wife and two darling children wait for his return to the family farm in rural America.
His allies wish him a happy and peaceful life when he chooses to retire at the end of the film, but Clint finds himself back in the action when Captain America recruits him in Civil War. Initially, Hawkeye does not seem too opposed to Stark, even offering friendly exchanges to longtime friend Natasha Romanoff and newcomer T'Challa (Black Panther) mid-battle.
But boy, do his views change by the end of the film. Imprisoned alongside his fellow Cap-supporters in the Raft, Barton taunts Tony Stark with claims that he's a "back-stabber," having betrayed his friends by imprisoning them. Clint sure is experiencing a wide range of emotions, struggling to keep himself in check while this battle among friends pulls him further away from his family.
6. Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Wanda Maximoff was introduced as an antagonist in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Under the influence of Loki's scepter at the hands of Baron Strucker, Wanda uses her mind-manipulating abilities to haunt the Avengers with devastating visions of death and destruction.
Upon discovering Ultron's plans for world domination and the Avengers' motives to stop him, Wanda and her twin brother Pietro (a.k.a. Quicksilver) join our favorite team in their efforts. The successful destruction of Ultron came at an unfortunate cost to Maximoff, as she her brother sacrificed himself to save Hawkeye.
The Scarlet Witch suffers from a whole new form of guilt and grief in Captain America: Civil War when she tries to displace a suicide bomber's blast into the sky with her telekinesis, unintentionally destroying a nearby building and killing several humanitarian workers in Lagos. The emotional conflict drives her through the impending battles against former allies in the film.
This last character's conflict is perhaps the most impressive on the writers' behalf, as he is not typically considered to be capable of feeling such emotions.
In Captain America: Civil War, Vision, the synthetic embodiment of J.A.R.V.I.S. powered by an Infinity Stone, feels the need to comfort his friend and ally Wanda Maximoff in the aftermath of her deadly accident in Lagos. In his attempts, Vision demonstrates difficulty grasping the proper handling of certain human emotions and situations.
Vision is also faced with the burden of stating his directly fact-based notions to his heavily-opinionated colleagues. He is not driven by the same rage that pits Iron Man, Captain America, and the other Avengers against each other. However, he is forced to fight for what he believes is right, regardless of any former affiliations.