In the summer of 2016, Marvel fans got to see a storyline realized on the big screen that they never expected to see: Civil War. Captain America: Civil War didn’t follow the comic book exactly, as the movie had far fewer characters than the comic (although this is justifiable, as the movie only had as many characters as it could do justice). Nevertheless, it did a great job of transplanting its basic premise of superheroes being divided by new legislation and fitting it neatly into the wider construct of the MCU.
Each Avenger picked a side in the conflict that divided them, which resulted in some of the closest members of the team standing on opposite sides. Not all of them made the choice that was truly right for their characters, though.
Updated on May 4th, 2021 by Mark Birrell: Captain America: Civil War is practically an Avengers movie, incorporating many of the MCUs biggest characters into its sprawling story. The conflicts and rifts that it creates echo throughout the superhero universe even now and the decisions made by the characters are still questioned by fans and even other characters within the franchise. We’ve added another few entries to this list as so many of the choices that people throughout the movie showed off either the MCU’s strengths with characterization or its weaknesses with logic.
14 Right side: Captain America
By the time we catch up with Steve Rogers in Captain America: Civil War, we know that he has a reason to be skeptical of a government body taking the Avengers’ reins. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he found out that S.H.I.E.L.D. – the only stable part of his life that remained after “doing time as a Capsicle” – had been controlled by his mortal enemies, Hydra, the entire time.
He has every right to trust himself more than the government at this stage. Plus, Steve is (arguably) the leader of the Avengers, so to effectively relinquish his whole team must’ve been a big ask.
13 Wrong side: Winter Soldier
While Bucky Barnes certainly feels bound to Steve Rogers and it ostensibly makes sense that he would support whichever direction Cap chose to go in, The Winter Soldier goes from not wanting to fight to joining up to fight the world’s governments, and half of the Avengers, quite quickly.
In the end, Bucky decides what’s best for him is to be put on ice until it’s safe to assume that he can’t be used as a deadly weapon against his will anymore. But he seems to completely overlook this at first to go after a man who has already successfully activated him against his will, tracking him to a place where that exact thing has happened to him before, apparently multiple times. Zemo then uses his presence to tear the Avengers apart. Overall, it would have been better if Bucky had just told Steve where to go and sat the whole thing out.
12 Right side: Ant-Man
The original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, is quite vocal about his distaste for all things Stark-related and that sentiment appears to have successfully rubbed off on the new Ant-Man, Scott Lang.
Couple this with Lang’s meeting with Sam Wilson in 2015’s Ant-Man and it makes perfect sense that he would answer the call and take up the cause against Tony Stark. He’s also shown to be pretty rebellious by nature, so it’s unlikely that the Accords would sit that well with him without any of those prior associations.
11 Wrong side: Black Widow
Natasha Romanoff sides with Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War, but she (arguably) should’ve sided with Steve Rogers. Granted, she does briefly aid his side of the argument at the end of the airport battle, electrocutes Black Panther to allow Steve and Bucky to escape, but she still stands by Tony in the Sokovia Accords debate.
Natasha went through all the same trust issues with S.H.I.E.L.D. that Steve did in The Winter Soldier. The Russo brothers tested Steve and Nat’s friendship by having her side with Tony, and that worked well for drama, but it feels like she would’ve gone with Steve.
10 Right side: War Machine
James Rhodes joined Tony Stark’s side in Captain America: Civil War, and despite the fact he came out of the fight in intensive care, the choice was a no-brainer for two reasons. Personally, Rhodey has been Tony’s best friend for years. They’ve always had each other’s backs and he’s always been kind of a sidekick to Tony, especially since he acquired his own suit of armor and became War Machine.
So of course Rhodey would choose Tony’s side in the debate. Ideologically, too, he believes in the government. He’s served in the military and he respects General Ross. Rhodey believes wholeheartedly in the Accords.
9 Wrong side: Vision
Team Cap ultimately won the fight over the Sokovia Accords. The coming of Thanos made the Accords pretty much moot anyway because everyone on Earth just wanted to be saved and didn’t care about any legal roadblocks. So, why did the Vision join Team Iron Man?
If he’s an all-knowing A.I. who thinks with logic and reason and can compile enough data to predict the future, why couldn’t he see that the Sokovia Accords were doomed to fail? The answer is probably so Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely could develop his romance with Scarlet Witch, but that doesn’t seem like enough of an excuse.
8 Right side: Black Panther
Like Rhodey, T’Challa had two reasons to want to join Iron Man’s side in the Sokovia Accords debate, both a personal one and a political one. The personal reason is that he had a vendetta against Bucky. Bucky was on the other side of the fight and T’Challa was determined to exact revenge on the Winter Soldier for supposedly perpetrating the bombing that killed his father.
Taking Iron Man’s side was the best way for him to get to Bucky. The political reason is that T’Challa is a Wakandan royal. Several Wakandans were killed in the explosion that inspired the Accords, so he was one of the new legislation’s most vocal supporters.
7 Wrong side: Hawkeye
When asked why Hawkeye joined Captain America’s side in the Sokovia Accords debate, Jeremy Renner said it was because Cap called first. The only thing this led to in the plot was getting to see Black Widow and Hawkeye engage in hand-to-hand combat, but since they clearly had no intention of hurting one another, the stakes weren’t high enough.
Clint Barton retired from being a superhero to focus on his family, so it really didn’t make sense for him to get involved in this fight at all. But if he was going to get involved – based on a factor other than whichever side called first, as suggested by Renner – he’d probably go for the safest option: the government-backed one, the one that wouldn’t land him in jail away from his family.
6 Right side: Thaddeus Ross
Thaddeus Ross returns to the MCU in Captain America: Civil War after a relatively long absence since his debut in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk and, though he’s now been promoted to Secretary of State, he’s essentially the same character.
Ross is all about rules and order, it’s part of what makes him such a great adversary for the unruly Hulk, and that extends appropriately to all of the other Avengers too. There’s no way that Ross would just trust a non-government organization with that much power and, for such a militaristic character, he’s really quite diplomatic with the superheroes at first.
5 Wrong side: Sharon Carter
Sharon Carter is, like Ross, a government character through and through. They have no powers and they’re an appropriate fit for their job at the CIA after the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. However, she’s shown to have a much more rebellious streak and much stronger ties to Captain America.
Sharon does, of course, switch sides in a sense by helping Steve, Sam, and Bucky but it’s initially confusing as to why she simply doesn’t go with them. By staying behind, she’s not only effectively abandoning a serious situation in which she could be of more help, but going back to a world in which she’s now a fugitive also.
4 Right side: The Falcon
At the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson asked Steve Rogers if he was heading off to find Bucky. Steve told Sam, “You don’t have to come with me,” and Sam simply said, “I know. When do we start?”
Sam would follow Steve to the ends of the Earth. It makes perfect sense that he would back him up in leading the remaining Avengers’ charge against the Sokovia Accords, despite the fact that it contradicts his established patriotism. It’s no wonder that Steve eventually chose him as his successor at the end of Avengers: Endgame. He’s also been a loyal friend and a noble partner.
3 Wrong side: Scarlet Witch
Wanda Maximoff is the reason that General Ross pushed for the Sokovia Accords in the first place. When Crossbones set off a grenade in Lagos, she used her powers to contain the blast, but then she lost control of it and it blew up the side of a building, killing several Wakandan humanitarian workers. It caused the United Nations to rethink their stance on superheroes and crack down on them with new legislation.
Wanda could ultimately see that no good would come of the Accords, but when she was racked with the guilt of killing innocent people, she might not have had that much clarity and might’ve felt compelled to sign them anyway.
2 Right side: Iron Man
It’s strange that both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark seem totally justified in their viewpoints in Captain America: Civil War because according to their traditional characterizations, they should have the opposite opinions. Tony should be the renegade lone wolf who wants to go his own way and Cap should be the goody-two-shoes who bows to the government, reasoning that they know best.
According to the MCU versions of these characters, though, it makes total sense. Meeting a grieving mother forced Tony to face the consequences of his actions in Avengers: Age of Ultron. He felt so humbled that he agreed to let the government take over.
1 Wrong side: Spider-Man
Although it was a great way to set up their surrogate father-son relationship, which would permeate throughout the rest of the Infinity Saga right up to Iron Man’s death and carry into Spider-Man: Far From Home, Tony Stark was incredibly irresponsible to recruit Peter Parker for the airport battle.
Peter was just a teenager, and deep down, if he’d known about the Sokovia Accords outside of what Tony told him, he probably would’ve taken Cap’s side. The Accords would regulate Spidey’s activities, too, and Spidey likes to go his own way. If Tony hadn’t brainwashed Peter, maybe he wouldn’t have been fighting for the Accords to pass.
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