Groot versus the Monster of the Badoon. Curb-Stomp Battle for the zombie cyborg, when Groot takes its head off in one punch.
Groot: I AM GROOT!
An Offscreen Moment of Awesome for the Kree during Secret Invasion. Peter Quill goes to warn them about the Skrulls, who've upgraded their shapeshifting technique and are more dangerous than ever, with all the potential superpowers of Earth at their command. Peter infiltrates Hala, and finds... that the Kree have already seen through the Skrull's infiltration and killed them all. For Earth, the Secret Invasion was a world shaking event. For the Kree, who've been fighting the Skrulls for millennia, it's just another day at the office. They didn't even think it was worth telling anyone, it was that routine.
Phyla rescuing Moondragon from the Dragon of the Moon, and then slicing her way out of its stomach. Just for reference, said dragon is several miles high.
Mantis versus Karnak of the Inhumans. He can detect any weakness in anything, and she fights defensively. He predicts that he will find a way past her technique in a few minutes. Mantis' response? Point out that he needs to be conscious to do that, and lays him out with a mind-whammy.
Drax slicing off Maelstrom's arms, and the Quantum Bands that were connected to said arms. Regrettably, it doesn't shut Maelstrom up, but it does at least take away his most useful weapon, as well as giving Quasar the means to help Nova over in his own title.
The rescue of Moondragon (oh, and Cynosure) from the Church. The Guardians bring Knowhere itself as a rescue vehicle, while the Luminals bring every single member they ever had. The Luminals, by the way, have enough members to make the Legion of Super Heroes look tiny.
Gamora, Mantis, Major Victory, Cosmo and Phyla fighting against an entire world's worth of the Church of Universal Truth soldiers, and winning. Until Phyla finds Thanos.
Another Offscreen Moment of Awesome, when Thanos lays waste to Sacrosanct. Despite the world-wide devastation, and the fact that everyone else died, Mantis, Major Victory, Gamora, and Cosmo all survived unharmed, despite everything in their arsenal failing to so much as scratch Thanos.
How tough is Captain America's shield? Even a completely invulnerable Thanos can't dent it. This is after it's established that Gamora's sword, which was designed to kill gods, already broke on him. Nothing like the old school.
The Guardians & Tony Stark (Not Iron Man - he had been stripped of his armor) taking a Spartax warship through sheer force after being arrested for the crime of... Heading to Earth to stop a Badoon invasion.
The movie's introduction. We're treated to a Tear Jerker backstory, then jump forward 26 years to a longcoat-wearing badass traversing a mysterious world. Upon entering some ruins he removes his helmet, putting on some familiar headphones revealing him to be a grown-up Peter. And then....he starts dancing to "Come and Get Your Love", showing us this will be a fun movie.
The breakout from The Kyln, with the Guardians all utilizing their capabilities to get what they need to bust out of there.
Quill: ...That was a really good plan.
Rocket: *spreads arms in "what did I tell you?" gesture*
This also features an intense "I AMMMM GROOOOOOT" moment after some prison guards attack Groot, forcing him to fight back.
Star-Lord staying behind to get his mix tape back.
When the Guardians reach the top of the prison watchtower, the door opens to reveal them all assembled in the film's first true Team Shot.
The Celestial ravaging an entire planet with an Infinity Stone.
That scene is great for two reasons: it's framed almost like a Jack Kirby panel, and it features an actual Celestial from the comics, namely Eson the Searcher, one of the most dynamic-looking Celestials.
Ronan handily defeating Drax on Knowhere.
Quill and Rocket using unarmed mining pods to fight Ronan's necrocrafts. At one point, Peter tears his way into a necrocraft using the pod and then using its arms, proceeds to use the guns of the ship that he's inside of.
Quill saving both Gamora and himself from dying in the cold void of space with some very quick thinking.
Ronan grabbing the Infinity Stone with his bare hands and surviving the experience long enough, by himself, to integrate it into his Universal Weapon and challenge Thanos to boot.
Quill's Rousing Speech to the 4 people who somehow got mixed up in his life. When Rocket points out that he's essentially asking them to die for his plan, at first Quill is distraught. However, one by one, they join Quill standing up, showing they're the True Companions they were destined to be at last, the team that they need to be to defeat Ronan.
Rocket: Well now I'm standing. Happy? We're all standing now. Bunch of jackasses, standing in a circle.
The Ravagers' incredibly flashy and highly effective smokescreen.
Drax blasting Nebula with his gun (non-fatally), after she called Gamora a stupid traitor. The quote that follows, "Nobody talks to my friends like that", had audiences erupting in applause.
Quill, Drax, Gamora, and Groot fighting their way through the Dark Aster.
Groot sticking his arm through a whole line of Ronan's goons, then slamming them into the other goons, and then repeatedly slamming the ones still on his arm. He then turns to Quill and Drax and flashes a grin.
Nebula's escape involves timing her fall from Dark Aster to land on a Ravager ship, kick its pilot out of the cockpit and then fly out of the battlefield.
The whole final showdown, including Drax and Rocket destroying Ronan's hammer, letting Quill grab the stone, with him nearly being destroyed, until Gamora, Drax, and Rocket (who is grabbing onto one of Groot's twigs) join him together. And then, we hear this exchange:
It really cannot be understated just how awesome the Guardians' sharing of the Stone's power is. It's the epitome of The Power of Friendship as a cliché, blown way out of cinematic proportion, and incredibly awe-inspiring for it.
A grounded Yondu vs a Sakaaran platoon with a necrocraft, poor suckers never stood a chance.
Also counts as a follow up to his offscreen moment just before. Surviving a crash landing that literally annihilates his ship into pieces and he didn't have any sort of escape pod since we see him standing in the wreckage.
Groot's building a shelter for the rest of the team inside Ronan's crashing ship, essentially sacrificing himself in the process.
The shot of Thanos smiling upon his throne, a familiar image for comic-book readers.
For decades, fans of Howard the Duck were positive that there was no chance in hell that they would ever see a worthy portrayal of the character on the big screen. The Stinger of this film proves them wrong.
It's also been suggested that this scene represents something of a Badass Boast by Marvel, to wit: the company did so poorly with films based on its properties until the turn of the century that for quite a while the 1986 Howard film was their best known one, with its status as the iconic bad comic book adaptation until it was dethroned by Batman & Robin. After so long as a source of shame for Marvel, with the monstrous success of the MCU they now get to say "We're so big that we could even do this if we wanted."
The exchange between Korath and Quill during the attack on the Dark Aster. Quill finally gets the respect he's been seeking.
Korath: (upon seeing Quill) Star Lord! Quill: Finally.
Drax: "Finger on throat means DEATH!"
Rocket charging at Ronan after Groot's death. He was initially terrified of the Infinity Stone alone and when Ronan got his hands on it his plan was to literally get as far away as possible. After Groot's sacrifice though Rocket is willing to attack Ronan head on and unarmed. Granted it fails, but it was cool to see someone not cowering in terror of Ronan once he had reached the surface.
The Ravagers are about to be overwhelmed by Ronan's forces and these hundreds of Nova Corps pilots perform one of the best damn looking Gunship Rescue / The Cavalry / Big Damn Heroes trope ever. With epic music of course!
Saal: Peter Quill, this is Denarian Saal of the Nova Corps. For the record, I advised against trusting you here.
Hundreds of Nova Corps pilots interlock their sky flyers to create a flying barricade to try and slow the Dark Aster down. You Shall Not Pass declared by hundreds of space cops.
Rocket and the Ravagers swoop in low on the Xandarian surface to protect fleeing civilians so that the Nova Corps can focus on slowing down Ronan. A misanthropic bounty hunter and a bunch of space pirates are unhesitatingly fighting to the death to save civilian lives on the capitol planet of the Lawful Good space empire that was trying to arrest them all last week.
With the Nova Corps out of the fight and the Ravagers slowly but surely losing the fight to protect Xandar, Rocket performs a kamikaze attack on the Dark Aster to end things once and for all.
And as Rocket's ship plows through the Dark Aster's bridge, Peter knocks Groot, a solid tree creature that is much bigger and heavier than he is, out of the way and to safety.
One for the villain: in rapid succession, first Quillnote via Rocket-designed BFG to-the-face - then Rocketnote via Ravager starship to-the-face - and finally the surface of Xandarnote via lithobraking... to-the-face make very creditable attempts to reduce Ronan to a greasy stain. How invulnerable is this guy? It took an Infinity Stone to bring him down.
Let's start with the fact that Marvel had the guts to even try to make a film out of this property!
Much of this Awesome comes from Nicole Perlman. In 2009 Marvel Studios hired her to do Research and Development, looking at some of the company's lesser known properties for the possibility of making later films from them. Much to her bosses' surprise, she selected the GotG, one of Marvel's least known properties, deciding which five Guardians to use for the movie (including the raccoon and the tree!), and wrote a rough draft. The result? Nicole Perlman is now the first woman to get a screenplay credit in a movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for a critically acclaimed, box-office smash that nobody outside of Marvel could've seen coming just a year earlier; a movie that wouldn't have been made at all without her initial input. That's one helluva an Awesome way to break a glass ceiling.
When DC attempted their hand at the whole "superhero movie with aliens" thing in 2011, it was a critical and commercial failure. So for anyone to have any interest in this film is a testament to how much of an effect Marvel has on their audiences and how much trust people had in Marvel.
James Gunn: If I had a penny for every time someone said making a Marvel movie with a talking raccoon was dumb and that Guardians was going to bomb, I’d probably have just about the amount of money Guardians has made so far.
Before this movie came out, nobody expected it to get the critical praise that some of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe have attained. Once it came out, the movie received 92% on Rotten Tomatoes from 227 reviews - which is amazingly higher than the critically-acclaimed film that preceded it, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and is thus far the second most highly-rated Marvel movie on the website together with The Avengers and just behind Iron Man.
As of September 28, 2014, it has passed Iron Man to be the third-highest grossing MCU movie (behind Avengers and Iron Man 3), and eighth highest grossing superhero movie ever, behind all three Spiderman movies, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, in addition to the former two MCU movies.
The movie was based on a franchise so obscure that many hardcore comic fans had never heard of it. People around the world went 'Huh?" when introduced to the concept and only got more confused at the thought that the movie would include a talking raccoon and a sentient tree and there was rampant speculation that Guardians of the Galaxy would be Marvel's first proper flop. Then Marvel put together an amazingly cheeky promotional campaign to show that the project was all in good fun, drumming up significant excitement. And it worked, because the film received extremely positive reviews that got moviegoers lining up at theaters.
It far and away broke the record for an Augustnote traditionally considered a slow time on the release calendar premiere. Worldwide, it made back most of its budget in its first weekend even before it opened in many international markets.
The movie completely outstripped the previous major superhero release, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, with much better reviews and box office receipts. Domestically, it made more in three weeks than The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was able to make in its entire run in the United States. Once the film was released in some of the last international markets, it domestically made one-and-a-half times the domestic gross of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the United States alone, and surpassed The Amazing Spider-Man 2's gross overall. Wow.
The film's ad campaign was gleefully cheesy and, more importantly, worked. Marvel Studios really knows how to market lesser-known characters.
YouTube media critic Jeremy Jahns summed it up perfectly: "As an ad for something absolutely nobody knew shit about, the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer did precisely what it was supposed to do: it introduced us to the characters, told us a little bit about them, and showed us that some seriously exciting shit was about to go down. The fact that it all happened to Blue Suede's 'Hooked on a Feeling' was just a bonus."
The "Awesome Mix Vol. 1" album has topped the Billboard charts for two weeks, and later become certified platinum. Keep in mind that this is a soundtrack comprised entirely of 60s and 70s hits, making such a splash because of how the music was used in the film. Awesome Mix Vol. 1 sold so well that Marvel decided to re-release the album on freaking cassettenote Purchase of the tape comes with a free digital download of the album since cassette players aren't commonplace anymore! Anticipating that the tape will sell like hotcakes, Marvel also preemptively promoted it with the hashtag #yourewelcome.