Issue #16 of Stan Lee's original run, when Hank Pym, Janet van Dyne, and Tony Stark all decide to temporarily leave the team to get some rest from the constant exhaustion of fighting supervillains. When Captain America returns from a trip from South America, Hank immediately picks him up(in his giant form) and starts fooling around with Steve in a playful manner, leading Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, who are the new replacement members(along with Hawkeye), wishing that the X-Men or the Brotherhood of Mutants could have this kind of camaraderie. Also, Hank and Janet and Tony wishing one another farewell(they aren't aware of the other's identities at this point) and speaking fondly of the other as the issue ends. It's a very tender story overall.
A meta example: famous comic creators like Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel, Joel Shuster, William Moulton Marston, and Jack Kirby have sadly passed away before they could see their creations become the cultural icons they are today. The fact that Stan Lee is still among us, and has seen so many of his co-creations be realized into a number series of successful, well made film series, culminating in this film, is so touching.
All Coulson needed to say to get Natasha to leave her current mission was that Clint was in trouble.
Tony's Heroic Sacrifice at the climax, when he catches the nuclear bomb headed for Manhattan and flies it out of the portal to save the city, knowing that Natasha is about to close the portal and that anything going out is on a "one-way trip" and fully expecting to suffocate and die trapped in the emptiness of space. Doubly so because he does it without any kind of remark or final statement, and without a moment of hesitation or attempt to find a way out. Triply so because it's clear from the wide-eyed, frantic expression on his face as he flies upwards that he's absolutely terrified out of his mind, yet is doing it anyway.
When Steve and Bruce meet for the first time, Steve is warm and welcoming. Bruce is at best self-conscious about what Cap thinks about the Hulk. Steve says the only thing he's concerned about is Bruce's scientific skills. He also later defends Bruce from what he perceives as Tony picking on him.
Bruce also calls Cap 'Steve' by this point, meaning he must have told him offscreen that it was okay to address him informally.
This makes sense, since the Hulk was the product of Bruce's attempt to recreate Captain America. Steve seems like the kind of guy who'd feel a little responsible.
A posthumous one for Howard Stark, when Tony makes the comment about Steve Rogers being "the guy my dad never shut up about." If you've seen Captain America: The First Avenger, and the interaction between Cap and Tony's father, it speaks volumes about how much respect Howard must've had for him.
Fury's reference to flying monkeys, that Steve Rogers actually understands. It doesn't seem like much at a glance, but Steve hasn't had any idea what his new colleagues are talking about, and The Wizard of Oz is not the sort of thing Fury would normally refer to in conversation. Fury's throwing him a bone with that one, and he seems to really appreciate it.
When Thor is told that brilliant scientist Erik Selvig has been compromised, he replies that Selvig is a good man and a friend.
Coulson reassuring Thor that Jane Foster is safe, and he's done it in such a way she doesn't know she's in danger. No further words are required: the look the two share is enough.
The scene with Tony Stark working at the lab and Stark offering Banner a job at his company. Probably the first time in a long time Banner's had contact with anyone who was aware of his scientific skills and valued him for them, rather than just regarding him (or rather, the Hulk) as either a threat or a weapon.
Tony shocking Bruce Banner can be seen as this too. Tony is implying that he is the first guy that is not terribly afraid of the Hulk.
Watch Bruce's face at this. He is amazed that Tony deliberately risked unleashing the Hulk, and more than that, he's delighted that someone is so willing to trust his self control. Seeing his complete lack of surprise at the face SHIELD had a back-up plan to kill him if he Hulked out and everyone's sheer jumpiness at the very idea that Loki intends to unleash the Hulk later in the film, it's clear nobody has been so casual with him in a very long time. The disbelieving grin on his face gets this Troper every time.
Even better is later, where Banner is seen driving off with Stark and has apparently taken the job.
When Tony arrives to the first briefing on the helicarrier, he walks in with Coulson and ends their conversation with "...pick a weekend and I'll fly you out to Portland." Tony gives Phil a lot of grief, yet he still offers to let Coulson use his own personal jet to visit his girlfriend.
"There are always men like you." Crossover with "Crowning Moment of Awesome" when you think about it. An ordinary man telling Loki exactly what he can do with himself.
Gets more hearwarming when you remember Dr Erskine's words about Germans and the Aversion to All Germans Are Nazis.
The scene with Tony Stark talking to Bruce Banner about the arc reactor has me near (heartwarming) tears just thinking about it. Tony compares the arc reactor keeping the shrapnel out of his heart and Bruce's transformation into the Hulk, both emergency lifesaving responses to horrific accidents: the arc reactor and the Hulk are all that kept Tony and Bruce alive, in exchange for the "terrible privilege" of Cursed with Awesome power. Bruce asks why he survived; Tony implies that maybe it's to use his power, like Tony, to help people.
Why this makes me cry: For the first time, someone offers the admittedly-suicidal Bruce hope for a purpose in life that's not just "Maybe you'll find a cure someday." And this is Tony Stark, of all people, serving as a mentor, as The Atoner like Bruce. The universe's most cynical Deadpan Snarker is telling poor Bruce, whose life has been hell, that You Are Better Than You Think You Are.
Why this makes me cry harder: In the final battle, Tony surprises Steve by asking if Banner has joined them yet. But Tony never doubts that Bruce will come through. Bruce does come through... and as the Hulk, he saves Tony's life.
It's even earlier than that. One of the more quoted lines of the movie is Tony wittily responding "We have a hulk" to Loki's claims of having an army. But at the time he said it, Bruce had dropped from the hellicarrier to god knows where, and no one expected he was going to come back except Tony. Bruce didn't even think he was going to come back. And Tony doesn't think twice before claiming the Hulk as the most dangerous asset amongst earth's mightiest heros.
Looking Back: to when you watch The Consultant you'd remember that Tony's role there was vital into getting Bruce to the team.
Meta-heartwarming: Both Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo have gone through some hellacious personal experiences and come out on top, bringing a poignant Reality Subtext to the scene's emphasis on survival.
Agent Coulson knew what he was getting into when he stood up to Loki, but he still did it because he believes in the Avengers completely, enough to sacrifice his life for Thor.
When Tony lists the people Loki has pissed off, he doesn't include himself. After Loki tosses him out the window and he pops back up in his Iron Man suit, he says he forgot one. "His name is Phil." *repulsor*
This gets even better if you keep in mind the "His first name is 'Agent'" scene from earlier.
When Tony gives his headcount speech to Loki he mentions Cap, "a living legend, who kind of lives up to the legend." After disrespecting and butting heads with Cap for most of the movie, Tony is able to give Cap his props.
Also note that when listing the Avengers, he forgets to include himself. This is Tony we're talking about here, the guy who previously pointed out that even without being a super hero he's a "Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist". The guy is an admitted narcissist and proud of it. But when bragging about the people who are going to royally mess up Loki's day, he not only gives his allies top billing, he doesn't even mention how great he is himself.
A small but significant one during the battle of Manhattan is when Thor extends his hand to an exhausted Captain America with a warm smile of respect. A god is so inspired by the bravery and nobility of a mortal man that he comes to see him as a brother warrior and an equal.
Though it crosses over with Tear Jerker, JARVIS offering to connect Tony to Pepper as he guides the nuke towards the portal. It was an incredibly heartfelt gesture from his loyal friend.
We've seen hints of JARVIS being caring in the past. In Iron Man, JARVIS and Tony's dialogue was more or less covered in snark. In Iron Man 2, JARVIS expresses his concern towards Tony's condition, and even suggests that he let Pepper know. Tony's dying in the second movie and doesn't get a proper chance to tell Pepper about it. Cue the tear jerker when not only is Tony moments from certain death, JARVIS offers to make the phone call.
JARVIS is the ultimate aversion of A.I. Is a Crapshoot. The machine genuinely cares for his master, but what makes it sweet is that when Fury tells Stark a nuke is going to flatten Manhattan, JARVIS has already routed all power to the thrusters before Tony can order it. JARVIS loves Tony, but apparently he loves his master's mission to save people even more.
The Hulk catching Iron Man in mid-air, saving his life, and "waking him up", thus invoking a few laughs at the same time.
It would almost be sappy, except that, categorically, nothing the Hulk does can be considered "sappy".
Tony's improper sense of humor irks Steve throughout the movie. In the climax, after almost dying, Tony randomly brings up the topic of shawarma and Cap laughs, relieved that Tony's fine.
After the Battle of Manhattan, amidst the wave of news videos of people celebrating the Avengers, (tattoos of Steve's shield, men getting their beards cut like Tony, people waving flags etc) there's one video that brings down the mood; a politician blaming them for the damage done to the city and demanding they should be brought to account. The last video? A waitress who was running for shelter during the attack, responding to a question about concerns about the heroes by saying, "Captain America saved my life. Wherever he is... wherever any of them are... I just want to say: thank you." All the while rather disheveled and with a big smile on her face.
Made even better by the fact that she's not just a random one-shot character that appears for the interview scene; we saw her being rescued earlier during the final battle. She's notable for being the only one to take a few seconds to stare at Cap in wonder before finally running for safety... and getting a good look at his bare face in the process.
And a Deleted Scene shows her meeting Rogers as he sits at a table at her resteraunt, sketching the New York skyline. Stan Lee even tells him that he should have asked for her number after she left.
I think Bruce Banner's relationship with the group period is heartwarming. Everyone likes him, or at least respects him; and treats him like both an equal and a valued member of the team, even if the fear of exciting him enough to trigger him transforming into the Hulk is a factor. Even when Thor had to try to put him down, he didn't want to, he just had to so no one else got hurt.
Tony doesn't even seem to fear that. He tries to convince Bruce that the Hulk saved him from a level of gamma exposure that should have killed him, and that there must be a reason for it. This is Tony Stark, snarky bastard extraordinaire, telling a complete stranger that what he's gone through is worth it, and that what he's become is something he should embrace, not fear. In his words, "It's a terrible privilege." His unwavering faith that Bruce will join them in the battle just makes it even more heartwarming.
If you look closely, Natasha's even let Clint, who's sitting next to her, lay one of his legs down on her lap.
After Agent Coulson's death, Tony is berating him for his foolishness in standing up to Loki where he knew he was outmatched and dying because of it. What makes this heartwarming is that Tony is clearly upset and visibly fighting back tears (Props go to Robert Downey, Jr. for this performance as well) showing that he's just trying to rationalize the death of someone he truly liked.
Then Cap tries to console him by likening it to "losing a soldier." From his perspective, it's only been a few subjective weeks since he, himself, lost his best friend in a mission, who knows how many other soldiers in various anti-Hydra operations, and everyone he ever cared for since he was frozen and brought back to life. Despite their differences, Steve is trying really hard to sympathize with Tony and he knows that the latter's snide remarks about Coulson's death are only a "tough guy" front to avoid dealing with the pain.
Which Tony then responds to with "We are not soldiers!" Which reminds us that, for all his personal power, Tony is a private civilian who hasn't had the training, the emotional readiness, or the need to desensitize himself towards death... and that he considered Coulson a friend, a silly government stooge, a partner... but not a soldier that could be expended in war.
Thor defending Loki when Bruce calls him crazy. Actually, Thor and Loki's whole relationship throughout the movie, however subtly touched upon. Loki tried to kill Thor and threatened his girlfriend, yet even after all this, Thor is the only member of the team to try and reason with Loki - even at the very end, when he tells his brother that they can stop the army together.
The scene where they're both arguing on the mountaintop and Thor reminds Loki of how they used to be play as children, showing that despite knowing about Loki's true parentage, he still considers him his real brother and loves him as such.
"You give up the Tesseract! You give up this pointless dream! ...you come home." Makes me choke up just thinking about it. Thor still loves his brother, after everything that he's done, and all he seems to want is for Loki to realize that and come back to where he, in Thor's mind, belongs.
Natasha consoling and rejuvenating the formerly Brainwashed and CrazyClint after he is restored to normal. Some of the most emotional response she has shown in the entire franchise thus far aside from slight snark. Same goes for Clint.
She also consoles Erik Selvig when he is restored as well, despite not knowing the man.
And tries to help Bruce. In the Iron Man films she wasn't really emotionally involved and is kind of a femme fatale so its nice to see her human side.
The film's ending, where we see the Avengers parting on good terms, Fury assuring that they'll come together again when the world needs to be avenged, and finally, Tony making certain modifications to the Stark Tower.
The old security guard played by Harry Dean Stanton giving Bruce some clothes and being as kind and understanding as any ordinary person has been about his "condition."
And in the extended cut of that scene, he's the one who gives Banner the bike to travel from New Jersey to Manhattan, along with some friendly advice.
Tony giving Steve an indignant glare when he called the Stark Tower "ugly." Sure it may have offended his pride, but he wasn't the one who designed it. Pepper did.
It's very subtle and relates back to his first film, but Captain America's attitude is somewhat heartwarming. He comes from an entirely different era than everyone else, an era when the Army was segregated and women didn't have equal rights, and all of a sudden finds himself working with a multi-national team with women and taking orders from an African-American. Not once does he ever seem even remotely uncomfortable with this and he treats everyone with the utmost respect. Admittedly, it's not something to put focus on, but it fits Steve's character that he's nice to everyone regardless of race or gender when many others from his era did not have such enlightened views.
Well, he served with an integrated unit with a black man, a Japanese American, two non-US members (the British Falsworth and and French Dernier), and his immediate superior was Major Peggy Carter. Throughout First Avenger Cap didn't seem to have an issue with any of them being in the military, so this applies for that movie as well as this one.
Steve hates bullies. Sexism, racism, other -isms, when you boil it down, they're all an excuse for institutionalized bullying. Makes sense he'd consider it good that there's less of that in the world.
Extra bonus: Check out the smile on Cap's face after Widow does the bounce off his shield. One of Peggy's frustrations (one that he absolutely sympathized with) was that she was always having doors shut in her face because she's a woman; seeing Natasha being fantastic right alongside him as a frontline fighter is more than just something he can accept, it's something he thinks is pretty damn cool.
After Iron Man successfully guides the nuclear missile through the portal, we see SHIELD agents cheering and hugging each other. It's nice to see what is often seen as the stiff government agency having a genuinely emotional moment.
At the very end of the film, just before the credits, there's a slow zoom away from Tony's now-trashed tower, where the large STARK sign has been reduced to just a familiar "A."
The entire scene with Tony and Pepper. After all the trouble we've seen their relationship go through in the Iron Man films, particularly the second one, it's really nice to see them as a couple in a "stable-ish relationship thing".
One that becomes heartwarming in hindsight is the when Coulson tells the other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to leave the boxes of weapons and go when the base is being destroyed in the beginning. 1. Those boxes probably contain the weapons that were being developed because the Avengers Initiative was expected to fail, which means that he possibly had enough faith in the Avengers to have them leave some of the weapons and 2. He cared about the people more than those weapons.
More like Fridge Heartwarming, but Clint being the one front and center and pointing an arrow into Loki's face when they retrieve him after the battle, while the other Avengers just stand behind him glaring disapprovingly at Loki. The Avengers must've all decided to give Clint, the person most horribly brutalized by Loki, the honors of being the one to bring him in.
A blink-and-you'll-miss-it, but Natasha, after scanning the skies muttering "Come on, Stark...." when Tony makes his Heroic Sacrifice, bursts into the single most genuine, relieved, beaming smile she's sported the entire movie when she sees Tony plummet back through the wormhole at the last second.
Hulk saved Iron Man, showing that Tony's faith in Banner was well-placed. But just before he did that, Thor was about to launch himself into the air to do the same thing, realizing that Tony was unable to slow down.
Thor trying to reason with the Hulk while he's fighting him, saying "We are not your enemies, Banner. Try to think..." instead of treating him like a mindless beast. One wonders if his steadfast optimism has anything to do with his unfailing belief in Loki.
The look on Steve's face as the Avengers go their separate ways. At the start of the film, Steve's in a world he doesn't know and everyone he knew & cared about is either dead or likely to die soon due to old age, and it's clear (especially in one of the deleted scenes) that he's having trouble adjusting to the present day & is unsure of his place in the world; at the end of the film, he's found his place in the world with the Avengers.
Also note that he's seen taking off, alone, on a motorcycle. Surely if he was just going back to wherever he was at the beginning of the film, Fury would have simply dropped him off the same way he picked him up. Instead he looks like he's going on a trip. Looks like he's finally ready to come out and experience the modern world.
Or better yet, he's possibly going to have a reunion with a certain someone he promised a dance to some 70 years ago...
In the DVD Commentary, Whedon explains why he did it. "Because it's what Cap believes." It speaks volumes as to how much he respects the idea of Captain America that he wouldn't presume to have him act out of character.
I'd like to give a double shout-out to that guy considering that he dose all that while being so scared that it's visible despite his face being completely covered by his respirator and black visor.
Additionally, when the pilot ejects, the Hulk grabs him before the ejector seat can get out of range—- and throws him off into the distance, where his parachute can work normally. He could've effortlessly just smashed the guy into the plane's fuselage if he wanted, but he seemed to consider the plane itself a much greater threat than the person using it.
Another meta example but while The Dark Knight Rises, much less Nolan's Batman films are anything but bad, it is a great gesture to see that a more optimistic superhero film, one that is not afraid to accept grim and dark, just barely beat Rises at the box office. Showing that some people are not ready to give up a slightly Lighter and Softer super hero opprove as being out dated.
Whedon wanted to give the Chitauri a few more nods that they might not be mindless drones. One rather touching shot is when Hawkeye shoots that 'scatter shot' arrow a Chitarui tries to push his comrade to safety showing that whatever they are, Chaotic Evil or not they are comrades.
Whedon mentions on his DVD Commentary that when he told Mark Ruffalo that he was going to visit the animators working on the Hulk CGI, Ruffalo wrote them an encouraging letter, talking about how they were all playing the Hulk with him and how he'd done as much as he could with the motion capture. He says the letter was very sweet, and that the animators were surprised by it— not only do they usually not get visits from directors, they're usually working blind and never see a script.
Speaking of the DVD, the featurette "Assembling the Ultimate Team" is simply Joss Whedon and the main cast (the Avengers' actors, Tom Hiddleston, and the SHIELD crew) talking about nothing more than how awesome it is to work with each other. There is so much respect and admiration between actors, and while it could have come off as sappy or self-congratulatory, it's a fantastic demonstration of how all these big names could come together and make such a great film.
Also from the commentary, Whedon calling Alexis Denisof one of his best friends, and one of the few people who'd put on that much makeup for him.
In a meta sense, the rumor that Robert Downey, Jr. is trying to use his star power and a possible contract extension to convince Marvel to give bigger pay raises to his co-stars, who are only paid a fractionnote All of the Avengers were paid around $200,000 for their roles in the film. RBJ earned $50-80 million of what he earns from Marvel films.
It seems Natasha is more emotional about the other Avengers than she is about most things. Despite her fear of the Hulk, she tried to calm Bruce in order to stop his transformation. She showed genuine concern for Captain America when she warned him about Loki and Thor, and she even showed concern for Stark when he almost died destroying the Chitauri. However her most well known one was her undying determination to save Hawkeye from Loki's control. It seems this Widow has a heart after all.
One of the biggest heartwarming moments is the post battle news montage showing how the world celebrates the Avengers. Not talking about that, but specifically, how the public now embraces the Hulk. The Hulk, who has been feared and chased and reviled, is now a genuine media darling. Summed up best by a celebratory parade which shows a lady holding a sign that says "HULK = HERO". It speaks volumes.
That, and the kid who joyfully imitates the "Green Guy" as he calls him as some people smile and laugh in the background.
Banner's "I'm always angry" moment may have been badass, but it also revealed something amazing: the filmmakers were actually willing to progress Banner and the Hulk's relationship forward. Banner has learned to cope with the monster who shares his body by meeting it halfway. They may not be friends, but there's a certain amount of give-and-take between the two, and the implication is that what the Hulk needs most, even more than an enemy to point him at, is understanding.