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We get a few fight scenes between Loki and Thor in the MCU. Usually Thor gets the upper hand, but it always seems to me that it's mostly thanks to the fact he has Mjölnir, while Loki posses some weaker weapon.

Is there a definite answer to who is stronger, when weaponless - Thor or Loki? (In the MCU).

I don't mean to say when Thor is "Mjölnirless" like in the first film, and hence essentially powerless. I just mean to say if Mjölnir happens to not be around.

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    Spoilery stuff ahead - I can't remember if Thor had a weapon when he fought Hulk in the arena. Iirc they were fairly well matched. Hulk in one film almost literally wiped the floor with Loki "Puny god!". Based on this is say Thor could trash Loki. But as I say I can't remember if he was weaponless Vs Hulk. Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 17:13
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    @WiggotheWookie There's also the fact that Thor knew he was about to get into a fight (even if he didn't know it would be against Hulk) and was physically and mentally prepared. Loki (IIRC) was still mid-boast when Hulk attacked him and was completely taken by surprise.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 17:19
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    @WiggotheWookie Then the power hierarchy is inconsistent, since it every fight between the Thor and Loki, they were at least more or less evenly matched, even when Thor had Mjolnir.
    – Wade
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 17:45
  • I just watched the video in LogicDictates answer. I'd forgotten that Thor had experienced a floor wiping at the hands of Hulk too. So ignore my original comment I guess. Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 18:38
  • You mean, who would be stronger in the fist fight that typically decides the fate of the universe ? ;-) Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 15:12

3 Answers 3

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I don't think Thor's showings against Loki in the first Thor and Avengers movies accurately reflect how they compare in strength, as Thor essentially stated in Thor: The Dark World that he was holding back in those fights.

You should know that when we fought each other in the past, I did so with a glimmer of hope that my brother was still in there somewhere. That hope no longer exists to protect you. You betray me and I will kill you.

If you compare them by their wider records, Thor looks easily the stronger of the two. This is especially noticeable when you look at their respective showings against the Hulk in the first Avengers movie and Thor: Ragnarok. In the latter movie, Thor was on the receiving end of the same "puny god" attack that Loki took from the Hulk in the former movie, and endured it far better than his adoptive brother.

In another scene from Thor: Ragnarok, Thor forced Loki to stand between him and a returning Mjolnir, threatening to allow it to decapitate him if he didn't drop his Odin disguise. If Loki were Thor's equal in strength, he should've been able to break his grip there, considering that Thor was only using one hand.

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    Regarding both Hulk fights F1Krazy’s comment is still worth keeping in mind. “There's also the fact that Thor knew he was about to get into a fight (even if he didn't know it would be against Hulk) and was physically and mentally prepared. Loki (IIRC) was still mid-boast when Hulk attacked him and was completely taken by surprise.”
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 18:04
  • Yes, we should keep in mind what F1Krazy said. I'm not quite convinced by this comparison either.
    – Wade
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 18:09
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    We should also keep in mind that, as far as I understand, the Hulk's strength is extremely variable. Perhaps he was less angry on the day he fought Thor than when he attacked Loki. I do agree, however, that it is possible Thor held back during his fights with Loki, so that's not conclusive evidence either. Perhaps this is intentionally left vague...
    – Wade
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 18:10
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    @TheLethalCarrot - Loki knew he was in a fight as well. The Hulk had just knocked him through a window and into a wall when he made his "dull creature" speech. Sure, he seemingly (and foolishly) dropped his guard when he made that speech, but so apparently did Thor, when he attempted to calm the Hulk down using Natasha's 'lullably' trick, from Avengers: Age of Ultron. Take a look at the dopey smile on his face just before the Hulk grabs his leg and starts wiping the floor with him; he clearly thought his attempt at calming the Hulk down was working. Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 18:11
  • @Wade - What leads you to believe that the Hulk's strength is "extremely variable" within the MCU? It's certainly true in the comics, but if you're discounting the comics where Thor is concerned, the same should be done where the Hulk is concerned as well. Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 18:16
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The tags for the question included "Marvel" as well as "MCU", so here's a comic book answer:

Loki rarely dukes it out with Thor, relying instead on his magic and mind to deal with his brother. In the following page (The Mighty Thor #181 ca.1970) Loki used that magic to swap bodies with Thor. Here is a rare instance of a no-holds barred fight; Loki is revelling in his stolen strength and is full of venomous hatred for his brother. Thor, in Loki's body, is fighting with everything he has for his very life, but courage and spirit are no match for the strength of the Thunder God.

Thor is stronger (by far) than Loki. enter image description here

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    The [marvel-cinematic-universe] tag is always supposed to be used in conjunction with the [marvel] tag. Within the body of the question though, the OP phrased the question thusly: "Is there a definite answer to who is stronger, when weaponless - Thor or Loki? (In the MCU)." The part in brackets suggests the OP was seeking answers specific to the MCU. Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 4:29
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If you saw Thor: Ragnarok, you might have noticed that in this movie Loki is deficient not only in physical strength, but in common sense also. But if Ragnarok still counts as a part of MCU, then there is some evidence showing Loki as being a weaker combatant. I however find it more interesting to analyse the scenes from the movies released before Ragnarok. As it was pointed out, we have to take into account that Thor was afraid of injuring (not to mention murdering) his brother, so it is more useful to focus on Loki's actions than on Thor's.

In the finale of Branagh's Thor Loki hits Thor with a spear and we see Thor falling on his back at a distance of a couple of tens feet from where he stood before being attacked. Even though we saw Thor in this scene turning the other cheek after he had been slapped across one, I don't think he stood with relaxed muscles, he expected the attack, because Loki had to swing the spear to strike with enough force, and I think Thor clenched muscles instinctively, if not intentionally, but I don't see any reason why he might have considered it more appropriate to not do so, not to defend himself passively. Then Thor engaged in the fight and we saw him wiping floor with his cape for another couple of times. In The Avengers Thor and Loki fought each other during the battle of New York. When Loki broke a glass fence with Thor's shoulder holding him by his neck, Barton and Widow on a plane appeared. When Loki saw them, he threw Thor to the ground and refocused his attention on the aircraft. I don't think Loki would have been able to accomplish anything of it if he wasn't at least as strong as Thor.

To force Thor to lose equilibrium Loki needs to apply a force exceeding the force with which Thor’s muscles contract, while for Thor to preserve equilibrium it is sufficient to contract his muscles with a force equal in module to the force with which Loki strikes him. Nevertheless, Loki also sometimes loses equilibrium when Thor attacks him. This contradiction can be resolved by taking into account the fact that muscular tone of combatants is not constant. The fact that we witness Thor failing to respond to the attacks by his opponent at least with equal in magnitude resistance on a considerable number of occasions and considerably more often than his opponent fails to do it makes it impossible to attribute his failures to chance. If Thor failed in the defence domain so often due to issues with muscle tone control, it is probable that he also could not control efficiently the force with which he attacked Loki, notwithstanding his desire to hold back. From this assumption it follows that when Thor and Loki crossed weapons Loki might have had to apply as much force as Thor can potentially apply to counterbalance the force directed against him. If Thor controls the force with which his muscles contract efficiently, it follows that his musculature is at maximum of its contractile ability when he occupies a defensive position, yet he constantly fails to prevent Loki from overpowering him.

It is interesting to reflect on one of the episodes mentioned above. While Thor and Loki were trying to show each other who’s boss in New York, Black Widow, Barton and Rogers arrived on a plane with a loaded gun on board pointing it at Loki. If he saw them as a threat of any significance, he had to hurry up with their execution to not miss the opportunity, because the avengers would have realised soon that Loki is unresponsive to the attack and that it is more reasonable to leave him to Thor and go away. If Loki was not delighted by the prospect of fighting two opponents simultaneously under machine gun fire, it provided him an additional or alternative motive to abandon Thor in favour of a more important target before it opened fire. Irrespective of his reasoning, Loki threw Thor aside as soon as he saw the aircraft. There is an extremely small probability that Thor was out of control of his muscles tone at the very same moment when Loki needed it more than ever before and after. And the smaller this probability is, the greater the likelihood that Loki can overpower Thor owing solely to his superiority in physical strength.

In addition to taking into account that Thor was motivated to hold back, we also have to take into account that there was at least one reason to hold back for Loki as well. He might have held back to avoid excessive energy expenditure. The more effort he would apply to defeat Thor, the sooner he would be unable to maintain optimal muscular tone due to fatigue. Thor is virtually invincible and attacking him with the weapons Loki had with the view of putting an end to his life makes no sense. But it made sense for Loki to save as much energy as possible for later use, potentially against more vulnerable targets. Of course, it made sense for Thor too, if he is not less susceptible to fatigue than his brother, but as it has already been indicated, his ability to efficiently control contractile function of his muscles is not beyond doubt.

It is noteworthy that the data derived from The Avengers is not equal to the data derived from Branagh's Thor in quality due to the presence of a confounding factor. When Loki arrived on Earth in The Avengers he showed signs of exhaustion/dehydration or a similar condition. By the time when the battle of New York began, about thirty-six hours had passed since his arrival. At this point Loki definitely looked and felt himself better than immediately upon his arrival, but we can't say if the parameters of his performance had already been restored to their potential values.

Finally, we have no reason to think that Thor was honest when he told Loki that he was holding back during their fights in the past. By the time of their conversation in Alan Taylor’s Thor, Loki had expressed in all ways imaginable how much he despises Thor, humiliated him as only was possible and made several attempts on his life including a successful one. All this while Thor had continued assuring Loki that he takes no offence whatsoever, he still loves him, he forgives and forgets everything and all he wants is to re-establish previous relationships with him. So after the aforementioned events, Thor must have experienced unspeakable shame and when he came to his brother to offer him an alliance, he was trying to compensate for his self-humiliation in the past by hostility in the present. He wanted to prove to Loki that he didn’t come to kneel before him and beg for help, he came to order and Loki must obey, as he has no choice, since he doesn’t know what a formidable opponent Thor is. In addition, Thor feared being back-stabbed and had an incentive for threatening Loki for this reason as well.

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