Not only do Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 have huge stakes, but it's also spring cleaning for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Whether it ends up good or bad, Avengers: Infinity War will ultimately be a trophy for Marvel pulling off what even today sounds impossible. Even ignoring the 17 seasons worth of TV to spin out of it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is 19 feature films and climbing as one big overarching continuity. To pull that off after ten years with no signs of slowing down is nothing short of impressive.
While there’s still gas in the tank, not everything can last forever. Everything’s been leading up to Infinity War and with some actors getting ready to leave that world behind, as well as the high stakes of Thanos’ rampage, it means that we’re getting at least a handful of deaths.
So who’s going to die? Looking at the cast of characters (at least the more active ones), I’m going to rank them from least likely to most likely. I’m kinda sorta lumping this in with Avengers 4: The Quest for Peace, since we don’t exactly know where one ends and the other begins and considering it’s coming out a mere year later, I might as well just treat them as the same entity for now.
I’m also talking about real-deal deaths. None of that Infinity Gauntlet “everyone gets horribly murdered but then it’s undone ten minutes later” crap. We’re not Baby Grooting this.
26. BLACK PANTHER
Hahahahahaha! Oh man, that’s a good one. Now let’s look at someone whose movie didn’t make all the money in the world twice over.
Killing off Black Panther. That’s hilarious. Lump in Shuri and the rest of his supporting cast.
As of this writing, Spider-Man is one of the only confirmed characters to have a movie coming after Avengers 4: Champion Edition (his sequel is due on July 5, 2019). The one and only reason I have him ahead of T’challa is because Peter Parker has a fairly well-known and beloved replacement waiting in the wings with Miles Morales in case of death. Hell, he even has an animated movie coming out this year. That said, Miles isn’t on the table just yet, especially with Sony’s involvement.
Imagine if they did kill him off, though. Imagine the balls.
Oh, lordy, no.
Guardians isn’t Guardians without Peter Quill. He isn’t tied close enough with the storyline for his death to mean all that much, so if he ever does bite it, it will be in his own series. This is just a vehicle to allow him to interact with fellow Earthlings and little more.
Man, they’re not going to kill Groot.
He’s already had his emotional death scene years ago. Now he’s become too powerful as a marketing juggernaut that even in a movie where he barely had a role, he probably made them the most amount of merch money. Groot will keep on keeping on and will declare himself for years to come.
22. ROCKET RACCOON
Just as marketable as Groot, but with more pathos to him. Rocket is far too integral to the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and while the final moments of the sequel were kind of about his mortality and how his close friends will love him despite his flaws, I doubt we’ll see him as a smudge on Thanos’ shoe.
Really, just being in the Guardians of the Galaxy, which has yet to complete its trilogy, is plot armor enough for most of the team.
21. DOCTOR STRANGE AND WONG
We’re probably getting a Doctor Strange sequel at some point and that’s reason enough to keep him around, but even if it wasn’t, he’s too much of a unique staple in Marvel’s tapestry to just remove. They barely got their wheels in motion with him and if you kill him, then what? Who even takes over?
It’s not like Iron Man, Cap, or even Spider-Man where there’s an easy replacement. The closest thing we have to a magic hero is Scarlet Witch and her deal is more power-based than magic. Mordo could have worked, but he’s gone vengeful and crazy.
Strange lives and Wong lives with him to give him someone knowledgeable to play off of.
20. ANT-MAN AND WASP
They’re surely safe, but the real question is what the connection is between Infinity War and their own movie. They’re in Infinity War, but haven’t been played up outside of some promotional stuff for Entertainment Weekly. Their movie is directly after the Infinity War cliffhanger and is the last Marvel movie for eight months until Captain Marvel and Avengers 4.
At most, Hank Pym might bite it, but these two heroes are too fresh as a duo to be so violently discarded.
Mantis appears to be a little too new and half-baked to just kill.
She has a lot of potential, but she didn’t do enough in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and got way too much inadvertent abuse from Drax to be thrown to the wolves so easily. She has a story to tell and it’s only just started.
18. SCARLET WITCH
Wanda should be fine. In terms of Earth-based characters who don’t have their own solo properties, she has to be the safest. It just wouldn’t be a good look otherwise. In her movie appearances, Scarlet Witch has been constantly victimized or manipulated in one way or another. She lost her parents, lost her brother, destroyed her reputation, lost her freedom twice over, and her romantic interest doesn’t look like he’ll be having a good time in the near future.
I don’t expect Scarlet Witch to be a top-ranking member of the Avengers any time soon, but she has to live a lot more before she can die.
Being Thanos’ adopted daughter, Gamora is a pretty big player here. That’s good for her, since she’s gotten the short stick as part of the Guardians crew.
What’s especially good news about her future is that she’s too established as the straight-woman of the team. Yeah, she’s also the romantic interest of Star-Lord, but it’s her status as being the least goofy member of the Guardians that makes her way too important to simply knock off the board.
16. BUCKY BARNES
Even ignoring the many movies left on Sebastian Stan’s contract, Bucky is in the same situation as Scarlet Witch. He’s been shit on for so long that we need to see him live his life before it can be snuffed out. Sure, you could argue that sacrificing himself against Thanos’ forces would be a great redemption for something that ultimately wasn’t his fault, but it would make his life way too tragic.
After decades of being a mind-wiped terrorist, his only peace has been found in laying low. Even being accepted in Wakanda is nothing more than a stop-gap as he’s a tortured puzzle piece trying to find where he fits in. He needs some real direction and perhaps being the new Captain America will do that.
If Thor: Ragnarok wasn’t as melt-your-face-off awesome as it was, Thor would be a prime contender for a goner. Chris Hemsworth himself seemed about ready to step away until Taika Waititi helped him bring some new life to the character and his supporting cast. Thor as a concept seems more energized and we could hopefully get a few more years out of him.
Thor is supposedly getting the most screentime of the heroes and while I expect him to get his ass absolutely handed to him to prove how tough Thanos really is, Thor dying wouldn’t have the same gut-punch as the other two main Avengers.
14. BLACK WIDOW
Marvel’s been on the fence about a Black Widow solo movie for a long time, but even if they weren’t, Natasha’s death would just fall flat in such a massive situation like this. Outside of setting off the Hulk more than usual, I don’t see much of a point in killing her off. She’s been a regular player in this whole saga, but with little in terms of the Infinity Stones drama.
I don’t know, if they pull the trigger, it’ll be killing for the sake of killing and I figure she’ll come out of things alive.
Sam Wilson somehow feels too important and too unimportant to die. Despite being Steve Rogers’ other, less-problematic best friend, Falcon is also the midcarder of the Avengers roster. He’s a bit on the expendable side, but my gut tells me there are big plans for him ahead. After all, if Captain America is on the chopping block – and he isn’t Captain America in an official, government sanctioned sense – then someone will have to step up.
Falcon and Bucky have both recently taken up the mantle in the comics and they both fit as taking over in the narrative. Considering the rivalry the two have as is, keeping them alive is probably the best in the long run for the sense of playing with that dynamic.
12. WAR MACHINE
Okay, so War Machine did get his ass killed by Thanos in the comics. That’s some definite precedent to say that he very much could get croaked in a Thanos-centered story. On the other hand, Rhodey has already played the role of the victim in a giant superhero fracas. He ended up getting it the worst in Civil War, lucky enough to only suffer paralysis.
War Machine could very easily get taken out here, but having him barely survive just so he can die on a slightly bigger stage isn’t all that inspired.
Fool me twice…
So in Age of Ultron, the meta gag was that the script put in as many death flags as possible to make you think that Clint Barton was going to get taken out by murderbots. It was a big fakeout and Quicksilver bit the dust instead. Well done and it worked out, since Hawkeye became so much more likeable in Civil War.
Now Hawkeye is setting off alarms again. He isn’t in the trailers. He isn’t on the poster. He isn’t even credited on the poster. All he has going for him is a tiny appearance on that giant poster from months back and an IMDB credit. He may be flinging arrows, but there’s one big arrow pointing right at him. Dude’s seemingly about to be Johnny Cage’d.
Or is this just another trick?
For what it’s worth, IMDB doesn’t have Tessa Thompson as listed and that could really go either way. She could get killed off-screen, but that would be pretty bold considering what a hit she was in Ragnarok. Also, her fate is tied into that of the Asgardian refugees. They could very much get snuffed out by Thanos’ forces, but that would kind of kill the ending of Ragnarok and that would leave a real bad taste.
Save us from another Alien 3, Russo Brothers!
At the very least, Hulk will survive into Avengers 4: The Criminal Projective. Kevin Feige has gone on record to saying that Ragnarok/Infinity War/Avengers 4 is a trilogy for Hulk’s character arc. Does that arc end with sacrifice? That’s a tough one to crack. Hulk has some issues keeping him from starring in his own movie, but that doesn’t mean he should be wiped out. Like Black Widow, he feels too important as a supporting character to that whole world.
Besides, forget about the trilogy arc. From the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Banner’s been trying to kill himself. His failed suicide attempt being bookended with a meaningful suicide could happen, but I see him as probably finding closure in his story by surviving and learning to live with what he is.
Nebula is a tricky one. Initial guesswork suggests that they might just as well go with the plot point of Infinity Gauntlet where Nebula is able to wrest the Infinity Stones from Thanos and becomes the new threat, thereby setting up the cliffhanger. With her cinematic take, that would be rather frightening. Despite the horrors that Thanos represents, he comes off as more of an uncaring God while Nebula’s raw emotion and hatred would make her into a malevolent God. Both bad, but one worse.
Whatever her path, it doesn’t look good for her. She could potentially survive on the side of the heroes, but otherwise she either falls at Thanos’ hand or falls against everyone else in Avengers 4: Tokyo Drift. Either die an antihero or live long enough to become the mega-villain.
If the Guardians of the Galaxy are the Space Avengers, then I guess Kraglin is like Agent Coulson in that he was kind of a minor side character who gradually won people over enough to get a bigger role and then when the Avengers movie comes around—oh no.
Sean Gunn will still get work on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 since he does the Rocket mocap work, but he’s easily the most expendable member of the team. Then again, he’s such a minor member that he might not even show up in Infinity War in any major way.
6. DRAX THE DESTROYER
Of all the likely names to drop dead, this one fills me with the most dread. Drax is such a lovable character and addition to the Guardians of the Galaxy, but if anyone from that team is getting taken out, it’s him. After Ronan’s death, Drax made it apparent that he was driven by his need to one-up it and go after Thanos. Since then, he’s remained a great ally and friend to the rest of the team, but he hasn’t added much outside of comic relief.
As awesome as that scene is in Annihilation, we’re most certainly not going to get to see Drax punch his hand through Thanos’ back and push out his heart. Drax is going to fail and his failure will likely be fatal. Guardians 3 may have to go on without him and that Disneyland ride will suddenly be less fun.
Vision is the most obvious victim. Since his introduction in Age of Ultron, we’ve known that he’s on borrowed time. He has the Mind Stone sticking out of his head in a storyline based on the villain getting all the Infinity Stones. The first trailer even shows him getting the thing torn out of his skull.
We know he’s in for a bad time, but is he going to die? It’s not inconceivable that he can exist without the gem. His girlfriend has powers that could maybe keep him alive and the trailer shows that Vision will have something to do with Shuri in Wakanda. If anyone could figure out how to keep that android in action, it’s Shuri. Then Vision can learn about internet memes and make jokes about steamed hams.
Heimdall has death written all over him. Ragnarok has been about doing away with the old guard of Thor movies and while most of Thor’s old friends have been killed off with extremely little fanfare (with one straight-up forgotten about!), Heimdall survived with only minutes of screentime to his name. Why? Because he’s played by a star who is ultimately too big for this role.
Heimdall won’t be starring in his own movie any time soon and there isn’t much reason to keep him around. Thor could easily survive, but his all-seeing buddy can see the writing on the wall.
The movies practically spell it out that Loki is screwed. As Tony Stark puts it in the first Avengers, “There’s no throne, there is no version of this where you come out on top.” As Ragnarok points out at the end, Loki is in an awkward situation. He’s too good to be flat-out evil, but he’s done too much evil to be flat-out good. If his role as Thanos’ underling is to screw over Thanos for the sake of taking the Gauntlet, it won’t jibe. If he’s going to screw Thanos over to save the world, he’s still going to be known as the guy who devastated New York City, so his forgiveness will only go so far.
Loki’s best course of action would probably be to pull off his master plan from Siege: die heroically so that he can be reborn as a younger version of himself, allowing him to start anew.
2. CAPTAIN AMERICA
Chris Evans has stated that he’s finished with the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Avengers 4: Die, Darkman, Die. So, hey, at least he’ll survive one movie! Avengers 4: The Search for Spaceballs 2 will probably be his final stand, though, and it makes plenty of sense. Steve Rogers’ first “death” made him a legend as the ultimate representative of the United States in a very black-and-white war. Having him stripped of his government backing, having him considered a war criminal and a traitor due to his insistence on doing what’s right despite being told not to by bureaucrats, and then being instrumental in saving the goddamn universe at the cost of his life, would make him the absolute ideal.
His death would have the most meaning and hit the hardest. Still, with time manipulation in effect, his second death could just as well be a correction of his first: sending him back to his correct time and allowing him to live out his natural life. We certainly wouldn’t need Chris Evans by the end of that.
1. IRON MAN
Robert Downey Jr. is about done with the role and Tony Stark won’t stop until he’s dead. No, really, his movie trilogy ended with him retiring and that idea went to hell in his next appearance. Tony Stark can’t settle down. He won’t truly allow it. He wouldn’t know what to do with himself.
Iron Man’s going to die and it will probably take place in Infinity War. Either way, it’ll be symbolic that the man who started this cinematic universe and was practically the host of it all will give his life in the 10-year anniversary that this whole series has been leading to.
That of course leaves Thanos and his henchmen, who don’t seem worth including on this list because they’re the outright villains of this mess. Thanos will lose, but it’ll be interesting to see whether he gets killed off or if he gets the iconic farmer epilogue from the comics.
Gavin Jasper has his hopes set on Howard the Duck saving the day. Follow Gavin on Twitter!