Starting in 2008 with Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has presented the world with one of the biggest entertainment franchises in history. This is not limited to the silver screen either. With the MCU expanding to TV with shows like WandaVision, it is about to be an all-encompassing, multi-headed beast. Through its first three phases and more than a decade, there have been some tragic losses along the way. And some not so tragic, as quite a few bad guys had it coming. Point being, death has been a big part of the MCU during its lifespan.
No superhero movie, or blockbuster really, is much good without stakes. While there have been some fakeouts over the years, such as Nick Fury in Captain America: Civil War, many major characters have died across the MCU's 23 movies (and counting). There are sure to be more along the way. And who knows? Maybe some of the names on this list won't stay dead. Look at what happened in Avengers: Endgame. Half of all life in the universe was brought back. To that point, anyone who was dusted in Avengers: Infinity War will not be included on this list as they are now alive. That aside, here is a list of every major death in the MCU so far.
Frigga was Thor's mom in the MCU. Played by Rene Russo, she was the God of Thunder's rock in many ways. Whereas Odin had to impart tough lessons on his Asgardian son, Frigga was the motherly, though quite powerful, figure in his life. Sadly, Frigga was a major casualty of Thor: The Dark World. Though not widely considered to be one of the stronger entries in the franchise, to say the least of it, Frigga's death had a lasting impact. Even though she died in the movie, we did get to see Russo in the role once more in Avengers: Endgame during the time heist. But make no mistake, she is dead.
Ronan was the main bad guy in James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy. Given Thanos' brief appearance, it's hard to call him the biggest baddie in the movie, but he was the central focus. In the end, Star-Lord and the gang managed to defeat Ronan through slightly unconventional means, as the whole battle started with a dance off. But it ended with the evildoer being destroyed by the Infinity Stone he coveted so dearly.
This is one of the few major superheroes who died and stayed dead in the MCU. Aaron Taylor-Johnson played the brother of Elizabeth Olson's Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch. The two started out as allies of Ultron, seeking vengeance against Earth's Mightiest Heroes. But they eventually switched sides, teaming up with the Avengers to defeat Ultron and his robot army. In a selfless and daring moment, Quicksilver swooped in to save the life of Hawkeye and a young boy who were about to be mowed down in a hail of gunfire. This was no fakeout. Quicksilver was killed in a courageous act. He has yet to return in the MCU, as of this writing, and there is no real indication his death is ever going to be reversed.
Tony Stark and Bruce Banner had good intentions in Avengers: Age of Ultron. They wanted to provide the world with a suit of armor for the next time it faced a threat from another world, much like what happened with Loki. But the whole thing backfired and Ultron, portrayed by James Spader, was created. Tony's evil creation caused a lot of collateral damage in the process but, in the end, the Avengers, with the help of the newly-created Vision, were able to conquer Ultron. The villain has stayed dead since his on-screen demise. Though it is not impossible to imagine Ultron, in some shape or form, returning to the MCU at some point.
Black Panther is a mantle that is passed down. There is no one person associated with the protector of Wakanda. As we saw in Captain America: Civil War, T'Challa, played by the late Chadwick Boseman, had to watch his father, T'Chaka, die at the hands of Zemo. As a result, T'Challa took up the mantle of Black Panther, seeking vengeance for his father's murder. Though he did not have a ton of screentime, T'Chaka's influence carried over into Black Panther, which went on to become one of the biggest and most important movies in the history of the MCU. So his passing was unquestionably major.
Howard Stark and Maria Stark
Howard Stark has been a big presence in the MCU since the beginning. Maria Stark, though not as prominent on screen, was Tony Stark's mom. As Tony Stark so eloquently put it when he found out that his parents were both killed at the hands of Bucky Barnes in Captain America: Civil War, "I don't care, he killed my mom." The death of Tony's parents became the turning point in this movie and the fact that Cap's oldest friend had committed the murder added true conflict, driven by emotion, on both sides. While Tony and Cap were at odds over the accords, it was the reveal of the death of Howard and Maria Stark that drove the Avengers apart in the end. These deaths were at the very center of one of the biggest events in the MCU to date. It doesn't get much more major than that.
There aren't many examples like that of Peggy Carter in the MCU. Not only did Hayley Atwell's character go on to become a true fan-favorite, but she didn't die a horrible death at the hands of a villain. She didn't die heroically in battle. Peggy Carter, Steve Rogers' best girl, died of old age in Captain America: Civil War. Peggy lived a long, successful life. She helped to found S.H.I.E.L.D. ascended the ranks of the government and, in the end, Avengers: Endgame to be specific, she got to live out her life with Steve. But Peggy is one of few characters in the world of superhero movies who will have the chance to go out like this. Death came for her, much in the way it will come for us all. We have no guaranteed expiration date so the best one can do is try to live life well. Peggy Carter lived one hell of a life in the MCU.
The Ancient One
Doctor Strange would not be Doctor Strange without The Ancient One. Played by Tilda Swinton in 2016's Doctor Strange, she quickly asserted herself as one of the more powerful beings we had encountered in the MCU to date. With a masterful understanding of the Mystic Arts, The Ancient One was one of the true protectors of Earth. But even through her questionable use of dark magic, a sorcerer this powerful could not stop her own death. As we saw, she had been able to look through time and was never able to see beyond the moment of her passing. There was a reason for that. It was simply her time to go. This helped fuel Stephen Strange to fulfill his destiny and become The Sorcerer Supreme. Luckily, we got a little more time with The Ancient One in Avengers: Endgame, though chronologically speaking, she is still dead.
Played by Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Ego, aka "The Living Planet," turned out to be Star-Lord's father. That's why the half-human from Earth was able to wield the power of an Infinity Stone for as long as he did without it killing him. But, as we came to find, Star-Lord's alien dad had an evil side to him. As a result, the Guardians had to band together to defeat him. There was no saving the universe without killing Ego. But, as we'll discuss here in a minute, Ego may have been Star-Lord's biological father, but he wasn't his real daddy.
One could easily make the argument that Yondu, portrayed by Michael Rooker, is the most impactful death we have seen in the MCU to date. The character was introduced in the first Guardians of the Galaxy as more of an adversary. Though he clearly had a soft spot for Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, director James Gunn provided a great deal of depth to Yondu, positioning him as a caring, complex father figure. To save Star-Lord, Yondu sacrificed himself in heroic fashion. Speaking of Ego, after swooping in to save the day, Yondu says, "He may have been your father boy, but he wasn't your daddy." This paves the way for the intensely emotional Ravager funeral sequence that closes out the movie. Let us never forget, before Yondu died a hero's death, he got the now-infamous line, "I'm Mary Poppins, y'all."
Similar to Peggy Carter, albeit in a very different way, after leading a very different life, Thor's father Odin, played by the legendary Anthony Hopkins, got to go out on his own terms in Thor: Ragnarok. He was not killed by Hela. He did not die in a blaze of bloody glory defending Asgard. Once Loki and Thor located their father on Earth, it was simply his time to go. After some 5,000 years or so, Odin got to gracefully disappear into the wind in a touching moment. It was, in some ways, the calm before the storm as Hela arrived to claim Asgard for herself in Odin's absence. That adds even more weight to Odin's passing, aside from the fact that Thor's father, a truly powerful figure within the MCU, had moved on.
Speaking of Hela, no matter how powerful Thor's estranged sister, the Goddess of Death, was, she couldn't, herself, escape death. Following a heroic battle to save the people of Asgard, Cate Blanchett's Hela and Thor had themselves a big, epic fight, which resulted in Thor losing his eye. It was realized that the only way to save Asgard, a people, not a place, they had to destroy Asgard. The wrath of Surtur was called upon to demolish the home of the Asgardians and Hela went down in flames with it. There is no reason to think, powerful though she may have been, that Hela could have survived that grand finale.
Andy Serkis got to be on screen, in the flesh, in the MCU as Ulysses Klaue. This is a relative rarity for the actor, who is known for his motion-capture work with characters like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, Caesar in Planet of the Apes and Snoke in Star Wars. Here, Serkis got to have some fun and go off the rails as a shameless, ruthless arms dealer. We first met Klaue in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where he lost his hand in dealing vibranium to Ultron. Klaue got a much larger role in Black Panther as a secondary antagonist alongside Killmonger. Ultimately, after evading T'Challa, Klaue is killed by Killmonger. It wasn't glamorous but the gunshot that did Kalue in was definitive. It is very unlikely we'll see Serkis again in the MCU, unless he comes back as another character entirely.
The primary villain in director Ryan Coogler's groundbreaking Black Panther was Killmonger, as portrayed by Michael B. Jordan. The MCU is not always known for having great villains, but Killmonger is largely considered to be one of the better of the bunch. A Wakandan by blood, Eric Killmonger was essentially abandoned by his people as a child. He spent his life as a mercenary, learning how to become a lethal killer. Eventually, he makes his way back to Wakanda to take the throne away from T'Challa. His plan works and, further, Killmonger hoped to have Wakandans rule the world in order to bring about a more civilized age. T'Challa was revived, with the help of M'Baku. After a brutal battle, Killmonger was stabbed and on his deathbed. T'Challa offered to help his Wakandan family member. However, Killmonger opted for death saying, "Bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage."
Heimdall is, or at least was, lowkey one of the most powerful figures in the MCU. Not only did he prove himself to be deadly in combat, but Idris Elba's Asgardian character was the man in control of the Bifrost, in addition to being all-seeing and all-hearing. But even someone that powerful has limits. When the Asgardian refugee shipped was attacked by Thanos and the Black Order, as witnessed in the opening of Avengers: Infinity War, Heimdall became a casualty of the battle. In a last-ditch effort to help save the universe, he called upon the Bifrost one last time to send Hulk/Bruce Banner to Earth to warn his fellow Avengers about the impending arrival of Thanos. Understandably, the Mad Titan did not take kindly to this and killed Heimdall with a brutal stab. But without Heimdall's last action, who knows if the Avengers would have been able to, eventually, stop Thanos once and for all.
The opening minutes of Avengers: Infinity War were brutal. Heimdall, near-countless Asgardians and yes, Thor's mischievous brother Loki all died at the hands of Thanos and his Black Order. Tom Hiddleston's Loki always existed in a grey area. At times, a straight-up villain, like in The Avengers. Other times, an ally, like at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. In his final moments, Loki attempted, nobly and foolishly, to pull one last trick and kill Thanos. But it didn't pan out. Thanos detected Loki's deception and stopped the trickster god's blade before it hit his neck. Instead, Thanos strangled Loki to death in particularly brutal fashion. Yes, we are set to see Hiddleston return in the Loki series on Disney+. But that takes place after he stole the Tesseract in Endgame. Chronologically speaking, he is dead. No matter what adventures the show takes him on, Loki's fate is sealed. So far as we know.
Another major casualty of Avengers: Infinity War, and one that stuck, Paul Bettany's Vision possessed the Mind Stone. It was part of him. As such, that put him right in the crosshairs of Thanos, as the evil being needed all six Infinity Stones to wipe out half of all life in the universe. The Wakandans were looking to remove the Mind Stone from Vision so that he could live and they could better protect the stone. But the plan failed as Vision ultimately did his best to help fight the good fight. Unfortunately, Thanos was able to use the Time Stone to ensure he could strip the Mind Stone from Vision, leaving him for dead. Wanda tried her best to save him but she couldn't fight the power of time. Vision was not resurrected in Avengers: Endgame because of the way he died. Things are a bit dicey now as he's returned in WandaVision on Disney+. Though, so far as we can tell, he's still dead. What his status will be once the dust settles remains to be seen.
There are few deaths in the MCU that have ever likely hit audiences as hard as the death of Black Widow. Everyone always knew that the stakes would be high in Avengers: Endgame. Be that as it may, it was still hard to believe that Marvel would kill off Scarlett Johannson's Natasha Romanoff. But the Avengers needed the Soul Stone or their plan to undo Thanos' snap would fail. While Natasha and Clint fought valiantly to keep one another alive, it was Black Widow who gave her life so that half of the universe could live. Yes, we will see Johannson back in the MCU once more in Black Widow. But it is a prequel, taking place after the events of Civil War and before Infinity War. So she is still dead and, in all likelihood, the character's long-awaited solo movie will serve as her final appearance.
Part of the issue with villains in the MCU is that many of them are one-and-done. Thanos, on the other hand, was a long-term play, first appearing in the post-credits scene of The Avengers. Over the years, he appeared here and there before finally arriving, in true fashion, in Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos, played by Josh Brolin, was on a quest to gather all of the Infinity Stones so that he could restore balance to the universe. Or, to put it another way, murder half of all life in the universe. Thanos succeeded and disappeared at the end of Infinity War, paving the way for the Avengers to try and undo his snap in Endgame.
Thor beheaded Thanos, rather surprisingly, in the opening minutes of the movie. But then, during the time heist, Thanos from the past got wind of their plan. So, the heroes had to contend with the Mad Titan once more. After a harrowing and lengthy battle, Tony Stark got the Infinity Stones and did a little snap of his own, dusting Thanos and his army. Thanos died not once, but twice. And he's gone for good. But his death came at a great cost.
The MCU doesn't exist unless Iron Man happens in 2008. Such a huge thing sprang from such an unlikely place. And that is in large part thanks to Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. That performance started this huge franchise and helped carry it for more than a decade. But all great things must end at some point. For RDJ, that journey came to an end in Avengers: Endgame. Easily the biggest death in the MCU to date, when Tony Stark snapped his fingers with all six Infinity Stones in hand, saying his famous last words, "I am Iron Man," he saved the universe. Quite literally. The selfish, arrogant man we originally met went out with a truly selfless act. We may never see Tony Stark in the MCU again but it's hard to argue against the impact and meaning of his death.
This section may be next to worthless by the time Spider-Man 3 arrives. However, as of this writing, Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio seemingly died at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home. Seemingly. But this is Mysterio we're talking about here. The master of illusion. Especially considering the framejob he pulled on Peter Parker, revealing his identity to the world and making it look like Spider-Man killed Mysterio, there is no telling if the villain is truly dead. As of this writing though, the indication is that Quentin Beck was bested by Spidey.
Other Dead MCU Characters
In this section, we will go over characters who are dead but may not exactly qualify as "major." They exist in a grey area but undoubtedly deserve a mention. And perhaps speculation as to whether or not they are truly dead.
Tony Stark's ally, and friend of his father, Obadiah Stane turned out to be the main villain in Iron Man. Stane, played by Jeff Bridges, ended up meeting his demise in the movie's climactic battle.
Played by Mickey Rourke, Ivan Vanko was the primary antagonist of Iron Man 2. While Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer made it out alive, the same could not be said for Vanko. The villain blew himself up in the movie's final battle, marking a definitive end for the baddie.
Dr. Abraham Erskine
Played by Stanley Tucci, Dr. Abraham Erskine was the man responsible for ensuring Steve Rogers was the man chosen to be America's supersoldier. Unfortunately, the man responsible for making Captain America also died at the hands of Hydra in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian was at the center of the action in Iron Man 3. While Ben Kingsley's The Mandarin was positioned as the villain in the trailers, it was Killian who was pulling the strings. But Tony Stark defeated Killian who, pretty definitively, died in a fiery blaze.
As portrayed by the legendary Robert Redford, Alexander Pierce served as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury's closest ally died in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Pierce was actually at the top of Hydra's ranks and was bested by his former friend Nick Fury, shot multiple times on screen. Though he appeared in the time travel section of Avengers: Endgame, Pierce is good and truly dead.
One of the heads of the Nova Corps, Garthan Saal, played by Peter Serafinowicz, gave his life defending his planet from the evil Ronin.
Darren Cross, aka Yellowjacket, was the main villain in Ant-Man. Put simply, he died at the movie's conclusion. So Corey Stoll's stint in the MCU was necessarily brief.
Unfortunately, Karl Urban wasn't in the MCU for long either. He played Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok. After having a change of heart at the end of the movie, Skurge died trying to save some of his fellow Asgardians.
One of T'Challa's most trusted allies, Forest Whitaker's Zuri became a quick casualty of Killmonger's takeover.
The Senator who was secretly a Hydra agent, Jasper Sitwell, portrayed by Maximiliano Hernandez, died at the hands of The Winter Soldier in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That's what he got for giving Steve Rogers some crucial info.
Thomas Kretschmann's Strucker was a member of Hydra responsible for helping to create Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. But he didn't get a whole lot of screen time, dying by Ultron's hand in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The Warriors Three
Thor's closest allies, Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg, appeared in both Thor and Thor: The Dark World. But they didn't last long once Hela arrived in Thor: Ragnarok. They all died brutally. Though Hogun, in particular, gave it a noble effort.
This is something of a grey area. Gamora died in Infinity War but, because of time travel, her former self returned in Endgame. So, technically, the original Gamora is dead but past Gamora is alive. It's complicated.
As for Groot, the adult Groot we knew in Guardians of the Galaxy sacrificed himself to save his friends at the end of the movie. But Rocket planted a piece of Groot to make a new Groot. So, a Groot is alive it's not technically the Groot we got to know originally.