There’s nothing that can keep an audience talking long after the credits roll like a totally unexpected twist. This unforeseen turn of events can change the entire dynamic of the story, or simply provide a bit of a momentary thrill for the viewers. Whatever the case may be, more surprises in movies is usually a good thing — so long as the filmmakers have command over their material.
With decades’ worth of comics to draw from, Marvel has no shortage of characters, stories, and surprises to project onto the big screen. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe being the biggest movie franchise of all time by far, it’s clear the filmmakers at Marvel Studios know how to keep the audience invested in their stories. Even with all the publicity and behind-the-scenes attention that is paid to the MCU films before they debut, the studio continues to offer up one surprise after the next.
Of course, these big-budgeted movies go through multiple revisions before they ever end up making their way into theaters. Inevitably, some surprises and plot twists end up getting scrapped in the process. This might be due to time or story restraints, or because the twist was simply seen as a cheap way to try and entertain viewers. Yet, we can't help but think what the MCU, or any other Marvel franchise, would have looked like had these surprises been left in the final cut.
Here are 10 Canceled Twists That Would've Saved Marvel Movies (And 10 That Would've Hurt Them).
20 Saved: Iron Monger Survives in Iron Man
Until recently, one of the biggest complaints about the MCU was the franchise’s tendency to knock-off iconic villains after only one film. Of course, that trend seems to be changing with characters like Thanos and the Vulture. But that still leaves plenty of antagonists who ended up meeting an early demise.
This trend began in the first Iron Man installment when Obadiah Stane goes up in flames with the massive arc reactor in Stark Industries. However, Jeff Bridges has said that his character was originally supposed to escape, leaving room for the Iron Monger to show up in a possible sequel. Not only could this have helped improve on the antagonists of Iron Man 2 and 3, but it would have set the stage for a franchise that developed its villains as thoroughly as its heroes.
19 Hurt: Hulk rescues Captain America
On top of trying to include Spider-Man into The Incredible Hulk, director Louis Leterrier also wanted to give Captain America a brief cameo in his 2008 film.
In one of the deleted scenes, Bruce Banner is shown traveling north to the Arctic Circle where he plans to end his life. When the Hulk makes a surprise appearance, he sets off a massive chain reaction that shatters an icy cliffside and the ground below. It’s at this moment that a figure resembling Captain America can be seen hidden beneath the icy tundra. Thankfully, this was omitted from the final cut. Not only is it an extremely bleak moment, but it would have also stepped on the toes of Captain America’s first solo outing.
18 Saved: Dr. Maya Hansen as the villain of Iron Man 3
In Iron Man 3, Dr. Maya Hansen is a research scientist who had a one-time fling with Tony Stark before going on to work with Aldrich Killian. When Killian began using their work on the Extremis project for unscrupulous means, she sought Stark's help and immediately met her demise. Her abrupt disappearance from the film was more than a little jarring, and as it turns out, there were originally much bigger plans for Dr. Hansen.
Director Shane Black originally wanted the film's villain to be a female, but he was forced to change things around after being told that female action figures wouldn’t sell. Instead, we got the less-than-satisfying villains of Killian and Mandarin. Dr. Hansen being the antagonist could have made for a much more intriguing twist.
17 17: Hurt: Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man in The Incredible Hulk
Before the launch of the MCU, Spider-Man was easily the most successful Marvel character on the big screen. Therefore, it would only make sense for the shared universe to try and get the web-slinger back into the mix as soon as possible.
Reportedly, director Louis Leterrier really wanted to get Spider-Man in The Incredible Hulk. It had only been a year since Tobey Maguire had portrayed the character in Spider-Man 3, and his inclusion in the film would have changed the entire landscape of the shared universe. However, Sony wouldn’t even let Leterrier include the name of Parker’s college campus, let alone Spider-Man. In hindsight, this worked out perfectly, as it's hard to imagine anyone but Tom Holland in the role today.
16 Saved: Adam Warlock in Guardians 2
For anyone who’s read about the Infinity Stones before they ever made their way onto the big screen, they know there is one vital element missing from his entire Thanos/Infinity Gauntlet storyline: Adam Warlock. He debuted during the Silver Age of Comics, and went go on to become one of the strongest heroes in Marvel-- and one of the few beings capable of defeating Thanos.
Writer-director James Gunn had originally planned to make Warlock part of Guardians 2, but with a ballooning cast, he settled on a post-credit scene which revealed Warlock’s golden cocoon. We can't help but wonder what the franchise might look like today if Warlock had already been brought onto the scene. At the very least, it would have come a lot closer to the source material.
15 Hurt: Captain Marvel in Age of Ultron
Captain Marvel is the next MCU film on the docket, hitting theaters in March of next year, but Carol Danvers almost made her debut years prior-- in the second Avengers installment. Not only was the character in a version of Age of Ultron's script, but reportedly, they even went so far as to prepare special-effects footage for Captain Marvel’s inclusion.
Ultimately, Kevin Feige decided that having the fully-formed character show up in an Avengers movie just wasn’t the right move. While superhero origin stories may beginning to wear out their welcome on the big screen for characters like Spider-Man and Batman, Captain Marvel is definitely one of those characters whose origins need to be explored. We’re happy they waited to give the character her own solo outing first.
14 Saved: Beta Ray Bill cameo in Thor: Ragnarok
One of the weirder characters to come out of Marvel comics, Beta Ray Bill is a horse-faced alien from the Burning Galaxy and the first non-Norse individual worthy enough to wield Thor’s hammer. His powers are equal to that of the God of Thunder, which eventually earns him a hammer of his own, known as Stormbreaker.
In Thor: Ragnarok, Beta Ray Bill has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo, which came when his likeness was displayed on the tower of champions on Sakaar. Originally, the character was slated to appear in the flesh. Feige said that the cameo was cut because it simply didn’t do the character justice. While Ragnarok seemed like the perfect MCU movie for Beta Ray Bill to make his debut, we can still hope they omitted him with future plans in mind.
13 Hurt: Howard Stark as the villain of Iron Man
Tony Stark has always had daddy issues, we’re just thankful that they never got to the point of the two character becoming arch-enemies up on the big screen. Though the character met his demise years before Tony every donned the Mark I, Howard Stark has popped up in a number of MCU installments. Much like his son, he is depicted as a genius inventor and shrewd businessman who helped lay the foundation for the superhero landscape we have today.
However, an early version of Iron Man might have found Howard alive and serving as the primary antagonist. Given the role Howard has come to fill in later movies and the Agent Carter TV series, this would have been a major mistake. Yet, it's not hard to see how this concept could have been transferred over to Obadiah Stane — who really does make for a compelling villain.
12 Saved: Thor defeats Malekith with lightning in The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World is often cited as one of the worst movies in the MCU. That’s not to say that it’s bad, just that there were a lot of missed opportunities. The best example of this would have to be wasting the talented Christopher Eccleston in the exceedingly flat role as Malekith. But a much more climactic battle might have helped make up for this shortcoming.
In an earlier version, Thor was originally going to summon lightning from the Nine Realms to bring about Malekith’s demise. This was eventually scrapped so that the other supporting characters could play a bigger role in the villain's defeat. While this makes sense, Thor using Malekith’s own plan against him would have made for a much more memorable ending.
11 Hurt: Arnim Zola survives Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Arnim Zola worked fine as the henchman and the voice of reason to Re Sskull in Captain America’s first solo outing. However, the character — or what remained of him — didn’t come across as all that threatening in The Winter Soldier.
After stumbling upon to his secret base, Steve and Natasha discover that Zola was the mastermind behind HYDRA’s infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. Before he passed away decades prior, Zola uploaded his mind into a computer system, which is destroyed shortly thereafter by Zola’s own doing. However, one idea for the villain actually involved him surviving the explosion, possibly to become a recurring threat to Cap and the other Avengers. This was thankfully scrapped, as Zola wasn’t all that compelling as a villain on his own.
10 Saved: Thanos destroys Xandar in Infinity War
At this point in the franchise, the MCU has tackled their fair share of team-up movies. None have come close to rivaling the juggling act that was Avengers: Infinity War. With so many plot lines and characters to make room for, a few things were inevitably going to get glossed over. Unfortunately, one of them wasn’t Thanos’s destruction of Xandar.
Originally, the filmmakers had plans to include Xandar’s destruction. They ultimately decide to drop it, feeling as though it didn’t add enough to the overall story. That being said, how Thanos took on the Nova Corps without any Infinity Stones in his possession is a plot point that definitely deserves further exploration. With any luck, we could still get a flashback sequence in the follow-up Avengers installment.
9 Hurt: Grandmaster comes to Earth in Ragnarok
At the end of Thor: Ragnarok, the Grandmaster is last seen on Sakaar, where its citizens have led a successful revolution against the tyrannical leader. There may have been an idea to originally let the Grandmaster aboard the ark, which would have led him to cross paths with Thanos and maybe even end up on Earth. While Goldblum is fantastic as the Grandmaster, this would've been too great a reward for the tyrannical leader.
The short film Team Darryl, which was also directed by Taika Waititi and stars Jeff Goldblum, actually finds the Grandmaster adjusting to life on Earth — further suggestions that the character does not meet his demise on Sakaar. It’s hard to believe that we won’t be seeing more of the Grandmaster in the future, even if he didn’t leave Sakaar at the end of Ragnarok.
8 Saved: Stark investigated Project G.O.L.I.A.T.H. in Iron Man 2
In Marvel comics, Goliath is a title that has been taken up by various superheroes, including Hank Pym, Bill Foster, and Clint Barton. In the MCU, it is the name of a scientific study headed up by Pym and Foster, which involved utilizing the Pym Particle to greatly expand their masses. This concept didn’t make its debut until Civil War, when Scott Lang turned himself into Giant-Man during the airport battle. The project was later expanded upon in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
However, G.O.L.I.A.T.H. was actually mentioned way back in a scene from Iron Man 2. Unfortunately, the line where Tony Stark asks J.A.R.V.I.S. to pull the files on the project didn’t end up making it into the final cut of the film. If it had, it would have been the perfect Easter egg of things to come.
7 Hurt: An evil Hulk
At first glance, the ending of The Incredible Hulk seems to imply that Bruce Banner had finally achieved control over the Hulk, as he’s shown meditating and eventually smiling as his eyes turn green. However, there was also the idea that the Hulk would become the first major antagonist that the Avengers would have faced off against in the 2012 film.
Whether it would have been because the Hulk was simply out of control or under the mind-control of Loki may never be known, but making the Hulk the primary villain would have really thrown a wrench into the team dynamic of the first Avengers film. Not to mention that the Hulk is already enough of a liability that he doesn't need to be an outright antagonist.
6 Saved: War Machine defeats Whiplash in Iron Man 2
At the end of Iron Man 2, Iron Man and War Machine work together to bring down Whiplash, who ultimately meets his demise amidst the battlefield of exploding bots. In another version of the climactic battle, Whiplash takes Pepper Potts hostage during a standoff with Stark. While Pepper hardly needed to be a damsel in distress again, but this would have allowed War Machine to swoop in and take out Ivan Vanko while Stark rescued Pepper.
Despite very much being a hero of his own, War Machine continues to be seen as the sidekick of Iron Man who rarely acts on his own volition. Giving James Rhodes this victor against Whiplash could have sent the character on a much more interesting trajectory.
5 Hurt: The Jean Grey Reference
For years, the X-Men franchise failed to give Wolverine a truly successful solo outing. Thankfully, last year’s Logan finally managed to send Hugh Jackman’s depiction of the character out on a high note. One reason that Logan worked so well is that it largely managed to stand alone from the other X-Men movies. However, there were originally plans to reference Jean Grey during one of the film's more sentimental moments.
In the original timeline, Jean was Wolverine's love interest who eventually loses her life at his hands. Director James Mangold agreed that not only did the reference add another layer of despair to an already bleak film, but that it also managed to draw the audience out of the very specific story he was trying to tell.
4 Saved: David Bowie in Guardians 2
An icon of all things out-of-this-world, legendary musician David Bowie would have been the perfect fit for the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Writer/director James Gunn said he had talked with Bowie about appearing in the second installment, which the singer was reportedly interested in. Of course, Bowie was no stranger to acting, as he'd previously in such cult classics as Labyrinth and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.
Gunn has since revealed that he had hoped to make Bowie a member of Yondu’s crew, which could have given the actor considerable screen time and maybe even a future in upcoming films. Unfortunately, Bowie passed away in January of 2016 — a month before filming began — and the surprise cameo sadly never came to pass.
3 Hurt: Creepy Lizard in The Amazing Spider-Man
In The Amazing Spider-Man, Dr. Curt Connors ends up transforming into the Lizard after he injects himself with an experimental serum that is meant to help humans regrow their limbs. Instead, he becomes a reluctant villain who falls prey to the negative side effects of the drug.
In an unused scene from the film, the Lizard breaks into the stall of the high school's girls bathroom. He even approaches one of the students and decides to lick her face before continuing to hunt down Spider-Man. Thankfully, this version of the scene was omitted from the film, as it turns the Lizard into a full-blown creep rather than just a scientist overcome with rage. As brief as the moment may have been, it really would have altered the audiences' perception of the character — and not for the better.
2 Saved: Defenders cameos in Avengers: Infinity War
As if Infinity War didn’t already contain the most star-studded cast of all time, the Russo brothers had also briefly considered included characters from the MCU TV world as well. For hardcore fans of the franchise, it’s always been a bit of a sore spot that the shows only mention the movies and that it’s never the other way around. Even if the cameos would go over the casual movie-goers head, it doesn’t make much sense for heroes like Luke Cage and Jessica Jones to stay hidden while the world teeters on the edge of destruction.
Admittedly, with so much going on, Infinity War might not have been the best movie for this. However, the MCU has had numerous opportunities to better integrate the Defenders or the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into the mix.
1 Hurt: Howard the Duck in Infinity War
After appearing as the title character in what is largely considered one of the worst films ever made, it seemed like Howard the Duck was never going to pop back up on the big screen following the 1986 box office bomb.
Then the Duckworldian hero made a surprise debut at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, where he is being held by the Collector. He popped up again in Vol. 2, this time at a party on the planet Contraxia. Howard the Duck was even in an early draft of Infinity War, where he would have interacted with Peter Quill during a poker game. Thankfully, the character's inclusion was cut from the film. Howard the Duck may be a fun cameo in the Guardians movies, but he simply wouldn’t have meshed with the tone of Infinity War.
Which canceled twists would you like to have seen in Marvel movies? Let us know!