The Marvel Cinematic Universe – otherwise abbreviated as the MCU – is arguably the most successful shared fictional universe ever. It brings together characters from television and feature films in an unprecedented fashion. That being said, it is not without its faults. One of the main complaints fans share is that the films shy away from death. This complaint isn’t limited to Marvel films, of course. Still, in the 10 years since the MCU began, we have yet to see any major deaths.
Or have we? What many tend to forget is that even if a character doesn’t have top billing, that doesn’t make them unimportant. And even though this is a world based entirely on comic books where the rules of life and death apply to precisely no one, that doesn’t mean Marvel has shied away killing off fan-favorite characters.
Between its 17 interconnected films and TV series spread out over a number of networks, the franchise has certainly seen much more death over the years than some are willing to admit to.
Here are 18 MCU Characters Who Died (And Actually Stayed Dead).
18. Howard Stark
Tony Stark’s father is one of the most important characters in the entire MCU. The irony is that he was already dead by the time 2008’s Iron Man happened. Through videos and flashbacks, he helped Tony perfect his Iron Man suit before it killed him. He was also instrumental in helping Captain America defeat the Red Skull during World War II.
Howard Stark was one of the founding members of S.H.I.E.L.D. and made numerous appearances in other MCU properties before it was finally revealed that he was murdered by a brainwashed Bucky Barnes in Captain America: Civil War.
17. Ben Urich
Long time Marvel comic fans will know Ben Urich as a Daily Bugle photographer who’s always poking his nose into the business of superpowered villains. He’s been an ally to both Spider-Man and Daredevil in the past. Some fun facts: he’s also the uncle to one of the more mentally unstable incarnations of the Hobgoblin, and played a pretty instrumental role in the Civil War story line.
It was so shocking, then, to see him die at the hands of Wilson Fisk in the first season of Netflix’s Daredevil. The moment cemented Fisk’s status as one of the most terrifying villains in the entire MCU, but it means that poor Ben Urich will never get the chance to work along side Peter Parker when the Daily Bugle is inevitably introduced in one of the upcoming Spider-Man films.
16. Peggy Carter
Agent Peggy Carter was one of the best parts of the first Captain America film. She completely subverted the damsel in distress stereotype and proved herself as a formidable spy. She will always be Steve Rogers’ one that got away, but she carved herself a much greater role in the MCU’s history as a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Unlike many other characters on this list, and indeed comic books in general, Peggy lived a long and full life and eventually died of natural causes in Captain America: Civil War. It is entirely possible that we’ll catch flashbacks of her in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.
The Avengers had Nick Fury, a guy blind only in one eye, to bring them all together to fight the battles that nobody else could. Netflix’s Defenders, on the other hand, were brought together by a guy missing sight in both eyes. Stick was the leader of the Chaste – the sworn enemy of the Hand – as well as a teacher to both Matthew Murdock and Elektra Natchios.
He wasn’t the nicest of people – his motivations were always questionable and he had no problem taking human life – but Stick was definitely not a villain and his death at the hands of Elektra was a tough pill for the impromptu superhero team to swallow.
14. Red Skull
Many will argue that the Red Skull isn’t dead and they hold out hope for his eventual return, but there isn’t a lot of evidence to that end. It is technically possible for him to have been sucked into the Tesseract – which we now know is the Space Stone – and either shot somewhere else into the universe or kept prisoner inside of it.
Whether or not Marvel will actually go this route is another story. We’ve seen the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War now and it looks like the expanded Avengers roster will have enough to deal with when Thanos and his Black Order come to Earth. The Red Skull probably doesn’t fit into that story, and with Captain America’s story likely wrapping up after the next two Avengers entries, it’s hard to believe his arch enemy would be of much use in someone else’s film.
The question of the identity of Peter Quill’s biological father was finally answered in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. When Quill was just a boy, his mother died of cancer. His father, Ego the Living Planet, tasked Yondu and his group of Ravagers with plucking Quill from Earth reuniting the two. Of course, Yondu found that Quill’s small size made him excellent for stealing things. He therefore chose to keep him.
It turned out to be for the best, because even though Yondu’s motivations weren’t the most noble, he was a much better father figure than Ego would have been. He was redeemed at the end of the film, and was welcomed into the Guardians’ crew before sacrificing himself to save their lives. His death was mourned by the ravagers as well as Quill, who proclaimed that he had had a father all along.
12. The Ancient One
In Doctor Strange, audiences are first introduced to the magic that lives along side the science they’ve become familiar with from past MCU entries as Doctor Stephen Strange is trained in the ways of the mystic arts by the Ancient One.
Even though the film took liberties with the character’s appearance and background, her status as Sorcerer Supreme remained and so it was obvious that she would have to die in order for Strange to eventually take her place. Her death scene is one of the film’s strongest moments. taking place.
The Ancient One and Strange’s astral projections have one last conversation while doctors work to no avail to resuscitate her. She tells him she’s never been able to see past this moment, and is thus ready for death.
11. Antoine Triplett
Antoine Triplett’s death happened so quickly in the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that one would almost have to rewind it and watch it again to fully grasp what happened. Since the MCU has thus far lacked access to the X-Men, the Inhumans have taken their position as the de-facto pariahs of the shared universe.
One way the writers did this was to have the Terrigen Mist that bring out the Inhumans’ latent abilities kill normal humans that come into contact with them, a significant departure from the comics. In a tense moment, Trip attempts to rescue Daisy and they are both are exposed to the gas. Trip dies immediately and the team barely has time to come to terms with his death before having to deal with the fallout of Daisy’s new abilities.
10. Edwin Jarvis
We’ve actually now seen not one, but two live-action adaptations of the Starks’ faithful butler. Neither adaptation is entirely faithful, but both are entertaining. The one we were introduced to first in Iron Man is an A.I. that not only helps Tony keep his suit functional, but self-sufficiently maintains Avengers’ tower.
We learned in Agent Carter that this computer was named after the real Edwin Jarvis, a character who featured prominently throughout the series. Like Carter, Jarvis lived a long and happy life and influenced Tony in a way not unlike Alfred did to Batman.
The J.A.R.V.I.S. A.I. met its own end when, after valiantly fighting Ultron to keep nuclear launch codes out of his grasp, it was uploaded into the body of the Vision, giving birth to something new entirely.
Folks are quick to disregard Thor: The Dark World as a forgettable entry into the MCU, but they often don’t take into account that the film had some truly emotional moments: the reunion between Thor and Jane Foster, the continued building of Thor and Loki’s complicated relationship, and of course, the death of their mother, Frigga.
A powerful magic user who taught Loki much of what he knows, Frigga dies a hero. Malekith invades Asgard searching for the Aether, a powerful artifact which turns out to be an infinity stone. The Aether is absorbed into Jane Foster’s body, and Frigga defends her against Malekith’s attack.
8. Baron Strucker
We were given our first tease of this long-time comic book S.H.I.E.L.D. villain in the mid-credits scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. We were given further name drops for Baron Wolfgang von Strucker in episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. leading up to the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. There, it was revealed that Coulson and his team were aware that he was experimenting on people. We were also told that he had Loki’s scepter.
Finally,we saw Strucker serve as a brief means to an end, unleashing Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch on the Avengers before being unceremoniously dispatched by Ultron himself. It’s too bad, because there are a wealth of stories involving this character from all corners of the Marvel comic book universe, and Thomas Kretschmann’s adaptation was pretty spot on.
7. Arnim Zola
This little guy was the perfect Hydra agent, never engaging in any real fist fights but still causing a heap of trouble in the background and almost managing to kill Captain America on more than one occasion. He showed up in Captain America: The First Avenger as an ally and eventual traitor to the Red Skull, and had a small role in Agent Carter.
The real surprise came when he showed up as a computer program in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Evidently, though his body had died long ago, hes consciousness had been uploaded into hard drive and he continued to thrive as a Hydra leader for decades while Captain America remained frozen. He took himself out with a missile meant to kill Captain America in an elaborate trap, but luckily the star-spangled Avenger and Black Widow were able to escape at the last second.
After the critically acclaimed first seasons of both Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Luke Cage had some pretty big shoes to fill. Netflix’s third foray into the street level of the MCU turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag, but it still produced some great characters and emotional moments.
After the events of Jessica Jones, Luke just wanted to get away from it all and live an inconspicuous life. He gets hired by Pop and works at his barber shop, where the old man serves as a mentor for Cage as well as pretty much everyone else in Harlem.
5. Lincoln Campbell
Every good story needs romance, and every good hero needs something (or someone) to avenge. This has been a running theme in the MCU, originated by Phil Coulson himself. Daisy and Lincoln spend the better part of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s third season growing closer together and ultimately falling in love with each other.
Lincoln’s death is the best kind of combination between Captain America’s apparent end at the end of his first film and Iron Man saving New York from that missile at the end of the Avengers. In an incredibly touching act, he brings the evil Hive (in the body of Grant Ward) into space and the two die there together. Before he goes, he gets the chance to tell Daisy he loves her for the first and last time.
Loki may have been the first comic book villain to bring the Avengers together, but Ultron is arguably their arch nemesis. Over the years he’s appeared time and time again with the sole intent of destroying the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. His origin was tweaked slightly for the film, but his personal connection to the team remains the same.
In the comics he was created by Hank Pym, and his love for and obsession with the Pyms are often at the center of his machinations. The film saw him created by Tony Stark, but he never got the chance to get quite as deep and personal with his creator.
3. Grant Ward
The end of the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the best (and pretty much only) example of Marvel’s movies and TV series tying together in any serious way. As Captain America fights to destroy the remnants of Hydra that had wormed its way into the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D. over the decades since he had been frozen, the rest of the organization scrambles to make sense of what was happening.
Over in TV land, it’s revealed that series regular Grant Ward has been a double agent the entire time and promptly becomes one of the show’s most fascinating antagonists. He is killed in the second season only to have his body brought back by the parasitic inhuman Hive. Of course, Hive is eventually defeated as well, and Ward coming back for a third attempt at wrong doing seems highly unlikely.
Who would have thought that a movie – a comedy no less – could turn the death of an ant into such an emotional moment? When Hank Pym first gives Scott Lang the Ant-Man suit, he informs him that all the Ants are designated with numbers because, well, there are a lot of ants. As the film progresses, Lang becomes partial to one in particular, and names him Ant-thony.
Tragedy strikes when Scott and Ant-thony and flying as fast as they can to try and catch up with the film’s villain Darren Cross, AKA Yellow Jacket. The dastardly criminal shoots Ant-thony out of the air with a well placed bullet.
When Joss Whedon first told the world that a major player would die in his Avengers sequel, it was fairly obvious to everyone that he was talking about either Quicksilver. They were the only characters who really made sense. All the other actors were contracted formore films and Fox had already included its own version of Quicksilver in its X-Men universe. Meanwhile, Hawkeye suddenly developed a major backstory – a picture perfect family on an actual farm – which was classic Whedon shorthand for “about to die.”
Then Quicksilver jumps in the way of a barrage of bullets being fired by Ultron and saves the archer’s life. This leads to Scarlet Witch angrily ripping Ultron’s heart out of his robotic body and squishing it in front of him. Of course, the cybernetic villain’s consciousness survives this, but at least she was given some sense of symbolic justice for her brother.
Can you think of any other deaths from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments!
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