Given the fact that they’re the adopted daughters of Thanos and therefore the closest characters in the MCU to him, Gamora and Nebula finally got the significant center-stage roles they deserved in the last two Avengers movies: Infinity War focusing on Gamora as the Mad Titan sacrificed her for the Soul Stone and Endgame focusing on two versions of Nebula as one helped Earth’s mightiest heroes track down “the garden” in 2023 and the other set up the final battle using the Hulk’s time machine in 2014. As siblings turned against each other by an abusive father, their relationship is one of the most complex and endearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
10 Ronan choosing Gamora over Nebula to retrieve the Power Stone
After Peter Quill takes the Power Stone (known to him as “the Orb”) from its temple on Morag before Ronan’s guys have a chance to get to it, the infamous Kree tyrant decides to send one of Thanos’ daughters, who he has on loan, out to get it. His first choice for the task is Nebula, but Gamora convinces him to send her instead, which infuriates Nebula. Of course, it later turns out that Gamora intends to betray Ronan after acquiring the Power Stone from Quill, planning to sell it to a private buyer who can keep it out of his hands, which only adds fuel to Nebula’s anger towards her sister.
9 Nebula convincing Gamora’s past self to betray Thanos
When 2014 Nebula went back to 2023 in her future self’s place and used the Avengers’ Quantum Tunnel to bring Thanos and his armies through the space-time continuum for the Battle of Earth, 2014 Gamora was left on the ship to keep an eye on the imprisoned 2023 Nebula. Fortunately for Nebula, 2014 was right around the time that Gamora was starting to have her doubts about Thanos and Ronan and her evil upbringing, and right before she betrayed Ronan’s orders and joined the Guardians of the Galaxy in the first place. So, it didn’t take much persuading to get Gamora to switch sides and free her.
8 Nebula reacting to possibly having killed Gamora
All throughout the first Guardians movie, Nebula tries to kill Gamora to please Ronan, and in one scene above Xandar, as she blows up Gamora’s ship, she almost succeeds. Luckily, by now, Quill has fallen head over heels in love with Gamora and he’s willing to fly out into space to save her, risking his own life.
But for a second there, Nebula thought she had actually, finally succeeded in killing her sister. At first, we see a look of shock, then there’s a hint of remorse. It’s a testament to Karen Gillian’s immense acting talent that she can still convey these subtle emotions under all that makeup.
7 “It’s not ripe.”
At the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it’s revealed that Nebula has been captured by the Sovereign and is given to the team as a reward after they protect their batteries from a space monster. Aboard the Guardians’ ship, she asks for one of their yaro roots, but Gamora tells her, “It’s not ripe.” When Nebula outsmarts Groot and joins the Ravagers, she finally tastes the yaro root and spits it out when she realizes her sister was right and was actually just looking out for her best interests. It provided an interesting parallel to when Nebula would later try to kill Gamora before simply admitting that she just wanted a sister.
6 Nebula killing her past self to save Gamora
Before the climactic battle of Avengers: Endgame was in full swing, Thanos was planning to take the Iron Gauntlet filled with the Infinity Stones and be on his merry way, leaving the wreckage of the New Avengers Facility in his wake. Hawkeye took the Gauntlet and was chased by Outriders through the rubble for it. Eventually, he was faced with 2014 Nebula, who held him at gunpoint for it. But just then, 2023 Nebula and a now-noble 2014 Gamora came in, leading to a trippy Mexican stand-off involving two Nebulas and a Gamora. Nebula ended up shooting and killing her past self to save Gamora, showing just how much five years of grief and contemplation had made her truly care about her sister.
5 Gamora revealing the location of the Soul Stone to save Nebula from Thanos’ torture
Gamora was among the few “permanent” deaths in Avengers: Infinity War, along with Loki (technically) and Heimdall, as she was taken to Vormir by Thanos to collect the Soul Stone and he was told by Red Skull that he would need to sacrifice the person he loved most for it. But before all that, he didn’t know where the Soul Stone was – only Gamora did – and so he captured Nebula when she tried to kill him and tortured her. He promised to let her go if Gamora told him where the Soul Stone was, and to save her sister, she relented. In effect, Gamora sacrificed her life to save Nebula.
4 Gamora trying to save Nebula’s life
Karen Gillan has revealed that Nebula originally died in the script for the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and thank God that didn’t make it to the final cut and she lived to fight another day, because she’s grown into one of the most complex and interesting characters in the MCU.
This was probably the scene in which it was supposed to happen, since it sees a failed Nebula dangling from Ronan’s ship with Gamora trying to pull her up, despite her sister’s many attempts to murder her. However, Nebula rejected her, severing her own robotic arm and hijacking a passing Nova Corps ship.
3 Their fight on Ego’s planet
At the beginning of the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Gamora leaves Nebula in the hands of Groot and Rocket as she leaves with Quill for his father’s planet. When the Ravagers capture Groot and Rocket and Nebula escapes, she heads straight to Ego’s planet to kill Gamora. They have a fight involving giant cannons and crashing spacecraft and falling debris (not to mention plenty of hurled insults). The great thing about the scene is that it feels like a visual representation of arguments had by real-life sisters. By the end of it, they make a truce and decide to overcome Thanos’ negative impact on their relationship and just be loving sisters (of course, it wouldn’t be as simple as that).
2 “I just wanted a sister!”
This moment really takes place within the last moment, but it’s more like the ending to it, as Nebula reveals herself to be a sympathetic character, with a ton of body parts replaced with robotic synthetics after losing most of her fights to Gamora as challenged by Thanos. It’s when she goes from villain to tragic hero. Karen Gillan has explained that when she first tried out for the character, she had to find an emotional element in an unemotional character, and that would eventually become her complicated and deeply engaging arc: “I read the audition scene for this character and it was really apparent that she had this sibling rivalry with Gamora and something terrible happened with their father. I thought, ‘That’s an interesting element, I can grab onto that, I know who this person is now.’”
1 Gamora hugging Nebula
At the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Gamora offers Nebula a spot on the team, where they’ll be able to save girls like them who are tortured by evil tyrants across the universe. However, Nebula declines in favor of pursuing Thanos, saying that killing him will be how she helps those girls. As she goes to leave, Gamora grabs Nebula and she turns with her hand cocked, ready for a fight. Instead, Gamora gives her a hug and tells her, “You will always be my sister.” It’s a sweet, powerful, emotionally charged moment, and there’s an added poignancy when you factor in what was coming next for them (Nebula failing to kill Thanos, getting tortured, and Gamora sacrificing her life to save her and all).