The MCU has brought us some remarkable superheroes throughout its many films, all-encompassing a variety of admirable traits and amazing abilities that make them worthy of the mantle. From Thor’s formidable God of Thunder to Rocket Raccoon’s mouthy mercenary, there has been no shortage of charismatic members. It’s also brought us some memorable villains, from the beguiling Hela, to the mischievous Loki to give our heroes some spectacular conflict.
But none so frightening yet so complex as Thanos the Mad Titan, a world-conquering cosmic being defined by his own moral compass and rules of conduct. Throughout Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, he presented himself as both an intergalactic thug and a philosophical warrior. Here are 10 of his best quotes.
A powerful harbinger of the pain that would come in Avengers: Endgame, this quote from Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War shows that the Mad Titan is not one to mince words. In one phrase, he both acknowledges the might of the Avengers and that their combined power is nothing in comparison to the power of the Infinity Gauntlet in Thanos’s hand.
Infinity War ended with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and all their allies, from Doctor Strange to T’Challa and all his Wakandan forces, facing down the mighty Thanos and finding themselves falling victim to his use of the Infinity Gauntlet. He snapped his fingers, and half the Earth’s population vanished almost instantly.
"Fun isn't something one considers when balancing the universe. But this... does put a smile on my face."
As Avengers: Infinity War explored, Thanos was a man on a mission. Though he could have been written off as a two-dimensional Big Bad, he was a villain that was driven by a complex purpose. While most saw him as a destroyer of worlds, he saw himself as their creator and redeemer. He leveled entire planets so that they could rise anew out of the ashes, societies with a chance at more with far fewer inhabitants competing for resources.
This line was never spoken in Infinity War, but it was a humorous precursor to other similar lines he would utter in his final showdown with the Avengers in Endgame. It also echoes what the villain Top Dollar said to antihero Eric Draven in The Crow before he attempted to kill him, "...if it's any consolation to you, you have put a smile on my face."
"You have my respect, Stark. When I'm done, half of humanity will still be alive. I hope they remember you."
No matter if you loved or hated Thanos, he wasn’t a typical villain. He was driven by his own sense of morality, and his own code of conduct. When Tony Stark/Iron Man engages him in hand to hand combat for what will be the last time, it seems appropriate given Thanos first appeared in the pages of an Iron Man comic book. Unfortunately, he’s no match for the Mad Titan, who stabs him in the chest.
He then delivers this line, which could just as easily have included, “...when I’m done, half of humanity will die”, but he chose to give Tony hope that the people of Earth would move on. The respectful but ominous phrase about them remembering Tony provides eerie foreshadowing to Tony’s sacrifice in Endgame.
"I know what it's like to lose. To feel so desperately that you're right, yet to fail nonetheless. It's frightening, turns the legs to jelly. I ask you to what end? Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives all the same. And now it's here. Or should I say, I am."
Thanos addressing the Asgardians in Infinity War with commentary on failure seems strange given the context of being a Titan, a race of eternal cosmic beings. While it may be hard to imagine Thanos feeling desperate, the statement is profoundly poignant in its relatability, and echoes sides of his character revealed in comics like The Death of Captain Marvel or Thanos Rising.
After Thanos uses the Infinity Gauntlet to make half of Earth’s population disappear, the Avengers seem to do exactly as he describes; run from their failure to have stopped him. But whereas he proclaims himself the “destiny” that their future is made of, they decide to use their desperation as strength, a symbol of never giving up, and forge a new destiny in Avengers: Endgame.
"You were going to bed hungry, scrounging for scraps. Your planet was on the brink of collapse. I'm the one who stopped that. You know what's happened since then? The children born have known nothing but full bellies and clear skies. It's a paradise."
During a particularly heartfelt moment between Gamora and Thanos, he carefully elucidates the way he plucked her from obscurity and poverty by taking her from her home planet, a planet he stripped of its population. Where she saw a vibrant world full of happy inhabitants, he saw a planet in denial of the socioeconomic and political problems that were bringing about its inevitable ruination through scarcity of resources.
By removing most of the population, there was enough food to go around and access to resources previously fought over. His “paradise” was created stepping in and deciding what was best for a planet whose population couldn't decide that for themselves.
Thanos never came across as a wholly impulsive being. Every decision he made was carefully thought out, its repercussions measured, its outcomes weighed. He knew for every action there was a consequence, and on cosmic scales that the Avengers and people of Earth couldn't even fathom. Therefore when he set out to destroy planets, he knew he would need the resolve to do it, or the guilt that came with empathizing with their populations could be too much to bear.
Thanos had strong willpower, but the Avengers’ resolve was stronger. Though he destroyed the Infinity Stones, they pooled their resources and came up with a way to get them back. At every turn, their resolve was equal to his, which he ultimately respected.
"I thought that by eliminating half of life, the other half would thrive. But you have shown me... that's impossible. As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those, that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist.."
After Thanos used the Infinity Gauntlet to snap his fingers and erase half of the Earth's population, he fled to a paradise he had created for himself to live in peace. His peace didn't last long, and the Avengers tracked him to the refuge with Nebula’s help. He waxed poetic about what he'd done, and why what had worked on other planets failed to work on Earth.
Where he had destroyed the entire world's before and rebuilt them as thriving civilizations, eliminating half of Earth didn't work because the remaining half didn't go on to thrive. Resistant to change, they remained stagnant, unable to progress because they were so crippled with grief and loss.
On several occasions, Thanos has said the chilling words “I am inevitable”. Like fate and destiny, Thanos knows the most crushing blow to the Avengers is the thought that no matter what they did or didn't do right or wrong, his damage to the human race would be a certitude.
This is clearest when the Avengers locate him after he's used the Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out half the Earth's population. He explains that after he used the stones on Earth, he used their power to destroy themselves, an act which nearly killed him. But it finalized his destructive purpose and made the damage he caused irreversible.
"I will shred this universe down to its last atom and then, with the stones you've collected for me, create a new one. It is not what is lost but only what it is been given... a grateful universe."
Though Thanos had destroyed the original Infinity Stones after using the Infinity Gauntlet to kill half of Earth, the Avengers had combined Pym Particles with Time Travel to locate each stone again. What they didn’t count on was a Thanos from the past following them back to their present and trying to take the stones again.
Where Thanos took half the population last time, he was going to take all of it this time. He was going to tear apart the very universe Earth resided in so that he could create a new one with inhabitants who knew nothing of what he’d done to create it, only that it was by his idyllic design.
The time after Thanos used the Infinity Gauntlet is a bleak one for everyone on Earth, but life becomes especially hard on Earth's Mightiest Heroes. The average citizen wasn't aware of the cost of Thanos succeeding in getting all the Infinity Stones, but the Avengers were, and they felt the failure of their mission more keenly because they hadn't been able to stop him.
Dealing with the consequences of failure is a theme that ripples through the entirety of Endgame, as is the concept of destiny. To Thanos they are one and the same for the Avengers, who he feels cannot progress when their expectations of themselves are shattered. His gloating comments spur them into finding a way to rectify the damage and loss he caused.