Beginning with Iron Man back in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) 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 recently expanding to TV shows like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye, it is about to be an all-encompassing, multi-headed beast. Through its first three phases in over a decade, there have been many tragic losses along the way. Some were not so tragic since most of the villains obviously had it coming. Point being, death has been a big part of the MCU thus far. No superhero movie, or blockbuster really, is much good without stakes.
Updated, January 2022: Given the recent expansions, Alexander Navarro has updated this article to include additional major character deaths.
While there have been a few “fake deaths” throughout the years, such as Nick Fury in Captain America: Civil War for example, many major characters have officially died across all the MCU’s films and series (and counting). And who knows? Maybe some names on this list won’t stay dead in the near future. Look at what happened during Avengers: Endgame, half of all life in the universe was finally brought back. To that point, anyone who was dusted away in Avengers: Infinity War will not be included on this list as they are now alive.
With that aside, here is a current list of every major death that has happened in the MCU.
47 Obadiah Stane
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.
46 Ivan Vanko/Whiplash
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.
45 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.
44 Phil Coulson
Played by Clark Gregg, Phil Coulson was a highly decorated S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, as well as Nick Fury’s right-hand man and his liaison to the Avengers. Agent Coulson died being stabbed in the back by Loki with the Scepter in Marvel’s The Avengers. Although the character seemed to be resurrected in ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, it was later revealed that the series was no longer canon to the MCU. Phil Coulson is officially dead, as confirmed in the season premiere of Loki.
43 Aldrich Killian
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.
Frigga was Thor’s mother 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.
Portrayed by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Algrim the Strong was a lieutenant of the Dark Elves’ leader Malekith. He did not hesitate to sacrifice his own life to be transformed into the last of the Kursed to gain their revenge on Asgard in Thor: The Dark World. In his final moments, Loki activated one of Kurse’s black hole grenades on his belt, and destroyed the Kursed monster’s body once and for all.
Played by Christopher Eccleston, Malekith was the cruel and malevolent leader of the Dark Elves. He led his people in a war against the Asgardians, using an ancient weapon known as the Aether. During the final battle in Thor: The Dark World, Malekith was crushed by his own warship and died once and for all.
39 Jasper Sitwell
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. Alexander Pierce
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.
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. However, Rocket had ended up planting a piece of the deceased Groot to grow into a new Groot. So he is alive, it’s just not technically the same one we got to know in the first film.
Ronan was the main villain in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Given Thanos’ brief appearance, it’s hard to call him the biggest baddie in the film, 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. It ended with the evildoer being destroyed by the Infinity Stone he coveted so dearly.
36 Baron Wolfgang von Strucker
Thomas Kretschmann’s Strucker was a member of Hydra responsible for helping to create Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. He did not get a lot of screen time, dying by Ultron’s hand in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
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. Quicksilver was killed in a courageous act. He has yet to return to 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.
Played by Frank Grillo, Brock Rumlow was a HYDRA infiltrator who had been posing as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and STRIKE’s team field commander. After suffering several horrific facial scars, he assumed a new codename of Crossbones. He died by blowing up his own bomb vest in an attempt to kill Captain America during Captain America: Civil War.
32 Peggy Carter
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 Rogers. She is one of few characters in the world of superhero movies who will have the chance to go out like this. Peggy Carter lived one hell of a life in the MCU.
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 films in the history of the MCU. So his passing was unquestionably major.
30 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.
29 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.
A monarch’s (Pierce Brosnan) illegitimate daughter (Kaya Scodelario) fights to save a mermaid from his quest for immortality in The King’s Daughter.
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