The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is a franchise that facilitates cross-over events between characters, storylines, and settings throughout its films. Therefore, the endings in each film must set up future stories within the MCU. Sometimes, that can be good, especially if it highlights new characters or projects. Other times, the endings can feel flat if too much focus is dedicated to teasing future films or TV shows.
With the recent release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3there have been 32 movies in the MCU. Below, we rank the five best endings in the MCU.
5. Iron Man (2018)
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In 2008, the very first film in the MCU was released, and 15 years later, it remains one of its best. The aforementioned first film is Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark, the philanthropic playboy billionaire who becomes the superhero known as Iron Man. The gritty origin story is a perfect showcase for Downey, whose charisma and energy perfectly encapsulate Tony Stark. Like all superhero films, Iron Man uses CGI, but it’s an effective amount of special effects. The film does not become a CGI-fest that has plagued so many recent superhero outings.
In the climactic battle, Stark defeats Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) after Stane falls into an exploding reactor and dies. The next day, Stark tells the media that he is Iron Man. Additionally, the post-credits scene, arguably the most important teaser in the MCU, depicts Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) introducing the “Avenger Initiative” to Stark. Iron Man’s ending and post-credits scene shaped the future of the MCU, a fact that cannot be overstated.
Stream Iron Man on Disney+.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Before 2014, the Guardians of the Galaxy was an enigmatic Marvel property. The Guardians had their own comic series, but nowhere near the popularity of Spider-Man, Captain America, or the X-Men. Kevin Feige even labeled the Guardians franchise as “obscure.” With the release of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxythe ragtag outer-space heroes suddenly became one of the MCU’s bright spots.
The Guardians are a faction in the MCU, but they feel like their own entity. The movies are backed by their unique combination of humor, heart, and individuality. Look no further than the ending of the first film. In Guardians of the Galaxythe Guardians defeat Ronan and reclaim the Power Stone, thanks to a dance-off. Imagine if Thor used ballet to distract Loki and regain the Tesseract. It would be laughed at and dismissed by fans. However, the Guardians are lovable losers, so the lightheartedness of a dance-off works with these characters. The Guardians’ originality is why they went from Marvel obscurity to live-action superstars.
Stream Guardians of the Galaxy on Disney+.
3. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Unlike Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Spider-Man: No Way Home is an example of fan service done right. The biggest known secret heading into No Way Home involved the return of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, who reprised their versions of Peter Parker/Spider-Man alongside Tom Holland’s web-slinger. When the three Spider-Men showed up onscreen, it felt important and earned; it wasn’t done only to appease fans.
Like Avengers: Endgame (more on that later), the emotional stakes of No Way Home were high as Peter Parker told Doctor Strange to cast a spell that would erase him from everyone’s memory. In doing so, no one, including Ned (Jacob Leeds) and MJ (Zendaya), would remember Peter Parker. Peter made the ultimate sacrifice to save his friends and, more importantly, protect the multiverse because with great power comes great responsibility. Even with a fourth film in development, No Way Home felt like a definitive ending to that chapter of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Stream Spider-Man: No Way Home on Starz.
2. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
If unexpected endings are your favorite, then Avengers: Infinity War should be right up your alley. The previous two Avengers films follow the same formula: a villain threatens humanity, the Avengers argue over how to handle the threat, and they eventually work together to save the world. Infinity War follows suit for two-thirds of the film. After years of being teased, Thanos (Josh Brolin) finally wreaks havoc in the MCU, collecting each Infinity stone, one by one.
With Thanos needing the Mind Stone to complete the Infinity Gauntlet, most of the Avengers converge on Wakanda to stop the Mad Titan from achieving his goal. Unfortunately, Thanos succeeds in retrieving all six stones. Thor makes one last attempt to stop Thanos by wounding him with Stormbreaker. However, it’s to no avail as Thanos activates the Gauntlet and snaps his fingers, leading to the disintegration of half of all life in the universe. It was a brilliant swerve from Marvel as the Avengers finally failed in a mission. Watching many of these heroes disintegrate tore at the heartstrings, including Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) goodbye to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Infinity War‘s final scenes are as bleak as it gets, but the dark surprise remains one of the most effective endings in the MCU.
Stream Avengers: Infinity War on Disney+.
1. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
In 2019, the culmination of an 11-year journey came to an emotional and satisfying conclusion in Avengers: Endgame. After reversing Thanos’s snap, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Iron Man are joined by the previously-disintegrated Avengers and their respective allies in one last fight against Thanos and his army. Before Thanos can re-do his snap, Iron Man steals the Gauntlet, snaps his fingers, and disintegrates Thanos and his army. However, Iron Man succumbs to his wounds and dies shortly after the snap. After Stark’s funeral, Steve Rogers returns the stones to their proper timelines and elects to live in the past with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). An older Rogers finally passes his shield to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie).
Re-capturing the magic of the Infinity Saga will be difficult. Through patience and clever storytelling, the emotional stakes coming into Endgame were at an all-time high. Theaters everywhere erupted after Captain America uttered the famous line, “Avengers, assemble.” Fans came out in waves to see Endgame, which grossed $1.2 billion worldwide in its opening weekend, a feat that will never be matched anytime soon. Endgame landed the plane, tying a beautiful and satisfying bow on the Infinity Saga.
Stream Avengers: Endgame on Disney+.