Maybe it’s the haunting piano keys, or the shots of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark clutching something (or someone) while the world burns in the background—whatever it is, the message heading into Avengers: Infinity War has been clear: This is the one where good guys die. After 10 years of saving the universe and ruling the box office, some of Marvel’s most beloved heroes may be facing their final days. Infinity War marks the beginning of the end for the MCU as we know it, as Iron Man, Captain America, and about a hundred other characters prepare to face down Thanos and save the universe one last time.
This isn’t to say that Marvel Studios is planning on shutting down its money factory anytime soon, but for the first time, the franchise will be cutting out characters rather than adding new ones. Contracts are running out, stars are moving on, and the next two Avengers movies may well be the last we see of some of the MCU’s most familiar faces.
We can’t predict exactly which characters we’ll lose, but a few different factors can help clear things up. Using current contract information, upcoming films, past interviews, and characters’ overall plot importance, here are our best guesses at which Infinity War characters will make it through—and which ones we should probably start mourning.
Spider-Man (Tom Holland)
Threat Level: Don’t even worry about it
- The two upcoming solo Spider-Man movies
- The fact Spider-Man is intended to help kick off a younger phase of Marvel heroes
- The fact Tom Holland is far too young and precious to die
Peter Parker is the safest character in this movie. Not only does Holland have two solo Spider-Man films planned for the next few years (his second is slated for July 2019), but Marvel is banking on him to kick off a new wave of younger heroes in Phase 4 of the MCU. The only potentially fatal risk Holland will face is being smothered by Marvel PR for dropping spoilers during the Infinity War press tour—he’s notoriously incapable of keeping his mouth shut.
Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)
Threat Level: Lower than the odds of seeing a white person in Wakanda
- Boseman’s confirmed for at least one more solo Black Panther movie
- The fact his character is proved to make ridiculous amounts of money
Chadwick Boseman is signed on for both upcoming Avengers movies and one more solo film, and those were the terms of his contract before Black Panther became one of the most commercially successful movies ever. Now that Wakanda has proved itself to be worth its weight in vibranium, we’ll be seeing much more of the Black Panther, in this movie and beyond. And since a good chunk of Infinity War takes place in Wakanda, fan favorites like Shuri, Okoye, Ramonda, and M’Baku are all slated to make an appearance as well. It looks like some serious fighting will go down, so it’s possible that our newest faves will take some hits during the battle. But frankly, we like their odds.
Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)
Threat Level: Microscopic
- Ant-Man and the Wasp hits theaters in July
- The fact Rudd provides much-needed comic relief
- May have as many as two or three films left on his contract
Despite being one of many Avengers confirmed to show up in Infinity War, Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man has been noticeably absent from both trailers (unless he’s just too tiny to see). Whether or not he shows up in the film, Scott Lang will live to rob again—his second solo film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, hits theaters July 6. He’s good.
The Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan)
Threat Level: This is the safest squad in space
- The entire gang is confirmed for Guardians of the Galaxy 3, which hits theaters after Avengers 4
- Groot already died once—our hearts deserve a break
It may seem premature to deem an entire squad of heroes safe from the big bad they know better than anyone, but the confirmation of Guardians 3 means that Pratt’s chances of surviving this round of the Chris Wars look good. The main Guardians, including Pom Klementieff’s Mantis and Karen Gillan’s Nebula, have all been confirmed to appear in Guardians 3 as well, which is honestly … super surprising, in terms of potential Infinity War stakes. Nebula and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) are Thanos’s adopted daughters, and if we didn’t have proof of their MCU involvement beyond Infinity War, I’d have bet money that we were going to lose at least one (*cough* Nebula *cough*). Imagine the money Marvel would save on its makeup budget! Nonetheless, Peter Quill and his band of weirdos seem to be safe for the foreseeable future. Unless Guardians 3 is packed with flashbacks or space ghosts.
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)
Threat Level: As negligible as Doc’s goatee
- A Doctor Strange sequel is planned for Phase 4 of the MCU
- We just learned how to spell Benedict Cumberbatch’s name; he can’t die this early
Doctor Strange and his sidekick, Wong (Benedict Wong), are both set to appear in Infinity War, but their fate beyond that is tenuous. But odds are good that Benedict Cumberbatch signed the usual six-films contract (Marvel tends to lock down A-listers for a whopping six movies), and a Doctor Strange sequel is reportedly planned for Phase 4 of the MCU. Besides, his time-and-space-bending powers are essential if the Avengers want any chance of beating Thanos. There’s probably no way we’ll lose Doctor Strange this early on in the game, and Wong’s fate likely will go hand in hand with his. Cumberbitches, breathe easy.
The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)
Threat Level: Bucky may outlive us all
- Sebastian Stan is signed with Marvel for NINE FILMS
- The fact Bucky is the best candidate to take over the Captain America mantle if Steve Rogers dies
Before I even bother with rampant Winter Soldier plot speculation, let’s acknowledge the fact Sebastian Stan is on a nine-film contract. He’s not going anywhere! This, frankly, may say more about Captain America’s fate than anything in Chris Evans’s contract, but more on that later. For now, Bucky is a fan favorite with growing star power who is primed to take a bigger role in coming movies. All signs point to his survival.
Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)
Threat Level: About as small as the Olsen twins
- Has at least three more movies on her contract
- She is one of the most powerful Avengers, so they need her to stand a chance against Thanos
First off, Marvel cannot afford to kill off any of its main heroines. They’re few and far between already, so no matter how ambivalent audiences are about Scarlet Witch, she has to survive at least a few more movies. Olsen has said that Wanda’s story line gets more fleshed out in Infinity War, along with her romance with Vision. While those two may not end up living happily ever after, giving Wanda more to do in future films would be a welcome change. She’s appeared in only two movies so far, not counting one post-credits scene, so Olsen almost certainly has more Marvel appearances in the cards.
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)
Threat Level: Too badass to die
- A solo Black Widow movie is FINALLY in early development
Female spies are really in right now, which is the main reason I feel good about Natasha Romanoff’s chances of surviving both Infinity War and Avengers 4. After years of waiting, a Black Widow solo movie is in early development with a writer attached. Tell Nat to get the red dye back out—we’re not ready to say goodbye just yet.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth)
Threat Level: Low enough to safely FaceTime with Thanos
- Confirmed for Avengers 4
- Hemsworth’s expressed interest in a fourth Thor movie
- Thor will be the first Avenger to meet Thanos
Thor has the unfortunate distinction of being the first Avenger to meet Thanos, as we saw in the post-credits of Thor: Ragnarok when his ship full of Asgardians was overtaken by Thanos’s giant spaceship. The Russo brothers have said that Thor plays an important role in the film and even described the movie as being about “Thor and Thanos.” Any sort of proximity to Thanos can’t be a good thing, and things in the trailer don’t look particularly positive for the Asgardians. But we also know that Thor meets the Guardians of the Galaxy in this film, and, as squad goals go, he could do a lot worse. Hemsworth is also confirmed to appear in Avengers 4, and he’s expressed a desire to work with Taika Waititi again on a fourth Thor movie. He’s almost definitely going to survive this movie. Which is nice: At this point, Thor has already lost an eye, multiple friends, both parents, his entire home, and the majority of his hair. He’s been through enough.
Falcon (Anthony Mackie)
Threat Level: Medium chance of danger
- Probably set for Avengers 4
- Could help pick up the slack if Cap dies
Like Bucky, Sam Wilson is another minor Avenger whose chances of surviving may be bolstered if Cap doesn’t make it through Infinity War. Can one man fill those star-spangled shoes, or will Winter Soldier and Falcon team up to take his place in the MCU canon? Both Sam and Bucky have taken over the Captain America mantle at some point in Marvel comic book history. Sam hasn’t had much room to shine on his own so far, but Infinity War could see him take some steps toward heading a new Avengers initiative. Post–Infinity War, Anthony Mackie will have appeared in five MCU films, so thanks to that standard six-movie contract, it’s likely that he will at least make it to Avengers 4. Besides, Mackie always looks like he’s having the time of his life, whether on set or doing press. Dude loves this stuff! I like his odds of sticking around.
Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)
Threat Level: Higher than the Hulk’s IQ, lower than Bruce Banner’s
- Ruffalo’s set for six films with Marvel, will likely appear in at least three more
- Then again, there are no solo Hulk movies in the works
Mark Ruffalo has talked extensively about his six-film Marvel contract, so it’s no secret that he’ll be around for a while. Since Banner has appeared in only three films so far, it looks like he’s going to come out of the Infinity War as green and angry and alive as ever. That said, the odds of a solo Hulk movie are slim to none, and most of the definitely safe characters have at least one confirmed film in their future. That’s a little concerning. We’ve already had three different Hulks, though; now that we’ve finally got one who works, it’d be silly to get rid of him this early.
Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)
Threat Level: As medium as Hawkeye himself
- Renner might be signed on for as many as three more movies
- Hawkeye’s missing from Infinity War trailers and posters
- Hawkeye’s not essential to the team
Clint Barton has been noticeably absent in promotional material for Infinity War, which adds fuel to the theory that his character may not be long for this world. Truth is, Hawkeye is another fan favorite whose death would hurt but wouldn’t put much of a dent in the future of the MCU. The addition of a family and personal background for Clint in Age of Ultron also seems ominous; there’s nothing like sudden emotional stakes to signal an imminent death. There were rumors of a solo Hawkeye movie earlier on in Renner’s run with Marvel, but the odds of that are slim to none at this point. That said, Renner has appeared in only three MCU films so far, four if you count his blink-and-you-miss-it cameo in Thor. From a contract standpoint, his odds look good.
Thanks to a Vanity Fair photoshoot, it appears that Hawkeye is sporting some sort of mohawk now—not the only new hairstyle on the team, but by far the worst! He probably should be sacrificed for that alone.
War Machine (Don Cheadle)
Threat Level: Lower than Tony Stark’s
- Not officially confirmed for Avengers 4
- On the other hand, War Machine is the best candidate to become Iron Man if Tony dies
Rhodes took the biggest hit in Captain America: Civil War, as he was accidentally shot out of the sky by Vision and subsequently paralyzed from the waist down. Thanks to that, it feels like he’s taken enough hits lately to stand a decent chance of surviving at least one more movie. He’s also the best candidate to take over the Iron Man mantle should something happen to Tony, as comic history suggests it will. Don Cheadle isn’t officially confirmed for Avengers 4, but Gwyneth Paltrow let slip that he was on set during filming. Gwyneth’s word is stronger than any official Marvel announcement.
Loki (Tom Hiddleston)
Threat Level: Prime candidate for a Swift departure
- Hiddleston’s contract ends after Avengers 4
- Loki is a beloved character but inessential to the MCU
Loki has survived the MCU for a shockingly long time, evolving from a one-off baddie to the most popular villain turned hero in the franchise. Hiddleston is set for both Infinity War and Avengers 4, but given the likelihood of flashbacks and/or time-travel-related appearances, that doesn’t ensure he’ll make it through this movie. He’s a great candidate for a meaningful death that doesn’t affect the future of the MCU; he’s played out as a villain, and another potential Thor movie wouldn’t require his involvement. Shots in the trailer also show Loki handing the Tesseract, a.k.a. the Space Stone, over to Thanos and his minions. Since Loki already failed Thanos in the first Avengers movie, they’re probably not on great terms! Bad start for him.
That said, Loki has already fake-died so many times that another death may lack the intended emotional impact; by this point, audiences have been trained to assume it’s a trick. Even so, a permanent death for the right cause would tie a perfect bow on his development from true villain to lovable rogue.
Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)
Threat Level: Higher than Downey Jr.’s net worth
- Contract rumored to be near its end
- Downey Jr. has been doing this for an extremely long time
It’s been a decade since Robert Downey Jr. kicked off the MCU with Iron Man, and it feels like it’s about time for him to hang up the suit. There have been rumors about his eventual departure for years, but the details of his contract have always been hard to pin down. It certainly seems like RDJ has fun on the job—and it’s consistently made him one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood—but after 10 years, Tony Stark is played out. He’s taken on more of a mentor role lately, especially in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The stage is set for Tony’s exit, whether in this movie or the next.
Captain America (Chris Evans)
Threat Level: Odds of survival look as bad as that mustache
- Evans’s contract ends after Avengers 4
- Evans is eager to move on, have you heard?
- Some very questionable facial hair choices
Chris Evans has made no secret of his intention to leave Marvel behind once his contract is up after Avengers 4. While he’s guaranteed to appear beyond Infinity War in some respect, that doesn’t mean Cap will survive this movie. With Wanda’s visions, Doctor Strange’s time travel, and the possibility of dream sequences or flashbacks, the opportunity to kill him off still looms. At this point in the story, Steve Rogers is a troubled man: He’s on the run from his own government, and, by the look of him, he’s abandoned everything that used to tie him to the Captain America image. The star-spangled costume is gone, he’s grown out his hair, and what’s with the beard? (No complaints here, but it’s definitely an early retirement beard.) We know Evans is done. The question now is how long Marvel will put off Cap’s imminent demise. If the Avengers require some sort of unifying event to pull everyone together against Thanos in time for the final movie, Cap’s death may be just the thing to do it.
Vision (Paul Bettany)
Threat Level: Doomed since birth
- The fact he has an infinity stone in his forehead that powers his entire being
- Ahem, most of the trailers
Poor ol’ Vision’s days have been numbered ever since Ultron lodged the mind stone into his forehead in Age of Ultron. We know Thanos will eventually acquire all of the infinity stones, and, from the looks of the trailer, he’ll have extracted the mind stone from Vision’s head by the end of Infinity War. Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen have been sharing in interviews that the relationship between Scarlet Witch and Vision is expanded upon in Infinity War, which seems like the perfect way to make audiences care more about the charming purple android before he’s cruelly offed.
There are a few complications to this theory, however. Bettany has implied that he will make an appearance in Avengers 4, and he tweeted a picture from the set this fall. That said, Marvel carefully controls the information (and photos) that actors are allowed to share from sets, and this particular one could be intended to throw us off the scent. Vision could also appear in flashbacks, dream sequences, or one of Wanda’s trippy visions—any of which seems more likely than the character surviving this movie.