In a troubled world like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, saving the innocent is often very expensive. Heroes like the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, or Wizards of Kamar-Taj risk their own lives – and often sacrifice it – to make sure the people they protect don’t have to.
Considering the sheer number of heroes in the MCU and all their courageous moments, it’s hard to value one act of sacrifice over another. Yet some cases stand out from the rest, illustrating the true meaning of heroism and the character of the individuals involved.
ten Pietro Maximoff dies to save Clint Barton
The MCU’s version of Quicksilver failed to achieve the same popularity and notoriety as its counterpart in the X Men films, but his brief appearance in Age of Ultron remains memorable. Even though he’s a villain first, seeking revenge for his parents’ deaths, Pietro and his sister switch allegiances once they carry out Ultron’s plan. It might not have been truly heroic, but his final sacrifice is. Seeing Clint Barton in trouble as he is targeted by Ultron, Pietro intervenes. He is shot in Clint’s place and his sacrifice leaves his sister Wanda grieved and lost.
9 Wanda Maximoff drops the spell, sacrificing her family
One of the most powerful characters in the MCU, Wanda Maximoff is above all a woman who loses too much. She loses her parents, her brother, and – when Thanos attacks – she loses the love of her life, Vision. It goes without saying that she had become emotionally unstable. In her grief, she creates an enchantment that turns the town of Westview into an idyllic fantasy, with her own copy of Vision present, two children, and even a version of Pietro involved.
When she first realizes what she’s done, Wanda refuses to release her curse. But in the end, she realizes that her actions are wrong. In the end of WandaVision, Wanda drops her enchantment, freeing the citizens of Westview. The problem may have only arisen because of her, but the fact remains that Wanda sacrifices her husband and children, to make amends for what she had done wrong.
8 Loki attacks Thanos for his brother’s sake
The unlikely villain-turned-hero, Loki, is about as unlucky in life as Wanda, if not more. After years at odds with his brother Thor, the two finally mend their ways and beat their evil sister Hela. Things don’t work after that, as their ship is attacked by Thanos. In the ensuing battle, the Asgardians who survived Hela’s rampage are wiped out.
In a last ditch effort to help his brother, Loki attacks Thanos with a dagger. Thanos easily neutralizes Loki, then kills him. From the series Loki, a version of the character – identified as classic Loki – manages to escape the incident, casting an illusion more powerful than anything he had done before. It’s unclear why Cannon Loki didn’t do this, but his sacrifice is still tragic and remarkable.
7 Groot sacrifices himself to save his friends on the black aster
The Flora Colossus Groot gave MCU fans a lot of interesting and fun moments, but also some heartbreaking moments. First guardians of the galaxy movie, Groot and his friends are stranded on Ronan’s burning ship, the Dark Aster. Groot wraps them in a cocoon of branches to protect them, saying “We are Groot” to reassure them. When the ship crashes, he dies, but they don’t. His sacrifice is somewhat softened by the fact that a form of Groot is brought back at the end of the film, although director James Gunn has said Baby Groot was not the original.
6 Iron Man flies to apparent death so he can save New York
The first one Avengers The film will remain memorable no matter how many releases Marvel has in the works. This was the first time the original Avengers had come together against a common enemy, in this case, Loki and the Chitauri. But it turns out that the worst threat does not come from Loki at all, but rather from the World Security Council. Panicked by the invasion, they ordered the launch of a nuclear missile. It’s up to Iron Man to save the day. He flies the missile into the wormhole, fully aware that it is most likely a one-way ticket. He survives, but it’s very tight, and that leaves him with PTSD that he never really gets over.
5 Classic Loki sacrifices himself to Alioth
Classic Loki may have outlived Thanos, but he fails to escape the Time Variance Authority. Pruned and sent into the Void by TVA, he later meets two younger versions of himself who intend to bring down the real force behind the organization. To do this, however, they must overtake the entity Alioth.
Classic Loki casts a powerful illusion of Asgard, attracting the attention of the monster and giving Variant Loki and Sylvie the chance to enchant the creature. Alioth is consuming it, but it truly is a heroic moment. He embraces his death and dies with a tearful smile as he accomplishes his glorious goal.
4 Doctor Strange puts himself and Dormammu in a constant loop of death
Stephen Strange goes through quite a journey in his origin story. Originally a skeptical scientist, he becomes the Sorcerer Supreme after the death of his mentor and ends up having to confront the interdimensional entity Dormammu. Summoned by the renegade wizard Kaecilius, Dormammu seeks to bring the Dark Dimension to Earth.
Using the Eye of Agamotto – the amulet containing the Time Stone – Strange traps Dormammu in a time loop, offering the entity a simple affair, to leave or be trapped there forever. Dormammu doesn’t react well and kills Doctor Strange countless times before finally giving up. Doctor Strange eventually wins, but it’s an ordeal that says a lot about his character and selflessness.
3 Wanda is forced to kill Vision to stop Thanos
The Westview incident isn’t the first time Wanda has had to sacrifice her own happiness. During the Battle of Wakanda, she finds herself forced to destroy the Mind Stone fueling Vision, just so Thanos can’t get it. The strength required to kill one’s own lover is admirable. Ultimately, Wanda’s pain is of no use, as Thanos rewinds time and kills Vision again, claiming the Stone.
2 Natasha Romanov trades her life for the Soul Stone
The first female Avenger, Black Widow has a painful arc in the MCU. Originally a Red Room murderer, she joined SHIELD through Clint Barton. She becomes an Avenger and considers the team like her family. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she tries. After the Snap, Natasha becomes the official leader of the Avengers, overseeing their operations on a much larger scale. When the Avengers have the chance to turn things around, she happily kisses him.
She and Clint travel to Vormir to retrieve the Soul Stone, only to find that the true cost of the Stone is the sacrifice of a loved one. Both Avengers wish to sacrifice themselves and they fight briefly for it. But in the end, it’s Natasha who throws herself off the cliff, allowing Clint to claim the stone. Natasha’s body is never recovered. At the end of the film, she is lost and barely recognized.
1 Iron Man gives his life to defeat Thanos
The final showdown between the assembled Avengers and Thanos ends with the Mad Titan still picking up the Infinity Gauntlet. At the last moment, Iron Man steps in and grabs the Infinity Stones using his nanotechnology. Even through the armor, the Stones visibly hurt Tony, but he still manages to snap his fingers, defeating Thanos and his armies.
The radiation kills him and he dies surrounded by his friends and family. His sacrifice is made even sadder by the fact that after everything that happened, Tony finally started a family with Pepper and their daughter Morgan. He will always be remembered as Iron Man, the hero who defied all expectations, faced his worst nightmare and won.
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