The fan theories are flying as the world prepares for Avengers: Endgame. Not that it’s anything new. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has always been ripe for fan theories, given its interconnected world and beloved, long-standing characters. Fandom is synonymous with fan theories, and the MCU has one of the most active, imaginative fandoms out there.
Some fan theories are greater than others. The inexplicable popularity of the Thanus theory — that Ant-Man will travel up Thanos' butt, expand into Giant-Man, and tear Thanos apart from the inside out — is one example of a theory that's more fun than feasible. It’s funny, but, no, Disney is not going to make a movie where someone is defeated by another person blowing them up via their butt.
Ahead of the Avengers: Endgame premiere, it seems appropriate to bring together the most likely, interesting fan theories out there. Here are the Top 10 Endgame fan theories, the ones that have at least some sort of hold on reality and seem most likely to come true.
This is the biggest one. And, technically, we’re cheating here because there are several time travel theories for Endgame. Some are better than others, but ever since set photos leaked showing the Endgame actors in their The Avengers-era getups (with Ant-Man in tow), it’s been presumed time travel would be heavily involved. No matter the means, though, the idea is the same: Go back in time to stop Thanos from ever getting the Stones in the first place and stopping the Snap before it happens.
The most obvious answer as to how they manage this is the Time Stone, originally in Doctor Strange’s possession and now held by Thanos. If the Avengers can manage to wrest it from his Gauntlet-clad grasp, then they might be able to undo everything, rendering the snap moot.
Other fans assume that Ant-Man’s involvement and reappearance mean the Quantum Realm, with its enormous, unexplainable power, will be used to travel back in time. Both time and space are irrelevant there, and Ant-Man and the Wasp introduced the idea that the MCU has only begun to scratch the Quantum Realm’s surface.
Another theory is that the gang won’t so much travel back in time as they will use Tony’s B.A.R.F. technology first introduced in Captain America: Civil War to simulate traveling back in time and see where, exactly, they screwed up.
No matter what, time travel will be involved. We just have to see how.
Steve Rogers will die
The man out of time has long felt like an outsider in the 21st century. He’s grown to love it and make a home for himself, but he’s also faced countless hardships. He’s been exiled and hunted by his own country, and then only allowed to return when the need for his strength was so prominent that no one could deny his involvement. Steve Rogers’ Captain America is the heart of the Avengers, the man who’s always been able to bring them together. Taking him out of the equation would raise an interesting challenge for anyone who survives Endgame.
Notice that we say “Steve Rogers” will die. Captain America will never die. Yes, losing Steve Rogers would mean losing something quintessential to the character, but the Cap mantel would undoubtedly be passed to the next contender. In Marvel’s comics, both Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) take up the shield at different times, though given the pair’s upcoming Disney+ series, we don’t know how that will go over.
Tony Stark will die
As of Endgame, Robert Downey Jr. will have played Tony Stark in 10 movies over 11 years. His importance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe cannot be overstated. It’s his prevalence within this story — the challenges he’s faced over the years and his personal growth in response to those challenges — that ultimately spurs on theories about his death.
As the man long plagued by Thanos’ inevitable arrival, it’s appropriate that the villain would be his undoing. At the end of the day, though, Tony’s death would just be good storytelling. The MCU started over a decade ago with Tony Stark’s Iron Man, so there’s no better person to bow out at the end of the 22-movie Infinity Saga than the man who started it all.
How he will die is up for debate. Will he sacrifice himself for Pepper Potts? For Steve Rogers, solidifying their friendship despite all the hard times? Or simply for the good of the world?
No one will die
Half wishful thinking, half logic, this theory holds up best when you think about the MCU in terms of it being a business. Why kill Tony Stark or Steve Rogers when you could reasonably push them into the background for the actors' sakes while still being able to call upon them for cameos and mentor roles?
Why kill anyone, for that matter? This is, after all, a Disney franchise; death has never been a large part of the equation. That's why Infinity War was so jarring. Are they really going to deliver two huge gut punches like that within a year of each other? And why get rid of potentially profitable characters when you could, again, just sideline them for the time being and bring them back when it's convenient?
Gamora will stop Thanos
This plays into the theory that Gamora isn't so much dead as she is trapped in the Soul Stone. That's why we see her as a young version of herself in an orange-tinged (aka the Soul Stone's color) world post-snap.
She asks Thanos if it was worth it. As Thanos sits alone on his farm planet, the only other person we know of that's near him is, yes, Gamora's soul that's likely trapped in the Soul Stone. Maybe Gamora’s influence on Thanos ultimately makes him change his mind. Maybe Gamora somehow breaks out of the Soul Stone to get her ultimate revenge. Maybe Nebula’s desire to get revenge for her sister’s death leads Nebula to kill Thanos. Whatever the reason, Gamora will likely be a huge influence in Endgame. Thanos' ultimate "weapon" will be his ultimate undoing.
Thanos will take it all back
To be perfectly honest, this has been my own theory since the moment I exited the theater after Infinity War. I’m cheating again, but this is my list, so it’s staying here. I’m sure I’m also not the only one who’s thought of this.
It goes like this. Infinity War is ultimately Thanos’ story. He’s the hero and, following his final journey through the cosmos to achieve his goal, we see his story come to a supposed end. But, oddly, it wasn’t the end. Infinity War’s end credits tell us this point-blank: “Thanos will return.” Not the Avengers. Not the snapped. Thanos.
Little Gamora asks Thanos near the end of Infinity War whether it was all worth it, and he doesn’t answer. That’s the kind of question that niggles. I imagine Thanos sitting on his porch, alone, thinking about killing the daughter he “loved” so much to accomplish his goal. Was it worth it?
Maybe Endgame really will make Thanos the hero of this story. He is both the villain and the hero in equal measure and will use the Infinity Stones to once again change the universe. This time, it’ll just be for the better.
Tony will meet his and Pepper's teenage daughter
This is the least consequential theory on this list, which kinda makes it the most interesting of the bunch. Some entertainment news sites in late 2018 picked up on the news that 13 Reasons Why actress Katherine Langford had been cast in an Endgame mystery role. This coincided with Langford posting a picture of herself with red hair to her Instagram.
Tony’s first scene in Infinity War was of him telling Pepper about a dream he had that she was pregnant. She says she’s not, but what if she didn’t know? Or what if she was waiting to surprise him? Why include this if it weren’t going to come back into play at one point or another? Infinity War was dealing with precious time, so this seemed like an odd thing to include.
If time travel is involved in Endgame, maybe Tony will find out about his kid when he first meets a teenage version of her. Talk about tragic, especially if he does die.
Everyone who was snapped is in a parallel universe
When Thanos snapped his fingers, he destroyed 50 percent of all life in the galaxy — unless he didn’t, as this theory posits. What if, rather than kill half of existence, he instead transported them to a parallel universe. In that alternate universe, Peter Parker and Doctor Strange are kicking it, while Tony Stark is “dead.”
This theory, which manages to make Infinity War even more like HBO’s The Leftovers (spoilers for Season 3, we guess), is intriguing, though not without some pretty serious problems. It certainly seemed like Peter Parker and co. were, uh, dying when they turned to dust, not being whisked to an alternate dimension.
There are a couple of ways how this theory would play out in Endgame should it be true. Perhaps the Avengers from both dimensions will work towards the same goal of reuniting the universes. Other variations on this theory argue that there will always be two separate MCU universes going forward, but that seems absurd. If that were the case, Okoye and M’Baku would not be in the Black Panther sequel, since they’re in different universes, according to this theory. That’s just not gonna happen. Marvel Studios didn’t change cinema by bringing all their characters together, only to separate them.
Everyone who was snapped is trapped in the Soul Stone (with Gamora)
Another variation on the “they didn’t actually die” theory, this theory posits that the dead are actually trapped inside of the Soul Stone, the way that Gamora may have been, depending on how you interpret the ending of Infinity War. This would be a neat way for the dusted heroes to come back without technically coming back from the dead, should Endgame eschew serious time travel or Infinity Stone shenanigans.
Despite Red Skull’s exposition in Infinity War, we don’t know much about how the Soul Stone works compared to the other Infinity Stones, leading to some interesting spins on this theory, like that Soul Stone is alive and Gamora’s soul is controlling it, and that she saved the heroes from really dying, instead transporting them into the Soul Stone. The same theory also speculates that the comics character Adam Warlock, who is not expected to appear in the film despite his role in the Infinity Gauntlet comics, will be a major player, so take these specifics with a grain of salt.
Thanos will be defeated in the first half of the movie
When the Avengers fought Thanos in Infinity War, they didn’t have Captain Marvel with them, and Thor didn’t have Stormbreaker for most of the movie. In Endgame, Captain Marvel appears to show up pretty early, based on Black Widow’s changing hairstyles throughout the trailers, and Thor has his ax and knows to aim for the head. This has led some theorists to believe that Thanos will be defeated within the first 20 minutes of the movie, and then the real challenge will be finding a way to undo the damage he did with the Snap.
Specific riffs on this theory get a little out there, arguing that there’s going to be a total retcon of the entire MCU, while others suggest that Dormammu, the forgettable Doctor Strange villain, will step in as the eleventh-hour big bad. While those ideas seem a little more specious, the idea that Thanos will go down early isn’t a crazy one.