Death is relatively uncommon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bad guys end up in death’s grasp pretty often, but MCU films usually come with the caveat that our heroes will come out the other end battered and bruised but still kicking.
Avengers: Infinity War changed that.
**SPOILER WARNING: This post contains major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.**
Now, not all the deaths in Infinity War were equal. In fact, fans are already theorizing that many of these deaths will be reversed in Avengers 4 (especially the ones who faded to ash), because killing off half your cast of million-dollar actors and social media juggernauts isn’t great for business or fan morale. Infinity War was brutal — but some deaths are likely more permanent than others, and it’s important that we distinguish them.
The official “death” toll in Avengers: Infinity War is 22 characters plus half the universe that they couldn’t save. Let’s talk it out and break it down. Here’s every death in Infinity War ranked by how upsetting it really is.
The Black Order/The Children of Thanos
No one’s shedding a tear over these four folks, right? Good.
The Collector (Benicio del Toro)
We can assume the Collector is dead. When Thanos used the Reality Stone to make the Guardians believe that Knowhere was still intact, he dropped a faux Taneleer Tivan into the mix to really sell it. He waves cheerfully at Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis as he pops out of existence and is replaced by rubble and fire.
Half the universe
Literally trillions of people are dead by the time Steve Rogers realizes that they’ve failed, collapses to his knees, and utters out the words, “Oh, God.” It’s tragic. The only problem is that we’re not emotionally attached to the unnamed people throughout the universe; we’re emotionally attached to the Avengers, the Guardians, and our other heroes.
Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)
We adore Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, but seeing as we didn’t actually see her presumed death (because we’re supposed to believe she’s dead along with the other Asgardians, right?), the potential tragedy of it falls a little flat. But it seems unlikely that Marvel would make us fall in love with Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok only to kill her offscreen without explanation. What’s up with that?
Half of your faves
This group consists of: Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier/White Wolf (Sebastian Stan), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Drax (Dave Bautista) Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)
The heart-stopping visuals of half your long-time favorite characters dissolving to ash was something else, huh? Some highlights that really stick out: Bucky’s last word is “Steve;” Wanda looks relieved to be dying because she didn’t want to live without Vision; Okoye’s absolutely earth-shattering, heart-rending expression upon realizing that her king has just disappeared; Rocket and Groot; a teenage Peter Parker clutching at his father figure and sobbing as he apologizes and begs for everything to be okay.
Now, these are the worst, right? But that Marvel “killed” the wildly popular King T’Challa and Peter Parker, both of whom have slated sequels forthcoming and are not only fan-favorites but enormous cash cows, is pseudo-proof enough that all of this will be reversed in Avengers 4.
Someone — maybe Captain Marvel — will save the day and reverse everything. Maybe with the Time Stone, maybe another way — but fans are already certain that this will all be reversed. We hope.
One more thing before we move on: When Tony Stark brings his hands up to his mouth after Peter falls apart in his arms, the muck clinging to one of his hands is probably partly made up of Peter’s ashes. All of this after Tony said at the beginning of the movie that he wants a kid. You’re welcome.
Vision (Paul Bettany)
This is where things start to get tricky. Thanos ripped the Mind Stone out of Vision’s head, sure, but the rest of Vision’s body remains unharmed. Vision and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) said that Vision could potentially survive without the Mind Stone. That’s not a guarantee that the broken sentient robot can be put back together again, but at least Vision died in the right place; if anyone can put Vision back together, it’s Shuri — though she might not be up to the task for a while after finding out about her brother.
Gamora (Zoë Saldana)
The only reason Gamora isn’t ranked the No. 1 most tragic death is because her death was so tied to the Soul Stone — and the Soul Stone is a tricky son of a gun. The Soul Stone, the most sentient of the six Infinity Stones, has a habit of storing souls within it and even reanimating people (at least, it does in Marvel’s comics). And it seems likely that the young Gamora we see in the orange-tinged realm Thanos finds himself in after snapping his fingers is a representation of Gamora’s living soul, not just a projection of Thanos’ grief. We’ll have to wait and see.
One thing is for certain, though: If Gamora comes back and finds out that Peter Quill single-handedly stopped his team from getting the gauntlet from Thanos and thus had a hand in killing half the universe, she might kill him herself.
Heimdall (Idris Elba)
The first onscreen casualty of Infinity War. Heimdall has been with us since the first Thor film, a role that introduced much of the world to the wonder that is Idris Elba. Heimdall wielded some insane power from beginning to end, and the Earth-dwelling Avengers wouldn’t have had Banner’s warning about Thanos without Heimdall mustering up one final trip along the Bifrost. Here’s to your infinite wisdom, Heimdall.
Loki (Tom Hiddleston)
Loki’s death, the second onscreen kill in the film, was the Russo brothers’ “We’re not here to mess around” declaration. The audible snap of Loki’s neck, the bulging eyes, the lifeless skin, and Thor collapsing over his brother’s body as their ship burned up around them set the tone for the entire film. The unease that probably settled under your skin in that moment was almost definitely intentional on the Russo’s part.
His death hits hard. The trickster’s journey from bitter rival to grudgingly fond half-brother spanned five movies (Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War) and, despite his problematic tendencies, Loki has been a fan-favorite since the beginning. From that dastardly smile and silver tongue to his fondness for knives and putting them in people’s (especially Thor’s) backs, this son of Odin will go down as one of the Avengers series’ greats. His death seems permanent this time around. Thor will have to find someone else to play “Get help” with in the future.