Summary

  • Heroes in the Marvel movies often make unforgettable sacrifices for the greater good.
  • These sacrifices are not limited to the MCU, but are also present in other Marvel movies.
  • The sacrifices made by these heroes have a significant impact on the storyline and make them even more heroic.

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On occasion, the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and other related franchises have been known to make grandiose heroic sacrifices, with the biggest often proving to be truly unforgettable. As the stories of the MCU seek to adapt the characters of Marvel Comics, they are packed with heroic figures who make equally heroic gestures. Of course, they’re always opposed by villains, and the resulting struggles aren’t always kind to the franchise’s protagonists. Sometimes, the movies of the MCU see their heroes forced into making heroic sacrifices.

The phenomenon isn’t limited solely to the MCU, as many other Marvel movies feature similarly memorable moments of bittersweet heroism. As the majority of Marvel heroes regularly risk life and limb in the defense of others, it’s hardly shocking that occasionally, they pay a heavy price for their deeds. Even so, on those occasions throughout the MCU’s movie timeline when heroes have been forced to make impossibly selfless choices, it’s truly unforgettable. With that in mind, here are 10 of the most memorable heroic sacrifices in Marvel movie history.

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10 Peter Parker Died To Save Miles Morales

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Miles Morales and Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Not all heroic sacrifices are designed to end stories, as they are occasionally used to begin a narrative. Few examples of this are as memorably shocking as Peter Parker’s death at the beginning of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. After Miles Morales gains his powers, he encounters Spider-Man and Kingpin, as the latter is experimenting with dimensional technology. While attempting to stop the villain, Spider-Man is also forced to protect Miles, ultimately costing him his life. As it’s a precipitating factor in Miles’ own journey to becoming Spider-Man, Peter’s sacrifice is both poignant and unforgettable.

9 Classic Loki’s Alioth Distraction Cost Him His Life

Loki season 1 (2021)

Classic Loki about to be killed by Alioth in Loki season 1 episode 5

Of the many characters in Loki season 1’s cast, perhaps the most unexpectedly heroic is Classic Loki, played by Richard O’Brien. Though the character is initially presented as a rough depiction of the comics’ villainous Golden Age Loki, he makes a shockingly emotional sacrifice in order to help his variants survive the wrath of Alioth. In an impressive display of power, Classic Loki conjures a massive and intricate illusion of Asgard, drawing Alioth’s attention to allow Loki and Sylvie to reach the Citadel at the End of Time. The act costs Classic Loki his life, making it an especially memorable heroic sacrifice.

8 Jean Grey Died Saving The X-Men

X2 (2003)

Jean Grey using her telekinesis at the end of X2

Though Fox’s X-Men movies are uneven in quality, X2 is often cited as the best of the bunch. The movie is packed with memorable moments, but perhaps none are as heroic as Jean Grey making the ultimate sacrifice. As the mutant heroes are escaping the Weapon X compound at the end of the movie, a tide of water threatens to kill them all. Jean Grey steps into its path, using her telepathy to allow the others to escape before it consumes her. The heroic sacrifice also set up The Last Stand’s Dark Phoenix storyline, making it doubly memorable.

7 Doctor Strange Sacrifices His Morals To Stop Wanda

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

Not all sacrifices end in death, even when the stakes are potentially reality-breaking. In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Doctor Strange finds himself attempting to stop the Scarlet Witch from tearing apart the Multiverse. As the villain is powered by the corrupting influence of the Dakrhold, Strange sees only one way to stop her, which is to use it himself. Strange uses the dangerous artifact to stop Wanda’s rampage, but at great personal cost: as revealed in Multiverse of Madness’ post-credits scene, the Darkhold causes irreparable changes to Strange, making his moral sacrifice seem decidedly costly.

6 Pietro Maximoff Saves Hawkeye

Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron introduced two new Avengers to the MCU, although only one survived the movie. Shortly after embracing his potential as a hero, Quicksilver makes an unexpected sacrifice. While fighting the forces of Ultron in Sokovia, Quicksilver runs into danger to save Hawkeye’s life, taking the bullets himself in the process. The nature of Pietro’s sacrifice has a profound effect on both his sister Wanda and Hawkeye, making it every bit as memorable as it is shocking.

5 Black Widow Died To Help The Avengers

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow looking upset on Vormir in Avengers Endgame

When it comes to character arcs in the MCU, Black Widow’s is undoubtedly one of the most tragic. Natasha may not be as powerful as the other Avengers, but she was the first to lay down her life in Avengers: Endgame in order to save others. After learning that obtaining the Soul Stone will require a sacrifice, Black Widow fights Hawkeye for the right to give her life for the cause. In doing so, she helps the Avengers stop Thanos, ultimately proving her status as one of the MCU’s most heroic figures.

4 Peter Parker Gave Up His Identity To Save The Multiverse

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

The story of Spider-Man: No Way Home sees a handful of tragic sacrifices made, but one in particular highlights the heroic nature of its protagonist. After learning that his meddling in magic had begun to threaten the stability of the Multiverse, Peter Parker opted to have the world forget him entirely. Sacrificing his entire identity to ensure the safety of everyone else proved a heavy price to pay, as No Way Home’s ending saw Peter encountering MJ and Ned, who failed to recognize him. It was a formative moment for the young hero and an unforgettably bittersweet hero moment for the MCU.

3 Ho Yinsen’s Sacrifice Saved Tony Stark

Iron Man (2008)

Shaun Toub as Dr. Ho Yinsen dying in Iron Man (2008)

Although Ho Yinsen is far from the most memorable character, his sacrifice immortalizes him as one of the MCU’s most important figures. Yinsen not only saves Tony Stark’s life when he’s first captured by the Ten Rings but also sacrifices himself to ensure Stark is able to escape. Yinsen’s death buys Tony Stark’s freedom and allows him to become Iron Man, making it one of the MCU’s greatest heroic sacrifices.

2 Yondu Chose To Save Star-Lord Rather Than Himself

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Yondu might appear to be one of the least heroic characters in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but his touching sacrifice is perhaps the MCU’s most touching redemption arc to date. After admitting he considers himself Star-Lord’s father, he saves the young hero’s life at the cost of his own. With a touching farewell and a spectacular Ravager funeral, Yondu’s sacrifice is one of the MCU’s most emotional scenes, and it seems all the more heroic for the fact that the character had previously appeared to be indifferent to Star-Lord’s wellbeing.

1 Iron Man’s Sacrifice Was What It Took To Stop Thanos

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) using the nano-gauntlet in Avengers Endgame

Avengers: Endgame was the culminated of a hugely ambitious arc in the MCU, making it a cinematic spectacle for the ages. The Multiverse Saga concluded with an unforgettable sacrifice, as Iron Man opts to use the Infinity Stones to defeat Thanos. Even knowing the act will kill him, Tony Stark does so to ensure the universe is safe from the Mad Titan, proving himself the ultimate MCU hero in the process. It’s the most memorable moment in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, all because of an incredibly heroic sacrifice.

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