Summary

  • Thanos shed a tear when sacrificing his daughter for the Soul Stone, showing regret for his actions in the name of the universe.
  • Star-Lord rejected his god-like powers to help others, proving that true heroism lies in making the right choices rather than relying on superpowers.
  • Vision’s sacrifice for the greater good was rendered pointless as Thanos effortlessly reversed it, highlighting the hopeless situation of Avengers: Infinity War.


When it comes to carrying out the duties of a superhero, tragic sacrifices are a dime a dozen; but there are a number in the MCU that cost some characters more than others. While making the “ultimate sacrifice” and laying down one’s life for the betterment of earth, the universe, or the multiverse is perhaps the most cut-and-dry example, the MCU has a knack for upping the stakes and portraying sacrifices that can surpass even that. These sacrifices aren’t too black-and-white to be confined to just the good guys, either, with sympathetic MCU villains proving that they are just as capable.

Whether being committed by the apparent arch-villain or one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes themselves, the moments that see these characters pay huge prices in pursuit of the greater good can comprise the most character-defining moments in the MCU. There is a lot to be said for those seminal MCU moments that have the audience questioning whether they could have done the same. With that in mind, here are the biggest MCU sacrifices that most effectively pose that exact question.

Related: All Marvel Movies Releasing In 2024


10 Thanos Lost “Everything” To Achieve Victory

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Thanos crying on Vormir after he sacrifices Gamora to get the Soul Stone in Avengers: Infinity War
Thanos crying on Vormir after he sacrifices Gamora to get the Soul Stone in Avengers: Infinity War

One of the reasons Thanos became such a fan-favorite MCU villain was his perversely sympathetic goals. His desire to “save” half the universe by destroying the other half was rendered more convincing by the way in which Thanos dispassionately carried out his self-appointed duty, often seeming more neutral than most villains. This composure broke, however, when he made the sacrifice he would later equate to being “everything” by exchanging the life of his daughter for the Soul Stone. It was here that the typically stone-faced Titan shed a tear, tangibly expressing regret for the actions in which he felt he had no choice for the sake of the universe.

9 Peter Quill Sacrificed Half-Godhood For His Friends And Countless Lives

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, fights Ego in Guardians Of The Galaxy 2

Peter Quill is one of the best non-superpowered heroes in the MCU, which is aided by the fact that he chose to be this way. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 wasn’t quite as emotional as its sequel, but it still delivered heart-wrenching moments aplenty, with Yondu’s sacrifice being among the most prominent. A more costly sacrifice, however, was Star-Lord’s rejection of his Celestial heritage and power.

As his father, Ego, offered him the powers of a god, the discovery of his father’s megalomania, supreme arrogance, and direct liability for Meredith Quill’s death caused Quill to rebuke the offer entirely. By choosing instead to kill Ego, Star-Lord sacrificed immortality and the powers that could have helped him to help others while also turning himself into an orphan. In one fell swoop, Quill embraced the life of a mortal man and showed that true heroism is more often than not found in the right choices rather than superpowers.

8 Hulk Exiled Himself And Abandoned A Second Chance At Love

Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)

Hulk leaves earth in a quinjet at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron

What made Hulk’s decision to abandon his (and Bruce Banner’s) chance at love more heartbreaking was the fact he had to do it twice. Hulk and Natasha Romanoff reached a pretty significant breakthrough in tempering Hulk’s unbridled rage, too, meaning that Hulk’s decision to leave Earth entirely negated that particular solution to the danger he posed. Instead, he embraced the rage for two full years. While this would seem to suggest that Hulk and Banner abandoned all hope of love entirely, the fact that he was recently seen with his son, Skaar, may contradict that after all.

7 Stephen Strange Sacrificed Half the Universe

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Doctor Strange gives the Time Stone to Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War

Doctor Strange made an exceptionally difficult call when asserting to Tony that there was only one possible future out of 14,000,605 in which the Avengers beat Thanos. This future necessitated Thanos’ victory, meaning that the moment Doctor Strange submitted the Time Stone over to the Mad Titan, he was sacrificing the lives of billions, including his own, in order to have them return in the Blip. Presumably, this outcome still required a very specific sequence of events to occur outside Strange’s control to ensure those lives weren’t lost in vain – among the most notable being that a rat brought Ant-Man back from the Quantum Realm.

Related: 10 Strongest Spells Used By Doctor Strange In The MCU, Ranked

Strange’s sacrifice meant more than just the death of the billions of lives he had been tasked with protecting, however. It also meant turning over the object he was also sworn to protect to a villain intent on using it as a genocidal weapon. It would also lead to him relinquishing his role as Sorcerer Supreme entirely as Wong took over, proving that he was among the most virtuous of Doctor Strange variants in the multiverse as he shirked the possibility of employing darker powers like his Earth-838 Illuminati counterpart.

6 Thor Sacrificed Asgard To Defeat Hela

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

The sequence of events that led to Hela’s tyrannical takeover of Asgard could have been properly prepared for if not for Loki’s interference, but the prophesied destruction of Asgard was certainly painted as an unavoidable part of the realm’s future. Thor and Loki were the ones to make the difficult call to raze Asgard entirely as the only conceivable method to defeat their despotic sister. The destruction of their home world to this end was one cataclysmic sacrifice that might have been easier to stomach were it not for the fact that Loki confirmed the death toll of nearly 10,000.

5 Vision’s Heartbreaking Sacrifice Was For Nothing

Avengers: Infinity War 2018

Captain America and Black Widow look down at Vision's body in Avengers: Infinity War.

Of the many heroes, both at the forefront and on the sidelines, who made the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good, Vision’s was among the most heartbreaking because of its brutal futility. Wanda’s reluctance and reaction to causing the death of her beloved was difficult to watch, proving how powerful she was before having her efforts rendered pointless as a Time Stone-wielding Thanos demonstrated his own abilities moments later, reversing what had just transpired and effortlessly pulling the Mind Stone from Vision’s head regardless. The nailbiting final moments of Avengers: Infinity War were a stark indication of just how hopeless the situation had become, with Vision’s pointless sacrifice cementing it.

4 Wanda Was Forced To Lose Her Family

WandaVision (2021)

Scarlet Witch has undergone one of the most painful character arcs in MCU history, making her descent into Darkhold-driven villainy almost inevitable. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness depicted Wanda’s tenacious pursuit of her children upon discovering their presence in alternate realities. This is itself thanks to the fact that Wanda had made one of the biggest sacrifices in the MCU – saying goodbye to her children after spending a short but impossibly sweet amount of time with them in a world of her own making born from the trauma of her previous sacrifice that was itself rendered pointless.

Related: MCU: Wanda & Vision’s Relationship Timeline, Explained

Wanda Maximoff is not one of the MCU’s greatest heroes for being incorruptibly virtuous. Nor is it because she is easily one of the most powerful heroes in the MCU. Instead, Wanda’s painful descent into dangerous territory was due to the sacrifices she made for the greater good, only to have her efforts thrown back in her face – first by Thanos’ Time Stone reversal and Snap, then by the hypocrisy she pointed out herself in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness:

“You break the rules and become a hero. I do it and I become the enemy. That doesn’t seem fair.”

3 Peter Parker Caused Everyone To Forget Him

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

MJ and Peter Parker embrace in Spider-Man No Way Home

Wanda was, of course, referencing Doctor Strange’s use of the Runes of Kof-Kol to do Peter Parker a favor and cause everyone to forget who he is. Though Wanda does have a point in this regard, Strange’s bending of the rules facilitated one of Peter Parker’s most significant moments of growth. On a second go-around of Doctor Strange’s incredibly powerful spell, Peter understood that he must sacrifice being known by those he loved most in order to protect them.

Fresh off the back of losing Aunt May, who had been trying to help Peter rehabilitate Spider-Man’s multiversal nemeses and who refused to stand by and let him face them alone, Peter pursued anonymity once more. This is a particularly brutal sequence of events for someone as young as Peter to go through, especially as he recently lost his father figure in Tony Stark and had only just set about creating a successful and fulfilling life outside of saving the universe. The hope is that Peter’s sacrifices will be vindicated in his next appearance, perhaps by finding new love or having the effects of the spell reversed.

2 Tony Stark Sacrificed Happiness For The Sake Of The Universe

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Tony Stark’s character arc defined the Infinity Saga, which was punctuated by the sound of Tony Stark building his Mark I armor at the beginning of Iron Man. Since that moment, Tony had set aside his arrogance and selfish tendencies to truly find peace and fulfillment with a loving family of his own in Pepper and Morgan and took to his new responsibilities with heartwarming aplomb. After just a few short years with them, albeit in somber surrounding circumstances, Tony rounded out his story by making the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Earth, the universe, and his new family.

1 Loki Sacrificed Companionship For The Sake Of The Multiverse

Loki Season 2 (2023)

Loki saving the multiverse at the end of Loki season 2

Loki’s own journey within the MCU came with a final sacrifice that didn’t just save the lives of one universe but those of infinite universes. After navigating a morally questionable path in pursuit of his “glorious purpose,” Loki discovered that his godhood was meant to manifest as that of a truly neutral yet nigh-omnipotent God of Stories, having him hold the fabric of unlimited realities together in a space outside of time. If He Who Remains’ tenure in the Citadel at the End of Time was a maddening concept, then Loki’s eternal seat upon an austere throne surrounded by nothing but multiversal threads is simply inconceivable.

What made this sacrifice unlike all others was not just the fact that Loki is now responsible for maintaining the lives and free will of the MCU‘s entire multiverse but that the centuries it took for him to get to this point had culminated in the realization that all he wanted was companionship. His ragtag team of misfit friends in the TVA were at the forefront of his mind as he recognized the role he was supposed to play in the multiverse. Now, he looks on simply as an observer perpetually consigned to a life of pure solitude for the benefit of everybody else.

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