Summary

  • Thanos’ death in Avengers: Endgame by Iron Man wielding the Infinity Stones is the most iconic and satisfying death in the MCU.
  • Thanos’ beheading by Thor in Avengers: Endgame is a darkly satisfying moment of character development and raises intrigue for the plot.
  • Thanos’ death in the What If…? season 2 finale by Killmonger snapping him out of existence is a poetic and satisfying demise using the Infinity Stones.

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Though he’s undoubtedly one of the most powerful characters in the MCU, Thanos has been killed multiple times in different continuities, and some of his demises were far better than others. First introduced to the MCU in 2012’s The Avengers via a post-credits scene, Thanos quickly became the scourge of the MCU’s movie timeline throughout the Infinity Saga. Serving as the primary antagonist of the MCU’s Phases 1 through 3, Thanos’ goal to amass the Infinity Stones and wipe out half of all life in the universe saw him pitted against the combined might of the Avengers on multiple occasions.

Despite Thanos being an immensely powerful figure within the franchise, he has actually met his end many times across the movies and TV shows of the MCU. The majority of these deaths occurred in different timelines or alternate realities, with some happening off-screen while others played out as part of the MCU’s wider narrative. Regardless of the specifics of each instance, the MCU has shown Thanos’ death on multiple occasions, and some of them were far more exciting than others. With that in mind, here are all 8 times that Thanos died in the MCU, ranked worst to best.

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8 Ronan Killing Thanos Was Incredibly Underwhelming

What If…? Season 2, Episode 1, “What If… Nebula Joined the Nova Corps?”

Ronan the Accuser standing over Thanos' helmet in What If...? Season 2 episode 1

The first episode of What If…? season 2 followed Nebula working as a detective several years after joining the Nova Corps on Xandar, caused by Ronan the Accuser’s successful betrayal and murder of Thanos. Despite being a major revelation, Thanos’ death isn’t even explicitly shown, but rather Ronan stands above his vanquished body in the opening scene to demonstrate his status as the big bad of that timeline. Ronan killing Thanos by far the least satisfying manner in which Thanos met his end in the MCU, as there’s very little information about the betrayal offered by the episode.

7 The Illuminati Used The Darkhold

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

The Illuminati standing over Doctor Strange and Thanos' corpse in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Another off-screen death for Thanos in an alternate timeline came in the events leading up to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, even though the titular hero only learns of the death after the fact. An important addition to Multiverse of Madness’ cast was the Illuminati, who Strange encounters when visiting Earth-838. After being captured by the group, he learns that his counterpart used the Darkhold’s magic to kill Thanos, and the villain’s lifeless body is briefly shown on Titan in a flashback. As the action happened offscreen, the death of Earth-838’s Thanos is also particularly underwhelming.

6 Stabbed By Gamora

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Perhaps the most unexpected Thanos death in the MCU actually occurred in the franchise’s main timeline, or at least it appeared to. In Avengers: Infinity War, the Guardians of the Galaxy encounter Thanos on Knowhere, and Gamora seizes the opportunity to get her revenge on her adoptive father. Managing to gain the upper hand, Gamora stabs Thanos, then sobs as the Mad Titan dies. However, it’s then revealed that Thanos wasn’t dead at all, but that he had used the Reality Stone to manipulate Gamora, making the shocking death little more than a well-executed fake-out.

5 Killmonger Snapped Thanos

What If…? Season 2, Episode 9, “What If… Strange Supreme Intervened?”

Thanos being snapped out of existence in What If? season 2 episode 9

The epic finale of What If…? season 2 sees the return of many powerful MCU villains, identified as “Universe Killers”. Naturally, Thanos ranks among them, and attacks the heroes, momentarily gaining the upper hand. At the critical moment, Thanos turns to dust and fades away, and it’s revealed that Killmonger had used the Infinity Gauntlet to snap him out of existence. The death is a throwback to Avengers: Endgame’s ending, and the poetic nature of the Infinity Stones being used once again to defeat Thanos makes his demise all the more satisfying.

4 Turned Into A Zombie

What If..? Season 1, Episode 5, “Zombies!?”

Zombie Thanos in What If? season 1 episode 5

One of the most enticing deaths suffered by Thanos in the MCU seems all the more exciting for its simple implications. What If’s “Zombies!?” episode explores what might happen if the MCU was devastated by a zombie virus, with the majority of its heroes succumbing to the undead affliction. The episode’s final stinger shows that Thanos – in possession of the Infinity Stones, no less – has also become a zombie, and that he clearly intends to use the Infinity Gauntlet. Though not much context is offered for zombie Thanos, it’s an interesting and cleverly inserted moment that enriches the entire episode.

3 Cut In Half By Ultron

What If..? Season 1, Episode 8, “Ultron Won?”

Thanos being sliced in half by Ultron in What If...? season 1

Though Thanos appears in many movies in the MCU, perhaps his most colorful death comes in an alternate reality in What If…?. In the episode “Ultron Won?”, Ultron amasses the combined power of the Infinity Stones, and uses them to locate a reformed Thanos. Though the Mad Titan would appear to be a formidable foe, Ultron simply slices him in half without hesitation, bringing the incredibly powerful villain to a shockingly abrupt end. It’s an unexpectedly brilliant moment that’s equal parts hilarious and terrifying, solidifying Ultron as an immensely powerful threat to the Multiverse by killing off Thanos so lackadaisically.

2 Killed By Infinity Gauntlet

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Undoubtedly Thanos’ most iconic death in the MCU comes at the climax of Avengers: Endgame, when the heroes finally gain the upper hand over the Mad Titan. Having gained the Infinity Stones, Iron Man wields the Stones’ incredible power for one brief shining moment, using them to kill Thanos and sacrificing himself in the process. It’s a major hero moment for Iron Man, and it marks a triumphant victory over the powerful villain, making it perhaps the most satisfying death suffered by Thanos in the MCU.

1 Beheaded By Thor

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Of every one of Thanos’ deaths in the MCU, one stands out as the best – despite the fact that it’s not permanent. After the shocking ending of Avengers: Infinity War sees Thanos defeat the Avengers and succeed in his goal of wiping out half of all life in the universe, the Mad Titan simply retires peacefully to a remote planet to live out his life in solitude. However, the Avengers clearly don’t wish to take their loss sitting down, and Endgame begins with them hunting for the villain.

After cornering Thanos, an enraged group of surviving Avengers overpower him. Intent on revenge and riddled with guilt for their previous defeat, Thor swiftly beheads Thanos. Coming as it does so early in the movie, it’s clear that this death isn’t the end of the villain, but it’s a darkly satisfying moment of character development for multiple heroes, and raises even more intrigue as to how the plot will develop, making it the best death of Thanos in the MCU.

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