The MCU, for all that it does right, has been criticized in the past for its dealing with death. The franchise has seemed unwilling to kill off its characters and relied perhaps too heavily on "fake-out death," but we have still gotten a number of very impactful and moving deaths in the series over the years.
Especially with the events of Avengers: Endgame, the MCU has shown they're finally willing to say goodbye to characters. Whether its beloved heroes, key side characters, or even the occasional sympathetic villain, these deaths hit the hardest. We won't be looking at the fake-outs or people who were eventually brought back, but there is still plenty of heartbreak to go around. Here are the MCU's saddest deaths, ranked.
10 The Ancient One
The Ancient One was not only Stephen Strange's introduction to the mystic arts but also the audience's way into this new area of the MCU. She was a strong, intelligent, and complex character who taught Strange many of his most important lessons.
After being stabbed by Kaecilius, the Ancient One uses her astral projection to talk with Strange one more time. Their quiet heart-to-heart while her body was dying is an incredibly moving moment thanks largely to Tilda Swinton's performance. Her admitting that she is afraid of death and hoping to hang on to life a moment longer brings a tear to the eye.
Erik Killmonger is one of the most interesting movie villains in recent memory. Though he is a Wakandan citizen, Killmonger was abandoned by T'Chaka as a boy to keep the existence of their country a secret. As he becomes an adult, he is a man filled with rage at a society that he believes turned its back on its people.
After a final showdown with T'Challa, Killmonger is mortally wounded. As he looks out over the Wakanda sunset for the first time, he accepts his fate. His final words were "just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, 'cause they knew death was better than bondage."
8 Howard And Maria Stark
The revelation that Winter Soldier was responsible for the death of Tony Stark's parents is a secret that nearly tore apart the Avengers. However, witnessing the horrific murder was just as devastating as the fall-out.
As Tony watches the old security footage, we see Bucky run the Starks off the road then proceed to beat Howard to death and strangle Maria. The deaths are so heartbreaking not only for Tony's reaction at seeing it happen, but knowing what this means for the heroes going forward.
Though the Guardians of the Galaxy were maybe not the most heart-warming group of heroes, Groot was certainly the bright spot in the bunch. The giant tree being was introduced in the first film as a simple yet loving creature who proves willing to sacrifice everything for his friends.
As the ship they're on plummets to the earth, Groot cocoons the other Guardians in his body to protect them. As Rocket tearfully pleads to Groot, he simply says "we are Groot". Though we see Baby Groot in the sequel, James Gunn confirmed the original Groot did die so his friends could live.
Since Vision has one of the Infinity Stones literally lodges in his forehead, we knew he would be in danger in Avengers: Infinity War. Sure enough, Thanos' goons come looking for the Mind Stone pretty quickly and Vision's days are numbered.
However, we never thought the filmmakers would be this cruel with his death. Vision convinces Scarlet Witch to destroy the stone and kill him as a result so Thanos can't get it. After the heartbreaking moment of Scarlet Witch killing her lover, Thanos simply reverses time, brings Vision back and plucks the stone from his head.
Loki has had a lot of ups and downs over the course of the MCU, but, by the end of Thor: Ragnarok, he seemed to have finally decided to embrace his heroic side. Sadly, he almost immediately meets Thanos, who comes looking for the Space Stone.
Proving he has changed, Loki gives up the stone to spare Thor's life then tries to kill the Mad Titan himself. With Thor helplessly looking on, Loki is killed by Thanos. It is devastating to see such a beloved character die just as they found redemption.
Even compared to the Guardians of the Galaxy, Yondu was a bit rough around the edges. However, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we get to know a little more about him as a character and the find that there is a softer side to him.
One of the most touching aspects of the film is Yondu's relationship with Peter Quill. Though Ego is Quill's true father, Yondu raised him like a son, which leads to him sacrificing himself to save Quill. The touching funeral Yondu receives at the end of the film is a moving moment for a character we never thought we'd care so much about.
3 Black Widow
Though a certain other Avenger might get all the attention for their death in Endgame, it was not easy to say goodbye to Black Widow. One of the original six, Black Widow had been a strong and grounded member of the team and beloved part of the MCU.
We see that "the snap" deeply affected her and she is desperate to find a way to set things right. As she and Hawkeye arrive on Vormir, they realize a sacrifice needs to be made. The two old friends fight to give their life for the cause, but Black Widow ultimately throws herself from the cliff hoping to finally clear all that red from her ledger.
Though the fight against Thanos became personal for everyone, it was Gamora who had the biggest emotional attachment. The favorite daughter of Thanos, Gamora had to confront her complicated feeling in order to save the universe.
On Vormir, Gamora finds herself once again used as a pawn in Thanos' twisted plans. He has convinced himself that he truly cares for Gamora and thus sacrifices her to get the Soul Stone. Though a past version of Gamora returns in Endgame, it was hard to watch the original Gamora die in such a cold way.
1 Iron Man
It is fitting that the hero who started it all would have the most heartbreaking death in the MCU. Tony Stark began his journey as a selfish and arrogant man and ended willing to give his life to protect everyone he cares about.
As he gets the Infinity Stones from Thanos, Tony snaps his fingers, knowing that the power of the stones will kill him. As the rest of the heroes gather, he quietly fades away, knowing that he saved the day. As Pepper tearfully tells him, "you can rest now." It is a touching moment for one of the most iconic movie characters ever.