Avengers: Infinity War is the most hyped event of the year. In fact, it could be the most hyped movie of the decade. Which is fitting, as this movie represents the culmination of several Marvel Cinematic Universe threads that have been building since 2008’s Iron Man. In this sense, the invasion of Earth by Thanos may represent the end of one era and the beginning of the next.
Leading up the premiere of the movie, many fans have been rewatching the entire MCU series of movies. And while it’s always fun to revisit classic scenes and stories, other fans are watching for a very specific reason: they want to see all of the hints regarding Thanos. As it turns out, there are plenty of hints, and they are scattered throughout the MCU. Everything from Age of Ultron to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Runaways has dropped some juicy Thanos hints, and we’re more eager than ever to see how this whole story pans out. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to track these hints down -- far easier than tracking down the Infinity Stones. You don’t need to invade a planet or guard the galaxy to access these secrets -- just keep reading to discover 15 Thanos hints you overlooked!
15 ULTRON ALLUSION
Part of what makes Thanos an interesting villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that there has been so much time to establish him. In fact, we had some interesting hints of Thanos back in Age of Ultron, and one of those hints came from the evil android himself! Ultron’s weird plan, of course, involved dropping Sokovia like a giant meteorite and destroying all life on Earth.
He described this process by saying, “When the Earth starts to settle, God throws a stone, and believe me, he is winding up.”
At first, this sounded like a reference to Ultron throwing a “stone,” but he seems to be referring to someone else: in this case, Thanos (a kind of mad god) who will soon come to Earth to bring death and destruction!
14 GAUNTLET VISIONS
Thanos is a man on a mission. He already has the Infinity Gauntlet itself, but he won’t settle until he has the full power of the Infinity Stones that go with it. We see a fun visual hint of this in Age of Ultron, though it’s easy to miss.
As you may remember (or have willingly forgotten), Age of Ultron had a weird sequence where Thor received several visions dealing with the future. At one point in these visions, we see the Infinity Stones floating in the air and a cloud in the shape of the Infinity Gauntlet itself. Considering the visions focused a lot on death and destruction, it seems that none other than Thanos was wielding the Gauntlet in that scene as he waits to strike our heroes.
13 PAWNS AND KINGS
Some of the Thanos hints in the MCU are a bit obscure. Some, though, are a little bit blatant. And who better to drop a blatant hint on us than the blunt and outspoken God of Thunder, Thor? This happens near the end of Age of Ultron. When Thor is talking with Captain America and Iron Man, he notes that all of these Infinity Stones popping up in a short period of time is no coincidence. He understands that a person must be behind this, saying “Someone has been playing an intricate game and has made pawns of us.”
Obviously, this “someone” is Thanos himself, who is clearly playing a long game against our heroes!
Soon, we’ll see exactly what the endgame looks like for this secretive villain.
12 BLACK IS BACK
The Infinity War movie is going to be our first introduction to a mysterious group of Thanos allies called The Black Order. However, just because this will be our first time seeing them doesn’t mean we haven’t heard of them yet. That actually happened back in Guardians of the Galaxy!
Obviously, part of that movie’s plot is the ongoing enmity between Gamora and her sister Nebula, both of whom are children of Thanos. Interestingly, though, that is a term that Marvel’s Ryan Penagos used to describe The Black Order. And in that first Guardians movie, Nebula declares to Gamora that “Of all our siblings, I hated you the least.” Considering Nebula’s later vow to take on Thanos, it looks like this sibling rivalry is likely to heat up even further!
11 VISION OF THE DAMNED
As befitting her comic origins, Scarlet Witch entered the MCU as a villain before becoming a hero. And in Age of Ultron, her biggest trick was creating visions that haunted and distracted the Avengers. When she does it to Iron Man, he saw a vision of the Avengers as defeated and dead. Here’s the thing: that’s likely to be a vision of the future. It’s easy to dismiss the vision as a nightmarish “what if?,” as in “what if Loki defeated the Avengers?”
However, we have some lingering details in the vision such as Captain America’s broken shield.
Considering that the Infinity War trailers show Cap squaring off with Thanos, it looks like we might have already gotten a glimpse of what this villain will do to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
10 THOR'S NOTES
For better or for worse, Marvel has mostly gotten out of the business of doing short films. However, that doesn’t keep them from doing short skits, which is how we got the hilarious “Team Thor” that was part of the Ragnarok marketing push.
The lighthearted skit mostly highlights Thor’s misadventures as he rooms with his human friend Darryl in Australia. However, we see Thor trying to piece together who is behind the gathering of the Infinity Stones. To this end, we see a wall of his notes, including a silly drawing referencing “the purple man in the floating chair.” While no one should take the skit too seriously, it does give us an interesting glimpse of Thor playing detective and trying to suss out the mysteries of Thanos.
9 GAUNTLET GLIMPSE
It’s easy to forget that Thanos wasn’t originally part of the big MCU plan. In fact, Joss Whedon added him to Avengers at virtually the last minute. However, there were still seeds of what would come as early as the first Thor movie in which we glimpse the hall of Asgard. Eagle-eyed viewers can see that there is plainly an Infinity Gauntlet in Odin’s possession. Later, though, we see Thanos wielding it. So what gives?
As it turns out, there are two Gauntlets, one for each hand.
Odin possessed one and Thanos the other. Some fans speculated this meant we were heading towards a Thor/Odin showdown, though Odin’s passing has made that highly unlikely. And the destruction of Asgard may mean that one of the only things that could stop Thanos is lost forever!
8 ODIN THE FAKE
Remember when we talked about Asgard having an Infinity Gauntlet? Well, it’s one thing for Odin to have another Gauntlet, but viewers quickly noted that the Gauntlet appeared to have Infinity Stones in it. Considering there is only one copy of each Stone, many fans wondered what is up.
Marvel gave an answer to this previously that Hela confirmed onscreen in Ragnarok: the Stones in it are fake. That is, the Gauntlet is real, but without the Stones in it, the Gauntlet is not much of a weapon. Why would Odin bother to pretend he had the Stones? It’s possible he was trying to intimidate Thanos, or at the very least keep others from going on the same misguided quest that Thanos is now on.
7 DISASTROUS FUTURE
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was initially marketed as a TV extension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, shooting schedules soon revealed the grim truth: it would be almost impossible for these universes and characters to ever cross over in a meaningful way. Nonetheless, we got a pretty big Thanos reference in this most recent season. Agent Coulson and his team have jumped back and forth in time, and in the future, they see a destroyed Earth.
While the plot has played coy about how it was destroyed, it seems entirely possible that this is the fallout from Thanos using the power of the Gauntlet.
Even as our heroes race to avoid this apocalyptic future, some fans have been nervous that there is nothing anyone can do to stop Thanos from destroying the Earth!
6 NEBULA'S REVENGE
In the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, we see that Nebula hates her sister Gamora. In the second film, we get a clear reason why: Thanos forced the two to spar, and whenever Gamora won, Thanos would chop something off of Nebula and replace it with a cybernetic piece instead. Spoilers: Gamora always won.
When we last see Nebula, though, she is vowing to get revenge on Thanos, as she understands he was the real architect of her pain. While her villainous monologue is a clear Thanos reference, casual fans may not understand how important she is, as the Nebula of the comics managed to steal the Gauntlet from her father and become a threat to the entire universe! We’re looking forward to seeing if this happens on-screen.
5 THE KREE DEAL
In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson and crew eventually end up back in the past. They want to prevent a future where humanity is dominated by the Kree, and they find out that this started when Hydra made contact with the Kree. And, in truly ironic fashion, Hydra doomed the world by trying to save it!
Hydra takes Coulson to the Kree spokesman, and he offers a pretty explicit hint about Thanos: he shows Coulson a vision of the fleet of Thanos and mentions how it is heading towards Earth, claiming that the Kree can protect the planet from this calamity. It’s unclear how the Kree plan to do so, as the trailers alone show us that no one can successfully keep Thanos off of Earth!
4 LOS ANGELES BURNING
The Netflix corner of the MCU has gotten a lot of critical acclaim for giving us a darker and grittier vision of on-screen Marvel. Now, Hulu is in the game too with the amazing show Runaways. And while there aren’t a lot of MCU tie-ins, we get one haunting visual that may point straight to Thanos. One of the characters, Chase Stein, accesses a device has helped design that lets him receive transmissions from the future.
He doesn’t realize that the device works, so only the audience sees an ominous transmission of buildings toppling over.
This is designed to be ambiguous, but it looks very possible that this was a vision of what Thanos has done to this particular corner of the planet, and the heroes were helpless to stop it.
3 HINTS OF DOOM
For the most part, Guardians of the Galaxy has a well-earned reputation for being the most lighthearted of the MCU movies. However, they manage to sneak some serious moments in, especially when discussing the power of the Infinity Stones. And we eventually get a glimpse of just what Thanos will be capable of.
When The Collector gives us the lowdown on the Infinity Stones, he shows a giant wreaking havoc on a planet. It turns out this is a Celestial who was fueled by the Power Stone. Think about it: with a single Stone, this one guy was a threat to an entire planet. Thanos now has all but one Stone, and this scene shows us how doomed the good guys will be even before Thanos gets the final Stone!
2 OUTWITTING THOR
If you stop and think about it, there is a big tonal shift with Thor between Age of Ultron and Ragnarok. At the end of Ultron, Thor was determined to figure out the mystery of the Infinity Stones and the identity of their hidden foe. He has basically given up by the time Ragnarok starts, and in his explanation, we get some serious Thanos hints. Thor has an entertaining conversation with what turns out to be a dead body.
He mentions searching for “some magic, colorful Infinity Stone things” and not finding anything but “a path of death and destruction.”
The whole scene is played for laughs, but it clearly hints that Thanos has stayed several steps ahead of Thor, and he’s left a trail of bodies in his wake!
1 T.H.A.N.O.S. THEORY
Most of the Thanos hints here have been visual references or Easter eggs in dialogues. However, there is one theory that the biggest Thanos hint has been staring at us for years. Specifically, the T.H.A.N.O.S. theory holds that the Stones themselves are a reference to the big guy!
Basically, the theory is that the names of the Stones or their receptacles spells out Thanos. We have the Tesseract, the Aether, the Necklace (holding the Eye of Agamotto), the Orb (housing the Power Stone), and the Scepter (which has the mind gem). The only letter missing is “H,” which had caused some fans to speculate that Heimdall might play a role. That didn’t pan out, but chances are high that the final Soul Stone resting place is going to help us solve this puzzle.