Kevin Feige had big ideas for the MCU from the beginning, as evidenced by signing the stars that would play the Avengers, and later additions to their squad, to multi-picture deals. These deals were typically for six or nine films, and some were re-negotiated and changed over time, meaning none of the actors were going anywhere. For some potential Marvel actors, this was a sticking point, and scared them away, like Joaquin Phoenix was rumored to be when offered the role of Dr. Stephen Strange. For others, this was an exciting opportunity to get into something massive on the ground floor, and lots of stars did just that. Chris Evans went so far as to embody Captain America, and it’s hard to imagine Iron Man even existed before Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of him. But as Marvel’s Phase Three comes to an end, where do these favorite stars stand?
For many of our favorites, they are on their ways out. Contracts are expiring and actors have expressed their desires to leave the MCU behind them and move onto other things. Some want to direct, some want to retire, and some are just through putting on the super suits. With the way the MCU goes, it seems like contract expirations are more definitive for the loss of a character than their demise on the screen. With that in mind, here are 10 MCU actors who could be leaving the franchise after 2019, and 10 more who are here to stay into the next decade.
22 LEAVING: ROBERT DOWNEY JR
Back in 2008, when the MCU was just a glimmer in the eye of the entire Marvel team, we were given Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr had a major part in ushering in the new world of comic book movies. His charisma, and ability to mix cartoony spunk with emotion driven performances, helped set the tone of the coming films and it’s hard to imagine the MCU without him.
But Downey’s time could be coming to a close. He has re-negotiated his contact multiple times, but it seems like his time is coming to an end. According to even Chris Evans himself, the contract is up and there are no plans for him to return after Avengers 4.
21 LOCKED IN: CHRIS PRATT
Guardians of the Galaxy was another one of the more refreshing MCU movies that brought a new tone to what we had previously known from Marvel. Part of that was in the “funny big guy,” performance that Chris Pratt brought to Peter Quill.
The star has reprised his role twice, in Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 and Avengers: Infinity War, and that doesn’t seem like the end for him. In 2015, he told GQ that there were already two more sequels in the mix, and we know he is already slated for Guardians of the Galaxy vol 3. He’s not going anywhere.
20 GONE: HUGO WEAVING
For those of us who love villains, Red Skull was one of the more compelling. Hugo Weaving is a master of cold brooding types, from his portrayal of Agent Smith in The Matrix to his work in V for Vendetta. His appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger was striking, no matter how much you saw it coming.
But it seems he is finished with the MCU. When Red Skull showed back up as guardian of the Soul Stone on Vormir in Avengers: Infinity War, he was, in fact, not played by Weaving. Despite his multi-picture deal, it seems Weaving wanted out (and even turned down an offer to reprise his role in Infinity War), and he probably won’t come back to the MCU.
19 LEAVING: CHRIS EVANS
Chris Evans spilled a lot of beans when visiting Good Morning America, and one of those things was his and some co-stars potential exits from the MCU. Evans has expressed his desire to leave the MCU and Captain America behind before, to focus on his directing and broader roles. But since he has morphed into somewhat of a real life Captain America, fans are not having it.
Evans has been with the MCU from the start and has blown through his multi-picture deal playing Cap for about a decade. It looks like his time as the star-spangled man is ending.
18 LOCKED IN: JOSH BROLIN
How many films has Brolin been in, really? Do “after credits scenes,” count? He didn’t even play Thanos in all of them! Much like Scarlett Johansson, Josh Brolin’s contract remains a bit of a mystery. There are typical six and nine picture deals for most of the MCU stars, and it is assumed Brolin’s is in there.
While we can’t confirm he is locked in for films after 2019, he is locked in for Avengers 4, and Marvel has said he has a “hefty” contract and that we will be seeing a lot more of Thanos. We guess we will see how it really shakes out if Avengers 4 ends the chapter.
17 GONE: CATE BLANCHETT
Cate Blanchett was an unsurprising hit as Hela in Thor: Ragnorok. Blanchett is no joke, and she has a resume most actors dream of and is no stranger to delivering memorable performances. Ragnarok was a refreshing change to the Marvel film formula and gave us a hilarious twist on vibe of the other films. Blanchett’s villainous performance grounded the movie and gave it the sense of dread and urgency it might have otherwise lacked.
But looks like Hela was not long for the Universe. It was rumoured she might show up in Infinity War or Avengers 4 to lend some villain support, but is, so far, nowhere to be found. Looks like her run has come to close.
16 LEAVING: MICHAEL KEATON
Spider-Man: Homecoming was such a refreshing change for Marvel fans, giving us both a universe consistent Spider-Man film, as well as a Spidey film that felt like the good old days of quirky young Peter Parker. One of the better parts of the film was Michael Keaton’s portrayal of The Vulture, completing his trifecta of winged comic booky character portrayals.
The brooding Keaton absolutely nailed it, and we can’t imagine anyone complaining about his return. Although he's rumored to show up in Spider-Man: Far From Home, we can't see that being anything but a cameo.
15 LOCKED IN: CHADWICK BOSEMAN
Black Panther was an incredible addition to the MCU and pop culture in general by showcasing powerful people of color and women. The commercial success of the film was incredible and started an entire movement of fandom, and expanded the fans able to see themselves in the MCU characters.
This Black Panther isn’t going anywhere. Word on the street is that Boseman has a five picture deal to appear in the MCU, meaning he is slated for at least one more film post Avengers 4. We already know Black Panther 2 is coming, so seems like Boseman is here for at least post 2019.
14 LEAVING: SCARLETT JOHANSSON
It’s hard to know where Scarlett Johansson stands on her MCU contract. Unlike her co-stars, her contract is actually somewhat of a mystery. According to her, her contract has “morphed” over time, so it’s impossible to know whether she has the same deal as the others. As of 2019, she will not have reached the typical nine film deal that most of the stars have gotten from MCU.
The Avengers 4 will make seven, but with the Black Widow moving coming along, we could see her swan song being her starring role in a solo film. It would be a fitting end to one of the MCU's originals.
13 LOCKED IN: MARK RUFFALO
Not the first Hulk we have seen, and not even the first one even in the MCU, Mark Ruffalo has brought a lot to the characters of Bruce Banner and his big green alter ego. Like Thor, he was busy during Civil War, and Thor: Ragnarok told us all why.
The big guy told Collider in 2012 that he had signed a six picture deal with the MCU. Considering he has been the green character in only four movies, Avengers 4 making it five, he has at least one more MCU movie ahead of him. Nice and easy, big guy.
12 LEAVING: TOM HIDDLESTON
It’s hard to know what will happen with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki since the character perishes and comes back to life pretty often. He has appeared in five movies total which makes it unclear if holds the same contract as his co-stars with the typical six or nine picture deals.
His most recent demise seemed to be the most final, and the most final of any in Infinity War, so we had assumed this was the end of him. But his character is set for a solo series on Disney + in 2019, which could be the big goodbye Hiddleston's Loki deserves.
11 LOCKED IN: SEBASTIAN STAN
Even those who were familiar with who the Winter Soldier was under the mask were struck when partway through Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he removed his mask to reveal he was Steve’s believed deceased best buddy, Bucky Barnes.
Since his role as James Buchanan Barnes, Sebastian Stan has taken on big roles in offbeat flicks like I, Tonya and Destroyer. But that doesn’t mean he is done with the MCU just yet. After Avengers 4, Stan will have four more movies on his contract, as he confirmed to Cinemablend. Once again, we haven’t seen the end of Bucky Barnes.
10 GONE: KURT RUSSELL
Kurt Russell is a cult favorite amongst so many different fandoms, it’s almost difficult to keep track. He is a staple for the horror community for his collaborations with Jon Carpenter, a family comedy gem in films like Captain Ron, a bona fide action star, and now he has penetrated Holiday staples with his new role in The Christmas Chronicles.
So color us ecstatic when he finally made it into comic book culture as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2. But his character seemed like a one-off, and, well, he perishes at the end. It doesn’t seem like we will see more of Ego, but when it comes to the MCU, who knows?
9 LOCKED IN: BRIE LARSON
Captain Marvel hasn't even arrived, so it is hard to imagine she is on her way out so quickly after 2019. Captain Marvel joining the MCU is so exciting for fans, and might be even more exciting for Brie Larson herself. She has tweeted more excitement about the role than anyone, from crying over Funko toys to getting emotional about the trailers.
THR reported that Larson had signed a six picture deal, but Larson rejected that in a later tweet. While it’s unclear exactly where her contract sits, she has barely made her appearance, and he isn’t going anywhere so quickly.
8 LEAVING: LUPITA NYONG’O
Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia was one of the amazing female characters the film gave us which was exciting for a host of reasons. After the commercial success of the film, it seemed like Marvel would want to lock in as many of the characters as possible for future MCU films.
But there is no word as to whether Nyong’o has a multi-picture deal with Marvel, and what’s more is that her character didn’t make an appearance along with the rest of the Wakanda clan in Avengers: Infinity War. We can’t imagine wanting to pass this talented actress up, but so far, there’s no suggestion she’ll return.
7 LOCKED IN: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH
Benedict Cumberbatch can act his way in and out of anything. He has done incredible portrayals of timeless characters from Sherlock Holmes to Khan. But, despite his on the nose casting as Dr. Strange, the dude simply could not nail those ‘American’ accent “R’s.” Kind of a bummer for DR. StRange the NeuRosuRgeon.
So far, he has only appeared in three MCU movies, and has a stunt double listed on IMDB for Avengers 4. Moreover, Kevin Feige has mentioned they are working on Doctor Strange 2, so it seems like Cumberbatch will be landing haRd on some Rs past 2019.
6 LEAVING: JEREMY RENNER
Hawkeye was somewhat a forgotten character in the MCU. He came in screaming, and fans thought, why is an archer here? Then, in The Avengers, Hawkeye also asked why he was there. Then there was the out of left field look into his backstory in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Then Clint Barton mysteriously disappeared and didn’t show up for Avengers: Infinity War. So it really feels like there is no telling whether Renner will or won’t show up again, but it appears to be the latter. In a Vanity Fair feature, it seemed pretty clear that after 2019's Avengers 4, we wouldn’t see Renner again.
5 LOCKED IN: TOM HOLLAND
Spider-Man, Spider-Man, takes Spidey back from Sony like no one can. After a very close race for Peter Parker casting, Tom Holland won out and brought us a brand new Spider-Man on the big screen that fans loved. His appearance in Captain America: Civil War gave us chills, and his perspective on it in Spider-man: Homecoming was a fun addition to the MCU.
And the kid isn’t going anywhere. Holland has said he has signed a six picture deal, and he is only at three. Further, Spider-Man: Far From Home is already a go. We’d guess he will be a big part of Phase Four, despite not feeling so good.
4 LEAVING: WILLIAM HURT
William Hurt starred in one of the earliest Marvel Films, The Incredible Hulk, as General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross. Fans were a bit confused or divided when it came to deciding if that movie was a part of the MCU, especially considering the re-casting of Bruce Banner, but it has been confirmed that this film is part of the MCU.
But when Hurt showed up to reprise his role Captain America: Civil War, (and later, Infinity War) it suggested Hulk was canon and Hurt could play an important role going forward. But as of now, there is nothing to suggest we will see more of Ross and he could be gone from the MCU for good.
3 LOCKED IN: DAVE BAUTISTA
Dave Bautista’s take on the deadpanning alien was one of the many facets of the incredible humor in Guardians of the Galaxy. He brought such a good swagger to the role, and was able to utilize his giant fighter persona in a way that was funny like Arnold Schwarzenegger in early comedic roles.
Bautista isn’t finished his Marvel contract just yet, and is slated to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. Though, despite being seemingly locked in, it’s unclear what lengths he will go to now that James Gunn has been removed as director, something he is passionately unhappy about.
2 GONE: MICHAEL B. JORDAN
Casting Michael B. Jordan in anything is a pretty good decision, one that Ryan Coogler made in casting in in Fruitvale Station, and again in Black Panther. None of us needed any convincing that the Creed star was amazing, but the dude showed us what was what anyway. Jordan gave us an incredible Killmonger that was a breakout success of the film and a fan-favorite Marvel villain.
But with no word of a multi-picture contract, and a pretty final ending, there is nothing to suggest he will be back for any upcoming Marvel flicks, though he has joked he would re-appear if the story called for it.
1 LOCKED IN: CHRIS HEMSWORTH
He might not be locked in just yet, but there seems to be no sign that Hemsworth will go gently into that good night. Chris Hemsworth gave his all in the first two Thor movies, but the quirky tone of the demi-god on earth and the space baddies never quite landed (though they did deliver a few good laughs).
Thor movies were looked at as filler, that is, until Thor: Ragnarok came around. Taika Waititi came around and gave us a brand new Thor, full of laughs, that Hemsworth really latched to. So while there is nothing in stone just yet, Thor’s fate is currently unknown, and Hemsworth has continued to suggest he wants to make more Thor movies with the beloved New Zealand director.