While the MCU proved it was open to cliffhanger endings right from the beginning, there were not many of them until Phase 3 of the franchise. Now that there are over two dozen projects from Marvel Studios, cliffhangers are more commonplace than those in charge trust that the franchise’s core audience is patient enough to stick along for the ride, which is likely why there have been so many of them over the past few years.
Marvel’s strategy of having a plan for the next handful of projects also paves the way for this as those at the studio most likely know when these cliffhangers will be resolved years in advance.
Here are seven of the best cliffhangers in MCU history, what some of them led to, and what path others may go down in the future.
Iron Man – Tony Stark Reveals His Identity
Iron Man was and is a solid superhero origin story overall, but this was the moment that allowed the movie to make a name for itself and have a lasting impact in the same year The Dark Knight came out.
After working to keep his identity as Iron Man secret for the entire movie and planning to keep up the charade at this big press conference, Tony Stark threw away the script and boldly stated the now-iconic line, “I am Iron Man.”
At least to the more casual moviegoer, superheroes keeping their identities a secret was essentially a given, so this sort of scene was practically unheard of. The moment left audiences on the edge of their seats as the film came to a close, having just as many questions as the reporters in the movie, but having to wait until the sequel two years later before receiving any real answers.
One thing was for sure, though, Iron Man – and Marvel Studios as a whole – wasn’t going to be playing by the usual superhero story playbook.
Thor: Ragnarok – Thor and Loki See a Ship Looming Overhead
It’s hard to believe, but other than post-credits scenes unrelated to the main story of the movies, the next true MCU cliffhanger did not come until Thor: Ragnarok in 2017, nearly a decade after Iron Man‘s 2008 release.
The mid-credits scene of the movie sees Thor and Loki discussing their return to Earth after the former has accepted his place as the new King of Asgard with the rest of the Asgardians on their ship, before another, unseen ship approaches and lingers over them , causing the brothers’ faces to turn to ones of dread.
The grimness of this moment is a drastic departure from what is otherwise one of the MCU’s most lighthearted and silly adventures. Many of those who knew what movies were on the horizon for Marvel assumed Thanos had finally caught up with the heroes, and this proved to be correct as the opening scene of Avengers: Infinity War saw Thanos and his army kill nearly everyone on Thor’s ship, Loki included.
Avengers: Infinity War – Thanos’s Snap
Avengers: Infinity War did not just begin with the resolution to a cliffhanger, it ended with one of its own. At the conclusion of the film, Thanos does what he set out to do and snaps while wearing the Infinity Gauntlet with all six Infinity Stones, causing the deaths of half of the universe’s living creatures.
Bucky Barnes turning to dust right in front of his best friend Steve Rogers kicks off a tense scene in which many fan-favorite superheroes do the same, one by one, leaving the survivors devastated and at a loss of how to move forward.
The drawn-out disappearances of the characters allowed the audience to feel the sting of each loss. Special attention was placed upon Spider-Man as Peter Parker shared what could have been his final moment with his mentor, Tony Stark. This sequence concluded with Doctor Strange ominously telling Tony, “There was no other way,” right before he himself disappeared as well.
Even though those who knew a second part to this story was on the horizon and could assume the fallen heroes would eventually make a triumphant return felt the gut-wrenching effects of this scene. This only continued with the post-credits stinger and Nick Fury and Maria Hill disappearing as well, but not before the former used a pager to contact a certain hero many comic fans recognized to be none other than Captain Marvel.
Ant-Man and the Wasp – The Pym Family Disappears
After Avengers: Infinity Warmany were eager to see how the next MCU installment, Ant-Man and the Waspwould connect to the movie that had ended on such a hopeless note.
As it turned out, most of the film’s story took place before Infinity War. However, the mid-credits scene delivered what many fans had been waiting for: the answer to the question of who from the Ant-Man crew had been snapped and who survived.
While conducting a test run involving sending Scott Lang into the Quantum Realm, Hank, Janet, and Hope Pym were all dusted. Scott did not know this, of course, and the scene ended with him stuck in the Quantum Realm.
This scene led to a lot of interesting fan theories on how the Quantum Realm would play into the fourth Avengers movie (which would later be revealed to have the title Avengers: Endgame). Some correctly assumed time travel would play into it, though the Quantum Realm’s role in that regard was less about saving others than having Scott essentially skip the five years in between the snap and Endgame‘s events; instead, feeling like he was stuck in the Quantum Realm for only five hours.
WandaVision – Wanda Hears Billy and Tommy Calling Her
The MCU did not lighten up on cliffhangers once the Infinity Saga was over. The next one came quick in Phase 4’s very first project, WandaVision.
The Disney + series ends with Wanda giving up her dream family – consisting of Vision and twins Billy and Tommy – and letting those trapped within the Westview Hex go free before traveling to a remote cabin to learn more about her powers. However, some fans have noticed the book she is studying is the Darkhold, a magic book that can corrupt the reader.
Not only that, Wanda hears her twins calling for her, causing her eyes to glow red right before the camera cuts back to the credits. So there’s a lot going on here, which will more than likely lead into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Since the Multiversal movie will be the Scarlet Witch’s next appearance, it’s possible that the Billy and Tommy she hears at the end of WandaVision are actually from another universe, and she will have to find a way to traverse various ones in order to get to them. The Darkhold may prove to cause her methods to get dicey, however…
Loki – A Double Multiversal Cliffhanger
The cliffhanger at the end of Loki‘s first season is a bit of a double whammy; first, Sylvie kills He Who Remains, thus allowing the Sacred Timeline to branch into an infinite number of alternate ones and opening up the Multiverse.
Loki is then seen trying to figure out what just happened at the Time Variance Authority offices, realizing Agent Mobius no longer knows who he is. This is all before he turns around to see that the gigantic statue of the Timekeepers – the trio of fake beings believed to be in charge of the TVA – has been replaced by one of He Who Remains, or at least a Variant of his.
Not only are Loki and Sylvie now separated (thanks to the latter sending the former away so she could fulfill her mission of freeing the timeline) they are both effectively all alone with the status quo around them having changed dramatically.
Fans got their first taste of the repercussions of Sylvie’s actions in Spider-Man: No Way Home as the existence of multiple timelines with a Peter Parker as Spider-Man was shown to exist. Upcoming projects like Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness spirit Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania are sure to further the story of the Multiverse and more He Who Remains Variants, but it probably will not be until Loki‘s second season that most of the “immediate” questions left by the end of this finale will be resolved.
Eternals – Arishem Whisks the Eternals Away
At the end of Eternals, three of the Eternals – Sersi, Phastos, and Kingo – are abducted by their creator, Arishem. Due to the victory of the Eternals who fought to save Earth and prevent the birth of the Celestial within it, Arishem plans to examine the minds of the three in order to make a final judgment on humanity and whether they should continue to exist.
The main portion of the film ends on this note, but the mid-credits scene shows Makkari, Druig, and Thena inside the ship Domo being visited by Eros, the brother of Thanos who knows where to find the three Eternals who were taken by Arishem .
There is no clear place for this story to continue other than in a second Eternals movie, so these scenes are likely meant to set up one for the franchise, even though there has been no announcement of a second movie yet.
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