Examples include “Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania” and “Captain America: Civil War,” where the heroes emerge victorious but face significant setbacks.
“Logan” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” have particularly heartbreaking endings, with major sacrifices made by the heroes to save others.
Not all Marvel and DC superhero movies have happy endings. Superheroes movies are the quintessential embodiment of good vs. evil in popular culture, with the heroes facing challenging villains to save the world. Sometimes, individual heroes headline solo movies and other times, a team comes together to fight evil, but generally, superhero movies are known for their heroes saving the day.
However, not all Marvel and DC movies end on such triumphant notes. Sometimes, the villain remains undefeated and is preparing to return for another confrontation in the next movie and other times, heroes even end up being defeated outright and are forced to regroup. Additionally, some superhero movies do end with the hero or heroine victorious, but only after making the ultimate sacrifice to stop the forces of evil. Here are 10 Marvel and DC movies with sad or bittersweet endings.
RELATED: The 8 Saddest MCU Movie Endings
10 Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania
Ant-Man & the Wasp Quantumania expands the scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by opening the door to the microscopic Quantum Realm, and its ruthless overlord Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). Quantumania does technically end on a note of victory with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his allies stopping Kang and returning to the world above, but Scott pondering the evil Kang warned him about indicates that he knows there are bigger, worse things coming. Quantumania‘s end-credits scene also emphasizes that point, with hundreds of Kang variants preparing to conquer the world.
9 Captain America: Civil War
Adapted from the Marvel Comics Civil War story arc, Captain America: Civil War sees the Avengers ideologically divided by the implementation of the Sokovia Accords, intended to provide government oversight to superhuman actions. This change and Captain America (Chris Evans) trying to rescue his formerly brainwashed friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) leads to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes being torn apart. In the end, their conflict is revealed to have been set in motion by the vengeful Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), with their divide being one that only the eventual arrival of Thanos can undo.
8 Captain America: The First Avenger
After an injection of the experimental super-soldier serum, the once scrawny Steve Rogers becomes the muscled-up stalwart hero Captain America in Captain America: The First Avenger. However, despite leading his unit to many victories in World War II, Steve has to make a big sacrifice by crashing a HYDRA aircraft into the Arctic to stop it from reaching New York City. After decades cryogenically frozen, Steve awakens in 21st-century New York with the last 70 years having passed him by. Sadly, despite Steve promising to return to his love Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell), Steve’s cryogenic stasis keeps him from making their date.
7 Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness
Under the direction of Sam Raimi, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the MCU’s first real horror movie, in which Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), under the influence of the Dark Hold, becomes a murderous villain determined to reach her children in another universe. Though Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) manages to stop Wanda, her downfall is still heartwrenching with her history of heroism as an Avenger. Additionally, with the arrival of Clea (Charlize Theron) and Strange sudden sprouting a third eye, the movie’s Raimi-style cliffhanger suggests not all has been set right in the multiverse.
Zack Snyder’s Watchmen adapts the eponymous and highly influential graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, in which Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) investigates the murder of former hero The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). After uncovering Ozymandias’s (Matthew Goode) plan to unite the world against a common enemy in Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), the latter kills Rorschach before he can unveil the truth, understanding that it may be what the world needs. However, Watchmen ends with a hint that the plan might not have been so airtight, with Rorscachs’s journal finding its way to a journalist.
5 X-Men: First Class
Set in 1962, X-Men: First Class tells the origin of Marvel’s famous team of mutant heroes, with Professor Charles Xavier (James MacAvoy) and Eric Lenscherr (Michael Fassbender) bringing the X-Men together. Unfortunately, Xavier and Eric have radically conflicting ideologies about mankind’s prejudice towards mutants, with X-Men: First Class ending with their falling out. While Xavier is left paralyzed from the waist down, X-Men: First Class also concludes with Eric finally becoming the villainous mutant known as Magneto.
4 Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War would finally introduce the big bad of the MCU’s Infinity Saga, Thanos (Josh Brolin). Determined to collect the six Infinity Stones in order to cut the population of the universe in half to prevent resources from being wiped out like they were on his home planet Titan, Thanos overcomes the efforts of the Avengers to stop him, committing the infamous genocidal act that would come to be known as “The Snap.” Infinity War ends on an extremely bleak note, with superheroes like Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange, and many others disintegrating before the eyes of their fellow heroes.
3 The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight would change the landscape of superhero movies forever, with Batman (Christian Bale) fighting the Joker (Heath Ledger) to save Gotham City. Though Batman captures the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime reveals he has “an ace in the hole,” namely District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who has been disfigured and corrupted by the murder of Rachael Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) to become the bitter and vengeful Two-Face. In order to preserve all the good Harvey has done, Batman and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) agree for Batman to take the fall for Harvey’s murders, Batman riding into the night as a martyr for Gotham City.
Wolverine would finally pop his claws for a truly R-rated ride in James Mangold’s Logan, by far the darkest chapter of the X-Men franchise, with the acclaimed Old Man Logan comics arc as its major influence. An aging Logan (Hugh Jackman) protects the young Laura (Dafne Keen) and other young mutants from the pursuing Transigen industries. With Logan’s mentor Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) being killed in their travels, Logan ultimately sacrifices his life to save the children, with Laura tearfully burying him with an X as his tombstone. Even with Hugh Jackman’s subsequent return in Deadpool 3, Logan‘s ending is still a Marvel tearjerker.
1 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
The Man of Steel and the Dark Knight come to blows in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, combining The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman into a new story. With a world fearful of the god-level powers of Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck) becomes determined to destroy him, only for the two to realize they are being manipulated by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). After Lex unleashes his monstrous creation Doomsday, Superman is forced to sacrifice himself to stop the rampaging beast. In the end, though, Superman triumphantly returns to help his fellow DC superheroes in Justice League.
Key Release Dates
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
Captain America: Brave New World
Kraven the Hunter
Joker: Folie a Deux
Marvel’s Fantastic Four
The Batman – Part II
Avengers: Secret Wars
Avengers: The Kang Dynasty
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