Bucky Barnes, Loki, Tony Stark, Vision, Star-Lord, James Rhodes, Shuri, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, and Thor are some of the MCU heroes who have experienced significant loss and tragedy throughout their stories.
From losing decades of life, freedom, and friendships to sacrificing their own lives, these heroes embody the lasting trope that heroism comes with a price in the MCU.
Many of the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have made massive sacrifices within the franchise, with some of them losing a great deal over the course of their stories. The best movies of the MCU chronicle Marvel’s greatest heroes, with each character undergoing at least some narrative development or arc over their tenure in the franchise. While some heroes’ stories are more fleshed-out than others, one of the universal truths of the MCU is that its heroes almost always pay the price for their good intentions and life-saving heroics.
The MCU often asserts that heroism requires at least some form of sacrifice. Across the timeline of the MCU, this has led to many of the franchise’s heroes losing things that are important to them: friends, family, identity, and sometimes even their lives. While the specifics of each story make some losses feel much keener than others, one of the most lasting tropes in the MCU is that many of its heroes are tragic figures, doomed to loss and despair often simply for attempting to do the right and honorable thing. With that in mind, here are 10 MCU heroes that have lost the most since the franchise began.
10 Bucky Barnes
First appearing in Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, Bucky Barnes is one of the MCU’s oldest heroes. Though his status as Steve Rogers’ best friend often sees him overlooked in favor of Captain America, Bucky is one of the MCU’s most tragic heroes. Not only did Bucky lose decades of his life in a similar fashion to Rogers, but he lost his freedom and autonomy in those years, too. The reveal that he had been forced to kill Tony Stark’s parents also saw him lose his status with the Avengers, and he later lost his best friend when Rogers decided to stay in the past.
After his starring role in one of the MCU’s best TV shows, Loki is considered more of an anti-hero than a villain, and he’s seen his fair share of loss, too. Over the course of Phases 1 to 3, Loki lost his mother, his father, his home, and then his life. The new variant introduced in Loki then lost his place in his own timeline and later lost the friends he made while teaming up with a group of other Loki variants. Though many of his saddest moments have been overshadowed by his occasional villain status, Loki is certainly no stranger to loss.
8 Tony Stark
Tony Stark is undoubtedly one of the MCU’s most important figures, but the franchise hasn’t always been kind to Iron Man. Having lost his parents long before the MCU started, Stark has also lost a lot since his MCU debut, starting with his innocence in Iron Man. After being kidnapped by terrorists, Tony Stark loses his identity and works to rebuild both himself and the world around him. The Avengers sees him lose a friend in Agent Coulson, and Civil War then sees him lose his friendship with Captain America. Avengers: Endgame has Stark suffer the greatest loss of all when he sacrifices his own life to stop Thanos.
Vision is one of the MCU’s most powerful heroes, but the franchise still hasn’t seen the character get too many breaks. After his creation, Vision only amassed a few short appearances before losing his life fighting Thanos, only to be magically resurrected by Wanda later on. However, his body was then reanimated without his memories or humanity and used against the woman he loves, only later recovering himself before flying away. Though the MCU has yet to address Vision’s final loss, he has also seemingly lost Wanda, who appears to have sacrificed herself at the conclusion of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Having lost his mother at a young age, Peter Quill wasn’t able to find a much happier life among the stars. He later meets his biological father, only to learn of his villainy and lose him, too. In the process, his adoptive father, Yondu, sacrificed himself to save Star-Lord, effectively orphaning the hero. Later, Quill lost Gamora, too, only to regain a different version of her with no feelings for him. The many losses Star-Lord has suffered during his time in the MCU make him one of the franchise’s most tragic heroes, even if it’s often hidden behind a comedic mask.
5 James Rhodes
Having been introduced in the MCU’s very first entry, James Rhodes is one of the franchise’s longest-standing characters. His MCU story has been fairly tragic, though: he lost the use of his legs in Captain America: Civil War, then he lost his closest friend in Avengers: Endgame. Secret Invasion‘s ending then revealed that Rhodes had been replaced with a Skrull for quite some time, and that he had also lost a significant period of time while being held in their facility. Rhodes’ MCU story is set to continue in Armor Wars, so it’s possible that his run of bad luck and loss could yet continue.
Though Shuri started out as a supporting character, real-life circumstances unexpectedly thrust the character into a larger hero role in the MCU. This saw the character lose not only her father, T’Chaka, in Captain America: Civil War, but also her brother, T’Challa, and later her mother, Queen Ramonda, at the hands of Namor. After enduring the loss of her entire family in a short space of time, Shuri is undoubtedly one of the MCU’s most tragic heroes, with Chadwick Boseman’s real-life death adding a gut-wrenching sense of reality to the character’s own grief.
3 Scarlet Witch
Though Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness saw Wanda Maximoff become the villainous Scarlet Witch, she started life in the MCU as one of its most powerful heroes. However, she’s also one of the characters who has lost the most, too: she lost her brother Pietro in Age of Ultron, then Vision in Infinity War. In her grief, she magically created herself a family, which she also later lost (twice over, no less – once in Westview and again in Earth-838), and eventually lost her life after realizing how corrupted she had become by the evil power of the Darkhold.
Spider-Man has long been one of Marvel’s most tragic heroes, and the MCU hasn’t been any kinder to him than the comics. After enduring the death of his idol and mentor Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man loses Aunt May when she is killed by Norman Osborn. He is then forced to make an impossible sacrifice to save the Multiverse, opting to have all of his remaining friends and loved ones forget him entirely. Spider-Man: No Way Home ends with Spider-Man continuing to fight to save a city in which he has lost everyone he ever loved, making him one of the MCU’s most tragic figures.
No MCU hero has endured an arc quite so emotionally painful as Thor. Marvel’s God of Thunder first lost his mother in Thor: The Dark World, followed by his father in Thor: Ragnarok. He then loses both his long-lost sister Hela, his home of Asgard, and his eye in the film’s ending, only to immediately watch his brother Loki be murdered by Thanos. To complete Thor’s tragic arc, Thor: Love and Thunder also sees him lose Jane Foster, making him by far the hero who has lost the most within the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Key Release Dates
Captain America: Brave New World
Marvel’s Fantastic Four
Avengers: The Kang Dynasty
Avengers: Secret Wars
Some MCU heroes have lost everything. Read More