Warning: This post contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Several characters have managed to leave the Marvel Cinematic Universe still alive. Since kicking off the MCU with 2008’s Iron Man, Marvel Studios has introduced dozens of Marvel Comics characters into their live-action shared universe, many of whom have now become household names. Often, villains are killed by their respective superheroes – who are usually left with no other choice – and a number of heroes have been known to sacrifice their own lives for the greater good. While many MCU characters have unfortunately met their ends over the course of the franchise, a select few have been lucky enough to leave the MCU still in one piece.

Emotions are always high when a long-standing MCU hero lays down their life, with several characters such as Phil Coulson, Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, and Yondu Udonta meeting their demise to save their fellow heroes, although some have been much luckier. Whereas it might be more common to witness the deaths of the MCU’s villains, even some of these more morally-questionable characters have managed to survive, departing the MCU with their lives intact. While it’s possible that any number of these characters could return, there’s currently been no confirmation, so it can be assumed that they’ll get to live out their lives in peace.

Related: Every Marvel Superhero The MCU Has Killed Off (Who Stayed Dead)



15 Justin Hammer

sam rockwell as justin hammer in iron man 2

Sam Rockwell debuted as Justin Hammer in 2010’s Iron Man 2, marking the first time an Iron Man villain had survived his introductory MCU film, as both Obadiah Stane and Ivan Vanko weren’t so lucky. Hammer was Tony Stark’s business rival, while Stark Industries was still involved in the weapons manufacturing business. By the end of Iron Man 2, Justin Hammer had been incarcerated – he was seen briefly in the All Hail the King One-Shot in prison alongside Trevor Slattery – so it can be assumed he’s spending the rest of his days in prison, though there is speculation he could return in the MCU’s upcoming Armor Wars.

14 Dr. Helen Cho

claudia kim as helen cho in avengers age of ultron

Claudia Kim’s Dr. Helen Cho played an important role in Avengers: Age of Ultron, as she not only saved Clint Barton’s life but also helped Ultron to build a vibranium body – which would later become Vision. While she was almost killed by Ultron after his spell over her was broken, Cho survived and was later recruited by the Avengers to work at their new facility in Upstate New York, though she hasn’t been seen since. Helen Cho’s debut in Age of Ultron was exciting for Marvel Comics fans, as she is the mother of Amadeus Cho, one of the smartest people on Earth and eventually the Hulk’s replacement as Brawn.

13 W’Kabi

daniel kaluuya as w'kabi in black panther

Introduced in 2018’s Black Panther, W’Kabi was the Head of Security for Wakanda’s Border Tribe, working under the rules of T’Chaka and T’Challa, and later Erik “Killmonger” Stevens. Despite the return of T’Challa in Black Panther, challenging his estranged cousin for the throne once again, W’Kabi continued to aid Wakanda’s new King and led the battle against T’Challa, Okoye and the Dora Milaje, and M’Baku and the Jabari Tribe, until he was eventually forced to surrender. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever revealed that W’Kabi had been incarcerated for his crime, and Daniel Kaluuya hasn’t been confirmed to be reprising the role in the future.

12 Eitri

peter dinklage as eitri in avengers infinity war

Eitri’s survival in the MCU is a blessing and a curse for the King of the Dwarves. Peter Dinklage debuted as Eitri in Avengers: Infinity War, as Thor, Rocket, and Groot make their way to Nidavellir to forge Stormbreaker for the battle against Thanos. Eitri reveals that he had forged the Infinity Gauntlet for Thanos, capable of withstanding the power of all six Infinity Stones, and in return, Thanos had killed Eitri’s people and smelted his hands in metal so they wouldn’t be of any more use. Dinklage was supposed to reprise the role for Thor: Love & Thunder, confirming Eitri’s survival in the MCU, despite his scenes being cut.

11 Yon-Rogg

jude law as yon-rogg in captain marvel-1

Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg was a Kree commander and leader of Starforce, the team with which Carol Danvers worked for before learning of her true heritage on Earth. Yon-Rogg had captured Danvers from Earth after she absorbed the energy from Mar-Vell’s Tesseract-powered energy core, resurrecting her with a blood transfusion and wiping her memory so that she could be molded into the perfect Kree soldier. When Danvers eventually learned of her true potential as Captain Marvel, Yon-Rogg attempted to engage her in battle but was quickly defeated and sent back to Hala, the Kree homeworld, and hasn’t been seen since.

10 Pepper Potts

gwyneth paltrow as pepper potts in avengers endgame

Pepper Potts is luckier than most as, all too often, the people closest to the MCU’s superheroes get hurt. Gwyneth Paltrow debuted as Potts in 2008’s Iron Man, making her one of the longest-running MCU characters, going on to appear as Tony Stark’s former assistant and love-interest (later wife) in Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. While Potts joined in the final battle against Thanos in Endgame, she survived the fight and returned home to raise her daughter. While there’s been no word of Pepper’s return to the MCU, Gwyneth Paltrow did suggest that the door is always open.

9 Morgan Stark

lexi rabe as morgan stark in avengers endgame

Morgan Stark was introduced in Avengers: Endgame as the daughter of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, born during the five-year Blip. Morgan provided Tony Stark with the perfect motivation to embark on the Time Heist and eventually use the Infinity Stones to defeat Thanos and save the universe, unfortunately sacrificing his own life in the process. While Morgan survived Avengers: Endgame and a deleted scene even showcased a teenage Morgan Stark portrayed by Katherine Langford, Lexi Rabe hasn’t been confirmed to be reprising the role in the MCU’s future, though she is certainly still alive and could return to continue her father’s legacy.

8 Harley Keener

ty simpkins as harley keener in iron man 3-1

Despite being featured more prominently in Iron Man 3, Ty Simpkins’ Harley Keener made a surprise cameo in Avengers: Endgame as an attendee at Tony Stark’s funeral. This appearance not only proved that the character was still alive in the MCU – and perhaps still had interactions with Stark himself – but it also suggested that he may become important in the MCU’s future. Many suspect Harley Keener could become the MCU’s version of Iron Lad during the Multiverse Saga, though there has been no confirmation of this occurring just yet. For now, Keener isn’t a part of the MCU but is still thriving off-screen.

7 Steve Rogers, A.K.A. Captain America

chris evans as steve rogers in avengers endgame

Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers is certainly the most prominent hero to actually survive his MCU career, debuting in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger and retiring after the events of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. Rogers’ Captain America was the leader of the original Avengers team and perhaps the most tortured member of the group as he was the man out of time. By the end of Avengers: Endgame, Rogers had returned the Infinity Stones to their respective timelines and chose to remain in the past to settle down with Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter, only returning to the present to pass the Captain America mantle and shield to Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson.

6 Melina Vostokoff

rachel weisz as melina vostokof in black widow

Phase 4’s Black Widow saw the introduction of Natasha Romanoff’s surrogate family, including David Harbour’s Alexei Shostakov, a.k.a. Red Guardian, Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, and Rachel Weisz’s Melina Vostokoff. While Harbour and Pugh have been confirmed to return in the MCU’s present-day antihero adventure Thunderbolts, Weisz’s future in the franchise is unclear. The ending of Black Widow saw Melina leave with Alexei and Yelena to free more Black Widow assassins around the globe – so perhaps she is still embarking on this mission while her family pursues their own ambitions, especially since she had a hand in developing the mind control technology used to subjugate the Black Widows.

5 Michelle Jones-Watson

zendaya as mj in spider-man far from home

Following the ending of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Zendaya’s future in the MCU as Michelle Jones-Watson, a.k.a. MJ, is unclear, as she no longer remembers Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, along with the rest of the world. It’s possible that MJ could return in Spider-Man 4 or beyond, but for now, the character has managed to safely make it out of the MCU in one piece and is on track to study at MIT, despite having near-death experiences in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Spider-Man: No Way Home. Perhaps Parker will move on from MJ and form a new romantic relationship with someone else.

4 Ned Leeds

jacob batalon as ned leeds in spider-man no way home

Even before MJ was introduced to the MCU, Ned Leeds was established as Peter Parker’s best friend, so him losing his memory of Parker was just as impactful as MJ forgetting. Much like Zendaya, Jacob Batalon’s future in the MCU is uncertain, though Spider-Man 4 could see him return, particularly after teases in Spider-Man: No Way Home of Ned becoming the Spider-Man villain Hobgoblin. For now, however, both MJ and Ned don’t remember Parker and are free to live their lives in peace, away from the dangers of being associated with such a high-profile villain-magnet such as the MCU’s Spider-Man.

3 Taneleer Tivan, A.K.A. The Collector

benicio del toro as the collector in guardians of the galaxy

After debuting in the post-credits scene of Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy marked Benicio del Toro’s official introduction as the mysterious Collector, a man obsessed with gathering trinkets and life-forms from across the universe to display in his personal museum. The Collector’s most recent appearance in the live-action MCU came during Avengers: Infinity War, though this was revealed to be an illusion cast by Thanos using the Reality Stone. However, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special confirmed that the Collector survived this attack, as he sold Knowhere to the Guardians of the Galaxy and left for destinations unknown.

2 Drax The Destroyer

dave bautista as drax the destroyer in the guardians of the galaxy holiday special

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 marked the final adventure for the MCU’s original Guardians of the Galaxy team, with several members of the group retiring after saving Rocket’s life and defeating the High Evolutionary. Prior to the release of James Gunn’s final MCU project, actor Dave Bautista confirmed that this would be his final time playing Drax the Destroyer. By the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Drax has retired from the Guardians and now resides permanently in Knowhere, helping Nebula to look after the new citizens and cultivate a brand-new society in the MCU – a happy ending for the man destined to be a father.

1 2014 Gamora

zoe saldana as gamora in guardians of the galaxy vol 3

The MCU’s original Gamora met her demise in Avengers: Infinity War, as she was sacrificed by Thanos to collect the Soul Stone. However, Avengers: Endgame saw Zoe Saldaña reprise the role, only as a variant of Gamora from 2014. Following Thanos’ defeat, Gamora survived, leaving the battlefield and joining the Ravagers. She joined the ranks of her old Guardians of the Galaxy family – albeit not knowing who they are – in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but despite forming bonds with them, ended up rejoining the Ravagers – her new family. Saldaña has confirmed she won’t be reprising the role in future Marvel Cinematic Universe projects.

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