Marvel’s brand is known as the lighter, bubblier, funnier alternative to the dark, gritty realism of the DCEU movies. But on a few rare occasions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the filmmakers have used audiences’ expectations of a lighter superhero story to their advantage and created some very dark moments.
From the very beginning of the MCU to its most recent events, the fun and adventure of the franchise has been punctuated with gut-wrenching moments and dark reveals. Some of them have been universe-shattering in every sense, while others have been more personal, singular moments of darkness that are hard to overcome.
Updated on July 20th, 2021, by Darby Harn: Even after the cosmic tragedy of The Snap in Avengers: Endgame, even darker moments have occurred as the MCU has expanded into the world of streaming in 2021. The consequences of Thanos’ actions in the movies have played out in fascinating and sometimes dark ways in the series so far. Characters like the Scarlet Witch face personal demons that could have major consequences for the rest of the world, if not the universe. Though the tone always remains optimistic, there’s no denying the darkness within the MCU.
15 Sharon Carter Is The Power Broker (The Falcon And Winter Soldier)
Comic fans know Sharon Carter is a heroic agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., but she took a dark turn at the end of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. The series ended with the dark reveal that Sharon is in fact The Power Broker, a powerful and connected figure in the criminal underworld. Her life took a detour after becoming a fugitive and then The Snap, with the implication that Sharon wasn’t dusted. The last several years have left her a changed woman, and perhaps a villain in the future of the MCU.
14 The Contessa Recruits Yelena (Black Widow)
Black Widow was in many ways heartwarming, seeing Natasha reconnect with her Russian found family of spies. But it ended with a dark moment for her sister Yelena. As Yelena visits the grave of her fallen sister Natasha, she’s visited by The Contessa, the mysterious figure who first appeared in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. She recruits Yelena to go after Hawkeye for Natasha’s death, setting up a major confrontation and guaranteeing that the Hawkeye series is one of the places Yelena will next appear in the MCU.
13 Thanos Kills Loki (Avengers: Infinity War)
The opening scene of Avengers: Infinity War provided when one of the darkest moments of the MCU when Thanos kills Loki. The worst part is his brother, Thor the God of Thunder, can only watch helplessly from afar. The scene sets up the stakes for Thanos immediately by killing the first villain of the Avengers movies, and also sets off a chain reaction that played out in the Loki Disney+ series, leading to darker moments still for the MCU now and in the future.
12 Ego Killed Star-Lord’s Mom (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
Considering the generally light tone of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, the revelation that it was Ego The Living Planet who killed Peter Quill’s mother is incredibly dark. Worse still, Ego is Peter’s father. The reveal comes at the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. The nonchalant manner with which Kurt Russell delivers the line only made the revelation even more shocking. It does lead to some comic relief, though, since Quill’s immediate response is to shoot him repeatedly. Things only escalate from there.
11 Tony’s Vision Of The Future (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
When Wanda Maximoff shows Tony Stark a vision of the future in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, he sees his worst fear. He looks upon his dead and dying fellow Avengers as Earth is decimated by the Chitauri and Captain America tells him, “You could’ve saved us.”
This moment haunts Tony for years to come and motivates his decision to create Ultron as a way to protect the world. Ultimately that doesn’t work out, and his vision comes true with horrific consequences as Thanos defeats the Avengers and snaps half of all life out of existence.
10 Adrian Toomes Threatens Peter Parker (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
One of the darkest moments in the MCU comes in Spider-Man: Homecoming, when Adrian Toomes casually threatens to kill Peter Parker and everyone he loves. This comes after Peter Parker arrives at his date Liz’s house and discovers that Adrian Toomes, the Vulture, is her father. A very awkward car ride to the dance follows, as Toomes gradually figures out that Peter Parker is the Spider-Man giving him so many headaches. He then pulls out a gun and calmly threatens Peter with death and worse if things don’t stop.
9 Killmonger Becomes King (Black Panther)
At Black Panther’s midpoint, Erik Killmonger infiltrates Wakanda and reveals himself to be T’Challa and Shuri’s cousin and, therefore, Wakandan royalty. After a duel for the throne, Killmonger becomes the King of Wakanda and casts the country into darkness. This brought T’Challa to his “all is lost” moment. He lost his kingdom, he lost his power – he even briefly lost his life. But this just spurred him on to become a true leader and put up the fight of his life to get his throne back.
8 Thor Beheads Thanos (Avengers: Endgame)
Thanos arguably had it coming, but Thor’s beheading of him in the beginning of Avengers: Endgame was nevertheless a dark moment in the MCU and for Thor. His summary execution of Thanos may have made him feel good in the moment, but he paid a steep price for it in the years to come. The trauma of the murder, The Snap, and the loss of his brother and so much more led Thor to lose his path for a time. Avengers avenge, but they don’t kill unless they absolutely have to, and this was a low point for Thor.
7 Thanos Sacrifices Gamora (Avengers: Infinity War)
To acquire the Soul Stone in Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos had to sacrifice what he loves the most, and one of the absolutely darkest moments in the entire MCU, that turned out to be his favorite adopted daughter, Gamora. Gamora’s death serves no purpose but to advance his crazed agenda, rendering him truly inhuman.
Though Thanos would go on to erase half of all life in the universe out of existence, betraying and murdering his daughter might actually be the worst thing he did.
6 Gamora and Nebula Find Ego’s Children (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
Right before the thrilling climax of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Gamora and Nebula stumble upon a mountain of skeletons in the catacombs of Ego’s planet, which they realize to their horror are the skeletons of Ego’s previous offspring. The true sinister nature of the character instantly sets in. It’s a very dark and sobering moment for the movie, showing how truly callous and inhuman that Ego The Living Planet truly is. It’s only amplified by the revelation that he also killed Peter Quill’s mother.
5 John Walker Murders A Flag-Smasher (The Falcon And The Winter Soldier)
Comic fans know that John Walker, the U.S. Agent, is not really a nice guy. That likely didn’t prepare them for the darkest moment in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, when John Walker murders a Flag-Smasher in front of a crowd of people. The bloody tarnishing of the shield of Captain America – such a powerful symbol in the series and MCU – casts Walker in the darkest light possible. He eventually loses the shield and gains a new benefactor in The Contessa, but all of that blood is hard to wash out of people’s memories.
4 Wanda Creates The Hex (WandaVision)
Though it doesn’t become clear until the end of Wandavision, Wanda Maximoff’s creation of The Hex in Westview is one of the darkest moments in the MCU. It’s arguably inadvertent and comes from a deep place of grief and trauma, but it has disastrous consequences. Not only does the very powerful Scarlet Witch rewrite reality, but she also traps most of its citizens inside and whether she knows it or not, leaves them in some cases locked away or zombies. It’s a cruel deprivation of agency for innocent people and impossible to justify.
3 Captain America Knew (Captain America: Civil War)
The final act of Captain America: Civil War provides one of the darkest – and most heartbreaking – moments in the MCU. Baron Zemo shows footage of the Winter Soldier murdering Tony Stark’s parents back in the 90s, and the movie quickly becomes about Tony’s desire to kill Bucky and Steve’s desire to protect him. The knife twists further when Tony asks Steve if he knew Bucky had killed his parents. Steve says, “I didn’t know it was him,” but Tony presses him: “Did you know?” After a moment’s hesitation, Steve answers, “Yes.”
2 The Snap (Avengers: Infinity War)
In Avengers: Infinity War, the villain actually succeeds in carrying out that plan. The Snap dusts not only half of all the heroes in the movie, but half of everyone on Earth and throughout the universe. Thanos spoke almost religiously about his plan to wipe out half of all life in the overpopulated universe, freeing up resources and space for a more prosperous society made up of the survivors. And in the end, because Thor went for Thanos’ chest instead of his head, he managed it. It was one of the darkest endings to a movie since The Empire Strikes Back.
1 Breaking The Sacred Timeline (Loki)
Arguably even darker than The Snap is the breaking of the Sacred Timeline at the end of Loki’s first season. This leads immediately to the haywire branching of infinite timelines and the ascension of a variant of He Who Remains in the TVA. Comic fans likely know this variant is one of the most powerful versions of Kang The Conqueror. The looming multiversal war is sure to have cataclysmic consequences for the MCU in Phase 4 and beyond, with the true impact of Sylvie’s actions unlikely to be known for years and years.
NEXT: 10 Kang The Conqueror Theories For The Future MCU
Kill Bill: The 10 Most Badass Things The Bride Did, Ranked
About The Author