Whether it’s epic battles like The Avengers and Captain America movies, the more lighthearted fun of the Ant-Man franchise and the later Thor films, or triumphant cultural touchstones like Black Panther, the Marvel Cinematic Universe offers a pantheon of special moments.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 certainly left fans feeling teary-eyed and emotional. It stands alongside many MCU stories that pack a powerful emotional punch.
10 Groot Speaks English
Fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise know that since Volume 1 Groot has only ever spoken three words — ‘I’, Am’, ‘Groot’ — and they mean different things each time he says them. Members of the Guardians know what he is saying, but the audience doesn’t, and it serves as a source of humor throughout the films.
So when at the end of Volume 3 Groot breaks this rule and says clearly in English “I love you guys”, it’s an emotional moment that brings cheers and applause from the audience. Theories abound as to what this means — can Groot speak English now or was this director James Gunn’s way of finally letting the audience hear Groot the way the other Guardians can? Via Twitter, Gunn has confirmed the latter to be true when he tweeted “That’s exactly what it means”.
9 Peter Parker Gives Up His Friends
The end of Spider-Man: No Way Home is one of the toughest in the MCU. Enlisting the help of Doctor Strange, Peter is able to save the multiverse by having the spell that caused all the havoc reversed, thereby erasing everyone’s memory of him. It’s an enormous personal sacrifice as he realizes his best friend Ned and his girlfriend MJ will no longer recognize him.
Though he vows to reunite with them, when he finds MJ working at a coffee shop he just can’t do it. Knowing that she and Ned have fulfilled their dream of getting into MIT and that his sacrifice allowed it to happen will have to be enough for now.
8 The Death of Aunt May
Talk about a gut punch! When Norman Osborne loses it and his Green Goblin persona takes over, he launches a deadly pumpkin bomb and May is unfortunately in the way. As Peter tries to save her, her injuries take her life leaving him wracked with guilt and praying hopelessly over her body.
Uncle Ben’s death was never portrayed in the MCU Spider-Man movies as it was in other versions, so the loss of May provides the emotional impact that will haunt Peter forever. It’s May who delivers the classic line that has always been Spidey’s moral compass: “With great power comes great responsibility”.
7 Gamora’s Murder
Yes, Gamora isn’t technically dead as she is a major focal point in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. But that Gamora is just a variant, and Peter Quill is seriously grieving the loss of the original Gamora, who really is dead. So it doesn’t really lessen the impact of her murder in Avengers: Infinity War.
On the planet Vomir, home to the Infinity Stone known as the Soul Stone, big bad step-daddy Thanos discovers the price he’ll have to pay to obtain it — he must sacrifice everything he loves. Unfortunately for Gamora, that happens to be her. Thanos sees her as his real child, and sacrificing her shatters him. But he knows he has no other way of getting the Soul Stone, so with tears and an aching heart he casts her off a cliff sending her to her death. It’s a heart-wrenching moment that humanizes Thanos while at the same time cementing his villainy.
6 Rocket Loses His Animal Hybrid Friends
Rocket’s origin story in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is grueling, and the hideous animal experiments performed by the High Evolutionary are a tough watch. Particularly harsh are the experiments to which Rocket’s friends and fellow captives Lylla the otter, Teefs the walrus, and Floor the bunny are subjected.
Locked away in dark cages, they and Rocket develop a bond as they wait on the promise of living in the High Evolutionary’s utopia. Rocket, who is prized by the High Evolutionary for his intelligence, soon discovers that his friends are considered failed experiments that are to be destroyed. Despite all his best efforts to save them, they are each murdered in front of him, providing the impetus for some of Rocket’s darkest impulses.
5 Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter
A love spanning decades, their story provides some of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming moments in all of the MCU. In Captain America: The First Avenger super soldier Steve, having taken the shield of Captain America, is forced to give up his true love Peggy when he is frozen in time and wakes up decades later as a hero out of his time.
So when, after completing the mission of Avengers: Endgame and restoring the timeline, he chooses to use the time travel device to return to his own time and live out his life with Peggy, it provides a heartwarming and satisfying conclusion to one of Marvel’s greatest love stories.
4 Black Widow’s Sacrifice
Thanks to the time travel device in Avengers: Endgame, Black Widow and Hawkeye are able to travel to Vomir to retrieve the Soul Stone before Thanos can. But just like Thanos, they are unaware of the love sacrifice necessary to obtain it. This leads to an epic fight, with each desperate to sacrifice themselves to save their best friend’s life.
Just as it looks like it will be Hawkeye, Natasha bests him and the Black Widow falls to her death, allowing Hawkeye to obtain the stone that will allow the Avengers to bring everyone back from the blip. It’s a devastating loss and one of the most heroic acts any Avenger has ever done.
3 Shuri Accepts Death
In Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever, the hardest thing for Shuri is grappling with the tragic deaths of her brother T’Challa and her mother Queen Ramonda. Throughout the film, Ramonda urges Shuri to partake in the traditional Wakandan ceremonies and to accept death, not as the end but as the beginning of a new understanding and a new relationship with those of her past.
Shuri stubbornly refuses, instead pouring herself into her science work. But when the Queen dies at the hands of Namor, forcing Shuri to become the next Black Panther, she finally comes to understand her mother’s wise words. By the end of the film she is finally able to perform the traditional burning of her funeral garments. Laced with flashbacks of T’Challa from the first film, it’s a moving moment that allows both Shuri and the audience to say their goodbyes.
2 Iron Man’s Snap
Tony Stark had been haunted by the fear of letting his friends down ever since Avengers: Age of Ultron when Scarlet Witch plays with his mind and conjures up a scene where all the Avengers die and his friend Steve Rogers blames him.
It’s likely this fear that finally brings him to make the ultimate sacrifice in Avengers. He has a lot to lose, namely his loving family, and at first he wants nothing to do with the Avengers world-saving plan. But he can’t stop himself from doing what must be done. So it’s all the more powerful when he takes up the Infinity Gauntlet and makes the snap, knowing it will kill him. His death scene is a huge emotional blow that stands as one of the most heart-wrenching in the MCU.
1 T’Challa’s Funeral
The tragic death of Chadwick Boseman gave this scene an emotional resonance like none other in the MCU. The population of Wakanda gathers in sadness and grief for their king’s funeral procession which then becomes a celebration of his life and a way of celebrating Boseman as well.
When the royal family’s ship beams up T’Challa’s casket, all give an emotional Wakanda Forever salute. It’s a powerful way for audiences to say goodbye to both the character and Boseman, leaving nary a dry eye in the house.
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