WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ‘AVENGERS: ENDGAME’ AND MANY MCU PLOT POINTS
You might have heard of a little film called Avengers: Endgame. The Marvel film has been smashing records around the world as it picks up more than $1 billion in its first four days. With characters like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America wrapping up a decade of stories, we have to know what the future holds for some of the biggest stars on the planet.
We highlight some of the actors currently in the MCU and bring you up to date with some of the plans for the world’s most successful film franchise in history.
Leaving: Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts)
Paltrow played Tony Stark’s love interest for 11 years, appearing in the very first MCU film as Pepper Potts. Despite missing a few movies, the character has appeared in all three Iron Man films, as well as Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Avengers: Endgame.
With Tony’s death at the end of the story, it looks like we might be saying goodbye to Gwyneth Paltrow, too. She told Variety: “I mean, I’m a bit old to be in a suit and all that at this point.”
Staying: Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange)
Dr. Stephen Strange may have been a late addition to the MCU, but the character was invaluable in helping defeat Thanos. Cumberbatch has appeared in four MCU films in total, starting with his solo film in 2016. After a slight cameo in Thor: Ragnarok, he was a pivotal player in both Avengers films.
Usually, Marvel characters get their own trilogy, and there’s a reason to believe that Benedict Cumberbatch signed a multi-picture deal like his co-stars. We’re likely to find out more details in the summer.
Leaving(?): Chris Hemsworth (Thor)
Hemsworth, like other actors in this list, has naturally come to the end of his contract with Marvel. As of Endgame, the star has appeared in a Thor trilogy and four Avengers films, bringing his total to seven.
However, Thor’s popular character reboot and the ambiguous ending to Endgame suggests that the character could come back. There are already rumors that Thor will appear in Guardians of the Galaxy 3 – as well as an unprecedented fourth film for the character. We will know more in the summer!
Staying: Brie Larson (Captain Marvel)
There’s no chance that Marvel will be dropping its hottest new character anytime soon. The character has only appeared in two movies (occurring within two months of each other!) but it’s enough to make a splash. Her solo film made more than $1 billion and she played an important, albeit small, role in Endgame.
Actress Brie Larson likely signed a multi-picture deal that would keep the character around for a few more years. Marvel Studios’ mastermind Kevin Feige has even hinted that Captain Marvel will ultimately lead the newest members of the Avengers.
Unsure: Don Cheadle (War Machine)
Compared to most of the other actors who work with Marvel, Cheadle has always remained coy about his status in the franchise. James Rhodes is usually a supporting character to Tony Stark, so it’s unsure where the character can go from here or if he can hold a solo film.
In the comics, James Rhodes (War Machine) actually becomes romantically involved with Captain Marvel, so we could expect him to turn up in her sequels. We will learn more once Marvel Studios announces Phase 4.
Staying: Tom Hiddleston (Loki)
Loki is undeniably the most popular villain from the MCU to date. After winning over hearts as the God of Mischief, Marvel execs have successfully retconned the character as more of an anti-hero. And while the character had a definitive end in Infinity War, it’s definitely not the last we’ve seen of Loki.
He may be out of the cinematic universe, but Loki has his own show in production on Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+. Judging by his movements in Endgame, we imagine there are many places they can take the character.
Unsure: Zoe Saldana (Gamora)
As we know, Saldana’s Gamora technically died in Avengers: Infinity War and made a brief appearance as a past-self in this year’s Endgame. However, when the story came to its end, the living Gamora returned to 2014 and the Guardians went off without her.
At the moment, it’s unclear what the future holds for Saldana and her place in the MCU. Might she appear in Guardians of the Galaxy 3? No one truly stays dead in comic books, so it wouldn’t surprise us if they found a way to get her back.
Staying: Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier)
Sebastian Stan’s role as Bucky Barnes has been tragically underused in the eight years he’s been part of the MCU. After Endgame it is expected that Stan still has four more movies on his contract to fulfill.
Even if he doesn’t appear in the films, Stan’s Winter Soldier will still be around in television form. Last year, it was confirmed that the character would star alongside Anthony Mackie’s Falcon in Disney+’s Falcon and Winter Soldier.
Staying: Scarlett Johannson (Black Widow)
Black Widow may have sacrificed herself in Endgame to retrieve one of the Infinity Stones, but that doesn’t mean it’s the last we’ve seen of the Russian spy. A solo Black Widow film has been in the mix ever since her first appearance in Iron Man 2 back in 2010. Will fans finally get what they want?
Marvel has been determined to make a solo Black Widow film, and it looks as though Scarlett Johannson will stick around to deliver it. The film, a prequel of course, is expected to be announced in the summer.
Staying: Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye)
After a noticeable absence in two of Marvel’s biggest ensemble films, Renner finally reprised his role as Hawkeye in this year’s Endgame. Even though the character appeared in Thor and the first two Avengers films, the character missed out on Avengers: Infinity War.
Well, Renner is back with a vengeance and so is Hawkeye! The character is coming back in full force with a series on Disney+. It looks like the character will be around for a few more years, at least.
Leaving: Anthony Hopkins (Odin)
Back in 2011, Anthony Hopkins was one of the largest names to join the Marvel Universe. He has been a presence as Thor’s father until 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok when he finally died and passed the touch to his son.
While Odin can always appear as a vision or flashback, there doesn’t seem to be any plans to include the actor in any Marvel Studios projects. The actor was absent during Endgame, with Thor receiving parental advice from his dead mother in a different timeline.
Staying: Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther)
The Black Panther franchise has been unstoppable ever since it was introduced in 2016. The character was an instant hit and his first solo film was one of the highest-rated films in the whole of the MCU.
Black Panther will surely become a trilogy with Boseman set to reprise his role as King of Wakanda for at least a few more years. We will find out in the summer about the sequels and whether the character will appear in any other films in the franchise.
Staying: Evangeline Lilly (The Wasp)
Lilly’s Wasp didn’t make an appearance until 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, but Hope van Dyne has appeared in three Marvel films overall. While her contract isn’t public, we can expect her to at least appear in a planned third Ant-Man film.
Marvel will want to hold on to as many of their female heroes as possible, so we can expect Lilly to appear in at least three more films after Endgame. What do you think they will be?
Staying: Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill)
Cobie Smulders has had a modest run as Maria Hill in the MCU. Nick Fury’s right hand girl has appeared in five films overall, but with small parts that don’t let her character shine as strong as they could.
Maria Hill is next appearing in Spider-Man: Far From Home and there’s no reason why she can’t one day run S.H.I.E.L.D after Fury. We imagine we will find out more once Phase 4 has been announced.
Unknown: Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk)
Marvel Studios has a controversial relationship with Hulk. Due to sharing the rights with Universal Pictures, the character technically can’t appear in his own solo film. This means he takes supporting roles in ensemble or solo films belonging to other characters.
At the end of Endgame, Banner has successfully merged with Hulk to become Professor Hulk. However, he remains injured from completing the Snap, so who knows where they will take the character? He has technically completed his six-picture deal, if you count the cameo appearing at the end of Iron Man 3.
Staying: Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Who would have thought that Scott Lang would be the mastermind behind saving half the universe? After briefly appearing in Captain America: Civil War in between his solo films, we can expect Paul Rudd to hang around for a little longer. After his fourth appearance in the MCU, a third Ant-Man film is likely to be announced soon.
This would complete the common trilogies that are offered to characters as well as fulfill a likely six-picture deal he signed with Marvel Studios. We will find out in the summer.
Staying: Chris Pratt (Starlord)
Guardians of the Galaxy was one of Marvel’s biggest risks and it paid off with tremendous success. Chris Pratt fronts the group of misfits who are set to return in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is currently in production.
According to Pratt, he has no plans to retire from the franchise anytime soon. “Even if they write me out, I’m going to show up on set and be like, ‘Hey, man!’ They’re done. They don’t get to shake me.”
Staying: Winston Duke (M’Baku)
Ever since Black Panther stormed onto our screens in 2018, it’s been a wild ride for the characters of Wakanda. They’ve been an integral part of the MCU for the last few films, and are expected to be major players in upcoming films.
M’Baku appeared at the end of Endgame during the final battle against Thanos, and we can expect Duke to reprise his role in upcoming Black Panther projects. We will know more once Phase 4 is announced!
Leaving: Hugo Weaving (Red Cross)
Hugo Weaving only appeared in one MCU film – Captain America: The First Avenger. As far as early villains go, Weaving was one of the more compelling characters in the early years of the MCU. Unfortunately, he was blasted into space and his fate was left unknown for years.
Fans finally found out what happened to the Red Skull in 2018’s Infinity War, but Hugo Weaving was not to thank for that. It turns out someone else will continue to play the role of the Marvel villain, with Weaving bowing out for good.
Unknown: Josh Brolin (Thanos)
After years of teases and glorified cameos, Josh Brolin finally wowed audiences with his portrayal of the mad Titan, Thanos. Even though he was turned to dust at the end of Endgame, Brolin has revealed his contract is on a ‘one movie to one movie’ basis.
Could it be that Marvel will want to bring back the character for future projects? Thanos has proven to be pretty popular among fans, so it’s not crazy to think he could appear in future projects.
Staying: Michael Keaton (The Vulture)
Michael Keaton only agreed to appear in one Marvel film when he signed on for Spider-Man: Homecoming. However, the post-credit scene seemed to suggest that Keaton’s Vulture would be the one to assemble the Sinister Six.
Many rumors have confirmed that Keaton will be reprising his role in 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. Therefore, Marvel has probably worked out a way to lock the character in for the next few years. Would you like to see him appear in the trilogy?
Staying: Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan)
He may be a small supporting character on screen, but Jon Favreau is actually one of the masterminds behind the whole MCU. Favreau actually co-wrote and directed 2008’s Iron Man, which is responsible for setting the tone of all subsequent films.
Even though he was a staple in Iron Man films, Happy Hogan will next be seen in Spider-Man: Far From Home as somewhat of a father figure to Peter Parker. We don’t expect him to leave anytime soon.
Staying: Tom Holland (Spider-Man)
Marvel Studios partnered with Sony in 2015 to allow the beloved Spider-Man to appear in the MCU. Disney quickly cast the youngster Tom Holland as Peter Parker and planned out his six-story arc.
Having fulfilled four films already, his fifth appearance in the MCU will be in 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. This suggests that his last film will be the untitled third film in his planned trilogy. It is expected that his last film will be in 2021, although this is unconfirmed.
Staying: Michael Pena (Luis)
Michael Pena is one of the few Hispanic actors in the MCU, portraying Luis in the Ant-Manfranchise. Although Luis was nowhere to be seen during the Avengers films, we can expect Pena to reprise his role in the third Ant-Man film.
Even though he doesn’t play a superhero, Pena’s Luis quickly became a fan favorite due to his big personality and unique storytelling abilities. It’s basically a sure thing that as long as there are Ant-Man films, they’ll be Luis along the way.
Leaving: Idris Elba (Heimdall)
Elba’s Heimdall has taken somewhat of a backseat in recent Thor outings. He made a brief appearance in Infinity War before being killed in the opening scene. It looks as though Marvel Studios isn’t rushing to bring his character back, even if a Thor 4 is eventually announced.
In 2018, Idris Elba admitted that he had no idea about his future at Marvel. “I’m sure they decided to get rid of as many characters because they’ve run their natural course,” he told Metro.
Staying: Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury)
Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Nick Fury has been a pivotal part in the MCU. For 11 years, the character has been able to appear in any film and help steer the Avengers to victory. Even though he took a few years off, Jackson appeared in 2019’s Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.
We can expect to see Fury in at least one more Marvel film. Trailers have shown that he already appears with Maria Hill in this year’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. This brings Jackson up to a massive 12 appearances in the MCU, including all cameos.
Leaving: Andy Serkis (Ulysses Klaue)
In a rare performance not hidden behind motion capture technology, Andy Serkis appeared in two films in the MCU. 2015’s Age of Ultron and 2018’s Black Panther showed us the arms dealer and villain in full force, but it’s probably all we’ll see of the character.
After dying in Black Panther, it seems unlikely that Klaue will appear again in any MCU film unless in flashback form. Still, it might not be the end for Andy Serkis: the motion capture king can appear as someone else in the MCU.
Staying(?): Martin Freeman (Everett Ross)
Martin Freeman has only appeared in two MCU films, Civil War and Black Panther, but there’s every reason to think his Everett Ross will return in a few years. While no contract has been made public, the character was an important figure in the Black Panther solo film.
We will probably find out more this summer once Black Panther 2 is officially announced. Still, we can safely assume that he will still be around in future films.
Leaving: Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger)
Erik Killmonger was one of the most compelling villains in the whole MCU, with much of the credit going to Michael B. Jordan’s performance. Sadly for fans of the franchise and the character, it doesn’t look like he will be back anytime soon.
Killmonger technically died at the end of Black Panther, making his return limited to flashbacks and dreams. Still, no villain needs to stay dead very long – just ask Loki’s Tom Hiddleston!
Staying: Michael Douglas (Hank Pym)
Michael Douglas has appeared in three MCU films as the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. His most recent appearance was in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, where fans were treated to a teaser of the suit’s creation in 1970.
We can assume that Douglas will reprise his role for the yet-announced Ant-Man 3. As one of the most pivotal characters in that franchise, it would make sense to include him in the third outing, whenever that may be.
Staying: Karen Gillan (Nebula)
Karen Gillan has played Nebula in four MCU films: two Guardians of the Galaxy films and two Avengers films. Fans who felt that her character was misused in 2018’s Infinity War were pleasantly surprised at her arc in Endgame.
We can expect to see Gillan reprise her role in the third Guardians of the Galaxy film, set to enter production this year. What’s more, the Scottish actress has expressed an interest in directing a future Marvel film. Maybe we’ll be seeing Nebula behind the camera soon?
Staying: Bradley Cooper (Rocket)
Even though Bradley Cooper doesn’t appear in human form, his vocal work for Rocket the Racoon has garnered him international acclaim. Today, Rocket is one of the most popular Marvel characters – a mere unknown only five years ago.
Not only is Rocket set to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy 3, producers will probably try to find a way to keep Cooper in the universe. When you have a popular character to play with, why not find more adventures? One particular highlight is his unexpected relationship with Thor.
Leaving: Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter)
Atwell’s presence in the MCU was reduced to make room for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and her own television show, Agent Carter. However, the character was brought back on to the big screen to finish Captain America’s arc and provide them both with the happy ending they both deserve.
It looks like Peggy Carter will be bowing out the MCU now that she’s living happily with her husband in the past.
Staying: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Master Karl Mordo)
Ejiofor played an essential role in 2016’s Doctor Strange as one of the people who introduced Stephen Strange into the world of magic. In true comic book fashion, the film was an origin story into how Strange got his powers, but also how Master Karl Mordo became a villain.
The post-credit scene seems to suggest that Mordo has swapped sides and will now be the main antagonist of the sequel. Even though nothing has been formally announced, we know a sequel is in the works and it seems unlikely that they will forget Ejiofor.
Leaving: Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One)
Fans were treated to a Tilda Swinton cameo in this year’s Endgame, but it seems like this is the last we will see of The Ancient One. In 2016, her character died and only returned because the Avengers went back to 2012 to find an Infinity Stone.
Unless Doctor Strange 2 goes back in time again, we won’t see The Ancient One venture into the future after her death. Swinton may have been the perfect master, but Strange will have to go it alone from now on!
Staying: Benedict Wong (Master Wong)
Wong has appeared alongside Doctor Strange in three films: Doctor Strange, Infinity War, and Endgame. The two have become somewhat of a duo and it seems unlikely that Doctor Strange 2 would enter production without Master Wong.
Benedict Wong has not indulged in the intricacies of his Marvel contract, but we imagine it’s the usual six-picture deal. This means he would have two more films to fulfill after the sequel hits cinemas in a few years.
Unknown: Jude Law (Yon-Rogg)
Although it was never a secret that Jude Law was appearing in 2019’s Captain Marvel, his twist as the villain shocked audiences around the world. Usually, villains leave the MCU after only one film after death, but Yon-Rogg is technically still alive.
The details around Captain Marvel 2 are still vague, but fans should be prepared to see Law again. There aren’t many characters left in the Captain Marvel franchise since we can assume sequels will be set 30 years after the first film. Do you think Jude Law will return to the franchise?
Leaving: Chris Evans (Captain America)
Chris Evans hasn’t exactly kept it a secret that he intended to bow out of Marvel at the end of Endgame. The character has appeared in a Marvel film every year since his debut in 2011. Fans have literally grown up with Captain America on their screens for eight years.
And while it’s entirely possible Evans could return in flashback projects, Endgame wrote him a compelling ending for the character who passes on the famous shield. Thanks, Cap.
Leaving: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man)
He is Iron Man. After helping kickstart the world’s biggest franchise, Robert Downey Jr. is finally bowing out as one of pop culture’s most popular heroes. As his contract came to an end, Marvel Studios killed Tony Stark and paved the way for future heroes to take his place.
Nothing lasts forever, and Downey Jr can be proud of the part he’s played in building the largest and most successful cinematic universe to date. “I just want to hang up my jersey before it’s embarrassing.” We love you 3000.
Read More: Ranked: The Best Disney Songs Of All Time