Avengers: Infinity War has finally released its first trailer, and the biggest takeaway is DEATH. The trailer is packed with imagery that implies the Avengers: Infinity War have finally met their match in Thanos, with basically every superhero getting a shot in which they’re bloody or screaming or basically just looking like they’re about to die. So… are they? It’s possible there’s a bait-and-switch coming, and that Thanos is just going bring everybody to the brink of death. But with stakes that have been building for five years and counting—and a bunch of MCU contracts on the verge of expiring—it seems more likely than not that Avengers: Infinity War and its as-yet untitled sequel will be a bloodbath for the Avengers themselves.
Which superheroes are on the chopping block? These are my best guesses, ranked from least to most likely:
15. Spider-Man (Tom Holland)
Do you know how hard Marvel had to work to pry the rights to Spider-Man back from Sony? Spidey is probably going to be leading the Avengers 20 years from now.
14. Ant-Man and the Wasp (Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly)
Guess which MCU movie comes out just two months after Avengers: Infinity War ? Ant-Man and the Wasp. It’d be pretty weird if Ant-Man and/or the Wasp weren’t in it.
13. Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)
Black Panther first turned up in Captain America: Civil War, but he’s slated for his own solo mission next February—the only MCU movie left before Avengers: Infinity Wars hits theaters. There’s no way Marvel is going to give one of the MCU’s newest and most exciting heroes the boot immediately after his big standalone debut.
12. Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)
Here’s another latecomer who clearly represents the future of the MCU. Doctor Strange isn’t just a character audiences seem to like; he’s the main POV character for the cosmic side of the Marvel universe, which encompasses dozens of heroes, villains, and worlds that might eventually turn up on the big screen.
11. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)
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Rumors have long abounded that Sebastian Stan would eventually take over for Chris Evans as Captain America. It’s what happens in the comics, and it would explain Stan’s bonkers nine-movie contract. But the biggest evidence of all might be the decision not to kill him off at the end of Captain America: Civil War, which could easily have served as the logical conclusion of his arc. The MCU clearly has big things in store for the Winter Soldier.
10. Thor (Chris Hemsworth)
After a couple of underwhelming Thor movies, Marvel finally got it right with this month’s Thor: Ragnarok. Are they really going to kill him off after that? Nah. (Maybe Loki, though.)
9. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)
For a character who hasn’t had his own standalone movie since Edward Norton was recast, Ruffalo’s Hulk has had a surprisingly well-drawn arc played out across the ensembles of The Avengers, Age of Ultron, and Thor: Ragnarok. You can imagine that arc ending with a noble sacrifice in Avengers: Infinity War—except that Ruffalo has already indicated that Hulk will return in the Avengers movie after Infinity War.
8. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)
We’re still getting to know the surviving Maximoff, who has played a role in just two MCU movies to date. And like many of the second-wave Avengers heroes, Scarlet Witch seems poised to supplant the older characters who will soon be written out. As for her new beau… well, more on him below.
7. Falcon (Anthony Mackie)
Mackie debuted as Falcon in The Winter Soldier, and quickly established himself as a key member of the team (as well as the only Avenger to play a significant role in Ant-Man). There are still reportedly a bunch of movies on Mackie’s contract—but if they wanted to show how ruthless Thanos is by killing off a well-liked superhero who doesn’t have his own movie on the horizon, Falcon is an obvious contender.
6. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)
And then there’s Black Widow, one of the longest-tenured Avengers without a movie to call her own. Johansson has repeatedly expressed interest in a standalone Black Widow movie, and she remains one of the most compelling and bankable stars in the Avengers ensemble. Then again, she’s also one of the most expensive to keep around—so if Marvel is looking to cut costs in the future, she’d probably be one of the top contenders for a tragic exit.
5. War Machine (Don Cheadle)
It looked like Marvel might have been gearing up to kill off Iron Man’s old buddy James Rhodes, who lost the use of his legs in the climactic battle of Civil War. But Tony Stark’s technical prowess ensures Rhodes can still get around in the War Machine suit, and if Marvel ever kills off Tony Stark himself, War Machine is the obvious contender to replace him in the Iron Man suit.
4. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)
Of the original Avengers lineup, Hawkeye is the odd man out; he’s never had his own movie, and is generally relegated to a lesser position in the Avengers lineup. And as much as I’d love to see a scrappy little Hawkeye movie based on Matt Fraction’s comic book run… wouldn’t he be the perfect contender for a major character Thanos could stomp to death without affecting the actual arc of the MCU all that much?
3. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)
And here’s the really big question: How much longer can Marvel keep Robert Downey Jr. around? Iron Man kicked off the whole MCU, and Downey Jr. is the face of the franchise. He’s also, by far, the highest-paid member of the cast. Iron Man 3 felt like it could have been a swan song for the character, and Spider-Man: Homecoming recast him as a Nick Fury-like organizer and mentor for the Avengers—a role he could certainly play for years to come. But it would be awfully dramatic if Marvel closed out this phase of the story by killing off the guy who started it all.
2. Captain America (Chris Evans)
And then there’s Captain America, who has arguably had the most complete arc of any Avenger. Originating as an honorable idealist who was desperate to fight Nazis in World War II, Cap was eventually unfrozen in the modern day, where he discovered so much corruption in the modern political landscape that he became a fugitive from justice. What’s left for him to do? Make amends with his former Avengers comrades and save the world one more time, I’d wager, before passing his shield to the Winter Soldier.
1. Vision (Paul Bettany)
What has Thanos been doing for, like, twelve movies? Trying to collect all the Infinity Stones. What is literally embedded in Vision’s forehead, and is apparently the only thing keeping him alive? An Infinity Stone. You had a good run, Vision. We’ll miss you, buddy.