MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE: 13 Heartbreaking Scenes That Made Fans Cry

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has plenty of fun, action and excitement to offer, but it's also brought us to tears several times throughout its history. Let's dive into 13 times the MCU made fans cry.

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a versatile franchise. Each one of its installments features plenty of excitement, interesting character conflict and an overall sense of fun. But that's not all it has to offer. The beloved superhero saga also has plenty of heartbreak in it. There have been a fair amount of scenes throughout the MCU's 20+ movies that have packed a pretty effective emotional punch. 

The drama present in these scenes is powerful, and offers something to which almost every audience member can connect to. With that in mind, let's take a look at 13 scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that had us in tears.

13. "I Had A Date" - Captain America: The First Avenger


Being frozen in the 1940s and then awakened 70 years later can take a toll on anyone. Just ask Captain America. During The First Avenger's third act, Steve Rogers was forced to stop a Hydra ship from destroying New York. To do so, he had to manually crash it into the Arctic. Before he finished the mission, though, he called Peggy Carter and promised her they would go dancing that next Saturday. Obviously, Steve missed his date and woke up seven decades later.

Transitioning from a period setting to the present can be jarring if not handled correctly, but Captain America: The First Avenger did it brilliantly by showing how raw and emotional it was for Steve to return to a time where his friends and loved ones weren't there. When Rogers woke up in the present and escaped the S.H.I.E.L.D. building he was in, he was met by Nick Fury in the middle of Times Square. As Cap looked around the area, Fury asked him if he was going to be okay. With a look of sorrow, Steve replied, "I had a date." We... yeah, we're going to leave it there. 

12. "Peter, Smile. Smile For Me, Okay?" - What If...?, Episode 5


When it comes to zombie-centric stories, most of us go in prepared to shed some tears, but boy... we were not expecting this. Episode 5 of What If...? focused on a small team of heroes surviving the zombie apocalypse after a strange virus was brought to Earth by Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne from the Quantum Realm. Two of the group's members, Wasp (Hope van Dyne) and Spider-Man, were shown to have a special, younger brother-older sister dynamic. At one point in the episode, Hope was bitten by a zombie. Peter tried cheering her up, and she asked him how he stayed so positive after everything he had faced.

Peter explained that he had learned to smile when facing sad situations. After their conversation, the heroes' trip to a site that was apparently holding a cure to the zombie virus was stopped by a horde of zombies. Using her Pym Particles, Hope grew into a giant to carry Spider-Man and her other fellow heroes over the zombie army and toward the base they had been looking for. Unfortunately, she was overpowered by the human-eating creatures during the journey. Before dying, Hope looked at Peter and asked him to smile for her. It's funny to think that, even in animation, where it is relatively more challenging to properly convey emotion when compared to live-action, Marvel Studios still finds ways to tug at our heartstrings. 

11. Dark Strange's Ending - What If...?, Episode 4


What happens when you take Doctor Strange's true love away from him? He apparently becomes a monster-eating psychopath. In What If...?'s fourth episode, Stephen Strange decided to go back in time to save his girlfriend, Christine Palmer, from dying in a car crash two years prior. Unfortunately, he learned that her death was an unchangeable point in time. Obsessed, the hero started consuming other magical beings like there was no tomorrow to gather enough power to change Christine's fate. He was successful, but in return, he became a horrifying monster. To top things off, by reversing Christine's death, he also destroyed his entire reality.

The episode's whole ending sequence was heartbreaking. First we saw the revived Christine running away, horrified, from the monstrous creature Strange had become. Right as that happened, reality began collapsing. Strange begged Uatu the Watcher to help him save the world, but he stated he couldn't do it. That universe was ultimately destroyed, and Strange found himself in the protection bubble he had created for himself and Christine, cradling Palmer as she died once again. After that, the mystical doctor was left alone, crying, begging for forgiveness from a reality that no longer existed... Yikes.

10. "So Was I" - Captain America: Civil War


Conflicts between superheroes have become a staple of the comic-book movie genre, but one of the most emotional fights we've gotten so far is the one between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark during Civil War's third act. As Stark fought Steve after learning that Bucky had killed his parents, Cap explained to Shell-Head that he was defending Barnes because he was his friend. 

Visibly hurt by his comment (and, you know, by how Steve kept the fact that the Winter Soldier had killed Stark's parents from him), Tony replied with "So was I." That was the moment when countless nerd and non-nerd tears began flowing. The MCU took us on a journey with these two characters — it showed them gradually going from bitter rivals to basically best friends. Watching the end of their friendship was devastating, and a poignant moment that added to the gravitas of Civil War.

9. Tony Stark's Funeral Message - Avengers: Endgame


It wasn't enough to see the man die a hero's death; we also had to face him delivering a beautiful post-death message during his funeral. After Tony sacrificed himself to snap Thanos and his army out of existence, the Avengers played a recording left by the hero, in which he opened up about his hopes for the outcome of their time-traveling mission. The message was touching, and it made his death scene all the more powerful, given that he had used the Infinity Gauntlet knowing he had left a goodbye for his daughter, Morgan. 

Speaking of Morgan, while it was sad to hear and see Tony once again knowing he was no longer alive, what made the scene truly heartbreaking was seeing the girl's reaction to her father telling her how much he loved her. The sequence made great use of the relationship we had seen the two share earlier in the movie, and also properly represented the grief felt by a child facing the death of a parent. Overall, Tony's last message was a beautiful scene that brought Endgame's sense of finality full circle. 

8. T'Challa Loses His Father - Captain America: Civil War


T'Challa's father dying and leaving the mantle of King of Wakanda to his son has been a pivotal aspect of the Black Panther mythology since the character made his comic-book debut. As such, Captain America: Civil War adapted those elements to introduce T'Challa into the MCU. The thing is, the film did so in the most emotionally impactful way possible. After the Avengers separated over the Sokovia Accords, T'Challa and T'Chaka attended a UN meeting to approve the aforementioned set of Superhero-registration laws.

During the meeting, Zemo set off an explosion that hit King T'Chaka. T'Challa tried to get him out of the way, but it was too late. As the dust cleared, the movie focused on a broken T'Challa approaching his father's dead body and subsequently cradling it while crying. The scene was incredibly impactful, and it flawlessly established the hatred that Black Panther would carry throughout Civil War as he tried to avenge his father.

7. Black Widow's Sacrifice - Avengers: Endgame


"What? You think I wanna do it?"

That question made this scene hit us that much harder. In Avengers: Endgame, Black Widow and Clint Barton traveled to Vormir to retrieve the Soul Stone. There, Red Skull informed them that they needed to sacrifice somebody they loved to get the stone. Clint and Natasha argued over who should sacrifice themselves. During their conversation, Natasha revealed she didn't want to die, but that it was necessary to save the world and for Clint to see his family.

After a quick battle, Natasha bested Clint and jumped to her death, ending her heroic journey with a noble sacrifice. Seeing Black Widow, a character we had grown to love over almost a decade, was devastating, but the fact that she didn't want to die made the scene even more painful. The revelation showed just how brave Nat was and imbued the scene with a sense of profound sadness as audiences watched the hero die knowing she was scared. 

6. Groot Sacrifices Himself - Guardians of the Galaxy


Of course one of the two most adorable characters in Guardians of the Galaxy (the other being Rocket — though a case could be made for Drax) had to break our hearts by dying. Throughout Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn and the people behind the film made us fall in love with Groot. He was only able to say three words, but we connected with him due to his unique and heartwarming characterization. 

Throughout the movie, it was shown that some saw Groot as either a mindless killing machine or simply Rocket's "muscle." In reality, Groot was loving and kind. He was an innocent being who had been forced into a violent life due to circumstances fairly outside of his control. It was that characterization and nuance, paired with having him caress Rocket's face before uttering "We are Groot," that made this death scene turn our faces into human waterfalls. 

5. Black Widow's Entire Opening Sequence - Black Widow


As a prequel for a character that was already dead, we were expecting Black Widow to deliver some heartbreak from the get-go. What we were not expecting, however, was just how hard-hitting the movie would be, specifically during its opening sequence. Black Widow opened with young Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova living a seemingly peaceful life alongside their parents, Melina and Alexei. As the scene continued, though, the ominous curtain was slowly pulled back, revealing the twisted truth behind their lives: They were all spies.

Following a scuffle with S.H.I.E.L.D., the family met up with their handlers in Cuba, where Nat and Yelena were cruelly ripped away from the people they thought were their parents. The tension level in this scene was, simply put, off the charts. Seeing young Yelena innocently cry for her father as her mother was taken away, and then seeing her and Nat being deceptively comforted by their father before being taken away themselves was shocking. This sequence is arguably one of Marvel Studios' darkest scenes, and one that sticks with you long after the movie ends. 

4. Peter Quill Loses His Mom - Guardians of the Galaxy


If James Gunn has proven anything throughout his comic-book-movie career, it's that he knows how to touch our hearts... and then violently squeeze them until the emotional trauma is too much to handle. Case in point: Guardians of the Galaxy. The 2014 adventure is quite comedy-focused, but it started out with a heart-wrenching scene of Meredith Quill, Peter Quill's mother, dying. In the scene, Peter was taken into his mom's hospital room to say goodbye to her. Meredith asked him why he had gotten into trouble in school and proceeded to comfort him. She then asked him to hold her hand.

Understandably, Quill was terrified of confronting his mother's mortality and refused to grab her hand. At that moment, Meredith passed away, leaving Peter desperately crying out for her. The idea that his mother was trying to make him feel better in her final moments, and the implication that Peter became traumatized from refusing to hold hands with her one last time made this scene a difficult watch, but it added to Guardians of the Galaxy's outstanding emotional side.  

3. Frigga Dies - Thor: The Dark World


If you can make the God of Mischief cry, you know you're tugging at the right heartstrings. Thor: The Dark World delivered a significant status-quo shift for the God of Thunder. Aside from deciding to forgo his role as king of Asgard, the hero also lost his mother, Frigga. After Malekith and his Dark Elves invaded Asgard hoping to find the Aether, Loki unknowingly led the villain and his sidekick, Kurse, toward Frigga and Jane Foster (who was in possession of the Aether).

Frigga defended Jane, but was ultimately overpowered and stabbed to death. The Queen of Asgard had been established as a loving and caring individual, so seeing her die in such a way was quite sad. The impact of this scene was further increased by seeing Loki's reaction to learning of her death. The God of Mischief had a special connection with his mother, and the fact that he had been directly responsible for her death weighed heavily on the character's soul.

2. Monica Rambeau Learns Her Mom Is Dead - WandaVision


Episode 4 of WandaVision, "We Interrupt This Program," showed a darker side of the blip, as Monica Rambeau returned to the land of the living in a hospital alongside countless others who had been dusted by Thanos. Confused and scared, Monica walked through the hospital looking for her mother, Maria Rambeau, whom we met in 2019's Captain Marvel. Unaware that five years had passed since she was dusted, Monica found a doctor and asked her where her mom was. 

The doctor informed her that Maria's cancer had returned, and she had passed away a few years prior. The combination of Monica stating that her mother had gotten better and her ultimate realization that Maria was gone was incredibly sad, but also cemented WandaVision's somber tone. 

1. Wanda Says Goodbye To Her Family - WandaVision


Let's face it, WandaVision was one long punch straight to the feels. The show ended with Wanda coming to terms with letting go of the fantasy she had created. Of course, dismantling her idyllic version of Westview meant parting with Vision and their two children, Billy and Tommy. Before taking down her dome, Wanda and Vision put the kids to bed and let them know how much they meant to them.

Knowing Wanda was aware that her kids were going to essentially die while she comforted them made us understand her pain... but things didn't end there. No. There was more emotional trauma coming our way. After that, came her goodbye to Vision, which delivered some of the most beautiful and impactful dialogue we've gotten from the MCU throughout the past decade and a half.

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