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MCU moments that secretly made us cry

There are some movies you just know are going to make you cry. Saving Private Ryan, Million Dollar Baby, Dead Poets Society — these are the films we expect to set off the waterworks. But when we watch a superhero movie, nobody is really expecting the tears to start flowing. In fact, some might think it's a little bit embarrassing to be crying in a movie about a giant green rage monster or a cocky raccoon with a fondness for machine guns. Still, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is constantly making us weep. 

The Avengers don't just deliver on the action and explosions — they also serve up some serious emotions. Sure, maybe we try to hide the tears, but there's no denying this franchise knows how to tug on the old heartstrings. From touching father-son moments to snappy scenes that leave us sobbing, these are the MCU moments that secretly made us cry. 

Be warned: there are major spoilers below.

My greatest creation is you

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has always had a rough relationship with his dear old dad. Howard Stark (John Slattery) is your hard-drinking, no-nonsense titan of industry who spent more time at the office than with his kid. And while Tony has become a brilliant inventor, he still feels lost in his dad's shadow. After all, everybody wants their parents' approval, including genius billionaire playboy philanthropists.

Granted, Iron Man 2 doesn't fix Tony's daddy issues, but it does give us a nice moment where Iron Man learns his dad really did care. Poisoned by the palladium core in his arc reactor, Tony is searching for a possible cure by going through Howard's old research. During his search, he discovers a bunch of home videos and has them playing in the background as he pores over paperwork. In the videos, his dad is giving a Walt Disney-like spiel about an upcoming expo, and Tony ignores most of it, until Howard addresses his future son.

Through the magic of a movie projector, Howard delivers a tear-jerking monologue, saying everything he's ever done, he's done for Tony. He says he has complete faith in his boy and believes Tony will achieve things he could only dream of. "I'm limited by the technology of my time," Howard says, "but one day you'll figure this out. And when you do, you will change the world." And then Howard drops the big emotional bomb: "What is, and always will be my greatest creation, is you." By this point, Tony is in tears, and we're reaching for the tissues.

I had a date

Steve Rogers' happy ending in Avengers: Endgame makes the final few seconds of Captain America: The First Avenger slightly bearable… but only slightly. When the movie hit theaters in 2011, however, there wasn't a dry eye in the theater. After all, it seemed Steve was never going to get that dance with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).

Back in 1945, the super-jacked star-spangled soldier (Chris Evans) sacrificed himself to stop a Hydra plane from destroying the world. After crashing the jet into the Arctic, the popsicle patriot went into a coma for nearly 70 years, until S.H.I.E.L.D. pulled his chiseled, chilly body from the ice. Hoping to keep Steve calm when he awoke, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) built Cap a 1940s-style hospital room, but Cap knows something is off when he hears a baseball game on the radio — one he actually attended back in 1941.

Fearing a Hydra plot, Steve escapes from the hospital and staggers into a completely alien universe: 21st century Times Square. Overwhelmed by the lights and billboards, he stops long enough for Fury to show up and explain the situation. And sure, Cap is staggered by the fact that he's been on ice for seven decades, but that's not the number one thing on his mind. When Fury asks if he's okay, Steve responds, "Yeah, it's just… I had a date." We've all been there, mourning "the one" that got away, and when Captain America realizes Father Time has stolen his girl, that's about as heartbreaking as it gets.

We are Groot

Everybody loves Groot. No matter his age, this dude is just adorable. And sure, Baby Groot might be the fan favorite, but we first fell in love with this walking, talking sequoia in Guardians of the Galaxy, when he was a grown-up with a goofy grin. Sure, he can kill any fool who gets in his way, but really, he's a big softie who'll do anything for his friends… even if that means making the ultimate sacrifice.

The waterworks start after Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) goes all kamikaze on the Dark Aster, a warship captained by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). Unfortunately, while Rocket puts a big hole in the ship, Ronan escapes with the Power Stone, leaving the Guardians to die as the Dark Aster hurtles towards Xandar. But Groot (Vin Diesel) isn't going to let his buddies bite the dust. The tree sprouts limbs and vines and cocoons the Guardians in a great big hug, insuring they'll survive the impact when the ship hits the ground.

Of course, that means Groot will take the brunt of the blow, and a teary-eyed Rocket begs his BFF to stop, warning Groot he'll die. "Why are you doing this?" Rocket asks. Throughout the entire film, Groot has said one thing and one thing only: "I am Groot." Sure, it means different things depending on context, but the vocabulary never changes. But here, at the end of his life, Groot looks at his friends and answers Rocket with the line that makes us weep every single time: "We are Groot."

Take my hand

People with severe allergies might want to skip the big showdown in Guardians of the Galaxy, because the scene where Star-Lord snatches the Power Stone from Ronan is guaranteed to give you watery eyes and a runny nose.

As waves of purple power tear through Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), ripping him apart, he suddenly has a vision of his long-dead mother. Decades ago on Earth, when Peter was just a kid, his mother was dying from terminal cancer. On her deathbed, she asked her son to take her hand, but he couldn't do it and ran away. Sure, he was just a little kid, but this moment has haunted Star-Lord for years. And here, in his final few seconds, he sees his mother reaching out again and asking, "Take my hand, Peter."

This is where the sniffling starts.

Finally, after years of guilt, regret, and struggling to accept his mom's death, Peter is finally ready to reach out and take her hand. And when he does, we flash back into reality. It isn't Peter's mom calling out. Instead, it's Gamora (Zoe Saldana), sharing the burden of the Power Stone. Then Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) claps his hand on Peter's shoulder, followed by Rocket (Bradley Cooper) wrapping his little paw around Drax's finger. Together, this newfound family puts it all on the line, harnesses the power of the stone, and blasts Ronan to kingdom come.

And seriously, we wish our allergies weren't acting up so bad because it's really hard to watch this scene through our swollen, red eyes.

She was like you... innocent

Drax the Destroyer is absolutely hilarious. Sure, he's a massive, knife-wielding, murderous alien, but his deadpan sense of humor, his inability to understand metaphors, and his penchant for saying whatever he's thinking makes him one of the funniest heroes in the MCU. But while Drax is always good for laugh, there's a whole lot of pain inside that tattooed body.

After visiting Ego's Planet in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Drax forms a friendship with Mantis (Pom Klementieff), a timid extraterrestrial who can telepathically sense and manipulate emotions. Sitting outside of Ego's gorgeous mansion, Drax stares at the beautiful planet and remembers his past life, back before Thanos and Ronan murdered his family and set him down a path of revenge. As he admires the gardens, Drax tells Mantis, "Those pools, they remind me of a time when I took my daughter to the forgotten lakes of my homeworld." 

He then says that Mantis reminds him of his dead daughter because they're both so innocent. That's when Mantis places her hand on Drax and senses an unbearable amount of pain. Sure, Drax is smiling calmly, but Mantis is so overwhelmed by his sadness that she breaks down crying. Despite his stoic exterior, Drax is always grappling with grief, and while we wish we could hold it all in like him, we probably look and sound way more like Mantis by the time this scene is through. 

He wasn't your daddy

Peter Quill has a really weird relationship with his father. He's been searching for his AWOL dad for decades, and when he finally finds the dude, it turns out he's a psychopathic planet (Kurt Russell) that killed Peter's mom and wants to use him as battery to power his plans for universal domination. So yeah, it's not the family reunion Star-Lord was hoping for.

But the Guardians movies are all about choosing your own family. After all, sometimes your biological relatives are awful, and you've got to find love and support somewhere else. Granted, Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) isn't the most affectionate alien, and his relationship with Peter is pretty complex. But at the end of the day, Yondu is the kind of guy who'll sacrifice his life to save Star-Lord's because he's always viewed Peter as his own son.

Sure, Ego might've been Peter's biological dad, but as the whistling Ravager puts it right before he dies, "He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn't your daddy." And while most people will never battle an angry planet, a lot of us have incredibly complicated relationships with our actual relatives. So while he's not the perfect father figure, we all want somebody like Yondu in our lives. In other words, we're sobbing right along with Star-Lord as his surrogate dad says goodbye.

Death is better than bondage

Unlike almost every other Marvel villain, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is actually sympathetic. Sure, he wants to kill a bunch of people, but he isn't doing this for money or power. Instead, he wants to strike a blow for freedom. Black people around the world are suffering at the hands of racist governments and corrupt institutions, and Killmonger wants to use Wakanda's resources to launch a global revolution. Maybe murdering people isn't the best plan, but from Killmonger's point of view, this isn't about revenge. It's about justice.

In fact, Killmonger's motives are so pure that he convinces Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) to open up his isolated country and help oppressed people around the world. Unfortunately for the scarred-up soldier, convincing T'Challa involves getting a spear stuck in his gut. In Killmonger's final moments, he asks Black Panther to let him watch a Wakandan sunrise — a sight his late father promised was the most beautiful in the world. And as he slowly slips away, Killmonger has to agree. It's absolutely gorgeous, and he wants to die right here.

While T'Challa offers medical help, Killmonger knows that once he's healed up, he'll just wind up behind vibranium bars. So instead, he asks T'Challa to bury him at sea with his ancestors who escaped slavery by diving overboard. As the man says before shuffling off to the spirit world, "Death is better than bondage." And right then, without fail, no matter how many times we watch this movie, somebody always decides to start chopping onions.

Mr. Stark, I don't feel so good

It was the snap heard round the world, the snap that broke a million hearts, the snap that killed half of the Avengers. It didn't even matter that we knew most of these guys were coming back for more movies. Watching Black Panther turn to dust, seeing Star-Lord evaporate, and witnessing poor Groot disappear was just too much to handle.

However, while it was sad to see Dr. Strange go, and while we were all upset when Mantis and Drax disintegrated, there was one Infinity War death that sent the world into hysterics. It was the moment when Peter Parker didn't feel so good. That's when audiences broke down crying. After all, Tom Holland's take on Spider-Man was pitch-perfect, and everybody loved his incarnation of the character. Plus, Peter is just a teenager. He isn't a magical wizard or a steely-armed assassin. He's just a kid who hitched a ride on a spaceship, and he's probably got homework due back in Queens. And now, this poor kid is begging Tony Stark to save his life, telling his hero that he doesn't want to go.

Despite Peter's pleas, he fades away on-screen. One minute, he's an Avenger. The next minute, he's ash. While we were trying to hide our tears at first, by the time poor Peter is a mound of dust, we were all bawling like babies.

It always hurts

Ghost is the rare MCU villain who isn't really a villain. Played by Hannah John-Kamen, she's a woman in immense pain thanks to a quantum experiment gone wrong. Ever since childhood, she's been phasing in and out of her solid state, and she's falling apart at a molecular level. Sooner or later, she's just going to phase away forever. So the incorporeal assassin comes up with a plan to head into the Quantum Realm, find the long lost Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who's absorbed a lot of quantum energy, and suck out all that power to stabilize her own body. Easy peasy.

While that idea sounds okay at first, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) fears it might kill his wife. So with the help of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Pym travels into the Quantum Realm, rescues his wife, and brings her back before Ghost can turn her into, well, a ghost. But by this point, our sympathetic villain is phasing out of existence. She doesn't have long for this world, and that's when Janet van Dyne floats over like an angel, ready to perform a miracle.

"It hurts," Ghost whispers, "it always hurts." Anybody who's struggled with chronic pain knows what she's going through, and that's when Janet puts her hands on Ghost's head and shares some quantum energy to save the woman who tried to kill her. It's just a minor moment in a major franchise, but this act of kindness towards someone who's suffered so much always makes us a little bit misty-eyed.

Ant-Man comes home

Want to change your life in five hours? Take a trip into the Quantum Realm. When you come back out, five years will have gone by, and you'll be the exact same age. That's devastating news for Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who was conducting some quantum experiments when he was trapped inside the endless void, courtesy of Thanos (Josh Brolin). But thanks to a curious rodent, Scott gets zapped back into the real world, only to find things have drastically changed since he was last on terra firma.

In quantum time, Scott was gone for just 300 minutes. But on Earth, things have descended into a nightmarish dystopia. The streets are filled with garbage, missing posters are everywhere, and memorials have been erected in honor of the decimated. When Ant-Man realizes something apocalyptic has happened, he immediately fears his daughter is dead. Fortunately, little Cassie Lang is still alive. Unfortunately, little Cassie Lang (Emma Fuhrmann) isn't so little anymore.

Scott comes home to find his peanut's all grown up, and the look on his face is devastating. He's lost so much valuable time with her, so many precious moments, in what felt like just a few hours. And while it's a relief for Cassie to know her dad's alive, it's unbearable that Scott missed out on so much.

Let me go

If there's one thing we know about Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), it's that she's got red in her ledger. This is a woman with a murderous past, and despite working for S.H.I.E.L.D. and joining the Avengers, she's still struggling with her sins. So when she gets the chance to restore the lives of billions of beings across the cosmos, she literally jumps at the chance.

As part of the Avengers' time heist in Endgame, Black Widow and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) travel to the planet of Vormir to acquire the Soul Stone. Once they arrive on the watery world, they learn that you must sacrifice what you love most in order to acquire the gem. The fate of the universe hangs in the balance, but these BFFs love each other too much to murder one another. So both decide to commit suicide, and in the ensuing struggle, Widow hurls herself to the depths below, sparing Hawkeye the fateful fall.

One of the original Avengers, Natasha is a character we've known since Iron Man 2, and it was traumatizing to see her go in such a tragic fashion. Yeah, her sacrifice restored the universe and helped Hawkeye reunite with his family. And sure, it's one of the most heroic gestures in the entire franchise. But still, as the Hulk himself put it, we miss her, man.

I am Iron Man

It's hard saying goodbye to our heroes, especially ones we've known for so long, like Tony Stark. The entire MCU rested on his superhero shoulders, and the man appeared in a grand total of ten films. But when Endgame rolled around, it was time to bid the Avenger adieu.

We all know the set-up. Thanos snaps his fingers and decimates the universe. Years later, the Avengers travel through time, go all Ocean's Eleven, and snap the universe back into existence. Needless to say, the Mad Titan is not happy, so he shows up on Earth with a massive army, ready to steal the stones and create a new universe in his image. Every Avenger on the team tries to stop the purple space lord, from Captain America to Captain Marvel, but at the end of the day, it comes down to Tony and his crazy pickpocket skills.

Before Thanos can snap everything into nothingness, Tony swipes all six stones and drops the greatest line in MCU history — the one that kicked it all off and the one that closes the show: "I am Iron Man." And then with the snap of his fingers, he gives Thanos a taste of his own medicine. But taking out Thanos comes at a price, and moments later, Tony dies with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) by his side. After watching Tony for so long, it feels like losing an old friend, and you'll pardon us if we've got a little dust in our eyes after Thanos' entire army just turned into ash.