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The most heartbreaking Endgame moments ranked

Avengers: Endgame was a lot of different things. It was an epic culmination of over ten years of storytelling, the penultimate piece of the entire Infinity Saga, the conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War, and the longest-running Marvel movie up to that point. It was comical, serious, epic … and heartbreaking. 

Heartache is nothing new for fans of the MCU. The ending of Captain America: Civil War was tragic. Hulk's rejected, lonely flight out into space at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron was a tearjerker. Pretty much every time 21st-century Cap thought, referred to, or looked at Peggy Carter, it was enough to move anyone with a soul. But with all of that said, it's hard to argue with the fact that no Marvel movie has had quite as many heartbreaking scenes as Endgame. From beginning to end, the film is rife with sorrow, anguish, agony, despair, and tragedy. 

In fact, there are so many moving scenes in Endgame that we finally sat down and came up with our list of the moments that hit us the hardest. So grab a box of tissues and settle in for some weepy times ahead. Here are the most heartbreaking Endgame moments, in order from last to first. And obviously, we're spoiling the whole movie.

Hawkeye doesn't want any hope

First up, we have Black Widow's recruitment of Clint Barton. Old Hawkeye isn't handling the loss of his family particularly well, and he's off traveling around the world, fighting gangsters and dispensing his own brand of cruel justice. So when he reunites with his crime-fighting partner, it's especially poignant after the scene earlier in the movie where a teary-eyed Natasha Romanoff asks Rhodey to continue searching for Barton, even though they both know they're not going to like what they find. 

Romanoff's devotion to one of her truest and oldest friends is impressive, as she follows Barton's bloody trail across the Pacific all the way to Japan. All of this comes to a head in their brief exchange when she finally confronts him in the rainy streets of Tokyo. 

The utter despair and suffering on Barton's face are just as heart-wrenching as the quiet mix of pain and empathy that Romanoff exhibits as she looks at the cold, heartless killer that her friend has become. And yet, her belief in redemption is strong and well-founded in personal experience, and it's abundantly clear that she doesn't consider him lost. When he states that, "You shouldn't be here," she quickly responds, "Neither should you," at which point she begins to explain how they may have found a way to bring everyone back. The punch in the gut specifically comes when Barton, his expression oozing deep-seated emotional pain, tells her, "Don't give me hope," to which she responds, "I'm sorry I couldn't give it to you sooner."

Going for the head

Thor is an emotional guy. It doesn't matter if he's angry, laughing, or crying — the dude feels all the feels. So it's hard not to get upset when Thor and his friends pay a quick visit to Thanos in "the Garden" early on in the film. During the events that follow, the Mad Titan reveals that he's reduced the Infinity Stones to atoms, and that it has become impossible to reverse the snap. 

Realizing the utter finality of the action, a glassy-eyed Thor strikes the villain's head off in a single blow before he shuffles out of the hut, clearly at his wits' end. The emotion of the scene is palpable, especially considering the fact that Thor rarely, if ever, kills in cold blood like that. Sure, he's always up for a brawl, whatever the reason, but vengefully striking an enemy when they're defenseless just isn't his style.

The scene is moving enough on its own, but knowing that it leads to an entire spiral of depression, despondency, and weight gain gives it that much more gravity. While we've seen Marvel torture Thor for years now, it isn't until Endgame that the Asgardian truly breaks, and it's difficult to watch.

Tony's heartbroken over Peter

Early in the film, Captain Marvel retrieves Tony Stark and Nebula after they've been drifting through space for weeks. The Tesseract-infused hero quickly flies the pair of survivors back to the Avengers compound on Earth. As they exit the ship, Captain America comes running up to help his friend, and the two come face to face for the first time since the disastrous ending of Captain America: Civil War

They both explain that neither of them could stop Thanos. Then Stark says, "Hang on," and pauses to look directly at Cap. At that point, his lip quivering, he doesn't talk about the galactic losses of the Mad Titan's snap, the failure of their ability to reconcile before it was too late, or any other of a host of important things he could choose to discuss. He just says, "I lost the kid." 

Of course, he's referring to Peter Parker, who was dusted right in his arms in one of the most tragic moments of all if Avengers: Infinity War. For all of Tony Stark's other cares and concerns, it's Peter that's at the front of his mind. Fans absolutely adored their master-apprentice, father-son dynamic, so Tony's devastated face makes for one of the most moving moments in the entire story.

The unexpected moment in Avengers: Endgame

While we're on the topic of quick, unexpected, heart-wrenching moments between characters, it's worth highlighting one other scene that comes right around when Cap and Tony reunite for the first time. When Captain Marvel arrives back on Earth with Nebula and Stark in tow, the latter is immediately swept away by Steve Rogers, Pepper Potts, and the entire surviving Avengers team. 

However, there are two characters that remain on the periphery of the scene: Nebula and Rocket. The two living survivors of the Guardians of the Galaxy share a brief moment together on the steps of the Benatar, quietly sitting in their shared grief with nary a word needing to be spoken. As the camera lingers on the melancholy scene, Rocket gently yet reassuringly strokes Nebula's hand, at which point the two characters hold hands in silent solidarity. The subtle show of support screams volumes coming from two of the most emotionally reserved characters in the entire MCU.

Frigga's motherly wisdom

While Thor's arc throughout Endgame ends on a positive note, he certainly experiences more than one emotional moment along the way. One of those takes place when he and Rocket travel back to Asgard in 2013 to retrieve the Aether. 

While Rocket eventually heads off in search of the angry sludge, Thor completely breaks down and runs from the entire situation. He doesn't get far, though, before he's confronted by his mother, Frigga, who immediately sees that this is her son from the future. The two end up having a long talk together during which Frigga reignites Thor's passion and convinces him to stop living in apathy. 

The scene would be heartwarming on its own, but the heartbreaking part of it all is the fact that it takes place right before Frigga is going to be killed by Dark Elves — and the Odinson knows it. Moments from death, she takes the time to talk to him and give him exactly the kind of encouragement that only a mother can deliver, helping him to rise to the challenges he's facing and rediscover that for all of his failures and shortcomings, he is, indeed, still worthy.

I love you 3000

Tony Stark has already been on this list twice now, but he's just getting started. What can we say? The dude has quite the sad story throughout the entire film. And next up on the RDJ heartbreaker list is the line "I love you 3000." It comes up a few times during the movie, but we're specifically highlighting its final appearance here. 

After his death, Stark's family watches his holographic final message, which is already all sorts of emotional. However, at the very end of it, he drops the line, "Then again, that's the hero gig, right? Part of the journey is the end. What am I even tripping for? Everything's going to work out exactly the way it's supposed to." Then, just as the recording is about to cut off, he pauses and looks up directly into the camera and says, "I love you 3000," at which point the shot cuts to his daughter, Morgan, who'd coined the line earlier in the movie. 

As if that wasn't enough to get the tears flowing, it turns out that it was none other than Tony Stark actor Robert Downey Jr.'s own kid that came up with the line. He told the Russo brothers, who were directing the film, and they decided to replicate it on screen.

Happy and Morgan share a tender moment in Avengers: Endgame

Not long after Stark's moving last words, the scene shifts to the porch of his country home, where the ever-faithful Happy Hogan sits with Tony's daughter, Morgan. Seeing Happy already getting ready to take care of the next generation of Starks is moving enough, but it's the little conversation the two have that ends up being a heartbreaking nostalgia-fest.

Ever the thoughtful servant, Happy asks his young friend, "You hungry?" To which Morgan replies that she is. When he asks what she wants, she says one word: cheeseburgers. He smiles to himself, clearly working to contain his emotions, before answering, "You know, your dad liked cheeseburgers." 

The callback to Tony Stark's first meal after escaping captivity in Iron Man is immediately recognizable, and for the poor audience watching, Happy's line makes the tears flow that much more. Seriously, we just lost Tony at this point. Can you give us five seconds to gain some composure before pulling the "apple doesn't fall far from the tree" routine?

Nebula's heroic sacrifice

As Avengers: Endgame approaches its climactic conclusion, an exchange takes place between the children of Thanos that contains one of the saddest moments of the entire film. After Clint Barton successfully escapes from the rubble of the demolished Avengers facility, he meets Nebula. Taking her for a friend, he lets her have the Iron Man Gauntlet, only to find out moments later that rather than the current 2023 Nebula who's aiding the heroes, this is the 2014 version, a Nebula who's still emphatically loyal to her Titan father.

Suddenly, 2023 Nebula and a recently reformed 2014 Gamora enter the scene, saving Barton's skin and turning the entire situation into a time travel-themed family feud. Gamora pleads with her past sister while 2023 Nebula points out that Thanos is the one that made them the way they are. For all the entreaties, though, past Nebula reveals that she's trapped by what Thanos has made her, declaring that, "I am this," and Thanos won't let her change. She then aims at Gamora, only to be shot by her future self before she can pull the trigger. As 2014 Nebula lies on the ground dying, a tear slowly falls from her cheek, betraying the incredible level of pain and suffering that she's endured for so long.

Opening the movie with a heartbreaking message

Tony Stark loves leaving messages in the event of an untimely death. One of those already made this list, but it wasn't quite as heartbreaking as another one he makes earlier in the film. Facing a cold, dark death in the void of space, Mr. Stark turns on his helmet in order to record a final message for his fiancée, Pepper Potts, before he runs out of oxygen. He keeps the tone of the conversation light, but even he knows the message is going to be "a real tearjerker." 

After filling her in on how their desperate 22-day journey has gone, he tells her that he needs to lie down for a minute, following it up with the line, "Please know, when I drift off, it'll be like every night lately. I'm fine. Totally fine. I dream about you. Because it's always you." The scene is tough to watch on multiple levels. Seeing an already defeated man prepare to die while faced with the infinite, hopeless blackness of space, all while thinking about the love of his life … well, it's quite a way to kick off a movie.

A chance meeting between Steve and Peggy

During the sequence when Tony Stark and Steve Rogers head back to the '70s in order to get the Tesseract and some more Pym Particles, Rogers finds himself being hunted inside an underground bunker. He ducks into a side door in order to avoid detection and finds himself in the office of none other than Peggy Carter, the love of his life before he "went in the ice back in '45." As he realizes this, he suddenly sees Miss Carter enter the next room, and he watches her busily at work for several seconds. 

His face is a study in heartbreak as he stands mere feet from the woman that he's never stopped loving, knowing that his mission, his friends, and the fate of half of the universe are preventing him from bursting into the room and revealing himself. Cap's story throughout the MCU heavily revolves around feeling misplaced, and this scene sums that up in one epically tragic expression, filled with a longing for something he knows he can't have. Thank goodness he finally gets that dance with Peggy once all's said and done.

The repercussions of Civil War

After the moving arrival of Stark and Nebula back on Earth in the opening moments of the film, the heroes regroup to figure out how to track down Thanos and reverse the snap. But during the meeting, Stark lashes out at Steve Rogers with all of the pent-up frustration and anger that's been building up since the two came to blows in Captain America: Civil War

During his outburst, Stark accuses Rogers of not being there when he needed him, adding that he doesn't trust him anymore before calling the star-spangled soldier a liar. The duo's reunion scene had been hotly anticipated for a long time, as Civil War had come nearly three years before, and the two hadn't come face to face again until this point. While everyone knew the get-together wouldn't be a pretty one, the burst of frustration and the evident feeling of betrayal from Stark ends up being as miserable as possible.

Avengers: Endgame starts with the snap

At this point, it's pretty clear that Endgame is filled with heartbreak from one end to the other. In fact, one of the saddest moments of the entire movie is literally the very first scene. Clint Barton losing his family was originally supposed to take place at the end of Infinity War. However, the production team wisely chose to save it for Endgame as a powerful reminder of the tragic event, and it hits audiences right in the face as soon as the movie starts.

It's been established for a long time now that the MCU version of Clint Barton is deeply devoted to his family, and it's hard watching the fear and terror mount in his face as he realizes that not half but literally all of his family has suddenly fallen to ashes. It's hands down one of the most terrible moments of the entire film. While the Bartons end up with a happy ending when all is said and done, there's no doubt that their patriarch takes the initial loss extremely hard.

Black Widow's death is absolutely heartbreaking

Now we're in the endgame, and these last two scenes are about as heartbreaking as any the MCU has ever seen. First, we have Black Widow's death sequence. Natasha Romanoff has a beautiful redemptive arc throughout her MCU journey, and her sacrifice on Vormir in the name of saving the family she loves so dearly is one of the most perfectly tragic ways to end her story.

After time traveling to Vormir in 2014, Romanoff and Barton track down the Soul Stone, only to discover the horrible price required to possess it. The two heroes duel each other, each striving to be the one who makes the sacrifice. Ultimately it's Black Widow who manages to outsmart her friend and send herself hurtling to her death on the rocks below. The scene is a sad one, and it only gets deeper knowing that her sacrifice proves instrumental in saving her new family and undoing Thanos' snap. On top of that, the drama is cranked up a notch when Barton returns home alone and delivers the bad news to the despair of the team — especially Hulk, who also had a special connection with the heroine.

I am Iron Man

Of course, there's one scence in Avengers: Endgame that stands above all of the rest. It's a scene larger than life, because it involves a man who's larger than life. Iron Man's willingness to make the sacrifice play and lay down on that wire is arguably the most heartbreaking moment in the entire Infinity Saga. The hero willingly gives up the life he finally found with Pepper and Morgan in the name of stopping Thanos and saving the universe.

Not only that, but the scene that follows — as Peter Parker, Pepper Potts, and others gather round — is utterly devastating. Pepper's final words to Tony that, "We're gonna be okay, you can rest now," is the perfect send-off to the man who started it all. In addition, one of the deleted scenes shows an extended cut of the surrounding heroes taking a knee across the battlefield in honor of the man who just gave everything to save them. The scene is truly epic, truly beautiful, and it breaks our hearts every single time.