Were tears a viable source of energy, Avengers: Endgame could power Stark Tower and most of the midtown Manhattan high-rises around it. It’s a movie that might as well have been scientifically engineered in a lab to make audiences cry, as it’s three full hours of payoff after 21 movies and a full decade’s worth of emotional investment. The proof: the movie made me, a notorious skeptic about the Marvel Cinematic Industrial Complex, cry.
Endgame shamelessly pulls from its characters most sentimental beats, both big and small, and even opens with one of the simplest yet most effective heartstring-tuggers yet. Forget pee breaks — here’s a look at the weepiest moments in Avengers: Endgame.
[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.]
10. Hawkeye loses his family in the Snap
In case you forgot, the cold open of Endgame returns us to a pre-Snap moment, just as Hawkeye loses his family. It’s a scene we all pretty much knew was coming given the appearance of Ronin-Hawkeye in the trailers, but it’s no less emotionally affecting for it. Yes, it’s the result of a giant alien snapping half of the world’s population out of existence with a bejeweled gauntlet, but the stakes still feel extremely real, as Hawkeye is suddenly left alone in the middle of field, his wife and children nowhere to be seen. It’s surprisingly stark, as is the brief portion of the film that deals with the five-year fallout of Thanos’ actions.
You’ll cry if: you loved The Leftovers.
9. Natasha (Black Widow) dies
Natasha’s self-sacrifice, made to retrieve the Soul Stone from Vormir, is one of the big-beat scenes in Endgame. It’s the payoff to her relationship with Clint, which has been teased throughout the series, and a wrap for the two Avengers who are, in comparison to their colleagues, basically don’t have any powers. More importantly, it’s the ultimate selfless act as committed by a character who was introduced as having been, once upon a time, self-serving, duplicitous, and only out for her own survival.
You’ll cry if: Clintasha is your Avengers ship.
8. Tony Stark gets the chance to say goodbye to his dad
Given that Endgame is Iron Man’s swan song, his chance to talk to his father, whose shadow loomed over Tony’s entire arc, can’t be overstated. When Howard finds Tony sneaking around the base, they get the chance to talk about fatherhood, addressing Tony’s fears about being the kind of absent parent that he thought Howard was, and learning that Howard truly loved him even if his work took him away too often. As they part ways, Tony can’t help hugging him and thanking him, and it serves as the goodbye that they never got to have before Howard’s untimely death.
You’ll cry if: you have a complicated relationship with one or both of your parents.
7. Spider-Man returns (to Iron Man’s hugs)
One of the big things weighing on Tony’s mind in Endgame is a sense of responsibility for Peter Parker getting zapped by Thanos. He’s got a lot of deep-seated anxiety about being a parent, surrogate and eventually literal, and Spider-Man becoming collateral damage is something he takes personally. When Thanos’ damage is finally undone and Spider-Man returns, Tony immediately hugs him in a moment of vulnerability that nicely echoes the not-quite-hug the two shared in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
You’ll cry if: you also consider Spider-Man to be your son. Baby boy. Baby.
6. Steve Rogers glimpsing Peggy Carter through a window
Cap and Tony’s jaunt back through time also puts them squarely in a window when Peggy would be around SHIELD, and their sneaking through the military compound actually puts Steve within a stone’s throw of his lost love. He slips into an office to avoid detection, only to discover that it’s Peggy’s. She keeps a photo of his pre-serum self on her desk, and he spies her through the window in the adjoining room. For one long moment, he stares at her through the glass, before returning to the mission at hand.
You’ll cry if: you have a single tender bone in your body.
5. Thor tries to save Frigga
When Thor returns to 2013 Asgard to retrieve the Reality Stone, he’s transported just moments before the murder of his mother, Frigga. She discovers his presence despite his best attempts at hiding, and they share an all-too-brief talk about his guilt over his failure to stop Thanos and fix the damage done. “This isn’t about who you’re supposed to be,” she says. “It’s about who you are.” Which is to say, his failures don’t define him, and he still has the chance to do some good. As with Tony’s reunion with his father, Thor is helpless to stop what’s about to happen, and Frigga, being the witch that she is, knows that there’s no use in trying to change the past (at least in this respect). The important part is that he realize his self-worth, which brings us to …
You’ll cry if: you loved Lady Bird.
4. “I’m still worthy!”
... Thor calling Mjolnir, and discovering that it still answers his call. It’s just proof of what Frigga’s told him — essentially, that he is still a good man — and it’s a sweet moment given just how torn up Thor has been up until this point. He’s still worthy to wield the mighty hammer, even if he might not necessarily always feel that he is.
You’ll cry if: you are at all familiar with self-doubt.
3. Iron Man dies saving the world
Iron Man sacrificing himself to fire off the Infinity Gauntlet one last time is arguably the big-ticket dramatic moment in Endgame as, like Natasha’s death, it’s the ultimate sacrifice. And, to top it all off, it’s coming after Tony’s grown enough not just to settle down but also to become a parent — he’s putting it all on the line for the sake of the greater good. His goodbye to Pepper, who tells him it’s alright, is made even more heartbreaking given the message he’s seen recording for her at the beginning of the movie, as well as his final goodbye video, which make it clear just how much he’s grown. It’s not just that arc reactor that’s proof Tony Stark has a heart.
You’ll cry if: the “hero’s journey” archetype gets you every time.
2. Happy Hogan tells Tony’s daughter he’ll get her cheeseburgers
At Tony’s funeral, Happy Hogan talks with Morgan, Tony’s daughter. In an echo of how devoted he was to her father, he tells her that he’ll get her anything she wants. As it turns out, the thing she wants is cheeseburgers — the very thing Tony asked for in the first Iron Man after returning from Afghanistan. It’s enough of a reminder to get Happy to choke up. The beat is a small one, but a nice bow on Tony’s arc.
You’ll cry if: you are a parent.
1. Steve finally gets that dance with Peggy
Captain America deciding to hang up his shield and go live with the love of his life is perhaps the most earnest — and earned — end to his story. He’s saved the world over and over and over again, and there’s only one promise that he’s failed to keep: that saved dance for Peggy. His life with her is also the one thing he gets to keep for himself, where every other aspect of his life as Captain America has been in the public eye. His life as Steve Rogers is his (as he politely refuses to tell Sam about it), and a fitting end to his story.
You’ll cry if: no conditional — you will cry.