Warning: This article contains major spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Fans have been theorizing on what appeared to be inevitable character deaths, with Rocket and Drax seeming most likely. This was even seemingly confirmed by director James Gunn himself, in what has since been revealed to be a clever misdirect.
While Gunn confirmed that either Rocket or Drax would sacrifice themselves, he never specified that either would die. Both characters at different points do attempt to sacrifice themselves — with Rocket seemingly flatlining for a couple of moments but being revived — but they both come out the other end.
In fact, every major Guardian of the Galaxy make it out of this movie alive. However, that doesn't mean Guardians 3 failed to deliver on the emotional front, nor does it mean the movie was entirely free of notable casualties.
Who Dies in Guardians 3?
Though none of the Guardians themselves die in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, there are a few casualties in the movie.
This list does not include the various henchmen and lackeys of Orgo Corp — the corporate cover the High Evolutionary uses to continue his experimentation — as there are far too many to keep track of.
However, a special shout-out should be given to the character named in the film's credits as "Gamora Shoots This Guy!" played by Jonathan Mercedes, for the name alone, and Judy Greer's War Pig, who was decapitated relatively unceremoniously by Adam Warlock.
Lylla, an otter voiced by Linda Cardellini, is sure to become a beloved character despite her admittedly brief screen time. Rocket's first friend, his eventual lover, and the person who showed him what found family can truly mean, the talking otter is another of the High Evolutionary's experiments in Batch 89.
In one of the most brutal scenes in the movie, Rocket devises a plan to get Batch 89 to safety after being told that all except Rocket will be killed. He gets himself and Lylla out of their cages, but the moment she steps foot beyond the metal bars, she is critically shot by the High Evolutionary. The first weapon Rocket ever uses is the one that murdered Lylla, and he takes out the guards and escapes the facility.
When Rocket is on death's door later in the movie, he sees Lylla in the great white expanse, where she and the other two members of Batch 89 beckon Rocket to fly away with them. Before he can agree though, she tells him his time alive isn't over yet, but that one day they will all reunite.
2.) Teefs and 3.) Floor
The other two animals in Batch 89, Teefs the walrus (Asim Chaudhry) and Floor the bunny (Mikaela Hoover) serve as points of relative comic relief in the viscerally emotional flashbacks to Rocket's time with the High Evolutionary.
All the friends in Batch 89 picked their own names, as they are exclusively referred to as designation numbers by those experimenting on them. While Lylla does not give a reason for selecting her name, Rocket, Teefs and Floor offer wholesome logic behind theirs. Rocket picks his with his dream being to fly in a rocket with all his friends, Teefs for his teeth being more notable on him than on others, and Floor for the fact that they are all laying on the floor while selecting their names.
Following Lylla's death, guards working for the High Evolutionary enter the room with the cages, guns blazing. While Rocket shoots at them, they shoot behind Rocket, killing Teefs and Floor. When Rocket sees Lylla before being sent back to the world of the living, Teefs and Floor are with her, all waiting to fly off together.
The leader of the Sovereign as met in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), is somewhat unceremoniously killed along with the High Evolutionary's planet and base.
As revealed in Guardians 3, the High Evolutionary actually created the Sovereign — the arrogant gold people of which Adam Warlock is a part. Technically Adam's mother, Ayesha spends much of the movie guiding her son into what she sees as his full potential.
5.) The High Evolutionary (Maybe?)
After being unmasked like a Scooby-Doo villain by the Guardians at the end of the movie, revealing himself to have a grotesque face covered up in his quest for perfection, the High Evolutionary is left by the Guardians, but pointedly not killed by Rocket on principle. With the camera focusing on the Guardians escaping the now-exploding base, it is technically unknown if the villain survived the ultimate destruction.
Fans may be tempted to say he's dead, as no one could survive that on top of the injuries he sustained in his fight with the Guardians, but in the comics world it's often fair to say that unless audiences see a body, no one is really dead.
So What About the Other Guardians?
While there could always come a time when at least some of this ragtag team of misfits officially reunite, as they do hint at in the movie as being a slight possibility, the Guardians all went their separate ways before the credits rolled.
So, where are they all now?
Star-Lord (Peter Quill)
In what may be one of the most full-circle moments in MCU history, Peter Quill returns to earth and reunites with his grandfather. After running for so long, searching for himself, and ultimately finding his family, Quill decides it's time to go back to the grandfather he left alone all those years ago.
Greeted at the door by "Grandma Quill," according to the credits, Peter asks if a man named Jason Quill lives there, confirming that he was named for a family member. Going over to the elder man, Peter's grandfather lights up when he sees his lost grandson home again.
The movie ended with the words "the legendary Star-Lord will return," though, indicating that Quill's story is not quite over yet.
By the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gamora ends up filling Yondu's vacant role on the original Guardians of the Galaxy team. Following her semi-return to life in Avengers: Endgame as a version of herself from the past with no memory of her time with the Guardians, Gamora is learning who she is and what she values throughout Guardians 3.
She starts and ends the film technically in the same place — with the original Guardians team — but grows as a person. She learns to understand that her team can truly become her family. While that team doesn't end up being the main Guardians for this new Gamora, it poetically is with the team of Ravagers that preceded them.
Being welcomed onto the ship with hugs and joy, Gamora sets herself up to bond with her new team and family.
Like her brother, Mantis sets off on her own at the end of the movie. Accompanied by her trusty new Abilisk friends which she met during the film, Mantis is seeking out what she wants for herself, not what Ego or the Guardians want for her.
Mantis' growth from her first appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to now is clearly evident as she makes this choice for herself and her future. She knows she loves her team and new family, but she is ready to find out what her personal goals are, rather than following what others tell her she should do.
Nebula and Drax
Nebula and Drax take their next steps after the Guardians of the Galaxy together — helping build up a new society in Knowhere for the kids and animals caged up by the High Evolutionary (as well as the people already living there). Nebula specifically highlights Drax's proven ability to connect with the kids, as he did earlier in the movie, saying she needs him to create the society they intend to make.
In particular, Drax being alive by the end of the film is likely a surprise to many fans, as Dave Bautista's retirement from the role, as well as much speculation, led many to believe his character's death was inevitable. Though he is unlikely to appear again in any major capacity, it is nice to know that Drax is still out there, helping his friend Nebula build up a positive society for those who need it by being a "dad" rather than a "destroyer," as his teammate puts it.
After the reveal of his brutally emotional origins, Rocket learns to be proud of who he both is and has become, as he has taken elements of both his physiology and his experiment-based evolutions. This all culminated in him finally calling himself "Rocket Raccoon," his name in Marvel Comics and a representation of who he chose to be ("Rocket") and who he was born as (a "raccoon"), after years of insisting he is not a raccoon.
Rocket was entrusted to lead the new iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy team, finally being officially called "captain" by Peter Quill — the source of a friendly rivalry between the two for years.
One member of Rocket's new team of Guardians, Groot broke fans' brains with his final on-screen words to his original team, telling them "I love you guys." That's right, audiences don't hear "I am Groot" like whenever else the tree talks (besides the "We are Groot" in the first Guardians of the Galaxy).
Following the movie's release, director James Gunn confirmed that this is not in fact Groot saying words other than "I am Groot," but a showcase of how the audience can now understand Groot, like the rest of the team can. Essentially, the audience is now a part of the Guardians family.
Groot can be seen grown to a huge size past the "Alpha-Groot" from the rest of the movie into an almost rock-like tree, fighting alongside the rest of the new Guardians team in the first post-credit scene.
Kraglin, Cosmo, and Adam Warlock
In a metaphorical torch-passing moment, Rocket shares with this new team Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love," the song was famously sung along and danced to by Peter Quill back in the first Guardians movie.
Bonus: Kevin Bacon
Though not an official Guardian, Kevin Bacon does have his fate addressed in the film, following his appearance in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. In the second post-credits scene, Quill's grandfather can be seen reading a newspaper with one of the stories titled "Alien Abduction: Kevin Bacon Shares All."
Will the Guardians Ever All Return?
Given that none of the Guardians actually died in the third film, there is always a possibility that the beloved characters could come back — even as cameos or in backgrounds.
They do say in the movie that "the galaxy still needs its Guardians," hence Rocket's new team. Plus, the words "the legendary Star-Lord will return" don't leave too much up in the air.
All this is to say that fans might not have seen the end of these characters.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is playing in theaters now.