Warning - The rest of this article contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
After a close call with death, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3's ending set up more adventures with Chris Pratt's Star-Lord after his return to Earth to reunite with his long-separated grandfather. This was followed by the jaw-dropping words "The Legendary Star-Lord will Return," confirming Pratt isn't quite done with Marvel.
This came despite words from the actor in the lead-up to Vol. 3 which appeared to tease his MCU retirement. And even since then, in recent weeks, Pratt told GamesRadar+ how it "would be strange to continue Star Lord’s story without James Gunn” and that he would only return “if something makes sense.”
Nonetheless, despite Pratt's coy allusions to his seemingly imminent MCU exit, Vol. 3's post-credits scene appeared to tease more definitive plans for further appearances from Star-Lord. So, when will he return next?
First up on the list of contenders comes this November's The Marvels, the sequel to Captain Marvel which has been touted as an Avengers-esque crossover and even rumored to have major ties to The Kang Dynasty. This earns its place on this list largely due to being a cosmic movie with sizable crossover potential.
Although marketing for The Marvels is already underway after the release of the first trailer, it stands to reason Marvel Studios would be looking to keep any Guardians appearances secret until after Vol. 3 due to the secrecy surrounding who would survive the High Evolutionary confrontation.
Some evidence has already pointed toward Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie appearing, so perhaps Captain Marvel 2 is hiding more than meets the eye. Then again, with the female-focussed cast already crammed with heroes for the cosmic adventure, Star-Lord may feel rather out of place, making this one quite unlikely.
Avengers: The Kang Dynasty
Arguably the most exciting part of Chris Pratt's Peter Quill having moved to Earth - beyond the satisfying end it brings to his Guardians character arc - comes with how he now has far more opportunity to interact with other heroes. After all, he has already met and fought with many of the Avengers in Infinity War and Endgame.
Perhaps the chief contender for Star-Lord's MCU return comes with Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. After all, a Guardian of the Galaxy wouldn't simply ignore the arrival of a massive threat on Earth, right? No, Peter Quill would immediately have his blasters back in hand and be off to join the Avengers on their Multiversal mission.
One project on the horizon that has still yet to receive a formal announcement is Nova, which will introduce the intergalactic space cop to the MCU. Of course, the Nova Corps itself has already appeared in the franchise before, with them playing a key role in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
The planet Xandar, where the Nova Corps Headquarters was located, was destroyed by Thanos off-screen, as revealed in Avengers: Infinity War. So, it's unclear the fates of Rhomann Dey and Nova Prime Irani Rael, both of whom Peter Quill interacted with quite a lot during Guardians of the Galaxy.
In Marvel Comics, Rhomann Dey, as the Nova Corps' last surviving Centurion, is the one to give New Yorker Richard Rider his powers. If the MCU project were also to venture to Earth, given Quill's established connection to Dey and other members of the Nova Corps, perhaps he could sneak his way into a supporting role.
The Legendary Star-Lord
After the post-credits scene ended and the screen wiped, the final frame of Vol. 3 simply read "The Legendary Star-Lord will Return." While this will likely come across a number of projects, perhaps one of them could be a solo outing for Chris Pratt's Peter Quill, this time taking him away from the Guardians.
Quill's solo debut came in the Legendary Star-Lord comic series, which saw him dealing with his family history while developing a relationship with the X-Men's Kitty Pryde. In the MCU, there are endless opportunities for Star-Lord to go solo, either by returning to the stars alone or getting involved in terrestrial problems on Earth.
During Secret Wars, Star-Lord found himself co-leading a mini-series called Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde, which took place in Battleworld. With the MCU expected to tell stories in Battleworld between Avengers movies, maybe a similar tie-in could take place on Disney+, but likely pairing him with a different character.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 4
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3's mid-credits scene laid the groundwork for a whole new team of Guardians, led by Rocket, consisting of Groot, Kraglin, Phyla, Adam Warlock, and Cosmo. Meanwhile, the rest of the old team is still kicking about the galaxy, with Nebula and Drax leading Knowhere while Mantis forges her own path.
So, even though James Gunn is unlikely to resume directing duties, there does seem to be a future for at least some of the Guardians. Whether that takes to form of a fourth movie or Disney+ series is unclear, but perhaps Chris Pratt's Peter Quill could still have a place in this puzzle, even with him now on Earth.
Maybe the Legendary Star-Lord could serve as a mentor to the next unit of Guardians and take on a reduced role in the fourth movie. Then again, it's tough to see Pratt's presence not overshadowing the new leads and simply leaving many fans pining to see the old Guardians unit back in action.
Chris Pratt's MCU Future Explained
Peter Quill's return to Earth marks a fitting end to his character arc in the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy as it sees him move past his traumatic memories on the planet to reunite with his grandfather. But it also opens up a host of opportunities for the cosmic hero to begin a whole new era in the MCU.
Chris Pratt's Star-Lord already got the chance to meet and fight with some of Earth's Mightiest Heroes in Infinity War and Endgame. Although only Doctor Strange and Spider-Man remain from his Titan mission, one can only imagine he got to know more heroes off-screen at Tony Stark's funeral.
With the former Guardian now residing on Earth, the doors are open for him to play in almost any hero's story, or even to return to space for more cosmic adventures without his familiar misfits. To some extent, this could be the beginning of a whole new era for the Legendary Star-Lord in the MCU, maybe even as an Avenger.
It's too soon to tell exactly how large Star-Lord's MCU future will be, but the decision to confirm his return and not do the same for any other member of the Guardians appears to indicate more direct plans for him. And now he's on Earth, there are far more opportunities for Quill to get involved across the board.
Pratt has even already teased the Multiverse possibilities for him in the MCU, potentially opening the door to a Star-Lord Variant appearing. Then again, the actor already seems to have some interest in jumping ship to DC, so maybe his MCU future isn't quite as bright as Guardians 3's stinger implies.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is playing now in theaters worldwide.