Warning: majors spoilers for Avengers: Endgame ahead.
We were all so worried about getting back every single person who had been dusted by Thanos during Avengers: Infinity War that we didn’t realize Avengers: Endgame was going to deliver surprise character cameos left and right. The Russo Brothers successfully pulled off a massive misdirect by making us focus on the Avengers who had been dusted by Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) snap and then giving us the most epic string of character returns. Superfans and casual viewers alike were thrown for a loop over the entire three hour and one minute runtime of Avengers: Endgame from seeing all characters return again after 21 movies and 11 years of the MCU. So from that shocking Tilda Swinton appearance to that romantic ending with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), here is the master list of every single surprise character return in Avengers: Endgame, and where you know them from (in case you forgot).
Thor's Friends Korg (Taika Waititi) and Miek From Thor: Ragnarok
Thor fans were thrown for quite a loop in Endgame when it was revealed that time had not been kind to Thor (Chris Hemsworth). He was visibly depressed and lost his will to responsibly lead New Asgard, opting to remain drunk all the time instead. But that bummer came with a sighting of Korg (voiced by Taika Waititi) and his BFF Miek, who Thor brought with him from alien planet Sakaar in Ragnarok. This confirms that they thankfully survived the Asgardian genocide at the beginning of Infinity War (and Thanos’ snap). They’re alive and well in New Asgard, and have discovered Earth’s gaming systems with their specific brand of delight. That was a nice surprise!
Thor's New BFF Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) From Thor: Ragnarok
The breakout star of Ragnarok returned in Endgame, once again being the brains to Thor's brawn. In Ragnarok, Valkyrie shows herself to be a wiley, strong fighter, and a great foil for the hero. In Endgame, we learn she survived the Asgardians' visit from Thanos; watch her join the legion of female superheroes against Thanos; enjoy Spider-Man riding on her signature pegasus; and see her become the new King (yes, King!) of Asgard. Casual.
The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) From Doctor Strange
The actor reprised her controversial role of The Ancient One (who in the comics is an Asian character, not a white lady) from Doctor Strange for Endgame, resulting in two full scenes including one in which she gives Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) an all-important heads up that they need to return the Infinity Stones back in time or else. For anyone who hasn’t seen Doctor Strange, The Ancient One was the longest living sorcerer who taught Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) everything he knows about the mystical arts. But she had been sustaining her life with energy from the Dark Dimension, but died in Doctor Strange. She's alive and doing Doctor Strange's eventual job when we see her in Endgame.
Thor’s Mom Frigga (Rene Russo) From Thor 2: The Dark World
We Frigga in Asgard thanks to a trip to the past and it completely destroyed Thor. In addition to being Thor's late mother (who was fridged in Thor 2 in order to further Thor's emotional journey), she's also Loki's (Tom Hiddleston) adoptive mother, and a witch. Luckily, her return in Endgame saw her serve a pivotal role: Seeing his mother gave Thor the strength he needed to continue on with his mission and the heart-to-heart between mother and son was a nice emotional beat in the middle of all the high stakes drama. Even Norse gods need their moms sometimes!
Iron Man's Dad Howard Stark (John Slattery) From The Iron Man Movies & Captain America: Civil War
While Cap was otherwise engaged during the military base time heist (more on that in a sec), Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) ran into a very familiar person from his past: his father (Slattery). Tony has a remarkably tough relationship with his father, but it became clear that he still valued and loved him when the cause of his parents' untimely death was revealed in Captain America: Civil War. Cap's best friend Bucky is revealed to have killed them while under the influence of Hydra, and it drives a huge wedge between Cap and Tony. In Endgame, Tony gets to meet his later father just as he's rushing home to his pregnant wife (aka Tony's mom), giving the father and son an unexpectedly emotional moment laden with double meanings (if only Howard knew he was speaking to his adult son!). It was the kind of warm parental moment Tony had been missing his whole life and that happy, fulfilled look on Tony’s face was a red flag proving that Tony wouldn’t survive the movie.
Thor's Ex, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) From The Thor Movies
While she didn’t have a single line of dialogue in Endgame, it was amazing to see Thor’s former flame return for a few flashback scenes. If you missed Thor and Thor 2, you probably don't know that Jane is a world class astrophysicist who was once considered for a Nobel prize (also, she was once in love with Thor). Seeing Jane again was a surprise for Thor, but we don't actually see all the much of her (or the moment in which Rocket extracts the Aether, aka the Reality Stone), which is literally inside of her. That's probably for the best.
The Hydra Agents In The Elevator With Cap From Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Two bad guys that returned for Endgame are Frank Grillo’s Brock Rumlow, aka Crossbones, and Maximiliano Hernandez’s Jasper Sitwell, Hydra agents embedded in S.H.I.E.L.D. whose true faces were revealed during Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Captain America (Chris Evans) got some much-needed revenge by one-upping them in a brilliant callback to the Winter Soldier elevator fight scene where he first took down the traitors by whispering “Hail Hydra” in Sitwell’s ear, using his future knowledge against them to get Loki’s scepter (and the Mind Stone) without having to fight at all. Talk about an epic callback.
Hydra Leader Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) From Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Now here was an epic cameo: Redford returned to the MCU to reprise his role of Alexander Pierce, one of Hydra's top leaders who was embedded in S.H.I.E.L.D. as the head of the World Security Council, aka the big bad of The Winter Soldier. Bringing him back for a flashback reminded us of how far we’ve come from the early days of S.H.I.E.L.D. and not knowing just how corrupt that organization had become. It also allowed for our favorite Avengers to get some revenge on the bad guys, even if it was only for a moment.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) From Captain America: The First Avenger and Agent Carter
While Tony was having some quality time with his father, Cap was off running into the love of his life. That’s right, Peggy Carter is back and this is where I started crying ugly crocodile tears. In case you forgot, Peggy is a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. who befriended Captain America back in the '40s when he first got souped up on Super Serum. Even after being frozen and waking up in present day, Cap remained close to Peggy, mourned her death in Captain America: Civil War, and awkwardly made out with her granddaughter, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). Fans always thought Peggy was his true love though and the desperate hope on Cap’s face as he looked at her through her office window in his journey back to the '70s confirmed that. That one moment was so powerful that it inspired Cap to stay in the past after they beat Thanos and he brought all the Infinity Stones back to the points in time in which they were stolen. Peggy and Cap finally got their dance, got married, and lived a long, full life together. (This outcome does, however, kind of undo the events of the Agent Carter series...)
Thor's Brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) From Like, Every Marvel Movie
It was heartbreaking seeing Loki again (and in so many different iterations) in Endgame knowing that he’s still dead in the present. Of course, no Avengers story can be told without Loki, since he's been a part of every major event since he was introduced in 2012's The Avengers. Hiddleston was everywhere in the past, but unfortunately the character is still dead by the time Endgame ends. No last minute saves for Thor’s brother (*sniff*).
Howard Stark's Butler Jarvis (James D'Arcy) From Agent Carter
Howard and Peggy weren’t the only familiar faces spotted during that fateful trip to the past for Tony and Steve. Eagle-eyed MCU fans also got to see Jarvis once more! No, not Tony Stark’s first A.I. but was the real person that Howard Stark based Jarvis on, first introduced in Marvel’s Agent Carter series. Edwin Jarvis was played by D’Arcy for two seasons on ABC and he was the best butler, ally, and friend that Peggy Carter ever had. Seeing him again before he teamed up with Peggy was an amazing moment for diehard fans and a nice way to honor the characters that helped build out Marvel’s TV universe.
The Wasp's Dad Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) From The Ant-Man Movies
In the Ant-Man movies, Hank is not only the original Ant-Man, he's a former S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist who invents the thing this entire movie is based on: Time Travel via the Quantum Realm and Pym Particles. We see him in Endgame both as old Hank and digitally de-aged Hank when Cap goes back to the '70s to grab a few extra Pym Particles.
The Wasp's Mother, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) From Ant-Man & The Wasp
She didn’t have any lines, but we can’t not include Michelle Pfeiffer on this list! Hope Van Dyne’s (Evangeline Lilly) mother Janet, who made her debut earlier this year in Ant-Man and the Wasp, returned along with everyone else who had been dusted thanks to Hulk snapping his Iron Infinity Gauntlet and undoing Thanos’ snap. She fought alongside her husband Hank and their daughter in the big third act battle scene, getting the family fighting together once more. Plus, seeing the entire Ant-Man and Wasp clan at Tony Stark’s funeral did suggest that perhaps there could be another Ant-Man and Wasp movie in our future.
Hawkeye’s Kids & Wife (Linda Cardellini) From Avengers: Age Of Ultron
This one was pretty easy for anyone watching the movie to spot, as Avengers: Endgame opened with what seemed like an idyllic, picturesque family moment. Clint Barton, on house arrest after cutting a deal with the government as a result of the events of Captain America: Civil War (which is why was M.I.A. in Infinity War), was just having a nice day with his family at their rustic home. His wife Laura (Cardellini), first introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron, was preparing a homemade picnic for Clint and their three kids. Clint was mentoring their daughter Lila (played by Ava Russo, daughter of co-director Joe Russo and niece of the other co-director Anthony Russo) on archery (not that she needed any help, did you see that bullseye?) while the two sons Cooper and Nathaniel played off in the distance. It was then that Clint's entire family got dusted.
They were all returned to him by the end of Endgame but he had become someone much different in the five years since they disappeared. Now that there are rumors of a developing Hawkeye series, fans think the MCU is going to make his daughter Lila a new version of Hawkeye, a la Kate Bishop from the Marvel comics.
A Now Teenage Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins) From Iron Man 3
If you, along with everyone else, was confused as to who that young teenage boy was standing along at Tony Stark’s funeral, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! While everyone else at the funeral was standing with their specific hero groups and families, there was one young boy standing apart from them all. He’s not a mysterious new hero about to debut in the MCU; he’s actually been in it before. That was actually Harley Keener, the young boy from Iron Man 3 who helped Tony by giving him access to his garage to repair his armor when he was on the run and hurt. It seems as if Tony stayed in contact with Harley as he grew older, so much so that Harley was invited to rub shoulders with the best and most powerful heroes at Tony’s funeral. Plus, the same actor who played Harley in Iron Man 3 returned to play the role again for Endgame. Now that’s a cool way to honor the past (and seriously test audiences' MCU knowledge).
Ant-Man's Daughter, Cassie Lang (Emma Fuhrmann) From The Ant-Man Movies
If you haven’t seen any of the Ant-Man movies (honestly what are you waiting for?) then the character of Cassie might not have meant much to you in Endgame. But for Scott Lang, his daughter Cassie is everything. She represents his emotional ties to being a hero instead of a criminal (let's not forget, Ant-Man is an ex-con). She was a young girl in both Ant-Man movies, but Endgame’s five year time jump means she’s now a teenager, making her dramatic reunion with her father when he finally escapes the Quantum Realm all the more tear-filled. And when the Avengers finally won against Thanos and undid his snap, the scene in which Scott, Hope Van Dyne, and Cassie are finally together as a happy family, looking up at the fireworks, was a moment years in the making.
Iron Woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) Who Was Hinted At In Iron Man 3
It hasn’t been that long since Paltrow returned to the MCU as she was in the beginning of Infinity War, and she's actually billed as a star of the movie, but her role in the battle as Iron Woman was epic. Not only does Endgame give her her own Iron Man suit, it finds her joining the entire lineup of Marvel female heroes when the good guys needed it most. And when Tony tragically dies saving the world, snapping the Infinity Gauntlet and turning Thanos and all the bad guys to dust, Pepper is left to raise their daughter alone (with help from Jon Favreau's Happy), but with the legacy (and technology) of Iron Man in their possession. Might we see little Morgan follow her parents' footsteps?