The Guardians of the Galaxy 3 ending packs an emotional punch, while also providing plenty of thrills and explosive action. Now that the Marvel threequel has blasted into UK cinemas and US theaters, we've dived deep into everything that goes down in that tearjerker of a conclusion.
In the Marvel Phase 5 movie, the core cast of Guardians return – including Gamora – for one last ride, this time to try and save Rocket Racoon's life when he's put under threat by the sinister High Evolutionary and Adam Warlock.
Now, it should go without saying, but consider this your major Guardians of the Galaxy 3 ending spoiler warning. We're going into detail about all the events at the end of the film, so turn back now if you don't want to discover the plot! For everyone else, head to the below for all your biggest questions answered.
Guardians of the Galaxy 3 ending explained
The Guardians of the Galaxy 3 ending sees the crew head to a planet that looks very much like Earth (named Counter-Earth), except it's populated by animal creatures made by the High Evolutionary. The Guardians are trying to find a special code that will turn off the kill switch attached to Rocket's heart and allow them to use a med-pack on him, which leads them into a trap set by the High Evolutionary (though, as Peter Quill points out, it's not a trap if you know it's coming – it's just a face off).
While Quill and Groot meet the High Evolutionary inside his spaceship, Nebula is forced to wait outside, while Mantis and Drax decide not to guard a comatose Rocket and instead make their way to the spaceship to help out. Gamora, meanwhile, stays in the Guardians' ship, which means she's there to defend Rocket from the High Evolutionary's henchman (henchpig?) and Adam Warlock.
Quill and Groot end up jumping out of a window to escape, taking one of the High Evolutionary's cronies with them. They take the code they need from the man's cybernetic implant after killing him, then Gamora crash lands the ship practically on top of them and they get back on board. Unfortunately, though, Nebula, Drax, and Mantis are all in the High Evolutionary's ship, thinking they need to rescue Quill and Groot.
It also looks like the code won't work on Rocket, and he very nearly dies – seeing his old animal friends from his time in the High Evolutionary's clutches in the process. But, Quill refuses to let him go, and performs chest compressions until Rocket wakes back up and the code starts to work.
The High Evolutionary traps Nebula, Mantis, and Drax, and tells Quill to bring Rocket to him or he'll kill the other Guardians. Quill gets in touch with Kraglin and the Ravagers, and they set off – bringing the entirety of Knowhere with them – to help in the coming fight.
Mantis, Drax, and Nebula, meanwhile, meet a bunch of children that the High Evolutionary is keeping captive and experimenting on. Drax manages to speak to them in their language to warn them of the attack that's on its way. But, the trio then end up faced with giant, terrifying monsters; luckily, Mantis is able to calm them down.
After the Guardians reunite on the ship, Rocket says he's done running and sets off to continue fighting the High Evolutionary's forces. The others go with him. Groot even saves Adam Warlock – who'd attacked the Guardians again on their ship, but got caught when Quill pressed the self-destruct button – who is very confused, but Groot tells him that everyone deserves a second chance (well, he says "I am Groot," but that's what he meant).
Rocket is caught by the High Evolutionary while he's trying to rescue some baby raccoons. In the process, he learns that he is, in fact, one of those animals himself, and proudly calls himself Rocket Raccoon. All the other Guardians help him fight the High Evolutionary, and Gamora rips off his face – which is actually a mask – to reveal the gruesome, bloody remains that Rocket left him with after (literally) clawing his face off while escaping the first time around. Rocket, though, refuses to kill the High Evolutionary, and when asked why, the raccoon says it's because he's a Guardian of the Galaxy.
Then, in a complicated manoeuvre with help from Cosmo the Spacedog, the Guardians manage to get everyone off of the High Evolutionary's ship, including all the animals. There's trouble when Quill can't escape after going back for his music player, though. He ends up stuck in the vacuum of space and it looks as if he has died, until Adam Warlock comes and rescues him. Cue a huge group hug.
The crew then head back to Knowhere, where they emotionally go their separate ways. Gamora goes back with the Ravagers, while Quill says he has to take some time and goes back to Earth to find his grandfather. Mantis says she needs to discover what she wants rather than following others. Nebula and Drax stay behind to help lead the city. Groot and Rocket stay as Guardians, with Rocket the new captain. Groot even says his first real words: "I love you guys." How's that for a heart-warmer?
It's revealed in the first Guardians of the Galaxy post-credits scene that the new Guardians line-up is Rocket and Groot, along with Kraglin, Phyla-Vell (a child rescued from the High Evolutionary), Cosmo the Spacedog, and Adam Warlock. The second post-credits scene sees Quill and his grandfather bonding over some cereal. Aww.
Who are the new Guardians of the Galaxy?
After the OG Guardians go their separate ways, the new line-up consists of Rocket and Groot, Kraglin, Phyla-Vell – a young girl the crew rescued from the High Evolutionary – Cosmo the Spacedog, and Adam Warlock. The new team is seen working together in the first post-credits scene.
Who dies in Guardians of the Galaxy 3?
The only main characters to die in Guardians of the Galaxy 3 are the High Evolutionary (possibly, more on that below) and Elizabeth Debicki's character Ayesha. Late in the movie, it looks like Peter Quill is a goner when he gets stuck in space, but Adam Warlock saves him at the last moment. Rocket Raccoon also makes a full recovery from his injuries.
Does the High Evolutionary survive? What was his plan?
It's unclear if the High Evolutionary survives or not. Rocket refuses to shoot him dead, reminding the others that he's a Guardian of the Galaxy, and then the High Evolutionary's entire spaceship is destroyed with the villain presumably still on it. Since we don't see a body, though, there's a chance that the man escaped and is plotting his next move.
The High Evolutionary's plan revolved around creating the perfect society, which is why he was so cruelly experimenting on all those animals and children. He could never recreate Rocket's ability to problem-solve, though, lamenting that none of his other creations had the capacity for true invention. That's why he's so desperate to get Rocket back and study his brain.
What is Rocket's backstory?
Rocket Raccoon has a particularly heartbreaking backstory. We learn in the movie that he was experimented on by his creator the High Evolutionary from birth. The High Evolutionary is very impressed with Rocket's intelligence when he solves a problem his maker couldn't. Despite that, though, the High Evolutionary later harshly informs Rocket that the young raccoon won't be going to the new world like he and his animal friends Lylla, Teefs, and Floor, dreamed, as they're not perfect creations.
Rocket then tries to rescue his animal friends, but the High Evolutionary shoots Lylla the otter dead. In his grief, Rocket horrifically claws up the High Evolutionary's face. When guards arrive, Rocket's other two friends, Teefs and Floor, are killed, but the raccoon manages to escape.
The High Evolutionary planted a kill switch on Rocket's heart, though, which means no one else can perform surgery on him. The villain then sets the Sovereign on the task of finding Rocket again, as the raccoon is the only one of the High Evolutionary's creations that is capable of true invention. Adam Warlock is dispatched to track down Rocket and return him to his creator.
What happens to the Guardians?
All of the Guardians survive the movie – even Rocket – but that doesn't mean they stick together. The ending of the film sees the original team split up. Quill returns to Earth to track down his grandfather, while Mantis sets off to discover what it is she really wants away from everyone else.
Nebula and Drax, meanwhile, stay in Knowhere to rebuild and lead the city (and look after all those kids). Groot and Rocket continue the Guardians together, with new members Kraglin, Cosmo the Spacedog, Phyla-Vell, and Adam Warlock.
Who is Adam Warlock? What happens to him?
Adam Warlock is a super-being created by the Sovereign, as seen in one of the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 post-credits scenes. Despite looking like a grown man, he's still technically very young – which explains why he's so immature in the movie. In the threequel, he's sent by the High Evolutionary to track down and return Rocket.
Ultimately, Adam ends up having a change of heart about fighting the Guardians and trying to retrieve Rocket. He saves Quill from being stranded in space and joins the new Guardians of the Galaxy instead, which is the last we see of him.
What's going on with Gamora?
The version of Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy 3 isn't actually the same as the one seen in the previous two movies. This Gamora arrived in Avengers: Endgame via time travel shenanigans, as the original Gamora was killed during the events of Avengers: Infinity War. New Gamora, then, doesn't have any of her memories of the others – including Quill – as this version of her hasn't actually experienced them yet (whoa, time travel). That also means that she seems like a very different character, as this version of Gamora has only just left Thanos and is a whole lot meaner.
Will there be a Guardians of the Galaxy 4 or a Star-Lord solo movie?
Director James Gunn has been very clear that this is the final ride for this version of the Guardians of the Galaxy, though, considering a new line-up is introduced at the end of the film, there's space for a fourquel following the fresh team.
The movie's end text also promises that "the legendary Star-Lord will return." That suggests a Quill solo movie could be in the works, though there has been no confirmation from Marvel on anything just yet. In an exclusive chat with GamesRadar+, Pratt shares his thoughts on returning to the role.
At the moment, it seems most likely that we'll next see Star-Lord again in either Avengers: The Kang Dynasty or Avengers: Secret Wars, both of which are coming as part of Marvel Phase 6.
What happens in the Guardians of the Galaxy 3 post-credits scenes?
Guardians of the Galaxy 3 has two post-credits scenes. The first features the new line-up of Guardians – Kraglin, Cosmo the Spacedog, Adam Warlock, Phyla-Vell, Rocket, and Groot – on another planet together, about to save the day once again (and discussing their favorite music).
The second sees Quill and his grandfather eating breakfast together back on Earth. They're complaining about a neighbour who gets Quill to mow his lawn – eagle eyed viewers might have spotted that Jason Quill's newspaper makes a reference to Kevin Bacon being abducted by aliens, as seen in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.
For much more on Guardians of the Galaxy 3, check out our spoilery deep dives on:
- Guardians of the Galaxy 3 cameos
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- Who were the original Guardians of the Galaxy?
- Where are the MCU Guardians of the Galaxy in comics?
- Our guide to the Marvel timeline
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- How to watch Marvel movies in order