Thor ending explained: The God of Thunder begins again

Released in 2011, Thor started it all for the God of Thunder and its ending set up two more major MCU movies. Let's break it all down.
Chris Hemsworth in Thor (2011) © 2011 - Paramount Pictures
Chris Hemsworth in Thor (2011) © 2011 - Paramount Pictures /

Way back in 2011, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was merely an infant full of potential. It had already enjoyed box office success in the form of two Iron Man movies and The Incredible Hulk but it hadn't quite reached the billion-dollar levels of The Avengers that would change the game forever. One of the major steps towards that journey, however, was Thor.

Released in 2011, the incredibly underrated film starred Chris Hemsworth in his first appearance as the God of Thunder, as Thor learned what it meant to be a king, and in the process understood the importance of being a hero. It was a character journey for him that ultimately set the stage for him to become one of the MCU's greatest heroes.

If you have just recently begun your MCU journey or you just happened to watch (or even revisit) Thor and would like some answers about the film's open-ended ending and where it goes next, lets jump straight on into it and explain everything that goes down in the film's closing chapter.

Thor proves himself a worthy hero

Much of Thor's plot revolved around whether or not the God of Thunder was worthy to one day take over from his father Odin as the King of Asgard. On the surface, he was more than ready for it, having prepared for his whole life by becoming a warrior worthy of defeating any threat that came Asgard's way. But in his heart, he wasn't right for the role; being far too self-assured in his own abilities that he led his friends into a life-threatening situation and almost reignited a centuries-old war with the Frost Giants.

After Odin cast him out of Asgard and deemed him unworthy of ever being their king, Thor was without his own abilities and the power of his hammer Mjolnir, who could only be wielded by someone worthy of it. And with that, he arrived in New Mexico and attempted to learn how to live on Earth.

Chris Hemsworth in Thor (2011) © 2011 - Paramount Pictures /

Through Thor's connection with astrophysicist Jane Foster, and his friendships with Erik Selvig and Darcy Lewis, he quickly learned about the heart of humanity. When Loki threatened to destroy the town they were in, he stepped up to battle The Destroyer without his powers. His noble sacrifice was the moment he proved himself worthy, and as a result, the hammer hurtled back towards him, gifting him with his powers once again.

It was a moment so powerful that it seemingly woke Odin from the Odinsleep and allowed Thor to return to Asgard to stop Loki from attempting to destroy Jotunheim and the other realms in the Nine Realms.

The Bifrost is no more (but Jane won't stop searching for Thor)

The film's final battle took place on the beautiful Rainbow Bridge between Thor and Loki. The latter had already programmed the Bifrost to wipe out Jotunheim, so the only way Thor could stop it was to destroy the bridge itself and bid farewell to the Bifrost. He used his hammer to do that, sending the Bifrost tumbling off the realm and into the abyss below.

Asgard was saved, but Earth was lost to them, as the final scene from the movie contemplated. It's a bittersweet moment, as Thor knows that he can't return to see Jane (who he promised he would come back for). But Heimdell reassures him that Jane is searching for him (as we see her do just that) in a moment that gets a smirk from the God of Thunder, because he knows that she is resilient enough to figure it out.

Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth in Thor (2011) © 2011 - Paramount Pictures /

The good news is that Thor does find a way to return to Earth, as he surfaces again in The Avengers (which was released the year after Thor). He isn't able to see Jane as his attention is on stopping Loki in his quest to rule over the planet. As for how he pulls it off, we're led to believe that Odin uses dark magic to make it happen through a line of dialogue from Loki. The pair are then able to return to Asgard when Thor uses the Tesseract to open a portal back and sometime after that Heimdall is able to use the Tesseract itself to repair the Bridge.

Thor eventually returns to Earth for Jane in the 2013 sequel Thor: The Dark World when he finds himself involved in a battle between the Asgardians and the Dark Elves. She isn't best pleased that he waited so long to come and find her, but the film does pose some interesting questions about how - or if - a relationship between a mortal and an Asgardian can work.

The post-credits scene leads directly into The Avengers

Like all of the post-credits scenes in all of the Phase One movies, Nick Fury appears after the credits roll on Thor. He greets Dr. Erik Selvig, who had been summoned to the SHIELD base for an unknown reason. When the two cross paths, the good doctor figures out what the reason is.

Nick Fury tells him about how the New Mexico incident involving Thor and The Destroyer wasn't the first time that the discussion about gateways to alternate dimensions and the power of the Gods had come up, opening a case to reveal the Tesseract. He informs him that it's unlimited power that could potentially be tapped. In that moment, Loki's reflection appears in a nearby pane of glass, grinning as he says that he thinks it's worth a look. Selvig then chillingly repeats that same line of dialogue.

This was one of the final pieces in the Avengers-sized puzzle that Marvel Studios was building. The revelation of the Tesseract was meant to act as a tease to the next film in Phase One, Captain America: The First Avenger, while Loki's return (and interest in that very same Tesseract) teases the endgame of Phase One, The Avengers.

Loki, The Avengers
Tom Hiddleston in The Avengers (2012) ©Marvel 2012 /

If you didn't know, the Tesseract plays an important role in Captain America: The First Avenger, as the Red Skull seeks to harness its energy to power his weapons in the 1940s. When the events of that film play out, Howard Stark manages to retrieve it. His good friendship with future SHIELD founder Peggy Carter is undoubtedly how it ended up in the organization's hands for the decades after that.

In The Avengers, it is Loki who seeks to harness the Tesseract's power as he finally makes his presence felt on Earth, longing to rule over the humans as a god after launching an alien invasion by leading the Chituari through a wormhole in the sky. This is what ultimately unites the Avengers to stop him, as Thor arrives from Asgard, teaming up with Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye in a bid to stop the invasion and save Manhattan (and Earth) from the invaders.

What to watch after Thor (2011)

The Avengers, Thor
Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in The Avengers (2012) ©Marvel 2012 /

If the credits just rolled on Thor and you caught the now-iconic "Thor will return" sentiment at the end of them, then you may find yourself wanting to know what comes next. The thing is: The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a vast labyrinth full of twists and turns. That's definitely the case with this movie's placement in the franchise, as there are a number of routes you could go next and it all depends on the level of commitment you want to have to the MCU.

On that note, let's dive into some of the titles you could watch next, looking at which routes you could take depending on whether you want to watch the Thor movies, all of the movies with Thor in them, or the whole MCU franchise in general.

The Avengers: You might be shocked to learn that The Avengers directly picks up some of the storylines that Thor left us with, but it's true. That's largely because Loki is the movie's primary villain, as he leads an army of the Chituari to Earth, harnessing the power of the Tesseract while he's at it. Naturally, Thor makes his presence felt, returning to Earth and joining forces with heroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, and Hawkeye to stop him. It's the movie that Phase One was building towards and it's a huge, epic payoff.

Any other Phase One movie: If you just watched Thor and would like to get to know the MCU's other heroes before The Avengers, you can literally tune into any other movie in Phase One. While post-credits scenes tease and hint towards the bigger team-up movie in a relatively chronological order, the films can mostly be watched in any order (with the exception of Iron Man 2 which needs to be watched after Iron Man).

If you'd prefer to watch the Phase One movies in order, here you go:

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Thor (2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • The Avengers (2012)

Thor: The Dark World: If you're already Thor on the brain and would prefer to skip out all of the Avengers stuff in between, the direct sequel to Thor takes place in Phase Two. Released in 2013, it sees the God of Thunder battle the Dark Elves, led by Malekith (played by Christopher Eccleston). It also deals with the fallout of Loki's attack on Earth during the events of The Avengers and how Thor and their family are coping with the fact that he's just a pure villain now... or is he?

I'd definitely recommend watching The Avengers before this one as it pretty much carries on from the story set forth in it.

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