Guardians of the Galaxy 3: release date, trailer, cast, plot, and more

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Guardians of the Galaxy 3: key information

– Releases in theaters worldwide in May
– First trailer released in October 2022
– Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista among returning cast members
– Will Poulter and Chukwudi Iwuji among newcomers
– Picks up after The Guardians’ Holiday Special
– Promises to be highly emotional
– Could be the final time this Guardians line-up appears in the MCU
– Fourth Guardians movie hasn’t been greenlit

Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is the last time Marvel’s lovable group of ragtag superhero adventurers will team up on the big screen.

Well, in its current guise anyway. With director James Gunn already co-leading DC’s Cinematic Universe (DCU) into its new era, and some actors set to call time on their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) careers, Guardians 3 will call time on the group’s current line-up.

With just one more Guardians movie to enjoy, what do we know about the Marvel Phase 5 movie? Below, we’ve compiled everything worth knowing about Guardians of the Galaxy 3. That includes its release date, first teaser, cast, plot details, the movie franchise’s future, and more.

Major spoilers follow for the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, their Disney Plus Holiday special, and their appearances in Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Thor: Love and Thunder

Guardians of the Galaxy 3 release date

Star-Lord meets the alternate timeline Gamora in his ship in Guardians of the Galaxy 3

Hey, Gamora, when is Guardians 3 out in theaters? (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Guardians of the Galaxy 3 launches in theaters worldwide on May 5, 2023.

It was originally penciled in for May 2020, but got delayed two years to accommodate other MCU projects. Thankfully, Guardians 3’s release date wasn’t pushed back again when production problems on Marvel’s Blade film reboot led to the studio tweaking its Phase 5 and 6 line-up schedules

Guardians of theGalaxy 3 trailer

Guardians of the Galaxy 3’s first teaser dropped online in December 2022.

The trailer teases a lot more about the film’s story and characters than we expected it to. In it, we see a six-armed, gun toting Groot, the live-action debut of Adam Warlock, and a baby version of Rocket. That’s only the tip of the iceberg – but, rather than spill all of its secrets out here, we’ll let you watch the trailer to find out more.

It’ll be a while before another teaser is released. These days, Marvel tends to release official trailers about a month before one of its films launches in cinemas. That was the case for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which received its second and final trailer on January 9 (Quantumania arrives on February 17). In short: don’t expect a new Guardians 3 teaser until late March at the very earliest. 

Guardians of the Galaxy 3 cast

Peter Quill looks at an off-camera Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy 3

Chris Pratt returns as Peter Quill/Star-Lord. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Here’s Guardians of the Galaxy 3’s cast list so far: 

  • Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord
  • Zoe Saldaña as Gamora 
  • Dave Bautista as Drax
  • Karen Gillan as Nebula
  • Pom Klementieff as Mantis
  • Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon
  • Vin Diesel as Groot
  • Sean Gunn as Kraglin
  • Will Poulter as Adam Warlock
  • Chuwudi Iwuji as The High Evolutionary
  • Maria Bakalova as Cosmo the Spacedog
  • Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha
  • Sylvester Stallone as Stakar Ogord
  • Michael Rosenbaum as Martinex
  • Daniela Mechior as TBA
  • Nico Santos as TBA

Pratt, Saldaña, Bautista, Gillan, Klementieff, Cooper, Diesel, and Gunn all reprise their roles from previous Guardians movies. Bakalova (Bodies Bodies Bodies, Borat 2) also returns as Cosmo, the telekinetic spacedog that made its MCU debut in the Guardians’ Holiday Special. Meanwhile, Debicki, Stallone, and Rosenbaum are back in their supporting roles from Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

Of the newcomers, Poulter’s Adam Warlock is perhaps the most significant. The powerful superhero, who director James Gunn describes as “more of a traditional superhero – although hero might be pushing it” (via Entertainment Weekly (opens in new tab) (EW)) – was teased in one of Guardians 2’s post-credits scenes, but he’ll make his official debut in Guardians 3.

For the uninitiated: in the comics, Adam Warlock is an artificial, perfect human specimen created by a group of scientists known as the Enclave. After he rebels against his creators (and throws down with Thor), Warlock – simply referred to as “Him” in his early comic book appearances – encounters The High Evolutionary, who gives him the title “Warlock”. Adam helps The High Evolutionary save his artificially created planet – Counter-Earth – from the evil Man-Beast and receives the Soul Gem (where have we heard that name before, eh?) before departing. 

Adam Warlock’s comics history becomes somewhat complicated after that. For one, he helps the Avengers defeat Thanos, but he also has an evil version – Magus – who’s born after Warlock temporarily wields the Infinity Gauntlet. Given his ties to The High Evolutionary – more on him shortly – and how his origins have been retrofitted for the MCU (he’s created by Debicki’s Sovereign leader Ayesha in Guardians 2, not the Enclave), we suspect some parts of his comic history will be used in Guardians 3.

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As for The High Evolutionary, he’s a genius-level geneticist who creates highly-evolved, anthropomorphic creatures and artificial worlds. As mentioned, he created the planet Counter-Earth, which we see in Guardians 3’s first teaser. He’s the individual who experimented on Rocket (in the MCU, anyway), turning him from an ordinary raccoon into a bitter, cynical, gun-loving humanoid animal. Expect to see Rocket’s origins in a flashback sequence.

Even though he’s worked alongside superheroes, such as Adam Warlock and Thor, in the comics, The High Evolutionary isn’t a good guy. He uses them as a means to an end – i.e. to protect his research and self-indulgent experiments – which makes him more of a villain. Chukwudi Iwuji, who’ll play The High Evolutionary, has described him as “sociopathic” and “narcissistic” (per Collider (opens in new tab)), and “extremely powerful” and “complex” (per The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab) (THR)). Unsurprisingly, he’s the main antagonist in Guardians of the Galaxy 3.

Potential cast spoilers follow.

Drax and Mantis hug some Christmas decorations in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Guardians 3 will pick up after their Disney Plus Holiday Special. (Image credit: Marvel)

There are two actors whose roles are yet to be announced. Daniela Melchior (The Suicide Squad) has signed on to feature (per Deadline (opens in new tab)), and MCU insiders have suggested she’ll voice Lylla, an anthropomorphic otter who Rocket falls in love with in the comics. We see Lylla in the movie’s first teaser, so she’ll appear in Rocket’s flashback scenes. Don’t be surprised if she ends up dying, too, which would explain why Rocket is so misanthropic when we met him in Guardians 1.

Nico Santos (Superstore, Crazy Rich Asians) is also part of the cast (per Deadline (opens in new tab)), but nobody knows what role he’ll play. Once we know more, we’ll update this section.

Guardians of the Galaxy 3 plot

The High Evolutionary watches a test subject perform an experiment in Guardians of the Galaxy 3

The High Evolutionary will be Guardians 3’s big bad. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Here’s the official plot synopsis: “In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, our beloved band of misfits are looking a bit different these days. Peter Quill, still reeling from the loss of Gamora, must rally his team around him to defend the universe along with protecting one of their own. A mission that, if not completed successfully, could quite possibly lead to the end of the Guardians as we know them.”

Not much to go on, then, but we have some idea of the plot, based on the Guardians’ MCU outings, the film’s teaser, and what the cast and crew have said.

First, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 will be incredibly moving. Speaking to Collider (opens in new tab), Gunn said “it’s different from what people are going to expect”. In a chat with EW (opens in new tab), Gunn also said it’s the “hardest thing I’ve ever done”, adding: “This is where things really happen. This is where we get to know the truth about who these characters are, and we face the biggest stakes.”

Bigger stakes mean a more emotional journey for these characters – and the actors playing them. Saldaña told ScreenRant (opens in new tab) that Guardians 3 is a “bittersweet moment” for everyone involved, while Gillan revealed the film’s script left the cast in “floods of tears” (per Yahoo (opens in new tab)).

Thankfully, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 won’t be an entirely somber affair. The threequel retains the self-deprecating humor that made the other films so enjoyable, with Gillan telling The Wrap (opens in new tab): “There’s been way more improv for me this time around than I have ever given before. I don’t know if they’ll make the cut but I hope they do.”

 Music lovers will be delighted to hear Gunn has put together another banging, licensed soundtrack for the Guardians’ potentially final hurrah. With Peter Quill gaining access to a Zune MP3 player at the end of Guardians 2, Gunn had free reign to add any number of songs to the film’s soundtrack, telling EW: “I worked twice as hard on this soundtrack as I did on both the first two soundtracks combined.”

So, where are the Guardians at when the movie begins? (Potential story spoilers follow). 

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For starters, they’ve set up a safe haven for alien refugees on Knowhere, which was revealed in the Guardians’ Holiday Special. The group purchased Knowhere from the Collector after they parted ways with Thor in Love and Thunder. Cosmo has also joined the team in the interim period.

Quill/Star-Lord is still mourning Gamora, his former love, who was sacrificed by Thanos in Infinity War in exchange for the Soul Stone. However, thanks to Endgame’s time-travel-based events, a younger version of Gamora – an alternate timeline variant of the one Saldaña previously portrayed – is loose in the MCU, and Peter wants to track her down. 

We see him searching for her on the Milano’s computer at the end of Endgame and, as we’ve seen in the trailer and first-look images, the pair do cross paths in Guardians 3. Gamora will be reintroduced as the Ravagers’ new leader (per THR (opens in new tab)), which explains why Stallone’s Stakar and Rosenbaum’s Martinex are back. Expect sparks to fly, romantic or otherwise, between Peter and Gamora.

As for the “protecting one of their own” storyline hint, this has to refer to Rocket Raccoon. MCU fans might think The High Evolutionary is looking for Rocket for some reason, meaning the Guardians will have to protect him.

A cowering baby Rocket stares directly into the camera in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3

We’ll learn more about Rocket’s backstory in Guardians 3. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

However, we actually think the Guardians need to keep Rocket safe from the Sovereign/Adam Warlock. Viewers will remember Rocket (and the Guardians by proxy) double-crossed the Sovereign in Guardians 2’s opening sequence. By the time that movie ended, the Guardians had escaped the Sovereign’s clutches, leading Ayesha to create Warlock to exact revenge on them.

Or so we thought. It seems the Sovereign enlisted The High Evolutionary’s help to create Adam Warlock, with the aim of sending him after Rocket and the Guardians. We suspect Warlock will attack Knowhere, but he’ll be unsuccessful in his attempts to kill anyone. That’ll lead Peter and company to track down The High Evolutionary – which is why they travel to Counter-Earth – to discover more about Warlock and stop him, Ayesha, and The High Evolutionary from killing them or, in The High Evolutionary’s case, enacting some form of diabolical masterplan. Gunn has suggested Rocket is the “secret protagonist” of the Guardians franchise and that the third movie shows the “importance of Rocket’s character and who he is” (per EW (opens in new tab)). So it sounds like Rocket will play a major role in this Phase 5 film.

Lastly, the big question on fans’ minds is: which Guardian could die? Rumors abound that Drax and Rocket are the most likely to perish, but MCU leaker Grace Randolph (opens in new tab) has claimed multiple death scenes were filmed to – ironically – stop the movie’s ending from being leaked. In short: just wait until you see Guardians of the Galaxy 3.

Guardians of the Galaxy 3: will there be another movie?

Adam Warlock stares menacingly at someone off-screen in Guardians of the Galaxy 3

Will Adam Warlock join the Guardians of the Galaxy? (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Probably, but some individuals won’t remain part of the line-up after the threequel.

For starters, Gunn isn’t helming any more MCU projects. He was confirmed as the new co-head of DC Studios alongside Peter Safran in October 2022, with the duo tasked with reviving Warner Bros. Discovery’s flagging DCU.

Meanwhile, Dave Bautista told GQ (opens in new tab) Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is his final outing as Drax, confirming what we heard back in 2021. “I’m so grateful for Drax. I love him,” Bautista said. “But there’s a relief [that it’s over]. It wasn’t all pleasant. It was hard playing that role. The makeup process was beating me down. And I just don’t know if I want Drax to be my legacy – it’s a silly performance, and I want to do more dramatic stuff.”

It’s unclear which other main players will depart. Much will depend on how Guardians 3 ends, but it’s possible Rocket could leave for pastures new. That’s if he doesn’t die by sacrificing himself to save the Guardians and defeat The High Evolutionary. Meanwhile, if the 2014 version of Gamora doesn’t join the Guardians, Saldaña might call time on her MCU career, too.

We’d expect the Guardians to exist in some form moving forward. Klementieff told the D23 podcast (opens in new tab) that the franchise isn’t “over, but it’s going to be different”, while Pratt told Extra TV (opens in new tab) he doesn’t know if he’ll have an MCU future post-Guardians of the Galaxy 3. Speaking to Deadline, Gunn added: “It’s not ever going to be the same group of characters for a lot of different reasons. Who knows what will happen with the Guardians franchise in regards to future characters, but in terms of this group of characters, this is the end of their story.”

Adam Warlock has led the group in the comics so, if Pratt hangs up Star-Lord’s twin pistols and helmet (or if Star-Lord dies), Warlock could lead the likes of Mantis, Groot, and Nebula in a new-look team. For his part, Poulter would “love to go on a journey” as Adam Warlock (per The Playlist (opens in new tab)). We’ll have to see what the future holds for the Guardians, but we’d be amazed if they aren’t part of the next two Avengers movies – The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars – at least.

For more MCU-based content, find out how to watch the Marvel movies in order. Additionally, read up on where we placed the first two Guardians films in our Marvel movies ranked article. 

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