Since these plot points are fairly important for Avengers: Endgame I'm going to put them all in spoiler paragraphs.

The Avengers are able to

bring back all of the characters who were snapped in the last film, including Doctor Strange. Stark finds Strange in the final battle and asks him about what he saw in Avengers: Infinity War when he saw 1 successful outcome in 14,000,605 and whether they were living in that reality. Strange says that if he were to tell Stark whether they were in that successful version or not then it could not come to pass (or words to that effect).

Later on, at a pivotal moment,

Strange turns to Stark and indicates the number one to him. This prompts Stark to sacrifice himself. However, didn't this violate the very rule which Strange had outlined just a few moments before? Didn't telling Stark that by taking on Thanos he could realise Strange's vision mean that, by Strange's own logic, that Stark should have failed?

So was Strange talking nonsense when he said that

he couldn't let Stark in on the secret? Or is there some other explanation for what happened that I've missed?

  • 3
    I think it was simply that if Tony Stark knew he would die, he might hesitate. That hesitation would risk failure because Thanos would have a moment to attack Stark.
    – user89104
    Apr 28, 2019 at 3:31
  • 2
    I interpreted it that they were now finally safely in the one winning timeline, there was no timeline left where they lost, so there was no danger in telling him anymore. May 1, 2019 at 20:49
  • Reminder: answer in answers (and support your claims there), not in comments.
    – V2Blast
    May 14, 2019 at 9:31
  • The thing with movies where a character sees multiple futures is that you can imagine what you want: maybe Strange saw a future where he does not do any sign, doTony try to escape with the Stones (to give them to Banner) and got killed by Thanos; maybe he saw the one winning future is the one where he does the gesture and Tony uses the stones. You can also wonder: didn't Strange change the future by telling Tony that there was one winning future?
    – Taladris
    May 14, 2019 at 9:54

6 Answers 6


Whilst I have no evidence for this I imagine Strange's quote is more meant to be understood along the lines of:

I can't tell you that at this moment in time.

As in he couldn't tell Stark they were in the winning outcome when Stark asked but telling him before Stark sacrificed himself was fine. After all Strange knows the winning outcome so he's sticking to how it plays out so he must tell Tony at that point it's the winning outcome to prompt Tony to act.

Along the same lines as this @Paul D. Waite comments on another alternative that could also be what Strange intended and sounds valid.

It’s quite possible that Stark’s actually already decided to do what he’s going to do, and Strange knew that. He was reassuring Tony that it would work, now that it had become inevitable.

I've also heard of a theory that Strange wasn't telling Stark it was the winning outcome but that there was only one winning outcome. He is reminding him not to give up and push on to achieve that winning outcome.

  • 12
    It’s quite possible that Stark’s actually already decided to do what he’s going to do, and Strange knew that. He was reassuring Tony that it would work, now that it had become inevitable. Apr 26, 2019 at 11:02
  • @PaulD.Waite Another valid alternative.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Apr 26, 2019 at 11:02
  • well, same thing really. Apr 26, 2019 at 11:18

I took it to mean

If Strange tells Stark they're going to win, then Stark won't feel the need to sacrifice himself.

Later he signals "1", a callback to there being only one winning timeline. There's only one way to win, and Tony now knows what that is.

  • 1
    Yeah, I think this is the most logical answer. He didn't tell Tony before then because it wouldn't have played out the way it did if he had. But in that moment, he simply wanted to reassure Tony that this was the one way they won - that he needed to do this, and that his sacrifice wouldn't be in vain.
    – V2Blast
    May 14, 2019 at 9:33

Dr. Strange saw the winning timeline, so he presumably saw himself indicating "one" to Tony Stark. Not doing so would've caused them to be in a losing timeline.

  • 2
    I think this is the best answer we can provide for this question. Strange's rule might not have been a hard rule about the future, but rather just what Tony needed to hear to move towards that one ideal outcome. Apr 28, 2019 at 23:42

My impression was that Strange's gesture meant "wait" (for Thanos to put in the last stone); I didn't think he was signaling the number one.


I'm pretty sure it didn't mean 1, but "UP", referencing the sacrifice Tony had made in The Avengers when he decided to change trajectory of a nuclear missile headed for New York by manually steering it up in the sky towards Chitauri's army.

That way Doctor Strange indicates Tony he has to make sacrifice again in order to win.


I thought Strange was pointing up to the sky to give notice to how Thanos' ship was starting to fire in another direction, signaling the (re)appearance of Captain Marvel.

  • 5
    But the ship started firing, and got destroyed, way before the scene that the question is about. Apr 27, 2019 at 21:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.