james gunn avengers age of ultronKevin Winter/Getty Images

When Disney fired James Gunn from directing “Guardians of the Galaxy 3” last week, it came as a shock to many, and was the unfortunate result of offensive tweets from years ago resurfacing online.

But the “Guardians” movies will go on with or without Gunn.

An online petition for Gunn to be rehired, with hundreds of thousands of signatures, is hoping to catch Disney’s attention. But in the likely event that Gunn is not reinstated for the movie — which he had recently finished the script for and was planning to shoot this fall — Disney may soon make an announcement for who will replace him. That’s a scenario that fans will have to prepare for.

Gunn managed to turn the little-known Guardians into fan favorites of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the two movies he directed — “Guardians of the Galaxy” in 2014 and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” in 2017 — grossed a combined $1.6 billion at the global box office. In other words, Gunn left his mark on the MCU, and any director who follows him will have big shoes to fill. 

But that’s why fans should also get used to the third “Guardians” movie being quite different from the last two if Gunn is not miraculously brought back. “Guardians 3” will not be a James Gunn movie, even if the majority of his script is still used.

Luckily, there are a handful of worthy filmmakers who could be ready for the challenge. I’ve gathered together a list below of some who could take on “Guardians 3” based on their previous work and Marvel’s own tendencies when hiring directors. 

There are the obvious choices such as Brad Bird, who already has a relationship with Disney having directed the “Incredibles” movies, and Taika Waititi, whose “Thor: Ragnarok” featured slapstick comedy and space adventure similar to the “Guardians” movies.

There are also less-obvious choices, but Marvel has found success in lesser-known filmmakers like the Russo Brothers (“Avengers: Infinity War”) and Jon Watts (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”). Kay Cannon, for instance, proved she has a great understanding of comedy with this year’s “Blockers,” and Marvel values comedic chops just as much as the ability to direct an action sequence.

And then there are the long shots, the directors who would be more than capable but the studio probably wouldn’t consider, or would likely pass given their history or current schedule.

Below are directors who could replace James Gunn on “Guardians of the Galaxy 3”: