Marvel leak suggests Jon Bernthal's Punisher is coming to the MCU

Jon Bernthal's The Punisher stands in an underground tunnel in his classic comic book costume
The Punisher is reportedly joining the MCU in Phase 5. (Image credit: Netflix/Marvel Television)

Jon Bernthal's Punisher is reportedly set to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), if a recent and surprising Instagram leak is to be believed.

The apparent confirmation comes by way of Kasey O'Keefe, a relatively unknown Los Angeles-based actor, who recently uploaded an image of himself and Bernthal on the Meta-owned social media platform.

Ordinarily, such photographs wouldn't draw too much attention. However, in the image caption, O'Keef seemingly drops a huge hint that Bernthal's Punisher has joined Marvel's cinematic juggernaut. In it, O'Keefe lavishes praise on Bernthal, calling him a "tremendous actor", before going on to write "Looking forward to working with you during Marvel Phase 5!"

Take a look at O'Keefe's Instagram post below:

In August, we covered the news that Bernthal wasn't set to get his own MCU Disney Plus show, or join the MCU whatsoever. That report came after Rosario Dawson, who played Claire Temple/Night Nurse in multiple Netflix Marvel TV series, including Daredevil and The Punisher, had incorrectly suggested Bernthal's Punisher was getting a standalone MCU TV series.

While Marvel hasn't officially commented on the matter, numerous MCU insiders have claimed that Bernthal will join Charlie Cox – who played Matt Murdock/Daredevil in Netflix's Defenders-Verse – in making the jump to the MCU via Disney Plus. Cox's Murdock/Daredevil has already appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. He's also expected to cameo in Echo's standalone series before getting his own show on Disney Plus – Daredevil: Born Again – in 2024.

As for those insiders talking up Bernthal's return,Tom Smith, CanWeGetSomeToast, and MyTimeToShineHello, who all have decent track records when it comes to insider knowledge on Marvel productions, have all suggested Bernthal has already signed on to reprise his iconic role in future MCU projects.

Naturally, O'Keefe's post should be taken with a huge pinch of salt, so don't take this as confirmation that Bernthal is actually coming to the MCU. We've reached out to Disney and Marvel for an official comment on O'Keefe's post and rumors of Bernthal's return, and we'll update this article if we hear back.

Analysis: where could The Punisher turn up in the MCU?

A close-up shot of Daredevil looking over his shoulder in She-Hulk episode 8 on Disney Plus

The Punisher would be a great supporting character to include in Daredevil's Disney Plus series. (Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney Plus)

Given his obvious ties to Daredevil from Netflix's various Marvel TV programs, Daredevil: Born Again seems like the most likely place for Bernthal to make his MCU debut.

The duo were two sides of the same coin in Netflix's Defenders-Verse, juxtaposing each other incredibly well due to their individual brands of justice and opposing beliefs on how far vigilantes should go in the pursuit of vengeance. Reuniting them in Daredevil's first MCU project would be a perfect opportunity to explore that dynamic further, particularly with Born Again set to run for an unprecedented 18 episodes (well, unprecedented as far as the length of Marvel Studios' TV shows are concerned).

If not Born Again, where could The Punisher – aka Frank Castle – appear? Marvel's Thunderbolts movie would be an ideal fit, what with that supergroup being positioned as an anti-hero team. Castle isn't a villain, nor is he a hero in the traditional sense, so he'd be a perfect (not to mention crowd-pleasing) addition to the Thunderbolts' roster.

What about Echo's TV series, too? Maybe The Punisher will make the briefest of cameos in that show, especially if Daredevil appears in a similarly small role. That would set up an intriguing side plot in Born Again, with Murdock potentially stunned to see Castle making the rounds across the US with the aim of doling out his own form of, well, punishment on criminals nationwide.

The rest of Marvel's Phase 5 line-up, such as Loki season 2, Secret Invasion, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania are all too far along in their production to include The Punisher. Other in-development Marvel movies and shows, including Captain America 4 and Agatha: Coven of Chaos, aren't the right fit for his street level-style disposition, either.

Our guess? If The Punisher is about to join the MCU's increasingly stacked roster, it's sure to be in a Disney Plus series like Born Again. But we'll have to wait and see if that's really the case.

For more MCU-based content, check out everything worth knowing about the last few MCU Phase 4 projects, including Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Alternatively, read up on where you can stream every Netflix Marvel TV show to date.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across. Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.