Spoilers to follow for Ocean's 8. There's a pretty big shock at the start of Ocean's 8 when it's revealed that Danny Ocean is dead. It's stated early on that the former protagonist of the franchise, portrayed by George Clooney in three films, passed away at some point before the start of the new movie. His sister and the franchise's new star, Sandra Bullock's Debbie Ocean, even visits her late brother's grave. But since this is an Ocean's movie we're talking about here, things may not be quite as they appear. So is Danny Ocean really dead, or could the heist-master make a return in a future franchise installment?
Clooney fans can breathe a sigh of relief, because Danny Ocean is almost certainly still alive. In the movie, after revealing that her brother is dead, Debbie Ocean pays a visit to Danny's grave where his date of death is listed as 2018. This implies a very recent death, yet Debbie doesn't appear to be too broken up about it. In fact, she doesn't appear to be sad at all. Not only that, but she receives a visitor while at his grave that more or less proves her brother is still alive — and that she knew this all along.
The graveyard visitor is none other than Elliot Gould's Reuben Tishkoff, the flamboyant financier of the Ocean's 11 crew. He and Debbie share a conversation about the latter's extravagant heist plot to steal a priceless necklace, and they both allude to a mysterious "he" and what "he" thinks about the plot. The "he" to whom they are referring can only be one person, and that's Danny Ocean, since as the mastermind of Ocean's 11 and the brother of Debbie, he's the only established character who would have a vested interest in how her plan plays out — and the only person whose opinion Debbie would be interested in seeking out. So if Danny Ocean isn't dead, then where is he during Ocean's 8?
The movie doesn't get into it, but it seems pretty obvious that Danny Ocean faked his death. This certainly wouldn't be out of character for a guy who makes his living pulling off high-profile heists and making enemies of both law enforcement officials and powerful crime lords, so it's possible the heat simply got too intense for him and the only way he saw out was to fake his own demise in order to avoid being killed or jailed. Or, perhaps he and Tess (Julia Roberts) decided they were simply tired of running and tired of the game and opted to start a new life together somewhere, faking at least Danny's death in order to pull it off.
So since it seems likely that Danny Ocean is still alive, what does that mean for the future of the franchise? Well, it certainly suggests that he could return — Debbie offering him a toast at the end of Ocean's 8 clearly alludes to that possibility — and since we know he's still in contact with his crew thanks to Reuben, it's not far-fetched to think that he may want a part of whatever Debbie plans in a hypothetical Ocean's 9. However, since it does look like he faked his death, that means it's going to take a lot for him to come out of hiding, which probably means the heist in Ocean's 9 will have to be the absolute biggest in history — something that Danny himself couldn't possibly imagine trying himself but feels compelled to aid in his sister's attempt.
This is of course all speculation, but given that Danny Ocean is almost certainly not really dead in Ocean's 8, he seems like the most likely candidate to become the ninth member of his sister's crew in an eventual Ocean's 9 movie.