As a part of Disney’s 21st century moviegoing dominance, Marvel has changed the modern blockbuster, and how we watch it. Now, studios don’t make big-budget movies, they make big-budget universes; now, fans engage with franchises year-round and absorb every pixel of trailer footage like a sponge; now, joining these franchises has become a rite of passage for young stars, a career plan; and now, movies don’t end when the credits start rolling.
The MCU made the post-credits scene commonplace—it’s no longer a cheeky Ferris Bueller trademark, but a cog in the Marvel machine that usually has one of two purposes. First, a Marvel post-credits scene can tease future plotlines and characters that will be introduced down the road. The MCU was building hype for 2012’s Avengers four years before it came out, dropping a post-credits scene featuring Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury talking about putting together a team at the end of 2008’s Iron Man. But in the second case, the scenes can just be fun and silly—like that time the Avengers ate shawarma after their big New York City battle. Either way, Marvel’s post-credits scenes build hype, plot, and brand loyalty, while inadvertently training audiences to stay all the way to the end. I saw Chappaquiddick last weekend and sat through the beginning of the credits before realizing what was happening to me.
Through the 18 Marvel movies that have been released in the lead-up to Friday’s Avengers: Infinity War, there have been 32 (!!) post-credits scenes, which is [pulls out calculator] ... a ton of extra scenes. And while some of them are really great, there are more than a few that could’ve been left on the cutting-room floor. (If you want to check out all the scenes in one place, this YouTube compilation has all the post-credits scenes prior to Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther.) In anticipation of Infinity War—which I’m willing to bet will feature at least two post-credits scenes and maybe 50—let’s rank all 32 of the franchise’s post-credits scenes and decide which are the best, and which robbed me of minutes of my life.
32-28. All the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Post-Credits Scenes
What happens: Too many things.
James Gunn went overboard with his Guardians sequel, jumping from two post-credits scenes to five for no apparent reason. None of the scenes are revelatory or set up a larger story, and even the cute ones—like Angsty Teen Groot—don’t work because of the oversaturation. The glut of post-credits scenes also undercuts the movie’s actual sentimental ending. Just as you start thinking, “Wow, that send-off for Star-Lord’s father figure, Yondu, was remarkably touching; this movie is a fascinating treatise on parenthood,” a whistle-controlled harpoon stabs Dave Bautista’s Drax and then he screams a lot.
27. The Incredible Hulk Bar Meet-up
What happens: Tony Stark meets (a probably tipsy) Thaddeus Ross at a bar and tells him he’s putting together a team.
Ross figures in only one other Marvel movie, Captain America: Civil War, so he’s not all that important to the MCU. Also, by this point we had already been tipped to the formation of the Avengers, so it’s not like the information here was all that shocking. Clearly, Marvel was still figuring out the formula back in ’08.
The Incredible Hulk in general must be one of the few movies that Marvel would like a redo on—back in 2008, the titular Hulk was Edward Norton. (Mark Ruffalo joined the fray for The Avengers, and Norton is still doing Wes Anderson movies, so everyone wins.) The movie is inconsequential and most likely the last time the green monster will get his own stand-alone film. It’s an interesting piece of early Marvel history, but not much else.
26. Thor and Jane Make Out in Thor: The Dark World
What happens: Thor and Jane reunite after being separated for what feels like the entire movie and make out some.
This scene itself isn’t that bad, but post-credits scenes cannot be judged in a vacuum. Thor: The Dark World is, for starters, the single worst movie of the MCU. (Yes, I will take Hulk Edward Norton running through favelas over discount Lord of the Rings any day!) This scene also ended up being completely useless to the larger story; it was the last we’d see of Natalie Portman’s Jane. Her and Thor’s reunion doesn’t feel so impactful now that she’s completely disappeared from the universe. If the Thor franchise is going to forget about Jane, we can forget about this post-credits scene, too.
25. The Collector Gets an Infinity Stone in Thor: The Dark World
What happens: The Collector is given the Reality Stone for safekeeping, but he doesn’t seem all that trustworthy.
We have to speak about The Dark World one more time because the movie had a second post-credits scene. After this we’ll never mention it again, I promise.
In the scene, two of Thor’s friends (let’s be honest, you don’t know their names and you don’t care) give the Reality Stone to the Collector, citing the fact that two Infinity Stones shouldn’t be kept in the same place. (Asgard already has the Tesseract, also known as the Space Stone.) This is sound logic, but couldn’t they have found a more reliable person to give the stone to? The Collector looks creepy AF and is played by Benicio Del Toro, which should be immediately suspicious. He also says, “One down, five to go,” which is not a thing a person with benevolent plans says. We have to deduct points from this scene for the tomfoolery—we shouldn’t have to scold Asgard’s mightiest heroes for giving an all-powerful artifact to a smirking guy dressed like a Tim Burton extra. They should know better.
24. Captain America and Nick Fury in The First Avenger
What happens: Nick Fury meets with Steve Rogers about a new world-saving assignment.
Captain America: The First Avenger is—despite Cap being the “first” Avenger—the final Marvel movie before The Avengers. By the time this post-credits scene dropped, we’d had four movies with four post-credits scenes that all teased these heroes coming together. Like, Marvel, we get it.
The scene also feels oddly tacked on, like Marvel dug itself into a hole with these post-credits scenes and felt like it had to satiate the fans for sitting through the entire credits. It’s over in a flash, and has little impact as a hype-builder because the hype was already built.
23. Sam Wilson “Knows a Guy” in Ant-Man
What happens: Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon, meets with Cap and Bucky Barnes to discuss what to do with Bucky after the events of The Winter Soldier. Sam says, “I know a guy,” implying Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man.
This is a prelude to Captain America’s showdown with Iron Man—and the heroes that choose their respective allegiances—in Civil War, and actually, Sam’s conversation with Cap is a cutdown scene from Civil War. At the time of Ant-Man’s release, this was never-before-seen footage and pretty exciting—and chatter about “the accords” was a good hint for the catalyst that leads to Cap and Tony Stark’s feud.
But the scene isn’t as game-changing in retrospect, and it might constitute a bit of laziness on Marvel’s part. Instead of creating a new post-credits scene for Ant-Man, the studio recycled footage from another movie. It’s still a fun moment—and who doesn’t love some smoldering gazes between Cap and Bucky?—but compared to Marvel’s better post-credits scenes, it just doesn’t stack up.
22. Thor Meets Stephen Strange in Doctor Strange
What happens: Strange asks Thor about Loki’s presence on Earth, because he apparently watched The Avengers.
While it’s fun to see Chris Hemsworth and Benedict Cumberbatch share the screen, and Strange magically refilling Thor’s huge chalice of beer is a great gag, this scene falls under the same distinction as the Ant-Man scene: It’s a cutdown from another movie.
You’ll find a lengthier—and thus, more enjoyable—version of this exchange between the two heroes in Thor: Ragnarok, which renders the post-credits scene a bit pointless on a rewatch.
21. Karl Mordo’s Heel Turn in Doctor Strange
What happens: Karl Mordo strips the “magic” that allows Jonathan Pangborn to walk from him, signaling that Mordo will be a future foil for Stephen Strange.
Mordo declares there are “too many sorcerers” on Earth and that his newfound goal is to purge magic, likely setting him up as the villain for Doctor Strange’s sequel. The scene itself is quite brutal—Mordo basically leaves a well-meaning guy paralyzed on the floor and peaces out—but its impact is blunted because Doctor Strange as a whole doesn’t do a good enough job of impressing that Mordo will become the next villain. It only feels that way if you’ve read the comics, and know that Mordo is a villain in them.
Mordo’s actually pretty likable for most of the movie as Strange’s sidekick (Chiwetel Ejiofor is also effortlessly charismatic) and [whispers] I think he’s got a point. Messing with the laws of nature makes for psychedelic cinema, but it seems rather unethical for an all-powerful sorcerer like Strange to wantonly use such powers. Unlike with Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger, it doesn’t feel like Doctor Strange really considered Mordo’s perspective, and the post-credits scene was some aggressive backtracking to make the sidekick-turned-villain less likable. Sorry, but I might still be Team Mordo.
20. The Introduction of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in The Winter Soldier
What happens: Wolfgang von Strucker, now in possession of Loki’s scepter, proclaims, “This is the age of miracles” as we first lay our eyes on Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, two secondary villains (and one future Avenger) in Age of Ultron.
Not only does Strucker have possession of the Mind Stone, which powers Loki’s scepter, he’s got two superpowered goons to do his bidding. The excitement of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s sinister introductions is somewhat undercut, however, by the fact they aren’t villains in Age of Ultron for very long—Scarlet Witch is basically an Avenger by the end of the movie, and Quicksilver and Strucker are both killed off.
This post-credits scene deserves a bit of appreciation, though, as it is one of the last hurrahs of Hydra, the Nazi-Illuminati hybrid organization that took over S.H.I.E.L.D. and radicalized the late Gary Shandling. I really liked those guys. I mean, wait, I didn’t like them, but I thought they were pretty good as far as Marvel villains go. They felt a little more real than giant purple aliens, if you know what I’m saying.
19. Meet the Giant Purple Alien Coming to Destroy Our Planet Post-Avengers
What happens: Loki didn’t get the job done in The Avengers? Well, guess what—Thanos is still out there.
Back in 2012, a minor earthquake hit the country when thousands of nerds shouted “OH SHITTTTTTT!!!!” after the first Avengers screenings ended with a mid-credits scene introducing Thanos, who we’ll finally get to see in action in Infinity War. This is where it all began, with an unsettling smile over the prospect of taking on Earth’s heroes.
My only quip is that Thanos looks slightly different in Infinity War and his other cameos in Guardians and Age of Ultron—a bit more refined and purplish, yet somewhat thumb-like—and I’m a stickler for consistency. I am not here for pre-alien-goatee Thanos.
18. Thanos Is (Finally) Ready to Fight in Age of Ultron
What happens: Thanos puts on the Infinity Gauntlet and says, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.”
Great stuff, Thanos, but why didn’t you do it yourself sooner? What were you doing this whole time in space? Do you guys get Netflix out there? What was so important that you couldn’t go to Earth yourself and grab the Infinity Stones to hasten that universal domination you’re all about? Aren’t you really into fighting?
Thanos, please explain this delay in painstaking detail when you land on Earth in Infinity War.
17. The Avengers Eat Shawarma in The Avengers
What happens: The gang literally just eats shawarma.
This was a pretty cute team-bonding session, but there are a couple of nagging issues. First off, why didn’t Joss Whedon write any sassy one-liners for this scene? The chewing in silence is funny—but only up to a point. Whedon’s dialogue is 40 percent one-liners, I’m sure he had some bars left in the chamber.
Second, I have a hard time believing this shawarma place stayed open after aliens descended upon New York City and destroyed half of Midtown. I’m assuming once those bug-like guys started flying around, the restaurant owner was like, “Hey, man, don’t worry about dropping that falafel into the fryer. We need to get the fuck out of this hell on Earth.”
16. Bucky Hits the Smithsonian in The Winter Soldier
What happens: Bucky goes to the Smithsonian and looks at a memorial to himself from the 1940s, which must’ve been a really trippy moment for him.
Do the Germans have a word for “I’ve only just realized I’m a 1940s Russian hitman with a metal arm and a best friend from the ’40s who is also alive, loves me a lot, and dresses up like the American flag”? No?
While the scene’s a bit of a rehash of previous events, it’s still pretty moving to see Bucky stare at his own memorial exhibit and really come to terms with what happened to him. As a wanted man, he probably shouldn’t be walking into a crowded museum in the nation’s capital, but we’ll give him a pass here. His life has been an emotional roller coaster.
15. Spider-Man Messes With His Spidey Suit in Civil War
What happens: Spider-Man’s web shooters emit a spider symbol; also, Aunt May is Marisa Tomei.
Any trepidations about the MCU rebooting Spider-Man with a relative unknown in Tom Holland were soon quelled with Civil War. In a film that had a plethora of heroes, Peter Parker was a standout with his awesome powers and childlike awe at seeing the other Avengers in action—like a Marvel fanboy surrogate, only with web shooters.
By the time his charming post-credits scene rolled around, I guarantee people were trying to buy tickets for Spider-Man: Homecoming then and there.
14. A Vulture and a Scorpion Hang Out in Spider-Man: Homecoming
What happens: Toomes, a.k.a. Vulture (Michael Keaton), bumps into Mac Gargan in prison. Gargan asks Toomes if he knows Spidey’s true identity; Toomes lies. Good for Toomes.
The Vulture was one of Marvel’s better-constructed villains (the bar was not high, if we’re being honest). His motivations were believable and somewhat sympathetic—less “I just want to take over the world” and more “I want to support my family in this crumbling economy.” There are shades of gray to Toomes, and this post-credits scene—which at first presents itself as a cliched “two villains team up” moment—is a lasting reminder of that.
In any case, look for Michael Mando to return as Gargan as a future Spidey foil, where he’ll probably become his superpowered alter ego, Scorpion. It’s no Paul Giamatti cosplaying as a Mecha-Rhino, but it’s something.
13. Baby Groot Dancing in Guardians
What happens: Baby Groot is really into “I Want You Back.”
Let’s not overthink this: Baby Groot is adorable, the Jackson 5 song is a jam, and Dave Bautista’s Drax is a delight. For the sake of these rankings, I will ignore James Gunn’s slander that Original Groot is dead and Baby Groot is an entirely different character. Let me just enjoy the scene.
12. Thor’s Gonna Need a Bigger Ship in Thor: Ragnarok
What happens: As Thor, Loki, and Co. head back to Earth, their ship is overshadowed by a much larger ship, the one presumably owned by Thanos.
This should lead straight into the events of Infinity War, and it doesn’t bode well for Thor’s ship—or for the God of Thunder. We know from the first Infinity War trailer that Thor’s going to end up on the Guardians’ ship, where they’ll likely head to Earth together—but what does that mean for Thor’s original ship, and its passengers?
This scene is really good at building hype for Infinity War—though if Marvel wants to keep its goodwill, Taika Waititi’s rock person, Korg, better make it out of space alive.
11. Loki Locates the Tesseract (via Selvig) in Thor
What happens: Nick Fury shows the Tesseract—also known as the Space Stone—to Selvig, unaware that the good doctor is under Loki’s control.
This scene sets up the primary conflict of The Avengers, and establishes the extent of Loki’s mind control powers, so we know the stakes when he turns them on Hawkeye (a.k.a. the Ron Baker of the Avengers) in The Avengers.
The twist of this scene—Loki’s alive and he’s controlling other people!—was also genuinely shocking, the first of many times Tom Hiddleston’s trickster fooled fans and other characters. This is the kind of buildup The Avengers needed; not Nick Fury telling people he wants to form a team for the 60th time, but a deception that sets up the movie’s primary antagonist. This would start to become a trend: Now we know that every time you think Loki’s down for the count, he’s either controlling other people or posing as Anthony Hopkins, which are both good options.
10. Agent Coulson Finds a Hammer in Iron Man 2
What happens: Thor’s hammer lands in bumblefuck, New Mexico. S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the case.
Marvel followed up the excellent Iron Man with two lesser movies, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2. The real highlight of the latter was this post-credits scene, in which Agent Coulson phones his superiors about discovering a giant crater in the ground, which we discover was caused by Thor’s hammer.
The MCU certainly wasn’t in any danger of flailing at the time of this movie, but after releasing two mediocre movies, the franchise needed another spark. With one shot of a solitary hammer in the ground, the studio drummed up some thunder to revitalize its movie slate.
9. Shuri Checks in on the “White Wolf” in Black Panther
What happens: Bucky Barnes is recovering from post–Winter Soldier PTSD by enjoying the visual splendor of Wakanda.
Honestly, Bucky deserved this brief vacation before Infinity War, and Wakanda seemed to really fit him. It’s a nice, calming scene. It’s also another necessary prelude to Infinity War—along with T’Challa’s assertion in Black Panther’s other post-credits scene that Wakanda is ready to share its resources with the world, Bucky being in the country makes the utopia a prime target for Thanos’s impending wrath.
Can we just all agree to not ship Bucky and Shuri? He already has one true love.
8. Bucky Arrives in Wakanda in Civil War
What happens: Bucky is put back in cryosleep—in Wakanda.
At the end of Civil War, T’Challa grants Bucky asylum, earning Captain America’s gratitude. And while it’s great to have another moment to add to your Bucky-Cap (b)romance collage, this scene is all about giving the audience the first glimpses of Wakanda.
The camera pans out from the Wakandan facility to a shot of a giant statue, presumably made of vibranium, of the panther god Bast. With Black Panther, Wakanda would soon become the most effective worldbuilding from Marvel yet. Though a great majority of that credit goes to the work of Ryan Coogler and his collaborators on the film, the Civil War post-credits scene provided a sumptuous tease that had fans clamoring for a more extended look at the African utopia.
7. Jeff Goldblum Does His Thing in Thor: Ragnarok
What happens: Goldblum’s Grandmaster is defeated by a revolution on Sakaar, but he wants to call the revolution a “tie.”
Taika Waititi was blessed with Jeff Goldblum in Thor: Ragnarok, so he let Jeff Goldblum do his thing in what’s probably the last we’ll ever see of the Grandmaster in the MCU. In the short time we had, Goldblum wore glitzy robes and orchestrated a gladiator match between Thor and the Hulk—also, his pleasure cruiser had a button specifically for shooting out fireworks on his birthday.
This post-credits scene was Peak Goldblum, and the MCU is better for it.
6. T’Challa Speaks at a UN Summit in Black Panther
What happens: T’Challa says Wakanda will share its knowledge and resources with the rest of the world. [Extreme Oprah voice] You all get vibranium!
Wakanda had shut itself off from the rest of the world since the beginning of the country’s civilization, and what, if any, responsibility Wakandans owed to the rest of the world—especially people of African descent—was the core question of Black Panther. While Erik Killmonger didn’t go about his takeover the right way, the ideas he espoused for helping the less fortunate around the world spurred T’Challa into breaking from Wakandan tradition.
The UN speech T’Challa gives is the catalyst for vibranium going global, and it has the triumphant feeling of being a world-changing event. Whether Wakanda’s accessibility leads to more conflicts between Wakanda and the rest of the world remains to be seen, but like most of Black Panther, the scene feels prescient and applicable to the real world, especially when a white UN member incredulously wonders what Wakanda, ostensibly a Third World country, could teach the rest of the world. (The man doesn’t say it’s a “shithole” country, but it’s easy to connect the dots.)
5. Hope Gets the Wasp Suit in Ant-Man
What happens: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) finally lets his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) get her hands on the Wasp suit.
Hank was the Overbearing Father type. For all of Ant-Man, he robbed us of being able to see Hope flourish, instead forcing her to train some dude how to be half as badass as she is. Seeing Hank finally come to his senses and hand over the Wasp suit to his daughter at the end of Ant-Man is not only immensely satisfying because of what it means for their father-daughter relationship, but for the thrill of seeing a new, female superhero ready for action in the sequel.
Let’s be honest: The Wasp suit is cooler than the Ant-Man suit—it has wings and blasters!—and thus, the Wasp should, at the very least, be as fun of a pint-sized hero in Ant-Man and the Wasp as Ant-Man was in the original.
As the next Marvel movie on the slate this summer, there’s a decent chance we’ll get another glimpse of the sequel in one of Infinity War’s post-credits scenes, because the post-credits enterprise is a Marvel-themed ouroboros.
4. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner’s Therapy Session in Iron Man 3
What happens: Bruce dozes off while Tony tells his buddy the story of the third Iron Man movie.
This is the best kind of post-credits scene: It adds an element to the movie and puts a neat bow on everything. Tony Stark narrates his experiences post-Avengers throughout Iron Man 3, and upon first viewing the narrative device is fun, but also pretty unnecessary. We only find out in the post-credits scene that Stark wasn’t solely speaking to the audience—he was telling the entirety of Iron Man 3 to Bruce Banner, who was not really having it.
This sets up some great banter between Tony and Bruce—their deadpan exchanges are some of the best parts of this franchise—and the line “I’m not that kind of doctor,” from Bruce, is golden. If Marvel ever gives another Hulk movie a shot, the studio should make an inverse post-credits scene with Bruce telling his story to Tony—that is, assuming both heroes survive Infinity War.
3. Howard the Duck Lives in Guardians
What happens: Howard the Duck, martini in hand, is revealed to be one of many creatures housed by the Collector.
The post-credits cameo featuring Howard the Duck at the end of Guardians is a pitch-perfect gag. For those unfamiliar with the character, Howard the Duck is an obscure Marvel hero who starred in a flat-out terrible, low-key terrifying movie in the 1980s—the memory of that bizarrely CGI’d bird is burned into my retinas for all eternity. Howard’s cameo in Guardians, though, is a nice wink to Marvel’s less-than-glamorous cinematic history—and to be fair, the duck looks much better with modern CGI. (But please note that this is not an endorsement for a reboot. For the love of God, don’t make another Howard the Duck movie.)
2. Captain America Breaks the Fourth Wall in Spider-Man: Homecoming
What happens: The Cap’s latest high school PSA preaches the virtue of patience.
By 2017’s Homecoming, Marvel fans knew to stick around for the full credits and receive some kind of reward; what nobody expected was an expert troll delivered by Captain America. To quote the man himself, on the importance of patience: “Sometimes it leads to very little, and it seems like it’s not worth it. And you wonder why you waited so long for something so disappointing.”
I still remember the beautiful cocktail of groans and chuckles that hit my Homecoming crowd when this scene came on. Marvel played everyone with this one; you gotta respect it.
1. Nick Fury Is Putting Together a Team in Iron Man
What happens: Nick Fury tells Tony Stark about “the Avenger initiative.”
Back in 2008—before Barack Obama began his first term (!)—we had Iron Man. Marvel was not a full-fledged cinematic universe, this movie was a huge financial gambit, and audiences weren’t yet conditioned to wait through the end credits for extra footage. So yes, aside from the fact Samuel L. Jackson was sporting an eyepatch and a black leather jacket, the Iron Man post-credits scene was weird. Different. Game-changing.
I still remember seeing it for the first time. Like most people, I left my Iron Man screening when the credits started rolling and only learned about the scene after the fact. I found a grainy YouTube video of someone recording the moment in the theater, and after Fury said “Avenger initiative” the ooohs, aaahs, and screams from the folks filming that video nearly ruptured my eardrums. This was a special moment of geekdom, and if nothing else, Infinity War is the impressive culmination of that moment—a literal decade of universe-building. What started with two non-superpowered people in a mansion and the prospect of a superteam will now climax with dozens of heroes from all corners of the galaxy clashing with a huge, godlike alien (and Carrie Coon). This scene perfectly encapsulates Marvel’s decades-long growth—and how fun these films can be when they’re firing on all cylinders.