The Marvel movies have turned the post-credits scene into an art. The scenes are so well established that they have expanded them into mid-credits scenes, often offering two bonuses on every movie.
With Captain America: The Winter Soldier in theatres this weekend, here’s a look back at every Marvel mid-and-post-credits scene, and what they meant. By the way, stay all the way through the Winter Soldier credits to catch both scenes in that one.
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As Marvel's introduction to the world of the Avengers, Iron Man was a huge success. The DNA of Marvel's mega-franchise strategy was all in that one movie, complete with a post-credits reveal that teased bigger things to come.
As Tony Stark walks through his dimmed home, his AI, Jarvis, shuts down and Tony sees the trench-coated silhouette of Nick Fury, who asks, 'You think you're the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you've become a part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet.'
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This one was a hiccup in the Marvel film universe. After the Hulk and Abomination duke it out in The Incredible Hulk, Tony Stark shows up to a bar where General 'Thunderbolt' Ross (Hulk's historic nemesis) is drinking. He gloats over the General's ineptitude before telling him, 'We're putting a team together.'
That seed did not bear any fruit in later films, and Marvel's Kevin Feige, the mastermind behind the Avengers mega-franchise, admits it was a misstep. 'I will say that the Tony Stark cameo in The Incredible Hulk required us to (laugh) get ourselves out of a corner.' They got out of that corner through a convoluted plot that's quickly explained in The Consultant, a Marvel one-shot included on the Thor DVD.
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By 2010 Marvel had a very clear sense of where it was going with the Avengers, so the Iron Man 2post-credits scene makes a little more sense.
With Whiplash defeated we cut to Agent Coulson, who had a bigger role in the second Iron Man movie, investigating a desert crash site. Then we get our first glimpse of Mjolnir, Thor's fabled hammer, setting up Thor, which hit theatres a year later.
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Bridge to his assumed doom, but the post-credits scene tells a different story. After Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) is led to a secretive facility, Nick Fury shows him the Tesseract.
This is the same Tesseract central to the plots of both Captain America and The Avengers. Fury tells Selvig if 'they figure out how to tap' the Tesseract, it could be a source of near unlimited power, Loki appears in a mirror and whispers, 'Well I guess that's worth a look.' Selvig repeats the words, foreshadowing his role in The Avengers, where Loki takes control of his mind.
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At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, Cap wakes up in modern day New York and is a little taken aback.
The post-credits scene leads directly into The Avengers, with Nick Fury approaching Cap while he's working a heavy bag and telling him he has a mission for him. 'Trying to get me back in the world?,' Cap asks. 'Trying to save it,' Fury replies.
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The Avengers was the first of Marvel's movies to have a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene. The mid-credits scene opened on The Other explaining to someone in a throne why the Chitauri had failed to conquer Earth. The Other says to fight the humans is to 'court death.' When the throned one turns around, it's none other than a grinning Thanos, the most powerful villain in the entire Marvel universe.
His appearance implies he was the one who gave Loki his scepter and possibly saved him from death. In Marvel lore, Thanos is often tied to the Infinity Gauntlet, a glove which requires six stones to give its wearer truly omnipotent powers. Many suspect the Tesseract, then, was one of those stones, probably the Mind Stone.
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After Tony Stark narrowly cheats death in The Avengers, he briefly lies unconscious on the ground. After he wakes he suggests that now that they're done saving New York they should go get some shawarma.
The post-credits scene follows through with this tease by showing the whole team assembled at a small shawarma restaurant where the owners are cleaning up after the city's widespread destruction. It's Marvel's funniest post-credits scene yet.
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In Thor: The Dark World, Thor defeats the Dark Elf Malekith, who attempts to use the mysterious aether to destroy all nine realms, one of which is Earth (Midgard). In a mid-credits scene, Asgardian heroes Volstagg and Sif take the aether to The Collector (Benicio Del Toro in a white wig).
They ask him to keep it safe because the Tesseract is already in Asgard, and it would be dangerous to have two of the Infinity Stones so near each other. After they leave, the Collector reveals his endgame, saying, 'One down, five to go.' The Collector will reappear in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is expected to push the Infinity Guantlet plot forward.
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In Thor: The Dark World, Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) complains that it took Thor two years to come back to Earth and find her.
This time he doesn't leave her hanging, visiting her on the balcony of her apartment in the post-credits scene, where he plants a great big kiss on her. Cut to elsewhere in London, where a frost monster from Jotunheim is still running loose.
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Unlike most of the other Marvel movies, this post-credits scene doesn't tease any of the other movies or even expand the universe.
It's just a funny gag that finds Tony Stark treating Dr. Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk) as his therapist. When Stark wakes a sleeping Banner by asking him what he thinks of his story, Banner answers that he's 'not really that kind of doctor.'
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