The end is the beginning (of another Marvel movie)
Marvel Studios gave the comic book movie genre a shot in the arm when creating the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A lot of changes were made to an area of cinema that was once a laughing stock and is now so successful that it's funded Robert Downey Jr.'s yacht collection (probably).
As well as introducing loyal versions of fan-favourite characters and long-awaited stories played out on the big screen, the MCU also gifted us with the end credits scene. Not like they didn't exist before, of course, but they've since become a prerequisite for most genre flicks. Now referred to as stingers, these brief snippets are emblems of the Marvel brand and a major talking point. Fans debate what might be in them and how many there could be months before movies open, because they tie together the Marvel series and tease what's coming in future instalments.
With three Marvel outings to come this year - Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok - and another Avengers team-up next year, here’s our rundown of every post-credits scene so far and how they impact on the wider MCU.
Iron Man (2008)
The scene: His tussle with Obadiah Stane a thing of the past, and having successfully revealed his identity to the world, Tony Stark celebrates by kicking back in his Malibu mansion. He's interrupted when S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury turns up to inform him of a new initiative he'd like him to be a part of: The Avengers.
What it means: The one that started it all was a HUGE deal. The appearance of Samuel L. Jackson at the end of the movie telling Tony Stark about the Avengers was the stuff that Marvel fans had dreamed of for decades. Fury's line - "You think you're the only superhero in the world? You've become apart of a bigger universe" - wasn't just referring to the character. It meant that Iron Man wasn't a standalone movie, but part of an interconnected universe.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The scene: General Ross (William Hurt) drowns his sorrows for the whole Hulk/Abomination incident in Harlem and is interrupted by Tony Stark. Stark takes a seat and turns the smug up to eleven. "I hate to say I told you so General, but there's a reason we put that super soldier serum on ice," he says to Ross, before informing him that a new team (The Avengers) is being assembled.
What it means: Well, it's not stated explicitly, but it's not hard to guess what he's getting at: Stark and co. want Hulk on the team. Stark takes on the role of Fury from the last credits stinger. Interestingly, the scene nearly caused continuity problems as this little altercation between the two men is never referred to again. One of Marvel's One Shots fixed that problem. "The Consultant" expands the scene, revealing that it's part of a deal set in motion by Phil Coulson to ensure Abomination stays in prison while Hulk is released. Yeah, it didn't really work.
Iron Man 2 (2009)
The scene: A sleek black car arrives in the New Mexico desert. Agent Coulson steps out, stares off into the distance at an object buried in the ground and calls up Nick Fury. "Sir, we've found it," he says, as the camera zooms in on the item revealing ... Thor's hammer.
What it means: Thor's going to be in a movie! He's probably going to be in The Avengers! It seems like small potatoes now, especially as we've seen so much of him onscreen, but back then? It was a BIG DEAL. The moment also establishes Coulson as an important player in uniting The Avengers, and harkens back to an earlier scene in the movie where he excuses himself to deal with the incident.
The scene: Nick Fury brings Dr. Erik Selvig into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secret underground facility to show him an artefact that's recently come into their possession - The Tesseract. Fury tells the doctor that his work has impressed S.H.I.E.L.D. and they want him to head up their research to harness the Tesseract's power for good. Selvig gazes at the blue cube, as the camera reveals Loki in his reflection. "I guess that's worth a look," says Thor's brother, before Selvig repeats the exact same line to Fury.
What it means: This properly sets up the events of The Avengers, and confirms that Selvig is being controlled by Loki. The Tesseract is also the first Infinity Stone seen onscreen, giving us the first clue to the MCU's overarcing storyline.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The scene: Well aware that he's now living several decades in the future, Cap takes out his frustration on a punching bag. "Can't sleep?" asks Nick Fury, sauntering into the gym. Cap responds with a smart aleck comment about Fury only wanting him to help save the world again. Cue a montage-teaser for The Avengers movie.
What it means: It confirms what we already knew before the credits rolled - Cap is with S.H.I.E.L.D. - while giving us a hint of what to expect from the first team-up movie.
The Avengers (2012)
The scene: In the first credits scene, The Other rushes to his master telling him of Loki's failure to acquire the Tesseract. He babbles on, covering Loki's ass about how hard it is to beat The Avengers. "To challenge them is to court Death," he says. His master rises from his throne, and turns to face the camera. Thanos smiles.
What it means: We learn that Loki wasn't flying solo - he was working for someone. And as if introducing us to the Mad Titan wasn't enough, it also confirms that at some point Marvel plans to visit the Kree race. This is the first credits stinger that set the wheels in motion for something that wouldn't be revisited for a couple of years. We don't see Thanos for another two years in Guardians of the Galaxy, so this clued us in on the MCU's grand scheme.
The Avengers (2012)
The scene: The Avengers sit around a table in a kebab house getting their chow on with some of NYC's finest shawarma.
What it means: This second scene's pretty simple: after engaging in strenuous physical activity (defending New York City from aliens) The Avengers need massive amounts of greasy food. It's a nice little end note that keeps things light, and was added in right before the movie was shipped to theaters. If you look closely you can see Cap covering his face - because Chris Evans had a beard at the time from another movie he was working on.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
The scene: Tony Stark lies on a therapist's couch, wrapping up a story about his battle with Aldrich Killian. It's revealed that he's actually talking to Bruce Banner who slept through the entire thing.
What it means: Err... that Stark and Banner kept in touch after The Avengers? It's not the best of the stingers, which is a shame because the previous film gave us two great ones. Rumor has it that the original plan was to see Iron Man jet off to the outer reaches of the galaxy where he'd meet a ragtag bunch of Guardians…
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
The scene: With Asgard's vault too full of powerful, one-of-a-kind artefacts, it's up to Sif and Voltstagg to transport the Aether somewhere safe. They journey to a special museum where they hand it over to Taneleer Tivan, aka The Collector. "One down, five to go," he says after the two Asgardians leave.
What it means: This first credits scene is packed with easter eggs, making it one that requires repeat viewings with your fan goggles on. It more importantly introduces us to The Collector who, like Thanos, is after the Infinity Stones. This leaves a fair bit open for speculation. Is he working for Thanos or are they competitors?
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
The scene: The final credits tag finds Jane Foster and her chums hanging out in her apartment when all of a sudden a portal opens on her balcony. Is it Loki? Or a beast from Asgard? No, it's Thor. Jane runs out and the pair passionately kiss.
What it means: Well, apart from the fact that Thor will travel across dimensions for love (awww!), it confirms that he's left Loki-posing-as-Odin in charge of Asgard. That's... bad.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014
The scene: Halfway through the credits it cuts to Wolfgang Von Strucker chatting with a couple of lackeys as they walk through a secret underground HYDRA research base. The scene ends on a shot of the Maximoff twins, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, demonstrating their powers.
What it means: The Avengers will be going up against more than just HYDRA agents in the next movie; they'll be facing genetically-altered beings (aka mutants - but that's a whole rights issue). We also learn what happened to Loki's sceptre: it's being scrutinised by scientists, which is also bad news for Earth's mightiest heroes.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The scene: Partly on his way to becoming his old self again, The Winter Soldier decides to enjoy his down-time by visiting a museum and boning up on history. It's during his casual jaunt at the Smithsonian that he lays his eyes on a Captain America exhibit that happens to include Bucky Barnes in the display.
What it means: Another silent stinger, it's still an important one. It's proof that the real Bucky isn't completely lost within the Winter Soldier as his memories begin flooding back, confirming what Cap said earlier. Basically? We're going to see these two life-long buddies back together again... at some point.
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
The scene: Inside the Milano, Baby Groot is bopping away to some jammin' tunes while Drax is sharpening his knife in the background. Each time Drax turns around, Groot stops then starts up again as soon as he returns to his work.
What it means: Groot lives! And he's really cute.
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
The scene: Right at the end, the camera pans across The Collector's museum - it looks like a bomb's hit it. That tends to happen when Infinity Stones are opened indoors. The camera pans through the wreckage, lingering on the ruined archive, as Cosmo the dog trots to his master and starts licking his wounds. "Why do you let him lick you like that," a voice chides offscreen. The camera pans to the speaker. "Gross," says Howard the Duck.
What it means: That James Gunn is awesome? Well, following the 'rules' of the MCU this would normally mean we're getting a Howard the Duck movie, but Gunn already shot down those rumors and said he used that iconic Marvel duck as a little bit of fun.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The scene: Thanos is getting a bit pig-sick of his minions' repeated failures to get the Infinity Stones, so we see him grumbling in annoyance as he puts the Infinity Gauntlet on and declares that he'll get the Stones by himself.
What it means: If the first Avengers movie credits scene let Thanos' plans be known, this lets the world know that he's not messing around anymore. Watching him don the Infinity Gauntlet (which is a massive glove) is a huge moment that pretty much confirmed that the next Avengers would be linked to the Infinity Stones.
The scene: Hank Pym leads his daughter Hope down into the basement, where he discusses with her the power of responsibility. A panel slides back to reveal a hidden compartment housing the Wasp's suit. Pym tells Hope about the last person to wear it; her mother Janet Van Dyne.
What it means: There's no two ways you can take this scene. It's a super blatant moment that reveals what we'd hoped for throughout the whole of Ant-Man - the introduction of the Wasp. Let's face it, there was no way that we'd see that iconic suit and not get to see her in action. Shortly thereafter the studio announced the true title of the sequel, Ant-Man and The Wasp.
The scene: Tacked on at the end, Captain America walks into a dingy room where we see the Winter Soldier trapped in a vise. "This would have been a whole lot easier a week ago," says Falcon. Cap suggests calling Tony Stark for help and gets shot down. "Who knows if the Accords will let him help," his winged buddy responds. "But I might know a guy..."
What it means: In short? Team Cap is going to need help from Ant-Man in freeing the Winter Soldier. This plays less like a specifically-shot credits scene and more like an actual clip from Captain America: Civil War. That's because it is. But if it weren't for the fact that Kevin Feige confirmed that theory, that reference to the Sokovia Accords is the biggest giveaway.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The scene: Even though Bucky’s name is cleared during the events of Civil War, the fact that he can still be activated means that he voluntarily decides to put himself on ice. His lab of choice just happens to be in Wakanda where Cap warns Black Panther that people will be looking for Bucky. “Let them try,” is the killer response as the camera shows us some more of the Wakandan jungle. Oh and a giant panther statue.
What it means: As well as giving the audience their first proper look at Wakanda after two movies mentioning it, this establishes that Cap trusts Black Panther, potentially setting up an appearance in Black Panther’s solo outing. Not much is yet known about that movie - except that it has an utterly brilliant cast - so maybe we’ll even be getting a Bucky sub-plot during it, if we don’t see him before in Infinity War, that is.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The scene: Peter Parker is in his bedroom playing around with the sparkly new suit that Tony Stark made him, when he accidentally activates a bright light as Aunt May quizzes him on who he was fighting (some guy called Steve from Brooklyn). After giving him an icepack, she leaves the room and Peter aims the red light onto the ceiling revealing the Spider-Signal.
What it means: In the comics, Tony also made Peter a new suit (albeit not in the same colours) and the Spider-Signal is a comic-inspired upgrade for the MCU version of Spider-Man, who wears it on his wrist, not his belt. The scene is followed by the caption, “Spider-Man will return” in a nod to the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming but, other than that, it’s just a cool nod to the character’s origins.
Doctor Strange (2016)
The scene: Thor makes his first MCU appearance since Avengers: Age of Ultron (having sat out Civil War) to have a quick chat with Doctor Strange, who wonders why he’s come to Earth with his cunning brother Loki. Thor tells him he’s come to find his father Odin (“family drama”) and that they’ll all leave when he finds him. “Allow me to help you,” Doctor Strange happily tells Thor, who’s still a bit blown away by the refilling beer stein in his hand.
What it means: Like the second Ant-Man post-credits scene, this could well be a scene lifted straight from Thor: Ragnarok as it’s been confirmed that Doctor Strange will make an appearance in the threequel. At the end of Thor: The Dark World, it was revealed that Loki had shape-shifted into Odin, so there’s every chance Thor has figured out his brother’s trick and now needs to work out what he did with the real Odin. The Sorcerer Supreme is not a bad detective to have around.
Doctor Strange (2016)
The scene: During the movie, Stephen Strange chats to a guy named Jonathan Pangborn, who has used magic to make himself walk again. He comes to regret that decision when Mordo, a bit annoyed with the whole sorcerer thing by this point, pays him a visit to rob Pangborn of his magic and leave him paralysed all over again. Poor guy.
What it means: While we could see him in Infinity War, this more likely sets up Mordo as the main villain in Doctor Strange 2, even if it hasn’t been officially announced yet. This brings him more in line with his comic alter-ego where he is a constant thorn in Doctor Strange’s side, even impersonating him for a short while. Mordo’s chilling final line that there are “too many sorcerers” hints that Pangborn isn’t the only person whose magic he’ll be taking.