Every Marvel post-credits scene explained

An image from The Avengers post-credits scene

Whisper it, but Marvel post-credits scenes are the best part of the movie. The baddies have been bested, the credits have rolled, and you're guaranteed to get a stinger that will either split your sides or start sowing the seeds for Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) stories years down the line.

But with so many (over 30, across 23 movies) Marvel post-credits scenes to consider, sometimes you just need a refresher. From Nick Fury's Avengers Initiative reveal, to Thanos cropping up on more than one occasion, it's always a good time to re-live the main reasons we stay in our seats long after the unaware have stumbled their way out of a dark theater screening. Because we know. We know what's coming: and it's going to be good

So, eyes left: here's every Marvel post-credits scene, including what they mean for the MCU-at-large from Iron Man to Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Iron Man (2008)

The post-credits scene: Having beaten Obadiah Stane and 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 was the stuff 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 a vast, interconnected narrative.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The post-credits 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: It's not stated explicitly, but Stark and co. want Hulk on the team, with Stark taking on Fury's recruitment role 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 on 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 post-credits 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, Mjolnir.

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 harks back to an earlier scene in the movie where he excuses himself to deal with the incident.

Thor (2011)

The post-credits 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 post-credits 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 post-credits 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, at which point he turns up in Guardians of the Galaxy, so this clued us in on the MCU's grand scheme.

The after-credits 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 post-credits 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: 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.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

The post-credits 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. 

The after-credits 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, which gets addressed in Thor: Ragnarok.

Lauren O'Callaghan

Lauren O'Callaghan is the former Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar+. You'd typically find Lauren writing features and reviews about the latest and greatest in pop culture and entertainment, and assisting the teams at Total Film and SFX to bring their excellent content onto GamesRadar+. Lauren is now the digital marketing manager at the National Trust.