SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses every post-credits scene in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, through 2022’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” In other words: It’s all spoilers!
Ever since Samuel L. Jackson emerged at the end of the “Iron Man” credits in 2008 speaking ominously of “the Avenger initiative,” audiences are now conditioned to sit through the end credits of all kinds of movies on the expectation that at least one bonus scene awaits them. (In 2021 alone, films as disparate as “Cruella,” “In the Heights,” “The Green Knight” and “Tom and Jerry” featured scenes that ran after the credits.)
To be sure, Marvel Studios did not invent this technique, but the company certainly has perfected it, using post-credits scenes to reinforce the central conceit that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an ever-expanding storytelling web that will never truly conclude or resolve. From “Iron Man” through 2022 releases like the Disney+ series “Moon Knight” and the feature film “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the MCU has indulged in no less than 56 post-credits teasers to date.
Some of these scenes serve as a teaser for possible sequels or future MCU installments; some resolve a dangling plot strand from the preceding movie; some are just a funny gag. The best, as this ranking will hopefully illuminate, are a mix of all three.
A quick word on criteria: This ranking includes any scene that plays after the end of an MCU title, usually mid-credits scenes (which play after the main title cards but before the final credits scroll) and end-credits scenes (which play after all the credits have rolled). Occasionally, this also includes scenes that play after the movie is over but before the credits have started. For Marvel’s Disney Plus series, the list only includes post-credits scenes that play after season or series finales. All the scenes have been ranked by how well they tease an upcoming title in the MCU, how surprising or revelatory they are, and by how fun they are.
And finally, yes, this whole thing is silly. Enjoy!
"Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015): Thanos puts on an empty Infinity Gauntlet
Director Joss Whedon didn’t want a post-credits scene on his second “Avengers” movie, but Marvel Studios tacked on this hasty nothingburger anyway — a lame reminder that, yes, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is still out there, and, of course, he wants the Infinity Stones, and, duh, he’s gonna collect them himself. Not fun, not new, not surprising. Sorry, Thanos! You lose!
"Avengers: Endgame" (2019): What's that banging sound?
This is not really a scene, just the sound of a hammer banging against metal played over the Marvel Studios logo. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo deliberately avoided any post-credits scene for “Endgame” to reinforce the film’s sense of finality, but at the last minute, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige suggested adding in this homage to the late Tony Stark creating his first Iron Man suit. It’s a nice tip of the hat to the character and movie that launched the MCU, but it left many fans scratching their heads, and, like I said, it’s not even a proper scene.
And yet, it’s still better than Thanos lamely putting on the Infinity Gauntlet!
"Loki" (2021): "Loki will return in Season 2"
Again, this isn’t really a scene, just the announcement that “Loki” — which ended on one helluva cliffhanger — would indeed be coming back for another season. Good to know!
"Thor: The Dark World" (2013): Thor and Jane embrace
This “Thor” sequel, widely considered one of the worst films in the MCU, ends with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) glumly wondering when (or if) Thor (Chris Hemsworth) will return from Asgard to be with her. For some reason, Marvel thought it would be cute to make audiences sit through the entire end credits to learn that, obviously, Thor does zip back to Earth, with Jane eagerly racing into his arms. (Except, Portman wasn’t available to film the final shot, so Hemsworth’s wife Elsa Pataky stood in for her instead.)
"Ant-Man and the Wasp" (2018): The Giant Ant jams
The camera surveys an empty, post-snap San Francisco, ending up in the home of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), where a giant ant wails on a drum set. Har har.
"The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" (2021): Sharon shows her true colors
By the end of Marvel Studios’ second Disney Plus series, we already knew that exile from the U.S. had caused Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) to break bad as an amoral black arms dealer and low-key warlord known as the Power Broker. So when Sharon’s welcomed back to the CIA with a full pardon in this tepid post-credits scene, her decision to leverage her access for more bad deeds is the opposite of a surprise.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (2014): Bucky sees his own Smithsonian exhibit
Bucky’s (Sebastian Stan) journey to shed his Winter Soldier brainwashing starts here — and unfolds over several other post-credits scenes — but seeing him in a baseball cap glaring at a staid museum presentation of his life is anticlimactic compared to what he’d just gone through in the preceding movie.
"Thor: Ragnarok" (2017): The Grandmaster meets his people
Your milage may vary in how funny you find the Grandmaster, Jeff Goldblum’s jokey despot of the trash planet Sakaar, but for me, a little of this guy goes a long way. He tries to talk down an unruly mob of Sakaarians by pretending their uprising ended in a “tie,” a mildly amusing joke that goes nowhere.
"WandaVision" (2021): Monica goes to space
After some awkward plot resolution between Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), a random FBI agent brings Monica into a movie theater before transforming into a Skrull to inform her that an old friend of her mother’s — presumably Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos from “Captain Marvel” — is inviting her into space. Marvel had previously announced that Monica would be a part of the “Captain Marvel” sequel (subsequently titled “The Marvels”), so this is just putting a period at the end of a sentence we’d already read. The movie theater setting was a nice touch, though.
"Iron Man 2" (2010): Phil Coulson finds Thor's hammer
The third-ever MCU post credits scene is a quick, cheesy, bare-bones teaser that gets the job done: S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) rolls up to a giant crater in the New Mexico desert and calls (presumably) Nick Fury to tell him, “We’ve found it.” Cut to Mjölnir at the center of the crater, some dramatic music and the sound of a thunderclap.
"Spider-Man: No Way Home" (2021): Eddie Brock gets caught up on the MCU
In the post-credits scene for Sony Pictures’ “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” — which was not produced by Marvel Studios (so it’s not eligible for this ranking) — Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is hiding out in a Mexican motel when he’s suddenly zapped into the MCU. Venom sees Tom Holland’s Peter Parker on the TV, a person he’s never met before, and he licks the screen — implying, if not outright promising, that Hardy’s Venom would show up in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and finally tussle with our favorite neighborhood Spider-Man.
That…did not happen. Instead, we get Eddie in this mid-credits scene, sitting in the hotel bar, as the bartender (Cristo Fernández of “Ted Lasso”) fills him in on everything that’s happened in the MCU: Iron Man, Thor, Thanos, infinity stones, etc. Just when Eddie is ready to go meet Spider-Man, he’s pulled back into his universe. Sure, he leaves a drop of Venom symbiote goo behind, suggesting a future Spider-Man vs. Venom showdown. And yeah, it’s an aptly sad trombone joke that Hardy’s Eddie would hop into the MCU but never actually do anything. But that doesn’t make this scene any less of a letdown.
"Captain Marvel" (2019): Goose hacks up the Tesseract
The Tesseract was going to come out of Goose at some point; watching the alien kitty hack it up on Nick Fury’s desk is good for an easy laugh.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (2017): Kraglin tries out Yondu's arrow
The first of five post-credits scenes for the “Guardians” sequel finds Kraglin (Sean Gunn) struggling to learn how to control his late boss’ arrow, resulting it the weapon accidentally impaling Drax (Dave Bautista). That Kraglin, what a scamp!
"Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017): Adrian meets Mac Gargan
This one’s kinda convoluted: In the movie, Spider-Man foils the attempt by third-tier villain Mac Gargan (Michael Mando) to buy alien weapons from Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), ultimately sending a scarred Mac to prison. In this mid-credits scene, Mac approaches the newly incarcerated Adrian and says he’s heard Adrian knows Spider-Man’s real identity. Adrian does, but (perhaps because Spider-Man saved his life?) lies to Mac and says he doesn’t, and then walks away to see his visiting family.
Meanwhile, the scorpion tattoo on Mac’s neck hints at the character’s identity in the comics as the Spidey foe the Scorpion, but we don’t know yet if that is ever going to pay off — it certainly didn’t in December’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” As it stands, the whole thing amounts to an intriguing muddle.
"Iron Man 3" (2013): Tony visits Bruce's couch
The only post-credits scene for “Iron Man 3” is a fun, weightless gag: It turns out that Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) narration was an ad hoc therapy session with Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who slept through almost the whole thing.
"Black Panther" (2018): Shuri talks with Bucky
Poor Bucky, fated to stare into the middle distance in post-credits scenes to convey his journey of healing and recovery. At least this one takes place in Wakanda — although, frankly, a version of the scene in “Avengers: Infinity War” where T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) gives Bucky his new arm would have been way cooler.
"Doctor Strange" (2016): Karl Mordo breaks bad
It took six years and a full Infinity War between this scene — in which former Doctor Strange compatriot Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), disillusioned from magic, re-cripples Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt) because, he says, there are “too many sorcerers” — and when it kind of paid off in May 2022’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” That’s a long time! It wasn’t really worth it!
"Captain America: Civil War" (2016): Peter Parker plays with his new suit
There’s some cute banter between Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) as Peter nurses his injuries from battling the Avengers in Germany, followed by Peter discovering that his Spidey suit … can project images on the wall? OK!
"Thor: Ragnarok" (2017): Thanos catches up with Thor and Loki
As the refugees of Asgard travel slowly through space, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) debate the wisdom of bringing Loki back to Earth — until Thanos’ massive spaceship looms over them, presaging the carnage of “Infinity War.” After all the madcap shenanigans of the preceding movie, this scene is a rude snap (heh) back to reality.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014): Groot dances to the Jackson 5
This is barely a scene, but how could anyone be mad at dancing baby Groot?
"Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011): "The Avengers" teaser
Instead of a post-credits scene, we’re treated to the first teaser trailer for “The Avengers,” starting with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) trying to punch through his feelings before Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) gives him a mission. While it was cool to get to see what was cooking with “The Avengers,” tacking a full trailer onto the end of this movie weirdly reduces the pithy fun of the post-credits scene to just a marketing gimmick. It’s telling that it took 10 years for Marvel to do this again.
"Spider-Man: No Way Home" (2021): "Doctor Strange 2" teaser
Instead of a single scene to preview “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” after the end credits for “No Way Home,” Marvel Studios elected instead to debut the first full teaser for the film. We get glimpses of what Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) has been up to post-“WandaVision”; the return of Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor); our first look at America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez); a very curious shot of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) fighting what appears to be a giant eyeball monster; and the introduction of a variant of Strange who does not seem to be a force for good.
That is a lot to cram into one teaser, and kudos to Disney for negotiating a preview for its next movie at the end of a Sony Pictures release. But as with the teaser for “The Avengers” at the end of the first “Captain America” film, I renew my objection to this approach, which takes the crisp, tantalizing fun of a post-credits scene and makes it just another piece of marketing.
"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" (2021): Xialing resurrects the Ten Rings
While Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) has led her brother, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), to believe she’s disbanding the Ten Rings criminal organization their late father led for millennia, instead we see she’s refashioned it in her own image, with a punk-graffiti makeover to the decor and an egalitarian approach to its membership. The most curious thing about this scene is the words that follow it, usually reserved for the film’s title superhero: “The Ten Rings will return.”
"Black Panther" (2018): T'Challa talks to the United Nations
On the one hand, this sequence disregards a core principle of the post-credits scene, which is to tease what’s to come in the MCU. On the other hand, it is undeniably stirring to watch T’Challa announce to the world that Wakanda would finally share its knowledge and resources with words that feel deeply resonant to our current troubles: “Now more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence.”
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (2017): The Watchers are done with Stan Lee
The Watchers would ultimately show up in the 2021 animated series “What If…?” as a single character voiced by Jeffrey Wright. Here, they’re a voiceless trio who are tired of listening to Stan Lee regale them with his wild experiences on Earth. It’s a poignant if bittersweet representation of Lee’s late-in-life position as Marvel’s beloved mascot who nonetheless struggled to get traction for his newer stories.
"What If…?" (2021): Peggy and Natasha discover the Hydra Stomper
In the alternative reality in which Peggy Carter (voiced by Hayley Atwell) took the super-soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers — and then was propelled 70 years into the future instead of her beloved — Captain Carter finds herself on the same Hydra ship that Steve commandeered at the start of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” There, she and Natasha (voiced by Lake Bell) discover that the “Hydra Stomper” suit that Skinny Steve used during WWII is being kept in a secure crate — and there’s someone inside the suit. A complicated set-up with a creepy implication: Will Season 2 of “What If…?” involve Steve Rogers, Winter Soldier?
"Captain America: Civil War" (2016): Steve and Bucky visit Wakanda
Bucky goes back into deep freeze so he can start removing Hydra’s brainwashing from his psyche, and we get our first, thrilling glimpse inside of Wakanda. But Steve’s warning to T’Challa that Bucky’s presence inside his country would draw scrutiny from the rest of the world never bore fruit.
"Ant-Man" (2015): The Falcon knows a guy
More sad Bucky! Most scenes on this list are bespoke, but this is a cut-down version of a scene from “Captain America: Civil War” in which Steve and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) stand over a subdued Bucky while debating what to do with him. It’s all very serious and dour, but the foreboding talk of Tony Stark and “the accords” persuasively tease what’s to come in “Civil War,” before Sam — who’d just tussled with Scott Lang’s Ant-Man in the preceding movie — says he “knows a guy” who can help them.
"Ant-Man" (2015): Hope sees the Wasp suit
One of the core problems with the first “Ant-Man” movie is that Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is obviously a far more qualified candidate to put on the shrinking suit than Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a fact that her father, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), stubbornly refuses to admit — until this post-credits scene, when he shows her the unfinished Wasp suit. Hope’s response — “About damn time” — is ours as well!
"The Incredible Hulk" (2008): Tony drops in on Thaddeus Ross
Nothing really happens, per se, but Tony Stark stepping into the bar where Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) is nursing his wounded pride to tell Ross that “we’re putting a team together” is the first time Marvel Studios characters from two different movies interact. It’s the first woven strand in what would become the massive tapestry of the MCU.
"Captain Marvel" (2019): The Avengers meet Carol
For nearly a year, fans had anxiously waited to find out what would happen after Nick Fury activated an enhanced pager right before Thanos’ snap turned him to dust in “Infinity War.” (More on that scene later.) This is the answer: Steve, Bruce, Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and Rhodey (Don Cheadle), staring at the pager, wondering what will happen, until Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) suddenly appears with a simple question: “Where’s Fury?” Cut to black.
It’s all you need to know and yet it left me desperately wanting to know more.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (2017): Peter confronts teen Groot
Yet another mid-credits scene for “Guardians Vol. 2” jumps forward in time to reveal that the unspeakably adorable baby Groot has grown into a video game–obsessed adolescent brat who thinks nothing of talking back to Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). What seems like a (really funny) throwaway joke turns out to be a sly set-up for teen Groot’s story arc in “Infinity War.”
"Moon Knight" (2022): Meet Jake Lockley
Throughout “Moon Knight,” there were hints that Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac) had a third alternate personality beyond the mild mannered Brit, Steven Grant. But it wasn’t confirmed until this scene, in which Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) tells Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) that he had no intention of releasing Marc from serving him, since Marc is unaware that his third alter — Spanish-speaking driver Jake Lockley — is a sociopathic assassin.
The scene points to a possible second season for “Moon Knight,” but no one involved with the show, including Marvel Studios, has confirmed that it’s happening, unlike with “What If…?” and “Loki.” So we’re left with the feeling that there is much more story to tell, but no sense of when, or how, the MCU will tell it. Quite the tease.
"WandaVision" (2021): Wanda hears her boys
Wanda Maximoff sips tea in her cozy pants at a remote lakeside cabin while astral projecting as the Scarlet Witch so she can study the forbidden magic of the Darkhold. Then the voices of her two young sons — believed to be wiped from the Earth — call out for help. A chilling and effective preview for Wanda’s upcoming role in 2022’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”
"Thor" (2011): Erik Selvig is introduced to the Tesseract
This post-credits scene engrossingly teases “The Avengers” in a few simple strokes: Nick Fury presents Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) with the Tesseract, causing a haggard Loki to appear in Erik’s reflection, and prompt Erik to say, “Well, I guess that’s worth a look.”
"Hawkeye" (2021): "Save the City (I Could Do This All Day)"
The post-credits teaser for the season finale of “Hawkeye” could have pointed to the upcoming “Hawkeye” spin-off “Echo” with Alaqua Cox, or brought back Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, the woman who set Yelena (Florence Pugh) on her dubious mission to kill Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner).
Instead, as a delightful Christmas present, we’re treated to the full performance of “Save the City” (i.e. “I Could Do This All Day”), the Act One showstopper from the hit Broadway musical “Rogers” about the Battle of New York. Sure, this has zero value as a preview for upcoming Marvel Studios titles. But it’s also likely the closest we’ll come to an MCU musical.
"Ant-Man and the Wasp" (2018): Scott gets trapped
Throughout this movie, the shadow of “Infinity War” loomed large: How, and when, would Thanos’ snap hit Scott Lang’s comparatively tiny corner of the world? Turns out, at the worst moment imaginable, after Scott has jumped into the subatomic Quantum Realm and the only three people who could get him out — Hank, Hope, and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) — are turned to ash. Eeek!
"Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014): Meet Howard the Duck
No teases for “Age of Ultron” or “Ant-Man” or “Guardians Vol. 2.” Instead, we return to the decimated cosmic warehouse of Taneleer “The Collector” Tivan (Benicio Del Toro) for two absurdly perfect deep-cut Marvel comics cameos: Cosmo the Spacedog (played by a real dog) and Howard the Duck (voiced by Seth Green). Howard’s popped up again a few times — in “Guardians Vol. 2,” on “What If…?” and in a barely-there cameo in “Endgame” — but here’s hoping the hard drinking waterfowl has even more to do in the MCU moving forward and can fully redeem his infamous 1986 big-screen debut.
"Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017): Captain America admonishes the audience
The idea that Steve Rogers shot PSAs for high school kids was already a great joke. Making one the end credits scene is so delightful that, well, here’s the full transcript: “Hi, I’m Captain America, here to talk to you about one of the most valuable traits a soldier or student can have: patience. Sometimes patience is the key to victory. 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. [Pauses, looks off camera] How many more of these?”
"Thor: The Dark World" (2013): Meet Taneleer Tivan
One of the surprising discoveries when assessing all of the MCU’s post-credits scenes is how few of them introduce pivotal new characters. So when it happens, it’s a real treat, like here, when we first meet the Collector after Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) give him the Aether (i.e. an Infinity Stone) for safekeeping. Everything Benicio Del Toro does here — his vocal inflection, his physical flourishes, that hair — is so magnificently odd that it makes me wish he’d gotten more screen time in “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
"Eternals" (2021): Dane regards the Ebony Blade
In “Eternals,” Dane Whitman (Kit Harington) isn’t much more than an affable bloke who takes in remarkable stride the news that his girlfriend Sersi (Gemma Chan) is an ageless alien superhero who first arrived on Earth roughly 7,000 years ago. In this scene, we get the first real sense that Dane’s also got more going on than meets the eye, as he wrestles with himself to take hold of a seemingly ancient weapon that appears to be alive.
What’s really going on here is left for audiences to Google on their own — Dane is fated to become the Black Knight, a warrior whose family history is wrapped up with a cursed weapon known as the Ebony Blade — but seeing the former Jon Snow wrestle with whether he wants to pick up another sword is cheeky fun on its own. What jolts this scene to the top tier is the first appearance — by voice only! — of Mahershala Ali as Blade, who asks “Mr. Whitman” off camera if he really wants to touch the sword before him. Fun fact: Harington told Variety that he learned the voice would be Ali’s just a few weeks before the film’s premiere.
"Doctor Strange" (2016): Thor visits Stephen Strange
Another cut-down version of a movie scene, this one from “Thor: Ragnarok”: Thor, in civilian clothes, visiting the New York City sanctum of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in a quest to find his father. A merry mix of curious references to Thor bringing an absent Loki back to Earth and the surreal sight gag of Thor’s tea transforming into a bottomless stein of beer.
"Eternals" (2021): Eros makes his introduction
Director Chloé Zhao told Variety that when she thought of introducing Eros — aka Starfox, an Eternal and Thanos’ brother, with the power to control emotions — in a post-credits scene, she immediately thought of casting Harry Styles in the role. It’s unclear how Eros and his companion/herald, Pip the Troll (Patton Oswalt) will factor into the MCU moving forward, so perhaps ranking this high is premature. But c’mon. It’s Harry Styles!
"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" (2022): Doctor Strange meets Clea
There’s Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), strolling down the street, minding his own business, when up walks a white-haired Charlize Theron in a stunning purple costume any drag queen would covet, demanding Strange join her in repairing the “incursion” caused by his multiversal mischief. She doesn’t even do Strange the courtesy of introducing herself, forcing audiences to turn to Google to learn she’s Clea, sorcerer of the Dark Dimension and (in the comics, anyway) Strange’s future inter-dimensional wife. Doesn’t matter, since, to repeat, it’s Charlize Theron, one of the biggest established stars ever to join the MCU, portending great things for the future. Hooray!
"Black Widow" (2021): Yelena encounters Valentina
The first half of this scene is quietly heartbreaking: Yelena (Florence Pugh) visits Natasha’s gravesite in Ohio in the aftermath of the events of “Endgame” and does the whistle they used to share, knowing she won’t get a response. The second half was supposed to introduce Julia Louis-Dreyfus (!!!) as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, as Valentina gives Yelena her marching orders into the upcoming Disney Plus series “Hawkeye,” to hunt Renner’s Clint Barton. The pandemic gave that honor instead to Disney Plus’ “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” but seeing Pugh and Louis-Dreyfus standing side by side like this gives off real “the future of the MCU” vibes, and I am here. For. It.
"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" (2022): "It's over!"
Bruce Campbell has appeared in nearly every film director Sam Raimi has ever made, but even by Raimi’s high standards, Campbell’s cameo in “Doctor Strange 2” is fabulous: He’s Pizza Poppa, a street vendor who runs afoul of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) after they hop into Earth-838. Pizza Poppa gets so belligerent that Strange casts a spell forcing Pizza Poppa to beat himself up, which Strange says will last for weeks.
Cut to the final scene after the final credits: An exhausted and bruised Poppa finally stops punching himself, causing him to look to the camera and, with a jump-cut zoom, declare, “It’s over!” Delightful.
"The Avengers" (2012): Shawarma Palace!
Of all the throwaway, end-credits gags, this single shot scene of the Avengers crowded into a shawarma shop in the aftermath of their victory in the Battle of New York is by far the best — effortlessly funny and yet a perfect note of exhaustion to end on after everything that’d come before. And it almost didn’t happen: The cast famously filmed this scene the day after the movie’s red-carpet premiere.
Also: This is the only proper post-credits scene to feature Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. (Well, save for a photo on an iPad in the preceding entry on this list.)
"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" (2021): Shang-Chi and Katy meet Wong, Bruce and Carol
More than most Marvel Studios movies, “Shang-Chi” operates largely as a standalone movie, with just brief cameos by Wong (Benedict Wong) and the Abomination (and the return of Trevor Slattery) serving as connective tissue back to the MCU. This post-credits scene makes up for it and then some, with Wong inviting Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) to step inside his sanctum, so he, Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers can examine the mysterious origins of Shang-Chi’s rings of power, which seem to be sending out a signal — to whom and to where remain tantalizing mysteries for another day. Director Destin Daniel Cretton didn’t know which Avengers would be joining Wong until very late in the filmmaking process, but he did know in advance the scene’s perfect ending: Shang-Chi, Katy and Wong drunkenly singing “Hotel California” in a karaoke bar.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (2017): Ayesha creates Adam
Any scene that includes a golden Elizabeth Debicki quivering in fury is already ahead of the curve; add in the long-anticipated introduction of beloved Marvel comics superhero Adam Warlock (to be played by Will Poulter in 2023’s “Guardians Vol. 3”), and you can’t lose.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (2017): Stakar reunites with his old team
The death of Yondu (Michael Rooker) brings together fellow Ravager Stakar (Sylvester Stallone) with his old team, characters we’d mostly never seen before but somehow felt like they’d always belonged: the voice-less alien sorcerer Krugarr, the giant Charlie-27 (Ving Rhames), the crystalized Martinex (Michael Rosenbaum), the fearsome Aleta (Michelle Yeoh), and the body-less, robotic Mainframe (Miley Cyrus). When “Vol. 2” first opened, writer-director James Gunn hinted that he had big plans at least for Stakar, and possibly the rest of this alt-Guardians crew, but whether that would be in “Vol. 3” or another project remains to be seen. Honestly, though, even if this scene is all we get, it’s more than enough.
"Spider-Man: Far From Home" (2019): "Nick Fury" and "Maria Hill" reveal themselves
Throughout “Far From Home,” Nick Fury and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) felt off — slower on the uptake than these super spies should be. As this end credits scene reveals, it’s because they were actually the shapeshifting Skrulls Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and Soren (Sharon Blynn) filling in for Nick and Maria, the former of which we subsequently see on some kind of interstellar vacation. It’s a genuine, witty shock that seems to presage Nick Fury and Talos’ roles in the (at the time, unannounced) Disney Plus series “Secret Invasion.” (Adding to just how wild this twist is: Smulders has said she learned about it a week before the movie opened.)
"Avengers: Infinity War" (2018): Nick activates his beeper
I still get goosebumps thinking about this scene, which shows the real-world impact of Thanos’ snap through the eyes of (the actual) Nick and Maria. It was traumatic enough watching so many Avengers turn to ash, but there’s something about witnessing Nick Fury disintegrate that drives home just how devastating this moment is for the MCU. That slow camera push into Nick’s pager before it quickly flashes with Captain Marvel’s logo, meanwhile, is probably responsible for a hefty percentage of “Captain Marvel’s” $1.1 billion global grosses.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (2014): Meet the Maximoff twins
In 90 brisk seconds, this scene elegantly introduces four new characters: Hydra stooges Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) and Dr. List (Henry Goodman), whose human experiments using Loki’s scepter has resulted in “the Twins,” the telekinetic Wanda and the super-fast Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Strucker barely registers in “Age of Ultron,” but this deeply unsettling scene has resonated throughout Wanda’s time in the MCU, especially in “WandaVision.”
"The Avengers" (2012): Meet Thanos
In hindsight, of course, we all know who Thanos is, but at the time, most audiences had never heard of the purple-skinned Titan with a literal fetish for death. That last aspect of Thanos’ biography fell away after this post-credits scene, but by introducing Thanos this early — and, by implication, the epic storytelling promise of the Infinity War — Marvel Studios was signaling the true breadth and depth of its ambition for the MCU.
"Iron Man" (2008): Nick Fury introduces himself
At the time, casting a star of Samuel L. Jackson’s magnitude in a tiny cameo that audiences would only be able to see if they stuck around through all of the credits must have seemed like one helluva gamble, but good gravy, has it paid off. It’s impossible to know if Marvel’s desire to create a series of interwoven superhero movie franchises within a shared cinematic universe would have been as impossibly successful without this scene, but absent the invaluable fan anticipation it generated, I have to think that it would have been far more difficult to pull off.
"Spider-Man: Far From Home" (2019): Peter Parker is outed as Spider-Man
This scene is nothing less than the platonic ideal of an MCU post-credits teaser. It raises the stakes astronomically for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” by having Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) falsely implicate Spider-Man in his death and reveal his true identity as Peter Parker — as Peter helplessly watches it all unfold in the middle of Manhattan.
It’s to whom Quentin outs Peter, though, that swings this scene to the top of the MCU heap: J. Jonah Jameson, played by J.K. Simmons reprising his role from the Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” movies, albeit re-imagined not as a newspaper editor-in-chief, but as the proprietor of a fringe conspiracy website. The implications of this casting sent fans’ heads spinning and set the stage for the multiverse-mixing escapades of “No Way Home,” not to mention the “Doctor Strange” sequel, the “Loki” Disney Plus series, and who knows what else is to come. A perfect tease? Check. A massive surprise? Check. Outrageously fun? Check!