Captain America's 15 Greatest Moments In The MCU

With the fourth Captain America film still on the horizon, let's take a moment to celebrate the best Captain America moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The star-spangled man with a plan had quite the run. To make things a little simpler, this list will focus on Steve Rogers played by Chris Evans. The MCU's Captain America is currently Sam Wilson, who will be the protagonist of the upcoming fourth film. Sam had a handful of great moments already in the MCU films and "Falcon and the Winter Soldier" — from using his VA therapy training to talk down a would-be supervillain to preserving Isaiah Bradley's legacy and fixing a boat with Bucky Barnes — but since he didn't officially become Cap until the end of the Disney+ series let's use this list as a send-off to Rogers. 

No love will be paid to John Walker's Captain America. The only "good" moment in the MCU associated with him in "Falcon and the Winter Soldier" was the marching band cover of Cap's "Star-Spangled Man" theme song ... and even that was a bit of cultural appropriation within the context of the show. Also, attention must be paid to Evans' cameo in "Thor: The Dark World" as Loki doing a Steve Rogers impression/illusion. It may be Evans' best moment, as it allows him to be simultaneously a little more cynical and silly than he usually is as America's golden boy. As for the man himself, here are Cap's 15 greatest moments in the MCU.

15. Meeting Peter Parker, Captain America: Civil War

Team Cap and Team Iron Man made a sensible choice by duking it out in an airport. The big "Civil War" battle has minimal damage, and there are virtually no innocent bystanders to be found. However, the rather dull location means that it's up to the characters to give us memorable moments rather than the action itself. For the most part, the divided misfits of the Avengers deliver with friendly check-ins and the occasional joke.

One of the best character moments in the airport fight is when Cap stops to compliment Peter Parker and they briefly bond over being from Queens and Brooklyn. Sure, they're on opposing sides, but borough recognizes borough. Steve's respect for the kid on the opposing side grows (or is at the very least validated) by the realization that they come from similar backgrounds. They're both underdogs. It's not his greatest moment, but it's up there. Also, not for nothing but it's always pretty funny when famous Bostonian Chris Evans has to hard commit to being a New Yorker. Maybe every time Cap meets a new character it's a good moment, honestly ... "I am Groot" and "I am Steve Rogers" was pretty great too. 

14. Fighting Thanos, Avengers: Infinity War

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not lacking in good performances, but there isn't a lot of time for wordless moments or subtlety, especially on a first watch. There are little things you might pick up while hyper-fixating, or via fandom creations in gif or supercut format, but for the most part, there is a lot of action and exposition to get through and not much time for micro-expressions. So when Josh Brolin's Thanos manages to look genuinely taken aback, in the middle of a huge battle and with a CGI face, because Steve Rogers put his whole body in between his snapping fingers, that's a pretty powerful moment!

Cap doesn't have a quip. He doesn't even need to say "I can do this all day" because it's implied. At the end of the day, Steve Rogers is the one most willing to literally throw himself onto a problem. It's been that way since the character's inception in this universe. This is not his most heroic moment, and he ultimately loses, but it's why we root for Steve in the first place.

13. The USO Tour, Captain America: The First Avenger

The tragedy of Steve Rogers is that his disillusionment with the United States of America started almost the moment he became its symbolic hero. The super-soldier serum had barely settled in his body before he was sent on a USO tour as a glorified advertisement to get average citizens to help fund the war effort. The army wanted a battalion of super-soldiers, not just one guy, so they turn him into a mascot instead. Steve is almost immediately over it. 

This is also a great moment because it allows Chris Evans to, albeit briefly, get back to show off his song and dance talents. The "Star-Spangled Man With A Plan" song is a bop, but while Evans might enjoy being on stage, Steve Rogers hasn't grown into his charisma yet. This moment shows Steve at his most uncomfortable and powerless. He's bored

12. Recognizing the baseball game, Captain America: The First Avenger

By the time Captain America wakes up in a hospital at the end of "Captain America: The First Avenger," a first-time viewer may have totally forgotten that the film began with modern-day scientists discovering him in the ice. The "Titanic"-esque framing device pays off, however, when Steve slowly realizes that something is off. The nurses look wrong. The baseball game playing on the radio already happened ... in fact, he was there! What's going on? Is he dead? Is he in a POW camp? Nope, he's in the future. 

When Steve realizes this and runs all the way out into modern-day Times Square, it also creates an interesting divide between the character and the audience. We're excited because we know that this means he can join the Avengers, but he's bummed out because it means his entire world (including Peggy Carter) is gone. It's a bittersweet ending and kind of rare for this genre. Side note: It is REALLY irresponsible for S.H.I.E.L.D. to use a radio broadcast from before Cap went into the ice, don't you think? It's not like that information is a secret.

11. Meeting Sam Wilson, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

At the beginning of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" our hero makes a new 21st Century BFF: Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), the future Captain America. How do they meet, or meet-cute if you prefer? A friendly jogging competition. "On your left" became a secondary catchphrase for Captain America — both Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson in this case — due to the strength of this scene and this moment. It's called back at the end of the film and, famously, in "Avengers: Endgame" as well. 

This moment established early on that Steve and Sam's friendship was not going to be anything like Steve and Bucky's friendship. It also gave us hope, for the time being, that Steve may not have such a hard time adjusting to post-war and post-freeze life after all. He's out and about in our nation's capital! He can make friends! He can have a work-life balance! He's gonna be fine, right?

10. Fighting a younger version of himself, Avengers: Endgame

The time heist in "Avengers: Endgame" falls apart when some of the Avengers get too close for comfort with their 2012 selves. The biggest clash comes when Steve runs into his younger variant on a walkway in Stark Tower, and the variant assumes that time-traveling Steve is Loki in disguise. 

It's always fun, in a little kid smashing toys together kind of way, to see a superhero face off against another version of themself. It's the "who would win" that we never think to ask, but this moment has so many mini-moments that stuck with fans as well. There's the self-serving "that is America's ass" comment that became a meme. There's younger Steve saying "I can do this all day" and older Steve wincing at how corny it is to be on the other end of that catchphrase and responding "yeah, yeah, I know." There's also the fact that older Steve knows the quickest way to disarm his younger self is to tell him that Bucky's alive ... so good.

9. The public school PSAs, Spider-Man: Homecoming

Speaking of memes, easily one of Steve Rogers' best moments is his cameo in "Spider-Man: Homecoming." If you thought the USO tour was the last time that the government would use Captain America as a symbol, you were wrong! The health class PSAs that Peter Parker and his classmates have to listen to in gym class and detention are so, so funny, and allow us to see burnt-out and bored Steve again. It also leads to one of the best post-credits scenes, and one of the only ones to take a "meta" approach to the post-credits phenomenon until "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."

"Cameos" like this are great ways to use the interconnectivity of the MCU as world-building. The little details in "Homecoming" might do double duty as fan service, sure, but they also illustrate what it would be like to go to High School in this universe. Teens would play "FMK" with the members of the Avengers while sitting out of gym class. They would roll their eyes as the guy who just saved the world explained puberty. 

8. The train station entrance, Avengers: Infinity War

Steve Rogers' beard was a moment in and of itself in "Avengers: Infinity War," so much so that people were upset when he shaved it off in the next movie. We first see it when he and the remaining fugitive members of Team Cap arrive to help protect Vision and Wanda from Thanos' associates. (Remember, Ant-Man and Hawkeye both chose to serve their sentence and ended up under house arrest.) There are so many storylines in this movie that it takes a decent amount of time for Cap to even show up, but when he does it's a great entrance. 

When Steve, Sam, and Nat appear on the train platform you're instantly upset that you don't know what they've been up to since "Captain America: Civil War." They all look so cool in a way that the skinny kid from Brooklyn would never have believed. We now know a little of what Natasha was doing thanks to "Black Widow," but it's still not enough. Why haven't we been watching that movie this whole time? 

7. I understood that reference, The Avengers

One of the reasons the "language" moment in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" was so frustrating was that it painted Steve Rogers as a stuffy old man and a stick-in-the-mud. He's actually pretty funny! The first "Avengers" movie did a much better job at playing off of Steve's old man status and allowing him to make fun of himself. There are a lot of moments where this sets him behind the rest of the team, like when the hellicarrier takes off or Tony asks him to describe something and he can only say "it appears to run on some kind of electricity." These instances really make you wonder if he'll ever fit in with the new superheroes. 

It's an easy way to turn a super-soldier into an underdog again. He can't keep up with the banter! Then, finally, someone compares Loki's army to flying monkeys, and Steve knows the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz." It's a silly moment, but a triumphant one at the same time. 

6. Sending Tony Stark a letter the second they break up, Captain America: Civil War

In "Iron Man 3," Tony Stark removes the arc reactor that defines him. In "Thor: Ragnarok," the God of Thunder loses the hammer that defines him. In "Captain America: Civil War," Steve Rogers gives up the shield that had come to define him, but while it takes several years for Captain America to get his shield back, it only takes days for him to start repairing his relationship with Iron Man. 

Tony Stark and Steve Rogers bickered their way through "The Avengers" and "Avengers: Age of Ultron," but apparently became good enough friends in the interim that their break-up in "Captain America: Civil War" was a big deal. First, they disagreed about whether or not the Avengers needed government oversight. Tony, feeling guilty after Ultron, said yes. Steve, feeling paranoid after "Winter Soldier," said no. Then there's that thing about Tony's dad Howard Stark, and how Steve (kinda sorta) knew that Bucky killed him and withheld that information. Because of that, it's nice that Steve was the first to send an olive branch by mailing Tony a flip phone and a hand-written (kinda sorta) apology letter. The letter starts with him saying "I don't like the idea of you rattling around a mansion all by yourself," which is so sweet!

5. Jumping on the grenade at basic training, Captain America: The First Avenger

This is the defining moment for Steve Rogers in the character's debut film for the MCU and origin story. It is also why Erskine chose him to take the super-soldier serum. It wasn't just his persistence, demonstrated by attempting to enlist in the army over and over, or his innovation as demonstrated by the way he got the flag down during a training exercise. It's not just that he's an underdog who gets beat up in alleys because he can't help but stand up to bullies ... but that does certainly help make him sympathetic. 

It's the way he didn't think twice before hypothetically sacrificing his life for the sake of others. At that moment, Steve demonstrated a level of bravery and selflessness that explains why the super-soldier serum only made him stronger. If it accentuates your innate qualities, they better be good qualities. 

4. His pop culture to-do list, Captain America: Winter Soldier

Not long after Steve meets Sam, another iconic moment happens. Sam recommends Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man" soundtrack and Steve adds it to a handwritten note of historical events to research, pop culture to consume, and other things to try that includes:

  • I Love Lucy (TV show)
  • Moon Landing
  • Berlin Wall (up & down)
  • Steve Jobs (Apple)
  • Disco
  • Thai Food
  • Star Wars/Trek
  • Nirvana (band)
  • Rocky (Rocky II?)

He's missed 70+ years, after all. It's a good moment because it shows Steve's willingness to listen and try new things. It's polite of him to take a handwritten note, and it's funny to think that probably every person he meets has made a similar "oh, you've gotta check out _____" recommendation upon realizing that they're talking to someone who wasn't around for some pretty eventful decades. It's additionally pretty cool that the list is different in different countries. In the United Kingdom, Disco was replaced with "The Beatles" (smart) and the TV show recommendation was "Sherlock," which probably caused a little confusion when some of the people in Steve's life looked remarkably like the cast of that series. In Korea, Dance Dance Revolution made the list. Tim Tams were a food recommendation in Australia and New Zealand. This moment really played to the local crowd.

3. Stopping the helicopter, Captain America: Civil War

There are two moments in which Chris Evans' entire character motivation is "flex arms and show off Dorito-shaped body" in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These moments live to circulate on Tumblr in gif format, and we thank them for that. The first is in "Age of Ultron," when he and Tony are chopping wood and he splits a log with his bare hands. The second is this moment in "Captain America: Civil War," in which a triggered and brainwashed Winter Soldier tries to escape a fight via helicopter and Steve grabs on to it and then tries to keep it from taking off with the power of a bicep curl. 

It's a thirsty moment, sure, but it's also a great moment because it shows that Steve Rogers is willing to pull off "Fast and the Furious" feats of vehicular splendor in order to protect Bucky Barnes. Would your friends do that for you??

2. Catching Mjolnir, Avengers: Endgame

Hands down, the biggest "Cheer Moment" for Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America in the MCU happened during this pivotal scene in "Avengers: Endgame" while the group fought Thanos for (hopefully) the last time. Finally getting to say "Avengers Assemble" when everyone arrives through the portals was good, but hammer time was somehow much more triumphant. 

We knew that he might potentially be able to wield Mjolnir because of a blink-and-you-miss-it moment in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" when the Avengers are competing to see if any of them are worthy and it shifts a bit under his grasp. Did Steve actually know that he could lift it then, and he chose to pretend he couldn't in order to spare Thor's feelings? Either way, it's super satisfying when he actually does the dang thing in "Endgame" and runs to confront Thanos with both a sword and a hammer, both offensive and defensive weapons. 

1. The elevator fight, Captain America: Winter Soldier

"Winter Soldier" is a stand-out superhero film that borrows heavily from another genre for a distinctive tone and thrill. Before Sam Raimi brought his horror sensibilities to "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" and, heck, even before James Mangold made the secret Western known as "Logan," the Russo brothers made their Captain America sequel as a 1970s-inspired political thriller. The best scene (and Cap's best moment on film) is the elevator fight between Steve and the Hydra agents operating as SHIELD agents led by Brock Rumlow. 

Steve calmly and cooly puts together that he has been caught in a trap and is about to be arrested and/or attacked by his former coworkers. He politely gives Rumlow's men the opportunity to get off the elevator. It's not a big moment, but it's the most impressive moment and one of the MCU's coolest fight scenes to date. The close-ups and confined space actually work to the scene's advantage, making it more stressful and compelling.