Captain America (1944)
Directed by Elmer Clifton and John English, Captain America is a 15-chapter film serial starring Dick Purcell as Captain America. Very much a product of its time, it was focused on reinforcing American patriotism and boosting morale during the Second World War. Overall reviews of the serial were mixed with some elements aging poorly.
Captain America (1979)
Directed by Rod Holcomb, the 1979 Captain America is a TV movie that stars Reb Brown as Captain America. This origin movie follows Steve Rogers as he takes the serum and his strength and agility are enhanced. Complete with a Cap-themed motorcycle, he takes on bad guys and faces off against a villain poised in using a neutron bomb. Audiences at the time felt this movie was decent and reviews were favorable.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
After more than 30 years, Captain America returns, and this time to the big screen. Directed by Joe Johnston and starring Chris Evans as Captain America, this film serves as the origin story of the iconic superhero. It follows Steve Rogers as he transforms into Captain America (Cap) during World War II. It introduced Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), and the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).
Grossing $370 million worldwide, it received favorable reviews and for many made Evans “their Captain America.”
The Avengers (2012)
Directed by Joss Whedon, this film brings together a team of superheroes, including Captain America (played by Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye, to fight against the villain Loki. The Avengers became a massive hit, earning over $1.5 billion globally. Audiences and critics praised the film for its exciting action, witty dialogue, and successful integration of multiple Marvel characters. It also gave Cap a role in being the leader of the team. This film set a high standard for team movies and helped make many of the characters, including Captain America, even more of a household name.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, this film is a direct sequel to “Captain America: The First Avenger.” It follows Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), as he uncovers a conspiracy within the spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and faces a formidable enemy known as the Winter Soldier. The movie grossed over $714 million worldwide and received critical acclaim for its thrilling storyline, intense action, and exploration of complex political themes.
This film was self-contained and yet still felt like it fit into the larger narrative. Where Captain America: The First Avenger was an origin story and Evans portrayed the character with unease and nerves, this film showed the character more comfortable in his own skin and has an iconic helicopter scene. (Literally Cap holding back a helicopter with his own strength.)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Also directed by Joss Whedon, this film features Captain America (Chris Evans) alongside the Avengers as they confront Ultron, an artificial intelligence gone rogue. The movie earned over $1.4 billion worldwide and was praised for its action-packed sequences and the further development of characters, including Captain America.
Where the first Avengers set a high standard, this film had mixed, to favorable, reviews. It felt like a safe film that trusted the formula of the first movie and tried to reuse some of the magic. Cap has less of a leadership role as the movie indicated some of the cracks forming in the Avengers team.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Directed by the Russo brothers, this film pits Captain America (Chris Evans) against Iron Man in a conflict that divides the Avengers. The movie explores the ideological differences between the two heroes as they recruit allies and clash in an epic battle. With a global gross of over $1.1 billion, the film was acclaimed for its thought-provoking story, emotional stakes, and introduction of new characters like Black Panther and Spider-Man.
While this is the third of the Captain America trilogy, the film is centered around the Winter Soldier as the catalyst for the team breaking down. Evans balanced grit and charm as the character maneuvered the struggles of taking care of his childhood friend and his role as an Avenger with Iron-Man.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Both directed by the Russo brothers, these films feature Captain America as part of the Avengers’ fight against the formidable Thanos. “Infinity War” saw the heroes attempt to stop Thanos from collecting the Infinity Stones, while “Endgame” dealt with the aftermath and their efforts to reverse the devastating consequences of the previous film. Both movies were box office juggernauts, earning a combined total of over $4.8 billion worldwide. The films were praised for their epic scale, emotional moments, and satisfying conclusion to the Avengers’ storyline.
Infinity War had Cap coming back into the role of leader as Thanos and his warriors began their search for infinity stones on earth. Between Civil War and this film, there was a bit of time given for the character to naturally be out of connection with the larger team making his return exciting.
Despite their best efforts, Endgame had Cap doing his best to lead a broken and beaten team. Where he donned a beard in the first film, he returned back to his clean shaven demeanor. Often the heart of the team, when the Avengers finally regroup in the battle against Thanos and come together as a massive force, Cap is given a moment to say his iconic: Avengers, Assemble!
It was a great sendoff for the character and aside from shining in the final battle, he finally is able to connect with his love (Peggy Carter played by Hayley Atwell) whom he met in The First Avenger.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (2021)
“The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” is a Disney+ series directed by Kari Skogland. It stars Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, also known as Falcon, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, also known as the Winter Soldier.
The series takes place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” and follows Sam and Bucky as they navigate a world without Steve Rogers as Captain America. The series delves into their personal journeys, as Sam wrestles with taking up the mantle of Captain America and Bucky confronts his past as the Winter Soldier.
While Steve Rogers was the original Captain America, Sam reminds audiences that Captain America is a pivotal role in the Marvel Universe and it’s a role that can be filled by any person.
This show had favorable reviews as it was impacted by Covid-19 halting production. There was some challenges with the plot, however, the action and important messages resonated well with audiences.
Fans who love Captain America will be happy to know there is an additional film with Sam maneuvering in the new world post-Thanos.
Encyclopedia of Superheroes: Captain America
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