Captain America’s top moments are exciting to witness, they evoke emotional reactions, and they are essential to his narrative. To whittle down the list to only twenty top moments, I decided to stick with moments of action, and moments that profoundly changed the course of Cap’s character. There are a lot of moments I love that I didn’t include here. Subtle exchanges, funny lines, and simple quiet moments. I could create an entirely separate list of those moments, and maybe I will someday.
Cap’s top moments are presented in chronological order because I have no interest in debating why one moment should be ranked higher than another. All of Cap’s greatest moments are great. They each hold special significance. Their significance is subjective depending on each viewer. Although I included at least one moment from each Marvel movie where Cap played a major role, the majority are drawn from Winter Soldier and Endgame.
Before we get started…
The fight coordinators, stunt coordinators, and stunt men do a masterful job of making Cap the bad-ass that he is. They deserve praise and recognition for making it fully believable that Chris Evans and all of the other actors are able to pull off the scenes included on this list. The actors do a lot of stunt and fight training, but these scenes couldn’t happen without the fight and stunt teams.
Captain America: The First Avenger
1. Pre-Serum Steve. Special recognition goes out to pre-serum Steve Rogers, who proved he was worthy all those years ago. He stood up to bullies when he was easily outmatched. He dove on a grenade to protect his fellow soldiers. He outsmarted everyone to reach the flag at the top of the flag pole. And, most notably, he made the choice to take the risk of the serum, not having any assurances of its effects. Steve Rogers was brave, smart, and selfless before the serum ever touched him. Dr. Erskine was right, it only amplified the qualities within him.
2. The entire rescue from Azzano. After learning that Bucky is listed among the dead, and that no rescue is planned for the captured, Cap goes in alone with a prop shield and a costume helmet. During the rescue he searches for Bucky as he frees many captured men. He eventually finds Bucky in Zola’s lab, drugged but alive. This leads the most daring moment of the dramatic rescue.
Following a confrontation with Red Skull, Steve and Bucky scramble to escape as everything explodes and burns around them. When a crumbling beam collapses just after Bucky makes it across, Steve insists that Bucky go on without him. When Bucky refuses, “No, not without you!” Steve makes a flying leap across the burning wreckage to save them both.
3. Steve makes the choice to sacrifice himself by putting the Valkyrie in the water. He saves countless people by putting them above his own life. Again, selfless and brave, even at his own expense.
4. The moment after the iconic shot of all six Avengers assembled on the street together, the rest of the Chitauri army pours through the portal. Stark concedes leadership to Cap, “Call it, Captain.” As Cap rattles off orders for each of them, they follow unquestioningly. This moment solidifies his role as leader of the Avengers.
Captain America: Winter Soldier
Captain America’s top moments cannot be discussed without a look at Winter Soldier. Really, I could list almost every scene from this movie as among Cap’s best. So much of Cap’s story and his character is crafted through this story. There are numerous memorable fight scenes, all with their own merits.
5. The entire Lemurian Star sequence is ass-kicking gold. Cap’s new fighting style is introduced as he stealthily, acrobatically works his way around the ship to take down multiple bad guys on his own without the use of a gun. I am transfixed each time I watch. The highlight of the sequence is when Cap holsters the shield and takes off the helmet to fight Batroc hand-to-hand when challenged. He dominates of course.
6. The elevator scene. From the moment Cap senses something is off to the moment he swan dives through the glass wall to drop several stories to the ground below, with only his shield to break his fall, the elevator scene will forever be an iconic moment in the cinematic story of Captain America. In a small enclosed space, Cap fights off at least 10 men as he is repeatedly electrocuted and one arm is briefly locked against the wall. They relieve him of his shield at the beginning of the fight, yet he leaves them all unconscious on the floor in under 2 minutes.
7. At the climax of a long, intricate, destructive battle with the mysterious and lethal Winter Soldier, Cap is stunned to discover he has been fighting Bucky. Having believed Bucky to have been dead for years, Steve is devastated to learn his best friend has been turned into a deadly weapon of Hydra…and that he doesn’t remember him. This realization informs Steve’s motivations for the next several movies. He is determined to save his friend at all costs.
8. When Cap’s very small team infiltrates S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters to stop the helicarriers, Steve commandeers the Public Address system and exposes Hydra. It’s a rousing speech that inspires many faithful S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to join him and fight back against the Hydra agents.
9. After Cap accomplishes his mission to disable the helicarriers, he tries to break through to Bucky. “You’ve known me your whole life.” As Bucky continues to fight him, Cap drops his shield into the water and refuses to continue to fight. His love and loyalty for his friend win out over his self-preservation. He puts all his faith in breaking through to Bucky by uttering the promise from their youth. It works, as Bucky is later seen dragging his unconscious body from the water. The next time we see Bucky, he’s no longer under anyone’s control.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Age of Ultron shows the progression of how the Avengers use their skills, abilities, weapons in tandem to make them more powerful. Specifically, the multiple scenes of Cap and Thor combining the power of Thor’s hammer, Mjonir, with the Shield. We didn’t know at the time that Cap would eventually be able to wield them both himself.
10. In a memorable scene where several of the Avengers are relaxing after a party, they take turns attempting to lift Mjolnir. When Cap is prodded to take his turn, eagle-eyed viewers (and a nervous Thor) catch that the hammer slightly moves in his grip. He is unable to lift it, but it does move. In a recent Quarantine Rewatch on twitter, the filmmakers confirmed that Cap was not yet worthy of lifting Mjolnir in that moment.
Captain America: Civil War
11. When Bucky is triggered and breaks out of confinement, he attempts to escape via a helicopter. In pursuit, Steve jumps and grabs onto the departing helicopter. In one of the more visually memorable scenes in the entire MCU up to this point, Steve has one hand on the copter and one hand on the roof as he physically restrains the helicopter from leaving through the power of his massive bulging biceps.
12. When Tony discovers the truth of his parents death, the fight between Tony, Steve, and Bucky is brutal. It’s violent as Bucky’s metal arm is ripped off and Steve uses his shield to debilitate Tony’s suit. It’s heartbreaking as Tony realizes that Cap will choose Bucky over him, no matter the circumstances. An anguished Tony tells Steve that he doesn’t deserve the shield his father made. Once again, Steve drops the shield for Bucky.
13. Cap appears out of the shadows to greet Sam in his cell at the Raft prison. It’s no small feat to get there as the prison is located underwater in the middle of the ocean. By actively rebelling against the government to bust Sam and the others out of prison, Cap took another significant step in his journey to answer to no one.
Avengers: Infinity War
Cap was not heavily featured in Infinity War. I’ve seen estimates of his total screen time listed at around 7 minutes. (I did not count the minutes myself.) Yet, in those brief 7 minutes, Cap has two extremely memorable moments.
14. As Wanda and Vision are under attack in Scotland and all hope seems lost, a figure appears in silhouette from behind a moving train. In a dramatic cinematic moment, Cap steps from the shadows in fully bearded glory. He wastes no time in catching a weapon thrown at him and diving in to save his friends with the help of Sam and Natasha. Years of being on the run have hardened Cap. He fights viciously and pulls no punches. He also takes no shit anymore as we later see him tell off Secretary Ross.
15. In the height of the battle, Cap faces Thanos and tries to stop him from reaching Vision and the mind stone before it can be destroyed. He grabs the gauntlet with his hands and momentarily holds Thanos back before being pound into the dirt. Brave, selfless Cap once again risks it all for all of humanity. To watch him witness the effects of the snap moments later is heartbreaking.
I love this movie. Beginning to end and everything in between. While I personally would not have made some of the narrative choices that the writers did, that doesn’t diminish my capacity to love the story they chose to tell. I saw this movie five times in the theater a year ago. I cried every last time, multiple times. I watched it again for the first time since then today. Even through tears, five moments stand out for me as among Cap’s best.
16. Captain America’s top moments would be incomplete without the inclusion of Steve and Tony’s reconciliation. Tony returns to the Avengers compound with a solve for the time heist and agrees with Cap to put the personal issues of their past behind them. In a long-awaited moment for those devastated by Cap dropping the shield back in Civil War, Tony returns the shield to Steve. The Captain America theme music cue as the shield is revealed is a beautiful touch.
17. Cap versus Cap. In a fight scene that pits two Cap’s against each other vying for Loki’s scepter we are treated to so much fun. When Cap is faced with his past self squared up in front of him, his immediate response is “You gotta be shittin’ me” breaking his own language rule for the second time in the movie. The fight itself is magnificent as they match shield to shield and tumble down through several stories and panes of glass. Cap eye rolls his past self’s declaration of “I can do this all day” with the answer of “I know, I know”. Cap finally distracts his past self and escapes his strangle hold by telling him Bucky is alive, also proving to the audience that he knows Bucky has always been his weakness. Once he finally knocks out Past Cap and obtains the scepter, he takes a moment to admire the view of his own backside, echoing Scott’s earlier declaration, “That is America’s ass.”
the final battle
18. The rest of our heroes are scattered as Cap, Tony, and Thor face Thanos together. Tony is knocked out. Cap is knocked down. Thanos pins Thor down, piercing his armor with Stormbreaker. All hope seems lost. Mjolnir slowly rises from the dirt…to smash into Thanos as it zooms right past Thor and into the waiting hands of Captain America! Hope is once again restored. Cap wields Mjolnir with skill and grace, frequently combining it with the force of his own shield. Cap’s mastery of Mjonir, including the ability to call down lightning, confirms that he is worthy. As if there was ever any doubt.
19. It has all come down to this. Cap’s unbreakable shield is badly broken. He is bruised, battered, and bleeding. But he refuses to be beaten. An army appears behind Thanos to drive home the fact that Cap is truly alone. The moment Cap tightens the lash of what’s left of his shield on his bleeding arm and stands to face Thanos and his army all alone will forever be a top Cap moment.
20. Cap does not stand alone for long. Before Thanos has a chance to attack, Cap hears a crackle in his ear piece. Disbelieving at first, he turns when he hears “on your left.” In a breathtaking moment, countless portals open behind him as all of our beloved dusted Avengers pour out along with an untold number of warriors. As his team rises up next to him from the rubble, Cap finally calls out the phrase fans have been waiting to hear for years, kicking off the climax of the final battle. “Avengers Assemble!”
before we go: Honorable Mentions of Thirst
I try not to blatantly objectify, but when filmmakers routinely supply viewers with tailor-made moments to thirst over, it seems to be our duty to acknowledge and appreciate them. With the utmost respect to Chris Evans and all he did to bring Cap and his impossibly perfect physical form to life, I present the scenes most often replayed and captured in gif.
The First Avenger — The shirtless reveal of the effects of the serum.
The Avengers — Cap’s boxing scene.
The Winter Soldier — Steve in the tank top as he and Natasha clean up while taking refuge at Sam’s.
Age of Ultron — The ripping of the logs.
Civil War — The helicopter scene. Yes, it deserves a mention here too. Even Evans has referred to it as ‘bicep porn’. See above for the full clip in number 11.
Infinity War — Every precious moment with Cap’s glorious beard.
What’s your top moment? Did I miss it here? Visit us in the comments or on twitter to let us know. If you’re looking for more articles on all things related to Marvel and much more, visit us at capeandcastle.com.