SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for a large number of Marvel Cinematic Universe films (including Thor: Love And Thunder). If you have not yet seen all the titles in the canon, proceed with caution!
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, end credits scenes are a significant part of the magic. Some of them are simply fun gags that tie up small loose ends, but typically they provide an awesome and exciting tease of what is to come from the franchise in the near future. Sometimes they introduce plot devices that are set to become exponentially more important later, and regularly they feature the debuts of characters who are set to be game-changers in the canon.
This feature has come together to focus on the latter half of that equation – highlighting all of the major Marvel heroes (like Scarlet Witch) and villains (like Thanos) who have made their debut in Marvel movies post-credit scenes. To date, we’ve seen eleven key characters introduced this way, and for the sake of organization let’s go in chronological order. Because of this, we’ll start with the special coda that started it all…
Nick Fury – Iron Man (2008)
The post-credits scene in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man is only 32 seconds long, but it unquestionably marks a spectacularly important moment in blockbuster history. Through its whole runtime, the actual film is a pretty standard solo hero comic book movie (albeit a fantastic one), but the arrival of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury at the very end changes everything. When he introduces the idea of the Avengers Initiative, he essentially launches the entire concept of what will become the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the character will forever be remembered for that in the canon.
Thanos – The Avengers (2012)
The reveal of Thanos in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is a funny one. Upon first viewing back in 2012, every comic book fan in the audience immediately recognized the villain, and understood what it meant for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everyone else, however, was left clueless, ultimately requiring nerdy friends and/or the internet to explain it to them. Of course, now we are in the wake of both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and Thanos is one of the most famous villains in pop culture history. It’s pretty crazy to think that it all began with a quick mid-credits scene that confused large swaths of the movie-going public.
Taneleer Tivan, a.k.a. The Collector – Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Audiences weren’t quite sure what to expect from James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy in the run up to its release, but at the very least, Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World provided a taste of the film via its mid-credits scene. In the canon, the scene depicted is kind of an important moment, as it features Taneleer Tivan (Benicio Del Toro) taking possession of the Reality Stone, but it also served as a kind of appetizer for the crazy space weirdness that was being cooked up for release in August 2014.
Scarlet Witch – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
After WandaVision, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is arguably the most powerful hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe… and it all began with the post-credits scene in Joe and Anthony Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Fans were preparing to meet Wanda Maximoff in Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron, but Marvel hit us with a surprise when she was snuck into the end of the franchise’s April 2014 release and featured as one of the lone survivors in Hydra’s experiments with the Mind Stone.
Quicksilver – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Of course, Scarlet Witch wasn’t alone in that Captain America: The Winter Soldier post-credits scene. Contained in a cell right next to Wanda’s in the coda is Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who demonstrates his incredible speed while his sister shows off her telekinetic gifts. Sadly Quicksilver didn’t wind up surviving the events of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, but the character’s significance in comic book history in addition to his prominence in the 2015 blockbuster qualify him to be included in this list as a major character.
J. Jonah Jameson – Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Between 2014 and 2019 Marvel Studios took a bit of a break from debuting characters in post-credits scenes, but the droughts ended in a phenomenal way with Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Far From Home. The mid-credits scene in question features the significant moment where Peter Parker’s secret identity is revealed to the world, but far more stunning is the identity of the individual delivering the news: J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons). It marked the first time that Simmons played Jameson in live-action since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, and there are high hopes for his future in the franchise.
Eros a.k.a. Starfox – Eternals (2021)
Director Chloé Zhao introduces a whole lot of Eternals in her 2021 blockbuster – with the titular team consisting of 10 heroes – but the mid-credits scene in the movie adds one more name to the roster. Making a rather spectacular entrance in the film is Eros (Harry Styles), who is introduced as the brother of Thanos, and who arrives to collect Thena, Druig and Makkari so that they can help their abducted friends.
Pip The Troll – Eternals (2021)
Having mentioned that Eros is “introduced,” it feels compulsory to also highlight the arrival of Pip The Troll (Patton Oswalt) into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comics, the diminutive alien is best known for his association with Adam Warlock, but it seems that the movie version is trading that companionship for a partnership with Starfox (at least for now – we’ll see what happens after Warlock is featured in James Gunn’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3).
Blade – Eternals (2021)
Eternals is the only movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon to introduce not just one, not just two, but three new major characters to the canon. In addition to Eros and Pip, the post-credits scene in the blockbuster also marks the arrival of Mahershala Ali’s Blade to the franchise… albeit his appearance is of the “voice only” variety. That isn’t going to stop us from featuring him on this list, however, and we’re beyond excited to see more of him in his upcoming solo movie.
Clea - Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (2022)
By the end of Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, Doctor Strange has come to terms with the fact that his romantic relationship with Christine Palmer is not to be – and that very much sets him up to be in a perfect place to meet the love of his live. Clea, played by Charlize Theron, makes an abrupt appearance in the mid-credits scene of the Sam Raimi blockbuster, and she demands Strange's help stopping an incursion event in the Dark Dimension. Considering the relationship between the characters in the comics, we can expect a lot of sparks to fly in Doctor Strange 3 (and I mean that in both the literal and figurative sense).
Hercules - Thor: Love And Thunder (2022)
Thor has faced off against some pretty tough antagonists during his tenure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his greatest challenge may be still awaiting him. In the end credits of Thor: Love And Thunder, it's not only revealed that Russell Crowe's Zeus is still alive, but that he's pissed off and in the mood for revenge. His weapon in his mission to get payback against the God of Thunder is none other than Hercules – who it's revealed is played by Brett Goldstein. Will this conflict be at the heart of a Thor 5? Time will tell.
We’ve seen eleven major Marvel characters debut in end credits over the course of 28 films, but the potential for us seeing more in the coming years is exceptionally high, as it seems the franchise will never cease to surprise us with big revelations during and after the credits. Who will show up next? Like you, we are excited to eventually find out.
To learn about all of the films that Marvel Studios has set to be released in the coming years, read our upcoming Marvel movies guide.
NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.