Encyclopedia of Superheroes: Captain America

Captain America (1944)

Captain America is a 15-chapter series directed by Elmer Clifton and John English and starring Dick Purcell as Captain America. Largely a product of its time, it aimed to promote American patriotism and morale during World War II. Overall reviews of the series were mixed, with some elements not having aged well.

Captain America (1979)
Captain America, directed by Rod Holcomb, is a 1979 television movie starring Reb Brown as Captain America. This origin film follows Steve Rogers as he takes a serum and his strength and agility increase. Complete with a Cap-themed motorcycle, he takes on the bad guys and confronts a villain preparing to use a neutron bomb. Audiences at the time found the film worthy and reviews were positive.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
After more than 30 years, Captain America is back, and this time on the big screen. Directed by Joe Johnston and starring Chris Evans as Captain America, the film tells the origin story of the iconic superhero. It follows Steve Rogers as he transforms into Captain America (Cap) during World War II. It features Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).

Grossing $370 million worldwide, it received positive reviews and, for many, established Evans as “their Captain America.”

The Avengers (2012)
Directed by Joss Whedon, the 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 battle the villain Loki. The Avengers was a huge hit, earning over $1.5 billion worldwide. Audiences and critics alike praised the film for its thrilling action, witty dialogue, and successful integration of several Marvel characters. This also gave Cap the role of team leader. The film set a high standard for team-up films and helped many characters, including Captain America, become even more famous.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

This film, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, 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 film grossed more than $714 million worldwide and received critical acclaim for its gripping story, intense action and exploration of complex political themes.

The film was self-contained, but still felt like it fit into a larger narrative. While Captain America: The First Avenger was an origin story and Evans portrayed the character with ease and nervousness, this film showed the character more comfortable in his own skin and has an iconic helicopter scene. (Literally Cap is holding the helicopter back with his own strength.)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Also directed by Joss Whedon, the film pits Captain America (Chris Evans) and the Avengers against Ultron, an artificial intelligence gone rogue. The film earned over $1.4 billion worldwide and was praised for its action-packed sequences and further character development, including Captain America.

While the first Avengers set high standards, this film received mixed and sometimes positive reviews. It felt like a safe film that trusted the formula of the first film and tried to reuse some of the magic. Cap has a smaller leadership role as the film showed some of the cracks forming in the Avengers team.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Directed by the Russo Brothers, the film pits Captain America (Chris Evans) against Iron Man in a conflict that divides the Avengers. The film explores the ideological differences between the two heroes as they recruit allies and fight in an epic battle. Grossing more than $1.1 billion worldwide, the film was praised for its thought-provoking story, emotional stakes and the introduction of new characters such as Black Panther and Spider-Man.

Although it is the third installment in the Captain America trilogy, the film centers around the Winter Soldier as the catalyst for the team’s demise. Evans balanced grit and charm as the character navigated the challenges of caring for his childhood friend and his role as an Avenger with Iron Man.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Both films were directed by the Russo Brothers and feature Captain America as part of the Avengers’ fight against the menacing Thanos. Infinity War saw the heroes try to stop Thanos from collecting the Infinity Stones, while Endgame dealt with the aftermath and their attempts to reverse the devastating effects of the previous film. Both films were huge box office successes, earning a total of over $4.8 billion worldwide. The films have been praised for their epic scale, emotional moments and satisfying conclusion to the Avengers storyline.

In Infinity War, Cap returned to his leadership role as Thanos and his warriors began searching for the Infinity Stones on Earth. Between Civil War and this film, the character was given some time to naturally break away from the larger team, making his return exciting.

Despite their best efforts, Endgame saw Cap do his best to lead a broken and defeated team. Where he sported a beard in the first film, he returned to his clean-shaven demeanor. Often the heart of the team, when the Avengers finally regroup in the battle against Thanos and unite into a formidable force, Cap is given a moment to say his signature: Avengers, assemble!

It was a great send-off for the character, and in addition to him shining in the final battle, he was finally able to connect with his love (Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter) whom he met in Captain America: 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, aka The Falcon, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier.

The series takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and follows Sam and Bucky as they navigate the world without Steve Rogers as Captain America. The series delves into their personal journeys, with Sam trying to take on the mantle of Captain America and Bucky confronting his past as the Winter Soldier.

Although Steve Rogers was the original Captain America, Sam reminds viewers that Captain America is a key role in the Marvel Universe, and that role can be played by anyone.

This show received positive reviews as it was affected by the production shutdown due to Covid-19. There were some problems with the plot, but the action and important messages resonated well with the audience.

Fans who love Captain America will be happy to know that there is a spin-off film that finds Sam maneuvering into a new world after Thanos.

Encyclopedia of Superheroes: Captain America

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