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My Top 10 Favorite Things About Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Pop culture has made a heel turn against the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Understandable as it is, I also find it upsetting.

But things have only gotten so rough for our superhero pals because things used to be so good. There are clear reasons for the recent stumbles, for sure.  However, much like a sports franchise with a Hall of Fame head coach, Kevin Feige is still in charge and I believe that in a few years we will be talking about the MCU’s return to form.

When you start off with a stone cold classic like Iron Man, then follow with a series of solid entries culminating in the first Avengers movie, you may not think the best is just around the corner. But that was indeed the case because the MCU's high water mark occurred on April 4th, 2014. The day that Captain America: The Winter Soldier reported for duty.  

It's been 10 years I think we can all admit that Bucky is cooler than Cap.

That’s right, Winter Soldier is officially 10 years old. 

The influence this movie has had on superhero filmmaking is legendary and I don’t need to revisit all of the well documented reasons why that is here. If you’re not familiar with all of those stories I highly recommend picking up a copy of MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios (what a great book).  

Today, I simply want to fondly look back on my favorite entry in the MCU and one of my top 20 all time favorite movies. 

There are definitely MCU movies with higher emotional highs. The one-two punch of Infinity War and Endgame, Black Panther, and the airport sequence in Civil War to name a few. But from start to finish I don’t think a finer superhero flick has been made than Winter Soldier. 

And yes that includes The Dark Knight.  

(Am I saying that Winter Soldier is better than The Dark Knight? Yes. I think I am saying that. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is definitely better than The Dark Knight.)

So to celebrate the 10th anniversary of it’s release, here are my top 10 favorite things about Captain America: The Winter Soldier

10. Captain's Orders

Looking back on Winter Soldier it’s hard not to compare Hydra growing inside of SHIELD to what we're currenly seeing out of the MAGA Republican party. The scene just before the bombastic finale of Winter Soldier when Rumlow is demanding that the Helicarriers be launched and the pushback from those he perceives to be weaker than he is one of my favorite moments because it provides hope against a mounting threat. And in this moment Steve Rogers isn’t even in the room.

9. Zola’s Bunker

Big exposition dumps are typical of comic book movies so finding creative ways to incorporate them naturally is always a challenge. Bringing back Arnim Zola as a sentient reel-to-reel supercomputer to inform Steve and Natasha of Hydra’s plans, reveal that it was the Winter Soldier that murdered Tony’s parents (something that seems like a throwaway in this flick but pays off in Civil War) and then get to explain that he was simply stalling to buy Hydra enough time to strike the bunker was a stroke of superhero movie making genius.  Plus, we get a War Games reference.

8. The Falcon

Sam Wilson has had it tough ever since his first comic book appearance in 1969 and including his run in the MCU. But I remain a Falcon fan if for no other reason than Anthony Mackie chewing scenery and charming his way through this entire movie. And especially for the way he threatens Jasper Sitwell with a crab cake reference and telling him to check out his ‘other 10:00’.  Just great stuff. 

7. Alpha Cap

While I of course love The Avengers, most of the weak points of that movie are Cap-centric.  It’s his worst uniform, poor Chris Evans has to wear a bad wig and we don’t really see a lot of what makes Steve Rogers special.  So the Russo Brothers made a terrific decision to make the first action set piece of Winter Soldier focused on Cap just running through pirates on a hijacked boat in the middle of the ocean. He shows off his upgraded fighting style, he wears the best uniform that we see through the entire Infinity Saga (one that makes a return appearance in Endgame) and they improve how Cap uses his shield.  We get Alpha Cap for the first time and he is a total badass. 

6. Robert Redford in a Marvel movie

Guys, they got Robert Redford to be in a Marvel movie. A Marvel movie that was inspired by Three Days of the Condor. And then Robert Redford came back for a cameo in Endgame.  I feel like we don’t talk about this enough.

5. Cap & Widow

Similar to Steve, Black Widow has a couple of great scenes in The Avengers (specifically the ‘getting info out of Loki’ scene) but it isn’t until Winter Soldier that we see Nat unleashed.  Equal parts brutal and smart, she is the perfect pairing for an ‘out of time’ Captain America.  Plus Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans have incredible chemistry so while no one has confirmed that Steve and Nat did a little raising of the American flag so to speak, no one can deny it either.  

4. “On your left.”

The best payoffs are the ones you didn’t see coming or know that you needed.  Opening Winter Soldier with Steve and Sam, the ‘on your left’ running around The Mall in DC scene was a fun way for these characters to meet each other; and that could have been it for 'on your left'.  But screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus smartly take it one step further in this movie with an ‘on your left’ callback at the end of the film. We then get the ultimate callback to ‘on your left’ when that line kicks off the culmination of more than 10 years of movie making in Avengers: Endgame.

3. Nick Fury's Lease

Is this Nick Fury's best MCU scene ever? Yes. Not only do we get Nick Fury outsmarting the bad guys during a set piece that is shocking as it’s happening because we don’t really know what the hell is going on, but it ends with our first look at the Winter Soldier.

2. The Highway Fight

I love when a movie dispatches a relatively disposable character in ways that you aren’t expecting.  When we find ourselves in a car on the highway with our main crew of characters and Sitwell, Jasper has pretty much served his purpose so the shock that comes with the Winter Soldier pulling him from a moving vehicle and tossing him into oncoming traffic is an inspired move. That leads to an absolutely epic series of moments including Black Widow almost taking down the Winter Soldier by herself, Steve running down a dude with a mini gun using only his shield and of course the Cap/Winter Soldier knife fight that wraps up the entire scene with the reveal that the Winter Soldier is Steve’s ole pal Bucky. Incredible stuff.

1. The Elevator Fight

Ok, yes Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite MCU movie.  But if I was making a list of my favorite MCU moments it would be really hard not to list the following moments from Endgame first because of the emotional payoffs that came with them.

  • On your left

  • Cap lifts Mjolnir

  • Avengers Assemble

  • Rocket/Hulk recruit Thor

  • Thor is still worthy

  • “And I am…Iron Man.”

And there are probably a few more in there that need to be mentioned.  But the first non-Endgame moment that would be on my favorite MCU moments list? The elevator fight in Winter Soldier (which also gets a call back in Endgame).

Much like the opening set piece, the elevator fight lets us know that Captain American and his franchise within the MCU has leveled up. Perfectly choreographed, shot and edited this scene could fit right into a Jason Bourne movie but it also employs comic book elements like the briefcase handle magnetic restraints.  Plus it's so perfectly contained as its own thing that every once in a while I’ll go on YouTube and watch it again a few times in a row.   It's the signature scene in the best movie of the entire Marvel franchise.

Did I miss any of your favorites? Send them Until then... on your left.


Drips & Dregs is the weekly column from Rock Fight Founder Colin True.

Sometimes outdoorsy and always outdoor adjacent, check in weekly to see what is on his mind.


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