Why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best sequel in the MCU

Jess Bacon
Captain America flanked by Nick Fury and Black Widow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

As the best Captain America movie turns 10, here’s what the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs to learn from Winter Soldier, ahead of the release of Captain America: Brave New World. 

The best sequel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is celebrating a big birthday, as it’s a decade (to the day) since Captain America: The Winter Solider was released.

It’s rare in the content-churning era that movies – especially ones in the MCU – stay with us even a year later, let alone 10. That’s why it’s even more impressive that Steve Roger’s (Chris Evans) second solo outing still holds a special place in the hearts of fans. 

Back in 2014, the sequel stormed the box office, eclipsing its less memorable predecessor, as Captain America returned to face a new nemesis – with an old face – in the shape of The Winter Soldier, aka his old bestie Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). 

The MCU gets gritty in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

For the first time the franchise took a gritty turn, grounding its action sequences in intense hand-to-hand combat, as well as knife and gun fights. A standout has to be the lift sequence, and Fury’s downtown car chase. The breadth and complexity of these fights is unrivalled.

Stans on TikTok still demonstrate their frightening ability to mimic the Winter Soldier’s quick knife work in one of his earliest fights with Captain America, which ends with that all-important identity reveal, to which Bucky responds: “Who the hell is Bucky?” 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a taste of what was to come from the MCU. As the Russo Brothers’ first Marvel movie, fans were treated to more of the wider universe than other sequels, such as Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World. Both of which pale in comparison to this movie (and even did at the time). 

Falcon’s debut and the return of Black Widow

Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson) returned and more of her backstory was revealed, as she began to lower her mask and bond with the old school soldier. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) was still at the helm of S.H.I.E.L.D in all its former glory, which was an integral part of this film, as the story moved beyond Steve’s own re-entry into society to his wider position and work for S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Winter Soldier also introduced fan favourite Anthony Mackie as the Falcon, and sowed the seeds of his credibility to takeover the mantle as Captain America in Avengers: Endgame. Not to mention the lines that became Easter eggs and continue to be quoted by the fandom, for those who understand the reference. “On your left”. “I’m sorry, did I step on your moment?”

The film also found the balance between those corny one-liners and earnest moments in amongst the gripping, non-stop drama that weaved together different elements of the MCU from The Avengers and Captain America: The First Avenger

Yet, at its core this film remains one of the best entries in the MCU as it was built on the foundations of Bucky and Steve’s friendship. Sure, it was about HYDRA’s seven-decades worth of infiltration into S.H.I.E.L.D and the major civil war that led to, but that manifested itself in two former friends being on opposite sides of a conflict. It boiled down to whether Steve could stop Bucky if the time came, as Bucky’s mission was to end Steve. 

captain america and black widow

Beneath the impressive CGI and brutal fight scenes, fans were invested to see if Bucky really was with Steve “to the end of the line” and if there was any of the man he knew left, beneath the Winter Soldier’s steely facade. Thankfully for them, and us, there was.

How Captain America elevates the MCU

Captain America: The Winter Soldier elevated the previous instalments in the MCU by significantly changing the landscape of the universe, with the dismantling of S.H.I.E.L.D and embers of a civil war on the horizon, without compromising on delivering a character-driven story that fans would be invested in. There was a synergy between movies that continued into Captain America: Civil War to earn Steve Roger’s solo films the status of the best trilogy in the MCU, in many fans’ view. 

Post-Endgame, the MCU has struggled to captivate their huge audience in the same way due to the massive influx of new characters into the universe, many of whom have not yet made a second appearance in a different film and had the space to develop. 

If the new Captain America movie takes inspiration from any films from the canon, then it should be The Winter Soldier. Not only is it the strongest sequel in the MCU, but it remains one of fans’ favourite movies of all time in the overarching franchise. And with that, perhaps it’s time for a rewatch?

Captain America Brave New World is set to hit screenings February 2025. While you can head here for a preview of movies coming much sooner.

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