A Look At The Cinematic History Of Captain America

Today marks the theatrical debut of Captain America: Civil War. To commemorate this milestone moment in comic book cinema, MovieFanFare presents this look back at Cap’s storied motion picture past.

The Captain America movie serial

Captain America made his first appearance on the big screen in a 15-chapter serial released by Republic Pictures. Dick Purcell starred in the title role, but the serial made several changes from its source material — most notably that Cap’s alter ego was now a District Attorney named Grant Gardner, and his origin has been completely altered.

3 Dev Adam (AKA 3 Giant Men, Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man)

Back in 1973, Turkish filmmakers decided to team up Captain America with Mexican luchador legend Santo to fight…Spider-Man? It’s still unclear exactly why this film exists, but lovers of strange cinema (and blatant copyright infringement) are glad that it does.

Captain America/Captain America II: Death Too Soon

Some context for any millennials who might be reading this: The 1970s were a very strange and wonderful time in which several Marvel superheroes made the jump to television. Unfortunately, the only program to have a lasting connection with audiences was The Incredible Hulk. That didn’t stop Marvel from trying to capture lightning in a bottle multiple times however, and Dr. Strange, Spider-Man (who starred in his own short-lived CBS series with Nicholas Hammond in the lead) and Captain America all were given their shots at TV glory. Unfortunately, these were all low-budget affairs whose limited production values resulted in programs that were anything but super. That said, the two Captain America telefilms from 1979 are enjoyable in their own cheesy, unfortunate ways. Played by the scenery chewing Reb Brown, this Captain America rides a turbocharged motorcycle and squares off against the villainous General Miguel (Christopher Lee). Again, both of these movies play fast and loose with the Captain’s origins, but you’ll be too wrapped up in their retro wonder to care.

Captain America

Never released in theaters, this 1990 take on Captain America’s origin is better than its bad reputation suggests…but still not all that great. Although Matt Salinger (son of The Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger) gives it his all, he is overshadowed by the film’s excellent supporting cast — which includes Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, and Darren McGavin — as well as some clunky plotting and dubious special effects.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Cap finally gets the film he deserves courtesy of some masterful direction by the great Joe Johnston, a fantastic script, and Chris Evans (who previously played another Marvel hero, The Human Torch, in Fox’s Fantastic Four films) delivering a superstar-making performance as the ever noble hero. Throw in great support from Tommy Lee Jones and Sebastian Stan, and a devastating romantic subplot featuring Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and this one is a comic cinema classic for the ages.

The Avengers

All of the “Phase One” Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes come together in a pop culture masterpiece that comic fans never thought could happen, certainly not done with this much skill, excitement, and humor. This is still as thrilling to watch today as it was when it debuted in theaters. And Hulk…smash.

Thor: The Dark World

Technically this one is a bit of cheat as Chris Evans appears in a brief cameo when Loki briefly transforms himself into Cap. It is featured here for the sake of completeness.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo begin their reign over the Marvel Cinematic Universe with this wildly satisfying effort that may just be Marvel’s most perfect film to date. (Feel free to debate that in the comments, taking into account that as of this writing I haven’t seen Civil War yet). As much of a political thriller, if not even more so, than a superhero film, the events of Winter Soldier pave the way for what would come, introducing the Falcon and beginning Bucky’s road to redemption.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Although not as great as the first Avengers outing, the events of this film directly influence what will go down in Civil War. Also, this is likely the last time you’ll see Iron Man and Captain America as BFFs.

Ant Man

The film’s post-credits scene directly leads into Civil War, with Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson discussing how to deal with a captured Winter Soldier.

What’s your favorite movie featuring Captain America? Let us know in the comments!