Moviegoers are truly living in the golden age of post-credit scenes. What was once considered something of a novelty has been rendered a necessity in an era when the Marvel Cinematic Universe and other film franchises are expanding faster than Dwayne Johnson’s biceps in a 5 a.m. weight session. However, the concept’s origins date back further than the dawn of the superhero movie era or anything equally fast and furious. Back in 1966, in fact, Dean Martin was proving to the world that not all heroes wear capes or drive ludicrously fast cars; some prefer a suave suit and a scotch. He may have been known as a crooner, but in the 1960s, Martin also played the part of Matt Helm, a U.S. government counter agent in a series of films based on books by author Guy Hamilton.
Essentially pitched as a more laid-back James Bond, Martin’s first outing as Helm, The Silencers (1966), featured what many believe to be the first post-credits scene in movie history. It wasn’t exactly one to write home about either; the film added a sequence that showed Helm relaxing on a bed with several young women while the onscreen text read: “Coming up next: Matt Helm meets Lovey Kravezit in Murderers’ Row.”
Though Martin never won much in the way of acclaim for his performance as Helm, he did make history with the scene. More importantly, he also went on to deliver on the post-credits scene promise, returning soon after The Silencers with Murderers’ Row in the same year. That’s more than can be said for any of the films on this list. Though superhero movies have made post-credits scenes increasingly commonplace , there are still plenty of long-forgotten films that hinted at rising again with a sequel only to ultimately sink without a trace.
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Directed by Barry Levinson from a script by Home Alone’s Chris Columbus, Young Sherlock Holmes should have been the first chapter in a series of films featuring the teenage incarnation of the titular sleuth. It was bold, fun, and highly inventive with the action bolstered by some groundbreaking computer-generated effects that came courtesy of Lucasfilm’s Graphics Group.
Maybe it was the fact the film featured some surprisingly disturbing scares but for whatever reason, it failed to do the business at the box office. All of which made a post-credits scene in which it is revealed that Anthony Higgins’ villain Rathe has survived and assumed the name of Holmes’ most iconic adversary, “Moriarty,” that bit more frustrating.
Masters of the Universe (1987)
Frank Langella still ranks the role of Skeletor in Masters of the Universe among his most beloved, having jumped at the chance to feature in a film starring He-Man, who was a favorite character of his then four-year-old son. If only the rest of the film could match it. Produced by Cannon Films on an infamously tight budget, the movie was dogged by cheap sets, uncomfortable costumes, and some wooden swordplay. Not to mention acting by Dolph Lundgren. Had there been a sequel, fans would have got even more Skeletor though. Despite being thrown down a seemingly bottomless pit by He-Man, after the credits, Skeletor emerges from the murky deep to tell audiences, “I’ll be back.”
Titled Masters of the Universe 2: Revenge of the Beast, the sequel would have seen He-Man return to earth, posing as an NFL quarterback to pursue Skeletor, who had possessed the body of a major business entrepreneur. Some sets had even been constructed but would ultimately end up in the film Cyborg after bad office numbers killed hopes of a sequel.
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
The live-action Super Mario Bros. movie was about as far removed from the adventures of the world’s most famous Italian plumber as you could possibly get. Largely set within the dark and decidedly cyberpunk confines of Dinohattan and filled with grotesque semi-humanoid Goombas and a half-lizard, half-Donald Trump Dennis Hopper as King Koopa, it today all feels like some strange fever dream.
The atmosphere was similarly feverish onset, with husband-and-wife director team Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel struggling to keep control of a production that was undergoing continuous rewrites while the likes of Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi drank between takes to numb the pain. Given the cinematic mess that emerged, it was somewhat galling that the not only ended with Samantha Mathis’ Princess Daisy returning to enlist Mario and Luigi for another mission, but doubled down on sequel plans with a post-credits scene that revealed Koppa’s henchmen, Iggy and Spike (Fisher Stevens and Richard Edson) made it to Earth. They even tried to sell Nintendo on a game called Supa’ Koopa Cousins. Shudders.
Street Fighter (1994)
A year on from the Super Mario Bros. debacle, the bizarre era of video game movie adaptations far removed from their source material continued with Street Fighter, a film that had little in the way of actual street fighting. Instead the action focused on Jean-Claude Van Damme sporting a decidedly dodgy dye job while playing the role of all-American hero Guile in similarly unconvincing style. Though various characters from the games were sprinkled throughout, the only one of real note was the late, great Raul Julia’s M. Bison.
Julia was suffering from stomach cancer at the time and Street Fighter would prove to be his final major film role. He nevertheless put on a tour-de-force performance, delivering lines such as “for me, it was Tuesday” with a level of gravitas that the source material was not worthy of. Had he lived there’s every chance the film, which was a box office success, might even have garnered a sequel. A post-credits scene saw Bison’s fist punch up through the rubble of his recently destroyed base of operations just as his computer reboots, selecting “World Domination: Replay.”
Sadly, Julia’s tragic passing coupled with a pervading sense of disappointment at how the movie turned out, saw plans for a sequel quietly shelved. Though rumors resurfaced of a potential Van Damme return alongside Dolph Lundgren, studio bosses instead took things in a different direction with Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li in 2009, which pulled off the seemingly impossible feat of being worse than the original movie.
Long before the adventures of Matt Murdock hit streaming services or Ben Affleck became known as “Batfleck,” the aforementioned star donned an altogether different suit to play Daredevil in the most nu metal comic book movie ever made. Writer and director Mark Steven Johnson had experience directing Batman, or rather, he’d directed Michael Keaton as a CGI snowman in 1998’s Jack Frost, so was apparently more than qualified for introducing a Marvel icon.
Notable for bringing together Affleck and his future ex-wife Jennifer Garner, who played Elektra, Daredevil wanted to be both an origin story and standalone adventure, but ultimately failed on both fronts. The fact that a director’s cut exists which improves drastically on the original by including a subplot involving the rapper Coolio probably tells you everything you need to know.
The film’s two primary villains were entertaining at least with Michael Duncan Clarke offering a fresh take on the Kingpin and Colin Farrell on scenery-chewing form as ace marksman Bullseye. Bullseye even survived the movie, albeit having been left badly maimed in the process. A post-credits scene hinted at his return though with Bullseye seen regaining his aim while serving time, bandaged up, in a hospital prison. However, rather than return with a sequel, the studio instead took the unusual step of making a spinoff focused on Elektra. Bullseye remained locked up with Affleck, moving onto bigger and bat-er things.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2005)
X-Men: The Last Stand was supposed to be the entry that ripped up the Professor X playbook and, in a way, it did. James Marsden’s Cyclops was killed off early on, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) also made a surprise exit, all while Magneto (Ian McKellen) was rendered somewhat impotent by the end of the film. But while there were shocks aplenty, plotwise, some of the biggest surprises were not so welcome.
Kelsey Grammer was fine as Beast and Elliot Page’s Kitty Pryde was also a welcome addition, but Vinnie Jones’ Juggernaut ended up one of the lasting memories of the movie, and for all the wrong reasons. Lacking the emotional depth of its predecessors, Last Stand might have been action-packed but there was almost too much to pack in. Not content with focusing on a plotline about a mutant cure, the film also covers the Jean Grey/Phoenix saga to limited effect. By the end, it felt like the writers were trying to reset things. Magneto got his powers back by the end while a post-credits scene revealed that Xavier had, somehow, survived. Unfortunately, this particular timeline was dead in the water.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
The original big screen incarnation of the Fantastic Four—not including Roger Corman’s legendary low-rent version from the early ‘90s—was lucky to land a sequel in the first place. Big, dumb, but also kind of fun thanks, in part, to the efforts of a young Chris Evans as Johnny Storm and Michael Chiklis as the Thing, this origin story film painted the four Marvel icons in broad strokes. But despite the so-so reaction, many hoped for bigger and better things the second time round, especially once word got out that the movie would feature the Silver Surfer.
Yet the resulting film doubled down on the bland tone of the original. The Silver Surfer (Doug Jones, voiced by Laurence Fishburne) was a largely forgettable presence but it was even worse for his master Galactus. Considered by many as one of the most powerful villains in the entire Marvel universe, the decision to reduce him to little more than a big cloud was not only a big mistake but hinted at the shape of similarly bland superhero movie villains to come.
Though Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer was clearly interested in continuing the adventures of Reed Richards and company, it also laid the groundwork for a Silver Surfer spin-off with a scene that appears during the credits showing the Silver Surfer floating, lifeless through space, before being awoken by his returning board. Unfortunately, there was little appetite for a Silver Surfer movie, or another Fantastic Four, for that matter, thus bringing an end to this brief chapter of the franchise.
Land of the Lost (2009)
Will Ferrell already had a bad track record for remaking classic TV shows to underwhelming effect with 2005’s Bewitched. Even so, he was able to sink to a new low four years later with Land of the Lost, a desperately unfunny update of the hit 1970s series of the same name. Not even the presence of the usually reliable Danny McBride could inject genuine laughs into this big screen update.
It didn’t help that the movie veered away from much of what made the original show so popular. The fun, kid friendly tone of the series was replaced by an overreliance on campy humor while the spectacular stop-motion effects of the show were swapped out for computer-animated buffoonery that has somehow aged worse than the effects seen in the 1970s version. Despite the misfiring gags, someone obviously sensed an opportunity to build a franchise.
Having survived a trip to a parallel dimension populated by dinosaurs, a post-credits scene saw the dinosaur egg that Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell) returned with hatch, suggesting more japes to come. But the lukewarm critical response, coupled with the fact the film made back only half its budget, ensured this particular dino adventure became extinct.
Green Lantern (2011)
It’s crazy to think now, given Deadpool’s success, but there was a time when Ryan Reynolds was something approaching comic book movie kryptonite. Blade Trinity (2004), R.I.P.D. (2013), and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) all underwhelmed with Reynolds on board, but by far the biggest blot on his superhero movie copybook came with Green Lantern.
One of the biggest box office bombs of all time, Green Lantern was let down by a weak script and some badly realized special effects. Not everything about the movie failed to land though. Mark Strong’s Sinestro certainly stood out and, had they moved forward with plans for a trilogy of films, then he would have come to the fore in the sequel with a post-credits scene showing him donning the yellow power ring of fear in a clear indication he had become corrupted. As one of Green Lantern’s most iconic characters, it would have been fascinating to see what Strong would have done with it.
After years of development hell and over a potential Monopoly movie, audiences were finally treated to another film adaptation of an actual board game. Unfortunately, in the case of Battleship, it was several thousand leagues away from 1985’s Clue and was most definitely a miss rather than a hit.
Despite enlisting Peter Berg to deliver something akin to what Michael Bay achieved with Transformers, along with an eclectic cast including Liam Neeson and Rihanna, Battleship was largely sunk by the presence of Taylor Kitsch and a plot that was big on loud spectacle but otherwise entirely formulaic. However, the post-credits scene did hint at a fascinating idea for a sequel: a gang of teenagers stumbling across one of the alien invaders in the highlands of Scotland. Once again though, bad box office numbers killed any hopes of a more creative spin on proceedings.
Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
Kick-Ass 2 suffered from bad press before it even reached multiplexes. In a unique twist, however, said bad press came from one of its stars, Jim Carrey, who decided to withdraw his support for the film in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, citing the amount of violence it portrayed. Though creator Mark Millar and stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse all expressed an eagerness to return for one final installment, those plans subsequently stalled.
There had even been talk of a Hit-Girl prequel but it now appears increasingly likely that the entire Kick-Ass franchise will undergo a major reboot under the watchful eye of the original movie’s director, Matthew Vaughn. Which is a shame, because the final seconds of Kick-Ass 2 hinted a possible return for Mintz-Plasse’s The Mother F**ker, who despite losing his limbs and genitals in a shark attack, was shown to be very much alive and vying for revenge.
Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014)
How do you up the ante after making a movie about Nazi zombies? By adding some undead Soviet soldiers to the mix and having the two sides do battle in the most bloody and deranged way possible.
Incredibly, filmmaker Tommy Wirkola did originally appear intent on taking things one step further along from that with a third Dead Snow film introducing a zombie Adolf Hitler to the mix. “I think it’s natural to maybe put some of the story in South America where a lot of the Nazis fled, of course,” he told Movieweb back in 2017. “We’ve got to top what we’ve done before, we have to bring back Hitler as well. Zombie-Hitler. That just feels natural.” A post-credits scene revealing that the film’s chief Nazi zombie, Herzog, had not perished, certainly set up a sequel but talk of plans has cooled significantly in the years since.
Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)
The makers of the hit video game of the same name had already had one attempt at turning the nihilistic adventures of the Sony PlayStation’s most famous nameless assassin into a movie with 2007’s Hitman. Despite a game performance from Timothy Olyphant as the titular hero and the fact that the film was a box office success, the powers-that-be decided to reboot things eight years later, which saw Homeland’s Rupert Friend replace Olyphant.
Though Hitman: Agent 47 struggled with a less charismatic lead, it benefited from a stronger overall ensemble cast with Hannah Ware, Ciarán Hinds and Zachary Quinto, in particular, bolstering proceedings. Quinto was in especially good form as a Terminator-like surgically enhanced agent of the Syndicate, John Smith, on the trail of Ware’s Katia.
A cliffhanger ending leaving Agent 47 facing off against another agent who was his exact double, hinting at a sequel while the fact it was revealed that Quinto’s Smith had survived. But despite turning a considerable profit, the reviews, which were worse than the previous installment and focused on the film’s heavy product placement of Audi cars, killed those hopes. Another reboot is expected.
Terminator Genisys (2015)
There have been multiple attempts at supercharging the Terminator franchise, many of which have left the door open for further installments to come. However, none failed quite so spectacularly as Terminator Genisys, which attempted to utilize the rising star power of Game of Thrones breakout Emilia Clarke but failed to put in any of the hard yards in terms of storytelling or characterization.
Matters were hardly helped when a teaser trailer for the new movie revealed the film’s major twist: John Connor, the savior of humanity, was now a Terminator. And during the film’s eventual post-credits scene, it’s revealed that the core of Genisys—this film’s version of Skynet—had survived. Had the film been a success, there would have been a TV series that tied into the movies and two further sequels. The first of these sequels would have explored how Connor came to be a Terminator and sounded fascinating. Unfortunately, despite being the second highest grossing entry in the entire franchise, the moneymen decided it simply wasn’t enough to justify expanding this timeline of the Terminator universe any further—especially after those reviews and fan reactions.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
Despite a stellar British cast featuring the likes of Lily James, Matt Smith, and Lena Headey, fans were left underwhelmed with this 2016 adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel of the same name. Stuck in development hell for several years, the likes of Natalie Portman and Jennifer Aniston were attached to star at certain points. There was even a moment in time when David O. Russell was set to write and direct. He ultimately backed out after studio bosses failed to meet his budgetary demands.
The resulting film was considerably less interesting than the issues behind the scenes. Though the performances were there, the film lacked the eye-catching action and eye-popping gore of the source material, and struggled to balance horror, comedy, and the sense and sensibility of Jane Austen’s work. Despite this, the film did end on a post-credits cliffhanger, with an army of the undead descending on our heroes. In an interview with CinemaBlend, director Burr Steers pitched his idea for a sequel in which the surviving cast of characters would attempt to fight their way through a Zombie-filled London. It never happened.
Given the unwarranted and entirely unnecessary anger generated by certain sections of the fandom over Paul Feig’s female-led reboot of Ghostbusters, a sequel was always going to be a tough sell straight off the bat. Things initially looked promising though with one Sony chief declaring a follow-up “would happen” in an interview with The Wrap during the film’s opening weekend.
Feig and the film’s principal cast were all signed up for a further two installments and, after a movie littered with nods to the 1984 original, it looked like they were all set to tackle the most famous villain of the entire franchise. A post-credits scene saw Leslie Jones’ Patty investigating electronic voice phenomenon when she suddenly hears the word “Zuul.” Once again though, the lukewarm response at the box office prompted the studio to take a different direction.
Doctor Strange (2016)
We now come at last to the mega-franchise that most folks think of in the modern era when they hear the term “post-credits.” It’s time for the Marvel Cinematic Universe machine, which has generally rewired how moviegoers attend films, at least when it comes to blockbusters. Nearly every one of the MCU’s 30-some films have a post-credits scene. And honestly, almost all pay off in some way, either as a gag, a (rare) emotional beat, or, most commonly, as an extended commercial for another Marvel movie down the line.
Which is what makes Doctor Strange (2016) an odd one. With the Marvel Studios system nearly a decade old at this point, this film has the brand’s first post-credits teaser for a sequel or narrative development that would never be followed up on. If you do not recall, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) have been friendly for most of the film’s running time. In the third act, however, Mordo is required to make an almost inexplicable heel turn where he loses faith in magic. This turns out to be a precursor to a post-credits scene in which Mordo is revealed to be hunting down all wizards and magic-users, saying there are “too many sorcerers.”
… He is then never seen again, at least in the MCU’s main timeline. This means we don’t witness Strange come into conflict with his former colleague and semi-friend, or even what the killing of sorcerers means for Earth. The subplot is just dropped and by the time Strange got a sequel six years later, he rather limply has a throw away line about the Mordo of his universe being a jerk. If you say so, Stevie.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Marvel created another dangling thread that is apparently never being picked up on in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first of three well-received Tom Holland Spidey flicks. In this end credits, the film’s main villain, Adrian Toomes/the Vulture (Michael Keaton) is in prison where he encounters an inmate who should be familiar to comics readers: Mac Gargan (Michael Mando). Mac reveals there’s a rumor that Toomes knows who Spider-Man is, which is true. Yet Vulture denies it. It’s an intriguing tease, suggesting that despite being sent to prison by 16-year-old Peter Parker, Toomes likes the kid enough to keep his secret safe… or perhaps use it to exact his own personal revenge. The movie also seems to be setting up a Sinister Six film, as any comic book reader knows Gargan becomes the Scorpion (a fact teased by a tattoo on his neck).
This of course never came to pass. Sony Pictures’ own plans for a Sinister Six movie probably played a role in this, leading eventually to Keaton’s Toomes being unceremoniously teleported to the “Venomverse” in the misbegotten Morbius movie last year. But even that feels like Sony possibly salvaging spare parts, since Morbius only came after two more Holland-led Spidey movies abandoned Keaton’s Vulture and his intriguing dynamic with Parker, instead favoring just bringing back all the Raimi favorites. Plus, Electro.
Justice League (2017/2021)
This might be the most confounding assortment of post-credits scenes ever compiled into one film… or rather two versions of the same film. There are even two versions of the same post-credits scene! In the theatrically released cut of Justice League, which was heavily rewritten, reshot, and reedited by Joss Whedon, we see a now proudly bald Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) invite the Batman villain Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) aboard a yacht in Metropolis harbor where the supervillain has absconded. He then, in proper Whedon fashion, makes a pun about creating “a league of our own.”
The sequence in question is setting up a few things: the Ben Affleck written and directed Batman movie that was still being planned when Justice League was filmed in 2016 (and which Deathstroke was supposed to prominently feature in), as well as a Justice League sequel where Lex Luthor would create the legendary Legion of Doom. Eisenberg was even clearly being directed by director Zack Snyder to dress and act more like the comic book Luthor as opposed to the garish and misguided camp parody version of Mark Zuckerberg seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Of course Snyder didn’t oversee how that post-credits scene was cut and rewritten in the theatrical version. He did, however, put back the original and more stoic interpetation of the exact same scene in Zack Snyder’s Justice League when it arrived on HBO Max four years later. Although at that point, it had became obvious there never would be a sequel to Snyder’s version of the Justice League, so this was still a post-credits scene leading to nowhere. But Snyder didn’t stop at one; his four-hour cut of the film has several, including an almost happily baffling one where Martian Manhunter (Harry Lennix) appears just long enough to say howdy to Batman (Ben Affleck) and bounce off to adventures unknown… and which Snyder knew would never be seen.