Who's strong and brave, here to save the American way?
"No matter what happens, stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier... but a good man."
— Abraham Erskine
Captain America: The First Avenger is a 2011 action/adventure film adaptation of the iconic comic book character directed by Joe Johnston; it is the fifth film in (and in some ways, a prequel to) the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film is not to be confused with the 1990 film Captain America, the two Captain America TV movies from the 1970s, or the classic movie serials from the 1940s, all of which have no relation to this film (aside from being based on the same comic book character).Taking place in the timeframe of 1942 to 1945, First Avenger tells the story of US Army reject Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who volunteers for a secret government program which transforms him into the very epitome of human potential. As the Star-Spangled Soldier, Rogers goes to war against Nazi Germany's military forces — including Johann Schmidt (The Red Skull, portrayed by Hugo Weaving), who has his own plans for world domination.Like Thor, First Avenger serves as a proper introduction to Captain America in preparation for The Avengers. The original run of the film even included a trailer for The Avengersafter the credits.A sequel was released in theaters April 4th, 2014, subtitled The Winter Soldier. A spin-off TV show is also planned, titled Agent Carter.
This film contains examples of the following tropes:
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Aborted Arc: Both in-universe and a meta example, despite it being a trademark of his backstory and one of the reasons the army is in the supersoldier business, Steve doesn't actually fight any Nazis, just in films and comic books. Justified since by the time he gets sent overseas and begins to take part in the war, Schmidt and HYDRA are much larger threats.
Ace Pilot: Howard Stark is specifically described as being one of the best civilian pilots in the world, and is certainly not afraid to fly a small, unarmed passenger plane into German airspace and through heavy anti-aircraft fire just to get Captain America where he needs to be.
Action Girl/Lady of War: British Special Agent Peggy Carter. In her first action scene, we get a glimpse of her Improbable Aiming Skills and perfect poise. We only get to see her on the front lines once, but she mows down a flamethrower mook with a machine gun.
Adaptational Badass: Bucky Barnes starts out as much more of a Badass than he was in the comics (pre-Winter Soldier, at least). Instead of starting out as a Kid Sidekick like in Earth-616, he's the same age as Steve, he starts out as a Badass Normal soldier (who's a hit with the ladies, to boot) and gets himself enlisted in the Army before Steve ever does. And instead of being Steve's spokesman/medic like in the Ultimate Universe, he's the sniper, coming to Steve's aid when his guard is down.
Adaptational Heroism: In one scene of Steve trying to join the army, Steve claimed his parents both served until they died. In the comics, Steve's dad was an unemployed drunkard.
Like his Ultimate counterpart, he and Bucky were best friends before the war and Bucky defended him from bullies. Also, some elements of his movie costume are lifted from the Ultimate version (in particular, a helmet with his signature "A" on it). However, the similarities are slim beyond that. Supporting characters like Colonel Phillips, the Howling Commandos, Red Skull, Peggy Carter, Gilmore Hodge, Steve being an orphan and his Wide-Eyed Idealism ring true to his mainstream incarnation.
In the original universe, the Red Skull had been a brilliant spymaster born around 1920 and brought up via trainingfrom an uneducated street punk. In the film, Dr. Erskine describes him as a brilliant scientist and chief of HYDRA (51-year old) - which is an advanced military research unit. It takes literally a lifetime of learning, since elementary school begins, to become a scientific researcher. It can't be done in a few months or years. This means the entire biography of the Skull has to be rewritten from scratch to fit this new personality.
Adaptation Dye-Job: Subverted with Steve himself. He has brown hair on the poster, but is blonde in the film itself.
Played straight with Johann Schmidt. His hair is brown in the movie, red in the comics.
Peggy Carter has blonde hair in the comics, which gets changed to brown in the film.
All Germans Are Nazis: Surprisingly and gratifyingly averted; HYDRA breaks away from the Nazis early on in the film. This trope is outright defied by Dr. Erskine, himself an exiled German, who claims that Germany was the first country to be invaded by and fall victim to the Nazis (something that he also notes is what many people tend to forget).
All of the Other Reindeer: Even after becoming the peak of human physical perfection, Steve still struggled with gaining respect, with Col. Phillips seeing him nothing more but a lab rat, and soldiers thinking of him as a fool in star-spangled tights. However, once Steve starts using his abilities for more than selling war bonds, his courage, character and prowess gain him deep respect from his peers.
All There in the Manual: The comic mini-series Captain America: First Vengeance which reveals the backgrounds of the minor characters, such as Dugan and Bucky having been in the same unit and Peggy having formerly been undercover in HYDRA.
Almost Kiss: Steve and Peggy, after Peggy saves Cap's bacon by gunning down a HYDRA flame-thrower, before they remember that Steve was in the process of chasing down Red Skull.
In the scene where Red Skull is making his escape, he makes his getaway in a weird-looking aircraft that was powered by three jet motors on a spinning rotor placed on the center of the aircraft. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie? Real Life military prototype logs say otherwise. In fact, many of the designs HYDRA uses in the movie are based on actual Nazi prototypes that were either too costly to mass-produce or lacked sufficient power (such as the Tesseract) to be effective.
Surveillance cameras. Germans pioneered TV and regular TV broadcasts in the late 1930s. (They even understood it was too expensive for ordinary customers, so they used large TV sets in a sort of mini-movie-theaters.) They built a TV-guided anti-ship missile in 1944. It would be the most logical choice for the Red Skull to use on his factory.
Ambiguously Jewish: Dr. Erskine. Especially given that he looks a lot like Albert Einstein, sans the hair, and had to flee Nazi Germany. A case of All There in the Manual, in the lead in comic, Erskine's wife is confirmed as being of Jewish ancestry. Johann Schmidt couldn't care less, but makes it perfectly clear to Erskine that he is willing to act on it if Erskine refuses to work for him.
America Wins the War: Averted. Not only are other fronts and allies mentioned in passing, but the Strategic Scientific Reserve and Howling Commandos are both multinational, and eventually, things evolve into a feud between the SSR and HYDRA. HYDRA's defeat saves the world, but that is unrelated to World War II proper. Additionally, Schmidt also planned to bomb Berlin along with the other major cities.
The Cosmic Cube is essentially the only thing that allows HYDRA to power their advanced technology.
Vibranium makes its first named appearance in Marvel movie continuity; the iconic round shield is made from their only sample. (The novelization of Iron Man 2 also names it as the element Howard Stark leaves to Tony to recreate, though whether or not this is canon is debatable.)
Appropriated Appellation: "Captain America" was the name given to Rogers when doing the USO tours and he called himself that name during his first big military operation. The soldiers he rescued, who originally derided him, started calling him that without sarcasm.
Averted example: Steve addresses his drill sergeant as 'Sir' and this is correct for that era in the US Army and is still used by the US Marines.
Averted again when, the first thing that Rogers does when he returns to the base camp is submit himself for discipline. Of course, who's going to court-martial someone who saved 400 POWs?
Steve salutes Phillips and then lowers his hand without Phillips ever saluting him back. Military etiquette is that the junior salutes first but holds the salute until it is returned.
Despite being awarded the Medal of Honor, Steve never wears the appropriate ribbon - possibly justified, since the USO arranged his exemption from the usual regulations regarding his uniform. He also wears an American Defense Medal ribbon which he would not (as an active member of the US Army) have been eligible for.
The Red Skull (Dr. Erskine flashback scene, 0h 25min in the film) in his guise as Johann Schmidt wears an Allgemeine SS uniform with SS-Obergruppenführer (3-star General rank) collar tabs, but a SS NCO peaked cap (black chinstrap, not the silver-braid chinstrap of officers) and no visible shoulder boards. This would be an unacceptable breach of uniform regulations and etiquette for a German officer. Given his attitude towards the Nazi organization, one can assume that he didn't give a damn whether his uniform was correct or not.
There were no integrated US Army units before 1948: this was probably a deliberate choice to make the unit seem more special.
No integration of Black troops below platoon level (and that only late-war) only. For Asians and Latinos by comparison, there was no official policy (especially in units built around national-guard cadre they weren't that uncommon). Japanese Americans were "combed-out" of other units to provide replacements for the 442nd RCT from around 1944.
Howard Stark is a very minor character in the comics, hardly making any appearance, if at all. While Peggy did show up in the comics, she was a minor character, little more than a Designated Love Interest. Here, she is more prominent and has become an Adaptational Badass.
Jim Morita and Jacques Dernier were only recurring characters in the Howling Commandos series, but in the movie they're promoted to full-fledged team-members.
The Skull's mooks, despite their extensive use of Magitek, are easily defeated by conventionally-armed soldiers. Their disintegration weapons are bulky and heavy and only have single shot firing mode. In the Final Battle, they are shown picking off enemies one-by-one while Allied forces charge in and overwhelm them with much more efficient conventional firearms.
The Valkyrie bomber is eyebrow-raising to a fairly massive extent: It has twin turbojet engines... and eight propellers. These are justified since they are the bomb aircraft's propeller. If anything, it's more of a redundant feature on the plane. Also Truth in Television: The post-war Convair B-36 bomber, designed during the war to bomb Europe from the States if England fell, had six rear-facing propellers and four turbojets to help it reach takeoff speed.
The bomb aircraft also apply. They have the maneuverability of a fighter and an ejection seat, presumably to give the pilot a fair chance of survival once it's on a collision course with the target... but there are no parachutes anywhere aboard or in the hangar, preventing the Captain from leaving the bomber once it's about to crash.
Schmidt's Cool Car looks neat, but it apparently handles like an 18-wheeler in Real Life. There's a reason the scenes with the car in motion show it going in a straight line.
Badass Adorable: Steve, before and after Super-Soldier serum is such a polite and kind sweetheart that whether you're a man or woman, you'd wanna hug him.
Badass Bandolier: Invoked in one of Captain America's propaganda films. Played straight with Gabe Jones.
Badass Biker: Cpt. Rogers rides into a HYDRA with his shield out front.
Badass Boast: By Rogers, when going over the plan to attack HYDRA headquarters in the Alps.
Jim Morita: So what are we supposed to do? I mean, it's not like we can just knock on the front door.
Captain America: Why not? That's exactly what we're gonna do.
Both used straight and subverted with the Red Skull. The audience is made to think he's going to abandon Zola because his escape rocket only seats one, only for Red Skull to give him the keys to his car instead. Zola's still useful.
Batman Gambit: Arnim Zola's failure to take his Cyanide Pill leads Colonel Phillips to realize that he is pliable. So Phillips simply sends a communique saying that Zola's made a Heel-Face Turn using an encryption method he knows HYDRA has broken, but that HYDRA does not know that he knows they've broken. Upon hearing this, Zola does all the work himself: He knows as a demonstrated fact that the Red Skull does not broker failure, so his only chance is to throw himself on Phillps' mercy. Zola thus sings like a bird.
Beauty Equals Goodness: It's implied the Super-Soldier serum horribly disfigures anyone not pure of heart and amplifies attractiveness in good men - hence Red Skull's deformation and Steve's rocking new body.
Inverted. The characteristic red head that Red Skull has is in fact his true face, and the human face is in fact a mask resembling his original self. It is also stated in an interview with Hugo Weaving and implied in the movie itself that the red head was the result of his undergoing the first Super-Soldier serum project, due to a combination of the serum being imperfect at the time and his dark inner nature.
Played straight with Captain America himself. He starts out as a USO propaganda figurehead playing the heroic Captain America in stage productions and films and then becomes the real deal. At one point, he even comments to Bucky how the shtick has grown on him.
Betty and Veronica: Subverted. It looks like Steve and Howard are going to be competing for Peggy, but Peggy and Howard have no interest in one another.
Big Applesauce: Skull/Schmidt was originally targeting several cities, but once Steve pissed him off by calling himself "just a kid from Brooklyn", it became personal, and he targeted New York City specifically, bypassing the European cities along the way. When Steve reaches the bomb bay, the camera pans over several bombs labeled with American targets like Boston and Chicago. But the dramatic musical sting doesn't play until it reaches the more prominently displayed bomb destined for New York - Steve's hometown. The dramatic music that just started? That means It's Personal.
Big Bad: The Red Skull is The Leader of HYDRA and the one that the good captain needs to stop.
Big Heroic Run: The very first thing Steve Rogers does after his procedure is to chase down a HYDRA spy, barefoot, while the spy is driving a stolen taxi.
Bittersweet Ending: Everybody lives (though Bucky is presumed dead) and the world is saved, but everyone lives their lives thinking Steve had died. Steve and Peggy didn't get their dance, and Steve is in severe culture shock when he's awakened.
Black and White Morality: This is one of the few Marvel movies to follow this morality exactly (in fact, aversions include this movie's own sequel). This is justified in-story through the Super Serum that created both Captain America and his enemy the Red Skull, as it enhances people's true qualities—good becomes great, bad becomes worse. Steve Rogers is an idealistic, friendly guy who just wants to do his duty for his country by fighting bad guys, and becomes a capable war hero. Red Skull is a bullying Nazi extremist too evil even for Hitler, is so narcissistic as to have a god complex, and becomes an Omnicidal Maniac.
HYDRA's Tesseract-powered technology. Not even Howard Stark, one of the best mechanical engineers and inventors in the world, understands how it works.
HYDRA doesn't understand their own technology much better. They only know (and care) that it works.
HYDRA's technology only works because of the Cosmic Cube, and nobody understands how it works.
The implication exists that Howard Stark's Arc Reactor designs (which Tony then miniaturized) came from the study of the Cube as well. He did, after all, boast about "making the nuclear reactor look like a Triple-A battery".
Black Dude Dies First: Averted, Gabe Jones, the African-American member of the Howling Commandos is in fact one of the surviving members of the unit. In fact, he's also the one who successfully captures Zola.
Blood Knight: The Howling Commandos, particularly Dugan and Falsworth. They spend periods of days to months in a POW camp, get liberated, and sign up to go back to fighting the same people that captured them again.
Dum Dum Dugan: "I'll always fight."
Bloodless Carnage: Surprisingly averted at times, moreso than previous MCU films; one mook experiences the Helicopter Blender trope on-screen (complete with a blood trail as the plane keeps flying) and several people who get shot get red mists accompanying the hits.
Blunt "Yes": Dr. Erskine's answer to Steve's first time asking "Is this a test?"
Bond Villain Stupidity: Averted surprisingly well by the Red Skull, who immediately attempts to kill Steve nearly every time they meet. The worst thing he does is just assuming Steve and Bucky will die in his exploding weapons factory the first time they meet face-to-face, and even then it seems that he just doesn't have anything on his person that's powerful enough to immediately take Steve out.
Boom, Headshot: Peggy impedes the HYDRA assassin's getaway by drilling the getaway car driver in the back of the head. From nearly two blocks away with a pistol.
Boring but Practical: Captain America's shield. Stark shows him a handful of prototypes with built-in weapons and gadgets (never demonstrated, but he starts to talk about them) before Steve settles on the simple round shield. It doubles as a hidden test of character. The seemingly humble, defensive vibranium shield is the only one capable of absorbing HYDRA's disintegration weaponry. Without it, Cap would die a hundred times over. Of course, Stark would have a very good reason for making Steve take one of the more fantastic shields: The classic one is made of an untested material with unknown properties.
Averted in the train sequence. Bucky's Tommy runs out of ammo, he reloads, runs out, switches to his sidearm, and that runs out too. Steve tosses him a loaded gun so that he can continue fighting.
Played straight with the HYDRA spy who keeps firing his eight-round gun for five minutes straight but never reloads once and then averted again when the spy tries to shoot Cap after taking a kid hostage, only for the gun to click empty, and then played straight again. Sixteen times with an eight-round gun would be enough for two magazines were he not driving a car during the time he fires rounds eight and nine. There also isn't nearly enough time between those shots for him to reload even if he weren't driving.
Breaking Speech: Red Skull gives one to Captain America each time they meet. The subject is always how 'special' they are compared to normal people and how he especially should rule the world.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: In-universe, Steve Rogers/Captain America (or at least someone in his "troop") in the USO's propaganda films ended up looking directly at the camera, forcing the director to issue a retake.
Director: CUT! Don't look at the camera!
Break The Fake: Schmidt smashes the fake Tesseract before finding the real one.
Brick Joke: Howard Stark comments that Captain America's body armor can stop a knife but doesn't expect any HYDRA agents to attack him with a pocketknife. Such an attack occurs aboard the Red Skull's flying hangar.
Brooklyn Rage: Averted. Steve may be from Brooklyn but he doesn't have much of a temper.
Busby Berkeley Number: From what we see of it, the USO show that Steve's a part of, especially during the performance in New York City, where we see dancing showgirls, tanks that shoot out confetti, and a very elaborate (and very patriotic) stage.
Steve, before he gets the Super Serum and becomes Captain America. Even after he gets the Super Serum, he's still put-upon until he finally proves himself in battle.
He expresses his chagrin at being stuck as a USO dandy by sketching a circus monkey wearing his costume. This doubles as a subtle Continuity Nod to the comics, where Steve Rogers was a comic book artist.
Tønsberg, Norway. Centuries before, they nearly got obliterated in another war between awesome powers... and all they apparently got from being a living battlefield was some powerful ancient artifact they themselves couldn't use. Strangely, they hold onto it, and the results are equally traumatic when the Red Skull arrives.
An easy-to-miss one - Steve is having "trouble sleeping" the night before the procedure and at the beginning of The Stinger.
Steve repeats his Super Speed run from earlier in the movie when escaping S.H.I.E.L.D. custody at the end.
Steve's words of "I can do this all day!" are first used early on against a thug beating him up outside a movie theater and later used towards the end against the Red Skull while he is punching the crap out of Steve. This ties in with Steve wanting to fight because he hates bullies, showing that he sees the Red Skull as just one more bully.
"I had him on the ropes." When Steve says it after Bucky saves him, Bucky's like 'Yeah, sure.' When Bucky says it, Steve actually sounds really sympathetic, saying "I know you did."
In Arnim Zola's first appearance, we can only see his face through a small magnifying glass. This hints at his eventual appearance in the comics, where he survives into the present day in a cyborg body that's mostly just a giant TV screen with his face on it.
The iconic shield is foreshadowed twice. First, when Steve picks up a trashcan lid to defend himself from a bully. Later, when he rips off the door of a taxicab to defend himself from a Nazi assassin. (The door reads "Lucky Star Cabs," and it has a big star on it.) Also, the shield's classic design is called forward at the end of the USO stage tour montage, as we see the background behind Steve and the performers with a familiar red-white-red-blue pattern.
The first one is then called back to when a kid uses a decorated trashcan lid as his shield in a game.
The Cape: One of the very few earnest and well-executed examples in 2000s superhero movies: Steve is an honest and heroic Nice Guy who can't stand bullies be they thugs or megalomaniacs.
Captain Patriotic: Subverted, as the whole gimmick of Captain America was created by the government as a wartime propaganda device, and Steve has a more complex motivation than patriotism alone.
Car Fu: Used twice. First, the HYDRA assassin attempts to use his stolen cab to run over Peggy Carter, but Steve saves her with a heroic dive. Later, Steve himself rides a motorcycle up to HYDRA's main base and "knocks on the front door" with it, leaping off to blow up the main entrance.
Dungan talking to Jones about when he learned German while they're in the middle of escaping the HYDRA base (AND participating in a prisoner revolt in the same base, at that).
The final conversation over the radio between Steve and Peggy was them making plans to go dancing, even when they both know that Steve won't make it.
Steve and a delirious Bucky's chat also qualifies.
Catastrophic Countdown: The Italian HYDRA base briefly explodes before stopping and then resuming the self-destruct explosions. Justified in this case, as the reason for the delayed explosions was because Zola interrupted Red Skull's arming the self-destruction devices when expressing shock that he's blowing up the base before pointing to a video monitor and telling Zola that their forces are outmatched before resuming the arming of the self-destruction devices.
The Cavalry: Later the favor is returned. When Red Skull captures Captain America and is about to execute him, cue Dugan, Falsworth and Jones as they zipline through a window and start gunning down everything in sight.
Celebrity Paradox: Averted. Captain America comics exist, and when we see them, they're nearly identical to our own... Except that Bucky, who is present on the cover of the first Cap comic cover is missing.
Celebrity Resemblance: Kind of: Hugo Weaving explained in a press release that he based Red Skull's accent on that of Werner Herzog and Klaus Maria Brandauer.
Chance Meeting Between Antagonists: While searching for Bucky, Cap happens to spot Dr. Zola fleeing his lab, but abandons pursuing him in favor of finding Bucky. A few minutes later,, the two encounter Schimdt and Zola as they all head for the elevator, and Zola ends up cutting them off so that the heroes can't reach them.
Cheap Costume: Rogers is initially put into USO shows to boost morale and war bonds, wearing a costume that is more reminiscent of the spandex/tights of earlier live action versions of the character. He generally looks ridiculous, but both the look of the costume and the shield he was given serves as the inspiration for his official "hero" costume.
Chekhov's Skill: Prior to his transformation, Steve mentions that he grew up in the area of Brooklyn in which the experiment will take place, and knows the streets well. Shortly afterwards, when he has become Captain America, he uses this knowledge to take shortcuts that let him catch up to and intercept Kruger's getaway taxi.
Howard Stark is the more straightforward "ladies man" example, as shown in his first appearance.
Post-procedure Steve is a more subtle version; the combination of his stage celebrity, beefcake physique, courageous spirit, and all around Nice Guy attitude attract Peggy, a foxy secretary, and a doe-eyed starstruck blond.
Bucky was also one back in New York. He laments the loss this status around Post-Serum Steve.
Chivalrous Pervert: Howard Stark may be a playboy inventor, but when it comes to working within the SSR, he takes his job very seriously. He is not going to spend his time chasing girls, as he later explains to Steve Rogers about what he actually meant by "fondue." (Essentially he was requesting that he and Peggy go out and eat.)
Clarke's Third Law: Brought up by the Red Skull when a Nazi agent calls his technology magic.
Close on Title: The words, "Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment present a Marvel Studios Production, a film by Joe Johnston: Captain America: The First Avenger" do not appear until during the end credits.
Coconut Effect: The vibranium shield, when it's hit, thrown, or touched, or moved around slightly for display, makes a sound like a cymbal or gong being swept.
Combat Pragmatist: Cap's shield has important symbolic value, as it establishes that his goal is to be a defender, not an aggressor. He still packs a gun because, you know, there's a war going on out there. He also has no problem with throwing enemies out open bomb bay doors or into spinning rotor blades.
The Red Skull is the most prominent example. He is only called that once, as an insult. The rest of the movie refers to him by his full name, Johann Schmidt.
Technically, Montgomery Falsworth is based on the character of Union Jack from the comics, but he isn't a costumed hero in this story.
Steve is an iffy case. He assumes the name for a USO stage show and uses it the most while on tour. During the rescue operation, Steve introduces himself to the POWs as Captain America, and the Red Skull calls him Captain America without any qualms. The rest of the time, he's called by his real name. However, unlike in the original comics, "Captain" is Steve's official rank in this film, lacking his secret identity as "Private Steven Rogers." Since "Captain" is both his superhero title and his official rank, it's hard to tell when people are using "Captain" or "Cap" in reference to "Captain America" or "Captain Rogers."
Agent Carter combines elements of Peggy Carter (Action Girl-ness and the name and relationship to Sharon Carter) with Lt. Cynthia Glass from the Sentinel of Liberty Miniseries (who had the same look and was also Phillips' aide).
Dr. Erskine combines elements of Erskine with the original incarnation of Chester Phillips.
Col. Phillips oddly has elements of the mainstream version of Nick Fury.
Movie version of Red Skull has elements of Baron von Strucker (leader of HYDRA) and Baron Zemo (responsible for Cap getting frozen).
Composite Group: The film version of the Howling Commandos is a hybrid of the Invaders and the comic book version of the Howling Commandos. In the comics, the Howling Commandos were a special forces squad, while the Invaders were costumed superheroes. The movie Howling Commandos are soldiers pulled from various elite groups, have no powers (except for Cap) and wear military gear. note Albeit Stark's improved, semi-customized versions. Presumably, the better to sell action figures with. They include two Invaders (Cap and Bucky), two comics Howling Commandos (Gabe and Dugan), two characters that were allied with the Howling Commandos and one that was allied with the Invaders, who also has become similar to one of the original Howling Commandos.
Continuity Nod: The Norwegian town of Tønsberg, in the Red Skull's first scene is the same one seen early on in Thor, some centuries earlier - which neatly explains how the Tesseract got there.
Cool Bike: HYDRA troops have retro-futuristic ones, while Cap's souped-up Army Indian is a bit more old school.
Cool Boat: The HYDRA assassin's mini-sub was pretty cool. Too bad Steve had to wreck it to get to him.
The rocket-powered helicopter and the giant flying wing, both designed by HYDRA. Note that both were real designs from the period — the Triebflugel and the Horten X.XVIII. It's also hinted that the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube was the only reason why they even made it out of development instead of scrapped in real life.
Also, The Red Skull's Flying Wing aircraft seems to have been inspired by the never-built, but still impressive, Amerikabomber.
The mini-aircrafts (or rather piloted bombs) on board Red Skull's bomber in pusher configuration bear striking resemblance to American Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet with some elements of German Henschel Hs P.75 design.
Howard's Stark plane is pretty impressive for a private civilian aircraft flying through enemy territory.
Creative Closing Credits: The end credits incorporate 3D-ified versions of famous WW 2 posters like Uncle Sam and Rosie The Riveter.
Creator Cameo: Par for the course, Stan Lee, who shows up as a general at a medal ceremony. While he was not Cap's creator, he was responsible for reviving the character and bringing him into the Avengers (while teamed up with Jack Kirby, who was the creator). This marks Lee's first cameo in a Marvel film about a character he did not himself create.
Critical Research Failure: In-universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. When they build Steve's hospital room in 2012, they try to play radio clips from 1945. The baseball radio clips are actually from 1941, which Steve is quick to point out.
Cue Card: Cap uses them during his first USO show, taped to the back of his shield so he can read them easily. As he settles into the role, he is able to read the lines by rote and no longer needs the cards.
Curbstomp Battle: Pre-serum Steve gets curbstomped by bullies on a regular basis, and the Allied army's first major engagement with HYDRA ends up this way as well. Suffice to stay, once Steve becomes Captain America, he starts curbstomping HYDRA.
Cutting the Knot: The drill sergeant entices the Super Soldier prospectives with a ride for the rest of the jog next to Ms. Carter in a nearby jeep if they can take a flag down from the top of a flagpole (which no one has ever accomplished). All the knuckleheads clamber up and slip down the pole. As the sarge tells them to get back to jogging, Steve simply pulls the pins out of the flagpole's base mount, and topples the flagpole.
Cyanide Pill: HYDRA agents have a false tooth filled with cyanide so they can't be taken alive. So, to review, great dental plan, lousy retirement package. This later tips off Phillips that Zola can be bargained with, since he didn't make the crunch-crunch. Funnily enough, the comic canon states that only AIM has dental.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Schmidt has been following Steve's propaganda films, so the second he sees Steve is in his base, he sets the self-destruct. Just in case. Skull continues to show this behavior throughout the entire film. His two fatal flaws were having Zola save his car, which was used to get Cap on the Valkyrie, and when the Skull himself picked up the Tesseract, literally picking up the Villain Ball, in a sense.
After completing a failed USO performance in front of soldiers, Steve is confronted by Peggy, who offers him this advice:
Peggy: You know you were meant for much more than this...
This is also how Steve takes the Colonel's derisive dismissal after calling him a chorus girl.
Colonel: If I read the posters correctly, you have somewhere to be in thirty minutes.
Steve: Yes I do. [invades Germany]
Darkest Hour: Rogers just got booed off stage by the soldiers of 107th who can't stand his cheesy propaganda show and he is left sitting alone, drawing himself in the rain as a trained monkey doing that stupid show. Notably, this is after he was starting to feel pretty good about himself. Sure, selling war bonds isn't exactly how he imagined helping the war effort, but at least he was doing something, and a lot of kids idolized him for it. When he gets faced with the harsh reality of war on the Italian front (one of the biggest quagmires of the second World War), he's completely unprepared for it.
Johann Schmidt:(Glaring at the three Nazi officers shortly after one of them calls him "Red Skull") Gentlemen, you wanted to see the weapons I'm working on that will turn war in our favor? Allow me to show you.
Deadly Fireworks Display: Red Skull attempts to use the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube in his plane after Captain America smashes the device. Predictably, his attempt to use it results in him being disintegrated into a blinding flash of light. Or was he?
Deadpan Snarker: Colonel Phillips, especially at Rogers' expense. Bucky has his moments, too. Howard Stark, too. So do Peggy and Steve for that matter.
Determinator: "You just don't give up, do you?" "I can do this all day." Call Back here, too. The first time is a man who is beating up Steve because he was told to be quiet in a movie theater (the guy speaks and Steve replies). The second time is just as the Final Battle between Red Skull and Captain America begins (Skull speaks and Cap replies). Also, when Erskine and Peggy hear Steve screaming in agony while being bathed in Vita-Rays, they demand Stark abort the experiment. Steve tells them not to, that he can take it.
Diner Brawl: A pre-serum Steve points out a diner in which he was beaten up.
Disintegrator Ray: HYDRA's energy weapons work this way—which conveniently give us a lot of Bloodless Carnage. Not that there aren't a lot of other, messier deaths in the film. Captain America's indestructible shield is the only known thing that can completely ignore a shot from the ray guns.
Distracted by the Sexy: After Steve's conversion the Hospital Hottie has to get him a new shirt, but simply stares at his chest without handing it over. Eventually Peggy (who'd been doing the same thing) grabs the shirt off her and hands it to Steve.
Double Take: An SS officer ends up experiencing this when he notices the targets on Schmidt's map. When he checks for a closer confirmation, he then expresses shock and anger at the fact that Berlin is on the map (likewise revealing that Schmidt intends to attack Hitler). See Wham Line for the line in question.
Dragon-in-Chief: Johann Schmidt was originally a loyal member of Hitler's inner circle, until his face melted off and he no longer fit the Führer's "Aryan Ideal." At which point he was apparently banished to the Alps to lead the HYDRA science division. Eventually Schmidt decided to turn HYDRA against the Nazis and take over the world himself.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: Peggy Carter dabbles in it. There is also an actual drill sergeant in the training scenes.
Dying Moment of Awesome: Boy, does the Red Skull go out with a bang! Though whether or not he actually died is a matter of debate.
Eagleland: Invoked (Type 1-style) with the Captain America character cooked up for the USO shows in-universe but subverted by the movie itself (it doesn't gush about Captain America's role as the ultimate patriot, instead just letting him be a genuine superhero who fights a terrible evil).
Something of an opposite effect was averted as well. When the show went into the international market, countries were given the option of simply calling it The First Avenger. Despite America's less than stellar reputation in the world right now, most kept the Captain America in the title, with only the Ukraine, Russia, and South Korea deciding not to.
Steve gets one on his first appearance, sitting next to another Army volunteer who is reading a newspaper.
"Boy, a lot of guys getting killed over there. Kinda makes you think twice about enlisting, huh?"
Steve gets one that completely sums up Captain America when Erskine asks him if he wants to kill Nazis.
"I don't want to kill anyone. I don't like bullies, I don't care where they're from."
One of these moments occurred during his transformation into a Super Soldier. Further into the procedure, it becomes a lot more intense and he starts screaming in agony. This causes everybody to panic, Peggy orders Erskine and Stark to shut down the machine (which they attempt to do so in haste) - but suddenly they are stopped by no other than Steve:
Steve (still obviously in a great deal of pain): NO! DON'T! I CAN DO THIS!
Also, Peggy Carter's first on-screen appearance. She shows up all brisk and no-nonsense and, when Hodge starts mocking her for being English and makes various crude comments to her, she easily knocks him on his ass.
First thing Bucky is seen doing is defending Steve from a beating.
Even Evil Has Standards: One may get the inkling that Dr. Zola becomes increasingly disturbed by Red Skull's megalomania as the movie goes on before his capture.
It's relatively clear early on that Zola serves Red Skull not out of a sense of loyalty, but out of fear. Especially after Erskine is killed. Colonel Phillips is able to use this to get him to turn on Red Skull after he's captured.
Everybody Lives: Well, sort of, and except for Erskine. Steve is frozen for decades, the Howling Commandos, Peggy, Howard and Phillips make it through as well. Bucky goes MIA, presumed killed, but is actually brainwashed and turned into the Winter Soldier. Even Zola survives, and Red Skull is implied not to have died, but having gone elsewhere. Of course by the time Steve is found and thawed, (almost) everyone who lived during the war has died.
Evil Wears Black: HYDRA of course, but inverted when Steve wakes up in the future; when he tumbles to the deception the door opens and black-clad SHIELD mooks enter. Steve naturally assumes the worst and throws them through the wall.
Exact Words: Howard Stark says in a few years' time, cars won't have wheels. Once the flying car, shortly after gaining air, crashes down into the ground, he then remarks, "I said a few years, didn't I?"
A group of Nazi officers have come to HYDRA HQ to ask Schmidt just where those superweapons they were promised are. The dynamic of his response does not go unnoticed.
Schmidt: HYDRA is assembling an arsenal to destroy my enemies in one stroke, wherever they are, regardless of how many forces they possess, all in a matter of hours.
Nazi Inspector:Your enemies? note Specifically, not Hitler's, not the Axis', his.
An implied instance of this also occurs during the boot camp training. The drill sergeant tells the marchers that if one of them manages to get the flag from the flagpole, they'd get a free ride back to base from the midway point. However, he never actually says how they are supposed to get the flag, resulting in Rogers getting a free ride back to base after getting the flag... by unscrewing the bolts of the flagpole and easily getting the flag after the flagpole collapses to the ground.
Also when Steve shows up for the Supersoldier experiment. As soon as they gaze upon him, the entire room falls silent.
Inverted when Bucky sees Steve for the first time since he shipped out.
"I thought you were dead."
"I thought you were smaller."
Expy: If it's possible to be one for your own son. A lot of Howard Stark and Steve's interactions foreshadow the relationship Steve will most likely have with Tony later on (even though Steve and Tony spend most of their time bickering in The Avengers, although they start working out the kinks as that movie goes on), although Howard is further from the cynicism end of the scale than Tony, justified in part by the timeframe.
Howard Stark is also an expy for Howard Hughes.
Col. Phillips acts a lot like the silver age version of Nick Fury.
Face Framed in Shadow: Before The Reveal of his true face, the Red Skull is shown having a portrait done while his face is obscured in shadow while light is shining from a window behind him.
Fake in the Hole/False Crucible: When pre-enhanced Steve Rogers and his training unit are confronted by an armed (but actually inactive) grenade being thrown by Col. Phillips, he immediately jumps on it while all his comrades run. In doing so, Rogers shows to his commanding officer that long before his body is treated, he has the heart of Captain America!
Family-Friendly Firearms: The HYDRA energy weaponry vaporizes its targets cleanly and efficiently. Averted in the sense that regular guns and bullets are just as prominent and the movie makes no effort to cut on the gritty scenes, such as...
Family-Unfriendly Death: We get a rather graphic (and gory) shot of a HYDRA mook getting thrown into a airplane propeller. At least, it goes fast enough not to show any organs - just a gigantic spray of blood. Still very unsettling though.
The film establishes very early on that it's not going to be 100% family friendly though. The first death shown is quite graphic.
Fatal Family Photo: Played with and likely inverted. Steve has a photo of Peggy in his compass, cut out from a newspaper, and it's the last thing he looks at before Red Skull's plane crashes. Steve wakes up seventy years in the future perfectly all right... but Peggy is now seventy years older by his reckoning. A deleted scene in The Avengers shows that Peggy is just about the only person Steve knew from back then who isn't dead, though he can't bring himself to try to contact her. He does, however, in The Winter Soldier.
The Fettered: Steve. His uncompromising devotion to his principles is exactly why Dr. Erskine picked him.
Fighting Irish: Dum Dum Dugan. Somewhat averted with Steve, who although Irish-American (in the comics and presumably here, too), isn't that big on fighting (which isn't to say he'll ever back down from one or have one if necessary).
Final Boss Preview: In the first fight between Steve and the Red Skull, he manages to knock down Steve and dent Steve's steel shield with nothing but his fist.
Flirting Under Fire: Employed dramatically when Steve and Peggy share a kiss in the hangar while trying to catch the Red Skull's plane, and again when they talk about going dancing while Cap attempts to safely crash-land the plane in the Atlantic.
Food Porn: Phillips enjoying a meal consisting of potatoes and beef while interrogating Zola.
When the Red Skull acquires the Cube, the old monk warns him that if he tries to use the Cube's power, "It will burn him." In the climax, when the Skull tries to use the Cube himself, he is seemingly disintegrated by it.
In the same scene, a group of Nazis are scrambling to get the lid off a tomb to no avail. Moments later, Schmidt walks over and effortlessly shoves the lid off all by himself. This clues in the audience that he has taken the Super-Soldier serum himself. You can even see the seam of his mask if you're looking for it.
HYDRA's motto: Every head that's cut off, two more will take its place.
Note the drop of blood that covers the skull on Schmidt's HYDRA insignia during his first appearance. Also the guy who paints a portrait of Schmidt. He's using mostly red paint...
A minor one at the beginning: Getting beaten up by a bully, Steve uses a round trash-can lid to defend himself. Made even more obvious near the end when a kid uses a similar trashcan lid as a shield painted just like Cap's shield.
A broken taxi cab door when fighting the HYDRA agent right after getting the serum injection.
When Steve asks where they're going, Bucky answers, "To the future." And theydo.
The last thing Bucky does before he leaves Steve at the expo is salute him affectionately. Next time he sees him, Steve's The Captain.
The USO scene has one during the New York City performance when we see the background behind Steve and the performers with the red-white-red-blue rings, no doubt evoking the design of Cap's future shield.
Bucky found strapped to an operating table, hinted at in the Director's Commentary to Bucky getting at least a partial Super-Soldier test done to him. Also, he at one point saves Steve by sniping a German.
For Science!: The main motivation of Zola in regards to working for HYDRA. However, on the other hand, he seemed reluctant to activate the Tesseract machinery at 100% in the beginning of the film (self-preservation trumps science for Zola, and he wasn't at all sure the machinery could withstand full power), and it was also hinted that he was shocked and horrified about using POWs as slave labor.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Schmidt is having his portrait painted, you can see Schmidt's mug in all its gory glory for a fraction of a second after he's switched off the lights.
And when you look closely at Steve's enlistment form: his birthday is July 4th, 1918.
Funny Background Event: After the serum treatment, a nurse holds out a shirt for Steve to put on... then gets a second look at him and silently walks away.
Futureshadowing: The Incredible Hulk features the ramifications of the Super-Soldier project. The Hulk is the result of Bruce Banner's attempt to improve on it, while Emil Blonsky is injected with another attempt credited to Dr. Reinstein.
Iron Man 2 reveals that Howard Stark was a founder of SHIELD during WWII, and Cap's shield's prototype/replica is seen in Tony's workshop (and is even used in one of his experiments to prop up a component).
Ghostapo: While HYDRA is primarily a Stupid Jetpack Hitler organisation, they take a lot of their inspiration from Norse mythology and use ancient Nordic artifacts in their weapons. Except the Marvel cinematic universe seems, so far, to firmly establish Asgardian "magic" as merely sufficiently advanced technology which can be understood with advanced scientific knowledge.
There are references to Hitler being interested in magic artifacts as well. Red Skull says it's one of the things they have in common, though their intended use of such objects are different: Hitler for inspiration and Red Skull for direct harnessing.
Gilded Cage: Red Skull believed that his position as head of the Nazi science division is this. He feels that Hitler is hiding him in the remote base in the Alps because his appearance prevents him from representing the Aryan ideal. Because of this point of view, he swears to mold HYDRA into a force of terror beyond even that of the Third Reich. And he almost succeeds.
A Glitch in the Matrix: When Steve Rogers wakes up in the hospital. He realizes that something is not right, as the radio is broadcasting a game he had attended himself. He breaks through the set and gets out to the street and discovers the truth that they intended to tell gradually: That he has been a Human Popsicle for 70 years.
A God Am I: The Red Skull's attitude after taking Erskine's serum and having perfected technology using the Cosmic Cube.
The Good Captain: Unlike the traditional comic book version, Steve Rogers is a commissioned US Army Captain.
Hard Work Hardly Works: Due to his multiple health issues, Steve would never have been able to sprint several miles, run down a car on foot, fight a guy, then out-swim a submarine and capture him. This is the first thing he does after getting the Super Serum.
Harmless Freezing: After Steve crashes the Valkyrie into the Arctic to stop it from destroying New York, he is frozen inside the wreckage for almost seventy years before he is found. Not only does he survive this - being in a comatose state for all this time - but he is completely alright when he wakes up, with no physical or neurological repercussions. Well, apart from the culture shock and finding out that everyone you loved is either old or dead. Justified with the implication that the Super Serum is the only reason why Steve survived this ordeal, and in a flashback in The Avengers, the people unthawing him clearly assumed that they were dealing with a corpse, and were in shock when they realized that he was still alive.
Heart Is an Awesome Power: Not about any of the super powers in the film, but about the way Steve's lack of strength gave him the character to make him the right man for the project:
Dr. Erskine: A strong man, who has known power all his life, will lose respect for that power. But a weak man knows the value of strength, and knows compassion.
There's also the POWs fighting HYDRA with their own captured weaponry.
Hollywood Tactics: The American troops just kind of run at the fortified HYDRA base in a big crowd, in keeping with the pulp aesthetics of the film. Of course, they take terrible losses, but they get there, thanks to Cap softening HYDRA up beforehand.
Honor Before Reason: Steve will not abandon 400 men (amongst them his best-friend Bucky) to torture and death, even if he must skydive into a barrage of cannon-fire to save them all by himself. This selfless decency is yet another quality for which the Good Doctor Erskine selected him to become the ultimate warrior.
Hood Hopping: Captain America does this to catch a HYDRA spy.
Howard Stark Is Useless: Averted, when put into perspective with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: When he first appears he shows us the prototype of Iron Man's repulsor technology. Last we see it, he has just got his hands on the Tesseract that he's implied to have tried to reverse-engineer, creating the first arc reactor in the process and failing only because he was limited by the technology of his time. (Tony would later succeed using his data, as the technology had advanced enough to allow him to do the impossible.) And Hydra uses power armors that look like unprotected versions of Tony's Iron Man MkI armor.
Also, Captain America is implied to have wrecked Peenemünde, cutting short the development and production of the V-2 flying bombs, and an important Nazi munition facility (see Shown Their Work for more detail). One suspects the whole reason that Steve is not actually fighting in the war until a third of the way into the movie is because a Super Soldier would, putting it bluntly, wreck Hitler's shit. Winning World War II that easily would change the course of human history considerably, not to mention be a mite disrespectful to actual war veterans.
How Dare You Die on Me!: Peggy warns Steve that he "better not be late" for their first dance. He promises to be there, but unfortunately, it was not to be.
How Do I Shot Web?: Invoked when Steve, fresh out of the procedure, goes after the HYDRA spy. Unused to his brand new high-performance body, he winds up bashing a couple of windows.
Human Popsicle: Captain America is implied to be frozen in the block of ice containing his shield in the beginning of the film. One of the characters says that he was "in a coma," and it's not outright stated he was frozen. However, the time gap usually associated with the trope is intact. The Avengers makes this explicitly clear and shows a brief flashback of Rogers lying, suit and all, unconscious in a half-thawed block of ice with a group of scientists standing around him, in shock at discovering that he's still alive.
I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: During the prison revolt at one of the HYDRA bases, one of the soldiers, when picking up one of HYDRA's weapons, becomes a bit careless as to how one is supposed to operate it. It's even lampshaded. Thankfully, he misses.
May be justified by Cap's superhuman reflexes. HYDRA troopers prove quite capable of killing regular soldiers.
Further justified when you consider that his shield is pretty much a bullseye that would attract the eye, and would certainly distract enemy soldiers in combat situations.
Without his shield they don't even seem to bother aiming at him, such as when nobody shoots him at close range after he charges into the middle of a pack of HYDRA troopers and starts throwing his shield instead of using it defensively.
Howard Stark: I hear you're kind of attached... (Gestures to Cap's scuffed and dented prop shield)
Steve Rogers: It's handier than you might think.
Improbable Aiming Skills: Peggy makes some improbable shots with a handgun. Also, Steve and his shield, true to comic form.
Dugan, Jones and Falsworth gun down several HYDRA troopers without hitting Cap who is standing right in the middle of them. Particularly egregious as Jones is using a machine gun freehand and Dugan is using a shotgun, weapons that even at short range, aren't made for pin-point accuracy.
Improvised Weapon: While chasing down a HYDRA spy, Steve uses a car door as a shield. This serves as the inspiration for giving him a shield in the first place, though they didn't expect him to actually use it as a weapon.
And before that, the skinny pre-serum Steve picks up a trash can lid and tries to use it as a shield during a back alley brawl.
Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Like the comics character, one of the reasons Steve is chosen is because he has this, and the serum emphasizes it. With a character like Schmidt, however, it emphasizes the negative traits.
Informed Ability: Played with. The vibranium shield "completely absorbs all vibrations." A review points out that this should make it unable to ricochet off solid objects, but Cap uses it to do just this as one of his signature techniques. On one hand, Peggy launches a few bullets at him right after he picks up the shield for the first time, and the bullets hit the shield and drop at his feet rather than ricochet with equivalent force. That would argue on the side of vibration absorption. Clearly, the shield is a Vibranium/Phlebotinum alloy of sorts. Then on the other hand, something else happens in The Avengers. When Thor slams his hammer down on the shield, there's a Kung-Fu Sonic Boom which would argue vibration reflection. Both of these attacks are directed at the center on the shield.
In Medias Res: The opening scene takes place in the modern day, hinting towards what is going to happen in the movie and where they are going to end up.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Col. Phillips makes it clear in no uncertain terms that he feels Rogers would be nothing but a hindrance to the cause, and even feels that way to an extent once he undergoes the transformation, but once Rogers succeeds in rescuing 400 allied soldiers from a POW camp against his orders, he gains his respect.
Jumped at the Call: Steve, even before learning of Erskine's experiment. He tried to enlist four different times, a fact which intrigues Erskine enough to give him a pass. He is thrilled at the idea of finally being able to serve his country. The future Howling Commandos, too. They even lampshade that Steve is asking them to jump back into the very danger he just rescued them from, but they will do it anyway.
Jumping on a Grenade: Pre-Captain America Steve does so in boot camp with an (unknown-to-the-troops) dummy grenade.
Keystone Army: Ultimately averted. While all HYDRA technology is reliant on the Tesseract and cannot operate without it (it's up to debate whether the secondary power sources empowered by the Tesseract need to be recharged periodically by it or are linked to it via some sort of wireless energy transfer), this doesn't come into play at all and HYDRA is defeated by methodical base-by-base warfare.
Also Cap, from the perspective of Peggy and Col. Phillips. In reality, it's more like "the radio died mid-sentence before Steve froze over".
Also happens to the SS officer that is chewing out Schmidt when Schmidt decides to demonstrate his weaponry. Specifically, he is telling Schmidt that because of the discovery of his plan to nuke Berlin, he will be brought before the Führer for his actions, but doesn't get a chance to finish his sentence before Schmidt disintegrates him.
Last Name Basis: Falsworth with Rogers, and possibly the others as well. Could count as Nice to the Waiter since, as their commander and superior officer, he should be addressed as 'Sir'. Of course, Rogers may be in command, but he's still a soldier, just like the rest of the Howling Commandos, so this makes perfect sense given his personality.
Latex Perfection: The Skull's flesh mask resembling his original face. Except for those creepy flaps behind his face. Brrr... At least in this case, he actually has the bone structure to make it work, and it's depicted as being rather difficult to peel off.
Leeroy Jenkins: Averted, since Captain America does succeed in rescuing those 400 troops from HYDRA, alone, despite Col. Phillips' orders to back off.
And Subverted in the climax. Steve runs at HYDRA's front door and is captured. As it turns out, it's a diversion for the rest of Howling Commandos to get into position.
Let Me Get This Straight: Almost said line for line by Timothy Dugan, when Steve is recruiting the Howling Commandos. Effectively, Steve is asking freshly-liberated POWs to march right back into Hell with him. They all accept.
Literal Ass Kicking: Bucky pulls a bully off Steve, punches him, and then sends him packing with a kick to the tuchus.
MacGuffin: The Tesseract/Cosmic Cube, introduced briefly in Thor, and seen (as a sketch) in Howard Stark's notebook during Iron Man 2. Doesn't actually do much here except power everyone's laser guns and super vehicles and such. Has a more important role in The Avengers, where Loki has it.
It might also have done something a bit more exotic than "simple" disintegration to Johann Schmidt.
Made of Explodium: A justified example. A HYDRA tank is blown up by sticking a bomb to the undercarriage. On virtually any land-based vehicle, this is the most vulnerable area.
Made of Iron: Special mention must be made of Heinz Kruger, the Nazi spy who gets shot a couple of times and still outruns anyone that isn't post-procedure Steve.
Mad Scientist: Howard Stark has a touch of this, especially when investigating the strange weapons the Red Skull was developing. Arnim Zola of course is a more straightforward example.
Schmidt himself is a scientist in this continuity, and is by far the craziest one out there.
Magic Pants: The uniform trousers that Private Steve Rogers is wearing when he begins the transformation process. They still fit, and are undamaged, when he comes out of the process, having gained 135 pounds of bone and muscle in a matter of minutes. It does look like he's wearing Capri pants, now, though, due to him gaining ten inches of height.
Magitek: Something like it, anyway. HYDRA's machines are powered by energy from the Tesseract, an artifact whose power may as well be magical. Schmidt claims that it's just Sufficiently Advanced Technology, but even he doesn't really know everything about how it works.
Magnetic Hero: Steve saves 400 men from withering away in a work camp and selects five of them for his special crack commando team.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Averted. Pre-transformation Steve Rogers is terribly intimidated by women (owing to his small stature), even afraid to ask girls to dance with him. His apprehension remains after receiving the Super-Soldier serum, even when women throw themselves at him. His brief macking with the secretary may very well be his first kiss.
Meaningful Background Event: When Captain Rogers is on the radio with Peggy at the end, he tells her that there's no way to safely land the warplane. Colonel Phillips immediately leaves the room and instructs Jim Morita to do the same, leaving Peggy time to talk to her love alone. He knows what's coming.
"You're late." Peggy at Cap and later Cap at Peggy.
"I could do this all day."
"Is this a test?"
"It was his choice/This is my choice."
"Waiting for the right partner."
Megaton Punch: In Captain America and Red Skull's first meeting, Captain America punches Red Skull hard enough in the face to upset his latex face mask (the right eye is knocked out of position slightly, showing the red beneath), and Red Skull retaliates by punching Captain America's steel shield, denting it in the process.
The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Averted. Even after he gets super-serumed, Steve still acts dorky, and as Peggy notes, still has no idea how to talk to women. In fact, this was actually why Erskine picked Steve, and he tells him as much.
To some degree inverted. It is implied that Schmidt developed his... unusual features in response to the serum because he was an evil man at heart. Cap, however, is noble, so he undergoes no such transformation.
Mood Whiplash: Quite a few. Most notably the cut between Steve and the USO showgirls performing in the US and his first impression with soldiers on the front line. Needless to say, they are not amused. And then there's the Bittersweet Ending cutting to a rather happy and uplifting ending credits.
Mooning: Done by one of the soldiers stationed in Italy when his performance for them at the USO goes sour. (They like the dancing girls more than Captain America himself.) It's off screen, but the fact that he turns around and says something insulting and bends down before panning back to Cpt. Rogers makes the fact unmistakable.
Montage: Ones of the supporting cast around VE-Day when Steve is 'dead' and one of the USO bond tour. We also get:
On an unrelated tangent, the USO singers◊ during the tour montage are quite the lookers themselves and are examples in-universe.
We even see the soldiers in Italy demanding that the USO "bring back the girls" to the stage, after Steve's performance goes south.
Mundane Utility: The Cosmic Cube has the ability to warp the very fabric of reality itself. The best the Red Skull can come up with is to use it as a battery. Seeing as how it is said to "burn" people that try to use it directly, though, turning such an awesome power into a reliable battery in the 1940s is a feat in itself.
Col. Phillips refers to Steve in a telegram as Steven G. Rogers, a reference to a storyline where he had fake memory implants of him being a middle class guy from Maryland named Steven Grant Rogers.
Montgomery Falsworth's appearance (at least in the scene depicted in the trailer) owes a lot to Howling Commandos Percy Pinkerton, while his name comes from the World War I-era hero Union Jack, who is basically the British Captain America (sans superhuman powers) and thus wears a Union Jack uniform. While the movie Falsworth isn't a superhero and doesn't wear a uniform, he wears a pair of crossed belts over his battle dress to carry grenades, which - when combined with flaps of his battle dress' breast pocket - resembles the bars on the Union Jack. See here◊ in case you don't believe it.
Cap's first costume (for the USO show) is basically his comic book costume (except it looks like it was sewn by a blind woman who was drunk on moonshine).
Mr. Stark shows off his latest technology, a shiny red thing that flies, at an expo while being surrounded by dancing girls. Like son, like father. Specifically, he's showing off a Flying Car. Nick Fury and other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents frequently used flying cars in the comic books and The Avengers has the Helicarrier, so this may also be a way to foreshadow that.
Bucky mostly eschews his comic book tights for more sturdy fatigues, however his jacket follows the design of the top of his comic costume. There's also a point in the movie where he picks up Cap's shield, a reference to the fact that he was Captain America for a while in the comics.
At one point, Steve puts his shield on the front of his motorcycle, much like he did in an earlier made for TV movie in the 70's (yes, even before the 90's movie), as well as the comics.
During the scene where the soldiers of the 107th escape from the HYDRA base, Dugan can be heard screaming "WA-HOOOOOOOOOOO!" in reference to the battle cry that the comic versions of the Howling Commandos use when going into battle.
The first we see of Arnim Zola is his face on a television screen. His comic counterpart has a robot body with his face displayed on a screen in his chest. Also, some of the cameras in his lab mimic the design of the "head" his robot body possessed. It's also featured a bit later on: In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene, when Zola runs into his office in the Austrian factory, a few frames show him grabbing the blueprints for a strangely familiar android with a monitor on its chest.
There is a scene where children are eagerly buying the original Captain America comic book that depicts Cap famously punching out Hitler. In-universe, the cover is inspired by Cap punching a Hitler impersonator as part of his USO show. This is later referenced when, while rescuing the American prisoners in Schmidt's HYDRA base, they ask if he know what's he's doing, and Cap responds, "I've knocked out Hitler over two hundred times."
Stan Lee makes his regular cameo appearance, this time as an American general attending one of Cap's award ceremonies.
Red Skull is the result of the same formula used to make Captain America, just like in the 90s movie.
The Skull also had the facial disfigurement, although in the comics it was because of an accident involving his "Death Dust" during his fight with Steve Rogers and John Walker. He was also in a body that had been cloned from Rogers, and thus also benefited from the serum.
Steve is shown sketching in his downtime, and able to reproduce base locations on a map after a brief glance. In the comics, part of his civilian life was drawing for Captain America comics.
Steve uses makeshift shields several times before getting his real one.
The prop shield for the Captain America USO shows looks a lot like the one the character used in his earliest appearances.
The famed "Psyche Hitler" from an earlier film seems to be referenced.
Steve is given a single shot in the arm which he thinks is the serum but which is actually just penicillin. In the original comic, the serum was just a single shot to the arm as opposed to the dozen plus injections and Vita-Rays.
There are a couple of references to the animated Ultimate Avengers film, specifically, a German officer (Skull in TFA, Kleiser in UA) denting Cap's steel shield with a punch and Cap realizing just how long he's been asleep once he's outside. (That was actually not shown in The Ultimates, just Cap escaping from S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Many of the HYDRA weapons make the same sound that Iron Man's hand repulsors do in his films.
A Nazi by Any Other Name: Invoked: HYDRA is blatantly Nazi-like in its imagery. In this case, it's perfectly justified, as they were originally the Nazi's Deep Science division before they went renegade.
Nerves of Steel: Peggy steadily taking aim at the car barreling directly towards her.
Cap spent several decades lost and frozen between WWII and his eventual recovery.
Red Skull. Given how similar his "disintegration" is to travel via the Bifröst, and that the cube was also used for dimensional travel in The Avengers, it's almost certain we haven't seen the last of him.
Bucky, who fell to his apparent death. Onto ice/water. In almost the exact same conditions as Cap. After being subject to unspecified experimentation by Red Skull and Dr. Zola. (And after his actor reportedly signed a multi-film contract.) In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as with the comics, Bucky becomes, well, the Winter Soldier.
Never Gets Drunk: Quite literal in Cap's case, due to his accelerated healing factor and increased metabolism. Unfortunately, this means he's unable to drown his sorrows.
Nice Guy: Steve Rogers is made of this trope. It's the entire point of the movie that he makes a great hero because he was always a great person to begin with.
Nice Hat: Being in a military setting, there are peaked hats, maroon berets, and even a blue M1 helmet, but they all pale in comparison to Dum Dum Dugan's bowler◊. It gets even better! Later on when he gets promoted he puts chevrons on his bowler.
No, Mister Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Subverted. Col. Phillips brings Dr. Zola his dinner, which he fears is drugged. Col. Phillips prods him to eat, and Zola refuses, claiming vegetarianism. Col. Phillips promptly starts eating the difficult-to-obtain steak.
No Name Given: None of the Howling Commandos get named, except for Cap and Bucky. Even the unit doesn't.
Also, Bucky refuses to leave without Steve when the two get separated in the exploding factory.
No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The Super-Soldier serum. Erskine keeps the notes all in his head to protect the secret from abuse. The only viable sample not used on Cap is spilled in the ensuing theft attempt.
The vibranium shield is explicitly stated to be a prototype by Howard Stark, and seeing as he claims they've used all of the element that's ever been found, it's not hard to see why only incomplete copies could be attempted in the intervening years.
No Swastikas: Due to HYDRA secretly going rogue within the German military regime, swastikas are surprisingly hard to come by.
Initially Red Skull wears a hat with the (swastika-carrying) Nazi eagle, and the HYDRA insignia below it. The only other time the swastika is ever seen (aside from the propaganda commercial during the beginning) is with the three Nazi officers who come to chew him out and are met with a taste of his weaponry.
HYDRA still has a vaguely swastika-like flag, and a two-fisted salute and cheesy slogan ("HAIL HYDRA!") which strongly recall Nazi imagery.
And you can still see the odd swastika if you look carefully whenever Nazis appear. One example is the Hitler actor from the stage show, who wears the armband. You just don't see it clearly.
Not So Different: The Red Skull seems to view Cap in this manner, especially considering they're both somewhat a product of the same science.
Red Skull tries this speech on the Tesseract's Norwegian custodian, who quickly refutes this in a Shut Up, Hannibal! manner. The Skull admits they aren't alike, but have similar views on mythology and the occult not really being so mysterious.
Not What It Looks Like: A female secretary aggressively puts the moves on Steve, and Peggy walks in, assuming that he's become less selective. Steve protests in vain.
Remember that scene is in Austria. Steve leads the POWs all the way to Italy through very hostile territory.
Oh, Crap: That beautiful look on the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent's face when Steve says, "The game. It's from May 1941. I know because I was there."
During his first face-to-face encounter with Red Skull, when he sees the fist-print impression left in his steel shield after he blocks Skull's punch. Even funnier as just seconds before he demonstrated his strength to the Skull with a punch... which barely made his opponent flinch and tore a bit of his latex mask.
There's a subtle one at the start of the movie when Steve has just submitted a falsified enlistment form (again). The doctor examining him steps out, and an MP steps in. Fortunately, he's not in trouble.
Omniglot: Gabe Jones, aside from English, also knows enough German to identify which buttons to pilot a hijacked HYDRA tank (telling Dum Dum which one to press) and French. (He implies that the reason why he switched from German to French was so he could woo girls.)
Subverted, however, in that in the two times he's explicitly working alone, he's first on a stealth mission (that ultimately goes loud when he starts a prisoner revolt), and the second time, he's a distraction. In other words, he's really good on his own, but he still has limits, and works with the Howling Commandos as a result. In a bit of Tempting Fate, Phillips initially rejects Steve's attempt to get in the fight because he doesn't believe one man can be an army.
One Steve Limit: Averted and subverted. James "Bucky" Barnes, Jim Morita and James Falsworth are members of the same unit. In addition, Jacques is the French form of James, and a fourth member is Jacques Dernier. None of them go by James. Also played straight, as there is in fact only one Steve.
Orbital Shot: Cap gets one at the end when he escapes the S.H.I.E.L.D. holding area in Manhattan and ends up utterly bewildered by modern-day Times Square.
Outside Ride: Captain America does this briefly during his chase for the Hydra spy. Slightly more justifiable because Steve is superhuman and the windows were broken, meaning he had something to hold.
Overranked Soldier: Steve makes the jump from a buck Private to a Captain for propaganda purposes.
Somehow, Falsworth starts out as 2nd Lieutenant in November, 1943 and is a Brigadier by VE-Day.
Painful Transformation: Two of them. Firstly, Johann Schmidt: he is shown injecting himself with the unfinished Super Serum in a flashback - fire then burns around him and it cuts to his face twisting in agony, turning into Red Skull. Secondly, Steve Rogers. During Project Rebirth, he has the serum and Vita-Rays pumped through his body, making his muscles and bones grow - about half way through the procedure it becomes a lot more intense and he is heard screaming from within the pod. The scientists immediately get up to shut down the machine - but Steve yells at them to keep going despite the pain (becoming a freaking man mountain when it's done).
Parody Sue: Captain America as a USO show character.
Patriotic Fervor: Unsurprisingly, USO shows featuring Captain America are made of this trope.
Pineapple Surprise: Captain America pulls the pin on a grenade being carried on the back of a HYDRA bike during a bike chase.
Pinned Down: Whilst boarding the HYDRA train, Steve and Bucky get trapped on separate cars. Two squads of HYDRA troopers are sent in to take care of them, and while Steve easily takes care of his assailants, one straggler manages to corner Bucky behind cover. Steve has to backtrack to Bucky's car and flank the straggler so Bucky can get the headshot, leading to the Meaningful Echo.
Planning For The Future Before The End: After Cap makes his choice to sacrifice himself, he and Peggy make plans for a date. A tearful Peggy tells him, "Don't you dare be late." He agrees, and reminds her that he can't dance, and worries about stepping on her feet. He gets cut off mid-sentence as he crashes into the ice.
Politically Correct History: The Howling Commandos have not only an African-American member, but a Japanese-American member, as well, despite the fact that the military segregated those minorities at the time. (It wasn't desegregated until under Harry Truman right after the war.) Justified by it being a special unit personally selected by Cap himself (and deliberately composed of people he knew personally), and most the members were clearly not in the same unit before. It's also implied the African-American was a cook, as they were in real life.
Averted slightly when Dum Dum Dugan wonders if HYDRA must have captured a Japanese ally, only to have Jim Morita say that he's from Fresno.
The surprising bit is not that people of different races and nations (remember the French guy) could coexist. It's that they could do so with friendly banter and zero hostility right from the start. Slightly unrealistic, especially after so much attention was paid to Carter for being English.
In the tie-in comics, it's shown that HYDRA deliberately put men from different units in the same cages in an attempt to prevent them working together to escape. However, when their cell mate Jimmy (actually Bucky) falls ill, the future Howling Commandos put aside their differences to save his life, neatly explaining why they get on so well come the time of the movie. All but Jim Morita have proven their worth already, despite their race or nationality, which is why Morita's apparent nationality is the only one that is called attention to.
Powered Armor: Apparently employed by HYDRA Elite Mooks, at least to some capacity. The one present in the train seems to carry weapons well heavier than can be wielded without Super Strength and can take Captain's punches like a man, too.
Power Glows: The "Vita-Rays" used in combination with the Super Serum cause the chamber to glow from within as Steve undergoes his transformation.
The Tesseract emits a strong blue glow, as does the energy transference machine when used to empower secondary energy sources, and every single piece of HYDRA technology operated by said source seems to have a bright blue dot on it somewhere.
Power Is Sexy: Seems to be the reason the blonde secretary puts the moves on Steve. During the debriefing scene between Steve, Peggy and Col. Phillips, she can't keep her eyes off of him. When he asks if he can speak with Howard Stark later, she isn't even about to give him the time of day until she recognizes him. After that, she's all over him.
Power Walk: An entire liberated POW camp does so, which also serves as a Call Back to the propaganda film Steve participated in earlier in the movie.
First to note is Captain America's costume. The first time he suits up, he's basically wearing the exact outfit from the comics, and it looks hilariously campy. When he gets his actual suit proper, it's radically different, with a helmet rather than a cowl, mere decals for the head wings, body armor rather than scale mail, red utility straps rather than gaudy red stripes, and no "buccaneer" gloves/boots. It actually looks like a plausible outfit for a propaganda soldier. The Avengers◊ version drives a bit closer to the comic vision, though it's still different. It's more of a modernization of his WWII gear, replacing and stripping away outdated and unneeded equipment with 21st century equivalents in order to be lighter and more flexible in battle.
Second is Bucky's character. In addition to being an underage teenager, he was essentially a joke in the comics and archetypal of the whimsical, brightly-colored sidekick who's always getting captured. In this story, he and Steve are friends before the war, about the same age, and Bucky is a sniper. He also serves as a foil to juxtapose Steve with before and after his transformation. A lot of this persona is taken from The Ultimates and Ed Brubaker's run on Captain America. Bucky had been retconned and re-imagined to be older and much more competent, not to mention lethal, for several years by this time, and the influence is cited by the filmmakers themselves.
Also of note is the fact that neither Cap nor Bucky have secret identities. This was a standard trope for comics in the 1940s, but it doesn't really make much sense A.) to have special forces risk court-martial for doing the jobs they're actually there to do, and B.) to keep commanding officers in the dark and run the risk of them unwittingly sending two of your top special forces into the line of fire as Cannon Fodder.
"If you have anything to say, this is the perfect time to keep it to yourself."
Produce Pelting: This is what the American unit stationed at Italy eventually does to Captain America during a USO tour after a performance gone sour. One has to wonder where that tomato even came from, except they are in Italy...
Psycho Prototype: Red Skull is revealed to be the one who received the Super-Soldier serum before Rogers did, and boy did the results backfire on him, or maybe Gone Horribly Right.
Putting on the Reich: Surprisingly enough, not in reference to the Nazis themselves, but to HYDRA, whose method of saluting even emulates the Nazi salute, and the predominant colors of HYDRA emulate the Nazi colors. On the other hand, HYDRA was originally a Nazi organization, but then they take OFF the Reich and branch out on their own. This is shown in the double-fisted air salute which represents the two heads of the Hydra that pop up when one is cut off.
PCing history accusations were also made about the inclusion of Asian-American soldiers, as well as female intelligence agents. Probably from people who had never heard of the 442nd RCT or Nancy Wake.
Some obvious non-German speaking audience members didn't like the fact that Red Skull labeled his bombs "in English." These bombs had the names of New York, Chicago, and Boston on them - three cities that would be spelled the same whether they were written in English or German.
Reality Subtext: Cap's early career mirrors the character's origins as a propaganda piece, and early issues of the comic are made in-universe to help this. In fact, Golden Age comics were used to promote and sell war bonds. Hence the Superman cover asking readers to buy one to "slap a Jap."
His poor reception with the troops is the same as several 1940s actors who got out of the draft because they were making morale-raising war movies.
Real Men Wear Pink: Sort of, as Steve's USO costume includes tights and a knit mask. And the helmet that becomes part of his official uniform was stolen from one of the dancing girls.
Steve is also a talented artist who carries a sketchbook with him. In the comics Steve was a comic artist before volunteering for Project Rebirth and even drew comic books based on Captain America as well as illustrating children's books as his civillian job.
Reluctant Mad Scientist: Dr. Erskine. He only initially developed the Super-Soldier serum because Johann Schmidt forced him to.
Renegade German: HYDRA is a very rare Nazi twist on the "Renegade X" trope. They start as a Nazi superscience division, and then break away from the Reich while keeping up the fight against Allies and the Axis.
Required Secondary Powers: It is mentioned that Captain's cells have a healing layer over them, most likely to combat the damage super strength would cause to the human body. Of course, this has the side effect that Steven cannot get drunk.
The Resenter: At first, Red Skull makes claims that his lack of a human face is no consequence, and that he's actually better for it, going so far as to refer to himself as Erskine's "greatest success." However, when he later has Cap at his mercy after the two have been nemeses for years, he says Erskine "gave [Cap] everything" and asks Cap what made him "so special". So much for the Blatant Lies.
Also averted. Bucky seems like he'll turn into this, particularly in the scene where Peggy snubs him, but he's never anything but a loyal friend.
Played straight with Col. Phillips, once Steve is turned into a Super-Soldier. He thinks little of him and doesn't see much use for Steve outside of being a guinea pig. Though he decidedly changes his tune once Steve rescues the 107th from HYDRA's clutches.
La Résistance: Before getting captured by HYDRA, Dernier was one of these.
Riding the Bomb: Pretty much done literally with the Valkyrie's plane bombs, which are designed to act as both a plane for the various HYDRA members to pilot to the targets and a bomb to blow targets up with, with the targets' names being written on them. A slightly less straight example is when Captain America sends a mook plummeting to his death when he opens the bay doors and releases the locks on one of the plane bombs before the mook can even get himself secured in the cockpit.
Right Makes Might: Believed by Dr. Erskine to be the real secret to the serum's power.
Sadistic Choice: Subverted. A HYDRA agent, on the run from Steve, captures a small boy to use as a human shield. When the agent realizes he's out of bullets, he pitches the kid into New York harbor and flees. Steve edges over to the lip of the quay... to see the kid treading water.
"Go get 'im! I can swim!"
Played straight in the beginning of the film, where Red Skull persuades the Norwegian monk to direct him to the Tesseract's hiding spot in the church with the strong implication that he will have a tank shell the entire town of Tønsberg if he refuses. Predictably, as soon as he gets the Tesseract, Red Skull orders the town shelled, anyway, and then executes the monk. To be fair, the monk had refused and Red Skull found the Tesseract himself, so he was only doing what he'd promised.
Say My Name: The final words of the last Nazi official after finding himself unable to escape from Schmidt's lab before the Tesseract cannon fires at him is a terrified and enraged scream of "SCHMIDT!"
Peggy also undergoes the trope when the plane crashes into the Arctic and ends Steve Roger's final transmission abruptly.
Schizo Tech: An unusual example. HYDRA tech isn't too outlandish by the standards of modern audiences (Horten-like flying-wing bomber, mounted flamethrowers, a mini-submarine, etc.), but it's incredibly advanced by WWII standards. This is also lampshaded.
Most of it is real Nazi designs they either never got to work or abandoned because they were ultimately impractical. It makes sense a research group would have access to it, presumably perfected by the resident mad scientists or powered with their "godly" energy source.
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Specifically stated by Colonel Phillips as the reason Howard Stark is going to get away scot-free for helping Steve with the above mission.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: The reason Steve moves out for his first real mission and succeeds. Also, why he lies on his enlistment papers four times. (One presumes the first time he got rejected, he told the truth.)
And just to emphasize his strength of character, he immediately goes up to the Colonel to "offer [himself] for disciplinary action." This is actually how a soldier is supposed to conduct themselves if they disobey orders that compromise their personal morals.
Sealed Good in a Can: The movie opens with the discovery of the craft that Captain America ditched with himself inside, in order to save New York.
There are some other things that remain self-contained, though: Bucky being strapped to the table then subsequently falling to his "death" and Schmidt having an uncertain endgame when he touches the Cosmic Cube. All good jumping-off points to work with in future Marvel Cinematic Universe entries.
Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me goes into overdrive as the movie goes on, protecting large areas of people and/or equipment behind it as HYDRA agents seemingly can't help but shoot right at it. During the motorcycle chase at the end, the only section of Cap's bike that gets any gunfire is right on the shield.
A symbolic weapon for him, since he's more about defending the weak than defeating the strong.
Like another Marvel superhero's movie, Cap sticks a bomb into a tank and then has a slow motion cut of him moving away as it explodes behind him. Unlike Iron Man, however, Cap is on top of the tank while he's blowing it up.
If one listens closely, the Red Skull, upon gaining the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube at Tønsberg, remarks that Hitler is digging around in the desert for trinkets. Guess what he's referencing? Which in itself is a Truth in Television, as the Nazis often tried to seek out occult artifacts in their plans for World Domination, often sending out the Thule Society and the Ahnenerbe for expeditions and experiments involving these occult artifacts. There are also two thematic references to the "he chose poorly" scene from Last Crusade: firstly when Schmidt is clever enough to realize that the Cube hidden in plain sight must be a fake and works out where the real one is hidden, and secondly when Cap chooses the simplest of the shields.
This isn't the first time a key part in a person's plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler was named Valkyrie (although the person in question this time had an evil motive, unlike the real life and movie version). This doubles as a reference to the fact that Skull is using power from an Asgardian artifact. And for a bonus reference, the Valkyries' job in Norse mythology was to choose who lived and who died in battle, rather fitting for a plane designed to bomb the entire planet.
The repeated references to "bullies" and how "it doesn't matter where they come from" are clear references to Jack Kirby's reason for creating Cap in the first place: I know a gangster when I see one! Changing the jargon from "gangster" to "bully" could actually be considered an improvement on an already awesome point - bullies, gangsters, Nazis... they're all just thugs who hurt people For the Evulz.
A non-comics shout-out by the prop guys: One of Stark's shield prototypes is clearly the classic RX-78-2 shield.
Howard Stark is clearly based on both Real Life and The Aviator Howard Hughes. First by his given name, then by being a brilliant aircraft engineer and pilot, inferred he is wealthy enough to not care about risking his career, being a renowned ladies' man, last by his physical◊ appearance◊. This is extremely apt, because Tony Stark was originally based on Howard Hughes.
Shown Their Work: The Allied units that Cap rescues from a POW camp are the ones you'd find in the Italy campaign.
HYDRA's superweapons are faithfully based on scrapped weapons programs of the Third Reich.
Steve's dress uniform includes a badge: A parachute surrounded by laurels. That's a parachutist's jump badge, earned either upon completion of Army jump training or following an actual successful combat jump, first awarded in America during WWII.
When Steve brings the prisoners back to base, all of the soldiers gathering around to gawk have slung Garands, because the Army makes it clear that soldiers never go anywhere in a combat zone without their weapons. However, as an added touch, the few visible medics don't have weapons on hand.
The 107th Infantry is a lesser known Army unit, so lesser known that typing it in Wikipedia won't even direct you to the unit's page under its better known name, the 7th Regiment of New York, a unit that did serve in WWI.
In the scene where Steve and the Howling Commandos are going to jump on the train, it is mentioned that they intercepted an encrypted communication. While this is mentioned, you can clearly see a typewriter-like device beside them. Crypto experts and historians will recognize it as the Enigma Machine, used by the Nazis during World War II and famously cracked by the Poles and GCHQ (including a young Alan Turing). Given that HYDRA is a (renegade) division of the Third Reich, they would use the same ciphers as the Nazis.
Red Skull: You could have the power of the gods! Yet you wear a flag on your chest and think you fight a battle of nations! I have seen the future, Captain! There are no flags!
Captain America: Not my future!
Single-Use Shield: The eponymous hero starts off using a triangular shield he picks up during his stage show (a Mythology Gag to the character's roots). The shield is used precisely once as a guard against the Red Skull's fist. The Red Skull caves it in, and it is quickly discarded.
Small Steps Hero: Stop the Nazi spy escaping with a serum that can make an army of Super Soldiers or rescue a drowning boy? Trick question, Steve—the boy can swim.
The Smurfette Principle: Outside of the secretary that hits on Steve and out of all the support crew for Captain America, Peggy Carter is the only significant female member of the SSR's personnel. She, however, is arguably one of the main characters of the movie, though.
Socially-Awkward Hero: Steve, even after he gets serumed. He has no idea what "fondue" is and thinks it's a sex metaphor.
Soft Glass: During the chase right after getting the serum, Steve stumbles through a large store display window but is mostly unfazed and shows no signs of cuts, despite wearing minimal clothing and bare feet (having stripped down to undergo his transformation). It's possible the Super Serum made him scratch resistant.
When Zola himself is captured, he's put in an interrogation room with a hospital gurney, and is disturbed to see a patch of blood on the floor beneath it. It's possible this was set up just to mess with his head so he'd be more willing to co-operate.
Stuff Blowing Up: Up to and including an entire room full of bombs going off at once.
Averted in the sense that Hitler doesn't actually get to play with any of HYDRA's new toys. The moment the Tesseract technology is perfected, HYDRA splits off and starts its own agenda.
Stupid Sacrifice: As tragic as Cap's sacrifice at the end is, you start to realize the numerous ways he could have gotten out of that situation, such as possibly using a parachute or using one of the bomber planes to escape.
His decision to stay behind had less to do with him not having a way off, and more to do with him needing to stay behind to guide the plane down.
Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: This is Red Skull's take on the Tesseract Cube. He outright corrects one of his Nazi inspectors at one point when he calls it magic, and insists that advanced science "has always baffled primitive men."
Suit Up of Destiny: Both subverted and played straight. Subverted the first time Cap appears in his iconic costume, as there's nothing dramatic about it — he's popping up on stage in a garishly bright outfit for a bond rally. Later, the trope is played straight after Cap gets his shield and suits up to raid a HYDRA base, revealing a more practical (and subdued) version of his uniform.
Superhero Packing Heat: This version of Captain America is totally okay with using guns to complement his shield, particularly in the beginning of his career. However, he still seems to do more actual damage with his fists and shield than any bullets.
Super Soldier: Anyone who has read the comics, or any media relating to Captain America, should not be surprised by this in regard to the titular character. Anyone who knows about Red Skull's character, however,is in for abig surprise.
It should be noted though, that the Red Skull had been exposed to the Super Soldier serum in that other film about the Captain.
Super Strength: Enough to pick up an armored HYDRA soldier and throw him 20+ feet through the air.
Presumably, the war bonds performance where Steve holds a motorcycle with three show girls sitting on it over his head was not accomplished by 1940s stage effects, either.
In addition, right in the beginning of the film, Johann Schmidt/the Red Skull manages to effortlessly remove the lid from a coffin that even four of his own men could not move an inch.
A simple punch from the Red Skulldents Steve's metal prop shield like it was cardboard. He doesn't even flinch while doing it.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Howling Commando Pinky Pinkerton is replaced with Montgomery Falsworth... except he looks precisely like Pinkerton and not the least bit like Falsworth.
In addition, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that greets Steve near the end has more than a passing resemblance to Peggy.
Stylistic Suck: The stage show that Steve is in after he gets his powers could be one of these. Alan Menken even did a song fitting in with the theme!
Tank Goodness: Gabe, Dum Dum and Falsworth (all of whom later join the Howling Commandos) manage to hijack a tank so that they can aid their fellow prisoners in eliminating the HYDRA guards in a prison revolt, even destroying some of the vehicles. Later on, Captain America and the Howling Commandos, while storming and taking down various HYDRA bases indicated on the European map, manage to blow up a tank that's about three stories high.
The super-giant tank is based on the real-life (but never completed) Nazi "Maus" and "Ratte" projects.
Tanks, but No Tanks: In-universe: In one scene of Steve's propaganda film, a knocked-out Nazi tank is "played" by a Stuart with an Iron Cross painted on the turret - which makes perfect sense, given the period...
Tempting Fate: Howard Stark notes the he "[doesn't] see what all the fuss is about" when it comes to a sample of the mysterious Tesseract energy that HYDRA utilizes. Then he touches some with an electric arc...
Stark: "Write that down."
Think Nothing of It: When the flirty secretary commends Steve on rescuing the POWs, he replies that he was "just doing what needed to be done." This only entices her more.
Also, at the end of the rescue at the first HYDRA base, as Cap's about to leap a fiery chasm, he steels himself for an unpleasant experience.
Those Wacky Nazis: Oddly downplayed, emphasizing the threat as HYDRA more so than plain ol' Nazis. In fact, HYDRA is even a threat to the Nazis, making the Red Skull demonstrably worse than Hitler. Deleted scenes show them attacking both sides.
Throw the Dog a Bone: After five different tries in five different states to get into the army, Steve is approved by Dr. Erskine, who also specifically recommends Steve for the Super-Soldier project, to Col. Phillips' disbelief (who also almost says this trope word-for-word).
Translation Convention: After the opening scene in the monastery, conversations between non-Americans tend to be in English. Compare the SS officers meeting with Skull to, say, Dernier and Jones' exchange in French done mostly for laughs.
It fits with the pulp-adventure genre the movie emulates, where the Nazis spoke German-accented English peppered with "Neins" and "Herrs."
The Skull always, even during the most horrible fits of rage, speaks in an eerily formal style, like an old-fashioned university professor, unlike Captain America and Allied commanders. This must have been deliberate on the part of the script writers.
Turbine Blender: A HYDRA soldier meets his doom in this fashion. Unusually, the resulting splash of gore is explicitly shown on screen.
Two-Fisted Tales: Much in the movie's visual style and plot is inspired by 40s pulp fiction.
Two-Timer Date: Captain America ended up having to miss out on a Medal of Honor ceremony. Unlike most other tropes, he had a very good reason for doing so: He had to debrief Allied officers on the situation and tell them that he discovered the locations of various HYDRA facilities throughout Europe.
Underestimating Badassery: Even after the medical procedure, Steve still has difficulty being taken seriously mainly because he is the star of a silly propaganda show with no actual combat experience. It isn't until after he goes out of his way to prove himself in combat that people recognize that he means business.
Up to Eleven: In addition to giving physical levels in Badass to Steve and Red Skull, the serum is said to do this to personality traits. Hence, Steve's natural compassion and altruism are amplified while Red Skull's greed/rage/evilness is amplified.
Vehicular Turnabout: HYDRA's advanced weapons and technology are turned against them by Allied POWs. The opening seconds of the breakout is a Zerg Rush, but with every soldier taken down, the escapees get access to weaponry and vehicles.
Verb This!: A soldier in Italy says, "Hey Captain! Sign THIS!" before proceeding to moon Captain America during a USO tour gone sour.
Villain Ball: Nicely averted until the very end. The Red Skull's plan is completed in full with precision. Only a last-minute attack and Cap's final fight leave the Red Skull literally picking up the Villain Ball (more specifically, the Tessaract) and stopping his own plans cold.
A more subtle instance: Red Skull delivers a Breaking Lecture, then is incensed by Cap's flippant response and resorts to simply punching him.
Watch the Paint Job: Red Skull gives Zola the keys to his Cool Car to escape the POW-staffed factory, warning him not to scratch it. Later, when Phillips jacks the car to catch up to Skull's flying wing, he winces when the propellers do a number on the paint. Clearly, he loves that car.
Weapons Understudies: In-universe example. One of Cap's war films features an M3 Stuart standing in for a German Panzer.
We Have Reserves: Red Skull's rationale for deciding to work the POWs to death building their weapons, and later when causing their base to self-destruct.
"Well Done, Son!" Guy: Red Skull has shades of this concerning Dr. Erskine. In the end, Schmidt took Erskine's serum for himself, but he always seemed bitter that he never really earned it. This is what sparks his intense rivalry with Captain America.
A bright faced girl greets Steve at his propaganda show, with a camera flash providing her Audible Gleam. She looks set up to be a possible romantic foil to Peggy, but after her two seconds she's never seen again.
The US Senator who set Steve up as the face of the USO's campaign isn't seen again after he's "stood up" by Steve in the awards ceremony.
Hodge, the bully soldier, actually appears again after Steve returns to the camp with the rescued prisoners. He looks resentful but comes around to applauding Cap soon after, and is never seen again.
A HYDRA mook and his fighter plane loaded with bombs fall out of the Valkyrie. They could have caused a load of damage, but they are never heard about again. According to an Avengers tie-in comic, he managed to board the plane in mid-air, gave a "Hail HYDRA!" and promptly crashed.
Who's Laughing Now?: Invoked when Dum Dum Dugan is shown taunting the HYDRA jailor, and later commandeers a tank. Foreshadowed, when Dugan states "You know what, Fritz? One of these days, I'm going to have a stick of my own."
Wicked Cultured: When Zola walks in on Schmidt getting his portrait painted, Schmidt is listening to German opera. ''Götterdämmerung,'' to be precise. Props to the music editor who timed it out so that the ominous double chords fall at an appropriate point in the conversation.
Wide-Eyed Idealist: Steve, both before his transformation and after. Also, Dr. Erskine, who was looking for someone exactly like Steve to fulfill his dream.
Wilhelm Scream: It is heard during the motorcycle chase scene when Cap is on his way to the Red Skull's last base.
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The imperfect Super-Soldier serum that the Red Skull took enhanced his cruelty, narcissism and lust for power to the level of insanity. However, being completely out of his mind is no obstacle to his success.
Col. Phillips: You do realize that's nuts, don't you?
Zola: The sanity of the plan is of no consequence.
Col. Phillips: And why is that?
Zola: Because he can do it!
Woman Scorned: After Peggy stumbles upon the blonde secretary kissing Rogers. If that weren't enough, he further ticks her off by retorting/asking if she and Stark were "fondue-ing," which later leads to an awkward situation where, when "testing" if the Vibranium shield could withstand a handgun, she aims for his head. She forgives him later when a film of one of their operations briefly shows that his compass contains a picture of her.
World of Badass: Spies that plan to escape in super-submersibles. An intelligence officer who can get a headshot on a moving target from half a city block away. Soldiers willing to go up against disintegrator weapons. A kid whose response to being thrown in the Hudson is, "Go get him! I can swim!" Basically, the only reason Captain America gets super-powers is so he can keep up with everyone else.
You Can't Thwart Stage One: Despite the Allies' efforts, they fail to disrupt HYDRA's activities and merely delay the completion of Red Skull's Doomsday Device, leaving Cap with no choice but to save the day just in the nick of time.
Notably, the SSR forces do exactly what the military would do in their situation: Lacking intelligence about the goal, but knowing what some of the components are, they attack those components, hoping to identify the goal based on their successful operations while simultaneously attempting to derail HYDRA's plans. The fact that they fail to accomplish either goal (substantially) is a credit to Red Skull's paranoia and preparation.
You Have Failed Me: Red Skull executes an officer after one of HYDRA's bases was destroyed by the Howling Commandos (including one of their tanks).
Officer: We fought to the last man.
Red Skull: Evidently not. (shoots the officer)
Surprisingly averted in the beginning scene in a demonstration of his Pragmatic Villainy: Several Nazis are trying to remove the coffin lid to no avail (with one of the officers shouting that they have to remove it before he gets there). Instead of executing them, he just removes the lid himself. He fully understood 3-4 men could not move over a ton of sculpted rock with bare hands, but the idea of an officer failing to do his duty - and, even worse, fleeing his men to remain the sole survivor - was a different kettle of fish.
Subverted in regards to Zola. Zola (and the audience) think that Red Skull is going to abandon him to die in the exploding base, but he opts to save... his car, by giving Zola the keys.
Invoked by Phillips to get Zola to talk after he is captured, though.
You're Insane!: Invoked twice, both toward Red Skull. The first time is by various Nazi officials (before one of them alerts the others that one of the "enemy targets" that Red Skull plans to vanquish with his weapons is Berlin), when thanking him for proving to them how mad he truly is. The second time is Captain America's response to his Breaking Lecture, noting that Erskine told him that Red Skull was insane.
You Said You Would Let Them Go: When raiding the Tønsberg church in Norway, Johann Schmidt/Red Skull forces the Monk to reveal where the Tesseract is actually hidden with the strong implication that he will have a tank shell the entire town to the ground if he refuses. After finding it, he orders them to shell the town, anyway, before shooting the monk as he protests.
Of course, the monk doesn't tell Schmidt where the Tesseract is. Schmidt figures it out himself (by looking where the monk looked or something). He then does exactly what he said he would do, but it's still For the Evulz.
Zeerust/Retraux: The weaponry and technology of HYDRA is deliberately retrofuturistic, stylized after the visions of the future widespread in pulp sci-fi.
The trope is lampshaded when Steve and Bucky attend a fair showing the marvelous world of the future including a Stark Industries Flying Car which doesn't work — Call Forwarding the lack of such cars when Steve wakes up in the real future.
This also extends to the overall aesthetic of the movie, with its slightly blooming colors and light sepia tone. This reverts to a more realistic style when Steve finds himself in 21st Century New York.
Zerg Rush: The POW escape starts out this way. Then they begin arming themselves, taking weapons from the HYDRA soldiers they take down and commandeering vehicles.
Tropes found in the tie-in comic series 'Captain America: First Vengeance'
Mythology Gag: A primitive 1940's version of Zola's robot body from the comics appears (complete with monochrome face-chest-screen!). It eventually turns out that the real Zola has not, in fact, put his mind into this body (after all, he was still human at the end of the movie!); it's just remote control.
Superhero Packing Heat: Captain America doesn't carry a gun by default, but he's got no problem briefly grabbing someone else's rifle during a "weaponizing" attack and shooting other HYDRA goons.
Villainous Valor: Baron Zemo finds his own castle appropriated by HYDRA and is mutilated in an accident with Adhesive X in the logs you find. He struggles to find a way to get revenge on the Red Skull and HYDRA and settles on a daring plan involving a fencing match; when that fails, he urges the reader to sabotage HYDRA and get revenge on his behalf.
We Have Reserves: HYDRA's motto ("One head is cut off, two more will rise") seems to indicate this.