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Film / Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Spoilers for all Marvel Cinematic Universe entries preceding this one, including The Avengers will be left unmarked. You Have Been Warned!
"Don't trust anyone." note 

"The price of freedom is high. Always has been. And it's a price I'm willing to pay. And if I'm the only one, then so be it. But I'm willing to bet I'm not."
Captain America

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the 2014 sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger and the ninth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third instalment of Phase 2, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo of Community and Arrested Development fame. It can essentially be called a superhero-conspiracy thriller film.

Picking up after the events of The Avengers, the film revolves around the still struggling Man Out of Time, Steve Rogers, working with S.H.I.E.L.D. to battle new global threats as Captain America. However, after an assassination attempt on S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury by the enigmatic Winter Soldier, Steve discovers sometimes the greatest threats can come from within, and goes on the run with Black Widow to uncover the truth.

It stars Chris Evans as Captain America, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie as the Falcon, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, Frank Grillo as Agent Brock Rumlow, and Georges St-Pierre as Batroc the Leaper.

As with Iron Man 3 before it, Marvel released an animated movie called Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher as a tie-in shortly before the film hits theaters. A one-shot comic book prequel called Captain America: Homecoming was also released two weeks before the film. The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode that aired the next week also ties in heavily with the movie, showing the events of the film from the perspective of Coulson's team, and the rest of the first season (along with most of the second season) is spent dealing with the aftermath.

It was followed by Avengers: Age of Ultron, which wraps up the last few plot threads, along with a direct sequel, Captain America: Civil War, which also serves as a crossover with Iron Man, Black Panther, Spider-Man, and other superheroes.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier provides examples of:

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    Tropes # to C 

  • 1-Dimensional Thinking:
    • Averted when the Winter Soldier places a grenade under Nick Fury's car while it's barrelling right at him. When the grenade goes off, he calmly sidesteps the flaming, airborne SUV.
    • In Captain America's fight against Batroc, both stick to a single one-dimensional line with no side-stepping, but it makes for an awesome fight.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Winter Soldier's tactical knife is strong enough to slice through the side of a van, though it may be more from his mechanical arm putting a lot of pressure on it rather than the knife just being that sharp.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: A passenger can't throw the car from drive into park, but hell if it don't make for a good opening to an action sequence.
  • The Ace: Bucky proves that he's always been there right alongside Steve. He was kidnapped and brainwashed into being a super-soldier, but he deserves it as much as Steve does.
  • Ace Pilot: Same proves he was born to fly once he puts on his wings.
  • Action Girl: Black Widow, Maria Hill, and Sharon Carter are all highly trained and deadly agents of the spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Act of True Love: Steve stops fighting the Winter Soldier during their final battle, once he's certain innocent people are no longer in danger from the Helicarriers. He is willing to risk that his Brainwashed and Crazy best friend will kill him, but he won't return the favor.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Nick Fury uses an advanced metal-cutter that operates like a lightsaber.
    • Black Widow's quip, "I'm sorry, did I step on your moment?" to Alexander Pierce seems to have been borrowed from her superior.
    • The epitaph on Nick Fury's headstone is inscribed with the Bible verse Ezekiel 25:17.
    • Steve replies to a joking jab at his age by Natashanote  with a sarcastic "That's hilarious."
    • One of the targets is the Baxter Building. Good thing the Human Torch was busy playing as Cap.
    • Pierce's refrigerator prominently features a jar of Newman's Own Spaghetti Sauce. Paul Newman and Robert Redford were famous co-stars and friends, collaborating in several film classics such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting.
    • One of the books on Steve's shelf is All the President's Men. Robert Redford starred in the movie version.
    • The Watergate Hotel is visible outside Pierce's office. Again, Robert Redford starred in the movie version of the All the President's Men, about the Watergate scandal.
    • Robert Redford being cast as the antagonist is an ironic allusion to him portraying the protagonist in Three Days of the Condor, a film which has undisputed influence on Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
    • Steven Culp plays a unnamed government official, likely a member of Congress, during a congressional hearing at the end of the film. He played fictional Speaker of the House Jeff Haffley on The West Wing; perhaps they're even the same character.
    • Pierce mentions that his father served in the 101st Airborne. Robert Redford played a soldier in the 82nd Airborne in A Bridge Too Far, which was about a battle that included the 101st.
    • Sam states wryly that if Steve weren't a soldier, he could take up "Ultimate Fighting." In the Batman Cold Open, Steve fights a character played by long-time Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
    • This is not the first time Jenny Agutter has done a Latex Perfection scene; it had also happened in Dominique Is Dead, except there she was wearing the mask instead of being it.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Sam can only laugh when Captain America takes a friendly jab at his running speed.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Aleksander Lukin, the original Big Bad behind the Winter Soldier's modern-day actions. His mentor Vasily Karpov, who was responsible for the creation of the Soldier, is ignored as well. They are replaced by other characters of the film. Alexander Pierce for the former, resulting in Composite Character, and Arnim Zola for the latter.
    • Much of the Winter Soldier's background, such as his romantic and professional relationship with Black Widow, and in fact almost all of his Russian ties, is cut out, possibly to make him even scarier and more mysterious.
  • Adaptation Deviation: The STRIKE (Special Tactical Reserve for International Key Emergencies) in this movie is completely different from the comic book STRIKE. The STRIKE in comic books was the British equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D., while the STRIKE in this movie was more like S.H.I.E.L.D. SWAT, being a S.H.I.E.L.D. division responsible for things like hostage rescue and target capture.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Like the other MCU films, The Winter Soldier blends elements from various sources and continuities.
    • The basic plot is inspired by Ed Brubaker's Captain America: Winter Soldier, while elements from the Ultimate Marvel universe (especially Mark Millar's The Ultimates 2) can be seen as well.
    • The Triskelion from The Ultimates makes an appearance.
    • Falcon's costume is based on his Ultimate design.
    • The idea of Sam Wilson being a former Air Force officer and having the name "Falcon" be a reference to his military service comes from the short-lived Heroes Reborn continuity.
    • The dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. due to its internal corruption by an outside force combines the effect the Skrull invasion had on the organisation in Secret Invasion with the premise of Secret Warriors that S.H.I.E.L.D. had also been infiltrated and manipulated by Hydra pretty much since its origins. The basic premise of Cap fighting against fascist infiltrators within the United States government also harkens back to the famous Secret Empire arc.
    • The idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. being infiltrated and taken over by Hydra could also be from Warren Ellis' original plot for Nextwave.
    • It also draws heavily on the Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. miniseries from 1988.
    • The idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. using its considerable resources to police the world was also a major theme in The Ultimates 2.
  • Adaptation Origin Connection: Minor example, but Brock Rumlow is introduced as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and ally of Captain America.
  • Adaptational Curves: MCU Jack Rollins is much more muscular and physically imposing than his comic book counterpart.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job: In the comics, Jack Rollins is blond, as is Sitwell, who is bald in the MCU.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Alexander Pierce, Jasper Sitwell, and Jack Rollins work for Hydra whereas in the comics they are loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
  • Adopt the Dog: The World Security Council. After spending their prior appearances being obstructive, unfriendly and just plain ambiguous, they show their true colors when Alexander Pierce is revealed to be with Hydra. They immediately denounce him and attempt to help Fury and Romanov take him down. Not that it helps them much, as Pierce anticipated this move.
  • Advertised Extra: The eponymous Winter Soldier is actually a relatively minor character altogether. He's The Dragon to Pierce, who steals the spotlight with his Hydra shenanigans.
  • Agonizing Stomach Wound: As badass as Natasha is, when she is shot and captured, she was slowly bleeding out from her wound and would have died if not for Maria Hill helping them escape and find proper medical treatment.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: S.H.I.E.L.D. is preparing to launch three new Helicarriers, with repulsor tech developed by Tony Stark, and bristling with long-range weaponry that can accurately take out thousands of individuals simultaneously from thousands of feet in the air. By the end of the movie, all three are dropped on the Triskelion and the Helicarrier dry dock.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Hydra, after its defeat in WWII, was rebuilt. The difference this time was that Hydra scientists, including Arnim Zola, were recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. and secretly corrupted S.H.I.E.L.D. to recreate Hydra from within.
  • Alternate Continuity: The story line somewhat parallels the 1990 Captain America movie: the Red Skull survived WWII and becomes leader of an international syndicate who caused both Kennedy assassinations and Martin Luther King to further their own agenda.
  • Always Second Best: Played for Laughs in the opening scene. Sam is doing his early morning jogging, only to be constantly overtaken by Steve who keeps running past. After some friendly banter, Sam asks Steve to turn up to a VA meeting so he'll look awesome for the receptionist girl. Next moment Steve is picked up by a beautiful redhead (Natasha) driving a Corvette. Sam can only look on in amused envy.
  • America Saves the Day: Captain America, that is.note 
  • Anachronism Stew: A minor example in the assassinations attributed to the Winter Soldier. On a sepia picture showing him as the one that shot John F. Kennedy in 1963, he's wielding a Barrett M82 anti-materiel rifle that didn't enter service until 1982.
  • Anachronistic Clue: When Natasha and Steve are investigating the old S.H.I.E.L.D. computer room, Natasha sees the modern USB hub amidst computer equipment that appears to be from the 1980s and earlier.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: As it turns out, many of the major geopolitical events that have happened since 1945 were the result of Hydra manipulating history such that the world would willingly submit to its promise of order under it. It almost succeeds.
  • And Starring: "With Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury."
  • And the Adventure Continues: Nick Fury goes underground to fight Hydra, Steve and Sam resolve to track down Bucky and get to the bottom of the Winter Soldier project, Natasha disappears to build a new cover for herself, and Bucky goes off to discover his own identity.
  • Antagonist Title: The Winter Soldier
    • Double-Meaning Title: In addition to the name of the mysterious antagonist assassin, it's also a reference to a Thomas Paine quote about "the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot" who gives up when the fight gets too tough. Captain America sticks things out until the end of the line, making him a figurative winter soldier.
  • Anti-Mutiny: When the loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents attempt to stop the Hydra infiltrators from carrying out their mission, lots of shooting goes on.
  • Anyone Can Die: Subverted. Nick Fury apparently dies a third of the way into the film, but it later is revealed that his death was faked.
  • Arc Welding: With the Iron Man films — Howard and Maria Stark were killed by Hydra, and Senator Stern (seen in Iron Man 2 trying to get Tony Stark to hand over the Iron Man armor to the U.S. military) is a member of Hydra.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Captain's orders."
    • "I'm with you to the end of the line, pal."
  • An Arm and a Leg: The Winter Soldier has a cybernetic left arm. We see a bloody stump from the Soldier's perspective.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Surprisingly simple. After Steve and Natasha escape Zola's mind vault in New Jersey and find sanctuary in Sam's apartment, Steve asks if Natasha's okay. She says yes. He follows up by sitting down and asking "What's going on?" She opens up.
  • Arrow Catch: Or Shield Catch — the Winter Soldier catches Captain America's shield when it's thrown at him from behind. And he doesn't even budge. When he throws it back at Cap, Steve needs both hands to catch it and slides several feet when he does.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Fury's description of his injuries, following Steve, Sam, and Natasha meeting him after he faked his death.
    Fury: Lacerated spinal column, cracked sternum, shattered collarbone, perforated liver, and one hell of a headache.
  • Artificial Limbs: Once again, the Winter Soldier's left arm. The film dodges the question of how the arm stays moored to his body, as in the comics, he is an otherwise unaltered human with a cybernetic arm. The experiments Zola conducted on Bucky in the first film before Steve liberated him and the other POWs eventually gave him physical attributes that match Cap's.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The Potomac near the island is nowhere near wide enough to fit the full length of a Helicarrier in reality.
  • Artistic License – Military: Falcon can be a PJ, or an officer; he can't be both. They may have meant to say he was a Combat Rescue Officer (CRO) which is basically the officer version of the same.
  • Artistic License – Pharmacology: Nick Fury fakes his death with "tetrodotoxin d", claiming it lowers the heart rate to 1 beat per minute. Real tetrodotoxin has the opposite effect — it's a stimulant and thus increases your heart rate (while also paralyzing your diaphragm, making you unable to breathe).
  • Artistic License – Physics: Cap leaping out of a plane without a parachute would have had him hit the water at around 150mph, which would have turned him into a pile of broken limbs, if it weren't Soft Water and his Super Soldier serum. This article goes into more detail.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Batroc knows Steve is a super soldier with a vibranium shield, so he attacks hard and fast to keep Steve off-balance.
  • Attack Reflector: Cap uses his shield to bounce bullets back at his attackers during the highway fight.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral:
    • Or rather attending your own exhibit: Steve shows up to his Howling Commandos exhibit at the Smithsonian in street clothes and baseball cap, and nobody recognizes him save for one awestruck boy. The exhibit has a different effect on him than on other visitors because while he is still alive and healthy, many of the people from his era are dead.
    • In one of the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue scenes, Nick Fury visits his grave.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Cap is able to tell the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in the elevator are hostile by seeing subtle clues like excessive sweating and hands on their holsters.
    • When Bartoc proves to be not quite incapacitated in the opening mission and throws a grenade at Cap and Black Widow, Steve blocks the grenade then grabs Widow for a dive to cover. She immediately draws her gun and fires... at the window Cap is just about to try and jump through.
  • Awful Truth:
    • Hydra infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. at its very creation and has been waging War for Fun and Profit with the ultimate goal of conning the world into voting against The Evils of Free Will, thus succeeding where Nazi Germany failed. Project Insight is simply the turning point, the tool with which they plan to eliminate all of their potential opponents in a single coordinated strike.
    • The Winter Soldier's true identity also counts as this since he's truly Bucky Barnes.
  • Back for the Dead: Zola appears to to explain HYDRA’s infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. and then die.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Bucky Barnes, who is revealed to have survived falling to his apparent death in The First Avenger.
    • While Zola's physical body died, his mind was transferred into a massive array of old computers.
  • "Back to Camera" Pose: One of the teaser posters has Steve stand with his back to the viewer, his shield on full display, as he prepares to jump out of a S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft.
  • Bad Liar: Steve Rogers, beacon of morality that he is, is truly a terrible liar. Not a single S.H.I.E.L.D. employee is fooled by his repeated claims not to know what is going on, and Black Widow even calls him out on it (in a cute adorable way). He's no better at other kinds of deception, either. His idea of a hiding a USB key with the fate of the world resting on it is putting it between two packs of gum in a vending machine that is being restocked.
  • Bad Present: Zigzagged. Steve has trouble adjusting to the present, but he admits that there are a few good things about it such as better food, no polio, and the internet.
  • Badass Boast:
    • The captain does an incredibly low-key one in the elevator scene:
      Steve Rogers: Before we get started... does anyone wanna get out?
    • Then there's Black Widow at the senate hearings:
      Natasha Romanoff: You're not going to put me in a prison. You're not going to put any of us in a prison. You know why? Because you need us. Yes, the world is a vulnerable place and yes, we helped make it that way. But we're also the ones best qualified to defend it.
  • Badass Bystander: A tech defies Rumlow. Just some dude at a computer refusing to let HYDRA take over the world.
    Tech: Sorry, sir, Captain's orders.
  • Badass Normal: A lot of examples:
    • Batroc is able to go toe-to-toe with Cap despite not having a super-soldier serum in his veins. He still loses, but it is an admirable effort.
    • Both Black Widow and Falcon have brief fights against Winter Soldier and are the only non-powered humans to survive direct battles with him. Except for Pierce.
    • Rumlow is pretty much the only one to do a decent job in the fight against Steve in the elevator, managing to land a kick that sends Steve's arm flying back so the magnet on his wrist locks onto the elevator wall. It's not enough, but still impressive.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
  • Band of Brothers: Sam immediately bonds with Steve thanks to service. "It's your bed, right? It's too soft.".
  • Beard of Evil: Bucky Barnes sports an unkempt beard, longer than Perma-Stubble. HYDRA hasn't been taking good care of him.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • Played for laughs with Black Widow. She shows Steve a bullet wound scar on her abdomen and says that she can't wear bikinis anymore because of it. His reply? "Yeah, I bet you look terrible in them now."
    • Played with with Cap. The only times where Cap is visibly injured is when he was on the receiving end of a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown and gets a black eye. Then there was the scene just before it where Cap was successfully hit by the Winter Soldier's bullets. The reason this counts as playing is that Cap is purposefully tanking those hits, and every other time where he should be injured (including when he gets stabbed by Winter Soldier, which is the only injury that Cap doesn't tank on purpose) the wounds don't appear. Being The Super-Soldier, it is highly probable that Cap just healed the wounds between his fall to Potomac and his subsequent recovery. He has higher metabolism than normal, after all.
  • Been There, Shaped History: In the MCU, the Cold War, domestic terrorism and The War on Terror were orchestrated by Hydra — or at the very least, magnified — to demonstrate The Evils of Free Will. The entire time, they've been hidden inside of S.H.I.E.L.D..
  • Big "SHUT UP!": The Winter Soldier gives one to Steve (along with a left hook) when Rogers tries to tell him who he really is.
  • Big Bad: Alexander Pierce is one of the leaders of Hydra and the one pushing for Project Insight.
  • Big Bad Friend: Anyone familiar with the source material would think that it was going to be Bucky Barnes for Cap, but it's actually Alexander Pierce for Nick Fury.
  • Big Brother Is Watching:
    • Steve's home was filled with systems of surveillance from S.H.I.E.L.D, and the nice Girl Next Door? She's an undercover agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well.
    • Zola's algorithm and Project Insight. It uses things like your voting history, your bank records, your social media presence, and "your damn SAT scores" to predict if you're a threat and take action.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Several times over the course of the film, the most prominent of which is when Maria Hill saves Falcon, Cap, and Black Widow from being executed and buried in a shallow grave the way Rumlow plans.
  • Big Good: We get a couple in this movie.
    • Steve, of course. Such an influential man, even called a Living Legend by the Smithsonian, that he can get every honest SHIELD agent to step back and refuse to follow orders from the HYDRA agents corrupting SHIELD.
    • Nick Fury who, despite his willingness to use sketchy methods, is still determined to work on the side of good, and [1] is almost murdered as a result.
    • Secretary Alexander Pierce is the US representative to the World Security Council. He's political, but he recognizes Fury's value and sets Cap the task of "[finding] out who murdered my friend". Unfortunately, by the end of the movie we learn he's been HYDRA all along.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: When Steve fights Batroc, he briefly demonstrates a decent comprehension of conversational French. As one of his Howling Commandos from the first film was French, and that Steve served in France (among other countries), this makes sense. Batroc challenges Steve to fight him without his "bouclier" (shield), and Steve complies.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Alexander Pierce, Jasper Sitwell, Brock Rumlow, Jack Rollin, Senator Stern, any Hydra operative working as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Project Insight is stopped, but S.H.I.E.L.D. is dissolved due to Hydra's internal corruption of the organisation coming to light; Nick Fury continues to fake his death following every S.H.I.E.L.D. secret being leaked onto the internet, and goes underground to combat Hydra. Black Widow's past is out in the open, but she faces no charges for her past crimes and goes away to form a new identity. The Winter Soldier saves Cap from drowning, but remains amnesiac and begins looking to find out the answers to his former life as Bucky Barnes, with Cap and Falcon setting out to track him down.
  • Black Bug Room: From the looks of the Winter Soldier's horrific flashback, the inside of his mind is this at least some of the time.
  • Black Comedy:
    • Steve tends to indulge in some dark snarking whenever Natasha tries to get him to think about something other than work.
      Natasha: You do anything fun Saturday night?
      Steve: Well, all the guys in my barbershop quartet are dead, so, no, not really.
    • Natasha casually talks about Steve's love life, as part of her frequent attempts to get him a date, after throwing Sitwell from high altitude.
  • Black Guy Dies First: Fury is the first to get shot by the Winter Soldier. Subverted when he's revealed to be Faking the Dead.
  • Blocking Stops All Damage:
    • It's justified by Cap having a Vibranium shield in addition to being a Super-Soldier. Without the shield, he blocks the Winter Soldier's metal arm with no signs of lasting damage, and at one point with the shield, he literally blocks the ground to survive falling from about 20 stories!
    • Subverted when Cap uses the shield to block a grenade explosion. The impact still launches both Cap and his shield off of a bridge and into a bus — an impact that knocks Cap out for a minute or two. Though he's fine after that.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Sharon Carter, Maria Hill and Natasha Romanoff, in that order.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: It's somewhat difficult to put a finger on exactly how The Winter Soldier thinks with regards to morality, but "blue and orange" is the best way. He's not so much a person as he is a weapon with a human body and brain — almost all traces of humanity have been destroyed by Hydra's brain wipes. He thinks only in the context of completing his assigned mission (like a machine programmed to do a task), so the idea that what he's doing is wrong might not ever cross his mind. Alexander Pierce does tell him that his work has been "a gift to mankind," so if he does have anything resembling a moral conscience, it might be telling him that he's actually doing the right thing — especially since the trailers made it seem like Pierce was saying it as part of a motivational speech to Steve.
  • Body Horror: Bucky's cybernetic arm is joined to his body with a rather raw edge. It's not quite an open wound, but it's an angry zit.
  • Bond One-Liner: After Cap's team rescues Sitwell and a group of hostages from the hijackers, Sitwell quips, "I told you; S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't negotiate."
  • Booked Full of Mooks: While Cap is on an elevator full of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, he grows suspicious and realizes that everyone else onboard is in fact planning to ambush him.
  • Book Ends:
    • Cap jumps into the sea at the film's start as part of a rescue operation, a confident man with a plan. In the final fight, he falls into the Potomac from a destroyed Helicarrier, battered and nearly dead. S.H.I.E.L.D. is destroyed, and everything he fought for is put into question. However, it is a familiar friend who saves him in this time of need — Bucky.
    • Steve repeatedly tells Sam "On your left," while running laps past him. At the end, Steve says the same thing while lying in a bed to the left of Sam. Also, the Marvin Gaye song "Trouble Man", which Sam recommended, is playing over the ending montage.
    • Steve's first and last (not counting the part after where he doesn't fight back) fights in the movie end with him putting his opponent in a sleeper hold.
    • Also, in Steve's first major confrontation, against Batroc, he intentionally drops his shield and then takes off his mask. In his last major confrontation, against Bucky, he takes off his mask and then drops his shield. In both situations, he is doing so in order to prove that he is more than just the shield.
  • Borrowed Without Permission: Cap and Black Widow are on the run and take a road trip to New Jersey in search of answers. Widow is surprised that Captain America knows how to steal a car, but he gives the very pragmatic answer that he—y'know, used to fight a war in Nazi Germany. He also corrects her with this trope; they borrowed the car. He's still The Cape, after all.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Shows up a lot, but is notably averted at one point when the Winter Soldier pulls out a Skorpion submachine gun and holds down the trigger. It is empty in under two seconds. He then tosses it away.
  • Boxed Crook: Zola was recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D. along with other Nazi scientists. They used this opportunity to rebuild Hydra.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When Pierce sees the Winter Soldier sitting in his kitchen, he tells his maid she can go, then he offers WS some milk. Then he starts giving the man orders for political assassinations.
  • Broken Faceplate: Black Widow manages to shoot at the Winter Soldier's visor, cracking it enough for him to get rid of it.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: Cap is blasted through a bus during the freeway battle. The occupants escape just before Hydra agents fire on it. Earlier, a Hydra assassin shows his callous disregard for innocent bystanders by shooting through a bus at Nick Fury.
  • Brain Uploading: Dr. Zola uses this method to survive into the present day and continue aiding Hydra.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: This is the method that Pierce uses to keep the Winter Soldier in line.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Steve eventually switches into his WWII Cap suit, after recovering it from the Air and Space Museum. Stan Lee plays the security guard who realizes that he's going to get fired for it.
  • Brick Joke:
    • At the start of the movie, Steve is seen lapping Sam constantly as they both run around the Reflecting Pool, with the former calling out "On your left!" as he passes the latter each time. Steve repeats this line when he regains consciousness at the film's end, with Sam standing vigil on the right side of his hospital bed.
    • Sam recommends that Steve take up "Ultimate Fighting". Later Cap uses a textbook rear naked choke (a common MMA maneuver) against Winter Soldier.
    • In the same scene, Sam recommends the "Trouble Man" soundtrack to Steve. Sam has the soundtrack playing while Steve recovers.
    • A multi-film example: in First Avenger, Howard and Steve are testing out shields and Howard quips that HYDRA isn't going to attack him with a pocket knife. Not only does that become a Brick Joke in that movie itself, but the Winter Soldier also pulls a knife on Steve.
  • Bridal Carry: Steve to an unconscious Natasha after a missile targets the bunker they were in.
  • The Brute: Brock Rumlow serves as the muscle to the Big Bad. Likewise, Jack Rollins serves as Rumlow's own.
  • Call-Back:
    • In the first movie, Steve tells the recruiter how his parents died. A flashback from this one picks up after his mother's funeral, he mentions she's buried, "... next to Dad."
    • Midway through The Avengers, Steve discovered Hydra tech on the original Helicarrier. That plot thread goes much further than anyone at the time could have guessed.
    • The events of The Avengers (namely Loki's arrival and the Chitauri invasion of New York) are used as the major justification for why S.H.I.E.L.D. has extended its influence and now takes a much harsher stance against threats.
    • Fury says that Stark upgraded the helicarriers with repulsor technology after getting a close look at their turbines back in Avengers.
    • Natasha quotes "Shall we play a game? when she launches Zola's platform. She tries to tell Steve what the reference is, but he cuts her off, telling her he's seen the movie. He's been watching movies since Avengers.
  • The Cameo:
    • Senator Stern from Iron Man 2 shows up again, this time revealed as a member of Hydra. During his conversation with Agent Sitwell, he even compliments the pin on the latter's lapel, reminding us of something he's forced to do at the end of that film.
    • Peggy Carter shows up in three scenes, once in the present, once in stock footage, once as a portrait displayed in the first S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker.
    • We see pictures and stock footage of the Howling Commandos, Howard Stark, and General Phillips from the first film.
    • Arnim Zola and a picture of the Red Skull (before and after he took the serum) appear in a scene.
    • Stan Lee shows up as a security guard at the Air and Space Museum right after Steve steals his WWII Captain America duds from there.
    • Danny Pudi of Community fame plays a S.H.I.E.L.D. technician in a brief scene wherein he is held at gunpoint by Sam and Maria.
    • Ed Brubaker, who originally created the Winter Soldier in the comics, pops up as a nameless scientist.
    • When Hydra begins Project Insight, one of the crosshairs their satellites focus on is Stark Tower.
    • Gary Sinise does the voiceover at Cap's Smithsonian exhibit.
    • Baron von Strucker, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver all appear in The Stinger.
    • Joss Whedon has a cameo as a visitor at the Smithsonian.
    • Steven Culp appears as a government official interrogating Black Widow.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Baron von Strucker being a modern times character seems to rule his appearance as a WWII-era Hydra leader in the video game Captain America: Super Soldier non-canonical. Also, Steve is shown to have recently lost his mother while both are adults, with Bucky's parents mentioned as still being alive. This seems to rule the tie-in comic to the first film, Captain America: First Vengeance (where Steve and Bucky meet as orphans 6 years after Steve's mother's death) non-canonical.
  • Captain Geographic: Starring the Trope Namer, CAPTAIN AMERICA!
  • Captain Obvious: When the Hydra hit squad ambushes Fury's car, they first attempt to get past his car's defenses by shooting up the windows, riddling them with bullets. When that fails, the team deploys a tripod-mounted pneumatic battering ram next to Fury's SUV.
    Onboard Computer: Warning: Window integrity compromised.
    Nick Fury: You think?!
  • Car Fu: Nick Fury gives a master class with how he exploits traffic and road signs to defeat his would-be assassins. He throws them around like winter wheat. He steers through traffic and never gets injured after the initial ambush. It's not until the Winter Soldier shows up that Fury's really in trouble. Even then, he gets away no problem.
  • Casting Gag: Robert Redford is on the other side of the government conspiracy this time (getting to do this is even part of why he took the role).
  • Casual Danger Dialogue:
    • The AI in Fury's car is naturally calm, since it's a computer, but the contrast with the situation is hilarious.
      Computer: Communications array damaged.
      Fury: Well, what's not damaged?!
      Computer: Air conditioning is fully operational.
    • Being in the middle of dangerous missions doesn't stop Natasha from suggesting girls for Steve to ask out, to the point of it being a Running Gag, including when performing High-Altitude Interrogation on Sitwell.
    Natasha: What about Laura from accounting?
    Steve: The one with the lip piercing? Yeah, I'm not ready for that.
    Sitwell: [dopplered screaming]
    • Maria Hill also does this when she's operating the radio, casually pushing her chair back from the table, firing a couple of times, then pulling the chair back again, all without interrupting her dialogue at all.
  • Casual High Drop: When pursuing Black Widow, the eponymous Winter Soldier casually drops from an overpass to a car on the ground far below, then strolls down off the mostly crushed vehicle. By contrast, both Widow and the Winter Soldier's mooks had to rappel down.
  • Catch and Return: Winter Soldier catches Cap's shield and tosses it back at him.
  • Catching Up on History: Steve is still adjusting to the modern era (though pleased with a lot of the advancements) and has been making a list of all the things that he needs to catch up on.
  • Ceiling Smash: Cap incapacitates Rumlow in the elevator by throwing him straight upwards.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • According to Steve's notebook, both Star Trek and Star Wars exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, implying Thor's actor Chris Hemsworthnote  and Jane Foster's actress Natalie Portmannote  both exist in this universe, too. Then there's Samuel L. Jackson, a.k.a. Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequels.
    • The makers of Honest Trailers asknote  the Russo Brothers, "In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is it just a coincidence that Mace Windu looks like Nick Fury, or is it like in Last Action Hero where Sylvester Stallone plays all the Arnold Schwarzenegger parts?"note  Anthony Russo simply responds, "You're hurting my brain."
    • Agent Sitwell mentions Stephen Strange, is later played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who stars in Star Trek Into Darkness. The UK version makes this even worse by including Sherlock, which is one of Cumberbatch's more signature roles and includes an appearance by Toby Jones as Culverton Smith.
    • Steve has a copy of All the President's Men on his bookshelf. The film adaptation of the book stars Robert Redford (who plays Alexander Pierce) as Bob Woodward. At one point Pierce even stares out of his office window at the Watergate complex. Pierce has a bottle of Newman's Own spaghetti sauce in his fridge, named for the late Paul Newman. Robert Redford costarred with Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting.
    • A subtle one comes about with Nick Fury's fake grave. The epitaph reads "The path of the righteous man... — Ezekiel 25:17" which is an obvious reference to Samuel L Jackson's role as Jules in Pulp Fiction. What makes it an example of this trope is that the verse Jules recites was largely invented for the film. The actual verse Ezekiel 25:17 is limited to the lines about the Lord's vengeance and doesn't mention the "righteous man".
  • Central Theme: Knowledge and secrets, as fitting for a spy thriller. One particular secret ends up causing big problems in Civil War.
  • Cerebus Retcon:
    • Gives a minor one to Iron Man 2 with the revelation that Senator Stern is an agent of Hydra, since this implies that the real reason he was after the Iron Man suits was so that Hydra could make their own. And makes Tony's humiliation of Senator Stern at that hearing much more awesome once you realize he trolled a Hydra agent on international television.
    • Another comes with Agent Sitwell, who was a really minor character in the movies and a close friend to Coulson in the few S.H.I.E.L.D. shorts (and was a protagonist in one of them, and also appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.); turns out he's also be a Hydra agent. Damn. We almost liked that guy, too.
    • In Captain America: The First Avenger Hydra's catchphrase of "Cut off one head, two more shall take its place" was largely treated as a joke. This movie shows that it was far from it and more true than anyone would have ever guessed after they have all but taken over S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, the whole business with how they captured Arnim Zola and he supposedly caved under Col. Phillips. Zola did it all just to use S.H.I.E.L.D. to further Hydra's agenda.
  • Chainsaw-Grip BFG:
    • One of the gunmen in the highway ambush uses a minigun with this setup.
    • Some of the spring-loaded launchers in the toy line have this prominent feature.
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: During the climax, Black Widow manages to go from a modest business outfit into her usual Spy Catsuit after a scene transition, even though she and her associates are rushing to board a rescue chopper during the same cutaway and probably couldn't take the extra time to let her run to her locker and change. She's just that good, folks. Although it's probable that Nick Fury had Black Widow's uniform stored on the chopper.
  • Character Development: This movie sees Steve take his first steps away from the eager recruit he was back in 1942. He's upset that Fury had Natasha on a different mission, jeapordizing the rescue of the hostages, and he's ... he's not angry, he's disappointed to learn about Project Insight. The Reveal that S.H.I.E.L.D., created by his best surviving friend and his best girl, has been infiltrated by HYDRA since day one? Just confirms that Steve can't be a company man any more, and the company has to come down.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Fury's laser cutter that he used to escape the Winter Soldier has a role later on in the hands of Maria Hill, who uses it to save Natasha, Cap, and Falcon from their then-certain death.
    • The shock disc device Natasha used to temporarily disable the Winter Soldier in the highway confrontation? She uses it once again on herself to short out Pierce's leverage on her, allowing Fury to grab a gun and shoot Pierce. (These discs were previously used in Iron Man 2.)
    • The holographic display technology that Pierce uses to communicate with the World Security Council establishes that technology exists to present an image of a person who isn't really there. Natasha uses this technology to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. disguised as one of those Council members, and in the same room no less.
    • If the leaked concept art as well as a few trailers hadn't revealed it earlier, then Cap's WWII uniform, which Steve dons at the climax of the movie, being prominently displayed at the Smithsonian exhibition certainly would count.
    • The biographical information on Bucky Barnes at the Smithsonian's Captain America exhibit. At the end of the movie, after Bucky goes Walking the Earth trying to learn about his past life, he sneaks into the Smithsonian and begins reading it.
    • Throughout the climax Pierce keeps checking his cell phone. It turns out to have a program on it to kill the WSC members wearing the access badges they didn't know were dangerous.
    • Fury's Eyepatch of Power is covering his intact but blind eye, whose retinal scan has a back-up alpha-level access in case his default was deleted.
  • Chekhov's Skill: More than once in the film, Captain America demonstrates his ability to survive dropping from a great height. When the Winter Soldier is unmasked, Cap therefore immediately understands how the character survived his Disney Villain Death—they have the same powers.
  • Civil War: Cap launches one by revealing that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA, taking down one of the strongest forces on Earth, for good or ill.
  • Da Chief: Both Fury and Pierce are this to S.H.I.E.L.D., but only Fury has the typical gruff and angry personality associated with the role. Pierce is grandfatherly in comparison.
  • Childhood Friends: Steve will never, ever forget his best friend.
    Steve: Even when I had nothing, I had Bucky.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Although the character returns in later movies, the absence of Hawkeye here is glaring, given the circumstances. According to DVD commentary, the character was originally to have been shown pursuing Steve, but this was cut due to Jeremy Renner being unable to fit it in his schedule.
  • Clark Kenting:
    • At the Smithsonian, Steve hides his identity by wearing a big jacket and a baseball cap. Only one awestruck kid recognizes him, and is convinced to keep it secret.
    • Steve uses this again when he's on the run, wearing a hoodie and thick-rimmed glasses with thick lenses. An Apple employee gives him a querying stare, but it turns out he just recognized that they own the same kind of glasses, though he also notices Steve’s amazing physique and refers to him as a “specimen.”
    • Natasha just relies on a hoodie. She shows her experience with this trope by giving advice to Steve on how to remain nondescript, including not running and pretending to be conversing (and kissing).
    • In the second end-credits stringer, Winter Soldier/Bucky visits the Smithsonian disguised, wearing a jacket to cover his metal arm.
  • Classified Information: S.H.I.E.L.D.'s system of clearance levels appears again. Steve's a little unhappy with how Nick Fury continues to hide information from him.
  • Clip Its Wings: The Winter Soldier rips one of the wings off Sam's Falcon flight suit during the climax.
  • Co-Dragons: Rumlow and the Winter Soldier serve as this to the Big Bad.
  • Cold Sniper: When Winter Soldier isn't a One-Man Army, he's this because his target is always singular and he rarely has to get up close and personal to kill them.
  • Collapsing Lair: When the last helicarrier crashes on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s headquarters it sets Sam Wilson on a run for his life, but he gets to tell Black Widow to pick him up on the 41st floor of the building with a helicopter, Black Widow and Nick Fury hurry the copter over to the place, Wilson breaks through the window into the void and Fury maneuvers so that the copter painfully but safely catches Wilson's fall some ten stories below. Wilson is alive but unimpressed:
    Sam Wilson: 41st floor! 41st!
    Nick Fury: It's not like they put the floor numbers on the outside of the building!
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Throughout the entire movie, Winter Soldier prefers efficiency over showiness, though he will bust out some martial arts moves on occasion. As an assassin trained specifically to eliminate his target quickly and entirely, he will take the simplest and fastest approach possible.
    • Alexander Pierce is this as well, taking careful measures to make everything go smoothly.
  • Combat Stilettos: Black Widow easily wins a fight in a skirt suit and stiletto pumps.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames:
    • Crossbones and Batroc the Leaper are referred to by their civilian names. The former instance is probably to a purpose — Brock Rumlow is shown at the end of the movie as having (barely) survived the collision of the Helicarrier into the Triskelion, albeit with horrific burns all over his body, hinting at his return in a future installment. He may explicitly bear the codename "Crossbones" when he returns.
    • Black Widow is only referred to as such once. Throughout the rest of the movie, people refer to her as "Natasha" or "Romanoff".
    • Averted with the Falcon — Maria Hill outright refers to him by his codename in the climactic battle. Falcon is also the codename for the flight-harness operation he was involved in.
    • Naturally, averted frequently with Cap. Lots of people refer to Steve by his codename.
    • The Winter Soldier is called that because no-one knows what else to call him. Also averted within HYDRA, as his codename is "The Asset".
    • Also averted for the absent Red Skull. When he's mentioned, he's openly referenced as Red Skull, not as Johann Schmidt (the trope was in full force for him in the first film).
    • Inverted: Sharon Carter is referred to as Agent 13 in all but the movie's last scene; even then, only her first name is revealed.
  • Commie Nazis: The Winter Soldier wears the Soviet red star and uses Soviet equipment, but was created and works for Hydra, a Nazi splinter faction. This is an homage to the comics, where the Winter Soldier was an assassin for Department X, a Russian equivalent to Weapon X.
  • Composite Character: Alexander Pierce is an amalgamation of several different characters from the Marvel Universe; Alexander Goodwin Pierce, as far as the name goes, Robert 'Rebel' Ralston, in being an old friend of Fury's who was in an oversight position over S.H.I.E.L.D., not to mention being drawn to look like Redford for a time, and Aleksander Lukin, the Winter Soldier's master. His motives and high position evoke shades of Number One of the Secret Empire arc, while he physically resembles Arnold Brown, the leader of HYDRA during the Strange Tales story arc where the organization first appeared.
  • Computer Equals Monitor: Subverted when Steve smashes the screen of the monitor that Arnim Zola is using to address him — Zola simply switches to another monitor with a snarky "As I was saying..."
  • Computer Equals Tape Drive: The aforementioned computer also features this function. Justified as the equipment dates back to the early 70s.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Averted. The walls of Steve's apartment do nothing to stop the Winter Soldier's bullets from shooting Nick Fury. Bullets come right through the undercarriage of a tipped-over bus that Steve runs through during one highway firefight.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Applied to nearly every fight that either Cap or the Winter Soldier are in. The battles against multiple opponents are easy, while the ones against a single opponent are much harder, especially when the two face off against each other. This is justified in that both Cap and the Winter Soldier are the only characters in the entire movie that are physically enhanced — the rest of the cast rely on weaponry and pure physical skill.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination:
    • The initial assassination attempt that Hydra carries out on Nick Fury's life has the subtlety of a Michael Bay movie. It involves, in order:
      1. Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officers wall in Fury's SUV with squad cars, and
      2. Open fire with assault rifles. They succeed at riddling the windows with bullets.
      3. Failing that, the SWAT team grabs a hydraulic battering ram from their van and uses it to pound the driver's side window until the armor on it gives way. Fury gets a minigun in time to kill most of the cops.
      4. Then as Fury makes his escape, after successfully tricking the police cars that did manage to chase him into getting t-boned by a box truck, the Winter Soldier launches a smart mine at him to flip the SUV over.
    • Averted with the second, more successful attempt, which is simply the Winter Soldier sniping Fury thrice through a wall and vanishing into the night.
    • Later on Steve, Black Widow, and Sam are attacked on the highway. Their assassination attempt involves Winter Soldier jumping on top of their car and ripping out its steering wheel, being rammed from behind by a Hummer, and then being unloaded upon with assault rifles, grenades, and a minigun. This only leads to the ruckus attracting news copters, forcing Rumlow to postpone any actual execution of Steve and his allies.
  • Consummate Liar: Fury is either this, or he's genuinely telling the truth and cooing excessively at a Flerkin is the last time he ever trusted someone.
  • Continuity Nod: Has its own page.
  • Continuity Overlap: The events of the movie have large repercussions for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (the two episodes that aired before and after the US release of the film are literally set within the film's timeline), far more so than Iron Man 3 or Thor: The Dark World previously did.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Steve makes friends with a random Air Force veteran on a jog... who turns out to be Sam Wilson, the former pararescueman with the equipment that allows him to become the Falcon.
  • Cool Car:
    • Fury's armored SUV, complete with AI, a machine gun/grenade launcher, and med-kit. Flight capability is also mentioned.
    • Black Widow has a Corvette, too.
  • Cool Plane: S.H.I.E.L.D. quinjets, complete with gun turrets, cluster bombs, and the ability to hover, are featured quite a bit.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: When it comes down to it, this is Pierce. He is one, but the corruption is in a different way than most. Think of a kill list. People who, it's been decided, threaten the world's order enough that they must be killed to uphold it. From that, he's extrapolated the concept of figuring out what makes a person threaten world order, then removing the people who fit that profile in their dozens, or hundreds, or millions before they become threats. Never mind "innocent until proven guilty". Never mind those on kill lists have usually actively resisted less lethal alternatives. It's just another step...
  • Cosmopolitan Council: The World Security Council consists of an American man, a British woman, an Indian man, and an unidentified East Asian man. None of them wear ethnic costumes.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • Who but Nick Fury would think to have the retina scan from his blind eye encoded into the S.H.I.E.L.D. security system, in case his regular security access was ever deleted by a hostile force? There's also his plan to fake his own death, correctly assuming that no-one would bother wasting time or resources spying on a dead man, as well as ensuring that he doesn't have to worry about any more assassins being sent after him.
    • Somehow the Winter Soldier is able to predict exactly where Fury will end up after his running gun battle (many blocks long through Washington DC traffic) and is there waiting to shoot a mine under his truck. The Fridge Brilliance page suggests that the street was intentionally kept clear so that Fury would be funneled into the only escape route, if the "police" ambush failed.
    • When Cap is attacked in the elevator, three groups enter to make sure he's outnumbered, they're armed with tasers and magnetic handcuffs that even he has trouble prying off the walls, and Sitwell sends additional backup before the fight is even over. After he's won and cuts the elevator cables for a quick escape, he finds that more backup is already moving on the floor the elevator stops at. No one but the "greatest soldier in history" could survive that.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The monochrome, symbolism-packed closing credits are reminiscent of the credits for a spy thriller such as one of the James Bond films.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Stan Lee (of course) is an elderly security guard working at the Smithsonian.
    • Ed Brubaker appears as a scientist attending to the Winter Soldier.
    • Joe Russo, one of the directors for the film, appears as the doctor that treats Natasha and Nick Fury.
    • Co-scriptwriers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely appear as SHIELD interrogators.
  • Crisis Crossover: The entire MCU is already a massive crossover event, but the films are largely separate events that build on one another. What makes this a crossover is that it occurs simultaneously with the end of the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., in which the reveal that Hydra has suborned most of S.H.I.E.L.D. has massive ramifications just as it does with this film.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Nick Fury's bulletproof windows are presented as this; their integrity is reported in exact percentages.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Winter Soldier pulls Sitwell out of a moving vehicle and then throws him into the path of a passing truck that obliterates him. He also punts a S.H.I.E.L.D. ground technician into the intake of a moving Quinjet, blending him in less than a second.
  • Cultural Translation: Captain America's "catch up" list. The list for the US audience includes I Love Lucy, the Berlin Wall, Steve Jobs and Disco. The UK cut of the film changes those items to Sherlock, The Beatles, the World Cup final of 1966 and Sean Connery, respectively. Other countries' versions can be seen here.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Nearly every fight that either Cap or the Winter Soldier are in, including those against multiple opponents. Fittingly, the only fights that avoid this are the ones where they are facing against each other.
    • When Cap gives his rousing speech about S.H.I.E.L.D. being taken over by Hydra, many of the rank and file are quick to try and back him up. Sadly, they are unfortunately unable to provide much in the way of backup, as they are mostly composed of desk agents, paper-pushers, and regular security guys up against the Insight and STRIKE team agents, who have way more experience and training in violent situations... along with an enhanced assassin with a cybernetic arm. As a consequence, they get slaughtered in droves.
    • Despite being in great shape and still very good with his jetpack, Falcon hasn't seen action in awhile and is easily beaten by an active special forces agent in a straight up fight once he loses his gear.
    • Likewise, while Natasha is a skilled spy and assassin and very impressive in her own right, she's very easily outclassed by the Winter Soldier, who like Cap, is a Super-Soldier. He manages to come back from just about everything she throws at him, and nearly kills her before Cap intervenes. The moment Natasha realizes how badly outclassed she is (right as the Winter Soldier casually rips off the zappy taser thing she sticks to his metal arm), she panics completely and runs.
    • The same goes for every other non-superhuman character who has the misfortune of getting into a fight with the Winter Soldier. There's a reason he's considered The Dreaded in-universe.

    Tropes D to L 
  • Dare to Be Badass: Cap to the loyal operatives left in S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of the film, which delays the launch of Project Insight for a few precious seconds. If there was ever a time the world needed them, this is it.
  • Darker and Edgier: From an optimistic WWII Pulp-inspired adventure movie to a morally ambiguous modern espionage thriller, much like what happened to Cap's comic transitioning from the The '60s to The '70s. This can even be seen through how Rogers uses his shield: in The First Avenger, he primarily uses it for defense; here, he gets much more creative with it offensively.
  • Darkest Hour: Invoked by Cap. At the climax of the film Hydra has taken over S.H.I.E.L.D., and are moments away from Taking Over The World along with killing everyone who could possibly resist. Cap tells everyone in the Triskelion that there are mere moments left before Hydra's victory is complete, and it's do-or-die time. Prior to "The Snap", this was one of the darkest hours humanity had in the entire MCU saga thus far; the bad guys came that close to total victory. Considering a previous movie involved a large-scale alien invasion that very nearly saw New York obliterated, that's really saying something.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Black Widow wears an all-black sneaking suit and Nick Fury is absolutely in love with the color black. Captain America himself also wears a less colorful version of his usual attire (including the paint on his shield), possibly because his mission at the start of the film relies somewhat on stealth.
  • Dateless Grave: Nick Fury's tombstone has dates, but the later two digits of both his year of birth and year of death are obscured by flowers. We assume his death year is 2014, and his birth year is roughly 1948.
  • Day of the Jackboot: The mission of Project INSIGHT is to convince humanity at large to voluntarily submit to Hydra in order to be safe in a chaotic world. To accomplish this, they infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D., stir up some chaos, and then offer the Gun-To-The-Head solution.
  • Deadly Dodging:
    • During the elevator fight, Captain America gets one arm stuck to the wall by a magnetic wrist-cuff, limiting his movements. When a mook tries to take advantage of it with a taser baton, Cap grasps his arm with his free hand and redirects the attack, tasing another mook.
    • During the finale, Sam takes advantage of his small size and maneuverability to dodge a barrage of missiles and blow a hole in a helicarrier so he can jump inside and take it out.
  • Deadpan Snarker: While many people get moments to shine, Steve and Natasha fight it out for first place.
  • Death by Adaptation: Alexander Pierce, who is killed by Fury.
  • Death by Irony: Fury says that there was a time he would've taken a bullet for Pierce. Pierce says that Fury already did, and he still might, when necessary. Then Natasha electrocutes herself (taking the metaphorical bullet), so Fury can return Pierce's bullet, with interest.
  • A Death in the Limelight: The film does this to an entire organization. This is the first feature-length film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to focus on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s practices and internal politics. The organization is disbanded at the end of the film due to internal corruption by Hydra, with many of its personnel dead or missing.
  • Debate and Switch:
    • The story begins with conflicting views over terrorism and superhuman threats such as alien invasions, and the classic conflict between civil liberties and a strictly ordered society. Then it turns out that most of those who supported the second option were actually Hydra agents.
    • It is also carried over from Iron Man 2. Senator Stern's speech at the Senate Subcommittee, in which he criticized Stark for privatizing a weapon of mass destruction, has a whole new light once it's revealed that he's a Hydra mole.
    • Is it good to trust allies, or not? The story is all over the place to the point where it's hard to tell where it falls on the issue. Cap almost quits S.H.I.E.L.D. due to a lack of trust both in how missions are completed and how Project Insight will operate in the future. After Fury is shot, Cap withholds secrets and information from S.H.I.E.L.D., and he and Natasha have a discussion on trust being essential between friends and allies. In the end, Natasha and Nick dump all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files on the internet and Project Insight is stopped before Hydra can control it, but the only way either was accomplished was because Nick Fury made a backdoor behind his superiors' backs.
  • Decapitation Strike: This is the plan of Hydra, as they plan to assume control of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s newest weaponry and aim them simultaneously at thousands of high-ranking targets (including several in the White House and the Pentagon) to take over the world in an enormous coup d'etat(s). Thanks to the Avengers' intervention, they end up blowing each other up. And that's only after they entrap and kill most of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s own (uninvolved) leading figures.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: The film deconstructs the superhero archetype of The Cape by showing that Steve Rogers' ideals don't quite fit in the modern, pragmatic world. He wonders if his morals and values mean anything in modern society or even the old days, and his refusal to change them results in finding himself useless. The reconstruction kicks in when Steve retrieves his old WWII uniform from the Smithsonian and finds hope in the allies that believe in him (i.e. Natasha and Sam). His Rousing Speech to SHIELD agents influences them to stop Project Insight. Finally, Steve's belief in the good in people results in Bucky going against his Winter Soldier programming and saving him from drowning in the Potomac River.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Minion with an F in Evil is deconstructed with Dr. Arnim Zola. He was originally a timid scientist working under the Red Skull during World War II in the original film, who only reluctantly sided with him after his boss killed his Nazi allies to start his own campaign of world conquest. By the end of that film, he defects to the Allies and rats on him, but when he reappears in this one as a Virtual Ghost, it's revealed that he had a far greater potential for evil than anyone suspected, having spent decades rebuilding HYDRA within S.H.I.E.L.D. so they could ultimately launch a much more insidious campaign to Take Over the World. While he wasn't as much of an overtly sadistic Card-Carrying Villain like the Red Skull, his methods ultimately prove far more effective, highlighting that someone who chooses to work within such an Obviously Evil organization like HYDRA isn't likely to be an incompetent lackey after all.
  • Demoted to Extra: Sharon Carter is prominent throughout the Cap mythos and is his primarily love interest, but gets less than four minutes of screentime.
  • Dented Iron: Steve's a super-soldier, elevated to superhuman capacities, but he's not invulnerable. When he jumps out of the Triskelion and falls some fifteen stories, landing on his shield, it still takes him a minute to shake it off. When an explosion blows him off of a highway overpass, he's knocked out for a minute.
  • Destination Defenestration:
    • A rare vehicular example. Sitwell gets dragged through a car window and thrown in the path of an oncoming semi.
    • Steve isn't scared to throw himself out the window. He jumps through windows multiple times during his first chase with the Winter Soldier. When he's cornered in an elevator by HYDRA agents, he takes a moment to note This Is Gonna Suck and throws himself ten floors to the ground.
  • Destroy the Product Placement: Wilson's 2014 Chevrolet Impala gets destroyed during the highway chase.
  • Determinator:
    • Cap exhibits this on multiple occasions. He takes down ten mooks in an elevator single-handedly (literally, after one of his arms was pinned to the wall with a powerful magnetic restraint), and then jumps from the elevator, which had to be at least 20 stories high, crashes to the ground, winces for a few seconds, and then keeps running (Jasper Sitwell, watching remotely, responds with a "You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!" look). He later gets thrown off a bridge, bounces off a windshield, and hurtles through the window of a Metrobus which then flips over, but still manages to continue fighting. The climax then has him suffering even worse, getting shot twice in the abdomen and a few times on the back, and at one point appearing to (almost) go into shock, but that doesn't stop him.
    • The Winter Soldier combines this trope with The Dreaded, utilizing all of his formidable skills in order to complete his mission.
  • Deuteragonist: Natasha, who becomes something of a Number Two to Steve throughout the film.
  • Dirty Cop: The officers who attack Fury part way through the film, and are also working for Hydra.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: At first it seems like the mastermind of the conspiracy is Arnim Zola, having survived in a computer since the 1970's, but he's killed halfway through and Alexander Pierce takes over.
  • Discontinuity Nod: To Captain America: Super Soldiernote . Chris Evans was so impressed with Cap's fighting style there that he proposed the more dynamic movelist he boasts here and in Civil War.
  • Discriminate and Switch: The cops that try to assassinate Fury pull up next to him and stare at him. Fury initially assumes they're racists who think he might've stolen the car.
    Fury: Wanna see my lease?
  • Disney Villain Death: Bucky Barnes survived the fall.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Natasha uses this on one of the pirates, who can't figure out where the redhead came from on a freighter in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
    Natasha: Hey, sailor.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Given The Avengers was "supervillainous 9/11", this is the equivalent of the PATRIOT Act, plus the NSA Sinister Surveillance controversy starting from Edward Snowden's leaks of NSA documents in 2013. Complete with WikiLeaks, as Black Widow uploads S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra's databases online. Additionally, the Insight Helicarriers are essentially Predator drones on steroids.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Audio-only example — Steve broadcasts over the Triskelion that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by Hydra.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Cap to Bucky at the end of the movie before the final battle. After all, he doesn't want to be forced to kill his best friend.
  • Doctor von Turncoat:
    • After Hydra's defeat and the Red Skull's disappearance at the end of World War II, former Hydra second-in-command Dr. Arnim Zola was brought to the United States as part of Operation Paperclip. He was able to refound Hydra with a clique of fellow ex-Nazi scientists inside S.H.I.E.L.D., which thoroughly infiltrated its highest echelons in the ensuing decades.
    • Hydra scientists taken by the Soviet Union established a branch in Russia as well, eventually linking back up with their American counterparts. They took over the Winter Soldier program, using him for decades to assassinate enemies of Hydra in secrecy.
  • The Dragon: Pierce has two, the Winter Soldier and Brock Rumlow. The first one is strictly for scorched earth wet-work, while the second is used for more social situations.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Perhaps an unintentional case, but even so, Marvel had already decided to roll with it. By the time the movie premiered, almost everyone knew that the Winter Soldier was Bucky. The tension and drama surrounding his identity doesn't come from the audience not knowing, but from Steve not knowing.
    • Nick Fury's memory of how Alexander Pierce turned down a Nobel Peace Prize by saying that "peace isn't a reward, it's a responsibility." The problem is that Pierce's idea of peace is one enforced by HYDRA.
  • The Dreaded: The Winter Soldier's reputation is such that even the Black Widow is obviously afraid of him. His first appearance in the film plays on this nicely — while Fury is being chased and shot at by phony cops, a tall, shadowy figure suddenly emerges, standing directly in the line of Fury's SUV. He takes Fury and his vehicle down without breaking a sweat or so much as taking two steps.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Steve, Sam and Natasha have been captured and are in a van on the way to a private spot to be executed. One of the two guards with them — wearing exactly the type of face-concealing helmet the Evil Overlord List recommends against — turns out to be Maria Hill, who proceeds to bust them out.
    Hill: Ugh, that helmet was squeezing my brain.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Agent Sitwell is taken out very quickly by the Winter Soldier as he was explaining the situation to the heroes.
  • Due to the Dead: Peggy, Howard, and Philips started S.H.I.E.L.D. at Camp Lehigh, where Steve got his start.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Falcon tries to enter the second Helicarrier the hard way, but gets attacked by a Quinjet before he can land and get through the hatch. Rather than evade it and go back to the top of the ship, he Wronski Feints its Macross Missile Massacre into blasting a hole into the Helicarrier's underside, enabling him to fly in, place his targeting chip, and fly right back out again.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
  • Elevator Action Sequence: After a meeting with Pierce, an entire squad of goons are sent to ambush Steve in the elevator. Steve overpowers all of them and then escapes by jumping through the glass wall of elevator.
    Steve Rogers: Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?
  • The Elevator from Ipanema: Discussed. During a quiet elevator ride with Nick Fury, Cap comments that the elevators had music in his time.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The genesis of Sam's flight abilities is he was part of a USAF spec ops unit.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Bucky was already a badass in WWII, but whatever was done to him since allows him to fight Captain America to a standstill.
  • Epic Fail: The Reveal that Hydra was responsible for North Korea is just utterly hilarious, because Zola implies that every failure the country has had is because Hydra told them to do it. And since North Korea is crazy personified, this theoretically means that if Kim Jong-Un painted a tunnel black and dubbed it a "coal mine," Hydra told him to do so.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: This film and their subsequent appearances in later Marvel releases indicate that Hydra, despite its former Nazi ties has become a racially inclusive organization with people of all ethnicities among its ranks both as mooks and as named agents.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Alexander Pierce mentions his niece's birthday party.
  • Everybody Owns a Ford: Well, a Chevrolet anyway:
    • Cap himself only rides a Harley, but he and Natasha "borrow" a 2014 Chevy Silverado while on the run.
    • Romanov drives a 2014 Corvette Stingray that seems to impress Sam Wilson.
    • Metropolitan Police Department officers drive 2006 Impalas.
    • Wilson drove a 2014 Impala.
    • Fury's Cool Car is a fortified 2007 Tahoe.
    • STRIKE has a fleet of matte black 2007 Suburbansnote .
  • Everyone Has Standards: "We're not stealing it, we're borrowing it, now get your feet off the dash."
  • Evil All Along: Agent Sitwell, Senator Stern and Alexander Pierce are all Hydra moles — and S.H.I.E.L.D. was infiltrated by Hydra since its very creation.
  • The Evils of Free Will: Hydra was created under the theory that people could not be trusted with their own free will, and so have made their plans to make the world so dangerous that people would willingly give it up in return for safety.
  • Evil Gloating: A rare justified version where Zola is mostly just distracting Steve and Natasha and playing for time until the missile strike hits them.
  • Evil Wears Black: The Winter Soldier. His attire is all black, save for any exposed skin/hair, and his bionic left arm. When we see him for the first time, he's a grim-reaper-esque figure (especially against the backdrop of broad daylight) who seemingly kills Nick Fury on a busy downtown street without a hint of remorse.
  • Exact Words: Sam, when asked about his friend Riley getting shot down, points out that he never said he was a pilot.
  • Excessive Evil Eyeshadow: Although his actor insists that it's actually "black camouflage war paint," the Winter Soldier still falls under this trope for his one scene wearing it. Could also be an extension of his general black wardrobe.
  • Extremity Extremist:
    • Batroc focuses primarily on kicks, though he is more than willing to throw a few punches. As well he might, because he is a master of Savate, a French kickboxing style (which, yes, does feature a few hand strikes).
    • The Winter Soldier tends to favor his cybernetic arm during melee combat, both offensively and defensively. He uses his right arm more for shooting.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Nick Fury finally removes his eyepatch, and the camera opts for a closeup so the audience can see what his bad eye really looks like.
    • Averted for Winter Soldier, when he gets shot in the eye by Black Widow. He's saved by his bulletproof goggles, but the lens is now ruined, forcing him to throw them away. Later, it does happen when his handlers realize that he's starting to remember Steve. The re-conditioning process to wipe his memory seems to involve a contraption wrapped around the Soldier's head, including a plating covering his left eye, leading to Electric Torture.
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • Former good guy Bucky returns as the antagonistic Winter Soldier, albeit he's been forcibly brainwashed into villainy.
    • While Zola was never a Face, he was more a For Science! Punch-Clock Villain, but now he's gone and reconstructed Hydra inside S.H.I.E.L.D., fully believing in its fascistic ideals.
    • Alexander Pierce underwent one sometime before the movie, from a former diplomat who turned down a Nobel Peace Prize in the past, to a loyal Hydra agent. He claims that part of the reason was because he became disillusioned with how often diplomacy can fail, compared to how effective Nick Fury's methods at securing peace were, a mentality that Hydra shared.
  • Faceless Goons: The police officers that ambush Fury's car early in the movie. The regular patrol cops have peaked caps and sunglasses lowered over their eyes, while the SWAT officers have their helmets on and their goggles lowered.
  • Facial Dialogue: The elevator scene. After Cap stops speaking with Rumlow, you can see some confusion and nervousness on his face as more and more people board the elevator, the camera shows a soldier sweating, an agent with hand on gun, and the placement of everyone, and pans back to Cap, as the nervousness and confusion vanish into more of a determined expression as he puts 2 and 2 together. Then he simply stands a little taller and asks if anyone wants to get off.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: At a mall, Steve and Natasha act like a couple several times as part of their cover and in order to throw off the people tailing them, which includes the mandatory kiss. At one point Steve is prepared for a fight while Natasha continues the couple act instead. While it may seem odd that they can throw off highly trained operatives by doing one of the oldest tricks, the way it is portrayed and discussed in the movie almost counts as a Reconstruction.
    Natasha: Public displays of affection make people very uncomfortable.
    Steve: [uncomfortably] Yes, they do.
  • Faking the Dead: Nick Fury fakes his death and takes S.H.I.E.L.D. underground.
  • False Flag Operation: This is the Winter Soldier's modus operandi. The Soviet branding on his arm and the old Russian ammo he uses are meant to disguise his allegiance to Hydra. It's implied the assassinations Hydra had him carry out in this guise were designed to ratchet up the tension between America and Russia during the Cold War.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Secretary Pierce winces, shrugs, and murders his maid because she walked in at the wrong time.
  • Female Gaze:
    • There are a fair number of shots of Steve showing off his tight shirts and broad shoulders. While Natasha's behind gets some attention, only a few scenes later Steve is the one getting camera attention to his rear when he's talking to Fury.
    • The Winter Soldier's shirtless scene might count too, if it weren't in such terrible circumstances.
  • Fighting Your Friend: How Steve sees fighting the Winter Soldier. The sentiment does not seem mutual at first.
  • Final Exchange: While the returnee of the exchange gets shot.
    Nick: You know... there was a time I would've taken a bullet for you.
    Pierce: You already did. You will again when it's useful.
    [Natasha electrocutes herself, then Nick shoots Pierce twice]
  • Fire-Forged Friends:
    • Steve initially doesn't trust Natasha, but after fighting alongside her for a while he comes to be able to trust her (when asked if he could trust her, he says "I could now"). Falcon also becomes this to Steve as he is prepared to help him hunt down Bucky to try to save him.
    Natasha: I owe you.
    Steve: It's okay.
    Natasha: If it was the other way around, and it was down to me to save your life, now you be honest with me, would you trust me to do it?
    Steve: I would now. And I'm always honest.
    • Steve and Sam get along quite well when they first meet, but once Sam gets roped into the action, the two become a close pair, with Sam even saying, "I do what he does. Only slower."
    • Steve and Fury on the outs after the former learns about Project Insight. Hill has always been Fury's foil, challenging him and valued by him because he wants someone who will stand up to him. Even so, when they see Fury die on the operating table, they're both in tears. So is Romanov.
  • First-Name Basis: Steve, Natasha, and Agent Hill all sometimes call Fury "Nick". When Natasha electrically shocks herself to remove herself as Pierce's leverage so Fury can shoot him, Fury calls her "'Tasha."
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Rogers slowly tries to get out of this, with increasing success. He has a list of things to "catch-up" on, which seems to be working; he recognizes a WarGames reference made by Natasha, and says that the internet has been very helpful. Other benefits he cites are no polio and better food ("We used to boil everything").
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Fury says he would've "taken a bullet" for Pierce. A few seconds later, Natasha electrocutes herself (taking the metaphorical bullet) so Fury has a literal shot at Pierce. It's possible Fury's remark was actually a hint to Natasha.
  • Flashback with the Other Darrin: Zig-Zagged. A newspaper Zola shows reporting Howard and Maria Stark's deaths uses a picture of Dominic Cooper as Howard. A similar (but different) newspaper in Iron Man reporting their deaths had Howard played by Gerard Sanders. John Slattery played the role in archival footage in Iron Man 2, before Dominic Cooper played a younger version of him in Captain America: The First Avenger and Agent Carter. However, Slattery would go on to resume the role in both Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War. So it would seem that In-Universe, Howard Stark looked like Dominic Cooper when he was younger, and eventually aged into looking like Slattery. The different photos in the newspapers could be written off as simply two different papers choosing two different photos of Howard, except that Gerard Sanders never again portrayed the character.
  • Flying Car: Just like Lola, Fury's car is capable of this. Unfortunately, by the time he's in a position to make use of it, the police have shot up the car and damaged the flight system beyond usability. So he has to resort to outdriving his pursuers instead.
  • Foil:
    • The Winter Soldier and Captain America, as fellow Older Than They Look World War II super soldiers. See Force And Finesse directly below.
    • Natasha Romanoff and Steve Rogers, as fellow agents (and Avengers) with issues adjusting to their current lives. Another contrast is that Nat is a spy who never sticks to one identity or cause for long, while Steve's a soldier whose personality and values haven't changed in 70 years; they have to reconcile those differences.
    • Natasha and Winter Soldier: she's a former villain, now a hero, and he's a former hero, now a villain. They're also both closely associated with the Russians, and are presumably byproducts of the Cold War.
  • Force and Finesse: Played with Captain America and the Winter Soldier respectively. Cap is the Genius Bruiser making clever use of his shield while the Winter Soldier is a blunt instrument that steamrolls most opponents with his great strength and heavy weaponry. And medium weaponry. And any other weaponry that's hanging around. But he's also really good at ambushing people.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: A strange example occurred with some of the European releases, such as Sweden and Germany, where the movie was marketed as "Captain America: The Return of the First Avenger", but it wasn't translated in any way.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • A brief one with the line "I'm multitasking!" What starts as a joke about Black Widow being The Matchmaker turns out to tie in with Black Widow's real mission aboard that ship.
    • "You saved the world. We rather mucked it up." Peggy, you're not wrong.
    • During a hearing about the hijacking, Pierce mentions "I don't care about one boat; I care about the fleet." This ties into how HYDRA is willing to sacrifice others to bring everyone else in line.
    • Steve's first conversation with his neighbor has her mention her aunt, who can't sleep (Steve's Old Flame Peggy Carter) and she lets him know that he left his stereo on (the best hint she can give that someone broke into his apartment without cluing him in that she's S.H.I.E.L.D.).
    • "To build a better world sometimes means tearing the old one down." This is exactly what happens to S.H.I.E.L.D. by the end of the movie. Also, Peggy telling Steve, "Sometimes the best that you can do is to start over." (see It Is Beyond Saving below).
    • Hydra's destruction at the end of the first film and its subsequent covert rebirth is mirrored by S.H.I.E.L.D's downfall and the organization going underground to hunt down Hydra.
    • On the merchandise side, one of the additional figures filling out both the Marvel Legends Winter Soldier line and the smaller Super-Soldier ones (second wave) is WW2-era Cap as he appears in First Avenger. Technically, that version of Cap does appear in this movie.
    • Natasha's very first line is a crack about the Smithsonian and "picking up a fossil". See Break Out the Museum Piece.
    • invokedZola's Wham Episode speech has an example that overlaps with Freeze-Frame Bonus and Rewatch Bonus in light of the events of Captain America: Civil War. A newspaper reporting the deaths of Howard and Maria Stark is clearly dated December 16th, 1991.
    • Dr. Stephen Strange is named at one point as one of the targets of Project Insight.
    • Pierce shoots his housekeeper when she accidentally sees him with The Winter Soldier, just to establish that he is absolutely willing to personally pull the trigger. During the climax, he threatens the WSC, and we know he ain't bluffing. Military experience is a requirement for his former SecDef role, but most audience members won't know that.
    • Pierce's publicity shot shows him standing with his arms crossed. Much like John F. Kennedy in his official portrait. Both men end up killed by a US military veteran. There's a popular conspiracy theory that claims Lee Harvey Oswald was a CIA asset, and/or there was another CIA shooter on the grassy knoll. The head of an intelligence agency kills Pierce, with help from an assassin who works for him.
  • Fourth Reich: Subverted. HYDRA has survived World War II by embedding itself within SHIELD and was founded by actual Nazis, but have since abandoned its racial politics in favor of a more generically authoritarian Take Over the World plot.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • Steve's "catch up" list is only shown for about a second. Depending on what region you're watching the movie in, he has different items listed.
    • Steve's bookshelf is briefly shown when he enters his apartment through the window. It contains various history books on World War II and the Vietnam War, biographies of George H. W. Bush and Barack Obama, All the President's Men and The Catcher in the Rye.
    • The coordinates of the rescue mission to the Lemurian Star are shown onscreen as "Indian Ocean Lat: 16N 55' 12.06" Long: 72N 56' 7.09", which would be terrific except that longitude is an East-West measurement, not North-South. This was most likely deliberate, to prevent any correlation with a real-world map position.
    • Numerous familiar places and names can be seen during the Insight targeting sequence, including a few non-MCU ones like the Fantastic Four.
    • When Steve enters the elevator after his meeting with Pierce, the curved apartment buildings of the Watergate complex are framed in the view through the glass wall behind him. Which means there's an actor allusion hidden in there, since Pierce's actor Robert Redford portrayed Bob Woodward in All the President's Men.
    • Just when the police car is about to T-bone Fury's car from the side, you can see the police car that's going to box Fury in from behind sitting in the background.
    • According to the Smithsonian exhibit, Bucky is a year or two older than Steve (his year of birth is given as both 1916 and 1917 on one panel of his Smithsonian exhibit, while Steve's was established in dialogue as 1918), compounding the Age Lift from his comic-book counterpart.
    • During Project Insight's warm up, a large amount of targets are shown onscreen for less than a second. If one pauses at the exact right moment, you can see Tony Stark's picture.
  • Friendship Moment:
    • Steve and Sam meet while they're jogging around the Washington Monument's reflecting pond. Steve laps Sam a dozen or so times, then Sam asks him if he's okay, veteran to veteran.
    • In a flashback, Bucky comforts Steve after his mother's funeral. Steve can't find his key, Bucky kicks aside a brick to find the spare.
    Bucky: I was gonna ask...
    Steve: I know what you're gonna say, Buck, I just...
    Bucky: We can put the couch cushions on the floor like when we were kids.
    Steve: [searches his pockets]
    Bucky: It'll be fun. All you gotta do is shine my shoes, maybe take out the trash. [kicks aside brick for spare key] Come on.
    Steve: Thank you, Buck, but I can get by on my own.
    Bucky: The thing is, you don't have to.
  • Fugitive Arc: Cap and Black Widow go on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. for a good part of the movie. Then it turns out they're actually on the run from Hydra forces that have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • The Gadfly: Steve engages in the absolutely bog standard ribbing of one soldier to another as he leaves Sam to go on a mission in the movie's opening. Excellent set up to Show, Don't Tell that Steve has immediately accepted Sam both as a brother in arms and as the sort of man who could eventually assume the role as Captain America after Avengers End Game. Bonus points when Natash pulls up in a Cool Car to give Steve the exact same sort of shit.
    Steve: Thanks for the run. If that's what you want to call running.
    Sam: [grinning] Oh, that's how it is?
    Steve: That's how it is.
    [vroom vroom]
    Natasha: Hey, fellas, either one of you know where the Smithsonian is? I'm here to pick up a fossil.
  • Gatling Good: A mercenary tries to kill Captain America with a M134 minigun, which is an extremely bad idea against a super soldier with a shield. He was trying to pin down Cap while the other mercs flanked him, but boy, did that backfire.
  • Genius Bruiser: Steve demonstrates that he's not just pretty and strong. When the elevator door opens and he's confronted by a large group of heavily armed men, he immediately uses his shield to cut the elevator cables, knowing the emergency brakes would save him.
  • Genre Savvy: Rumlow knows that, even with super-hand-cuffs and agents watching the prisoners, things could've gone sideways, so he approaches the transport with gun drawn after Steve, Sam, and Natasha have been captured. He's right to be worried.
  • Genre Shift: The film heavily gravitates towards the grittier varieties of Spy Fiction and political drama. Word of God is that they were aiming for a modern day superhero take on the classic Conspiracy Thriller films of the late Seventies.
  • Girl Next Door: Natasha spends a lot of time encouraging Steve to ask out his beautiful next-door neighbor, Sharon. It turns out she is really a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent called Agent 13 undercover as a nurse, and she's Peggy's niece.
  • The Glasses Come Off: The first time The Winter Soldier is threatened in any way, during a battle with Black Widow, he calmly takes cover, removes his bulletproof sunglasses, and the look in his eyes shows he means business. Justified as one of the lenses was cracked by Widow's gunfire, so keeping them on would compromise his vision.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Given how completely Hydra has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., from the top brass to the grunts, Steve demands that they take S.H.I.E.L.D. down in its entirety — total disclosure of its resources, from its databases of stored intelligence to the identities and locations of operatives throughout the world. Though it leaves a lot of chaos in its wake, it also robs Hydra of the cover it had hidden itself under for decades. It's the Only Way to Be Sure.
  • Go Through Me: Literally — Natasha describes how the Winter Soldier assassinated the person she was protecting by shooting the target through her body. She has the scar to prove it.
    Natasha: Bye-bye, bikinis.
    Steve: Yeah, I'm sure you look terrible in them now.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: The climax of the film involves Steve, Romanov, and Sam breaking into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most secure facility in order to inform the rank and file that the organization has been suborned by H.Y.D.R.A., and asking them all to stand up and help. And they do.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Steve is both an idealistic superhero and a terrifying opponent. In the first half-hour of the movie, he stabs someone through the hand with a thrown knife to non-fatally incapacitate him and prevent him raising the alarm.
  • Government Conspiracy: S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by Hydra, who is using the intelligence agency's resources to establish a One World Order.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol:
    • Black Widow uses one to swing under a bridge in order to escape from the Winter Soldier and his goons.
    • The Winter Soldier is similarly equipped, and during the climactic battle he uses it to catch Falcon mid-flight and bring him down.
  • Greater-Scope Villain:
    • Arnim Zola is the one who recreated Hydra within S.H.I.E.L.D., but he has a small role in this film and is only one part of Project Insight.
    • Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, who appears in The Stinger, would count as well since it's implied he has the same level of leadership as Pierce.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: The Winter Soldier grabs a grenade that was rolling his way and tosses it into a quinjet that's about to take off.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Compare and contrast Captain America's and Nick Fury's and Hydra's view on how to protect the world, in terms of both means and ends.
    • Captain America – Willing to do what is needed and expected in war-like conditions (as he did in the previous two films), even if it affects his sleep. He does this so people can be free to live their lives. He never punishes the guilty, and only removes a threat when and if it is needed.
    • Nick Fury – Willing to take extra steps to ensure people are safe, creating a world where people are less free, but safer, as he eliminates threats before they become a danger. These steps, as seen in previous movies and in the opening act of this one, often come back to bite him in the butt. His paranoia, and ability to think like the enemy, helps him as much as hurts him. He is willing to get his hands dirty, with minimal collateral damage (i.e. he doesn't avoid killing innocents, but won't take down a building full of them if there is a better way to eliminate a threat).
    • Hydra – Willing to go the extra mile by preemptively killing everyone who might be, or pose a threat to their world takeover. People will be safe from all threats (except for them). No one would be free, regardless if they are guilty or innocent of anything.
  • Graying Morality: A major theme of the movie is Captain America, a 1940s soldier, adjusting to the modern ages of surveillance and spies. S.H.I.E.L.D. itself turns on him, further confusing matters. Ultimately inverted, as Hydra comes to light and is revealed to be behind almost everything bad since the end of World War II, manipulating the world into the surveillance-heavy state it is today.
  • Gun Kata: The Winter Soldier displays a bit of this in his climactic fight with Cap as he draws twin pistols on the latter, and tries to bob, weave, and melee to get past the indestructible, bullet-reflecting shield.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: After Captain America steals his old uniform back from the Smithsonian, the centerpiece of the Howling Commandos exhibit is a naked mannequin with a shield in front of its groin.
  • Hannibal Lecture: After Natasha takes over Pierce's meeting, puts him at gunpoint and Nick Fury walks in, he gives one of these at the end of the movie. He tells Fury that seeing his aggressive stance on terrorism earlier in their lives is what inspired Pierce to actively stamp out any and all threats to peace. Giving that meant joining HYDRA, Fury is noticeably upset at the notion.
  • Headbutting Heroes: Steve is at loggerheads with Fury as soon as he learns Fury gave Romanov separate orders. Hill has traditionally been Fury's fractious second in command, and plays the role here just like she did in Avengers.
  • The Heavy: Sitwell doesn't think throwing someone off a roof is Steve's style. It's not. It's Natasha's.
  • Heel Realization: All of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the members of the World Security Council receive one when Cap lets them know that Hydra has compromised them and explains what Project Insight is really for.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • The Lemurian Star data marks anyone who has it for death.
    • Pierce's maid walks into the room and sees her employer talking to the Winter Soldier.
      Pierce: Oh, Renata. I really wish you'd knocked. [shoots her]
  • Helicopter Blender:
    • The Winter Soldier kicks a man into the turbine of a quinjet, which then explodes.
    • Averted when Falcon jumps from a higher floor toward Nick's helicopter; Nick rolls the helicopter so that Falcon doesn't get blended.
  • The Heavy: The titular antagonist, while not the Big Bad, still drives most of the action and has the most emotional impact on the plot. Hence, the climax of the movie is when he and Steve confront each other after their second duel is over, rather than Pierce's death scene.
  • Hero of Another Story: Falcon had his own adventures as part of an elite group of special ops before the events of the story.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Black Widow and Cap steal somebody's Chevy pickup at one point. Steve insists they're just borrowing it.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Once the mask is knocked off the Winter Soldier's face and Cap sees that it's his old friend Bucky, Cap is frozen in place. He doesn't even put up a fight when the STRIKE team arrests him. Given that Steve's usually The Determinator, it's kind of disturbing to watch.
    • Even Nick Fury undergoes a brief one upon Steve telling him that in order to stop Hydra, S.H.I.E.L.D. must be destroyed. He only accepts this when it's clear that Cap will accept nothing less and everyone is on his side.
  • Heroic Bystander: Steve, Sam, Natasha, Nick, and Maria break into their own headquarters in order to beg their supposed allies to stand up and fight against their supposed allies... and they do.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • Sam and Steve quickly become this, with Sam noting on two occasions that he's unsure why people are asking for his input on the situation at hand, since he's just going to side with Cap.
    • Steve and Bucky are also this. The Smithsonian exhibit describes them as "inseparable", and a flashback showing more of their past in pre-WWII Brooklyn displays a close bond between the two. This bond is highlighted in the climactic "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight, where Steve outright refuses to fight Bucky once the Helicarriers have been reprogrammed.
  • High-Altitude Battle: The climax involves Falcon dodging not only gunships and jets but also Helicarriers blasting each other out of the sky thanks to Maria Hill changing the Helicarriers' targets.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Sitwell is convinced to talk by having Black Widow pitch him off a building. Sam catches him on the way down and brings him back to the roof, after which he's much more forthcoming.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Hydra, the villains from the the first Captain America film, return as the main antagonists in the sequel, with its Number Two from that movie now the Greater-Scope Villain.
  • Historical Rap Sheet: The resurrected Hydra was responsible for most (if not all) major terrorist events (along with WikiLeaks and North Korea) since World War II, as part of their "force people to give away their freedom" Evil Plan.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: As it turns out, the easiest way to knock three Helicarriers out of the sky is to have them target each other.
  • Holding the Floor: Arnim Zola exploits Just Between You and Me to keep Steve and Natasha in place long enough for the missile to arrive.
  • A House Divided: After Steve's Do Not Adjust Your Set speech, the Triskelion explodes into a gunfight between S.H.I.E.L.D. loyalists and Hydra infiltrators.
  • Human Popsicle: After being experimented on by Zola, Bucky was cryogenically frozen until his first assignment as the Winter Soldier. After his mission was complete, he would be retrieved, given some basic maintenance, memory-wiped and frozen again. Rinse and repeat, almost literally.
  • Hunting the Rogue: Zigzagged: HYDRA, protected by their infiltration of the World Security Council, try to eliminate high-level agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. who might object to the launching of Project Insight. These include Nick Fury, Steve Rogers, and Natasha Romanoff. After sending the Winter Soldier to eliminate Nick Fury, they grow suspicious that Fury may have had time to warn Rogers. S.T.R.I.K.E. team members attempt to detain Steve when it becomes clear he's aware that something is amiss at S.H.I.E.L.D. This leads to an elevator fight, a chase sequence, and a highway brawl as they try to kill Rogers, Romanoff, and new ally Sam Wilson. When live news coverage prevents them from executing the trio on the spot, they are instead arrested. However, they manage to escape and begin to work to turn the tables, hunting for the rogue HYDRA agents who have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. The cat and mouse chase continues until the climax of the movie.
  • Idealist vs. Pragmatist: Cap is on the Idealist end. His counterpart, Nick Fury is willing to lie and keep secrets from people. At one point, he forced a hostage rescue operation and the elimination of an eco-terrorist cell when negotiations failed with them.
  • The Idealist Was Right: Part of the Film is about the Idealistic Cap facing a world, which has grown cynical, especially with S.H.I.E.L.D., an intelligence organization that "takes that world as it is, not as [they'd] like it to be". When Steve gives the still loyal operatives left in S.H.I.E.L.D. a speech about doing the right thing, no matter what the price is, everyone, including the World Security Council, chooses to stand up against HYDRA.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Captain America's fight with the Winter Soldier in the climax is this trope, what with Steve trying to remind him that before he was Winter Soldier, he was Steve's friend Bucky. Also the reason why Steve puts on his old uniform for this fight: he's trying to jog Bucky's memories as much as possible.
  • Imagine Spot: While standing outside the barracks at Camp Lehigh, Steve sees his pre-serum self huffing and puffing far behind his platoon during a drill, and he stops to gape at the man he would become.
  • Imminent Danger Clue: Steve is joined in the elevator by a group of STRIKE team guys who greet him but otherwise seem to be just catching a ride... except one of them is keeping his hand on his gun. And then when another group of guys gets in, he notices one is sweating. After the third group enters and they start surrounding him, Steve pointedly asks if anyone would like to get out before they start, and they all attack him.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy:
    • During the freeway chase, one of the fake cops has a clear shot into Nick Fury's smashed window while his car is stopped later on, but he somehow misses.
    • Rumlow can't hit Agent 13 while standing a little over ten feet from her in the Insight control center during the Final Battle.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Nick Fury is targeted for a Conspicuously Public Assassination — assassins posing as D.C. Metropolitan Police first box him in from all four sides. Then a SWAT van pulls up discharging a team with assault rifles who open fire on him, then try to force their way into his bulletproof car with a tripod mounted battering ram. The intent is two-fold — to get close to Fury (when he sees the police officers in the car on his shotgun side staring at him, he assumes it's because he's a black man driving a very expensive, very fortified SUV) and to delay anyone calling the real police given the time they need to get past Fury's defenses.
  • Implacable Man: The Winter Soldier doesn't show up often, but when he does, he destroys everything in his way. The only times he doesn't complete the mission is because of resurfacing memories of being Bucky, or Fury Faking the Dead.
  • Improbable Age: The Black Widow is implied to have started working for the KGB; however, the film shows her to be born in 1984, which would make her at most 7 years old when the KGB broke up (it might fit, however, depending on how the MCU handles the "Red Room" element of Widow's comic backstory, which would have her training from an extremely young age, if not birth). Her own film shows that this was indeed the case.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Natasha claims the Winter Soldier shot her with a smoothbore rifle from a great distance, "Russian slug, no rifling". Rifling causes a bullet to spin as it leaves the barrel and makes it far more likely to hit the target.
  • Improbable Weapon User: The Winter Soldier openly wears a custom holster on his thigh that holds a 4-shot derringer, mounted above a second 2-shot derringer. Derringers are traditionally last-ditch weapons, designed for concealment and not used as a normal sidearm.
  • Insistent Terminology: Steve claims that he "borrowed" a stolen car when he and Widow are on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D..
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Played straight with every character that isn't Steve Rogers or the Winter Soldier, because as normal human beings, they're able to punch other people (and enhanced people) with little signs of adverse effects. Steve and the Winter Soldier, on the other hand, are enhanced people with more durability than the average person. The Soldier also has a cybernetic arm that further justifies this trope. Steve is able to punch and block blows from that metal arm with no signs of bruising or blunt trauma, and he punches a computer monitor with no signs of injury as well.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Rumlow does this to Sharon. He drops his gun and pretends to give up, then pulls out his knife and slashes her arm, disarming her.
  • It Is Beyond Saving: Steve declares this of S.H.I.E.L.D., since decades of Hydra infiltration make salvage impossible. Nick Fury objects at first, but ultimately goes along with it when it's clear Steve won't settle for anything less (plus Maria Hill, Natasha and Sam all side with Steve).
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: HYDRA's codename for Bucky is "The Asset" showing how they don't even view him as a real person, only a tool for HYDRA's purposes.
  • It's Personal: Rumlow insists the attack in the elevator isn't personal. Steve thinks maybe it is.
    Steve: It kind of feels personal.
  • Joisey: In this movie, we learn that Camp Lehigh — the US Army base where Steve trained in the first movie — is located in Wheaton, New Jersey. It's also the home of the secret S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker that was built post-war, and houses Dr. Zola's consciousness. Aaron from the computer store finds it weird that Steve and Natasha are planning a honeymoon in New Jersey.
  • Jumped at the Call: When Steve and Natasha need his help, Sam offers it without hesitation; he even gives them a dossier outlining his service as a para-rescue officer as well as details on the Falcon wing suit ("Call it a resume.")
    Steve: I can't ask you to do this. You got out for a good reason.
    Sam: Dude, Captain America needs my help. There's no better reason to get back in.
    • Sam got out because combat is... painful. He's spent his time since sheparding wounded veterans, including Steve. But when the time came for him to move back into combat... It was Captain America who needed him to do it.
  • Just Between You and Me: A Justified Trope. Zola lays everything out as a means to keep Steve and Natasha where they are until it's too late for them to escape. It almost works.
  • Just in Time: Cap's M.O. from the first movie hasn't changed. He manages to take down the Project Insight Helicarriers literally one second before they were set to kill some 700,000+ people.
  • Karmic Death: Pierce is shot twice by Nick Fury, the man he tried to kill and whose "death" set the motion of the events in the film. Fittingly, the last exchange Pierce had with Fury had him say that he would have no qualms about having Fury shot again should it be necessary.
  • Kick the Dog: Pierce slaps the Winter Soldier, who is in no state to defend himself. Unlike electrically shocking him to erase his memories, which he does afterwards anyway, it doesn't even serve any purpose. He's just acting on the frustration you'd feel when performing Percussive Maintenance on a piece of glitching technology that has inconvenienced you, not a confused and scared human being asking questions about his returning memories. It's bad enough that Brock Rumlow shows discomfort with this treatment of the Soldier.
  • Knight Templar: Hydra post-Schmidt (who could charitably be called megalomaniacal) has moved to this, helmed by Arnim Zola. Project Insight is the final step in which all of Hydra's enemies will be simultaneously wiped off the map and everyone left standing will fall into line at S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier gunpoint.
  • Laser Sight: Sam blackmails Agent Sitwell into lunching with him by threatening to have him killed through this.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler:The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode that came out following the film's debut has a plot basically parallel to The Winter Soldier. Thus, watching the show before leads to finding out early that Hydra is alive hidden within S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury is (seemingly) dead, and Captain America takes down a helicarrier.
  • Latex Perfection: Natasha wears some kind of hi-tech holographic mask, complete with voice-changer, to impersonate Hawley of the World Security Council in order to get close to Pierce.
  • Legendary in the Sequel: Captain America has a permanent Smithsonian exhibition in his honour, and is generally perceived as a Living Legend. The entrance to the exhibit even calls him a Living Legend.
  • Leitmotif:
    • Winter Soldier gets an industrial inspired theme containing a high-pitched metallic shriek that is highly unnerving and appropriately creepy.
    • Falcon also gets one that sounds similar to the Avengers theme.
    • Steve's leitmotif from the first movie also makes its return early on, but he gets a new leitmotif as well. The melody sounds similar to his old one, but darker and more modern.
  • Le Parkour: Cap's picked up some fancy new moves after studying modern techniques. Combined with his enhanced strength and his shield, he can pull off some really impressive combos against his enemies. For that matter, the fight with Batroc is a showpiece of a more acrobatic and agile Badass Normal going up against an immovable object in the form of Cap and his shield.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: During the opening fight with Bartoc, Steve repeatedly blocks the latter's savate with his shield. Bartoc, without apparent rancor, asks Steve (in untranslated French) to fight without his "bouclier". Steve complies. Then he demonstrates that one of his French Howling Commandos taught him aussi la savate.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: One of the issues Steve has with Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. is that they don't give him all the information regarding the missions he is sent on (including separate jobs that his squad might have during those missions). Fury insists that this is necessary to keep someone from spilling the beans. No one knows all the secrets, except Fury himself, as Steve retorts. It turns out that Fury didn't know all the secrets either.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: Used to devastatingly saddening effect during and following the Winter Soldier's No-Holds-Barred Beatdown of Steve. As the music climaxes, Cap falls into the river below. Then the scene goes completely silent, save for this simple tear-inducing music.
    Steve: I'm with you to the end of the line.
  • Long Game: Hydra spent seventy years shaping the world to be more receptive to its fascist message.
  • Look Both Ways: Fury takes out the last two Hydra agents trying to assassinate him this way, by luring them into trying to box his car from either side, then hitting the brakes just before they reach an intersection. The cop cars keep rushing forward and are subsequently hit by a box rental truck.
  • Looks Like Cesare: The Winter Soldier/Bucky fits this to a T. Interestingly enough, this trope is used here to serve the dual purpose of setting him up as The Dreaded and as The Woobie — usually it's used only for one or the other.

    Tropes M to R 
  • Macross Missile Massacre: A quinjet launches a barrage of missiles at Falcon, who evades them by flying close around a Helicarrier so the missiles crash into its hull. He even gets one to blast a hole in the ship's underside as a convenient entry point.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Brock Rumlow manages to survive a building collapse caused by a Helicarrier crash, badly injured and heavily burned, but alive.
    • Black Widow gets shot in the shoulder, yet several hours later fights like nothing happened. Age of Ultron implies Black Widows are trained to withstand pain, and she's notably less agile than usual. Which is still more than your average person.
  • Magic Floppy Disk: Zola's brain was uploaded to "two hundred thousand feet of databanks", with the ability to read and rewrite itself. You could feasibly pull this off in the 21st century with digital tape, but in the early Seventies when the mainframe was built it wouldn't have enough space to hold the estimated 2.5 petabytes for a human brain. Presumably there were cutbacks.
  • Male Gaze: Early in the movie, Black Widow knocks out a Mook with a crowbar. The next shot shows us Black Widow from behind, with her rear taking up most of the shot as she sexily struts off.
  • Male Might, Female Finesse: For most of it Super Strong Cap is paired with the acrobatic Natasha.
  • Marquee Alter Ego: Cap makes a point of removing his mask/helmet when he is taunted by Batroc on the Lemurian Star. The Winter Soldier also spends a significant of time unmasked after he discards his damaged goggles his mask gets knocked off halfway through the movie.
  • Matching Bad Guy Vehicles: S.H.I.E.L.D. sends a string of identical black SUVs to apprehend Steve and Natasha.
  • The Matchmaker: Black Widow keeps trying to find dates for Steve. Even during the heat of battle. She's multitasking.
  • Mathematician's Answer: When Cap asks Sitwell what he was doing on board the Lemurian Star, Sitwell responds, "I was throwing up. I get seasick."
  • Meaningful Echo: "I'm with you to the end of the line." Said first in a flashback to represent Steve and Bucky's friendship, and said again by Steve during his "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight with the Winter Soldier in the climax.
  • Meta Casting: The creators have said that they saw the film as being a Seventies-style political thriller, only with superheroes, and you can't get much more "Seventies political thriller" than the star of All the President's Men and Three Days of the Condor.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Averted. The film deserves points for having both genders in Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. rosters as mooks and background agents.
  • Mental Health Recovery Arc: Similar to the PTSD Tony Stark goes through in Iron Man 3 (below), Steve is suffering from depression after having been locked in the ice for 70 years.
  • Mexican Standoff: After Steve announces that anyone in S.H.I.E.L.D. could actually be working for Hydra, everybody has a gun pointed at someone else. Unsurprisingly, it ends in a Blast Out.
  • Military Superhero: Army Captain Steve "Captain America" Rogers, as always. Also Sam "The Falcon" Wilson, a member of the Air National Guard.
  • Mishmash Museum: The Captain America display at the Smithsonian is inexplicably placed in the National Air & Space Museum, which is exclusively for aviation-related artifacts, when it would have been more logical to put it in the Museum of American History.
  • Misplaced Accent: Batroc is said to be Algerian, but French-Canadian Georges St-Pierre speaks with a clearly Quebecois accent. This would be the equivalent of someone supposed to be from South Africa but speaking with an American accent.
  • Mission Control: Maria Hill has this role in the climax where she directs Steve and Sam's missions to the Helicarriers from a dispatch room in S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Fury assumes the cops checking him over are about to start hassling him for being a black man in a nice car... which means the other assassin cops get the drop on Fury.
  • Mistaken Nationality:
    • When he encounters Arnim Zola, Steve says he's a German scientist who worked for Hydra. "First correction: I am Swiss." It's easy to assume that Zola could come from the more Germanic regions of Switzerland.
    • When a member of the security council calls Batroc a "French pirate", Pierce states he's actually Algerian and asks if the councilman could find Algiers on a map.
  • Mook Chivalry: Averted in the Elevator Action Sequence, in which over a dozen S.H.I.E.L.D. (HYDRA) agents attack Cap all at once. It still doesn’t go well for them.
  • More Dakka:
    • The squadron of police officers and SWAT team do this to Nick Fury's car. Fury's Chevrolet is armored like a tank and requires lots of bullets and accumulative damage. In the end they resort to a pneumatic battering ram to break the window.
    • The guy who brings an M134 minigun to try and kill Cap.
    • When regular guns don't help much against Winter Soldier, Black Widow uses a grenade launcher.
  • Movie Superheroes Wear Black:
    • The Falcon and Black Widow both wear dark, practical outfits, though Widow wears one in the comics as well. Anthony Mackie expressed some lamentations that he wasn't able to wear Sam Wilson's comic outfit in the movie.
    • Steve's new outfit is noticeably darker than any previous version, with only blue, white, and gunmetal grey in its color scheme, referencing his time in the comics as a Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and possibly being an early visual cue that something is deeply wrong with S.H.I.E.L.D. He later wears his old red, white, and blue costume.
    • Played straight with Batroc. He lacks a yellow mask and curly mustache, but still wears a purple outfit with a yellow stripe like his comic counterpart. It's not quite as bright as his comics costume, but the colors are still there.
  • Mr. Exposition:
    • Zola only appears to explain how HYDRA has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and manipulated world events to its own ends. After Cap and Black Widow learn all this, Zola orders a missile strike against them and himself.
    • Besides serving as Pierce’s Number Two, Sitwell’s other major purpose is explaining Project Insight to the heroes.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • The Winter Soldier, of all people, can be considered one. He wears a rather tight outfit and has a shirtless scene in which he looks toned and attractive (although the fact that he's strapped to a chair and undergoing a clearly painful brainwashing procedure may lead it to be more of Fan Disservice).
    • Steve also invokes this sporadically throughout the movie.
      Natasha: [referring to Steve, who is disguised as a hipster, and the Apple employee having the same glasses] Wow, you two are practically twins.
      Apple employee: Yeah, I wish! [gestures at Steve] Specimen!
  • Ms. Fanservice: Natasha Romanoff, again. She even flashes her belly button to show Cap her scar from the Winter Soldier, who shot her through her abdomen, which also killed the scientist she was protecting. It's downplayed compared to previous films because despite the above, she spends most of her screen time fully dressed in baggy clothes and wears her costume in only two scenes.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The scene where Cap jumps out of a plane without bothering to use a parachute is a reference to a similar scene from the first issue of The Ultimates (2002). It also happens in Batman & Captain America.
      Rollins: Was he wearing a parachute?
      Rumlow: [smiles] No. No, he wasn't.
    • Also in the first arc of The Ultimates, S.H.I.E.L.D. is infiltrated by the Chitaurinote , aliens who used to Piggyback on Hitler.
    • Like in the first film, Bucky makes use of Cap's shield as a reference to his time as Captain America in the comics.
    • Batroc uses a very acrobatic fighting style in reference to his origins as an acrobat who took up crime. He's also wearing a yellow and purple top, in subdued tones compared to the goofy outfit he wears in the comics.
    • Though he's largely influenced by his Ultimate counterpart, Sam Wilson is a VA counsellor who helps soldiers with PTSD as a nod to his 616 background as a social worker.
    • Natasha's Tiffany & Co. necklace happens to be the arrow one.
    • The freighter Batroc hijacks in the beginning is named the Lemurian Star. This is a reference to Lemuria, the sunken continent that was home to the Deviants, a race of superhumans created by Jack Kirby.
    • Captain America's new costume is the same one Steve Rogers wore in the Heroic Age arc in the comics, after he stepped down from his role as Captain America. Except, in the comics, Steve's outfit didn't have the cowl.
    • We see an old S.H.I.E.L.D. emblem, which is identical to the original logo from the comics.
    • The way Steve signals a kid to keep quiet about recognizing him is identical to the way Cyclops signaled a kid to keep quiet about recognizing him in X-Men.
    • Natasha uses camotech to disguise herself. The technology is a favorite of Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird, a fellow spy in the comics, who at one point in Secret Avengers used it to pretend to be Natasha as a prank.
    • After being defeated by Falcon and left for dead, the burns and injuries Rumlow sustains to his face cause him to more closely resemble his comic book counterpart, Crossbones.
    • When Rumlow takes off his vest to fight Falcon, the straps across his chest resemble the crossbones on the costume of his comics equivalent.
    • S.H.I.E.L.D. had been infiltrated by Nazis in the first arc of The Ultimates as well. Also in that story, Captain America took control of a system to address all S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at once, warning them of the infiltration and that the big thing going on served the bad guy's goals.
    • A now obscure 1988 limited-series comic, Nick Fury Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D., had Fury stumbling onto S.H.I.E.L.D. being subverted from within, leading to him being targeted by his own organization, revelations that the subversion existed nearly since S.H.I.E.L.D.'s founding and before Fury became director, and then concluded with most of the organization's infrastructure in ruins and the total disbanding of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Fury. The limited-series was also where the (minor) character, Alexander Pierce, debuted.
    • While not humanoid in form, this incarnation's upgraded version of Arnim Zola retains the traditional monitor "body" and one-eyed "head" from his comic book counterpart with the computer monitor and the camera.
    • "When did Captain America learn how to steal a car?" This moment is possibly a shout out to the 1990 film, where Cap's constant carjacking was an unintentional Running Gag.
    • The Baxter Building, headquarters of the Fantastic Four, is seen as one of the targets of the Helicarriers in a blink-and-you'll miss it scene. Doubles as an Actor Allusion, as Chris Evans played the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four films. invoked
    • The "Who the hell is Bucky?" line is straight from the comics.
    • Baron von Strucker in The Stinger is experimenting on twins with superpowers. In the comics, Strucker actually subjected his own twins to a treatment which gave them superpowers.
    • Scarlet Witch's debut appearance in the MCU shows her levitating shaped blocks. The X-Men debut comic shows Jean Grey doing the same.
    • The phrase "Operation: Zemo" can be seen in the Cap's Smithsonian exhibit. Baron Zemo is one of Cap's deadliest longtime foes in the comics.
    • Ed Brubaker having a cameo as one of the scientists working on Winter Soldier works as a meta-textual instance: In the real world, he created the Winter Soldier in his writing. In the film, he plays a character who creates the Winter Soldier physically.
    • Cap's list of the things he missed includes the Moon Landing. Towards the beginning of the Winter Soldier comic arc, Cap regrets that he was not around in the 1960s to go into the space program because his body was made for those risks. In the House of M continuity, Cap was the first man on the moon.
    • During the final fight between Captain America and the Winter Soldier, the latter shoots him in the same spot from The Death of Captain America.
    • Nick Fury's blind eye playing an important part calls back to the David Hasselhoff portrayal of Nick Fury, where his eyepatch concealed a bunch of emergency tools, including plastic explosives. Which is also amusing, since both of them involve cracking open a door!
    • The Winter Soldier unsuccessfully assassinates Nick Fury in an almost identical way to how he assassinated the Red Skull in the original Winter Soldier story.
    • Nick Fury mentioning he has a wife, who he claims kicked him out of the house. Ultimate Nick Fury did indeed have a wife, Monica Chang (the second Black Widow), and she did kick him out.
    • The patch of S.T.R.I.K.E. and the Insight crew is colored in green and yellow, the same colors Hydra uses in the comic books.
    • Arnim Zola existing as a sentient computer intelligence visualized as a green face on a screen, is similar to the Supreme Intelligence of the Kree from the comics.
    • During Civil War, Cap refused to enforce the SHRA, and a room full of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents tried to arrest him. This resulted in Cap beating up a room full of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, then jumping out of a window and hijacking a passing fighter jet from the outside. In this movie, he just beats up an elevator full. And doesn't bother with the jet.
    • In the comics all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s vehicles are able to fly. During the attack on Fury's vehicle, he tries to escape by using the flight system, but it's disabled.
    • At the end, Natasha brings Steve a file on the Winter Soldier that she acquired through channels. In the comics, the same file was accidentally teleported into Steve's apartment.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Terrifyingly, the Evil Plan very nearly works. Captain America retasks the Helicarriers with about one second to spare. During his Rousing Speech, Cap makes it clear to S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel that the world as they know it is moments away from coming to an end.
  • Neck Lift:
    • The Winter Soldier lifts Steve using his metal arm in the highway fight.
    • Bucky also does it in a flashback during a failed attempt to escape from the Hydra base he was captured at before they began the brainwashing process. After he realizes he's got a metal arm, he uses it to grab a Hydra scientist by the throat and hoist him while still lying in bed. Unfortunately, Zola immediately tranquilizes him.
    • In a rare hero-to-major-villain example, Cap attempts to choke-out the Winter Soldier this way with one hand during the climax.
  • The Needs of the Many: At the conclusion of the film, The Winter Soldier (literally) stands between Steve and his objective. Rogers makes it clear that he doesn't want to fight his best friend, but will do so because people will die if he doesn't.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: When Fury is under attack, he tries to activate his car's flight mode and show an adaptation of the flying cars from the comics. Flight systems are, however, damaged.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: Three separate times throughout the movie, the Winter Soldier uses a knife against Captain America. Only in the last one does he manage to land a single hit with it.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • Pierce's line to Steve, "Your work has been a gift to mankind. You've shaped the century. And I need you to do it one more time..." is actually said to the Winter Soldier in the movie.
    • Likewise, Pierce's line to Steve, "Are you ready for the world to see you as you really are?" is actually said to the Black Widow in the movie.
    • The Senate subcommittee's line about how a man has dismantled the US's major intelligence organization is framed to look like it's about the Winter Soldier when it's actually about Rogers.
    • The trailers did show one of the Insight Helicarriers crashing into the Triskelion, but the context made it look like a major attack on S.H.I.E.L.D. by the bad guys, like when Loki's men tried to do the same thing in The Avengers. The heroes are actually the ones making the Helicarrier crash because they're full of Hydra personnel about to use the Insight ships to murder twenty million people in the name of "bringing order".
    • The Elevator Action Sequence is intercut with Fury addressing Steve, making it look like S.H.I.E.L.D. attempting to detain him was on Fury's orders. In the actual film Fury is presumed dead at this point, and Pierce is calling the shots.
    • Steve's "The Price of Freedom Is High" speech sounds a lot more vocally subdued in the final film than in the trailer, where it sounded loud and righteous. The effect is largely the same, but the tone does hone in how much grimmer the situation is than one would have originally thought.
    • Fury's "You need to keep both eyes open" line is edited in the trailer so it looks like he's berating Steve for maintaining his idealistic worldview in an era where such thoughts are naive and foolish (something that would make sense, as he does give the Captain such a speech during the film). The line is instead directed at Alexander Pierce in a moment of Out-Gambitted, showing that Fury had registered his blinded eye to access S.H.I.E.L.D.'s database as a potential response to a betrayal within the agency.
    • In the trailer, after Steve finishes taking down everyone in the elevator fight, he's shown saying, "Damn, right!" before kicking his shield back into his hands. In the actual film, Steve's line is instead, "It kind of feels personal," after Rumlow told him otherwise right before his final attack.
    • In general: while the Winter Soldier is an important supporting character, he isn't nearly as prominent as the trailers and promo material initially seemed to suggest. The primary conflict in the movie isn't Steve's battle with the Winter Soldier, it's Hydra's secret takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D..
    • The Captain's Dramatic Unmask is played up with some kind of importance in the trailers. In the finished product, this actually happens during his bout with Batroc, and is irrelevant.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Despite HYDRA’s deep infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D., it does nothing to stop Captain America from being revived in the present, nor does it have any apparent plan of eliminating or even containing him, even though Cap is responsible for defeating HYDRA the first time.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Three helicarriers launch from the Potomac, shoot each other out of the sky and only crash into the fictional S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. No national landmarks (The Lincoln Memorial, The Kennedy Center, the National Mall, etc.) sustain any damages.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Unusually for a superhero movie, Pierce does not appear to have any physical combat capabilities. However, he knows how to use guns and hidden kill-gadgets, and given that he is in command of virtually all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s resources (including legions of SWAT teams, multiple Helicarriers, and The Winter Soldier), he is still extremely dangerous. He is, after all, essentially the head of HYDRA and the villain of a 70s era spy thriller. He's a serious threat, just not a supremely physical threat.
  • Nonchalant Dodge: The Winter Soldier calmly sidesteps around Nick Fury's flaming, careening vehicle, after the former detonated a smart mine underneath it.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • How Nick Fury lost his eye, aside from it being due to misplaced trust in someone. It's not until 2019's Captain Marvel where we discover how it truly happened. Let's just say he wasn't lying here...
    • While several characters hint at Natasha's murky past and point out that releasing all of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra's secrets onto the internet will make that past widely known, what precisely she did is never revealed to the audience. In a deleted scene, Alexander Pierce seems to reference a few of the same events that Loki did during The Avengers — the hospital fire may have involved a children's ward.
    • Most of the Winter Soldier's activities over the past several decades, aside from being so top secret that he's become Shrouded in Myth as a result.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The Winter Soldier does this to Captain America, when Cap states he won't fight Bucky.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis:
  • No One Could Survive That!: Averted. After the missile hits the bunker that Captain America is in, Hydra still sends an entire armed platoon backed by about four or five quinjets to ensure he's dead. The second a piece of evidence comes up that he's not, they immediately call HQ to tell them to unleash the Winter Soldier on him.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Steve and the Winter Soldier are far from Powerhouse, but being the only people with superpowers, they are practically unstoppable in any fight they are in, except between each other.
  • No-Sell: Steve is only momentarily pained and otherwise unfazed by Rumlow's stun sticks. Steve tosses him into the elevator ceiling for his trouble and walks out of the car full of thrashed mooks little worse for wear.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: S.H.I.E.L.D. has been dissolved, Fury is now working from the shadows and Hydra is back and more dangerous than ever. While the other post-Avengers films have played with the status quo, this film has made the boldest and most dramatic changes to the MCU yet.
  • Nothing Personal: Said by Rumlow after Cap (in a tight cramped elevator) has flattened his entire team of agents. Cap doesn't buy it for a second.
    Rumlow: Whoa there, big guy. I just wanted you to know Cap, this ain't personal! [lunges at Steve with his taser stick]
    [cue Steve kicking his ass for his trouble]
    Steve: It kind of feels personal.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Played with. Falcon was a member of an entire special ops unit with flying harnesses. The plans for the harness still exist, but the heroes don't exactly have the resources to build one. Instead they have to go steal the last one from an Army base, the implication being that all the others were destroyed in action.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Batroc is said to be a Francophone Algerian, but the actor clearly speaks with a French Canadian accent. The rest of the crew do a slightly better job of hiding their accents.
  • Not His Sled:
    • Fans worldwide assumed following Robert Redford letting slip that his character was a villain, Alexander Pierce would turn out to be the Red Skull, as Aleksander Lukin was (kinda) in the Winter Soldier's introductory storyline. The popular rumour turned out to be nothing more than a rumour.
    • Black Widow having been a past lover and student of the Winter Soldier. He shot her once, and that's it.
    • Played with in the movie's very title. Anyone who's been reading the comics would know that the Winter Soldier is Bucky. But they included that in the title to distract from the real twist: that S.H.I.E.L.D. is going down.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • When Steve criticizes S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new strategy, Fury is quick to point out that Cap's generation also did questionable things. Steve is willing to concede, "Yeah, we compromised, sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well," but he points out that they never attacked someone unless they attacked first.
    • When Fury confronts Pierce about his methods, Pierce states that he drew his inspiration from Nick's own past procedures, taken to their seemingly logical conclusion. Fury calls bullshit, noting that all his compromises and Military Maverick maneuvers were meant to save lives and under very specific circumstances, neither of which ever approached the scale or ruthlessness of murdering twenty million people in a blink in the name of perfect global security.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: In Captain America: The First Avenger: Armin Zola seemed to be a sniveling Dirty Coward Punch-Clock Villain. In this film, it turns out he never stopped believing in HYDRA's beliefs and has been corrupting S.H.I.E.L.D. with HYDRA moles since its inception.
  • Not Wearing Tights: Cap, Black Widow, and Falcon spend a significant portion of the film outside of their uniforms. Justified because Pierce has Rogers declared as a fugitive, and Natasha sides with him out of a desire to avenge Fury. Falcon doesn't suit up for real until shortly before the final battle.
  • Number Two: Jack Rollins of STRIKE serves in as the second-in-command for Rumlow, who is its leader.
  • Obsessed Are the Listmakers: Steve Rogers has a "catch up" list, things that took place between 1945 and 2011 that he missed by being a Human Popsicle. The precise list varies according to the country where you see the movie, see Cultural Translation. The four final items always remain the same, though: "Thai Food", "Star Wars/Trek", "Nirvana (band)" and "Rocky (Rocky II?)". Steve also adds a fifth item, "Troubleman (soundtrack)", when Sam recommends it to him.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Falcon says that the last remaining wingsuit is stored under guard at Fort Meade. We never get to see the break-in needed to get it. Then again, Steve's and Natasha's reaction to the security measures for it makes it sound like it would be a banal matter for them.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Steve and the audience get a HUGE OC moment during the freeway fight when we learn that the Winter Soldier is Bucky fucking mother shit goddamn Barnes.
    Soundtrack: [goes silent]
    • There is one that occurs near the end of the film when the Hydra Helicarrier gunners prepare to fire on their targets. At the last moment, Cap manages to reprogram the Helicarriers' targeting computers. Cue the gunners' faces when they realize the hijacked Helicarriers have started targeting each other.
    • A subtle example happens at the climax when Cap reveals Hydra's deception to the entirety of the S.H.I.E.L.D. staff who aren't Hydra agents. Pierce, hearing Cap's voice, has a quick "Oh, Crap" look pass through his eyes, though he quickly recovers.
    • Pierce also gets a brief one when at the climax Natasha shocks herself to keep from being taken prisoner, thwarting his hostage insurance by messing up the device on his phone that could kill her and giving Nick time to grab a pistol and gun him down.
  • Older Than They Look: Both Cap and the Winter Soldier were soldiers in World War II who still look like they're in their twenties in modern day; Steve even points out to Natasha that he's 95 years old. The latter's appearance is due to being cryogenically frozen multiple times.
  • Old Flame: Steve still carries a torch for Peggy. When he and Romanov are exploring the abandoned S.H.I.E.L.D. base in New Jersey, they encounter framed photos of the three major founders. Romanov recognizes Stark's father, but not the girl. Steve refuses to identify her and continues to explore the base.
  • Once per Episode: Captain Rogers once again has a brief conversation with a female colleague before jumping out of an airplane, as in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers.
  • One-Man Army: Quite a few of them. Captain America and the Winter Soldier are the obvious ones, but Natasha, Falcon, and Nick Fury get moments where they solo against platoons of enemies. Falcon even takes down an entire flying fortress.
  • Only a Flesh Wound:
    • Subverted when Nick Fury is shot early in the film and dies, but Double Subverted when he returns for the finale. While he rolls off a list of injuries he suffered from his crash and shooting, he's still able to use a firearm and pilot a helicopter with little to no trouble.
    • Black Widow is shot in the shoulder and loses somewhere between a pint or two of blood, but is still capable of kicking the ass of trained STRIKE agents and shows absolutely no signs of injury hours later.
    • Justified with Steve. He's shot three times and stabbed in the shoulder, but is still capable of fighting and defeating the Winter Soldier, and then acrobatically climbing back up to a high platform to complete his mission. The gunshots slow him down, and he needs intense medical attention after the mission's over, but he is still able to lift a heavy girder to save Bucky.
  • Only One Plausible Suspect: Steve Rogers sets out to discover who has ordered the attacks on both him and Nick Fury. Only one plausible suspect is shown, and Alexander Pierce does indeed turn out to be behind it all. Perhaps in awareness of this, the film doesn't really attempt to make him look anything but shady with the twists being exactly why he did it.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • After discovering that the Girl Next Door was sent by Fury to spy on him, Steve gives an unusually cold greeting to her the next time they meet.
    • Maria Hill and Black Widow are both near tears and barely holding it together after Fury's death on the operating table.
    • Following their near death in the abandoned base in New Jersey, Romanov starts by brushing it off as just another op. When Steve sits down in front of her and asks what's really going on... she doesn't talk about operational shit, she opens up about personal stuff. Because Steve.
    • During the freeway battle, Natasha at one point flat-out flees from the Winter Soldier, screaming at bystanders to get out of the way. Then she takes a bullet in the shoulder and the look on her face is sheer terror. This is the only enemy apart from the Hulk we've seen make Natasha panic.
  • Orbital Bombardment: Project Insight is a small-scale version of this: three self-sufficient S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers packing dozens of pinpoint-accurate guns that can eliminate any target below them at a moment's notice — thousands at once, potentially. Under Hydra's control, they could have potentially killed hundreds of thousands of people in just a few minutes, and millions inside of a day.
  • Order Versus Chaos: A major theme of the film, and displayed in a multitude of ways. The movie comes down on Chaos's side.
    • Captain America and his allies represent Chaos. Steve is declared a criminal early on in the film and spends much of it running from S.H.I.E.L.D. with the Black Widow, who mentions her variety of masks and aliases — a shapeshifter in the figurative sense. His allies are all people fighting the government themselves — Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and the Falcon once he ends up on Cap's side — and they all use non-orderly methods — Nick Fury fakes his death and hides out in a tunnel, Maria Hill pretends to be a loyal Hydra goon to sneak in and save Steve, and the Falcon is using a stolen military flightsuit. Steve makes a speech early on in the movie about freedom versus fear, and ends up tearing down the surveillance apparatus that promotes Hydra's goals, removing a lot of control from the system.
    • S.H.I.E.L.D., as a military and police arm of multiple governments, is Order. Hydra personnel, from Zola to Pierce, make a multitude of speeches in praise of order, and against freedom, with Zola stating the entire goal of all their manipulations over multiple decades is simply to get humanity to give up their freedom willingly — and the only reason the "willing" part is involved is because it's too hard to do it unwillingly. The Winter Soldier is another good example of the Order aspects of Hydra: a totally emotionless, completely controlled superhuman, slavishly obedient to superiors whom he could tear apart with his fighting skill, to the point that they can slap him and he barely reacts. It should be noted that this symbolism is even present in their icons; S.H.I.E.L.D.'s icon of the eagle is reminiscent of Roman symbolism and, more worryingly, Nazi Germany; Hydra's icon is a skull with tentacles, choking the freedom out of the world.
  • Outclassed at the Gym: The film opens with Steve running laps around Sam during a morning jog. Sam is in good shape, but Steve "Captain America" Rogers is a hunky "specimen" in peak physical condition. At the end of it Sam is absolutely knackered while Steve is only a little out of breath, and the two banter about it.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Or rather, Outrun the Collapsing Building: Sam runs from the debris and the floor falling apart behind him after a Helicarrier crashes into the building he and Rumlow were fighting in.
  • Outside Ride: Winter Soldier hops on the heroes' car in order to get to a target. What's impressive is that Cap, Black Widow, and Falcon are all in the car and none of them realize that he's there until it's too late.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • Steve and Natasha's undercover civilian clothes seem to fool most people, with the exception of a kid in the museum. Natasha talks Steve through using body language to help throw people off.
    • The Winter Soldier also manages to pull this off while standing in front of a picture of himself as Bucky Barnes.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Downplayed compared to the previous film and much more subdued. Steve still sticks to his ideals and sense of duty, though it's clear that the murkiness of what's happening in S.H.I.E.L.D. makes him question whether it's all worth it.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Steve and Natasha, which might surprise audiences considering they share an onscreen kiss, pose as lovers when running from S.H.I.E.L.D., and open up emotionally to each other, but end up nothing more than close friends. She even spends most of the movie attempting to get him to ask out other women.
  • Playing with Syringes: While it's not shown in any great detail, the Winter Soldier's backstory-flashback show him being injected to control his emotions and force him to comply with his superiors.
  • Plot-Irrelevant Villain: Ironically, the Winter Soldier. He is essentially a highly competent Mook who does almost nothing to drive the plot, which is pretty surprising since he is the Title Antagonist. His most significant acts are killing Nick Fury — or so it seemed — and attempting to stop Captain America from disarming the last helicarrier, which he fails to do and only adds a little extra drama by slowing Cap down a bit. This can be justified that the actual Big Bad is an old man Non-Action Big Bad who doesn't have the physical prowess to do much more than call the shots, which he does effectively.
  • Poirot Speak: Batroc's man who passes his orders to the other mercenaries clearly isn't accustomed to his boss's language yet, which gives us gems like "Startez les moteurs" or "La line est morte".
  • Police Are Useless: Cops (that is, legitimate ones) show up a grand total of once in the film: a single police car reports to the overpass ambush and is immediately blown up by the Winter Soldier. Justified during the first ambush on Nick Fury, as the attackers themselves were impersonating D.C. police officers, which would fool the majority of bystanders enough to deter them from calling the real thing (although bystanders know real police officers don't shoot at someone unless that someone provokes them or engages them first). In real life, many of these incidents other than the "police" ambush would warrant heavy police response.
  • The Power of Friendship: The Winter Soldier has been brainwiped and re-programmed repeatedly since World War II, but seeing Steve's earnest face, and hearing him call the name Steve knew him by, is enough to cut through it, and help him overcome his programming enough to spare Cap's life.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner:
    • When Cap realizes a bunch of guys who have joined him in an elevator are there to try and subdue him, he asks, "Before we get started, does anyone wanna get out?" None of them do. They should have.
    • Black Widow greets one of Batroc's goons with a "Hello, sailor," before wiping the floor with them.
    • Rumlow tries to talk down Sam Wilson before engaging on a one-on-one.
      Falcon: Man, shut the hell up!
  • Precision F-Strike: The only word in the film stronger than "damn" is Sam's, when the Winter Soldier reaches through the windshield of the car Sam's driving and plucks out the steering wheel.
  • Precrime Arrest: Nick Fury shows Steve "Project Insight," three new Helicarriers designed to "eliminate a lot of potential threats before they happen." Steve is less than thrilled and replies, "I thought the punishment usually came after the crime." Fury replies that they can't afford to wait that long. Steve counters that that sort of attitude "isn't freedom. It's fear." He turns out to be right, as Project Insight is actually a Hydra program, driven by an algorithm developed by Arnim Zola which mathematically calculates the "potential threats". Contrary to what Nick Fury was led to believe, these aren't so much threats to world peace, but to Hydra's absolute control.
  • Predecessor Villain: Midway through the film, Arnim Zola is revealed to be the first Hydra mole inside S.H.I.E.L.D. and the original mastermind of Project Insight. However, at the time of the film's events, Zola is dead (or at least his body is) and the main Big Bad is Alexander Pierce.
  • Product Placement:
    • Steve sports S.H.I.E.L.D. workout clothes with a visible Under Armour logo.
    • Captain America rides a new Harley-Davidson Street 750 motorcycle, while Black Widow drives a 2014 C7 Corvette. Both vehicles were heavily promoted in publicity materials for the film.
    • Sam wears a shirt with a prominent Nike logo at one point.
    • Every vehicle is a Chevrolet. Unless it's a Harley.
    • The shoes Natasha wears while on the run are Nike Dunk Sky Hi's.
    • Natasha and Steve visit an Apple store to use a computer and determine where the data on the Lemurian Star was encrypted. They're even greeted by an employee who wears the standard work uniform. Later, an iPod Touch playing Marvin Gaye is featured at Steve's hospital bedside.
    • Agent Sitwell and Nick Fury's phones are from HTC.
    • The scene where Steve hides the USB drive in a vending machine has plenty of Doublemint, Starburst, and Orbit gum.
    • When Fury is driving in his car, the stereo's Bose logo is clearly visible for an extended period.
  • Profiling: When Fury notices some cops eyeballing him in his SUV, he asks if they want to see his lease. But then they turn out to be assassins, and he's their target.
  • Promotion, Not Punishment: Pierce mentions Fury once ignored his orders in a hostage crisis, skipping negotiations to take the hostages in secret from underground. As it turned out, all the hostages were about to be executed, and this trope came into effect. Pierce brings this up later, presenting it as evidence that diplomacy is only a temporary solution to problems Hydra will solve with Project Insight, retroactively making this a case of Your Approval Fills Me with Shame.
  • Properly Paranoid: When Rumlow and the other HYDRA agents hop out their trucks to dig three graves and execute Steve, Natasha, and Sam, they come around the back with guns drawn.
  • "Psycho" Strings: When the Winter Soldier launches a surprise attack.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The Winter Soldier at the end of the film, when Steve tells him "You're my friend."
    The Winter Soldier: [tackles Rogers] You're my mission. [punching with each word] YOU'RE! MY! MISSION!
  • Putting on the Reich: While the reborn Hydra was the product of Nazi scientists and Schmidt associates like Arnim Zola, it's largely jettisoned this trope in order to distance themselves from the defeated Third Reich. They've also played a major role in making S.H.I.E.L.D. increasingly authoritarian and sinister without being too overt about it. On the other hand, the targets of Project Insight as well as the presence of von Strucker suggest that Hydra does still maintain some ties to their Nazi heritage.
  • Race Against the Clock: Steve and his allies have minutes in which to sabotage the Project Insight helicarriers before they reach operational altitude and begin their mission for HYDRA.
  • Race Lift: Machete, a South American in the comics, is made a Ugandan.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: Pierce is notable for that time he turned down the Nobel Peace Prize by saying that peace is a goal that must be continuously striven for and such a worthy goal does not need prizes. By this point in the film he's already been revealed as the head of HYDRA, and we know that HYDRA's ideas of peace are not the kind that would warrant the Peace Prize. Nick is suitably disgusted when he says the line.
  • Red Herring: Communism. Winter Soldier's red star on his bionic arm and use of Soviet bullets serve to throw off those who read the comics and to hide the fact that he's created by HYDRA here. On the freeway ambush, he also speaks Russian to his mooks, but nothing happens beyond that.
  • Red Shirt Army: S.H.I.E.L.D. agents valiantly try to fight back during the climax, but are easily mowed down by the Insight and STRIKE crews, and the Winter Soldier. Some loyal pilot even says, "We're Captain America's only air support." Guess who gets killed next?
  • The Remnant: Played with. The new Hydra, recreated by Arnim Zola and other surviving Hydra agents that emigrated to the US after the end of WWII, is even stronger than it used to be in the '40s.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Falcon has been redesigned to sport a pair of goggles, which he would need to protect his eyes while flying. His wings are also larger than they are in the comics, making them closer to the size needed to hold a human aloft, and the backpack sports a small afterburner. And as shown in Ant-Man, the goggles have a zoom function, so he can actually see stuff while a thousand feet in the air.
  • Retcon:
    • The tie-in comics to the last movie depicted Steve and Bucky as meeting when they were both orphaned in their childhood. In a flashback scene, Steve is shown to have recently lost his mother while both are adults, with Bucky's parents mentioned as still being alive.
    • A fairly minor one. In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve is hailed for saving 400 POWs, including on a clear newspaper headline. The Smithsonian shows it as only 163. A possible explanation is that 163 was the number of POWs who were actually saved, but the newspapers artificially inflated the number saved to make Rogers look more badass. Or 163 was just the number at the camp where Bucky was found, and the whole montage leading up to Red Skull's "YOU ARE FAILING!!" raised the count to 400.
    • The World War II costume Steve dons in the third act is slightly different from the one he actually wore in The First Avenger, with the most noticeable difference being a third red stripe on the stomach.
  • Reusable Lighter Toss: Nick Fury tosses a Zippo to light up the remains of some evidence.
  • The Reveal: Holy shit.
    • 1) SHIELD has been thoroughly infected by HYDRA, and they're on the verge of using Project Insight to take over the world.
    • 2) Bucky Barnes is alive, and Brainwashed and Crazy as the Winter Soldier.
    • 3) Secretary Pearce isn't merely not as good as he seems, he's in fact the Big Bad organizing all this shit.
    • 4) Steve's neighbor's not a nurse.
    • 5) The douchebag senator demanding Tony hand over the Iron Man suits turns out to be HYDRA.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Subverted. While the plot does touch on relevant issues like terrorism, mass surveillance, and increasingly complicated geopolitics, it's revealed that much of what happened from the end of World War II was manipulated by Hydra.
  • Rousing Speech: After discovering that Hydra has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., Steve hijacks the Triskelion's public announcement room and gives a speech to every S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in the building, convincing them that it's worth putting their lives on the line to preserve freedom. Cue all the non-Hydra agents doing everything they can to prevent the Helicarriers from launching. They fall in droves against their highly trained foes, and are unable to even delay the Helicarriers' launch after Rumlow overrides the system and launches the carriers early.
    Steve: Attention all S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, this is Steve Rogers. You've heard a lot about me over the last few days. Some of you were even ordered to hunt me down. But I think it's time you know the truth. S.H.I.E.L.D. is not what we thought it was. It's been taken over by Hydra. Alexander Pierce is their leader. The STRIKE and Insight crew are Hydra as well. I don't know how many more, but I know they're in the building. They could be standing right next to you. They almost have what they want: absolute control. They shot Nick Fury. And it won't end there. If you launch those Helicarriers today, Hydra will be able to kill anyone that stands in their way. Unless we stop them. I know I'm asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it's a price I'm willing to pay. And if I'm the only one, then so be it. But I'm willing to bet I'm not.
    Sam Wilson: Did you write that down first, or was it off the top of your head?
  • Rival Final Boss: After Alexander Pierce has been killed, HYDRA has been defeated, and the Helicarriers are currently in the midst of destroying themselves, Steve Rogers has to deal with his still-living rival, the Winter Soldier, though instead he refuses to fight his brainwashed friend.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Steve spends most of the movie in a Darker and Edgier uniform, with less color, working unknowingly on behalf of the S.H.I.E.L.D. infected by HYDRA. When he finally leads the fight to take them down, he takes back his old uniform from WWII. Brighter, old-fashioned, from a time when we knew who the bad guys were.
  • Rule of Three:
    • Three heroes (Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon) have to place data cards in the control centers of three Helicarriers secretly controlled by Hydra in order to get them to target each other. In a neat twist, instead of each hero inserting a card into one base, Falcon takes one while Cap takes the other two, and Widow goes undercover at the Triskelion to confront Hydra mole Alexander Pierce and unload all of Hydra's (and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s) dirty laundry on the internet.
    • Done for laughs at the very beginning of the movie, when Sam Wilson is running laps around the Smithsonian campus, and Steve Rogers repeatedly passes him, saying, "On your left." By the third time, Sam groans, "Don't say it, don't you even say it!" Steve says it anyway.
    • The Winter Soldier shoots Steve three times before he can get the card in to subvert HYDRA's firing sequence, and HYDRA has three helicarriers.
  • Running Both Sides: Hydra has been instrumental in manipulating major crises throughout history on both sides of the conflicts, most notably the Cold War and the resulting Cuban Missile Crisis. This is part of their attempt to show The Evils of Free Will to the general populace, hoping that they would voluntarily concede their own freedoms for a more stable world. Presumably, this also applies to 9/11 and the War on Terror.
  • Running Gag:
    • Throughout the film, Natasha keeps playing matchmaker for Steve. Even in the middle of combat operations. When Steve tells her to keep her mind on the mission the first time she does it, she casually replies, "I'm multitasking." After that, he just stops bothering.
    • Steve running past Sam. "On your left!"

    Tropes S to Z 
  • Sacrificial Lion: Subverted with Fury faking his death, but played straight with the three World Security Council members Pierce executes when things begin to go downhill.
  • Samus Is a Girl: One of the mooks that guard the arrested Cap, Black Widow, and Falcon turns out to be Maria Hill in disguise, about to save them. She makes a snarky comment about the helmet being uncomfortable.
  • Scenery Gorn: One scene has a pair of massive S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers smashing into each other, bursting into flames and disintegrating into a thousand pieces as they fall out of the air into the Potomac River below them. The force of the impact destroys the barrier keeping the Potomac out of the launch bays beneath it, and water rushes in. The third careens out of control due to heavy damage and crashes into the above-ground portion of the Triskelion.
  • Schizo Tech: In the secret bunker, Steve and Natasha find a large, clunky computer mainframe made in The '70s... with a very modern flash drive attached (though it's clearly a later addition). Once Zola comes online it's shown performing functions that would be way beyond the capabilities of the computers of that era (such as speech synthesis) or even the computers of today (such as perfectly emulating a human brain; there's a reason that the Turing Test is considered one of the ultimate goals of computer science).
  • Scotty Time: Downplayed but present.
    Fury: I need you here in D.C. Deep shadow conditions.
    Maria Hill:...Give me four hours.
    Fury: You have three. Over.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Played for drama during the climax. As Hydra agents prepare to board the helicarriers, several ordinary security guards try to stop them... and are killed without even slowing their enemies down.
  • Sequel Hook: Several:
    • Cap and Falcon set out to track down Bucky, who vanished after saving Cap from drowning and is trying to learn more about his past self.
    • Hydra have recovered and begun to study Loki's staff, with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch as their prisoners.
    • With his death faked, Nick Fury goes on a one-man mission hunting down Hydra's remnants, while Black Widow disappears to form a new identity.
    • Brock Rumlow also survives one of the Helicarrier explosions, but has been left horribly disfigured through burns, leaving him open to return and take up his identity as Crossbones from the comics.
  • Servile Snarker: Ambiguous. One would almost think that Fury's car is run by J.A.R.V.I.S.'s cousin or something... Or Fury may have just walked into this one with a completely Literal-Minded machine.
    Fury: Well what's not damaged?
    Car A.I.: Air conditioning is fully operational.
  • Shame If Something Happened: When Sam Wilson threatens Agent Sitwell into coming along as their prisoner.
    Falcon: You're gonna go around a corner to your right. There's a gray car two spaces down. You and I are gonna take a ride.
    Sitwell: And why would I do that?
    Falcon: Because that tie looks really expensive, and I'd hate to mess it up.
    [Sitwell looks down, where a sniper's laser pointer is currently over said tie]
  • Sheathe Your Sword: Captain America lets his iconic shield fall into the Potomac below to illustrate that he doesn't want to fight the Winter Soldier.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Cap and the Falcon are "wounded warriors" who become friends through their mutual trauma of losing a close friend on the battlefield.
  • Sherlock Scan: After meeting with Pierce, Steve boards an elevator, accompanied by Brock Rumlow and a few other STRIKE agents. As the elevator ride progresses, Steve realizes that he's being set up for an ambush when he notices Rumlow and his men have their hands on their guns. Then a couple of guys in suits get on at the next stop, and Steve sees that at least one of them is sweating profusely. Finally, at the third stop, there's the not-so-subtle addition of Jack Rollins and two burly men (clearly STRIKE goons) who claim to be going to the Records floor. So Steve decides to let them know that he knows what they're doing.
  • Shield Bash: Cap's shield is just as good on offense as defense, especially when the Winter Soldier picks it up and uses it against him. Steve also damn near wrecks an entire floor of an office building chasing after the Winter Soldier by bashing down doors and windows.
  • Shipper on Deck: Natasha apparently ships Steve/Sharon, given she suggests he ask Sharon out a few times. Other girls get a single suggestion, but not this one girl.
  • Ship Tease:
    Natasha: All right, I have a question for you, which you do not have to answer. I feel like if you don't answer it, though, you're kind of answering it...
    Steve: What.
    Natasha: Was that your first kiss since 1945?
    Steve: That bad, huh?
    Natasha: I didn't say that.
    Steve: Well it kind of sounds like that's what you were saying.
    Natasha: No I didn't, I just wondered how much practice you've had.
    Steve: You don't need practice.
    Natasha: Everybody needs practice.
    • Curiously enough, for a pairing of which only one of the characters appears: Natasha wears an arrow necklace.
    • Steve is attracted to Sharon before discovering who she is, eventually comes around, and Natasha is a Shipper on Deck for them from the beginning.
  • Shooting Superman: The minigunner during the highway battle opts to keep aiming at Cap's shield, even when there's no visible effect. And is still aiming at it as Cap charges him, instead of aiming lower at Cap's exposed legs.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Done by Natasha on herself — when at the bad guy's gunpoint, she shocks herself into unconsciousness to leave him empty-handed.
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: The Helicarriers are designed to be flying artillery, able to eliminate threats from miles away. In the end, they shoot each other at point-blank range when Maria Hill changes their targeting coordinates.
  • Shout-Out: Collected in their own subpage for this movie.
  • Shown Their Work: The scenic jog Steve and Sam take at the beginning is a real route that one could follow in downtown Washington. Further, it's about 4 miles long, meaning that Steve (who lapped Sam three times) would actually have run about "thirteen miles in thirty minutes," as Sam complains afterwards.
    • Batroc is stated to be former French special forces. In his fight against Steve, he uses actual techniques from Savate, a French martial art. His actor, Georges St-Pierre, is a former MMA welterweight champion.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The Winter Soldier is considered a myth by most of the intelligence community, and is specifically called "a ghost" by Natasha. Everything becomes less mythical and more horrifying once his true identity is revealed to Steve.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: The Winter Soldier (having had multiple memory wipes that have turned him into more of a literal killing machine than a person) does this to Steve as he attempts to tell the Winter Soldier who he isnote :
    Steve: You know me...
    Winter Soldier: NO, I DON'T! [floors Steve with a left hook, despite having to go through his shield as well]
    Steve: You've known me your whole life...
    Winter Soldier: [responds with a backhand punch]
    Steve: Your name... is James Buchanan Barnes...
    Winter Soldier: [drops Steve again with a left hook] SHUT UP!
  • Signature Line: Two, in fact.
  • Signature Style: The Winter Soldier's theme music bears strong resemblances to "Why So Serious?", the Joker's theme from The Dark Knight. This isn't surprising since Henry Jackman worked under Hans Zimmer as a synthesizer programmer on that film.
  • Significant Birth Date: Arnim Zola exposits that Steve was born in 1918, the year World War I ended, and in turn mass disillusionment and anger afterward led to the ascendence of the Nazis/fascism/HYDRA and World War II. Natasha was born in 1984, the title of the book and the year before Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet Union's leader, after which the U.S.S.R. went into rapid and dramatic change and then to its crumbling. Both were born in a year when societies and the world order would start to change dramatically.
  • Sinister Shades: The "police officers" who comprise the hit squad that ambush Fury all wear sunglasses to look more nondescript, while those posing as SWAT team officers have their goggles lowered for the same effect.
  • Sinister Surveillance: HYDRA's plan takes full advantage of the miracles of the 21st century, where Everything Is Online.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer:
    • Despite having fairly large roles in the Super Bowl spot and the second trailer, the Falcon isn't featured at all on the theatrical poster, though he is featured on the Japanese theatrical poster.
    • Maria Hill doesn't appear in any of the trailers (except for the back of her head while looking at Fury in surgery), only appearing in a few pre-release publicity stills.
    • Arnim Zola is this, for understandable reasons.
  • Sitting Duck: Some S.H.I.E.L.D. members loyal to Captain America scramble to board their jets, but the Winter Soldier destroys them or kills their pilots before they can take off.
  • Slave to PR: Upon capturing Captain America and his allies, a Hydra agent prepares to shoot him right then and there (in broad daylight and out in the open), but Rumlow spots a news helicopter and whispers, "Not here!" in his ear. A Justified Trope, since they want to make it easier to take control, and you can't publicly execute Captain America and then tell everyone you're the good guy. Steve would have become a martyr.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Part of the film's conflict involves the idealistic Steve having to cope with the cynical spy world.
    Nick Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. takes the world as it is, not as we'd like it to be.
    Steve Rogers: This isn't freedom. This is fear.
  • Soft Glass:
    • Breaking glass windows happens quite a lot throughout the movie, in a somewhat justified example as the person doing it is usually Cap, who also usually jumps shield first. He punches Zola's computer screen with his bare hand to no ill effect, but only cracks it — and besides, it's Cap.
    • At one point, Natasha (whom Steve is basically carrying) has enough time to shoot the window they're about to jump through.
    • Winter Soldier does this a few times, but always with his metal arm/hand.
    • The most egregious example is Falcon jumping through a window on the 41st floor of the Triskelion. Windows in high rise buildings are usually purpose-built to keep people from doing just that — though, when he does so, the entire floor/walls/ceiling are a second-or-less away from complete collapse, due to an entire Helicarrier crashing into them.
  • Soft Water: Invoked when Captain America leaps out of a Quinjet into the ocean for a stealthy insertion — nope, he doesn't have a parachute. The movie is pretty clear that the only reason Cap can do it is because he's a Super-Soldier. Occurs again at the end of the film when Captain America falls off of an exploding helicarrier into the water far below, though this time he is at least knocked unconscious.
  • Soviet Superscience: Downplayed and, unlike in the comics, subverted. While the Winter Soldier does have some Soviet trappings, uses Cold War-era guns and even speaks Russian at one point, it's all to obscure his real Hydra-based origins.
  • Spoiler Cover: The Blu-Ray and DVD releases show the Winter Soldier unmasked right on the back cover, showing that he's Bucky Barnes. This is hardly a revelation to comic fans, but might still come as a surprise to viewers who hadn't read the source material.
  • Spoiler Title: To those familiar with Winter Soldier's character and identity (or even people who have stumbled upon his trope page). Though, as it turns out, the real spoiler has nothing to do with the Winter Soldier or Bucky Barnes at all.
  • Spotting the Thread: When Steve and Natasha trace the clues to Camp Lehigh — the base where Steve underwent basic training — he quickly notices an ammo dump that wasn't there seventy years ago. As he's such a Rules Lawyer, he knows that Army regulations state that weapons are not allowed to be stored within 500 feet of a barracks (y'know, so it doesn't kill any soldiers if it blows up). It's a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. installation, where Arnim Zola's uploaded brain is stored.
  • Spy Fiction: Winter Soldier plays up the Stale Beer Flavored espionage aspect of S.H.I.E.L.D. and questions whether Captain America can play ball with them. Verdict: at least in the MCU, he's better suited to it than anyone else, as he's literally the only person who gets that the entire spy era along with its tropes and Grey-and-Gray Morality was a lie created by Hydra to conquer the world.
  • Spy Speak: Fury at Rogers' apartment. He tries to warn Steve via typed messages that Big Brother Is Listening and so has to explain what's happened recently while trying to make it sound as a Seinfeldian Conversation. So, Fury, how's the weather?
  • Staring Kid: One catches Steve at his own Smithsonian exhibit. Steve seems to be amused by it but motions for him to keep quiet.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: The chase between Captain America and the Winter Soldier screeches to a halt when the Soldier drops down from a building. When Steve reaches the spot, the Soldier is long gone, even though the area below is an open road.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Cap laps Sam repeatedly while jogging, making it literally a Running Gag.
    • Sam Wilson's military rank is Captain, meaning that if you pair it with his codename, it becomes Captain Falcon.
    • Steve spends most of the elevator fight with one hand in a magnetic handcuff attached to the wall, which means he beats up his opponents literally single-handed.
  • State Sec: With its worldwide jurisdiction, deep and constant surveillance, and the army of agents, S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the way to becoming this. Just as Hydra planned.
  • The Stinger:
    • Much like The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World, there are two post-credits sequences — one setting up for Avengers: Age of Ultron, and one providing closure to the film's events.
    • The first stinger features Baron von Strucker discussing the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. and revealing that Hydra operations in Europe go undamaged. He's studying Loki's staff, and the scene closes on the debut of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in the MCU, as prisoners of Hydra.
    • The second stinger shows Bucky, looking to discover the truth of his identity, at the Captain America Smithsonian Exhibit standing in front of the memorial to his past life.
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors: The Winter Soldier still has a Soviet star and gear even after the fall of the Soviet Union. More importantly, when Cap gets ready to fight Hydra, he acquires his WWII gear from the Smithsonian exhibition rather than use the suit that he was wearing when he fled S.H.I.E.L.D. — a deleted scene shows he discarded it in a gym to throw off his pursuers.
  • Stripping the Scarecrow: Steve has to find a suit of armor, as well as a way to jig up Bucky's memories. Thus, he makes a stop in his own museum to strip a mannequin of his own WWII-era suit.
  • Superhero Packing Heat:
    • The Falcon wields two SMGs. Black Widow wields two Glocks.
    • While he's not a superhero, the Winter Soldier uses an impressive amount of projectile weaponry.
    • Averted with Steve; in this one, unlike his previous two appearances, he never uses, or more than incidentally touches, a firearm.
  • Supernormal Bindings: The attackers in the elevator have a set of manacles with very powerful electro-magnets. They get one on Cap, securing his hand to the elevator wall and forcing him to fight the rest of them one-handed. Then he's able to wrench the manacle off the wall. Later on, he's confined in what looks like a cross between a set of handcuffs and a straitjacket.
  • Super Window Jump: After the Elevator Action Sequence in the Triskelion, Cap jumps through the glass wall of the elevator all the way to the lobby using his shield. He does another version when chasing The Winter Soldier, jumping across the street and through a window. He has the advantage of his vibration-absorbing shield to protect him from the kinetic energy involved in doing something like this.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Doubly surprising given it's recurring character Jasper Sitwell; evidently Anyone Can Die. He's ripped from a car and tossed in front of a truck by the Winter Soldier after barely finishing a sentence.
  • Takes One to Kill One: The three Project Insight Helicarriers are so powerful, and Cap's team are so strapped for time, that they opt to destroy them by redirecting their targeting computers to fire their masses of weapons on each other.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • Zola orders a missile strike on the bunker that stores his computer brain, because this will eliminate Captain America and Black Widow as well.
    • Cap's plan to destroy (or at least cripple) Hydra involves the dismantling of S.H.I.E.L.D..
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Arnim Zola uses this trope in order to distract Cap and Natasha to make sure that the missile strike he ordered kills them.
  • Tempting Fate: Those loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. pilots just have to point out that they're the only air support Captain America has coming. Seconds later, the Winter Soldier takes them out before even one can get airborne.
  • Therapy Is for the Weak: Completely averted. Sam Wilson is a PTSD counselor in addition to being a Military Superhero; he's seen leading a group session for other vets and is all but stated to have needed such help himself after the loss of his wingman. Steve voluntarily shows up to a group session, and while he doesn't necessarily have a major breakthrough, he's respectful of its value and clearly seeks Sam's insight on trying to return to civilian life.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
    • An entire team of police officers riddles Fury's crashed SUV with assault rifle fire. Given how ridiculously armored the thing is, anything less wouldn't have even been a bother. When they get tired of their bullets bouncing off the glass, they go to Plan B: deploy a pneumatic battering ram to break the window. Fury responds with a turret that takes out most of the SWAT team and some of the "patrol cops", and blows up the SWAT van and a squad car. This means they resort to Plan C: try to shoot at him during the resulting chase. And when Fury manages to trick the police cars into getting T-boned by a box truck, they resort to Plan D: the Winter Soldier fires a sticky bomb under Fury's car and flips the car on its roof.
    • Another entire team of bad guys are sent to capture Rogers in an elevator. Notably, the elevator stops twice so that more guys with guns can get on. It still isn't enough.
    Rumlow Just want you to know, Cap, this isn't personal.
    Steve: It kinda feels personal.
    • After Zola calls in a missile strike, S.T.R.I.K.E. teams, backed by several gunships, arrive within minutes to sift through the wreckage.
    • When the Winter Soldier is sent to take out Cap, he has five guys with automatic weapons and grenade launchers, plus a minigun.
  • There Was a Door: There probably isn't a window in this movie that Steve doesn't go through at one point or another.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Even Captain America can't throw himself out a glass elevator and fall ten floors to the ground through a glass roof without wincing.
  • Three-Point Landing: The Winter Soldier does it after flying off a braking car. Sparks are flying when he brakes with his metal arm.
  • Throwback Threads: Captain America initially uses the unmasked outfit based on his comic book appearance post-Civil War (2006) as the S.H.I.E.L.D. Commander Steve Rogers. After escaping from S.H.I.E.L.D. without his new costume, he goes to the Captain America Museum and borrows his classic old costume used in WWII as seen in The First Avenger.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Secretary Alexander Pierce's head of HYDRA, joined by Arnim Zola back in the day, is dedicated to securing world peace by securing world control, using Project Insight to kill millions of potential "threats" in minutes.
  • Token Trio: The three heroes of the film are Captain America (white male), Black Widow (white female), and Falcon (black male).
  • Too Clever by Half: Nick Fury is the greatest spy in the world, leader of the greatest spy network in the world... and yet he doesn't notice the infiltration by Hydra until it's almost too late to stop them.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass:
    • Arnim Zola was a somewhat reluctant sidekick to the Red Skull, but apparently he became a devotee of HYDRA after the war.
    • Senator Stern was a jackass who wanted Tony's suits. Now we learn he's a HYDRA agent.
    • Agent Sitwell has been a constant S.H.I.E.L.D. presence alongside Coulson. Sumbitch is HYDRA, too.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • The trailers show loads of footage with Nick Fury that don't show up in the movie before his apparent death, thus allowing for audiences to easily deduce that he'll reappear later in the movie.
    • Trailers also show one of the Helicarriers crashing.
    • The fact that cast interviews included Sebastian Stan might've been enough for audiences to deduce the Winter Soldier's identity, but seeing him credited as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier in interviews kind of sealed the deal.
  • Trap Is the Only Option: Rumlow and a couple of linebackers get in the elevator with Steve. A few floor laters, a few more linebackers. A few floors later, a few more linebackers. It's Steve and a dozen HYDRA operatives.
  • Truth in Television: Natasha mentions "Operation Paperclip", a real-life effort program by the OSS (replaced with S.H.I.E.L.D. in the movie's universe) to recruit Nazi scientists.
  • Turbine Blender: The Winter Soldier drop-kicks a S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot into a Quinjet's blades, causing the jet to explode.
  • TV Head Robot: While not a humanoid robot, the film recreates Arnim Zola's mainstream appearance as an old supercomputer that houses his preserved consciousness. Zola can project a representation of his face through the monitor(s), while a single surveillance camera atop the center console serves as his eye.
  • Undercover as Lovers: While hacking at a mall, Natasha tells the Apple Store employee that Steve is her fiancé. He pretends their screen tracking a program to New Jersey is merely their honeymoon destination search.
  • Undying Loyalty: One of the major themes of this movie is loyalty: to friends, to ideals, etc. Above all them is, of course, the loyalty Steve and Bucky have to each other. Even after acknowledging that whoever Bucky used to be, the person he is now is someone he might not be able to save, Steve refuses to go against his best friend once the crisis has passed. Bucky, in return, breaks through seventy years' worth of torture and brainwashing just by seeing Steve again.
  • The Unreveal: Throughout the movie, there are some hints that Agent 13 is Peggy Carter's niece, but when Steve asks Natasha her name, she simply says it's Sharon, without mentioning the surname.
  • Villain Ball: If Pierce hadn't given Steve the explicit threat that "Someone murdered my friend. If anyone gets in my way, they're gonna regret it. Anyone.", then maybe Steve wouldn't have been quite so alert when Rumlow and a dozen other HYDRA agents joined him in the elevator for an ambush. And you know what? Maybe sending a dozen hyper-armed helicarriers into the sky to murder anyone who might could maybe be a threat possibly someday was kind of a red flag.
  • Villain Reveals the Secret: Armin Zola gleefully admits that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by Hydra, all to rub it in Captain America's face seventy years after they first met. This also serves to distract him and Black Widow from a Hydra missile that is intended to take out everyone present.
  • Virtual Assistant Blunder: Nick Fury is under attack and his car's AI is reporting multiple systems damaged. In frustration, Fury sarcastically asks what's not broken — and is told that the air conditioning is fully functional.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • The Winter Soldier loses it after Steve continues to call him Bucky and insists that they know each other. This can largely be blamed on Hydra frying his brain to wipe his memories over and over. The Soldier is obviously conditioned only to think in terms of what will complete his mission and of himself as a weapon, with deviation resulting in pain, leaving him unable to conceptualise having a name or a friend. It only gets worse when Steve willingly drops his shield into the Potomac and refuses to fight him on the basis of a friendship that the Winter Soldier has no memory of — these are totally outside his parameters, eliciting something frighteningly close to a mental breakdown as his memories resurface and the inside of his head gets broken apart. Again.
    • Agent Sitwell clearly doesn't want to repeat his bungee-jumping experience again, even if it means Pierce will kill him.
  • Villainous Valor:
    • Zola keeps Captain America and Natasha talking in his bunker to ensure they'll be there when a missile hits it.
    • Pierce's final line before the Helicarrier brings the Triskelion crashing down around him is "Hail HYDRA!"
  • Walking Spoiler:
    • Not that he does any real walking, but Arnim Zola's return was kept tightly under wraps and his appearance is the Wham Shot that shows the real stakes of the film; discussing his role in any length gives away the Hydra aspect of the plot.
    • The Winter Soldier himself counts, but that's only if you were hell-bent on making sure you didn't know his identity until after you saw the movie. Though the fact that Hydra created him instead of the Soviets is a bit of spoiler in itself, if your source material is the comics.
  • Warrior Therapist: Sam Wilson works at the VA counselling veterans and soldiers who come back from wars with PTSD, and he's also an elite soldier.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Rogers' Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. outfit incorporates some of the stars-and-stripes imagery of his previous costumes, only without the red. For the final act, he steals his WWII outfit from the Smithsonian and wears that. Also, a prominent poster shows Cap's shield with the paint scratched off, which emphasizes the moral ambiguity of Cap's current position with S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Zola and Pierce try to sell the new Hydra as this, being severed from its original Nazi roots and essentially having the same values as S.H.I.E.L.D., but being willing to go one step further to ensure peace and order. It's severely undermined by the fact that their primary targets are threats to their own political power (even the current president of the United States), and not (as Pierce tries to claim) people who are mathematically likely to become the next Bin Laden or even the next Bernie Madoff. And a shot during the targeting sequence reveals they're targeting families with giant cannons that will no doubt cause collateral damage.
  • Western Terrorists: Batroc's men. Granted, Batroc is Algerian, but he's white and speaks French. Subverted. They're not terrorists at all, they're mercs hired to act like terrorists for purposes of Fury's False Flag Operation.
  • Wham Episode: Hydra is back and stronger than ever. It infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. at its creation and has been influencing the world since the end of World War II. S.H.I.E.L.D. is dissolved at the end of the movie, and all of its secrets are made public. Fury has faked his death and gone underground to fight Hydra. Baron Strucker has both Loki's staff and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. The S.H.I.E.L.D. part even more given Marvel had just started an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. The cast and crew of that were given an early screening... and their reaction was "are our jobs still safe?"
  • Wham Line:
    • Hydra's 'cut off one head' motto was previously presented as a slightly silly thing in The First Avenger. In this film, it takes on a horrific tone once you realise exactly just how far their reach has extended since the "head" fronted by the Red Skull was eliminated.
      Zola: Hydra was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom. What we did not realize was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly. After the war, S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded, and I was recruited. The new Hydra grew, a beautiful parasite, inside S.H.I.E.L.D. For seventy years, Hydra has been secretly feeding crises, reaping war. And when history did not cooperate, history was changed. [...] Hydra created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security. Once the purification process is complete, Hydra's new world order will arise. We won, Captain. Your death amounts to the same as your life: A zero sum.
    • Zola's "I am not a recording, Fräulein" also qualifies.
    • Senator Stern: "Hail HYDRA."
    • Steve: "We're not salvaging anything. We're not just taking down the carriers, Nick. We're taking down S.H.I.E.L.D."
    • This scene, imported verbatim from the Captain America: Winter Soldier comic, establishing that Steve's lifelong friend hasn't made a Face–Heel Turn, but instead is no longer himself:
      Steve: ... Bucky?
      The Winter Soldier: Who the hell is Bucky?
    • Early on, the security system at the Triskelion immediately flags Rogers as having too low a security clearance for the destination Fury gives to the elevator they've entered. Without skipping a beat, Fury overrides the system with a simple voice command. A few minutes later, he uses the same voice command to access the files on the recovered thumb drive; the system refusing his override is a major indicator that something is very wrong.
      Nick Fury: Director override, Fury, Nicholas J.
      System: Override denied. All files sealed.
      Nick Fury: On whose authority?
      System: Fury, Nicholas J.
  • Wham Shot:
    • When returning to his apartment, Steve chats pleasantly with a nurse living down the hall from him. A few minutes later Nick Fury has been shot in his room, and Steve sees the same nurse now wielding a pistol, claiming she's his undercover bodyguard.
    • Steve is ruthlessly mobbed in an elevator by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents he thought were friends. Cut to a control room where an official is directing the attack, and it's Jasper Sitwell, the agent Steve saved on the Lemurian Star and a regular ally in previous Marvel movies.
    • A mysterious voice coming from an old computer appears to know who Steve and Natasha are, and on one of its screens it displays a photo of thought-deceased Hydra scientist Dr. Arnim Zola.
    • Shortly after that, a major Cerebus Retcon to the MCU is implemented with the single line "Accidents will happen," displayed over a headline about the death of Howard and Maria Stark.
    • A recap shot of the Helicarriers precision point-guns. The first time they're seen, they don't panic the viewer and are quickly forgotten about. The second time they're shown, though, is in the middle of a rant about Hydra using it them to "purify" millions and create a new world order, revealing their horrifying potential.
    • Those who are ignorant of the Winter Soldier's true identity in the comic books get one when, after a brutal fight between Steve and the Winter Soldier, Steve is able to throw him, ripping his mask off in the process. The Winter Soldier stands up and reveal the face of Bucky Barnes.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Steve's new costume disappears as soon as he escapes the Triskelion, and when he needs to don a costume for the finale, he chooses his WWII combat gear instead. A deleted scene shows that he ditched his S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform (which contained a tracking device) at a basketball court in order to throw off his pursuers.
    • World Security Council member Hawley is actually a disguised Black Widow in the meeting where Pierce is exposed as a Hydra agent, so the real Hawley is spared from the same fate the befalls the other members of the Council. Her whereabouts are not revealed.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Captain America gets to give quite a few throughout the film.
    • When Natasha jeopardizes the attempt to rescue the hostages by retrieving data for S.H.I.E.L.D., he calls her out on endangering the mission and the hostages' lives.
    • When he meets with Nick Fury, Rogers calls him out on having Natasha do what she did, saying that military operations are dependent on trust. After seeing Project Insight, he tells Fury that he's disturbed about its implications.
    • Captain America pointedly raises the question of how many people died because of the secrets S.H.I.E.L.D. kept.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: One of the final scenes of the movie shows glimpses what happened to several of the surviving characters after the events of the movie:
    • Natasha is Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee. She is acquitted of all charges and looks for a new identity.
    • Agent 13 a.k.a. Sharon Carter is seen taking target practice as she applies for a field agent position with the CIA.
    • Maria Hill is getting interviewed for a job at Stark Industries.
    • Rumlow survived getting a Helicarrier dropped on his head, but he's badly burned.
    • The FBI arrests Hydra mole Senator Stern for numerous corruption and conspiracy charges.
    • Fury throws all of his S.H.I.E.L.D. gear into a storage unit, including his eyepatch, then sets it on fire, and decides to head to Europe to hunt down the rest of Hydra.
    • Post-credits, Bucky is seen in civilian clothing at the Smithsonian's Howling Commandos exhibition looking around to find out more about his background.
  • Where It All Began: An important plot point is revealed at Fort Lehigh, the boot camp where Steve Rogers started his military training all the way back in the '40s.
  • Who Shot JFK?:
    • During the HYDRA reveal montage, a Freeze-Frame Bonus establishes that the Winter Soldier killed him on HYDRA's orders.
    • It also insinuates that HYDRA had something to do with Howard Stark's death.
  • Whole Costume Reference: Rogers' new uniform takes cues from the "Super-Soldier" outfit his comics counterpart wore when he served as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: Because the characters Cap and the Winter Soldier are seventy year old legacies of the Cold War, their fight reeks of the classic Cold War movies from the sixties, seventies, and eighties.
  • Willfully Weak: Steve hangs his shield on his back during his fight with Batroc.
    Batroc: [in French] [I thought you were more than the shield.]
    Steve: [also in French] [Let's see.]
  • With a Friend and a Stranger: The Steve-Natasha-Sam triad, with Natasha as the established friend and Sam as the stranger being introduced. Sam's status as a stranger ends up being important, as he has no connections to S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra, he's one of the few people who can be trusted after the conspiracy is revealed.
  • The Worf Effect:
    • The Winter Soldier does this to resident Badasses Nick Fury and Black Widow, as well as the Falcon. In Nick's case, Nick had been successfully evading the police officers who were trying to kill him (albeit with some degree of difficulty) up until the Winter Soldier completely shuts him down. Even when Nick escapes, the Winter Soldier tracks him down and delivers a near fatal blow. In Natasha's case, his combat ability overwhelms her; she is showing visible signs of stress as she struggles to stay alive and one step ahead of the Winter Soldier. And in Falcon's case he had successfully taken down a Helicarrier all by himself, but as soon as he goes up against Winter Soldier he gets yanked out of the air and nearly falls to his death. All of this is to display that the only person capable of matching him and stopping him is Steve, which is distressing because the Winter Soldier is Bucky.
    • Helicarriers are considered sort of the ultimate "Worf" in Captain America/S.H.I.E.L.D. mythology. From the moment that Helicarriers were revealed to exist in the movie, it was such a foregone conclusion that someone or something would show off by bringing them down that they didn't even try to pretend otherwise — they're shown crashing on the posters. In a twist, the three carriers are turned on each other and take each other down.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Invoked but ultimately averted in Cap's fight with Rumlow. He makes sure Cap is surrounded in a cramped elevator, taken by surprise, tasered, and restrained at least partially before going in to fight. Cap still beats him.
  • World of Snark: Practically everybody has some snarky comments to drop. The World Security Council even tells Pierce to "make any snappy remarks" now, so as to get them over with.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Steve apparently views Batroc this way, enough so that he's willing to hang up the shield and fight without the advantage of an unbreakable defense.
    • Rumlowe may be Hydra, but he's impressed by Steve jumping out of the jet without a parachute.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Cap uses a brutal German suplex on the Winter Soldier during their second encounter. He also puts him in a sleeper, or rear naked choke, if you prefer Mixed Martial Arts terms (complete with the proper positioning and joint "hooks" for applying the hold as one would in MMA, judo or jiu-jitsu) to knock him out for a few seconds.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Sitwell assumes Captain America is too much The Cape to engage in a High-Altitude Interrogation. But that's why Cap brought Black Widow.
  • Wronski Feint: Falcon evades a Macross Missile Massacre by flying close enough to a Helicarrier that they all crash into it. Conveniently, one hits the bottom of the Helicarrier, blowing a hole and allowing Falcon into the carrier.
  • You Are in Command Now: Towards the end, Cap is effectively in command over the S.H.I.E.L.D. loyalists against Hydra.
    Nick Fury: Well, looks like you're giving the orders now, Captain.
  • You Are Number 6: Marvel's official synopsis of the film lists Sharon Carter under her codename of "Agent 13".
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: This is Sitwell's reaction to Cap's Super Window Jump from the elevator.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Hydra does this with Sitwell, who moans a lot about how he's so dead before it happens.
  • Your Other Left: When Sam is trying to get Sitwell's attention, he tells him to look to ten o'clock. He looks right, so Sam says "your other ten o'clock."
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Sitwell is unconvinced Cap is willing to pitch him off a building and remains defiant. Cap confirms his theory, then adds that Natasha has no such scruples. She does pitch him off the building, and then Falcon shows his wings, catching him in the air and returning him to the rooftop.

"It's not a world of spies anymore. Not even a world of heroes. This is the age of miracles, doctor. There is nothing more horrifying... than a miracle."

Alternative Title(s): Captain America Winter Soldier


Cap vs Winter Soldier

Cap roundhouse kicks the Winter Soldier

How well does it match the trope?

4.85 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / RoundhouseKick

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