Back in 2011, when Marvel Studios was laying the groundwork for its cinematic universe, he took two major risks with his solo Captain America project. Both paid off.
The first risk was the stage. Captain America: The First Avenger takes place almost entirely in World War II-era New York City. It is a period piece; we see modern events, but only in the opening and closing minutes of the film.
The second risk was interdependence. At a time when success was uncertain, the filmmakers opted for a (relatively) smaller approach, content to set up conflicts rather than resolve them. And years later, it’s clear how important this movie was to the larger story: how it gave depth to our favorite characters and a contextual story that stretched 80 years into the past.
Here are 31 Easter Eggs and references in Captain America: The First Avenger, which is available to stream on Disney+. Once you’ve seen this, also be sure to check out our guide to Easter Eggs for the first Iron Man movie.
1. The Rocketeer
Joe Johnston, the man who directed the film, also directed the sci-fi historical film The Rocketeer (1991). In fact, a “What if…?” The idea would have brought Captain America, Agent Carter and the Rocketeer together, but it never came to fruition.
2. The list of diseases
When the military doctor is checking on Steve, we see all of his health problems:
“Asthma, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, epilepsy, sinusitis, chronic or frequent colds, high blood pressure, palpitations or palpitations in the heart, easy fatigue, heart problems, nerve problems of any kind, have had family contact with a tuberculosis patient, father/mother/sibling with diabetes, cancer, stroke or heart attack”.
3. The first “shield”
While fending off a bully, Steve lifts a trash can lid and uses it as a makeshift shield. He doesn’t do her much good.
4. First slogan
This is the first time we see Steve use his catchphrase after taking a beating: “I can do this all day.” We hear the catchphrase twice more: in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame.
5. Stark Exhibition
We see Howard Stark’s version of Stark Expo, which his son would later revive in Iron Man 2. It is inspired by the real-life 1964 World’s Fair, which also took place in Flushing Meadows Park.
6. The Two Howards
Howard Stark is a thinly veiled portrayal of real-life Howard Hughes, a billionaire businessman fascinated by technology, movies, and flying. Unlike Stark, Hughes lived to a ripe old age, though he was a recluse and eccentric during the last years of his life, due to untreated mental illness and injuries sustained in plane crashes.
7. Phineas Horton
In the comics, Phineas Horton is a scientist who created the first android, called the Human Torch, from synthetic materials. Due to his innovative work with AI and robots, Nazi assassins targeted Horton during World War II.
8. Flying car
Howard Stark eventually gets his flying car to work. A working hovercar appears in the MCU television series Agent Carter.
The Space Stone location has a carving of the sacred tree Yggdrasil, which symbolizes the connection between the nine kingdoms in Norse mythology. He makes his first appearance in Thor, also released in 2011.
10. German Deserter
Abraham Erskine, a Jewish scientist, tells Steve that he fled Nazi Germany rather than develop the Super Soldier serum for them. In real life, numerous German Jewish scientists settled in the United States after Hitler’s rise to power. Among them was Albert Einstein, who later advocated building the first atomic bomb, lest the Nazis create one first.
HYDRA’s fascination with the occult is rooted in truth. In fact, Heinrich Himmler, a trusted member of Hitler’s cabinet and the architect of the Holocaust, tried to institute a new religion that placed Germanic mythology at the center of people’s lives. He also created the Ahnenerbe to conduct global expeditions, in an attempt to prove the superiority of the German people through archaeological evidence.
12. Nazi Eugenics
Armin Zola is the Red Skull’s right-hand man. In the comics, Zola is a biochemist who performed numerous experiments in an attempt to create a Master Race. This too has its basis in truth; The Nazis believed in optimizing the Aryan traits of the German people and called for the death or forced sterilization of anyone who was physically or mentally disabled, or anyone who did not conform to a cisgender heterosexual orientation.
13. Camp Lehigh
Camp Lehigh is the military training camp where Captain America was stationed before receiving the Super Soldier serum. 80 years later, this would become the site of Avenger-Con, attended by Kamala Khan on the television series Ms. Marvel.
14. General George Patton
Colonel Chester Phillips paraphrases General George Patton to inspire students, stating that wars are won by men, not guns. This is taken from an essay Patton wrote in 1933 in the Cavalry Journal. The full quote is below:
“Today the machines take the place that was once occupied by the jawbone, the elephant, the armor, the longbow, the gunpowder, and, lately, the submarine. They, too, will pass. It seems to me that anyone who would throw away old age-tried weapons for this new “ism” is as foolish as the poor man who, seeing a coat, pawned his shirt and pants to buy it.
The new weapons are useful because they add to the killing repertoire, but whether it’s tanks or tomahawks, weapons are just weapons after all. Wars can be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and the man who leads that wins the victory. In biblical times this spirit was attributed, and probably with some justice, to the Lord. It was the spirit of the Lord, Courage, that descended mightily upon Samson in Lehi that won the victory, not the jawbone of an ass.”
15. Strategic Scientific Reserve
We see the Strategic Scientific Reserve, a secret Allied Forces organization created in response to Hydra. Both Howard Stark and Peggy Carter are members. This would later become SHIELD after WWII.
16. Wow, Muscles
The moment where Peggy Carter touches Steve’s chest was unscripted and the result was that actress Hayley Atwell was genuinely impressed by Chris Evans’ physicality.
17. The first official shield
The shield Steve used during the war bond rallies is inspired by Captain America’s original steel shield in the comics. The triangular shield also appeared on the cover of the first Captain America comic.
18. Peter Quill’s grandmother?
The woman asking Steve for his autograph is Laura Haddock, who also played Peter’s Quill’s mother in Guardians of the Galaxy. This has caused Guardians director James Gunn to joke that the autograph seeker is Quill’s grandmother.
19. Beat up Hitler
In real life, the first issue of the Captain America comic shows Steve Rogers beating up Adolf Hitler. In the film, we learn that this image is based on Steve’s war bond rallies, where he punches an actor dressed as Hitler. This then becomes the comic book cover we know and love.
20. Made of vibranium
Howard explains to Steve that the disc-shaped shield is made of vibranium, the rarest metal on Earth. We will learn in Black Panther (2018) that there is much more. The vibranium came from a meteorite that crashed into Wakanda, and Wakanda has built a highly advanced, secret technological society out of it.
21. Throw and Catch
We see Steve’s first shield throw, when he knocks an enemy soldier out of a tree. Since it’s his first time, he doesn’t catch it easily, which is a nice touch.
22. Wilhelm’s Scream
Wilhelm’s scream is an Easter egg sound effect that has been used in hundreds of movies. You can hear it during the forest bike chase scene, when one of the enemy bikes catches fire and catches fire.
23. Stan Lee Cameo
Marvel visionary Stan Lee has a cameo in every MCU movie up to and including Avengers: Endgame. In this movie, he plays a decorated general at Steve’s award ceremony.
24. Futuristic Plane
The Valkyrie aircraft is based on actual German concept drawings for a stealth bomber called the Horten H.XVIII. Unlike the movie, the plane never went into production.
25. Space Stone
This movie prominently features the Tesseract, the cube-shaped alien artifact that we will later discover is the Space Stone. He had a brief appearance in Thor’s post-credits scene, and would be the main plot element at the center of The Avengers.
26. Portal to Vormir
We learn in Avengers: Infinity War that the Red Skull did not die, as this movie would have you believe. Instead, the Space Stone teleported him to Vormir, where he was forced to guard the Soul Stone as punishment for his actions.
27. Cap’s Compass
Steve’s compass, which contains a picture of Peggy, recurs in several MCU movies. Steve drops it during the fight with his past self in Avengers Endgame, which causes some momentary confusion when past Steve sees it.
28. Howling Commandos
The original Howling Commandos in the comics were a group of elite Army rangers in World War II; they had their own comic book series in 1963, separate from the Captain America story. Marvel consolidated its continuities for the MCU.
29. Dodgers game
The baseball game SHIELD put on the radio to trick Steve was an actual baseball game on May 25, 1941. The Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-4.
30. The Arrival of Nick Fury
We see Fury at the end of the movie, when Steve wakes up in present-day New York. This scene leads directly to The Avengers (2012), in which Fury sends Steve on his first modern mission.
31. Advance Trailer
The movie doesn’t end with an extra scene, but with a trailer for the upcoming Avengers movie. Marvel did something similar at the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which contained a trailer for Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.