10 Harsh Realities Of Rewatching All Of Bucky"s MCU Appearances

  • Bucky is one of the MCU's most underrated characters with a tragic story and significant redemption arc.
  • Bucky's MCU arc has changed a lot over time, though this has made some painful truths come to light about his story.
  • The MCU's reimagined Bucky is different to his comic counterpart in many ways, with some being less favorable.
The MCU has seen Bucky Barnes feature in multiple movies and a TV show, but the franchise's handling of the character has its issues. After being introduced early in the MCU’s movie timeline, Bucky Barnes went on to become one of the franchise’s most prominent figures. As a close friend of Steve Rogers and a powerful character in his own right, Bucky has earned his status as one of the MCU’s foremost heroes in spite of the tragic beginning to his arc.
Since then, Bucky has appeared in multiple movies and TV shows in the MCU. Though his story has seen him develop considerably as a character, there are still a number of issues with the franchise’s handling of Bucky. His arc taking him from an non-powered sidekick to an unwitting villain and eventually to a valuable asset to the Avengers might be a great one, but there are still some harsh realities that come to light when rewatching Bucky’s MCU appearances.
Related Every Upcoming Marvel Movie: Full MCU Phase 5 & 6 List (& Beyond) Between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment, here is every upcoming Marvel movie release date and what we know about the projects so far.
10 Bucky Is One Of The MCU’s Most Underrated Characters Bucky Deserves More Love Than He Gets Close The most obvious harsh reality of Bucky’s MCU appearances is that he’s simply far better than he receives credit for. As a character, he’s one of the MCU’s most fascinating figures, with a tragic story and a significant redemption arc. In spite of that, Bucky isn’t considered with the same reverence as many of his fellow MCU heroes by many fans of the franchise.
The character of Bucky is one of the best-written in the entire MCU, and Sebastian Stan’s layered performance captures his many nuances. His appearance in the movies of the MCU has helped cement him as one of the franchise’s most fascinating figures, but his relatively limited screen time has hampered his reputation. Though Bucky is one of the MCU’s best-written and best-realized characters, he’s nowhere near as popular or respected as he deserves to be.
9 The MCU Subtly Fumbled Bucky’s Story Bucky's Arc Feels Rushed Close Bucky’s MCU arc set him up with a solid origin connecting him to one of the franchise’s original Avengers, but there are still subtle issues with the character’s backstory. After being introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger, Bucky later returned decades later in the timeline, having been brainwashed by Hydra and employed as the Winter Soldier, a highly-skilled assassin. This fed into an excellent redemption arc, but rewatching Bucky’s appearances highlights how the MCU failed him.
In many ways, Bucky’s MCU story is rushed. There’s very little by way of genuine development before his supposed death, which means the reveal of Bucky as the Winter Soldier later lacks the impact it would have otherwise earned. His villain arc, though spanning decades in the timeline, only lasts for a single movie in the MCU before he reverts to something approaching his former self, making his whole arc feel decidedly askew.
8 Bucky’s Role In The MCU Is Still Ill-Defined Bucky Has Yet To Find His Place In The Franchise Close Other than the story surrounding Bucky’s metal arms in the MCU, the character is decidedly ill-defined. He starts out as a friend and supporting character to Captain America, then goes on to become a villain, a sidekick of sorts, a mentor, and an anti-hero. There are many facets to Bucky’s character within the franchise, but the simple fact is that he doesn’t fulfill any particular role.
This becomes all too telling when rewatching his MCU appearances, as Bucky clearly doesn’t have a specific place in the franchise. This is likely to change with his role in the cast of Thunderbolts*, but after so many appearances, it’s bizarre that Bucky has yet to find his MCU niche. Despite playing a significant role in several hugely important MCU narratives, Bucky Barnes’s place in the movie universe has been poorly conceived and even more poorly established.
7 The MCU’s Reimagined Bucky Has Less Of A Role Than His Comics Counterpart Bucky Has Taken A Back Seat To Other Characters Close The creative liberties the MCU takes with its Marvel source material have largely been incredibly well-received, contributing massively to the franchise’s unprecedented success. However, when it comes to Bucky, it’s hard not to consider his MCU representation something of a downgrade from his comic book counterpart. Simply put, Bucky’s role in the MCU is far less substantial than that of his comic book story.
In the comics, Bucky was Captain America’s initial sidekick and later his successor. Having become the second character to assume the iconic mantle within the Marvel Universe is a major accomplishment, but it’s one that didn’t make it into the MCU. The movies’ version of Bucky is on an entirely different journey to the Bucky of the comics, and it appears to be one that affords him far fewer opportunities to shine than he received in the source material.
6 Bucky Is Too Often Blamed For Things That Aren’t His Fault Bucky's Brainwashing Is Overlooked By His Fellow Heroes Close Bucky Barnes is undoubtedly one of the MCU’s most tragic figures, but many of his fellow heroes don’t appear to understand that. Bucky’s arc has seen him forced into countless acts of unspeakable evil, all performed against his will due to Hydra’s brainwashing. Being used as a puppet by an evil organization through no fault of his own is a dark origin for any character, but Bucky has proved himself able to overcome his mental programming and redefine himself as a force for good.
Even so, many of the heroes of the MCU are all too happy to continue to blame Bucky for his past misdeeds. Though they have since learned that Bucky wasn’t in control of himself during those years and that he had no choice whatsoever, he was still forced into exile and repeatedly looked down on by most of the members of the Avengers. It’s one of the great injustices of the MCU, because Bucky has always consciously attempted to do the right thing wherever he was able.
5 Civil War Makes Bucky Look Pretty Weak Civil War Undermined Bucky's MCU Potential Close Captain America: Civil War proved to be one of the most important entries into the MCU, with massive implications for the future of the Avengers and also a huge development in Bucky Barnes’ personal story. After Bucky is framed for the murder of King T’Chaka of Wakanda, only Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson are willing to defend him, with the Sokovia Accords further complicating matters. Throughout the movie, Bucky is shown overcoming his past and relying on other heroes to support him in his journey.
Though it’s a substantial development for Bucky as a character, it actually does some damage to his overall status in the MCU. Having previously been depicted as a reliable friend and then a near-unstoppable force, Bucky is suddenly shown to be completely dependent on other heroes (many of whom are far less skilled than himself). Though it makes sense in a broader narrative sense, it still subtly paints Bucky as a less capable character, damaging his MCU image.
4 Bucky’s Story Highlights Iron Man’s Hypocrisy Tony Stark Had No Right To Hate Bucky Close Iron Man is undeniably one of the MCU’s most beloved central figures, and his story was inextricably linked to that of the wider Infinity Saga arc. However, rewatching Bucky’s MCU appearances brings a more unpleasant side of Stark to light after the events of Captain America: Civil War. After learning that Bucky was the assassin that killed his parents, Stark becomes enraged, prompting a major showdown between Iron Man and Captain America. However, in light of Stark’s own story, his stance on Bucky is massively hypocritical.
Tony earned his fortune building sophisticated weapons and furthering the cause of war across the globe. After finally seeing how awful his actions can be for the individuals on the receiving end, he chooses to become a hero. However, he knows that Bucky had been brainwashed and used by Hydra, and that he wasn’t personally responsible for the death of the elder Starks. As a person making up for his own blood-soaked past, he should have better understood Bucky’s predicament, but that makes his understandable upset seem hypocritical when reviewed in a more critical light.
3 Bucky’s “Death” Wasn’t Particularly Impactful The MCU Failed To Make Bucky's Death Mean Anything Close The MCU has been filled with impactful deaths, but Bucky Barnes’ was not one of them. After being introduced in a supporting capacity in Captain America: The First Avenger, Bucky is seemingly killed, only to return as the Winter Soldier after Hydra experimentation. The MCU’s handling of Bucky’s death, particularly in relation to its place in the timeline, makes it far less hard-hitting than it deserved to be.
Firstly, Bucky had barely appeared before his supposed death, meaning audiences hadn’t had a chance to become attached to him. Then, there’s the fact that Steve Rogers was frozen shortly after, only resurfacing in 2012. Bucky then reappeared to Steve just two years later, which means that the MCU’s real-world timeline undermined the many decades Bucky spent in Hydra purgatory. Having Bucky then overcome his programming reasonably quickly only further weakened the impact of his tragic supposed death in The First Avenger.
2 Bucky’s Characterization Copies One Of The MCU’s Most Overused Ideas Bucky Is Another Hero Undergoing A Redemption Arc Close Bucky Barnes’ narrative arc is one of the best in the MCU, but it also marks one of the franchise’s most overused ideas. Bucky’s hero story is relatively simple: he was forced to do terrible things against his will, and has since reclaimed his moral integrity, and sets out to redeem himself through heroism. Unfortunately, the broad strokes of Bucky’s story also apply to several other MCU heroes, making it one of the franchise’s most overplayed tropes.
Iron Man’s story isn’t dissimilar to Bucky’s, with the hero trying to make up for his past. Black Widow is another character who was effectively brainwashed and made an assassin only to grow a conscience. Both Nebula and Gamora fit the same mold as well, having overcome the influence of their adoptive father Thanos to join the heroes of the MCU. In short, Bucky’s redemption arc – great though it may be – becomes less and less unique in the MCU as it continues.
1 Bucky Barnes Deserved A Chance To Be Captain America The Winter Soldier Would Have Made A Great Cap Close Just as in the comics, Captain America is one of the most important figures in the world of the MCU. The name and the shield have been established to stand for something, and so Steve Rogers retiring at the end of Avengers: Endgame was an opportunity for Bucky to assume the mantle just as he did in the comics. The MCU went in another direction, passing the shield to the incredibly deserving Sam Wilson instead. However, Bucky also deserved a chance to be the MCU’s Captain America, making it a shame only one could hold the mantle.
Rewatching Bucky’s MCU appearances makes it clear what a tragic figure he is. His ability to endure, overcome, and find redemption is truly inspiring, and would feed directly into what Captain America as a symbol stands for. Though the comics saw the character be given a turn behind the shield, it would seem that the MCU’s version of Bucky Barnes will receive no such chance.
Captain America: The First Avenger Where to Watch *Availability in US
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Captain America: The Winter Soldier Where to Watch *Availability in US
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Captain America: Civil War Where to Watch *Availability in US
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Avengers: Infinity War Where to Watch *Availability in US
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Avengers: Endgame Where to Watch *Availability in US
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Thunderbolts (2025)
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July 26, 2024
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February 14, 2025
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Avengers: Secret Wars
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