The Evolution of Post-Credits Scenes: From Fun Extras to Mandatory Sequel Bait

Ethan Johnson

Updated Tuesday, July 9, 2024 at 1:07 PM CDT

The Evolution of Post-Credits Scenes: From Fun Extras to Mandatory Sequel Bait

The Origins of Post-Credits Scenes

In the early days of cinema, post-credits scenes were rare and often served as humorous tidbits or bloopers that added a layer of genuineness and uniqueness to the film. These scenes were not a staple in every movie, making the ones that included them all the more memorable. They offered a light-hearted conclusion and were primarily meant to entertain the audience, rather than serve any narrative purpose.

For instance, the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie ended with the undeath-curse lifted, but a post-credits scene revealed the monkey mascot still cursed. This scene was a fun addition, but many viewers missed it because, in 2003, audiences were not yet accustomed to staying for post-credits scenes that contained important plot points.

The Shift: Marvel and DC's Influence

Marvel and DC were among the first to shift the role of post-credits scenes from fun extras to mandatory sequel hints. Initially, they included these scenes in roughly every third film, subtly hinting at future plots and creating a sense of anticipation among fans. This strategy was effective in building a connected universe and keeping audiences engaged.

For example, "Batman Begins" had a sequel teaser with Commissioner Gordon handing Batman a Joker playing card. While this scene was integral to setting up the next movie, it could have easily been a post-credits scene, adding to the excitement for the sequel. However, as Marvel and DC continued to use post-credits scenes, they began to feel less like special treats and more like obligatory marketing tools.

The Modern-Day Expectation

Today, post-credits scenes have become an expected part of movies, losing their original surprise element. Modern audiences often feel "trained" to stay until the very end of the credits, anticipating a teaser for the next installment. This shift has led to a growing sentiment that these scenes are now more of a marketing requirement than a creative choice.

The Monsterverse franchise initially used post-credits scenes but stopped after the third film to avoid disappointing fans with unmade sequels. This decision highlights the risk of relying too heavily on these scenes for storytelling. When important plot points are included in post-credits scenes, it can render the main movie's ending nonsensical if missed, detracting from the overall narrative experience.

The Impact on Movie Narratives

Post-credits scenes can sometimes detract from the narrative of the movie. For instance, a post-credits scene after "Batman Begins" showing the Joker plotting a robbery would have diminished the hype for the sequel. By revealing too much too soon, these scenes can lessen the impact of teaser trailers and promotional events, which are designed to build anticipation over time.

Moreover, the overuse of post-credits scenes for sequel baiting can diminish the excitement and anticipation for upcoming movies. Some viewers feel that modern post-credits scenes rarely have a lasting impact on the overall movie experience, making them feel more like a forced addition rather than a meaningful part of the story.

The Future of Post-Credits Scenes

There is a growing sentiment that movies should not rely so heavily on post-credits scenes for their storytelling. While they can be a fun and engaging way to tease future plots, their overuse can lead to audience fatigue and diminish their effectiveness. Filmmakers should consider returning to the original purpose of these scenes—to add a fun, light-hearted conclusion to the movie, rather than serve as a mandatory marketing tool.

By striking a balance between creativity and marketing, post-credits scenes can regain their special status and continue to delight audiences without feeling like an obligatory addition. As the film industry evolves, it will be interesting to see how the role of post-credits scenes changes and adapts to meet the expectations of modern viewers.

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