The three existing phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brought us many things — epic battles, legendary heroes, fascinating villains — but perhaps most importantly, it gave us a beautifully crafted version of the everlasting friendship between Steve Rogers and James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes. Though some aspects of the origins of their friendship varied in ways, the original comic book version of their story was also built on the foundation of a strong and steadfast bond. Peeling characters from the well-read pages of decades-old comics and transitioning them to the big screen is certainly a gamble, but Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan brought both of these characters to life better than anyone could have ever imagined. And, best of all, these two actors have an unbeatable chemistry on-screen.
So come along for the ride as we explore some of the best moments in Bucky and Steve’s MCU friendship …
1. Captain America: The First Avenger
Everything about this heroic one-man recuse mission was friendship goals, from start to finish. Steve, upon learning that Bucky’s unit was lost in a battle with HYDRA, refused to believe that his best friend was dead. With the assistance of Howard Stark and Peggy Carter to get him there, he infiltrated the HYDRA facility solo and freed Bucky and the other captive soldiers. The building then began to self-destruct, which left Steve and Bucky fighting for their lives as they tried to escape the flames engulfing the collapsing structure. Steve, being the hero that he is, insisted that Bucky make his escape without him. However, true to their friendship, Bucky refused to leave him behind.
2, 3, & 4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
70 years of torturous brainwashing and all it took was a brief interaction with Captain America to make the Winter Soldier’s mind briefly stumble from its cruel prison. During their battle in the streets, the Winter Soldier lost his mask and Steve was taken aback to see the face of his long-dead friend staring back at him. Steve uttered Bucky’s name and — although the only initial response it triggered from the assassin was, “Who the hell is Bucky?” — that was the beginning of the end for HYDRA’s death grip on their prized asset. Bucky’s next scene was heartbreaking; as he sat waiting for the next round of painful brainwashing to begin, he questioned his captors about that man on the bridge … because he knew him.
Steve’s heartbreak in this segment is palpable. It’s been 70 years since Steve saw Bucky fall from that train to his death, and you can see the internal torment as he yearns to feel relief after Bucky’s sudden reappearance; but he can’t. Bucky just tried to kill him — Sam and Natasha, too — and he’s fighting for HYDRA, the very organization Steve has now dedicated himself and his friends to taking down. But Steve only remembers Bucky, the one person who was there for him when he had nothing to give in return, the friend who loved him unconditionally despite his shortcomings. Even with Nat and Sam telling him it’s not possible, Bucky can’t remember him, Steve holds onto that hope that Bucky is in there — and he’ll die trying to get him back.
“I’m with you ’til the end of the line pal” — one of the most iconic lines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We get a glimpse into the building blocks of the bond that HYDRA is trying to rip from Bucky’s mind and Steve’s dedication to the man beneath the mask. Bucky has always been there for Steve, and here we see Bucky insisting on Steve coming to stay with him after the clearly unsettling events of his day — which seem to be his mother’s funeral. And Bucky, knowing Steve and his selfless nature, even gives him a small way to repay him — just shine his shoes. Steve doesn’t take him up on the offer, most likely in an attempt to stay stoic and to not burden his best friend, but we know Bucky meant it when he said he didn’t have to do it alone. This is peak friendship right here, being the pillar when the other is weak, even if that means just a pile of lumpy old couch cushions on the floor.
5, 6, & 7. Captain America: Civil War
Bucky just wanted some plums, okay? Steve followed Bucky’s inconspicuous trail to Bucharest after the news broke about the bombing suspect’s identity, only to find that his friend had nothing to do with the attack. However, to add insult to injury, the authorities had already discovered where Bucky was hiding out and a messy police chase ensued. Steve was already in hot water because of his refusal to sign the Sokovia Accords, and he dug himself even deeper when he made the choice to hunt down Bucky himself. When they finally found themselves surrounded, with an arsenal of weapons pointed at them, Steve’s first instinct was to hold an arm out in front of his friend. After sticking by his side throughout a violent and harrowing battle, this gesture — though small — solidified how deeply this friendship runs.
During their journey to Siberia, Bucky and Steve finally get their time to talk after all they’ve been through. A quiet ride to really sink into those feels. We see Bucky, unable to forgive himself for his transgressions under the brainwashing spell of HYDRA, and Steve reassuring him that he was to blame for none of them. Steve understands, and like Bucky did all those years ago on the stoop of Steve’s Brooklyn apartment, he attempts to help shoulder the weight Bucky is carrying and be what he needs him to be — a friend. The small snippet of them reminiscing about one of Bucky’s old flames gives us a lighthearted moment between two people we typically only see battling some form adversity, and the change was very welcome. Steve has forgiven Bucky for everything, and he wants Bucky to forgive himself as well.
Tony Stark may be one of Steve Rogers’ friends, but when it comes to Bucky no man can stand in the way. Tony had just learned the truth about his parent’s untimely death at the hands of the Winter Soldier, but Steve doesn’t care. That isn’t who Bucky is anymore and he should not be judged on a past he had no control over. Steve fights his powerful colleague, willing to die to protect his friend from death or prison. Just as many of us would do for the ones we love, Steve stands by what he knows is right, who he knows Bucky is, and every single time Bucky came to his rescue when their roles had been reversed. It’s Steve’s turn to protect the underdog now, and he does it with pride and an unwavering loyalty.
8. Avengers: Endgame
This scene was ironic in a way, as it showed the contrasting differences between Steve’s individual friendships with Bucky and Sam. When he spoke to Sam, things were business as usual as his pal offered to join him on his big mission. Yet Bucky, even after all those years apart, knew his best friend well enough to know that Steve Rogers would not be returning (anytime soon, anyway.) In that moment, despite the fact that Steve was the only thing he had left from the remnants of his real life, Bucky selflessly gave him a solemn smile, a hug, and sent him on his way to the life he knew his friend had always wanted. If that isn’t an example of an incredibly supportive friendship, then what is? After weathering the darkest of storms together, Steve and Bucky will always put one another’s happiness first.
With Steve’s story seemingly over, we can’t help but wonder if we’ll ever get to these two on screen again. As the overall plot of the first three phases of the MCU heated up, there wasn’t always time for Bucky and Steve to get enough screen time in the movies they were both in, but it wasn’t needed (although it was wanted.) Throughout the films that feature our two favorite super soldiers, there can be no mistaking that nothing can come between them. (And yes, we know about that Endgame ending, we’re electing to … modify it in our own ways.) Steve and Bucky are the epitome of friendship goals, with neither ever willing to give up on the other, even if they wanted to give up on themselves. Their friendship spanned close to a hundred years and the fibers never once weakened, only growing stronger as they leaned on one another throughout their new lives in a world unknown.
We can only hope we get to see them again, in any capacity. But for now, we’ll hold these moments dear and cling to our own “Steve” or “Bucky” and strive to be that stronghold of unwavering love and support for the friends in our lives. Because at the end of the day, we all deserve someone who will stand by us through our transgressions when others would have given up, that one person that always sees us worthy of redemption. “Til the end of the line.”
Want another Steve and Bucky fix? Check out Nine Times Steve Rogers Was the Hero We Didn’t Deserve and Eight Times Bucky Barnes Was Worthy of the Shield!
Steve Rogers found himself in an interesting situation battling his 2012 self, but with one stutter of Bucky’s name he gains the upper hand.