Bucky Barnes has, arguably, been dealt the worst hand in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yeah, Steve Rogers is the Man Out of Time, Tony Stark is wracked with PTSD, and Natasha Romanoff has her own closet full of skeletons, but Bucky has been used, abused, and brainwashed time and time again.
Played by Sebastian Stan since his first appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger, Bucky has been through several iterations. He's been a soldier, a sharp-shooter, an assassin, Wakanda's White Wolf, and turned to dust. Because he deserves better, we've decided to rank his best MCU moments thus far.
The plums, Captain America: Civil War
Bucky’s casual question to a vendor about plums at the beginning of Captain America: Civil War resulted in an uproar. If you were involved in the MCU fandom online in any way, you couldn’t scroll an inch through Tumblr or Twitter after the film’s premiere without seeing a new piece of fanart of Bucky finally getting to eat a plum. Or fanfiction of Bucky getting to buy a plum. Or people screaming about letting Bucky have his plums. The meme grew so big within fandom that Sebastian Stan was actually handed a paper bag of plums at Wizard World Philadelphia 2016 and fans lost their minds.
But in all seriousness, this was a strange, refreshing bit of normalcy for a character who’s defined by very little beyond his trauma in the MCU. If there’s one thing MCU fans love, it’s seeing bits of humanity in their favorite characters. If Bucky wants plums, let him have his plums.
“Let’s hear it for Captain America,” Captain America: The First Avenger
Bucky is the first one to call Steve Rogers “Captain America” without so much as a sneer or a hint of derision. But what else do you expect of a best friend?
There’s no doubt Bucky feels like absolute garbage in this moment. He was captured on the front lines, experimented on and tortured by Dr. Arnim Zola, and marched miles through the wilderness. But he still loves his best friend enough to give him his moment in the spotlight.
Bucky meets Rocket, Avengers: Infinity War
Infinity War was filled to the brim with fantastically unexpected pairings and interactions. One of the best came in the form of Rocket taking an interest in Bucky’s arm after they took down some baddies. Bucky, seasoned warrior that he is, uses this odd little creature to his advantage and then goes about his business.
In a past life, Bucky probably would have appreciated Rocket’s “joke” (we know Rocket too well to know how serious he is) about wanting Bucky’s metal arm. Infinity War-era Bucky wasn’t amused, but we definitely were.
“Can you move your seat up?” Captain America: Civil War
Sam Wilson and Bucky’s relationship consists mostly of griping and glaring in each other’s general direction. Until this point, we knew that Sam wasn’t very fond of Bucky, but watching their beautiful, irritation-filled friendship blossom before our eyes was a treat. It’s proof that Bucky is regaining a personality in the wake of his brainwashing.
Plus, if this moment didn’t make you laugh, then we can’t help you.
Bucky and Sam vs. Spider-Man, Captain America: Civil War
Another Bucky and Sam moment. The MCU immediately figured out that Steve’s best friends were the perfect comedic duo. Unbrainwashed (for the most part) and understandably irritated by this strange new world Steve has dragged him into, Bucky has to work with Sam and go up against Spider-Man.
It doesn’t go well for them.
Foreshadowing, Captain America: Winter Soldier
Depending on who you ask, either Bucky or Sam is destined to become the next Captain America once Steve Rogers bites the dust (pun intended). Both characters have taken up the shield in Marvel’s comics, but only one has been foreshadowed so heavily as taking on the mantle.
The main images of Bucky holding Cap’s shield are in Winter Soldier — once on a rooftop when Steve throws his shield and the Winter Soldier catches it and once during a fight scene — but the first one came right before Bucky fell off a moving train. MCU fans might not have thought much of it then, but every “Bucky with shield” moment is significant and probably proof of something greater to come.
“Where’s the fight?” Avengers: Infinity War
Exhausted and working as a farm hand at what looks to be a goat farm, Bucky seems content to live a simple life. Then Thanos comes knocking and King T’Challa personally delivers a new metal arm, most likely courtesy of Shuri.
This is Bucky’s greatest moment for one very simple reason: He will sacrifice everything to do the right thing. And while joining in on the fight against Thanos ultimately led to his “demise,” there’s no way Bucky could have ever stood by and watched while his friends fought to save the world without him.
And, let’s be honest, how do you say no to the king of Wakanda?