The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a reputation for including hidden reveals and Easter eggs that don’t make sense until much later. Many of these hidden reveals are only apparent upon rewatching the movies, as they tease future developments that weren’t immediately clear. Examples of these hidden reveals include the Ten Rings organization, the introduction of other Avengers, and the existence of the Infinity Stones.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has often seeded future reveals with subtle hints, but many of them actually don’t make sense until much later. Since its inception, the MCU has developed a reputation for being one of the most forward-thinking franchises around, often setting up future narrative developments years in advance. The movie timeline of the MCU has offered up big franchise teases since the very beginning, with practically every installment packed with Easter eggs and references to Marvel characters and stories that almost always become part of the shared universe.

With so many clever details hidden throughout every entry in the MCU, it’s easy to miss concealed references to future developments. In fact, in many cases, it’s not until years later that the MCU actually pays off these subtle teases, having had a chance to build its narrative toward a satisfying confirmation of what the hidden reveal had hinted at all along. It’s only upon rewatching the movies of the MCU that such hidden reveals become truly apparent because they teased the future so far in advance that they didn’t initially make sense. With that in mind, here are 10 early MCU reveals that only made sense years later.

Related: Every Upcoming Marvel Movie: Full MCU Phase 5 & 6 List (& Beyond)

10 The Ten Rings

Iron Man (2008)

One of the franchise’s very first teases of a wider cinematic universe was the inclusion of the Ten Rings. In 2008’s Iron Man, Tony Stark is kidnapped by the organization, hinting at the potential involvement of the Mandarin, his arch-nemesis from the comics. Though Iron Man 3‘s Mandarin fake-out risked wasting the Ten Rings tease, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings confirmed the existence of the true Mandarin and the Ten Rings organization. Though it took over a decade to fully pay off, Shang-Chi finally made the reveal make perfect sense.

9 “You Think You’re The Only Superhero In The World?”

Iron Man (2008)

Even as far back as the franchise’s first film, the MCU’s post-credits scenes have shaped its future. The film’s final stinger sees Nick Fury appear to Tony Stark, uttering the immortal words: You think you’re the only superhero in the world? It’s a line that clearly teased the introduction of other Avengers, but it also subtly sowed the seeds for Fury’s involvement in an MCU prequel. His choice of words all but confirms he has met multiple heroes previously, a tease that later paid off in Captain Marvel, which sees Fury team up with Carol Danvers in 1995, recontextualizing his Iron Man line.

8 Howard Stark’s Involvement In Captain America’s Story

Iron Man (2008)

The MCU’s first movie also featured a subtle reference to another hero in the form of Captain America’s shield glimpsed in the background. Iron Man 2 elaborated two years later with Tony Stark describing it as a prototype his father worked on. However, it wasn’t until 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger formally introduced Howard Stark that the tease finally made sense. The film clearly depicted the elder Stark’s part in helping Steve Rogers become a hero, explaining exactly why Tony Stark would be in possession of a prototype shield so many decades later.

7 Iron Man 2’s Subtle Wakanda Reference

Iron Man 2 (2010)

In the background of a scene in Iron Man 2, there’s an Easter egg that teased the introduction of a character who wouldn’t appear until six years later. While Stark talks to Nick Fury about the Avengers Initiative, a map can be seen behind the hero. On the map, a small area of Africa is circled, clearly denoting the location of the fictional country of Wakanda. Though it’s easy to miss, the map teases the introduction of Black Panther and his home, which itself wouldn’t be seen for eight years upon the release of 2018’s Black Panther. It’s a tease that didn’t entirely make sense until nearly a decade later.

6 The Infinity Gauntlet In Asgard’s Vault

Thor (2011)

One of the most significant early MCU Easter eggs, Thor‘s Infinity Gauntlet may have later been retconned, but its inclusion actually teased developments that weren’t paid off until Avengers: Infinity War. The brief appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet confirmed the existence of the Infinity Stones in the MCU, even though the gauntlet was later dismissed as a fake in Thor: Ragnarok. By establishing the existence of the Stones, Thor subtly set up the entire Infinity Saga arc, even though it wasn’t entirely clear at the time of the film’s release.

5 Bucky’s Throwaway Line To Steve Rogers

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

What initially seemed like an inconsequential line of dialogue actually turned out to be alarmingly prescient. Early in Captain America: The First Avenger, Bucky tells Steve that they’re going “to the future – meaning they’re heading to the Stark Expo to peruse the groundbreaking technology on display. However, it wasn’t until Captain America: The Winter Soldier that Steve and Bucky reunited – some 70 years after the line was uttered, with neither man having aged in that span of time. Though Bucky may have meant the line innocently, it turned out to be a tease for the friends’ MCU future.

4 Captain America’s Indictment Of Iron Man

The Avengers (2012)

Perhaps one of the most poignant pieces of writing in The Avengers is Captain America’s scathing assessment of Tony Stark. Dismissing him by describing his fellow hero as “not the guy to make the sacrifice play, Steve Rogers makes it clear that he doesn’t think much of Stark’s qualities as a protector of Earth. However, over Iron Man’s narrative arc, he matures and begins to better understand his responsibilities as a hero, eventually ending with him making the ultimate sacrifice in order to stop Thanos. Though Cap couldn’t have known at the time, the line subtly foreshadows Iron Man’s heroic ending.

3 Erik Selvig’s Chalkboard

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor: The Dark World might be considered one of the weakest entries in the MCU, but it contained one of the franchise’s most interesting teases. Dr. Erik Selvig is mostly played for laughs in the sequel, despite being one of the world’s greatest scientific minds. One shot of his chalkboard actually contains multiple hints at the MCU’s future, despite the film implying it to be nothing but the ramblings of his magic-addled brain. The board contains notes referencing Surtur – who went on to appear in Thor: Ragnarok four years later – and Earth-616, implying that Selvig was aware of the multiverse before any of the Avengers.

2 The Skrull Language’s Early Appearance

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy expanded the MCU’s horizons by introducing heroes out among the stars, but it also hinted at characters who wouldn’t appear until five years after its release. During Stan Lee’s cameo, an alien language can be seen on-screen, which is later revealed in Captain Marvel to be the written language of the Skrull people. There was no way for any member of the audience to have known at the time, but Guardians of the Galaxy appears to have been crafted with an incredibly subtle tease for the franchise’s future stories in Captain Marvel and Secret Invasion.

1 Wanda Giving Cap A Glimpse Of His Future

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron introduced Wanda Maximoff to the MCU, and she torments the Avengers with visions of their past and futures. However, the vision Captain America sees appears to be neither: It’s implied to be an alternate present in which he stayed in the 1940s with Peggy Carter. Steve shares a dance with Peggy, lamenting the life he left behind. However, Avengers: Endgame revealed that this was actually Cap’s future all along: Wanda simply gave him a glimpse of the happy ending he didn’t think he’d ever get. It’s one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s most clever reveals, because it didn’t make any sense at all until years later.

Key Release Dates

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 These subtle MCU reveals took years to pay off.  Read More