We’re living in a world in which filmmakers have more freedom than ever before. Unlike in the early days of cinema, directors and storytellers are no longer bound by the conventional limitations of filmmaking. This freedom has led to a number of breakthroughs in terms of how films are made, including the post-credits scene (also known as a stinger). There have been many examples of this cinematic device in recent times, not least with the Marvel films in the lead up to the recent Avengers picture. It’s also found its way into video games, in games like those of the Metroid and Halo series. Considering how many of us are familiar with the post-credits scene, there is still a good proportion of folks that don’t know how it was born. So let’s put that right with a short history of the post-credits scene.

Where it all began

Before ‘true’ post-credits scenes were included in film, filmmakers would often include snippets of text to tease the next instalment of a series. No example of this could be more well-known than the James Bond films, which, from 1963’s From Russia With Love, began including the line “James Bond will return in…” before listing the next film’s name. This text would appear just before the credits of the film rolled, so was not a post-credits scene in the true sense of the phrase.

The first real stinger

Post-credits scenes really started to capture public attention in 1979’s The Muppet Movie, and subsequent Muppet films. In these features, the post-credits scenes were used to comic effect, and often broke the fourth wall. For example, the Muppets themselves would often appear and ask the audience why they are still sitting and watching when the movie is over. This tradition still holds true to this day with the most recent Muppets movie in 2011. Of course, in this day and age, there’s a good chance that viewers will have downloaded or streamed the movie through their home broadband connection – so asking them when they’re leaving the theatre may strike some people as odd! Having said that, 2007’s The Simpsons Movie does exactly this during the credits, even on its streamable version. During the 80s, stingers were used quite a lot, but often in comedy films to show scenes that didn’t ‘fit’ in the main movie.

Modern use of the post-credits scene

More recently, stingers have been used to add a twist to a movie that, while not necessary for understanding of the story, often offers a new point of view on the film – or a minor revelation. Examples include Darth Vader’s breathing being heard following the credits of 1999’s Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace. In Hellboy, released in 2004, a character is shown after the credits still being lost inside some catacombs: a good example of a slightly humorous revelation that is not strictly necessary to the main plot. And of course, the prime examples of post-credits scenes recently come from the Marvel films Iron Man and Iron Man 2 – both of which hint at the (then) upcoming film The Avengers. These examples seem to be there for the benefit of Marvel fans, who tend to be eager to find out what happens next (and understandably so). The Pirates of the Caribbean film series is also famous for having a post-credits scene in every title in the series, some of which are humorous, while others affect the plot directly.

The future of the post-credits scene

So what’s next for the stinger? Well, it seems that filmmakers are now starting to embrace the concept – especially those that work on big budget science fiction titles (read: superhero movies). Whether or not this trend will bleed into other types of movies, who knows? The post-credits scene is obviously not suited to all types of films, so perhaps there are only a select few genres that would ‘get away with it’. Video games are another form of media that are taking the ball and running with it – just look at recent Call of Duty titles as well as Batman: Arkham Asylum. Video games have an added benefit in that they can offer a little more gameplay following the credits to offer a little closure on the story or to give the player one last ‘go’. It’s doubtful that post-credits scenes are going anywhere – and we think that’s a very good thing. Not only do they offer fans a little bit more than they bargained for, they also encourage viewers (and players) to see exactly who put their time and effort into producing the finished product.

By Betty Redding