Iron Man 3 is out in theaters tomorrow, and it should come as no surprise that those who are willing to sit through the end credits — and seriously, they run something like ten minutes and include more names than a small-town phone book — will be rewarded with an extra (and very funny) bonus scene. Some call these little bonuses “credit cookies,” others call them “stingers.” In Roger Ebert’s Little Movie Glossary , Serdor Yegulalp dubs them the “Monk’s Reward,” defined thus: “A surprising final line or image, tagged on after the credits have finished rolling… so named because it usually takes monk-like devotion to sit through the credits to get to it.” The previous Marvel movies made a regular habit of including credit cookies, mostly as preparation for The Avengers, but they’re not the only movies to throw in a little something extra for those who stick around to find out who the unit accountant was. (Warning: minor spoilers ahead, but all for movies that have been out for a year or more.)
Since the earlier Marvel stingers were all about preparing for The Avengers, there was some question about what the hell they’d do for a credit cookie this time. To cover all bases, writer/director Joss Whedon did two: the first, a serious set-up scene for the next “phase” of Avengers movies, and then a more light-hearted payoff to an earlier joke about schwarma. It wasn’t in Whedon’s original script, or even in the first cut of the film; in fact, it wasn’t even in the film when it premiered, or when it opened overseas. Whedon and his cast added in the button mere days before the movie opened in North America, and Chris Evans — who had a full beard for another role — hid his face behind his hand, to cover up the terrible prosthetic make-up used to cover that beard.
The Marvel Universe isn’t the only one to slide some credit cookies into its films; Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 film adaptation of the Dark Horse Comics series Hellboy includes a comic check-in with a supporting character, something of a go-to move in stinger world. In the film, our hero manages to shake FBI director Tom Manning (our beloved Jeffrey Tambor) and finish off the adventure; in the stinger, Manning is still lost in the catacombs, trying in vain to get in touch with his team.
The Muppet Movie
In true Muppet meta-movie fashion, their first big screen vehicle, 1979’s The Muppet Movie, ends with the gang at a screening of the movie itself. The end credits roll as the cast hobnobs, jokes around, and generally finishes things up, but once the copyright information has been seen, Animal has a message for the audience: “GO HOME! GO HOME!” This breaking of the fourth wall is a popular way to end your movie on a comic high note; we’ll see more of it later.
Another beloved credit cookie is the quickie payoff to a jokey minor character. Hellboy was a variation on this, but the originator was 1980’s Airplane! At the beginning of the film, taxi driver Ted Striker leaves a passenger in his cab while he runs in to try and catch his ex-girlfriend — an errand that ends up putting him on her flight and through the events of the film. We occasionally check back in with the increasingly impatient man; after the closing credits (themselves filled with jokes like “Cheerios by General Mills”), the film cuts back to the passenger, still waiting for Striker to return. “Well, I’ll give him 20 more minutes, but that’s it!” announces the poor schmuck.
Lethal Weapon 3
The second sequel to Mel Gibson and Danny Glover’s buddy cop hit opens with an extended set piece in which our heroes fail to diffuse a bomb, rather unspectacularly — they end up taking out an entire (empty, luckily) building. So after the end credits roll, we get a callback to that foul-up, complete with a final incantation of the series’ catchphrase.
Flubbed lines and bloopers are often seen during the end credits of broad comedies, while alternate and deleted scenes usually make their way onto DVDs. But in his warm and wonderful film adaptation of Ghost World, director Terry Zwigoff apparently said the hell with it, and threw in a very funny alternate scene (of Steve Buscemi’s Seymour on a rampage) after the end credits.
Credits on animated films can be particularly brutal — so many names — and the little kids in the audience are usually so amped up on sugar and salt that their parents hustle them out the moment the narrative ends. So Pixar threw in this little extra at the end of Finding Nemo, an added bit of undersea loveliness that takes a funny, surprising turn.
Coming to America
In his hilarious 1988 comedy Coming to America, Eddie Murphy played not only the lead but several comic supporting roles. (This was before he’d done it so often that it became more late-period Murphy hackery.) His co-star Arsenio Hall did the same, so when the actor listings appeared in the end credits, audiences were surprised to discover how many times they’d seen the pair in the film. To reiterate the totality of Murphy’s most astonishing transformation — into an elderly Jewish man — director John Landis had him literally stop the credits (“Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait, stop right here”) for one more scene in the barbershop.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
At the beginning of John Hughes’s classic Thanksgiving comedy, Neal Page (Steve Martin) waits impatiently for his boss to choose between several proofs for possible advertisements. The bossman’s indecisiveness — the meeting goes long, with still no decision made — makes him late for the airport, and causes his first interaction with Del Griffin (John Candy), who becomes his frenemy over the course of the film. After the end credits, we see that the days-long Thanksgiving holiday hasn’t made things any clearer for Neal’s boss; he’s still looking over those damn proofs, albeit with a turkey dinner waiting nearby.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Mr. Hughes only stole his stingers from the best, and if Planes, Trains is a clear shout-out to Airplane!, then we can only presume from the famed ending of Ferris Bueller that Hughes was a Muppets fan as well.