The internet has opened up the parameters of what it means to be “conspiracy theorist.” Before, one had to be a weirdo with a crazed dream, content to ramble on at the local coffee shop or comic book store - but now, with the whole world connected, anyone can step up and voice their opinion. Some of it good, some of it not so good. Fortunately, the role of the theorist in film has found an oasis of like-minded fans, each more down to discuss than the next.
And given that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest thing in the film business, it only seems fair there be a string of fan theories to accompany it. Faked deaths, franchise-changing concepts, and even the occasional tie-in have peppered each of the these installments over the last eight years. Often times, backed by a Reddit thread and an outpouring of fellow comic book heads. So are any of these true? Or just outlandish concepts concocted by megafans? That’s for you to decide.
With Captain America: Civil War in our rearview mirror, here are Screen Rant’s 12 Craziest Marvel Fan Theories.
12 Ant-Man Is In Every Movie
2015’s Ant-Man established how and when Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) took over the tiny shoes, but that’s not to suggest Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) was ever out of action. In fact, Reddit user The_Last_Castoff goes as far as to suggest that his Ant-Man has been a part of every Marvel movie to date, but that he's so small we haven't been able to see him. The idea that Pym has kicked it with The Avengers this whole time has netted quite the positive reaction online, providing a conspiracy that kind of holds up against the harsh sting of logic.
Obviously, the odds of this being confirmed are slim, as is the proof to support it. Still, the theory remains a fun one for fans of the pint-sized Avenger. Who knows, given how good the de-aging technology has gotten in these films, we might actually see a young Pym kicking butt and taking names down the line. Fingers crossed for Ant-Man & the Wasp.
11 Red Skull Is Still Alive
As far as we know, the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) was killed in 2011’s The First Avenger. Taken out by his patriotic counterpart and stripped of the Tesseract, however, it was a sendoff that always seemed a bit fishy-- especially since Cap (Chris Evans) made it out alive a good eight decades later. Consequently, fans have continued to speculate as to whether the Red Skull could make a return to the MCU.
The most popular Skull theory involves him still being alive thanks to the powers of the Tesseract. Could the red-headed Nazi have teleported elsewhere in the universe before his ship went down in 1945? Could be. Especially since First Avenger director Joe Johnston goes out of his way to stage his death offscreen. Only time will tell whether Skull is currently kicking it with Thanos.
10 Hydra Ceased The Existence Of Mutants In The MCU
Fans everywhere rejoiced when Sony sold the rights to Spider-Man, allowing Marvel to inch closer to a quintessential comic book universe. Unfortunately, given the success of the X-Men franchise over at Fox, it doesn’t look as though Deadpool or Wolverine will get to drop by anytime soon. In fact, the 20th Century studio has their teeth sunk so deep in the super squad that the word “mutant” is exclusively reserved for their cinematic walls - forcing Marvel to compensate without a crucial ingredient. As such, savvy Redditor BaronOlio has concocted a thesis that explains this curious absence.
In this wild theory, HYDRA splits off from Germany and stops Hitler from starting The Holocaust. This keeps Magneto from being imprisoned and consequently discovering his powers. No meeting with Charles Xavier, nor the formation of his special school. Mutants exist, though only in secret. This logic also extends to Fox, explaining that HYDRA’s failure to take over kept The Avengers from ever forming, and instead refocused all super soldier energy on experimental mutation. Theory holes aside, it's the most entertaining explanation we have until Marvel can reclaim their uncanny clan.
9 Erik Selvig Is The True Hero Of The MCU
Bear with us on this one: Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) has been the real dude getting things done behind the scenes, amidst the rambling and public nudity. Though lacking in supernatural ability, the brilliant scientist has proven pivotal in some of the MCU’s most dangerous battles. Introduced in the first Thor (2011), Selvig orchestrated the hero’s escape from a S.H.I.E.L.D. internment camp, allowing him to, you know, save the world and all that. Stakes rose even higher in The Avengers, where the poor professor was brainwashed and forced to unlock the Tesseract for trickster extraordinaire Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
But, ever the quick thinker himself, Selvig installed a fail-safe on the device that enabled Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to shut it down. By the time Thor: The Dark World (2013) kicked into action, it was only too clear that he would be crucial in saving the world once more - and sure enough, he was. Aided by Jane (Natalie Portman) and Darcy (Kat Dennings), Selvig used his equipment to send Malekith back to Svartalfheim, where Thor got to see him be crushed by his own ship. Is there anything this guy can’t do? Someone should be starting a petition to get Selvig his own movie already.
8 Loki Lost To The Avengers On Purpose
Scheming as he may be, fans love Loki (Tom Hiddleston). The pale prince of Asgard has all but solidified his status as the MCU’s ultimate villain, with blatant manipulation of brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the entire crew of Avengers. Though physically unimposing, it is his intellect that’s truly worth fearing when found in a face-to-face conflict. Taking such traits into account, the idea of Loki losing a large-scale battle on purpose doesn’t seem so crazy, especially given the events that occured afterwards.
This theory, brought to light by a slew of Marvel supporters, speculates that Loki’s invasion of New York in The Avengers was set up to fail all along. Such an attack was colossal in its Earth-bound results, but admittedly unimportant in the grander scheme of things. And given his underhanded play for the throne in Thor: The Dark World, it seems as though Loki is exactly where he wants to be. Though we doubt the Hulk smashing was part of his plan.
7 Nick Fury Has A Hidden Superpower
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) never seems to be out of step with his opposition. Granted, he’s only got one eye that works, but boy does he get good use out of that thing. Ever since appearing in Iron Man 2 (2010), the leather clad commander has played the right card on numerous occasions, and gotten himself out of some hairy situations (Winter Soldier, anyone?). As a result, a theory has materialized that Fury has a secret superpower of his own: clairvoyance. This would establish why Fury has consistently been able to wrangle in The Avengers when necessary.
As to why the S.H.I.E.L.D. leader has kept such an ability to himself, many believe it to be a protective measure. Fury has seen firsthand how superheroes are treated, and realizes it’d be much easier if he simply continued under the assumed ideal of regularity. Makes sense. Conversely, there have been a few situations where Nick has had close calls, so either he’s really good at flying by the seat of his pants or his ability isn’t as honed as some would have you think. Either way, it’s something to mull over while revisiting the MCU.
6 The Chitauri Invasion Was A Distraction By The Illuminati
Harkening back to the “Loki losing” theory, this popular thesis explains how the Chitauri Invasion on New York was actually a distraction for far more devious activities. Said to be the work of the Illuminati (of which Loki is a member), the organization was aware of this Earthly threat ahead of time, and used the massive attack as a ploy to wake society up. But wait, there’s more! Based on certain comic book narratives, several of the galaxy’s greatest heroes are also in on this secret society; including Iron Man (representing The Avengers), Professor X (representing X-Men), Reed Richards (representing Fantastic Four), Namor (representing Atlantis), and Doctor Strange (representing magic).
Phew. So if this were to take shape in the MCU future (big ‘if’ there), prominent up-and-comers Doctor Strange and Black Panther (representing Wakanda) would undoubtedly factor in. Loki’s genocidal actions would also been seen in a turbulently different light as a result. A definite long shot of a theory, but fascinating given the societal implications.
5 The Stark Dynasty Knows Everything
Another wild conspiracy, this time kept within the tightly wound Stark clan. It’s been clear from the start that Tony Stark has been in with the right people, benefiting from advantageous connections across the globe. Also worth noting are the ways in which Tony obsessively keeps tabs on those around him; case in point the bugging of the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier in The Avengers. By revealing this espionage move, the billionaire playboy not only knew of HYDRA’s infiltration, but the presence of both his name and Bruce Banner’s on Zola’s infamous algorithm. Some have even speculated that this is the reason why Stark sticks so close to Banner.
Not convinced? The theory runs all the way back to Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), who is believed to have collaborated with Zola in creating such an algorithm. The importance of which ran so deep within Howard’s psyche that he eventually allowed his own life to be taken when his name materialized. Speculations go on and on with this one, down to Howard’s creation of high-tech weaponry with Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) because he knew his son's name would also appear. Far-fetched, sure, but if any family could pull it one off, it would be the Starks.
4 Pulp Fiction Is Part Of The MCU
So the idea is that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), chrome-domed captain of S.H.I.E.L.D., is actually Jules Winnfield from Quentin Tarantino’s classic Pulp Fiction (1994). Huh? It's bonkers, we know. But Reddit user mugwump28 has actually put together quite the compelling case in support of this wild theory. It all stems from Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), in which Fury visits his own grave after being forced to fake his death and go into hiding. Conferring with Cap and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) for the next move, viewers are given a brief glimpse of his gravestone, which reads: “The Path of the Righteous Man…”
Fans will instantly recognize this as the start to Jackson’s Pulp Fiction speech, an homage to the actor’s storied past. But mugwump28 trumps this lame logic by insisting that the line is a subtle nod to the character’s shared history. This theory suggests that Winnfield swapped his jheri curl for an eye patch, and pursued his promise of becoming “the shepherd” by joining the government and heading up The Avengers. Given that Tarantino’s films are also connected, this would mean the MCU happily co-exists with a film like Inglourious Basterds (2009) - a pitch that actually makes a lot of sense when lining up Hitler’s death with HYDRA history. Just some Big Kahuna Burgers for thought…
3 Phil Coulson Is An Immortal Super Soldier
Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), everyone’s favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (sorry, Hawkeye), has been a rabid source of debate ever since his “death” in The Avengers. An emotional highpoint of the rip-roaring original, it was a gutsy move that was retracted for the small screen when he reappeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. But even with a decently believable resurrection story and furthered development, much of Phil’s back history remains shrouded in mystery. Some think they’ve cracked the Coulson case, however, by chalking his survival up to certified Super Soldier skills.
This theory suggests that we spot Coulson as the little boy with the Cap shield in The First Avenger, a superfan from the very start. But with Steve Rogers presumed dead and the government looking to replicate such success, Phil would’ve certainly attempted to honor his hero and become a Super Soldier just like him. As such, some believe Coulson to be a brainwashed superhuman, sort of an Autumn Soldier to Bucky’s bleak Winter. Either way, that vintage card collection is freaking sweet.
2 Peter Parker Appeared In Iron Man 2
Though Marvel didn’t own the rights to Spider-Man circa 2010, they may have figured a way around such a chronological hiccup. Brought to attention when the webslinger’s inclusion in Civil War was announced, the theory suggests that Peter Parker (Tom Holland) appears in the climactic fight from Iron Man 2 - years before he was bitten by a radioactive spider. Sporting fingerless gloves and a plastic mask, the 10 year old tries to help his hero in battle, before being saved by Stark in the knick of time. It seems silly upon initial pitch, but the details of such a sighting line up impressively well.
For one, Parker is roughly 15-16 years old when Stark drops by in Civil War, cementing the accuracy of the age factor. Two, the finale of Iron Man 2 takes place at the Stark Expo in Queens, New York, which just so happens to be the hometown of a certain hero with great responsibility. If Peter was such a Stark fan, like his scenes in Civil War suggest, it makes total sense he would convince Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) to take him to the Expo down the block. None of it will ever be verified, but the logical legs of this theory make it one of the internet’s best thus far.
1 Stan Lee Is The Watcher
Could it be? Marvel Studios, like Fox and Sony before them, have continued to pay their respects to Stan Lee by including him in every superhero project to date. This practice even extends to characters that Lee didn’t directly create, making for a string of cameos that have little to no coherent structure. Or so we thought. A theory floating around the internet seeks to explain how Stan The Man has gotten to play an alien playboy, a bartender, and an ex-G.I. in the same detailed universe: he is actually Uatu, The Watcher. Though unbeknownst to casual fans, this all-knowing alien serves as the overseer of the Marvel Comics, keeping tabs on each hero and intervening when necessary.
Frankly, it makes a lot of sense. Lee has not only appeared in various decades and locations, but across studio red tape, lending his humorous persona to X-Men and Spider-Man as well. As to whether he is in fact playing some omnipresent babysitter for the galaxy remains to be seen, but the theory is mighty becoming of comic books’ most beloved creator. Or, he could just be some random dude shoehorned into each flick for the fun of it. Somehow, The Watcher theory is a bit more exciting.
Any other fan theories that we should explore? Let us know in the comments!