On July 4, people all across the United States of America celebrate Independence Day to mark the anniversary of the nation’s founding. But for Marvel fans, July 4 marks an additional special occasion: the birthday of the original Captain America himself, Steve Rogers.
Independence Day can be a great time to reflect on how far America has come as a country, and how much left there is to be done in order to make it the best place it can be. And who better represents this notion than Captain America? So let’s take a look at the quotes that best display the heroism of Steve Rogers, and how the Star-Spangled Man evolved throughout his time in the MCU.
1. "I can do this all day." - Captain America: The First Avenger
If there’s any singular quote that defines Steve Rogers’s unique brand of heroism, it’s this one. The first time we hear it is early on in Captain America: The First Avenger, before he even becomes Captain America; he’s out in a Brooklyn back alley, fighting off bullies significantly larger than him, but he makes it clear he’s not planning on relenting anytime soon.
Fortunately for Steve, he doesn’t have to, since the thugs are quickly dealt with as his best friend, Bucky Barnes, swoops in. It’s clear that while Bucky is close with Steve and cares for him very much, he - like everyone else - doesn’t think Steve has the ability to hold his own in fights. At this point in the story, Steve is the only person who truly does believe he “can do this all day”, but he knows he’ll have to convince others he can in order to get on the battlefield.
2. "I don't want to kill anyone, but I don't like bullies; I don't care where they're from." - Captain America: The First Avenger
When asked by Dr. Abraham Erskine if he wants to kill Nazis, Steve replies with this sentiment, providing us with another moment that demonstrates his aptitude for the experiment. It shows how joining the war effort isn’t about the glory for him, but the opportunity to fight for what is right and take down those who are hurting and taking advantage of others with less power than them.
There’s a reason Erskine was keen on the idea of selecting a physically weaker subject for the experiment, and here Steve proves why this seemingly-absurd plan to some turned out to be a very wise decision indeed.
3. "I got beat up in that alley. And that parking lot. And behind that diner."
"Did you have something against running away?"
"You start running, they'll never let you stop. You stand up, push back... Can't say no forever right?" - Captain America: The First Avenger
Here’s Steve explaining exactly why he insists on standing up to bullies instead of simply ducking away from conflict. He doesn’t want to live in fear, under the control of others who don’t respect him. Once he becomes Captain America, he ends up working towards this goal of freedom on a much larger scale, and moments like this show us exactly why he was chosen for the Super-Soldier experiment.
Among having superpowers and/or exceptional combat skills, there’s another, unofficial requirement to be an Avenger: the ability to deliver a solid quip. And Cap proves he can quip with the best of them when he first confronts Loki in The Avengers.
On the surface, this quote sounds like a fun little line to break a bit of the tension for the audience. But when you stop to think about it for a moment, it’s quite dark. Steve sees Loki hijack an event, take control over the crowd, and demand undying loyalty from the people there...and proceeds to straight-up compare him to Hitler. And this is coming from a man who fought him directly during World War II.
Cap sees what Loki is doing here, and - probably more than any of the other Avengers - understands what it can lead to. So, he’s determined to nip it into the bud before things escalate.
5. "How do we do this?"
"As a team!" - The Avengers
This one is pretty simple yet shows Steve’s commitment to his work as a hero. Here he has only just met most of the Avengers and isn’t exactly seeing eye to eye with all of them yet. In fact, he hasn’t even fully adjusted to the new time period he’s living in. But when there’s people in need of protection, he’s ready to jump into action, give and take orders, and put aside his differences from others to fight for the greater good alongside them.
6. "For as long as I can remember, I just wanted to do what was right. I guess I'm not quite sure what that is anymore. And I thought I could throw myself back in: follow orders, serve. It's just not the same." - Captain America: The Winter Soldier
As demonstrated by the previous quote, even after Steve wakes up in an unfamiliar time, surrounded by unfamiliar people, his first priority remains fighting for justice. But he quickly learns that doing so in the 2010’s looked very different from doing so in the 1940’s.
It’s worth noting that Steve had a rebellious streak even during World War II (on full display when he went to rescue the 107th Infantry Regiment from captivity) so it was never exactly about blindly following orders. However, it’s clear that the mindset of morality of those working to protect society in the 21st century can be a bit more grey, and saving the world is a little more complicated than it was back in Steve’s day. Not only does he have to adapt to the physical changes in this new era, but the changes in the mentality of society as well.
7. "Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?" - Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Even though the world around him is very different from the one in which he went over the ice and he’s struggling to adjust, some things about Steve Rogers haven’t changed. He’s as ready to jump into battle as ever, perhaps even more so now that any other semblance of what he’s used to has long since disappeared.
That’s why when Cap picks up on the fact he’s being set up for capture in that elevator, he doesn’t hesitate to cut to the chase and take his enemies down. As he often experienced back in the 40’s before receiving the serum, the deck is stacked against him in that elevator. But he doesn’t let that stop him from starting the fight on his terms and facing his enemies head-on.
8. “The price of freedom is high, it always has been. And it's a price I'm willing to pay. And if I'm the only one, then so be it. But I'm willing to bet I'm not.” - Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Towards the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve finally does what he’s been building up to do for the entire movie and reveals the truth about the HYDRA takeover to everyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s a plea to the staff to do the right thing, even though it may not be the easiest one. Standing alone - or with very few allies - facing a mammoth of an opponent is nothing less than a major hallmark of the heroism of Captain America - before, during, and after this film - and we wouldn’t expect anything less from the star-spangled man with a plan.
9. “Ultron thinks we're monsters. That we're what's wrong with the world. This isn't just about beating him. It's about whether he's right.” - Avengers: Age of Ultron
We know Steve Rogers always does what he thinks is right, regardless of whether or not others believe it is. However, his mindset has been called into question in various ways several times since waking up in the 21st century, and now a supervillain is explicitly referring to him and his team as “monsters”.
Steve has his worldview called into question in multiple ways over the course of Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is where he starts to be confronted by what his end goal is in saving the world, and whether or not he’s ready to face what comes after that. But, of course, the more immediate question is whether his method of heroics is the right one is no longer merely a personal struggle. He needs to prove to his team - and the world - that Ultron is wrong about the Avengers.
10. “You get hurt, hurt them back. You get killed... walk it off." - Avengers: Age of Ultron
Just as Cap has high expectations of himself as a hero, he also has high expectations of his team. We know he’s willing to literally jump on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, and would continue the fight even after that if he could. Now, in his pre-battle speech, he’s insisting his fellow Avengers take on the same attitude towards the impending fight, and they’d be hard-pressed to argue with their leader on this one.
11. "This job, we try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn’t mean everybody. But if we can’t find a way to live with that, then next time maybe nobody gets saved." - Captain America: Civil War
After the events of Age of Ultron and the beginning of Civil War, some of the Avengers are having difficulty with the guilt of civilian lives lost in their perceived hands. But Captain America is one of those more willing to accept that sometimes he won’t be able to protect every single person, but that some is better than none when it comes to saved lives.
Cap’s viewpoint on this matter makes a lot of sense when you remember that he’s fought in a World War and dealt with both fallen soldiers and murdered civilians during his days fighting the Nazis. Likewise, it also makes sense that others have more trouble reconciling with this and are determined to find a solution to this problem. Cap is more hesitant to adhere to his own approach because he’s experienced the shattering of trust from the HYDRA takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D. and is still having some issues adjusting to modern times. With all of these factors at play, it’s easier to understand why he can sometimes be more wary of change than certain other members of the team.
12. “If I see a situation pointed south, I can't ignore it. Sometimes I wish I could."
“No you don’t.”
“No, I don’t.” - Captain America: Civil War
Once again, we see Steve’s laser-focus on righting wrongs and maintaining justice on full display. He tries to tell Tony he wishes he could have other priorities sometimes, but quickly relents, admitting he likes being a hero and wouldn’t want to be any other way.
Steve has faced a lot of adversity in his life, quite a bit of which came from people picking on him and trying to control him via fear. So it’s only natural that he is eager to fix these kinds of problems whenever he sees them. He doesn’t wish he could ignore them because he knows how much it meant to him whenever someone (usually Bucky) would stand up for him...even though he always insisted he could deal with his own problems.
13. "We may not perfect, but the safest hands are still our own." - Captain America: Civil War
At this point in the series, Cap’s trust in the government and other organizations intended to protect the world has diminished greatly. He firmly believes he knows best when it comes to citizen defense, and as such wishes for the Avengers to continue to operate on their own.
Whether you agree with him or not, this quote fits in perfectly with those that display how Cap will always go all-in when fighting for what he thinks is right. And it makes sense that he wants to remain in control over how he (and the rest of the team) operates, considering that he was working closely with S.H.I.E.L.D. when he discovered they had been taken over by HYDRA.
14. “I can do this all day.” - Captain America: Civil War
Civil War marks the second instance we hear this line from Steve. This time the roles are reversed, Bucky is the one being attacked, and Steve is defending him. Of course, there’s also a big contrast in stakes; in The First Avenger, the guys Steve was fighting appeared to be strangers who were at the same movie screening as him, but here his opponent is Tony Stark. This parallel shows how highly Steve values his morals, and how he’s willing to fight anyone for what he believes is right - even someone he once considered a teammate and friend.
15. “I’ve been on my own since I was 18. I never really fit in anywhere – even in the Army. My faith is in people, I guess. Individuals. And I’m happy to say for the most part, they haven’t let me down. Which is why I can’t let them down either." - Captain America: Civil War
It’s often forgotten that while Steve has trouble adjusting to the 21st century, he never really fit in back in the 40’s, either. He grew up smaller than those around him, which had a negative impact on him socially, and once he received the Super Soldier serum he was paraded around as a war propaganda figure and stuck out that way.
Steve is never truly able to fit in when it comes to large groups, but luckily he manages to make a few good, loyal friends throughout his life. And when it becomes apparent that loyalty to his country, government, and even supposedly “heroic” organizations aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, they’re the ones he can turn to for support when he’s trying to do what he believes to be the right thing.
In Civil War, this stance results in the status of Steve and several of his closest friends as wanted criminals after they rebel against the Sokovia Accords that put the Avengers under the eye of the United Nations. When several of them end up in prison, Steve sets out to free them and go on the run, having their back as they have had his in his mission to free Bucky Barnes from the authorities. His loyalties have become more selective over the years, but they’re as strong as ever.
16. "I'm not looking for forgiveness. And I'm way past asking for permission. Earth just lost her best defender. So we're here to fight. If you wanna stay in our way... we'll fight you, too." - Avengers: Infinity War
Steve and his friends have been on the run from most of the world’s authorities for a couple of years, but when the planet is facing imminent cosmic threat, he doesn’t hesitate to come out of the shadows and tell them what’s what.
Not only is this yet another example of Steve fully and passionately standing for his belief in justice, but it’s also him trying to keep the promise he made in his letter to Tony at the end of Civil War; Tony is missing, and the world needs protecting, so Steve is on his way to take care of things.
17. “Thanos threatens half the universe. One life cannot stand in the way of defeating him.”
“But it should. We don’t trade lives, Vision.” - Avengers: Infinity War
In Civil War, Steve was prepared to sacrifice the lives of others - potentially even innocent civilians - if it came down to the benefits outweighing the costs. But by the time Infinity War rolls around, he’s changed his tune on the matter considerably, and makes it clear how reluctant he would be to sacrifice Vision’s life in order to keep the Mind Stone away from Thanos.
It’s honestly strange that we don’t really get any insight as to what exactly has made Steve do a 180 on the situation since Civil War. Perhaps he’s lost so many friends that he wants to hold onto the ones he has left, or has had experiences in the interim that have made him change his stance on sacrificing the lives of others. Whatever the reason, this quote shows how much Steve’s mindset has changed not only between these two movies, but since his MCU journey began back in The First Avenger.
18. "This is gonna work, Steve."
"I know it is. 'Cause I don't know what I'm gonna do if it doesn't." - Avengers: Endgame
Up until the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Steve experiences a pretty impressive winning streak in his fight for justice. The biggest in-battle loss we see for him prior to that movie is Bucky Barnes falling off the train during World War II, and by the time Infinity War takes place, Bucky has been discovered and de-programmed from his HYDRA brainwashing. But when Cap and the other Avengers fail to prevent Thanos from gathering all six Infinity Stones, his universe-altering snap kills not only Bucky (once again) but half of all sentient life, including several of Steve’s other friends such as T’Challa, Sam Wilson, and Wanda Maximoff.
At first, Steve can only bring himself to sit on the ground in disbelief of what has just occurred. But within a few weeks, he and most of the other surviving Avengers are ready to track down Thanos and try to bring everyone else back. It’s clear, though, that Steve’s once seemingly-endless resources of resilience have diminished, and that losing again would be an even bigger blow for him.
We don’t get to see the immediate effects when the team realizes their mission to Thanos’s farm will not result in the resurrection of those he killed, but after the five-year time jump it’s clear that Steve has spent a lot of time wrestling with his inability to protect everyone; he feels defeated, and wants to be able to move on from it, but just can’t bring himself to do so.
19. “I can do this all day.”
“Yeah, I know.” - Avengers: Endgame
Once again, there’s that now-classic line. During the Time Heist in Avengers: Endgame, 2023 Steve Rogers ran into his 2012 self. Believing his past self was really Loki in disguise, he attacked, and a Cap vs. Cap battle ensued.
This one-on-one fight allowed 2023 Steve to see how much he had changed in the 11 years since the Battle of New York. When his past self says “I could do this all day,” present Steve recalls the more simplistic mentality he used to have; the mindset of dropping everything for a fight for justice and living in anticipation of the next one. By 2023, Steve no longer has the same level of faith in his country and is realizing he may not even have the same drive to fight anymore.
However, it is worth noting that even though Steve may not always want to fight anymore, he proves during his one-on-one with Thanos later on that he still indeed can do this all day.
20. "You trust me?"
"I do." - Avengers: Endgame
By 2023, Steve Rogers may have long lost his trust in most of the world, but he has gained quite a bit for one person: Tony Stark. He initially dismissed Tony as selfish and uncaring when it came to the lives of others, but has since witnessed various altruistic and even self-sacrificing moments from his teammate firsthand. While working on the Time Heist, each of them were able to let the other take control when the situation called for it with ease; Tony eases off while Cap was giving his pre-mission speech, and now Cap lets go of the reigns at a point of uncertainty during the venture.
Steve’s lack of hesitation to put his trust in Tony at such a crucial, potentially dangerous point during the mission shows how he has become more accepting of ideas from his teammates as well as how his willingness to let others take the lead - even those who often think quite differently than him in terms of how to go about things. He’s more open to collaboration with his teammates, especially after being called out for not entirely keeping his promise to “be there” and having so much time to mull over his outlook on life.
This willingness to listen to and learn from the viewpoints of others - specifically, Tony - is what ultimately leads Steve to retire from the Captain America mantle at the end of Avengers: Endgame. He sees the lives Tony and some of his other teammates have built, and decides to honor Tony’s life by trying to live the one he suggested for him back in Age of Ultron. But he wouldn’t be able to do this without having seen and accepted that his fellow superheroes are just as capable of defending the universe as himself, and that the world will remain safe in their hands.