Aside from Thunderbolts, Captain America: New World Order is the last Marvel Studios blockbuster before Phase 6 (presumably) threatens the multiverse. While it seems clear that original Captain America Steve Rogers will not make an appearance, how likely is it that his dear friend Bucky Barnes will show up to lend a metal hand to Sam Wilson? Here’s what we know.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier saw Bucky and Sam as reluctant allies trying to prevent a terrorist organization from inciting chaos. As they both grappled with the loss of their mutual friend Steve Rogers, they prevented disaster by taking down the bad guys, and they grew closer along the way. Logic tells us that Bucky will be in the movie, but that’s yet to be confirmed. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Is the Winter Soldier in Captain America 4?
We don’t know for sure whether Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes will appear in New World Order, but the character has appeared in all three previous Captain America films. In fact, his character was the focus of Winter Soldier (obviously) and Civil War. He also developed a close relationship with Sam Wilson in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. They ended the Disney+ series as partners, so it stands to reason they’d continue as such in the next film.
Giant Freakin Robot reported in 2021 that Stan was indeed returning for the next Cap film, but take their unnamed sources with a grain of salt. Similarly, We Got This Covered reported in an April 2021 article that Sebastian Stan would “take second billing behind Anthony Mackie” as the “co-lead” in the fourth Captain America film.
All we know for sure right now is that Sam Wilson is the headliner. But it would make sense for Bucky to also factor in.
In April 2021, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier showrunner Malcolm Spellman spoke to Inverse about what Sam and Bucky’s relationship could look like moving forward. “I don’t know about them as a permanent team, but I would argue that Bucky does seem like Sam’s family now,” Spellman said. “I can imagine Sam comes home to Louisiana on occasion and finds Bucky eating at the table and who knows, you know what I’m saying? I mean, him and Sarah (Adepero Oduye) had a little, you know, little flirtation going on.”
What’s the status of Sebastian Stan’s Marvel contract?
In the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, most of its bigger players were locked into multi-film contracts. Sebastian Stan revealed back in 2014 that he “thinks” his deal was for nine films.
So far, he’s featured in The First Avenger, The Winter Soldier, Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame. Barring any major renegotiations behind the scene, that means that Sebastian Stan has four more feature films on his slate. Considering his close relationship with Wakanda, it’s certainly possible that Bucky will show up in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. He’s also likely part of Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars, which leaves just the right amount of room in that contract for Captain America: New World Order.
Notably, The Hollywood Reporter reported in 2019 that Disney+ series don’t count for the purposes of MCU movie contracts, which “could result in a separate round of dealmaking.” So Falcon and the Winter Soldier didn’t factor into this math, nor would any other Disney+ series Stan might appear in.
It’s also worth noting that back in July 2021, Marvel boss Kevin Feige confirmed that the studio was moving away from these massive contracts. “It varies, project to project, cast to cast,” he said. “Really, what we want are people that come in, are excited to be in the universe, are excited at the opportunity to do more things, as opposed to being locked into contractual obligations.”
In other words, Sebastian Stan has just enough room in his existing contract to appear in Captain America: New World Order, but all bets are off after that.
What has Sebastian Stan said about his MCU future?
In a May 2021 episode of the Just for Variety podcast, Stan implied he’d keep playing the role for as long as Marvel Studios will have him. "It’s not up to me. I don’t make these decisions,” he said. “As long as they’ll keep calling, I’m there. I don’t know. I get old, too. So I don’t know what that means. I’m just going for the ride." And just a few months prior, in March 2021, he was hopeful he’d return for Captain America 4. “I don’t know, I really don’t know [if Bucky will return],” he said to Extra.
Stan may have no idea what the future of the MCU holds for Bucky Barnes, but he appears happy to appear for as long as Marvel will have him. Robert Downey Jr. was 54 for Avengers: Endgame, and Don Cheadle is continuing in the role of War Machine at the same age. Stan is only 39, so there’s still plenty the MCU could do with the Winter Soldier.