Sam Wilson (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

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Sam Wilson
Marvel Cinematic Universe character
Anthony Mackie as Captain America.jpeg
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Captain America in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021)
First appearanceCaptain America:
The Winter Soldier
Based on
Adapted byChristopher Markus
Stephen McFeely
Portrayed byAnthony Mackie
In-universe information
  • Paul Wilson (father)
  • Darlene Wilson (mother)
  • Sarah Wilson (sister)
  • AJ Wilson (nephew)
  • Cass Wilson (nephew)
OriginDelacroix, Louisiana, United States

Samuel Wilson,[5] more commonly known as Sam Wilson, is a fictional character portrayed by Anthony Mackie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) media franchise, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name and known commonly by his original alias, the Falcon. Wilson later assumes the title of Captain America after the retirement of Steve Rogers. He is depicted as a veteran United States Air Force Pararescueman who flies using a jet pack with articulated wings who is recruited as a member of the Avengers.

Wilson is a central figure in the MCU, having appeared in six films as of 2021 and takes a lead role in the miniseries The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021).[6] The character is noted for being the first black Captain America in the MCU,[7][8] and Mackie's portrayal of Wilson has been met with positive reception. He is set to reprise the role in a future Captain America film currently under development.[9]

Concept, creation, and characterization

Samuel Thomas Wilson, known as the Falcon, was the first African-American superhero in mainstream comic books.[10][11] The character first appeared in Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969).[12] Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan,[12] he came about, Colan recalled in 2008, the late 1960s [when news of the] Vietnam War and civil rights protests were regular occurrences, and Stan, always wanting to be at the forefront of things, started bringing these headlines into the comics. ... One of the biggest steps we took in this direction came in Captain America. I enjoyed drawing people of every kind. I drew as many different types of people as I could into the scenes I illustrated, and I loved drawing black people. I always found their features interesting and so much of their strength, spirit and wisdom written on their faces. I approached Stan, as I remember, with the idea of introducing an African-American hero and he took to it right away. ... I looked at several African-American magazines, and used them as the basis of inspiration for bringing The Falcon to life.[13]

He was introduced as an unnamed former resident of New York City's Harlem neighborhood, who had adopted a wild falcon he trained and named Redwing. (His own name, Sam Wilson, was not given until page five of the following issue.) After Wilson came into conflict with the supervillain the Red Skull, Steve Rogers inspired Wilson to take on the costumed identity of the Falcon, and Wilson underwent training with Rogers.[14][15] Through most of the 1970s, the Falcon and Captain America were a team in New York City, and the series was cover-billed Captain America and the Falcon from issues #134–192 and 194–222 (February 1971 – June 1978).[16]

The Falcon eventually became a member of the Avengers from issues #183–194 (May 1979 – April 1980), and had a solo issue.[17] After regularly appearing in Captain America vol. 2 (November 1996 – November 1997), the Falcon rejoined the Avengers in The Avengers vol. 3, #1 (February 1998). This time, he remained with the team, becoming one of its most prominent members by issue #57 (Oct. 2002). In 2014, Marvel announced that Wilson would succeed Rogers as the new Captain America, a mantle which the character thereafter assumed in several additional runs.[18][19][20]

In the mid-2000s, Kevin Feige realized that Marvel still owned the rights to the core members of the Avengers, which included Captain America and his associated characters, including Wilson. Feige, a self-professed "fanboy", envisioned creating a shared universe just as creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had done with their comic books in the early 1960s.[21] In 2005, Marvel received a $525 million investment from Merrill Lynch, allowing them to independently produce ten films, including Captain America. Paramount Pictures agreed to distribute the film.[22][23][24] In July 2012, Anthony Mackie entered negotiations to star as Wilson/Falcon alongside Chris Evans in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.[25] In November 2014, Mackie was confirmed to be returning in Captain America: Civil War.[26][27] In early July 2015, an international teaser trailer revealed that Mackie would appear as Wilson/Falcon in Ant-Man.[28] Mackie appears in the post-credit sequence as well, along with Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan as Steve Rogers / Captain America and Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier, respectively.[29]


Entering the role, Mackie said "[Wilson is] a really smart guy who went through major military training and becomes a tactical leader."[30] He also remarked, "He's the first African-American superhero. It makes me feel all the work I've done has been paying off. I have a son, nephews and nieces, and I love the idea that they can dress up as the Falcon on Halloween. They now have someone they can idolize. That's a huge honor for me."[31] Marvel, who cast Mackie because of his "energy and sense of fun",[32] did not let him read a script before signing on.[33] Mackie spent five months doing two-a-day workouts and eating an 11,000 calorie per day diet to get into shape for the role.[34] Commenting on Rogers' relationship with Wilson, Evans said, "Meeting Mackie's character, he used to serve, now he works at the VA counseling guys who come home with PTSD — they connect on that level. I think they're both wounded warriors who don't bleed on other people. Cap has no one to bleed on. I think Mackie knows how to handle people like that. … Sometimes when things are bad, trusting a stranger is the way to go".[35]

On including Falcon in Ant-Man, director Peyton Reed said that it was not done just to include the character, rather "[i]t served a plot point; a purpose in our story" and allowed them to enhance Michael Peña's "tip montages", which were written by production writers Gabriel Ferrari and Andrew Barrer,[36] also adding Falcon "seemed like the right character — not a marquee character like Iron Man or Thor, but the right level of hero".[37] Rudd and McKay decided to include Falcon after watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier.[38]

Discussing the relationship between Wilson and Rogers in Captain America: Civil War, Mackie said, "With Falcon and Cap, what's so great is there's a mutual respect. There's a soldier respect. What's great about ... [Captain America: Civil War] is you get to see their relationship grow,"[39] adding, "He respects and admires Cap because Cap earned his rank as opposed to sitting in an office and just delegating orders."[40] Feige said that it was decided to reshoot the final scene of the film to incorporate the new Falcon suit designed for Ant-Man, which was released after Age of Ultron, as Falcon was originally shot in his original suit from The Winter Soldier.[41] Mackie stated he did not realize Wilson had become an Avenger until he watched the film at the premiere, as he was only given the script for the scenes he worked on.[42]

Wilson uses a pair of submachine guns as his main weapons and flies using a jet pack with articulated wings.[43][44][33] From Civil War on, he is aided by a robotic drone named Redwing.[45] Joe Russo stated that the inclusion of Barnes to Rogers' side forces Wilson to question the dynamic and relationship he has with Rogers going forward.[46] Mackie noted that in Infinity War, Wilson has a grudge with other heroes like Iron Man and Black Panther after the events of Civil War.[47]

Fictional character biography

Early life and military service

Wilson was born and raised in Delacroix, Louisiana where his family operated a fishing business. Wilson became a United States Air Force Pararescueman and served multiple tours in overseas military campaigns. He was selected to test a prototype military wingsuit alongside his friend Riley. Their wingsuits were critical in their missions, as RPGs used by insurgents prevented the use of helicopters. However, Riley was killed by an RPG and Wilson was unable to save him. After ending his Air Force service, Wilson became a trauma counselor aiding other returning veterans.

Helping Steve Rogers

In 2014, Wilson befriends Steve Rogers during a jog in Washington, D.C., and later helps Rogers and Natasha Romanoff take down Hydra when it's discovered that Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.. After he, Romanoff, and Rogers are captured by Hydra, Maria Hill rescues them and takes them to a secret hideout where they see Nick Fury. Rogers and Wilson go back to the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, where they engage in a fight against Bucky Barnes, who is brainwashed as the Winter Soldier. During the fight, Barnes rips off one of Wilson's wing-packs. Unable to fly, Wilson engages in a fight with Brock Rumlow, but manages to escape from the Triskelion before it is destroyed. In the aftermath of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s collapse, Wilson offers to accompany Rogers on his mission to track down Barnes.

New Avenger

In 2015,[48] Wilson attends the Avengers' party at their headquarters in New York City. Later, Wilson is recruited along with James Rhodes, Vision, and Wanda Maximoff for the new roster of Avengers led by Rogers and Romanoff at the new Avengers Compound.

A few months later, Wilson has a brief fight with Scott Lang outside the Avengers Compound, where Lang takes a piece of tech necessary for his mission. Wilson, impressed by Lang, starts looking for him.[49]

Sokovia Accords

In 2016,[50][51] Wilson accompanies Rogers, Romanoff, and Maximoff on a mission to Lagos to stop Rumlow from obtaining a biological weapon. While there, he debuts a bird-shaped robotic drone called Redwing. Later, he becomes the first Avenger to oppose the Sokovia Accords, a new law requiring the Avengers to be supervised by the United Nations that Rogers opposes but Tony Stark supports.[52]

After Barnes is framed for killing T'Chaka, King of Wakanda, in Vienna, Rogers and Wilson attempt to protect Barnes, only to get arrested along with T'Challa who has vowed to kill Barnes. After Barnes is set loose by Helmut Zemo, the true perpetrator of the bombing, Barnes tells Rogers and Wilson about five other supersoldiers that Zemo is planning to unleash. At Wilson's suggestion, Rogers calls Clint Barton to recruit Lang and retrieve Maximoff. In Germany, they face off against Stark, Rhodes, Romanoff, T’Challa, Peter Parker, and Vision, the fight ending with Wilson, Maximoff, Barton, and Lang sent to the Raft prison. When Stark visits the Raft, Wilson tells Stark where Rogers and Barnes went on the condition that Stark go alone. Later, Rogers breaks Wilson and the others out of the Raft. He then goes into hiding with Rogers and later with Romanoff who are sought by the United Nations for violating the accords.

Infinity War and resurrection

In 2018,[53] Wilson, Rogers, and Romanoff arrive in Scotland to rescue Maximoff and Vision from Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive, two of the Children of Thanos. They return to the Avengers Compound and reunite with Rhodes and are joined by Bruce Banner. At Rogers' suggestion, the Avengers take refuge in Wakanda to protect Vision. There, Wilson reunites with Barnes and notifies Rogers of the arrival of Outriders and participates in the battle. He witnesses the arrival of Thanos, who completes the Infinity Gauntlet and snaps his fingers in the Blip, which erases half of all life in the universe, including Wilson.

In 2023, Wilson is restored to life and is the first returning Avenger to be heard over Rogers' communication system. He is brought to the destroyed Avengers Compound to join the battle against an alternate Thanos. Afterwards, he attends Stark's funeral, and with Barnes' approval, receives Captain America's shield and mantle from an elderly Rogers.

Becoming Captain America

In 2024, Wilson has returned to work as a contractor with the U.S. Air Force. He is sent to Tunisia to track a USAF plane hijacked by Georges Batroc and members of the terrorist group LAF. Wilson defeats them and recovers a USAF hostage from the plane with support from his friend, USAF first lieutenant Joaquin Torres. Afterwards, Torres tells Wilson of the Flag Smashers, a new terrorist group that believes life was better during the Blip. In Washington, D.C., Wilson gives the shield to the U.S. government so it can be displayed in a Smithsonian exhibit dedicated to Captain America. He explains to Rhodes that he does not feel worthy of taking up Captain America's mantle. He then departs to Delacroix, Louisiana to help his sister, Sarah, with the family business. While there, he is informed by Torres about the Flag Smashers' attack in Switzerland, and sees on the news that the U.S. government has named John Walker as the new Captain America.

Partnering with Bucky Barnes

Back at the USAF base, Wilson is approached by Barnes who expresses disapproval that Wilson surrendered the shield. After Wilson reveals the Flag Smashers’ threat, Barnes joins him in stopping them. The two then get taken by Torres to Munich. There Wilson and Barnes observe the terrorists smuggling medicine and attempt to intercept. Wilson uses Redwing to identify a potential hostage inside a truck. However, it is revealed to be the leader, Karli Morgenthau. The Flag Smashers, all with superhuman strength, quickly overpower Wilson and Barnes until Walker and his partner Lemar Hoskins come to their aid, although the Flag Smashers escape. Walker requests Wilson and Barnes join him in aiding the Global Repatriation Council (GRC) to quash the ongoing violent post-Blip revolutions, but they refuse. Barnes brings Wilson to Baltimore to meet Isaiah Bradley, a Korean War veteran super soldier whom Barnes encountered in battle decades prior. Bradley refuses to help them discover the source of more super soldier serum, revealing he was imprisoned and experimented on by the government for thirty years. As Barnes and Wilson leave, Baltimore police begin to accost Wilson before realizing who he is. Barnes is subsequently arrested for missing court-mandated therapy. Walker has Barnes freed and he and Wilson are forced to speak to Barnes' therapist, where Barnes explains he is disappointed in Wilson for not trusting Rogers' judgement in naming Wilson his successor. As they leave, they are once again approached by Walker who attempts to recruit them but Wilson and Barnes refuse again.

Barnes insists that he and Wilson travel to Berlin to meet with the imprisoned Helmut Zemo, in an effort to obtain information about the Flag Smashers. Unbeknownst to Wilson, Barnes orchestrates a prison riot to help Zemo escape. Barnes convinces Wilson to allow Zemo to help them and the trio travel to Madripoor to locate the source of the new Super Soldier Serum. Wilson takes on a disguise of a criminal named Smiling Tiger and they are taken to high-ranking criminal, Selby, who reveals the Power Broker hired former Hydra scientist Dr. Wilfred Nagel to recreate the serum. Wilson's disguise is compromised and Selby orders her men to attack them but she is killed. Their savior, Sharon Carter, has been living as a fugitive in Madripoor since 2016. She agrees to help them after Wilson offers to get her pardoned. They travel to Nagel's lab and confront him. He reveals that he made twenty vials of the serum and that Morgenthau stole them. Zemo unexpectedly kills Nagel and the lab is destroyed by bounty hunters. Wilson, Barnes, and Carter fight the bounty hunters until Zemo acquires a getaway car and they escape. Wilson, Barnes, and Zemo then travel to Latvia to find Morgenthau.

Stopping the Flag Smashers

In Latvia, Wilson manages to talk with Morgenthau and attempts to persuade her to end the violence, but an impatient Walker intervenes, and Morgenthau escapes. Later, Morgenthau threatens Sarah, forcing Wilson to meet with her so she can ask him to join her movement. Walker and Hoskins intervene, leading to a fight in which Morgenthau accidentally kills Hoskins. Enraged by his friend's death and having taken the serum, Walker uses the shield to kill one of the Flag Smashers in front of horrified bystanders, who film his actions.

Following this, Wilson and Barnes demand the shield from Walker, starting a fight in which Walker destroys Wilson's wingsuit. The fight ends with Wilson and Barnes taking the shield and breaking Walker's arm. Wilson reclaims the shield and passes on his mantle and the wingsuit to Torres. He then visits Bradley, who states his belief that a black man cannot, and should not, be Captain America. Wilson returns home to Louisiana and helps fix the family boat, with assistance from several locals as well as Barnes, who delivers a briefcase from the Wakandans to Wilson. Barnes and Wilson train with the shield and agree to move on from their pasts and work together as friends. Wilson accepts his role as the new Captain America and after getting a lead from Torres, prepares to face the Flag Smashers again.

Wearing the new Captain America suit, Wilson flies into New York to save the GRC from the Flag Smashers' attack with the help of Barnes, Carter, and Walker. Wilson comes to reason with Morgenthau, but Carter kills her when she points a gun at him. After carrying out Morgenthau's body, Wilson convinces the GRC to postpone the vote and make efforts to help the people Morgenthau died fighting for. He also convinces the government to create a statue honoring Bradley as part of the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution. Afterward, he joins his family, Barnes, and his community for a cookout in Louisiana.

Alternate versions

An alternate version of Wilson appears in the animated series What If...?.

Zombie outbreak

In an alternate 2018, Wilson becomes infected by a quantum virus which turns him into a zombie. The zombified Wilson attacks Bucky Barnes and Okoye at the Grand Central Terminal before being killed by Okoye.

Differences from the comic books

A number of differences have been observed between the comic book version of the character and the MCU adaptation. The character's comic book backstory is dispensed with entirely, with Wilson instead being introduced with a military background, an aspect that originated from the Ultimate comics through which he is able to relate to Rogers.[54] In the comic book, Wilson has the ability to communicate with birds and is assisted in his heroics by an actual falcon named Redwing. In the films, this is replaced by a drone nicknamed Redwing, which the character is able to control remotely.[54] Wilson's costume is also dramatically different from the bare-chested skintight outfit worn by the character in the comics,[54] instead wearing a utilitarian outfit inspired by the Ultimate Marvel version, though Mackie has indicated that he wanted to wear "red Spandex, head to toe" for the part.[55]

In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, he wears a red-and silver costume that is closer to the comics. While fighting the Flag Smashers and John Walker however, the former destroys his Redwing drone while the latter destroys his flight suit. Following these, Barnes convinces Ayo of Wakanda's Dora Milaje to arrange for the construction of a replacement flight suit made of vibranium and equipped with a pair of Redwing drones.


Mackie at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con

Critical response

The response to the character of Wilson was mixed, with Jacob Stolworthy of The Independent feeling he was "memorable solely due to the vibrancy the entertaining actor [Mackie] brings to the role."[56] However, Mackie's portrayal of Wilson was widely praised, with Matt Donnelly of Variety noting his "winning tone" and "wry and collegial humour" in the role.[57] Andy Welch of The Guardian praised Wilson's speech to the Global Repatriation Council as Wilson's "greatest moment" in the final episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, adding that there were "plenty of miles left" in Wilson's partnership with Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes.[58]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
2014 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Scene Stealer Anthony Mackie Nominated [59]
2015 Saturn Awards Best Supporting Actor [60]
2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards Best Hero Won [61]
Best Duo Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan Won

See also


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External links