With A Wink And Nod To Fans, Movies Roll Post-Credit Scenes

After-credits scenes have a long history in the movies, from the original Ocean's 11 to the latest Captain America. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with writer Alex Suskind about this cinematic trope.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You know, there's no need to stop watching a movie just because it's over.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF")

MATTHEW BRODERICK: (As Ferris Bueller) You're still here? It's over. Go home.

SIMON: Post-credit bits and scenes have become increasingly common, seen today in several Marvel Studios superhero films, including "Iron Man" and "Captain America." But this is a gimmick that's hardly new. Post-credit scenes have been around since at least the 1960s, used to promote a sequel or tie up loose ends in a plot. Alex Suskind wrote a brief history of the post-credit scene for "Vulture," New York Magazine's culture blog, and he joins us now from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

ALEX SUSKIND: Thank you for having me, Scott.

SIMON: So this dates back to at least "Ocean's 11," and I don't mean the George and Brad version.

SUSKIND: It sort of depends on what your definition of the post-credit sequence is. Back then, people considered them to be scenes that continued to run through the end credits of the film, as opposed to the modern interpretation, which is scenes that run after the credits are over.

SIMON: How did this become popular?

SUSKIND: It became popular with modern audiences over the last several years with the Marvel films. But I think at first, its popularity dates back to the late '70s when "The Muppet Movie" first used the post-credit scene, or what's also referred to as the stinger, at the end of its film. Animal showed up and told the audience to go home.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE MUPPET MOVIE")

FRANK OZ: (As Animal) Go home. Go home. Bye, bye.

SIMON: And so if one filmmaker does it and it goes over well, a hundred more do it.

SUSKIND: Exactly, and it continued on throughout the '80s, mostly in comedy films using them to kind of wrap up inconsequential plot lines. The movie "Airplane!" used it very memorably, at the end of the movie.

SIMON: The guy in the cab.

SUSKIND: Exactly, with the guy in the cab. And he's still sitting in Ted Striker's cab waiting for him to come back off of the plane. I believe he's racked up a $100 cab fare at that point.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AIRPLANE!")

HOWARD JARVIS: (As Man in Taxi) Well, I'll give him another 20 minutes, but that's it.

SIMON: Have you ever seen it not work or just be notably bad?

SUSKIND: There are some films that use the post-credit sequence to tease a sequel, and yet the sequel doesn't happen.

SIMON: (Laughing) Yeah.

SUSKIND: One memorable one, one recent one, was the use of a post-credit sequence in "Battleship," back in 2012. And this was a movie - it was directed by Peter Berg. It was based on the board game "Battleship."

SIMON: Yeah.

SUSKIND: And basically, the idea was, at the end of the film, aliens, which you had assumed had been defeated earlier in the movie - the post-credit sequence showed these aliens were actually still alive.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BATTLESHIP")

SUSKIND: And the idea being that it was going to lead into another sequel. Unfortunately, "Battleship" ended up losing a lot of money. It did not make a big splash at the box office, and that post-credit sequence essentially went to waste.

SIMON: Pop culture writer, Alex Suskind.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BATTLESHIP")

SIMON: Sorry, that's all, folks. And this is NPR News.

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