The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) has had quite a complex career in the MCU. Born in 1917, Sergeant James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes is the childhood friend of Captain America, and both become men out of time, having lived very long lives thanks to their respective enhancements. However, up until 2016, Bucky Barnes’ path has been much darker than that of Steve Rogers, and the Winter Soldier’s only recently been able to start working towards redemption to make up for the sins of his past.
Barnes hasn’t always been in control of his own mind thanks to the efforts of Hydra, which lead to some fairly dark chapters in his life before he became an Avenger alongside Captain America in Avengers: Infinity War. However, this makes Barnes one of the most compelling and dynamic characters in the MCU as a result. While Captain America got his happy ending at the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, Bucky Barnes’ journey as a hero has seemingly just begun.
Related: Marvel Forgets Bucky Is A Super Soldier (& Needs To Use Him Better)
Thus far, the Winter Soldier has been featured in six films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though his exploits off-screen and in between said chapters of Marvel’s Infinity Saga are rather interesting as well, such as his time with the Howling Commandos or his sinister missions as Hydra’s brainwashed assassin before his mind was restored. Here’s a complete timeline focused on key events of the MCU’s Winter Soldier, offering a complete history and explanation of Bucky Barnes’ story before it continues with Marvel’s Falcon and the Winter Soldier series coming soon to Disney Plus.
Bucky Barnes: Enlistment and The Howling Commandos
March 10th, 1917- Bucky Barnes Is Born Bucky Barnes is born to a family of four children, growing up in Brooklyn, New York.
1930- Bucky Meets Steve Rogers Barnes saves a smaller and weaker Steve Rogers from a group of bullies, and the two become best friends.
December 1941- Bucky Enlists With The Army The United States enter World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Barnes and Rogers both agree to enlist in the U.S Army. While Bucky is recruited, Rogers is denied (though he continues to make attempts). Barnes then trains with the 107th Infantry Regiment and gains the rank of Sergeant.
June 1943- Bucky Is Deployed To Europe After spending a night with Rogers and a pair of young women at the 1943 Stark Expo, Barnes is deployed along with the 107th to Europe in the beginning of Captain America: The First Avenger.
October 1943- Barnes Is Captured By Hydra Barnes and his unit are captured by the Nazi science division known as Hydra as POWs, forced to build weapons and ammunition.
November 1943- Bucky Is Rescued By Rogers Steve Rogers leads a breakout of the Hydra facility, having become enhanced thanks to the Super Soldier Serum. Rogers also rescues Barnes, who had been experimented on by Hydra scientist Arnim Zola.
1944- Captain America and the Howling Commandos Having officially become Captain America, Rogers forms the Howling Commandos, and Barnes serves as the elite unit’s sniper. Working with Rogers, the Howling Commandos took down several of Hydra’s installations and facilities across Europe, including the Red Skull’s plan to detonate a Norse Runestone along with several other machines of war Zola had created using the power of the Tesseract.
January 1945- Bucky Is Presumedly KIA During a mission to hijack a Hydra train and capture Dr. Zola, Bucky is believed to have been killed in action, having fallen from the train and presumedly to his death.
Bucky Barnes Becomes Hydra’s Winter Soldier
1945- Barnes Is Found Alive Thanks to Zola’s experiments, Bucky survived his fall and was found by Hydra, though he lost his left arm. He was also subsequently turned over to HYDRA’s Siberian facility and held prisoner.
1945- Barnes Becomes the First Winter Soldier Zola was later freed and recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. and the SSR under Operation Paperclip. As result, Zola continued his experiments on Bucky Barnes while secretly rebuilding Hydra as well. Zola gave Barnes a new cybernetic arm, while also using mental reprogramming techniques and brainwashing to remake him into a weapon they could control: The Winter Soldier. Keeping him cryogenically frozen for decades, Hydra would thaw Barnes out when needed to eliminate desired targets.
1951- Winter Soldier Is Deployed In Korean War One of the Winter Soldier’s first missions was to aid Soviet troops in the Korean War, which is where he encountered the US secret super soldier Isiaish Bradley. While Bradley destroyed Barnes’ metal arm, both survived their brawl.
Related: Marvel Reveals How Hydra Turned Bucky Barnes Into The Winter Soldier
November 22nd, 1963- Winter Soldier Assassinates JFK Hydra sends the Winter Soldier to carry out nearly two dozen assassinations over a 50 year span, and the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963 was one of the most notable.
December 16th, 1991- Winter Soldier Kills Tony Stark’s Parents The other prominent targets the Winter Soldier killed were Howard and Maria Stark. Howard was transporting prototypes for a new Super Soldier serum which was desired by Hydra to create more Winter Soldiers. The brainwashed Barnes brutally killed the couple, while making it look like it was a car accident. Additionally, the creation of more Winter Soldiers was put on ice after the Soviet Union dissolved the same year.
1995- Soviet Agents Steal Winter Soldier Research On orders from General Dreykov, Soviet agents go undercover posing as an American family in Ohio to steal brain research in conjunction with the Winter Soldier program. The data was on controlling a subject’s free will and was in the possession of the North Institute, a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility secretly under the control of Hydra (as seen in Marvel’s Black Widow). As such, the data was later used for the next wave of the Red Room’s Black Widow operatives.
2009- Winter Soldier Shoots The Black Widow While on an escort detail in Iran, Agent Natasha Romanov and a nuclear engineer under her protection were attacked by the Winter Soldier. While they survived their vehicle going over a cliff, Natasha was shot by the Winter Soldier through her stomach and the bullet went into the engineer, killing him.
2014- Winter Soldier’s Assassination Attempt Against Nick Fury In the beginning of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Barnes is activated by Hydra’s Alexander Pierce to take out S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury. While Barnes was unsuccessful, this signified the beginning of Hydra’s emergence from the shadows to take over S.H.I.E.L.D. in earnest.
2014- Winter Soldier Faces Captain America Steve Rogers becomes aware of the Winter Soldier’s existence after the attempted murder of Fury, and the pair eventually cross paths and trade blows in Washington D.C. During their fight, Rogers managed to take off the Winter Soldier’s mask, revealing his true identity as Rogers’ childhood friend. While this was a shock for Captain America, it likewise brought up long-buried memories Barnes had forgotten, leading to Pierce ordering Barnes’ mind to be wiped again.
2014- Battle of the Triskelion and Barnes Remembers When Captain America and his allies attempted to prevent Hydra from using S.H.I.E.L.D.’s helicarriers and enacting Project Insight, the Winter Soldier was sent to stop them and kill Rogers. After a brutal brawl Captain America gets through to Barnes, who begins to remember who he was before Hydra. However, the destruction of the helicarrier sent Rogers falling into the river below.
2014- Winter Soldier Saves Rogers And Goes Into Hiding After the battle, Barnes saves Rogers before going off on his own. While he did go back to the Hydra site at the Ideal Federal Savings Bank where he had been routinely brainwashed, he decides not to kill the scientists, no longer wanting to be a part of any more bloodshed. He then visits the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian, confirming the validity of his returning memories.
Winter Soldier Becomes MCU Civil War Fugitive
2016- Winter Soldier Is Framed For A Bombing In Vienna despite his seclusion in Romania at the beginning of Captain America: Civil War, Barnes is framed for a bombing in Vienna during the signing of the Sokovia Accords, which killed several including King T’Chaka of Wakanda, the father of the Black Panther. In truth, it’s all part of a larger plot by Helmut Zemo to get revenge on the Avengers.
2016- Captain America Harbors Winter Soldier As A Fugitive Despite the worldwide manhunt for the Winter Soldier, Captain America finds Barnes first, and Bucky confirms that he remembers who he is and his relationship to Rogers. As such, Captain America determines to protect Barnes and clear his name. However, the creation of the Sokovia Accords makes this difficult, as the Avengers’ actions must now be sanctioned by the United Nations.
2016- Zemo Takes Advantage Of The Winter Soldier Captain America, Falcon, and Barnes are all captured and taken to the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre Building in Berlin, which was when psychiatrist Theo Broussard questions Barnes to determine his mental state. However, Broussard is replaced by Zemo. Creating a blackout, Zemo uses the secret Hydra trigger words to control the Winter Soldier, learning not only about Barnes’ mission in 1991, but also the location of the Hydra site in Siberia. He then orders the Winter Soldier to kill anyone that gets in his way and to escape in a helicopter, which would have made him look even more guilty for the Vienna bombing.
2016- The Civil War After some conflict with Tony Stark, Sharon Carter, and Natasha Romanov, Rogers, and Sam Wilson managed to leave the facility with Barnes, whose programming eventually wore off. Barnes revealed Zemo’s apparent plan, involving the activation of the other Winter Soldiers that Hydra had created. As a result, Captain America calls Clint Barton for help, who picks up Wanda Maximoff and Ant-Man to help take down the assassins. However, they’re all stopped at the airport by Iron Man and a collection of like-minded heroes who’ve chosen to support the Sokovia Accords. After a massive brawl, Rogers and Barnes are the only two to make it out, charting a course for Siberia.
2016- Tony Stark Learns Winter Soldier Killed His Parents Once Rogers’ allies are apprehended and taken to the prison known as the Raft, Iron Man suspects Barnes’ innocence, and he follows Rogers and Barnes to Siberia (with the Black Panther secretly following Iron Man). Once he arrives, Stark offers to help Rogers and Barnes, and the three of them venture into the facility to discover that Zemo has killed the other assassins. His real goal was to break the Avengers apart as revenge for the loss of his family in Sokovia during Ultron’s attack. Showing Stark footage of Barnes’ murdering his parents, Tony becomes enraged, determined to kill the Winter Soldier. He likewise has no love for Rogers, as it was revealed that Rogers has known about the Starks since the events of Winter Soldier, but had chosen not to tell him. In the end, Rogers and Barnes incapacitate Stark, but not after Barnes loses his metal arm in the resulting battle.
2016- Winter Soldier Granted Asylum In Wakanda Because Black Panther witnessed the entire event and learned of Zemo’s true plot, he offers asylum to Barnes, promising to keep him safe and to also use his nation’s resources and science to try and remove all of the programming Hydra left in the Winter Soldier’s head.
Winter Soldier’s Role In Infinity War/Endgame
2018- Winter Soldier’s Mind Is Restored By Shuri at the end of Black Panther, it’s revealed that the Black Panther’s sister and head scientist Shuri has managed to rehabilitate Bucky with help from the Dora Milaje’s Ayo, and he’s allowed to freely move about Wakanda, living in a nearby village and being referred to as “The White Wolf”.
2018- The Winter Soldier Joins The Battle of Wakanda When Earth is under attack by the forces of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, the Avengers choose to make their last stand in Wakanda, and the Black Panther calls Barnes to join the fight, offering a new vibranium arm to replace the one Iron Man destroyed.
2018- The Winter Soldier Becomes A Victim of Thanos’ Decimation Due to Thanos’ victory in gaining all of the Infinity Stones, he snaps his fingers and half of all life in the universe is erased. Bucky Barnes was one of the casualties.
2023- Winter Soldier Returns In Avengers: Endgame Bucky Barnes returns with everyone else who vanished when the surviving Avengers gain the Infinity Stones using time travel. He subsequently joins the heroes in the final fight for Earth against Thanos’ army until Iron Man defeats them all using the Infinity Stones.
2023- Winter Soldier Witnesses Falcon Becoming New Captain America In the aftermath of the battle, Barnes joins Sam Wilson as they see Captain America off to return the Infinity Stones throughout time. However, it’s revealed that Rogers himself stayed in the past to be with his love Peggy Carter. Now an old man, Barnes watches from a distance as Rogers gives his shield to Falcon, effectively passing on the torch and mantle of Captain America to Sam Wilson.
Winter Soldier Partners With Sam Wilson’s Falcon
2024- Bucky Barnes Is Granted A Conditional Pardon Shortly after Avengers: Endgame, Bucky Barnes receives a conditional pardon from the US government, forgiving him of his past actions as the Winter Soldier provided he attend mandatory therapy sessions. Barnes agrees, attempting to atone for his sins.
2024- The New Captain America And Reunion With Sam Wilson In response to John Walker being chosen as the new Captain America, Barnes is angry that Walker was given Steve Rogers’ shield after Sam Wilson donated it to the Smithsonian, which prompted Barnes to meet with Wilson in person. Despite their opposing viewpoints, they ended up facing the new threat of the Flag-Smashers together. Likewise, they were also aided by John Walker’s Captain America and his partner Lemar Hoskins (also known as Battlestar).
2024- Barnes Brings Wilson To Meet Isaiah Bradley While Walker and Hoskins wanted to coordinate and work together with Barnes and Wilson, the Falcon and Winter Soldier declined. Barnes then took Wilson to meet with Isaiah Bradley, who revealed that he had been experimented on with new versions of the Super Soldier Serum while being horribly mistreated by the US government as well as secret Hydra agents.
2024-Breaking Out And Teaming Up With Baron Zemo With the discovery that the Flag-Smashers became Super Soldiers, Barnes gets the idea to seek help from Baron Helmut Zemo, an expert on the subject. Without consulting Wilson, Barnes met with and broke Zemo out from his cell in Germany in exchange for his assistance.
2024- Visting Madriopoor In Search Of The Power Broker With Zemo as their guide, Barnes and Wilson travel to the corrupt country of Madripoor in order to meet with the Power Broker. While tensions escalate and firefights ensue, former S.H.I.E.L.D./C.I.A. agent Sharon Carter helps them find the Power Broker’s lab where they locate Dr. Wilfred Nagel. While Nagle recreated an advanced version of the same serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America, they also learn that the Flag-Smashers stole the serum samples and betrayed the Power Broker.
2024- Wakanda Is Angry And Confronts Barnes About Zemo While Barnes, Wilson, and Zemo retreated to a safe house, the Dora Milaje soon confronted Bucky. Naturally, Ayo is angry that the man who killed King T’Chaka in Civil War has been freed, and the man she personally helped rehabilitate and be cure was the one who freed him, viewing it as an ultimate betrayal of the White Wolf name they gave him. However, they give Bucky eight hours with Zemo before coming for him. In the ensuing eight hours, Walker and Hoskins end up joining Barnes, Wilson, and Zemo to face the Flag-Smashers, though their first encounter didn’t end well beyond Zemo crushing all of the serum samples (save one that Walker recovered). While the Dora Milaje then arrived to take Zemo, the Baron escaped in the resulting brawl that took place.
2024- Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson Reclaim Steve Rogers’ Shield After the second encounter with the Flag-Smashers, Walker ended up taking the sample of the Super-Soldier Serum just before Hoskins was murdered. This lead to the enraged and unhinged Walker brutally killing one of the Flag-Smashers as revenge, in public and without mercy. This lead to Barnes and Wilson confronting and defeating Walker, with Wilson reclaiming the shield Rogers had intended for him to have.
2024- Barnes Captures Zemo And Turns Him Over To Wakanda In the aftermath, Bucky tracks down Zemo on his own, finding him at the memorial that had been erected for his fallen country of Sokovia. However, while Zemo fully expected Barnes to kill him, Bucky proved that he could become better than the man Hydra forced him to be, sparing Zemo’s life and turning him over to the Wakandans.
2024- Barnes Joins Wilson In Final Fight With The Flag-Smashers Barnes then reunites with Wilson in New Orleans before the Flag-Smashers inevitably strike again in New York City. Working together, Wilson and Barnes work in tandem with Sharon Carter (despite her secret identity as the Power Broker) as well as with John Walker to save the day and defeat the Flag-Smashers.
Currently, Bucky Barnes is now continuing his path of redemption, and a prime example was in one of The Falcon & The Winter Soldier‘s last scenes where he finally confessed to the murder of a man whose father he had grown close to in his attempts to reveal the truth. Now, the former Winter Soldier is now ready to enter a more hopeful and peaceful future as he’s truly making genuine amends in order to leave the past behind. Bucky is embracing a new future to become a force for good which will presumedly be alongside Sam Wilson who’s embraced his role as the new and genuine Captain America.
More: Black Widow Shows How MCU Can Finally Give Bucky A Worthy Storyline
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
Star Wars: Why Palpatine Really Saved Darth Vader On Mustafar
About The Author