The following conversation happens in the movie:

Nick Fury: I don't know about that, but it is powered by the cube. And I'd like to know how Loki used it to turn two of the sharpest men I know into his personal flying monkeys.

Thor: Monkeys? I do not understand.

Steve Rogers: I do!

 I understood that reference.

(Quotes taken from imdb)

Needless to say - I didn't understand that reference. What does it reference to - if anything?

  • 85
    Dorothy? Oz? Anyone? Commented May 15, 2017 at 17:15
  • 7
    Thor? You're not fooling us!
    – Ellesedil
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 20:43
  • 70
    The fact that you didn't get it just made Captain America and Nick Fury feel old.
    – user64742
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 4:03
  • 8
    @TheGreatDuck: That seems to be a very US-centric (or at least anglo-centric) reference. I had never even heard of the Wizard of Oz until I started watching US television and movies, and I have never ever seen it referenced anywhere outside US television or movies. I certainly didn't get the reference either. Commented May 16, 2017 at 10:45
  • 8
    @JörgWMittag On a film starring American and English actors, with a major character actually called "Captain America", you're surprised by a cultural reference to an old American film and books? I'd also note that this was the most famous film for Judy Garland, who I expect you've heard of, especially for the song "Over the rainbow".
    – Graham
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 12:08

3 Answers 3


Captain America was frozen in ice from around 1943 to around 2012. so he doesn't know thousands of cultural references like "Here's Johnny", Bueller, redpill, etc.

An ongoing joke in the Avengers movie is how those cultural references go right over Cap's head. He knows they are cultural references, but he doesn't know what they mean.

This running joke's denouement is when Cap actually gets one: the Flying Monkeys reference by Nick Fury about Erik Selvig and Hawkeye.

He gets it because it is from the motion picture The Wizard Of Oz, wherein the evil character the Wicked Witch of the West has an army of minions which are literally flying monkeys, which act as relatively mindless (being monkeys) drones.

The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939 and was immensely popular (which is why 'Cap knows it) and has remained timeless, being often re-released both in theaters and in home media (which is why the rest of the Avengers know it). Decently cultured cities have movie theaters that specialize in classic films and indies, and you can bet somewhere in the world one of them is playing it this weekend. It is that big.

  • 8
    Gah. Everyone keeps referring to it as a movie. The book came first, and the movie adaption skips half the book, and messes other things up, like the silver shoes.
    – Mithical
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 4:55
  • 14
    @Mithrandir Was the book popular enough on its own to make it a cultural reference contemporary to 1939? Or did the movie "make" the book? What about today? Commented May 18, 2017 at 5:08
  • 11
    @Mithrandir Yet the movie is far more well known than the book.
    – Nkrisc
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 13:28
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    @Mithrandir It is neither good nor bad. It does not matter. I think it's very likely in this case that Cap was referring to the movie given it came out about 4 years before he was frozen meaning it would still have been very culturally relevant at the time he was frozen.
    – Nkrisc
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 13:31
  • 13
    @Mithrandir Since the original book was political satire, contemporary to the 1900 political environment, much of the original meaning was already lost on the movie audiences of 1939. The 'meaning' of the silver slippers would have been meaningless to movie goers, but the colorful brilliance of the ruby color was a device to 'show off' technicolor movies.
    – Cos Callis
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 15:57

"Personal flying monkeys" is a reference to The Wicked Witch of the West's army in The Wizard of Oz.

enter image description here

As a movie from 1939 (and a book published in 1900), it is a reference that Captain Rogers would have likely seen before he was frozen in 1943.

  • 41
    As @TeacherKSHuang mentioned in a comment on the question, it’s also worth mentioning that part of the reason Cap reacts the way he does (“I do!” with surprise and excitement) is because he is usually the one missing references, having been frozen for so long. Where he is usually confused and has to ask for clarification like Thor does, for once the reference used it one old enough for him to know it—it in fact was quite recent and popular at the time just before his World War I career and subsequent freezing.
    – KRyan
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 17:47
  • 4
    @KRyan World War II? Commented May 17, 2017 at 20:43
  • 2
    @MadPhysicist Yeah, whoops.
    – KRyan
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 21:08
  • It is incredibly funny that this is "the" reference Cap was able to get.
    – T. Sar
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 11:32

Flying monkeys is a reference to the Wicked Witch of the West's minions in The Wizard of Oz (1939). The joke is that the reference is so dated that Cap gets it, unlike cultural references to things he missed while frozen.

enter image description here

  • 48
    I don't know if the reference is "outdated" -- after all, it only works because most of the viewers also get it. Rather, the humor is in Rogers' excitement about getting it.
    – ruakh
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 18:01
  • 3
    Of course, the book was released in 1900, so he also might have just read the book. Commented May 15, 2017 at 19:09
  • 22
    Thor didn't get the reference because he "isn't from around here". Between "Wicked" and "The Great and Powerful Oz" the franchise is still plenty relevant.
    – tjd
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 19:51
  • 8
    Is there anything less fun than arguing about what is or isn't a joke?
    – kingledion
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 12:18
  • 18
    @kingledion - eating a cacti whole?
    – amflare
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 13:07

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