There was once a time when one thing was certain: when the credits started rolling, you knew the movie was over.
Unless you liked the musical score or were curious to see who played the Security Guard or who the supervising hairdresser to the third assistant director was, then there was no point in sitting through the credits.
This just isn't the case anymore.
Showing additional scenes throughout the credits or a teaser scene after the credits is not a new practice, but it is now more common than ever.
How do you know whether to stay or to go? Word of mouth advance of a screening sometimes lets you know if there is something to see after the credits. You could also observe the other people in the audience after the movie. If the majority of the crowd is sitting through the credits, perhaps they know something you don't! Thankfully, there are also a number of websites devoted to post-credit scenes, stingers, and credit cookies.
Here is a brief list of during-the-credit and after-the-credit bonuses that make sitting through the credits worthwhile. Do you have a favorite not listed below? Let me know!
A Teaser of What's to Come
From Russia with Love (1963) — It isn't even a scene, and it runs just before the credits! The "James Bond will return in..." line is an early example of a credit teaser and a one that continued in subsequent Bond films, giving the audience something to look forward to at the end of each film.
Matrix Reloaded (2003) — An advantage of releasing two movies six months apart? You can promote the next movie with an actual trailer after the credits! This was the case when after the credits ran fans were treated to a preview of the final film in the Matrix trilogy, Matrix Revolutions. Word of mouth helped with this one. I don't think there was anyone who didn't know to stay until after the credits.
Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), etc... — There is nothing that comic book fanboys like more than candy. 'nuff said!
An Extension of the Movie
Bad Seed (1956) — The credits here are spoken, and as the narrator names the actors they walk into and out of the frame. Patty McCormack and Nancy Kelly are saved for last and after the "credits" the bad seed receives the spanking she deserves!
Animal House (1978) — A classic! Universal Studios apparently honored the "Ask for Babs" post-credit promotion for over 10 years with a discounted admission.
Airplane! (1980) — Another classic! The man getting into the cab during the opening credits wait is still waiting, with the meter running, after the credits. "Well, I've give him another 20 minutes."
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) — Moriarty!
Inland Empire (2006) — "Sweet." Dancing girls, a monkey, strobe lights, a lumberjack sawing wood.... Nina Simone's "Sinnerman" never looked and sounded so good.
Bloopers and Outakes
Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) — The comedy continues into the credits because mistakes are funny.
Toy Story 3 (2010) — The comedy continues into the credits with this one also because it is funny when animated characters forget their lines and make mistakes.
Breaking the Fourth Wall
The Muppet Movie (1979) — This movie features scenes throughout the credits, so I can't imagine many people getting up to leave. Those who did missed Animal directly addressing the audience after the credits and saying "Go home! Go Home!"
The Great Muppet Caper (1981) — This one features a song throughout the first half of the credits. Those who left after the song missed Gonzo parachuting in at the very end of the credits, screaming "Wait! Don't go home yet!" He says "Say cheese," and then takes a photograph of the audience. When the screen fades to black you hear him say, "I'll send you each a copy."
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) — The fourth wall was broken throughout this film, so it was only fitting to have this appropriate post-credit scene.