With Avengers: Endgame a little over a day away, we’re counting down the top five best Iron Man moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
(This article is part of a larger series. View the other best original Avengers moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe here.)
It’s not a stretch to say Tony Stark is the most divisive member of the Avengers. I recently wrote an article about Iron Man’s legacy within the MCU, and suffice it to say there have been a lot of ups and downs.
But that’s not what this article is about. Today, we’re here to celebrate the best Iron Man moments in the MCU. Tony has faced a lot of demons over the years (many of them have been of his own making), but he’s always managed to come out on top.
No matter what happens to my favorite Avenger in Endgame, I’m always happy to think back on some of his most important scenes.
5. Tony agrees to sign the Sokovia Accords in ‘Civil War’
It wasn’t easy being an Iron Man fan during the Civil War era. Tony has made some huge mistakes, and many of them have had a widespread impact on the rest of the world. Not many people like Age of Ultron, and I can’t say I blame them. It’s not one of Marvel’s best movies, but it’s also tough to watch Tony create a murder bot that tries to take over the world.
Thankfully, Tony has gotten a lot better at accepting his faults and taking responsibility for his actions. In Civil War, he immediately agrees to sign the Sokovia Accords: “We need to be put in check! And whatever form that takes, I’m game. If we can’t accept limitations, we’re boundaryless, we’re no better than the bad guys.”
Go back and watch Iron Man if you can’t wrap your head around why this scene is so hugely important. I’m not here to say Tony was right and Steve was wrong, but I am here to say this is a huge step forward in Tony’s character growth. As someone who rarely thought about how his actions affected other people, it’s amazing to watch his humility as he shoulders this incredible responsibility.
4. Tony weaponizes Christmas in ‘Iron Man 3’
Okay, if you know anything at all about me, then you know Iron Man 3 is my favorite movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We saw a broken version of Tony in Iron Man, and we saw him build himself back up, but it was nowhere near what we saw in his third film. This time, his enemy was internal. He was suffering from PTSD thanks to his experiences with the Avengers in New York during the Chitauri invasion.
By the time Tony falls from the sky in the middle of rural Tennessee, everything has been stripped from him. Remember when Cap asked who Tony was without the suit? He had a slick line back in The Avengers, but now we’re really seeing who he is at his core. Maybe more now than we ever have before.
I love this arc so much because it forces Tony to rediscover who he truly is. He forgoes his name. He forgoes his suit. He forgoes his persona, but not his identity. Now, he’s just the mechanic. He likes to tinker. When he attacks the Mandarin’s mansion without his usual bells and whistles, we see the qualities of what made him Iron Man out on full display, without a flashy suit to do the heavy lifting.
3. Tony builds his first suit in ‘Iron Man’
We’re going back to the beginning. When we first meet Tony in Iron Man, he’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow. He’s incredibly arrogant and dismissive of the few people in his life who actually care about him. He doesn’t have any clue what happens outside his little bubble, especially when it comes to what’s being done in his name.
But when Tony gets that wake-up call, he grabs onto it with both hands. He finally found out his weapons were being used by terrorists, and he nearly died in the process. Tony still has a lot of issues to work through, but he’s finally started to care about others. That starts with Yinsen, and Tony tries to do everything in his power to get them both out alive.
I love the moment when Tony reveals his plans for the first Iron Man suit to Yinsen because you realize he already decided that he was going to forge a new path forward. Sure, he knew his captors weren’t going to let them live even if he built the Jericho Missile for them, but Tony was already thinking beyond that. He knew if he got out of there alive, he had a responsibility to change how his company was impacting the world.
2. Tony’s speech to Peter in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’
It was extremely difficult to choose between this moment and the one I ultimately placed in the number one spot. Suffice it to say, I love this scene so much and think it’s one of the most heartfelt moments in the MCU.
Right before this scene, Peter just made a huge mistake trying to save the day all by himself. He’s frustrated with Tony and calls him out for not listening to him. “If you even cared, you’d actually be here!” That moment when the suit opens up and Tony steps out onto the rooftop always makes me choke up. And it doesn’t get any easier keeping my emotions in check going forward.
“I just wanted to be like you,” Peter says.
“And I wanted you to be better,” Tony responds.
I know I keep saying it, but Tony has come such a long way. Everything from the first Iron Man movie right up until Endgame has been about making sure his legacy is something he can be proud of. He took a chance on Peter. He saw potential in him that no one else saw, and he trusted this kid from Queens would live up to his expectations. This moment isn’t about Tony being embarrassed by Peter’s mistake. It’s about knowing Peter can be better than this. Tony is afraid. He doesn’t want to see Peter go through what he went through. I love seeing that kind of empathy and love in my favorite characters.
1. Tony sacrifices himself in ‘The Avengers’
Steve Rogers: I know guys with none of that worth ten of you. I’ve seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You’re not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.
Tony Stark: I think I would just cut the wire.
I talked about this in my legacy article, but I have no problem talking about it again now. I love this scene for about a billion different reasons, but it comes down to the fact that you wholeheartedly believe Tony wouldn’t make the sacrifice play. Everything leading up to The Avengers tells you that he’d find another solution, that he’d find a way to just cut the wire.
But in the heat of the moment, when there’s no other play to be made, Tony makes that sacrifice. They don’t have time to cut the wire, and Tony doesn’t hesitate to fly that nuke up through the portal, even if it’s going to be a one-way trip.
We know Steve would’ve done the same thing if he could’ve, but that’s just who Steve is. This moment forces us (and Tony!) to rethink how we view him. Yeah, he’s a real asshole sometimes, but that doesn’t make him any less of a hero. More than any other scene, this is the one that really redefines Tony’s character and shows the others who he truly is under all that armor, and that’s why it’s my favorite Iron Man moment in the MCU.
Bonus! Robert Downey Jr. IS Iron Man
Just like with my top five moments, there are too many clips to choose from when it comes to picking the perfect bonus video for this list. RDJ and Iron Man have been around since 2008, and both of them have become such a staple in the MCU. It truly was a monumental task trying to pare all those moments down to just a handful.
But when I think of Robert Downey Jr. at his most Iron Man, it’s when he surprised Comic-Con for Iron Man 3. This is the most Tony Stark entrance he ever could’ve pulled off (short of actually landing on stage in the suit), and I loved every second of it. Plus, that lip bite when the audience screams for him? He’s such a ham, and I adore it.