Iron Man was the first, and arguably, the most popular superhero introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While there have been other popular characters introduced since that time such as The Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther, Robert Downey Jr. still stands tall as one of the biggest heroes in the Marvel Universe — at least as far as the movies are concerned. Iron Man has been through three solo films, appeared in other characters’ movies like Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming, and was front-and-center for both Avengers movies to date.
However, while Downey Jr. has made Iron Man one of the most popular Marvel superheroes for movie fans, he is not without some serious problems. While Iron Man remains almost universally loved in the movies, his comic book counterpart has remained polarizing for years, thanks to questionable decisions and a lack of morality on occasion. His movie counterpart is also not without sin, causing almost as many problems as he fixes. With Iron Man possibly starting his swan song on the big screen with Avengers: Infinity War, here is a look at seven of the worst things that Iron Man has done in the movies, and eight ways he tried to redeem himself.
15. BEST – STOPPING ILLEGAL ARMS SALES
When the first Iron Man movie started, Tony Stark was the owner of a weapons manufacturer, one started by his father. While Stark was not completely hands-on with the company, he did make some interesting decisions, such as trying to sell weapons, but ended up captured by terrorists and held captive, realizing they were using Stark technology.
This was the turning point for Tony Stark. He saved himself and went on to become a hero in Iron Man. However, something that Stark did out of costume was just as important. He stood up to his father’s former business partner Obadiah Stane and said that his company would no longer sell weapons. It almost cost him his life, but Iron Man stood up for what he believed to be right and turned his company around.
14. WORST – MANIPULATING HIS FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES
At the end of Iron Man 2, Tony Stark admitted to being narcissistic and egotistical, and he has proven that over and over throughout the franchise. He has manipulated and tried to control every person who cared about him in his life. He has stepped on, walked over, and personally insulted anyone and everyone on his way to the top.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Happy Hogan seemed to fear for his job at every turn, even after putting his life on the line for Tony Stark. He sent a teenager in Spider-Man into action against the most celebrated war hero in history. His worst sin is how he treats Pepper Potts, lying to her and deceiving her at every turn, as well as almost getting her killed numerous times. At every turn, Tony Stark seems to care about no one but himself.
13. BEST – HELPING SPIDER-MAN BECOME A HERO
While Iron Man should feel ashamed at calling a young high school student into action and putting him in the middle of a battle against Captain America, Hawkeye, and more of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, he also deserves credit for doing something no one else has done in movie history. Tony Stark made Peter Parker feel like a real hero.
Throughout the first five Spider-Man movies, Peter was a loner, with everyone seeming to be against him and remaining completely alone in his crusade. Stark not only supported Peter, he provided him with a high tech costume and was there as a father figure to keep Peter under control when he got in over his head. Tony Stark let Peter know that he could be a hero — with limitations.
12. WORST – UNDERCUTTING SMALL BUSINESSES, CREATING VULTURE
Sticking with Spider-Man: Homecoming, while Iron Man was a big reason that Peter Parker was able to become the hero that he was meant to be, Tony Stark was almost completely responsible for the creation of The Vulture as a villain. There is a good chance that Adrian Toomes would have remained a hard-working family man if not for Stark.
Toomes owned his own salvage company and had a contract to clean up New York City after the alien invasion from The Avengers. However, Stark wasn’t content on just saving the world; he also wanted to profit from it by partnering with the Department of Damage Control to clean things up. This screwed Toomes out of all of his money since he financed the clean-up job for which he had the contract. Stark’s greed threatened to destroy the life of Toomes and that, in turn, created The Vulture.
11. BEST – CREATING IRON MAN
It is hard not to look at the good that Tony Stark has done without looking at his most significant accomplishment. Stark created Iron Man — building the armor and becoming the hero that has saved the world many times over. The original armor was a joint venture with Ho Yinsen, but honestly, it was Stark’s brains and ingenuity that brought it all together.
One of the best lines in Iron Man came when Obadiah Stane explained to people that Stark is dangerous because he built the original Mark I suit in a cave. He has since built just about everything imaginable, from the Hulk-Buster to armor he can use in space. Stark’s most significant power is not his armor — it is his mind.
10. WORST – HE CREATED ULTRON
While Tony Stark’s most significant power is his brain, that is also the one thing that gets Iron Man and the Avengers into the most trouble. Stark is paranoid, always wants to make sure to cover all his bases, and he believes that he can solve problems on his own — often before the issues exist. By the end of Avengers, Stark saw aliens and realized that there were things he couldn’t beat on his own.
That resulted in Stark working with Bruce Banner to use the alien technology from the Mind Stone and creating artificial intelligence that could help them in battle in the future. That AI soon took on the mission of “saving the world” by destroying it and became Ultron. Tony Stark created Ultron, which destroyed Sokovia. Iron Man, and not Ultron, was the real villain of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
9. BEST – REFUSING TO HIDE BEHIND A MASK
There is a lot to be said about superheroes who let everyone in the world know who they are. While Spider-Man has a good reason for keeping his identity a secret — to protect his loved ones — other heroes like Superman and Batman just have secret identities to live without scrutiny when not saving the world.
However, at the end of Iron Man, Tony Stark chose not to live behind a lie. When people asked who Iron Man was, Stark finally just stood up and said: “I am Iron Man.” This caused problems, such as Mandarin blowing up his home and Pepper Potts remaining in constant danger, but Tony Stark refused to hide behind anonymity, making himself accountable for every decision he makes.
8. WORST – HELPING CREATE A.I.M.
Since everyone in the world knows that Tony Stark is Iron Man, that puts everyone that Stark knows and loves in danger. Iron Man 3 saw the terrorist organization A.I.M. destroy almost everything Stark held dear — blowing up his home, nearly killing him, and infecting Pepper Potts with the Extremis virus. It was easy since they knew where he lived, but it was also Stark’s fault A.I.M. existed at all.
Years back, Tony Stark was living the life of the wealthy playboy and cared about no one but himself. He blew off a genius named Ho Yinsen, but luckily that didn’t burn him when he needed Yinsen’s help in Iron Man. However, Stark also blew off a young man named Aldrich Killian, an insult that helped fuel Killian’s drive as he founded A.I.M., an organization that led to the deaths of countless people.
7. BEST – HELPING A YOUNG BOY WITHOUT A FATHER
While Tony Stark doesn’t seem to think about other people, and often puts his own needs above all others, he has shown kindness and generosity at times. A perfect example of this came in Iron Man 3. In that movie, A.I.M. blew up his home, and his armor went into self-preservation mode and flew him to Tennessee. Here, he met a young boy named Harley, who helped him hide out as he tried to get his armor working again.
Harley was a boy whose father was gone, and Stark saw that he was ambitious but had very little hope thanks to his station in life. After Harley helped him, Iron Man took off to fight A.I.M. However, in a very generous and kindhearted move, Harley returned home one day to see that Stark had gifted him with a garage full of technology that is sure to help him reach whatever dreams he desires.
6. WORST – TRYING TO KILL BUCKY BARNES
Captain America: Civil War has a lot of areas of grey. In a movie where superheroes fight each other because of a disagreement in government policy, there is no right or wrong, and it all depends on which side a person stands when determining who the heroes are in this movie. However, Iron Man steps over the line at the end of the film.
The big thing that causes Iron Man and Captain America to disagree is the Sokovia Accords, but a secondary beef is that Cap wants to protect Winter Soldier after Iron Man learns that Bucky killed his parents. The problem is that Iron Man discovers that Bucky was under mind control and couldn’t help his actions. When Iron Man tracked them down, despite knowing that Bucky was not responsible for his actions, he still tried to kill Winter Soldier. This caused the final break in his relationship with Captain America. Tony was one step away from becoming a cold-blooded killer.
5. BEST – REFUSING TO WEAPONIZE IRON MAN
When looking at everything Iron Man has done starting with Captain America: Civil War, it seems very strange, considering how things progressed in Iron Man 2. While Stark believes that superheroes should sign on to become government employees and work for the establishment, he had a very different belief in Iron Man 2.
That was the movie where Stark was at a Congressional Hearing, and the U.S. Government wanted the Iron Man armor for themselves, to use as weapons for the nation. Stark refused, saying he was Iron Man and was not a weapon for a government to use. Of course, the U.S. got its own armor to develop but, at that time, Stark stood firm. The fact that a congressman was loyal to HYDRA shows that maybe Captain America was right in Civil War.
4. WORST – STARTING A CIVIL WAR
While Tony Stark was not willing to allow the U.S. government to make a weapon out of Iron Man to use in wars, he seemed to change his tune when it came to the Sokovia Accords. As with many other cases of Iron Man doing bad things, this occurred due to his guilt. Much like when he created Ultron for the greater good, in this case, he wanted to make people feel safe as more superheroes popped up.
However, he went about it the wrong way. For one thing, he sided with Thunderbolt Ross, the man who at one time wanted to dissect Bruce Banner to weaponize him. He tried to put superheroes into government service to fight only when called. He stood by as the government threatened to arrest Captain America if he refused to be a government employee. At the end of the day, Iron Man stood on the side of forcing superheroes into paid servitude to the government.
3. BEST – TRYING TO MAKE SUPERHEROES MORE RESPONSIBLE
The idea of the Sokovia Accords seems like a bad one, forcing all superheroes to do what someone like Thunderbolt Ross orders them to do — or go to prison for treason. However, the reasoning for Stark came from a good place. He felt terrible for all the deaths caused in Sokovia, New York City, and even where he and Hulk fought.
Iron Man had his heart in the right place, and there were good things when it came to the Sokovia Accords. For one thing, it would force superheroes to get training and learn how to use their powers responsibly and for public safety. The fact that Iron Man was who caused Sokovia’s destruction by creating Ultron is a problem, but at least Tony Stark wants to rectify the issues.
2. WORST – ALLOWING HIS FELLOW AVENGERS TO GET LOCKED UP
One of the most significant problems with Captain America: Civil War was that Iron Man and Thunderbolt Ross had a strong opinion that superheroes had to sign on as government employees or go to prison. In the comic books, it was worse as the Superhero Registration Act meant that good people and real heroes ended up in prison in the Negative Zone.
At least in the movie, they were sent to The Raft, although seeing Iron Man stand by while his fellow Avengers — Hawkeye, Falcon and Scarlet Witch, as well as Ant-Man — were all locked up for refusing to bow down seems wrong. Captain America broke them out, but Iron Man was watching the government lock up heroes who disagreed with the Accords, making this one of Iron Man’s greatest wrongs.
1. BEST – MAKING THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
No matter what Iron Man has done wrong in his life, there is one thing that stands above all else, making him a real hero to the world. That was the result of what he did in the first Avengers movie. Loki invaded Earth and had led an attack on the planet by the Chitauri. The Avengers teamed together to fight the aliens, but things looked bleak.
That is when the World Security Council decided to launch a nuclear strike on Manhattan, figuring that the death toll would be offset by beating the aliens. Iron Man realized that he could save the city and close up the wormhole, intercepted the missile and flew into the wormhole, releasing it there. It was a suicide mission, and Iron Man made the ultimate sacrifice to end the battle. He survived, thanks to the Hulk, but he had no way of knowing he would live — doing what had to be done to save the world.
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