The Marvel Cinematic Universe has always tried to keep things grounded in an acceptable reality so as to not ostracize movie audiences from the rules and feel of the universe being built. One of the major compromises that the creative teams behind the movies have to make is in character design; many of the characters have comic book counterparts whose costumes would simply look out of place on screen. This is why we’ve never seen Hawkeye in a mask or Scarlet Witch in anything resembling her costumes from the comics.
One character whose look they’ve been able to capitalize on is Tony Stark. His Iron Man armor can be constantly upgraded and redesigned, allowing for an entirely different look in every movie. In fact, in most movies, Tony finds himself wearing several suits of armor. With each suit having its own original design and functions, it’s hard to keep track of them all. We’ve gone through Tony’s designs one by one and picked out the coolest suits that Stark’s genius intellect have put together. So go ahead and skip the spinning rims, add some hot-rod red, and read on to find the 20 best-looking Iron Man suits, from lamest to coolest!
20 MK XLVII - SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
This armor appears in Spider-Man: Homecoming at two points: once with Tony inside, and once flying solo with Tony controlling it remotely. Developed after the damage his suit took during the events of Captain America: Civil War, this suit dives underwater to rescue Spider-Man, single-handedly fixes a boat that had been split down the middle, and comes with all the bells and whistles we’re used to.
The thing about this suit is that it’s a huge deviation from the typical red and gold color scheme we’re used to. The silver could be cool, but it clashes with the gold hue on the mask and shoulders. Silver works well in some of Iron Man’s other suits, but this just isn’t one of them. It’s easily the worst suit Tony wears in the MCU.
19 MK II - IRON MAN
The Mark II armor is Tony’s first working slim prototype. It’s the one Tony used to learn how to fly in Iron Man and it’s also the armor the taught him that the suit had problems with freezing at high altitudes. Eventually, Rhodey wears this armor in Iron Man 2, steals it, and outfits it with weapons from Justin Hammer, transforming it into the War Machine armor.
However, when Tony wears it, there are no weapons whatsoever. There’s no paint job. It’s a very plain, very industrial model of armor. This makes sense -- the armor isn’t a model to be used in public, rather, it’s an experiment. That it works as well as it does is a testament to Tony’s brain. Still, it isn’t one of Tony’s cooler suits, so we just can’t rank it any higher.
18 MK XLII - IRON MAN 3
Iron Man 3 had an extremely mixed reception from its audience. Some hated that Killian was calling himself The Mandarin. Some hated that Tony had his shrapnel removed (effectively making the central conflict of Iron Man 2 unnecessary). Still others hated that it ended with Tony destroying all of his Iron Man suits and apparently retiring. It was a fitting end to the trilogy, but unfortunately, Marvel movies don’t work in the usual format, so the conclusion didn’t make any sense.
The flashy gold suit was another negative. It was way too flashy, with way too much gold and very little of Stark’s favorite hot-rod red. On the bright side, very little time was spent in this costume anyway; Tony spent most of the movie running around without a costume.
17 MK I - IRON MAN
The very first Iron Man armor, this is made from scrap metal taken from various pieces of discarded missiles and other weapons. It is this armor that allows Tony to escape from the Ten Rings. It is bulletproof, it has a machine gun and two flamethrowers, and it flies. It’s really quite impressive for some scraps thrown together in a cave.
This armor is eventually recovered by the Ten Rings and taken by Obadiah Stane, who studies it and builds the much larger Iron Monger suit. Tony’s time in this armor may be short, but it defines the rest of Tony’s life -- once he’s tasted the power of the suit, he can never go back. The armor looks menacing in the shadows, but it’s still a shabby piece of scrap, way too bulky and slow to be effective.
16 MK XLIII - AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
After Tony destroyed all of his suits in Iron Man 3, filmgoers didn’t know what to expect from Tony Stark. Would he suit up again? Would he remotely pilot all of his suits from now on? Would Tony and Iron Man be, essentially, two separate people? No. Tony would develop a new suit and all would continue as if nothing had happened.
This costume, worn by Tony throughout the majority of Avengers: Age of Ultron, builds on the red and yellow color scheme that we’re familiar with, but in a new way that adds more detail on the arms and torso. It’s also worth noting that this is the core of the Hulkbuster armor. The Mark XLIII also had a sentry mode that could stand guard, and the individual pieces of the armor could propel around independently.
15 MK III - IRON MAN
After figuring out the flight mechanics with Mark II, Tony adds some weapons and flairs. A few coats of paint later, and the Mark III was born. In this suit, Tony makes his first few interventions in the Middle East. He dodges fire from the Air Force. He defeats Iron Monger. This suit defined a new hero for our generation -- an Iron Man whose metal suit was as hard as the rock he listened to.
This is the classic Iron Man look. It’s the first armor that Tony uses to actually fight the forces of evil in the world. With the flashy gold offset by the hot-rod red, this costume screams cool. Every costume after this one is basically a modification of this design, capturing the essence of this look in a new and original way.
14 MK XL “SHOTGUN"- IRON MAN 3
The Mark XL, or “Shotgun” armor, bears a resemblance to some of the War Machine designs, with a pale blue shade instead of War Machine’s dark gray. The facemask, however, has a look that is reminiscent of a Star Wars villain. It’s the third suit that Stark wears at the Battle on the Norco at the end of Iron Man 3.
It has fast reaction times, catching Tony in mid-fall, but is destroyed by Killian, whose fire-hot hands slice right through the leg armor. Fortunately, Tony is able to selectively eject his leg from the armor and avoid losing his own limb. This independent ejection is not seen accomplished as rapidly by any other suit, so the Shotgun has that leg up on its siblings.
13 MK XVI “NIGHTCLUB"- IRON MAN 3
At the Battle on the Norco at the end of Iron Man 3, the Iron Legion is summoned and wreaks havoc upon Killian’s league of Extremis soldiers. To save the president’s life, Tony Stark needs all the help he can get, and has to jump in and out of several Iron Man suits to avoid his own death and win the day.
The Mark XVI suit, also called “Nightclub,” is one of the suits that showed up. For some time, Tony had been obsessed with building new armors for every situation; Nightclub was best used for stealth and hand-to-hand combat, with its decreased armor, high speeds, and dark color. This is the second armor that Tony uses during the battle, but it is ultimately destroyed with all the rest.
12 MK XXXVIII “IGOR"- IRON MAN 3
Iron Man 3’s climax is wild and crazy. There’re more Iron Man suits than can be counted, and so much is going on that the keen observer could find something new in the background every time they watch the movie. However, of the armors that really get a chance to take front and center, one of our favorites has to be Mark XXVIII, codenamed “Igor,” which many will recognize as being Dr. Frankenstein’s hunchbacked assistant.
Tony’s Igor armor was designed for heavy lifting and construction, and it comes in handy during that final battle. Igor lifts and supports a major piece of equipment before it can collapse, effectively providing enough support for an entire building. It’s massive design is a clear precursor to the Hulkbuster armor that we later see in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
11 MK XLV - AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
As always, when it comes time for the final battle of the movie, Tony has a whole new set of armor at his disposal. For Avengers: Age of Ultron, that final battle is in Sokovia, and the armor is the Mark XLV. Teaming up with allies old and new, Iron Man manages to take down Ultron and all of his minions.
The armor has a look that is reminiscent of human muscles, which is pretty neat when you compare Iron Man to his creation, Ultron. Iron Man, the living being, has a suit that mimics his biology, while Ultron’s look is solid metal, reflecting his mechanical nature. Though this suit is mostly red, it’s a great redesign to the classic look that serves a visually thematic purpose- and that’s cool.
10 MK VII - THE AVENGERS
After the events of Iron Man 2, Tony continued to develop portable/deployable Iron Man suits so that he could be fully armored at a moment’s notice. The first time that anyone saw this technology in use was in The Avengers. Sure, Iron Man 2 spotlighted that suitcase armor, but in The Avengers, we were treated to the Mark VII, which was able to self-deploy, and ultimately saved Tony from a huge fall off of the top of his skyscraper.
Though it was not quite ready to be deployed, this armor, which featured the standard gold and red with an odd addition of gray to the thighs, wasn’t actually ready to be deployed, but nonetheless was able to assist in the defeat of the Chitauri army and Loki at the Battle of New York.
9 MK VI - IRON MAN 2
At the end of Iron Man 2, after Tony develops a brand-new element, which is necessary to prevent further poisoning to his body by the Iridium that had been in use throughout Iron Man and Iron Man 2 up to that point. After six months of dealing with the side effects of the Iridium, Tony finally developed an alternative that did not cause any side effects.
The results were far more powerful than Tony could have imagined, and he needed a new suit that was capable of handling the output from the newly developed arc reactor. He took this suit to rescue Pepper from Whiplash’s attack in Queens, and teamed up with Rhodey to defeat Whiplash’s drone army. Coolest feature? Easily the “one-off” laser blast that Tony uses to utterly decimate the drones, but the triangular chest design is a neat variation from the norm.
8 MK IV - IRON MAN 2
When the Mark III was destroyed at the end of Iron Man, a new suit was needed. It is this suit that Tony wears at the start of Iron Man 2 at his Expo. Maneuverability, speed, and power were all improved from the previous iteration of the suit, but not much changed appearance-wise.
This is a return to the classic form of the Mark III, with a few very strategic design changes that put it over the top. It has a slight edge over the Mark VI and VII, if only because of the lack of gray on the suit. There’s also a little less gold than there was on the Mark III, making the use of gold here a subtler accent. We just love that shade of red, what can we say?
7 MK XXXIII "SILVER CENTURION"- IRON MAN 3
It’s pretty cool to see the Iron Legion arrive at the end of Iron Man 3. Some 30 different suits show up to rescue the president from an army of Extremis soldiers led by Aldrich Killian. As Tony pops in and out of various suits, it’s hard to keep track of them all. One of the cooler suits he wears is the Mark XXXIII, aka the Silver Centurion armor.
Utilizing the same triangular chest shape as the Mark VI, this sleek, futuristic design has a lengthy look to it due to the long stripes up and down the legs and arms. It’s not overdone, but there are also some cool blue lights along those stripes. Tony doesn’t wear this armor for very long, but it definitely sticks out as one of our favorites.
6 MK XLVI - CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Tony Stark spends most of his time during Captain America: Civil War out of his costume, working in a more diplomatic manner than we’re used to. However, he eventually has to don the Mark XLVI to fight Captain America and his allies in the airport battle and during the film’s climax in Russia.
This suit features a smaller chest reactor and a stronger, more armored look. It’s mostly red, with some gold and gray on the arms that actually works really well together. It’s similar to the classic armor, but appears to be more threatening with the added bulk. Unfortunately, Captain America is able to disable this suit, leaving Tony behind in Russia. This is the last that the two characters have seen of each other before the events of Avengers: Infinity War.
5 MK XXV “THUMPER"- IRON MAN 3
One of the first really unique armors that we see in Iron Man 3, the Mark XXV is also affectionately referred to as “Thumper,” and for good reason. This is one of the suits that shows up as part of the Iron Legion, and while Tony never climbs inside of it, it does get a moment to shine in the spotlight as it takes out not one, but two different Extremis soldiers. Using its jackhammer-like pistons on its arms, Thumper pounds the ground, propelling the soldiers into the air, where Thumper is able to pound the soldiers into the sky for other armors to dispatch them.
This is another of the armors that was designed for use during construction projects. Tony really began to branch out, building suits for all scenarios, but unfortunately, just about every suit was destroyed with the clean slate initiative at the end of the film.
4 MK XLVIII - AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
We haven’t seen a ton from this armor yet, but what we have seen has been incredible. For its new features alone, this armor deserves to be ranked high on our list. From trailers and promo images, we’ve seen the feet join together to form a massive arc engine, providing a huge speed boost to the suit. We’ve seen images where this armor has blades added to the arms to aid in fighting.
The gold is used very minimally, but it works well, with small arc lights around the suit also utilized for the first time. That new chest design is also brand new; it appears to be formed from three smaller circles. One thing is for sure- we simply can’t wait to actually see this suit in action in Avengers: Infinity War.
3 MK V - IRON MAN 2
Many of the movies don’t bother to emphasize the suiting-up process at this point, but in Iron Man 2, there was still some novelty to the Iron Man armor, and director Jon Favreau capitalized on it. When Whiplash strikes at Monaco, Pepper and Happy drive onto the racetrack and toss a briefcase at Tony. What follows is one of the coolest suiting-up sequences in the MCU.
The briefcase itself transforms into its own Iron Man armor, and slowly unfolds and covers Tony’s body. It is strong enough to withstand the whip attacks of Whiplash, which not even the asphalt (or Formula One race cars) can endure. While the suit is mostly silver, it emphasizes red very well. Between this stylish look and our first look at a portable suit, this was and still is one of the coolest Iron Man suits we’ve seen.
2 MK XLI “BONES"- IRON MAN 3
One of the coolest armors both visually and in terms of capability, this was one of the only armors in the Iron Legion whose parts could operate independently of one another, similarly to the Mark XLII. However, the XLII only ever flies to Tony to be pieced together, whereas the “Bones” armor splits, attacks several Extremis soldiers, and rejoins.
The armor is black with accents of gold that make it look almost skeletal. It’s a little frightening, but really cool. “Bones” is one of the most sinister-looking Iron Man armors, even if we never get to see Tony wear it. It’s really too bad that it was destroyed with the rest of the armors at the end of the battle. It wasn’t necessarily the most special armor, but it would have been neat to see a little more of it in action.
1 MK XLIV “HULKBUSTER"- AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
The second Iron Man armor that we see in Avengers: Age of Ultron is also the largest Iron Man armor in the MCU so far. When Scarlet Witch manages to possess the Hulk’s mind and drive him into a rage, Tony has to pull out all the stops. He calls in the Mark XLIV, codenamed “Hulkbuster,” and goes to town. Sure, he has to level a construction site, but he does manage to take down the jade giant.
The Hulkbuster armor is huge, has several backup limbs in case the Hulk rips it apart, and has a pneumatic fist. It’s everything the normal Iron Man armor has, but it can stand up to the Hulk. It’s massive but stylish, powerful but sleek. Not only can it put the Hulk down, but apparently Bruce Banner will pilot it in Avengers: Infinity War, so that gives it some bonus points.