If there’s a main character of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s Tony Stark. Iron Man was the hero that started it all and Robert Downey Jr. has done a superb job bringing him to life. However, despite his status as the MCU’s premiere hero, Iron Man is sort of a monster. Admittedly Tony Stark is a great character, not despite his faults but because of them. If Tony was as moral and flawless as Captain America he’d be a much different and likely worst character. Tony works because he’s not the nicest guy or the best person around. However, that doesn’t change the fact that throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe Tony has been selfish, arrogant, foolish and misogynistic. These aren’t all his transgressions either, just a sample size of them.
After Avengers: Infinity War, the Mad Titan, Thanos clearly has the reputation of being Marvel’s biggest villain. By wiping out half of the universe’s population with a single snap, Thanos does have quite the villainous resume. However (besides cameos and after credits scenes) Thanos has only appeared in one movie. Tony Stark, meanwhile, has appeared in nine of the MCU’s movies. In almost every one of them Tony’s done something that’s, at the very least, morally questionable. Whether Tony truly is a worse person than Thanos is up to personal opinion. Yet there’s definitely an argument to be made that Tony could give Thanos a run for his money in the villain department.
20 CHILD WARFARE
For Marvel fans Tony bringing Spider-Man into the Civil War conflict was awesome. It was the character’s long-awaited return to the MCU and Tom Holland is a perfect Spider-Man.
Yet in-universe, Tony recruiting Peter is almost reprehensible.
Tom Holland has a baby face, but he still looks like a man. Peter Parker, however, is a child. Tony brought a child into a battle with a guy with a robot arm, a “witch” who can do pretty much anything and a trained assassin. Yes, none of them would permanently harm Spider-Man (or anyone else) but Tony knowing that information and manipulating it is way below the belt too.
19 HULK SMASH THE HELICARRIER
The Avengers is the first team-up movie for most of the MCU heroes. Yet it’s not exactly a happy time. The team barely gets along, which results in one of Tony’s more foolish or just downright despicable actions. Throughout the first Avengers, Tony keeps to trying make Bruce Banner hulk out. Tony annoys Bruce, yells at him, causes him physical pain and does pretty everything possible to make “the other guy” come out.
Considering the destructive powers that The Hulk does display when he does emerge on the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, this wasn’t the smartest move. Professional curiosity be damned, a lot of people could’ve been smashed by Tony being a jerk.
18 SENIOR CITIZEN SHOWDOWN
Tony had his reasons to go after The Winter Solider (and by consequence Captain America) in Civil War. Bucky might’ve been mind controlled when it happened, but he still did assassinate Tony’s parents. However let’s call a superhero spade a spade -- Tony did more than most supervillains by tracking down and trying to annihilate both Captain America and Winter Soldier at the time.
Tony has his reasons for it, but so does every supervillain.
Thanos wanted to save the universe by destroying half of it. This makes Tony's motivations incredibly petty by comparison. If Tony had succeeded, the world of the MCU would’ve been much worse for the wear. After all, Captain America is kind of important.
17 GIVE AWAY THIS MAN’S SHIELD
In Civil War's climax Tony ends up forcing Cap to give up his famous shield because Steve “didn’t deserve it.” Let’s put aside the fact that Tony shouldn’t be judging anyone’s patriotism or morals. The real problem with Tony taking away Cap’s shield is that it robs one of the world’s best heroes of one of their greatest assets.
Sure, by Infinity War, Black Panther corrects things by giving Steve two new and possibly better shields, yet Tony still guilts Cap into giving up his shield because Tony lost a fight and, like a baby, he wants to make Cap pay.
16 FLYING A MACHINE WHEN HE SHOULDN'T HAVE
Drinking after a night with too much partying is horrendous and stupid -- there’s a reason that it’s crime. It endangers the life of the driver and everyone else on the road. A lot of damage can be done with a simple car. Now, doing the same thing while flying in a suit worth millions of dollars and carrying a whole arsenal of weapons is exponentially worse.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Tony does in Iron Man 2.
At best, Tony could’ve crashed the suit causing irreparable damage to himself. At worst, he could’ve lost control of the suit, flipped the wrong "switch" and set the countryside aflame because he wasn't himself.
15 GAVE A TEENAGER THE RIGHT TO BARE ARMS
Tony making Peter Parker his own fancy Spider-Man suit might seem like one of his more altruistic actions, but Tony’s Spider-Man suit isn’t just a cosmetic upgrade to Peter’s own effort --it allows Spider-Man to be a better Spider-Man. However, one jokey scene in Spider-Man Homecoming reveals a darker truth.
While tailing the Vulture’s goons, Peter learns that his suit has a function to terminate anyone in its path. We've got a lot of questions here, Tony. Most of them start with why and how this could possibly be considered a good idea? Again, Peter is a child and Tony basically put a loaded weapon into his hands, allowing a superhero to potentially become a supervillain.
14 THE WORST HOUSE PARTY EVER
One of the reasons to love Iron Man (or in the case of this list love to hate him) is that he’s bursting with confidence. Iron Man’s bravado can make him very fun to watch ... or it can destroy nearly everyone and everything around Tony. When Tony is challenged in Iron Man 3, he decides to invite whoever wants to take him out to his home in Malibu.
The villains, of course, take Tony up on this offer and Tony is somehow totally unprepared for the attack.
The house is destroyed and so are almost all the reporters waiting outside. Tony does save Pepper but he just barely gets himself out alive. All of this destruction because his fragile pride was under attack.
13 CIVIL WAR POUT
After everything Tony does in Civil War, which is a lot, Steve Rogers still reaches out to apologize. Cap sends Tony a note and a cell phone telling him that he’ll always be there if Tony really needs him. Yet when the situation arises to call Cap in Infinity War, when Thanos’ invasion is imminent, Tony doesn’t do it.
Cap eventually gets involved in Infinity War because Vision and Scarlet Witch are attacked and he arrives to save them. Yet it would’ve very useful for Tony to inform Cap of the danger before he ran into some superpowered aliens. Again, Tony’s pride gets in way of the right thing which is pretty villainous behavior.
12 HIS FIRST MEETING WITH BLACK WIDOW
Natasha Romanoff doesn’t have the best introduction in the MCU. Iron Man 2 isn’t a good use of Black Widow and she barely has any real character.
A lot of Black Widow’s failings (in Iron Man 2 at least) are down to the fact that Tony barely treats her as a person.
Natasha joins Iron Man 2 as Tony’s undercover assistant and Tony orders her around, lusts after her and is just just overall objectifies her. The hallway scene where Widow takes out a whole gang of goons, effortlessly, helps establish her awesome character but Tony does nothing to advance her cause.
11 THE WORST SPIDER MENTOR
Tony looks to be Spider-Man’s mentor in the MCU. While that is technically true, in some sense, Tony is an AWFUL mentor to Peter. He indulges Peter’s worst impulses but still tells Peter to be “better.” He lets Peter run loose in New York after Civil War and only arrives to reprimand him. Worst of all though, Tony doesn’t even have a plan for Peter.
Throughout Homecoming, Iron Man tells Peter to keep his feet on the ground. When Peter does exactly that, Tony rewards him by offering him Avengers status but refuses it, thinking it's a test. Tony wasn’t just going to make Spider-Man an Avenge, but he was going to announce it, further proving he has no idea what he wants out of Peter or Spider-Man.
10 THE WORST BEST FRIEND
Tony created the Iron Man suit and all things considered he’s capable in it. Tony has no military or flying training but he’s an excellent Iron Man. However, when the U.S. Government decided that they wanted someone in an Iron Man-like suit with the proper training and that person happened to be Tony’s “best friend,” Tony had a meltdown.
Tony’s reaction to War Machine/ Iron Patriot in Iron Man 2 would make sense if he didn’t know Rhodey at all.
Yet Tony knows him very, very well. Tony should recognize that he’s the perfect person to be the government’s Iron Man. However, because Tony is a man-child, he doesn’t want to share his toys and treats Rhodey like crap until the end of Iron Man 2.
9 PROFITEERING OFF OF DAMAGE CONTROL
In Spider-Man Homecoming it’s revealed that Tony has founded Damage Control. It’s a company that works to clean up the messes created by superhero incidents. This sounds great until it’s considered that Damage Control has employees, pays those employees and must be making money somewhere. Tony might be cleaning up his messes but he’s also making money off said messes that he mostly helped to cause.
Regardless of where the Damage Control money goes, even if its to charity, Tony is still profiting from something that he definitely shouldn’t. Not to mention that Damage Control forces Adrian Toomes into a life of crime as Vulture.
8 TEAM IRON MAN IS ON THE WRONG SIDE
Iron Man isn't always a selfish and self-serving character -- he just finds the worst possible moment and reason to take responsibility. After Age of Ultron, Tony realized that The Avengers needed some restrictions and so he supported the Sokovia Accords.
The idea of The Avengers having some restrictions isn’t terrible, however, the Sokovia Accords were the wrong way to do it.
They were way too restrictive and put far too much power into the hands of a grown man who uses the nickname "Thunderbolt". Iron Man’s side in Captain America: Civil War makes more sense that the "Civil War" in the comics, but only barely.
7 STANDS BY AS THE AVENGERS GET LOCKED UP
If it’s not bad enough that Iron Man supports the Sokovia Accords from the start, it’s even more appalling that he supports them when proven to be awful. By the end of Civil War it’s obvious that the Accords were a mistake and Cap’s in the right. However, Tony remains stubbornly adhered to them to the point that he allows half the Avengers to get locked up and does nothing to free any of them.
Thankfully, Cap steps in and rescues all of them, including the useless Hawkeye. However, if Tony Stark had his way half of Earth’s mightiest heroes would’ve stayed locked up forever... all because Tony Stark can’t admit that he’s wrong.
6 THE KILLIAN TRANSFORMATION
It’s not a brand-new opinion that Iron Man 3 shares a lot of similarities with The Incredibles. In both, the hero treats a fan of theirs poorly in the past and that fan grows to despise them and turn evil -- it’s not the most original plot that Aldrich Killian turns to villainy because he was bullied.
However, lack of originality doesn’t make Tony any less culpable.
Don't get us wrong, Killian isn’t totally innocent. He takes things way too far, but Tony is needlessly cruel to him at the start of Iron Man 3. Killian isn’t the worst person Tony has created but he’s very close.
5 IT’S NOW OR LITERALLY NEVER TO BE A HERO
As Iron Man, Tony Stark started the MCU, yet for a long time Tony didn’t consider himself a hero. Fair enough, as there’s 19 other reasons besides this one that proves Tony right. Yet when Tony does make his big heroic stand in The Avengers, he can’t even manage to do that right.
It takes an alien invasion, Agent Coulson dying and a nuke coming towards New York for Tony to finally agree with Steve Rogers that he’s more than the average man and should stand up for those who can’t protect themselves. Tony “sacrifices” himself by flying a nuke into a wormhole, after much hemming and hawing … and still makes a homophobic joke after it by worrying if anyone "kissed" him while he was unconscious.
4 THE AUNT MAY CREEPING
With each subsequent Spider-Man adaption Aunt May has gotten younger. It’s not comic accurate, but it does make a lot more sense that someone younger like Marissa Tomei is the aunt of a teenage Peter Parker. Yet Tony Stark never lets anyone, especially Peter, forget it by hitting on or just remarking on her attractiveness at ever turn.
This alone is unsettling as it does nothing but make Peter uncomfortable.
Yet Tony’s flirting with Aunt May is made much worse when Pepper Potts is considered (something Tony clearly doesn't do). In Spider-Man Homecoming, Tony and Pepper are on the precipice of getting engaged and Tony is constantly salivating over Aunt May. Keep it in your iron pants, man.
3 NO PLAN, NO PROBLEM WITH THANOS
The sane thing for Tony to do when he learned Thanos was coming to Earth would’ve been to stay put and rally the troops on Earth. Tony doesn’t do that, in the slightest. Once Iron Man saves Doctor Strange (and ropes Spider-Man into it all again), Tony goes full speed ahead to confront Thanos in space because the very idea of Thanos has been haunting Tony's nightmares.
Although Tony almost does take out Thanos on his planet, the fact that he goes after the Mad Titan at all is terribly foolhardy. The Avengers might’ve had a chance if they’d all stayed on Earth together, but Tony splits their forces because of his own damn pride, again. Tony just shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions.
2 BUILT A FORTUNE OFF OF WAR AND WEAPONS
This can be easy to forget as Iron Man opens with Tony learning the error of his ways and trying to dismantle the war profiteering of his company. Yet Tony Stark has his fortune because his company built incredibly destructive weapons and sold them to the highest bidder.
It could be argued that Tony inherited the business and wasn’t aware of the destruction the company (and Obadiah Stane) were causing.
All of this is, in a way, worse. Tony didn’t just cash the checks from Stark Industries, he didn’t care enough to check it out. Only after Tony almost dies, does he decide to take an interest. Becoming Iron Man is a way of finding redemption… but only through even more (controlled) mayhem and destruction.
1 ULTRON’S BABY DADDY
This was obviously going to be included but that doesn’t make it less important. The worst thing that Tony Stark has ever done and the reason why he’s probably a bigger villain than Thanos is that he created Ultron.
Granted, Tony did have some help from Bruce Banner with Ultron. However, Bruce was very hesitant about Ultron. Tony, meanwhile, led the charge. Ultron is (mostly) Iron Man’s fault, especially since Tony had a chance to turn off Ultron before things got too bad and didn’t take it. The “Age” of Ultron didn’t last very long -- it was more of a long weekend of Ultron. However, many people ended up in Ultron’s crossfire with fatal consequences and it’s all Tony Stark’s fault.