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Tony Stark (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

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Tony Stark
Marvel Cinematic Universe character
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man in Avengers Infinity War.jpg
Tony Stark, as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
First appearanceIron Man (2008)
Created by
Based onIron Man
Adapted by
Portrayed by
Full nameAnthony Edward Stark
AliasIron Man
SpousePepper Potts
ChildrenMorgan Stark

Anthony Edward Stark is a character portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film franchise—based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name—commonly known by his alter ego, Iron Man. In the films, Stark is an industrialist, genius inventor, hero and former playboy who is CEO of Stark Industries. At the beginning of the series, he is a chief weapons manufacturer for the U.S. military, until he has a change of heart and redirects his technical knowledge into the creation of mechanized suits of armor which he uses to defend against those that would threaten peace around the world.

As of 2019, the character was one of the central figures of the MCU, having appeared in eleven films[N 1] from his introduction in Iron Man, up to Spider-Man: Far From Home. In 2015, the evolution of the character over the series was described as "the defining arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe".[1] In 2018, it was argued that "no other character goes on as transformative a journey as Iron Man".[2] The Iron Man character and Downey's performance has been credited with helping to cement the MCU as a multi-billion dollar franchise, with Stark often being considered "the godfather of the Marvel Cinematic Universe" and one of the greatest film characters of all time.[3][4]

Concept, creation, and characterization

Tony Stark first premiered as a comic book character, in Tales of Suspense #39 (cover dated March 1963), a collaboration among editor and story-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, story-artist Don Heck, and cover-artist and character-designer Jack Kirby.[5] Lee wanted to create the "quintessential capitalist", a character that would go against the spirit of the times and Marvel's readership.[6] Lee based this playboy's looks and personality on Howard Hughes,[7] explaining, "Howard Hughes was one of the most colorful men of our time. He was an inventor, an adventurer, a multi-billionaire, a ladies' man and finally a nutcase."[8] The character's original costume was a bulky gray armored suit, replaced by a golden version in the second story (issue #40, April 1963), and redesigned as sleeker, red-and-golden armor in issue #48 (Dec. 1963) by Steve Ditko.[9] Lee and Kirby included Iron Man in The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963) as a founding member of the superhero team. In the mid-2000s, with a number of movies having been made from other Marvel properties licensed to other studios, Kevin Feige realized that Marvel still owned the rights to the core members of the Avengers, which included Iron Man. Feige, a self-professed "fanboy", envisioned creating a shared universe just as creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had done with their comic books in the early 1960s.[10]

Jon Favreau, who was selected to direct the first Iron Man film, felt Downey's past made him an appropriate choice for the part,[11] and that the actor could make Stark a "likable asshole," but also depict an authentic emotional journey once he won over the audience.[12]

Ultimately though, Downey ended up being the choice the studio made for the first character in their ever expansive cinematic universe. Favreau was also attracted to Downey from his performance in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, with Downey frequently conversing with that film's director, Shane Black, about the script and dialogue in Iron Man.[13]


Downey had an office next to Favreau during pre-production, which allowed him greater involvement in the screenwriting process,[14] especially adding humor to the film.[15] Downey explained, "What I usually hate about these [superhero] movies [is] when suddenly the guy that you were digging turns into Dudley Do-Right, and then you're supposed to buy into all his 'Let's go do some good!' That Eliot Ness-in-a-cape-type thing. What was really important to me was to not have him change so much that he's unrecognizable. When someone used to be a schmuck and they're not anymore, hopefully they still have a sense of humor."[16] To prepare, Downey spent five days a week weight training and practiced martial arts to get into shape,[11] which he said benefited him because "it's hard not to have a personality meltdown [...] after about several hours in that suit. I'm calling up every therapeutic moment I can think of to just get through the day."[17]

In Iron Man 2, Stark struggles to keep his technology out of the government's hands. Downey and Favreau, who had been handed a script and worked from it on the first movie, conceived of the film's story themselves.[18] On Stark being a hero, Downey said "It's kind of heroic, but really kind of on his own behalf. So I think there's probably a bit of an imposter complex and no sooner has he said, 'I am Iron Man –' that he's now really wondering what that means. If you have all this cushion like he does and the public is on your side and you have immense wealth and power, I think he's way too insulated to be okay."[19]

The Avengers introduced Stark's role as one of an ensemble of heroes who must come together to defend the Earth from an alien invasion led by the god Loki. Downey initially pushed director Joss Whedon to make Stark the lead of the 2012 Avengers film: "Well, I said, 'I need to be in the opening sequence. I don't know what you're thinking, but Tony needs to drive this thing.' He was like, 'Okay, let's try that.' We tried it and it didn't work, because this is a different sort of thing, the story and the idea and the theme is the theme, and everybody is just an arm of the octopus."[20] About the character's evolution from previous films, Downey said, "In Iron Man, which was an origin story, he was his own epiphany and redemption of sorts. Iron Man 2 is all about not being an island, dealing with legacy issues and making space for others. . . In The Avengers, he's throwing it down with the others".[21] At the climax of the film, Stark guides a nuclear missile through an interstellar portal to destroy the main alien vessel, demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice his life to save the Earth.

Robert Downey Jr. at Comic Con 2007, after being cast in Iron Man.

In Iron Man 3, Stark struggles to come to terms with his near-death experience in The Avengers,[22][23] suffering from anxiety attacks. On making a third Iron Man film, Downey said, "My sense of it is that we need to leave it all on the field—whatever that means in the end. You can pick several different points of departure for that."[24] On following up The Avengers, Downey said they "tried to be practical, in a post-Avengers world. What are his challenges now? What are some limitations that might be placed on him? And what sort of threat would have him, as usual, ignore those limitations?"[25] Screenwriter Drew Pearce compared Stark in Iron Man 3 to an American James Bond for both being "heroes with a sense of danger to them, and unpredictability" even if Stark was a "free agent" instead of an authority figure like Bond. He also likened Tony to the protagonists of 1970s films such as The French Connection, where "the idiosyncrasies of the heroes is what made them exciting."[26]

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Stark has become the benefactor of the Avengers.[27][28][29] On how his character evolves after the events of Iron Man 3, Downey said, "I think he realizes that tweaking and making all the suits in the world—which is what he has been doing—still didn't work for that thing of his tour of duty that left him a little PTSD. So his focus is more on how can we make it so that there's no problem to begin with. That, you know, there's a bouncer at our planet's rope. That's the big idea."[30] The events of Age of Ultron lead directly into the conflict of Captain America: Civil War, in which Stark leads a faction of Avengers in support of regulation of individuals with super powers, and is the main antagonist of the film;[31][32] Anthony Russo said that Stark's egomania allowed the writers "to bring him to a point in his life where he was willing to submit to an authority, where he felt it was the right thing to do." Joe Russo added that because of the visions Stark saw in Age of Ultron, he now has a guilt complex which "drives him to make very specific decisions", calling his emotional arc "very complicated".[33] Downey's personal trainer Eric Oram stated that the trick to pitting Rogers against Stark, "is to show Iron Man using the 'minimum force' necessary to win the fight".[34] Marvel initially wanted Downey's part to be smaller, but "Downey wanted Stark to have a more substantial role in the film's plot." Variety noted that Downey would receive $40 million plus backend for his participation, as well as an additional payout if the film outperformed The Winter Soldier, as Marvel would attribute that success to Downey's presence.[35]

In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Stark is Peter Parker's mentor and is the creator of the U.S. Department of Damage Control.[36][37] Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group chairman Thomas Rothman noted that, beyond the commercial advantage of featuring Downey in the film, the inclusion of Stark was important due to the relationship established between him and Parker in Captain America: Civil War.[38] Watts noted that after Stark's actions in Civil War, introducing Parker to life as an Avenger, there are "a lot of repercussions to that. Is it a first step towards Tony as some sort of mentor figure? Is he comfortable with that?"[39] Co-writer Jonathan Goldstein compared Stark to Ethan Hawke's father character in Boyhood.[40]

Downey reprised the role in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).[41][36] Iron Man 3 director Shane Black stated in March 2013 that "There has been a lot of discussion about it: 'Is this the last Iron Man for Robert [Downey Jr.]?' Something tells me that it will not be the case, and [he] will be seen in a fourth, or fifth." Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said that the character of Stark would continue to be featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe regardless of Downey's involvement.[42] Also in March, Downey said he was open to extending his contract, stating he feels "there's a couple other things we've gotta do" with the character.[43] In June 2013, when Downey signed on to return as Iron Man in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he also signed on for a third Avengers film.[41] In a July 2014 interview during the filming of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Downey expressed his interest in continuing to play Iron Man. "It's down to Kevin [Feige] and Ike [Perlmutter, CEO of Marvel Entertainment] and Disney to come to us with what the proposal is, and that’s on us to agree or disagree," Downey said. "When things are going great, there's a lot of agreement." He added, "It's that thing of: Why give up the belt when it feels like you can barely get jabbed?"[44] In April 2016, Downey expressed openness to appearing in a potential fourth Iron Man film, saying "I could do one more."[45] Downey's Marvel contract expired following Avengers: Endgame, where Stark is killed off.[46]

Throughout the films, Stark in his civilian attire exhibits a fashion sense that has been described as "part Mob boss and part Big Bang Theory cast member", and alternating "between boxy pinstripe suits and faux-ironic vintage tees".[47]

Armor and special effects

Tony Stark's armor, as seen in Iron Man (2008)

Favreau wanted to make the initial film believable by showing the construction of the Iron Man suit in its three stages.[48] Stan Winston, a fan of the comic book, and his company, whom Favreau worked with on Zathura, built metal and rubber versions of the armors.[49] The Mark I design was intended to look like it was built from spare parts. The back is less armored than the front, because Stark would use his resources for a forward attack. It also foreshadows the design of Stane's armor. A single 90-pound (41 kg) version was built, causing concern when a stuntman fell over inside it, though both the stuntman and the suit were unscathed. The armor was also designed to only have its top half worn at times.[49] Stan Winston Studios built a 10-foot (3.0 m), 800-pound (360 kg) animatronic version of "Iron Monger" (Obadiah Stane),[49] a name which Obadiah Stane calls Tony Stark and himself earlier in the film as a reference, but is never actually used for the suit itself in the film. The animatronic required five operators for the arm, and was built on a gimbal to simulate walking.[49] A scale model was used for the shots of it being built.[50] The Mark II resembles an airplane prototype, with visible flaps.[50]

Iron Man comic book artist Adi Granov designed the Mark III with illustrator Phil Saunders.[51] Granov's designs were the primary inspiration for the film's, and he came on board the film after he recognized his work on Jon Favreau's MySpace page.[52] Saunders streamlined Granov's concept art, making it stealthier and less cartoonish in its proportions,[49] and also designed the War Machine armor, but it was "cut from the script about halfway through pre-production." He explained that the War Machine armor "was going to be called the Mark IV armor and would have had weaponized swap-out parts that would be worn over the original Mark III armor," and that it "would have been worn by Tony Stark in the final battle sequence."[53] Concerned with the transition between the computer-generated and practical costumes, Favreau hired Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) to create the bulk of the visual effects for the film after seeing Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Transformers.[54] The Orphanage and The Embassy did additional work.[49] To help with animating the more refined suits, information was sometimes captured by having Downey wear only the helmet, sleeves and chest of the costume over a motion capture suit.[49]

For Iron Man 2, ILM again did the majority of the effects, as it did on the first film.[55] ILM's visual effects supervisor on the film, Ben Snow, said their work on the film was "harder" than their work on the first, stating that Favreau asked more of them this time around. Snow described the process of digitally creating the suits:

On the first Iron Man, we tried to use the Legacy [Studios, Stan Winston's effects company] and Stan Winston suits as much as we could. For the second one, Jon [Favreau] was confident we could create the CG suits, and the action dictated using them. So, Legacy created what we called the "football suits" from the torso up with a chest plate and helmet. We'd usually put in some arm pieces, but not the whole arm. In the house fight sequence, where Robert Downey Jr. staggers around tipsy, we used some of the practical suit and extended it digitally. Same thing in the Randy's Donuts scene. But in the rest of the film, we used the CG suit entirely. And Double Negative did an all-digital suit for the Monaco chase.[55]

In the filming of The Avengers, Weta Digital took over duties for animating Iron Man during the forest duel from ILM. Guy Williams, Weta's visual effects supervisor, said, "We shared assets back and forth with ILM, but our pipelines are unique and it's hard for other assets to plug into it. But in this case, we got their models and we had to redo the texture spaces because the way we texture maps is different."[56] Williams said the most difficult part was re-creating Iron Man's reflective metal surfaces.[57]

For Iron Man 3, Digital Domain, Scanline VFX and Trixter each worked on separate shots featuring the Mark 42 armor, working with different digital models. The studios shared some of their files to ensure consistency between the shots. For the Mark 42 and Iron Patriot armors, Legacy Effects constructed partial suits that were worn on set. Townsend explained that "Invariably we'd shoot a soft-suit with Robert then we'd also put tracking markers on his trousers. He would also wear lifts in his shoes or be up in a box so he'd be the correct height—Iron Man is 6'5". During shooting we used multiple witness cams, Canon C300s, and we had two or three running whenever there was an Iron Man or Extremis character."[58] The heads-up display features of the helmet were inspired by visualization techniques from MRI diagnostic pattern recognition and graph theory, particularly by the connectogram, a circular graph that maps all of the white-matter connections of the human brain.[59]

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Feature films

The first MCU Iron Man film was released in 2008, starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark,[60] with Favreau directing. Iron Man received very positive reviews from film critics,[61] grossing $318 million domestically and $585 million worldwide.[62] The character of Tony Stark, again played by Robert Downey Jr., appeared at the end of the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk. Downey reprised his role in Iron Man 2 (2010), Marvel's The Avengers (2012),[63] Iron Man 3 (2013),[64] Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015),[41] Captain America: Civil War (2016),[65] Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017),[36] Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019).[66] Robert Downey Jr. will reprise the role in Black Widow (2020).[67]

Other media

Stark is shown via archive footage in the Marvel One-Shot, The Consultant (2011).[68] Stark also appears in multiple MCU tie-in comics, and in an Iron Man video game released at the time of the film.

Fictional character biography

Early life

Anthony Edward "Tony" Stark was born on May 29, 1970 in Manhattan, New York, to Howard and Maria Stark (née Collins-Carbonell).[69] His childhood was characterized by a cold and affectionless relationship with his father, who was already famous as an inventor and businessman. He was also a child prodigy, graduating from MIT, summa cum laude, at age 17.[70] On December 16, 1991, when Stark was 21, his parents were killed in a car accident (later revealed to be an assassination by a brainwashed Bucky Barnes).[71] As a result, Stark inherited his father's company, becoming CEO of Stark Industries. Over the years, he became well known as a weapons designer and inventor, and lived a playboy lifestyle. In 1999, he attended a conference in Bern where he met scientists Maya Hansen, inventor of the Extremis experimental regenerative treatment, and Aldrich Killian, rejecting an offer to work for Killian's Advanced Idea Mechanics.[72]

Becoming Iron Man

In the late 2000s, Stark travels to war-torn Afghanistan with his friend and military liaison Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes to demonstrate Stark's new "Jericho" missile. After the demonstration, the convoy is ambushed and Stark is critically wounded and imprisoned by a terrorist group, the Ten Rings. Fellow captive Yinsen, a doctor, implants an electromagnet into Stark's chest to keep shrapnel shards from reaching his heart and killing him.[73] Ten Rings leader Raza offers Stark freedom in exchange for building a Jericho missile, but Tony and Yinsen agree Raza will not keep his word. Stark and Yinsen secretly build a small, powerful electric generator called an arc reactor to power Stark's electromagnet and a suit of powered armor. When the Ten Rings attack the workshop. Yinsen sacrifices himself to divert them while the suit is completed. The armored Stark battles his way out of the cave to find the dying Yinsen, then burns the Ten Rings' weapons in anger and flies away, crashing in the desert. Rescued by Rhodes, Stark returns home to announce that his company will no longer manufacture weapons. Obadiah Stane, his father's old partner and the company's manager, advises Stark that this may ruin Stark Industries and his father's legacy. With the aid of his computer J.A.R.V.I.S., Stark secretly builds a sleeker version of his improvised armor suit with a more powerful arc reactor.[74]

At a Stark Industries charity event, reporter Christine Everhart informs Stark that his company's weapons were being used by the Ten Rings to attack Yinsen's home village, Gulmira. Stark learns that Stane has been arms trafficking to criminals worldwide, and is staging a coup to replace him as Stark Industries' CEO. Stark, in his new armor, flies to Afghanistan and saves the villagers. Flying home, Stark is shot at by two F-22 Raptor fighter jets, forcing him to call Rhodes and reveal his secret identity. Stane acquires the wreckage of Stark's prototype from the Ten Rings, and has a massive new suit reverse engineered. Stane's scientists cannot duplicate Stark's miniaturized arc reactor, so Stane ambushes Stark at his home and takes the one from his chest, revealing that Stane was responsible for Stark's captivity. Stark manages to get to his original reactor to replace it, and defeats Stane. The next day, at a press conference, Stark defies suggestions from S.H.I.E.L.D. and publicly admits to being the superhero the press has dubbed "Iron Man". Later, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury then visits Stark at home, telling him that Iron Man is not "the only superhero in the world", and explaining that he wants to discuss the "Avenger Initiative".[74]

In Russia, Ivan Vanko sees media coverage of Stark's disclosure of his identity as Iron Man, and begins building his own miniature arc reactor. Six months later,[N 2] Stark has become a superstar and uses his Iron Man suit for peaceful means, resisting government pressure to sell his designs. He reinstitutes the Stark Expo to continue his father's legacy, but discovers that the palladium core in the arc reactor that keeps Stark alive and powers the armor is slowly poisoning him. Growing increasingly reckless and despondent about his impending death, Stark appoints Pepper Potts CEO of Stark Industries, and hires Stark employee Natalie Rushman to replace her as his personal assistant. Stark competes in the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, and is attacked mid-race by Vanko, who wields electrified whips. Stark dons his Mark V armor and defeats Vanko, but the suit is severely damaged. Vanko explains his intent to prove that Iron Man is not invincible. Stark's rival, Justin Hammer, fakes Vanko's death while breaking him out of prison and asks him to build armored suits to upstage Stark. At his birthday party, Stark gets drunk while wearing the Mark IV suit. Rhodes dons Stark's Mark II prototype armor and tries to restrain him. The fight ends in a stalemate, so Rhodes confiscates the Mark II for the U.S. Air Force.[75]

Nick Fury reveals that "Rushman" is Agent Natasha Romanoff, that Howard Stark was a S.H.I.E.L.D. founder whom Fury knew personally, and that Vanko's father Anton jointly invented the arc reactor with Howard Stark, but tried to sell it for profit. Howard Stark had Anton deported, and the Soviets sent him to the gulag. Stark discovers a hidden message in the diorama of the 1974 Stark Expo, a diagram of the structure of a new element, which Stark synthesizes. When he learns Vanko is still alive, he places the new element in his arc reactor. At the Expo, Hammer unveils Vanko's armored drones, led by Rhodes in a heavily weaponized version of the Mark II armor. Stark arrives in the Mark VI armor to warn Rhodes, but Vanko remotely takes control of both the drones and Rhodes' armor and attacks Iron Man. After Romanoff is able to return control of the Mark II armor to Rhodes, Stark and Rhodes together defeat Vanko and his drones. At a debriefing, Fury informs Stark that because of Stark's difficult personality, S.H.I.E.L.D. intends to use him only as a consultant. Stark and Rhodes receive medals for their heroism.[75]

The Avengers Initiative and The Battle of New York

Stark's involvement in the Avengers initiative is evidenced by his approaching General Thaddeus Ross in a bar shortly after Ross's latest failure to capture the Hulk, informing Ross that a team is being put together.[76] Several months later, in response to an attack by the Asgardian Loki, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson visits Stark to have him review the research of Erik Selvig on the Tesseract. In Stuttgart, Stark, along with Captain America (Steve Rogers) and Romanoff, confront Loki, who surrenders. Thor arrives and frees Loki, but after a confrontation with Stark and Rogers, agrees to take Loki to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s flying aircraft carrier, the Helicarrier. The Avengers become divided over how to approach Loki and the revelation that S.H.I.E.L.D. plans to harness the Tesseract to develop weapons. Agents possessed by Loki attack the Helicarrier, and Loki escapes. Stark and Rogers realize that Loki needs to overpower them publicly to validate himself as ruler of Earth. Loki uses the Tesseract to open a wormhole above Stark Tower in New York City. A Chitauri fleet in space invades through the wormhole, and Stark and the others rally in defense of the city. Fury's superiors from the World Security Council attempt to end the invasion by launching a nuclear missile at Midtown Manhattan. Stark intercepts the missile, and in an apparent sacrifice of his own life, takes it through the wormhole toward the Chitauri fleet. The missile detonates, destroying the Chitauri mothership and disabling their forces on Earth. Stark's suit runs out of power, and he falls back through the wormhole but the Hulk saves him from crashing into the ground.[77]


Following the battle, Adrian Toomes and his salvage company contract to clean up the city, but their operation is taken over by the Department of Damage Control (D.O.D.C.), a partnership between Stark and the U.S. government. An enraged Toomes persuades his employees to keep Chitauri technology they have already scavenged to create advanced weapons.[78] Stark develops PTSD from his experiences during the alien invasion, resulting in panic attacks. Restless, he builds several dozen Iron Man suits, creating friction with girlfriend Pepper Potts. When Happy Hogan is badly injured in one of a string of bombings by a terrorist known only as the Mandarin, Stark issues a televised threat to the Mandarin, who destroys Stark's home with helicopter gunships. Maya Hansen, who came to warn Stark, survives the attack along with Potts. Stark escapes in an Iron Man suit, which J.A.R.V.I.S. pilots to rural Tennessee, following a flight plan from Stark's investigation into the Mandarin. Stark's experimental armor lacks sufficient power to return to California, and the world believes him dead.[72]

Stark investigates the remains of a local explosion bearing the hallmarks of a Mandarin attack. He discovers the "bombings" were triggered by soldiers subjected to Hansen's Extremis, with the explosions being falsely attributed to a terrorist plot in order to cover up Extremis's flaws. Stark traces the Mandarin to Miami and infiltrates his headquarters using improvised weapons. He discovers the Mandarin is actually an English actor named Trevor Slattery, who is oblivious to the actions carried out in his image; Killian, who appropriated Hansen's Extremis research as a cure for his own disability and expanded the program to include injured war veterans, is the real Mandarin. After capturing Stark, Killian shows him Potts (whom he had kidnapped) being subjected to Extremis, in order to gain Stark's aid to fix Extremis's flaws and thus save Potts.[72]

Stark escapes and reunites with Rhodes, discovering that Killian intends to attack President Ellis aboard Air Force One. Stark saves the surviving passengers and crew but cannot stop Killian from abducting Ellis and destroying Air Force One. Killian intends to kill Ellis on an oil platform on live television. On the platform, Stark goes to save Potts, as Rhodes saves the president. Stark summons his Iron Man suits, controlled remotely by J.A.R.V.I.S., to provide air support. Potts, having survived the Extremis procedure, kills Killian. Stark orders J.A.R.V.I.S. to remotely destroy all of the Iron Man suits as a sign of his devotion to Potts, and undergoes surgery to remove the shrapnel embedded near his heart. He pitches his obsolete chest arc reactor into the sea, musing that he will always be Iron Man.[72]

Battle of Sokovia

A few years later, Stark and the Avengers raid a Hydra facility commanded by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who has been experimenting on siblings Pietro and Wanda Maximoff using the scepter previously wielded by Loki. While the team fights outside, Stark enters the lab to retrieve the scepter, and finds it, along with Chitauri ships from the Battle of New York and androids under construction. Wanda sneaks up behind him and uses her mind manipulation powers to give him a haunting vision: the rest of the Avengers dead or dying on a dark world in space, with the Captain's shield broken in half on the ground. Rogers warns him "You could have saved us" before dying, and his words "Why didn't you do more?" are heard. He then sees a massive fleet of Chitauri ships fly into a gigantic portal leading to Earth. Stark awakens from the vision, and grabs Loki's scepter with resolve.

Returning to Stark Tower, Stark and Bruce Banner discover an artificial intelligence within the scepter's gem, and secretly decide to use it to complete Stark's "Ultron" global defense program. The unexpectedly sentient Ultron eliminates Stark's A.I. J.A.R.V.I.S. and attacks the Avengers at Stark Tower. Escaping with the scepter, Ultron builds an army of robot drones, kills Strucker, recruits the Maximoffs, who hold Stark responsible for their parents' deaths by his company's weapons. The Avengers find and attack Ultron, but Wanda subdues most of the team with personalized, disturbing visions, causing Banner to transform into the Hulk and rampage until Stark stops him with his anti-Hulk armor.1[79]

After hiding at a safe house for a time, Nick Fury arrives and encourages Stark and the others to form a plan to stop Ultron, who is discovered to have forced the team's friend Dr. Helen Cho to perfect a new body for him. The Maximoffs turn against Ultron when Wanda's powers reveal his plan to destroy humanity. Rogers, Romanoff, and Barton find Ultron and retrieve the synthetic body, but Ultron captures Romanoff. Returning to their headquarters in New York, the Avengers fight amongst themselves when Stark and Banner secretly upload J.A.R.V.I.S.—who is still operational after hiding from Ultron inside the Internet—into the synthetic body. Thor returns to help activate the body, explaining that the gem on its brow—one of the six Infinity Stones, the most powerful objects in existence—was part of his vision. This "Vision" and the Maximoffs accompany Stark and the Avengers to Sokovia, where Ultron has used the remaining vibranium to build a machine to lift part of the capital city skyward, intending to crash it into the ground to cause global extinction. One of Ultron's drones is able to activate the machine. The city plummets, but Stark and Thor overload the machine and shatter the landmass. The Avengers establish a new base, and Stark leaves the team in the hands of Rogers and Romanoff.[79]

Civil War

Some months after the Battle of Sokovia, U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross informs the Avengers that the United Nations (UN) is preparing to pass the Sokovia Accords, which will establish UN oversight of the team. The Avengers are divided: Stark supports oversight because of his role in Ultron's creation and Sokovia's devastation, while Rogers has more faith in his own judgment than that of a government. Circumstances lead to Rogers and fellow super-soldier Bucky Barnes (framed for a terrorist attack) going rogue, along with Sam Wilson, Wanda Maximoff, Clint Barton, and Scott Lang. Stark assembles a team composed of Romanoff, T'Challa, Rhodes, Vision, and Peter Parker to capture the renegades at Leipzig/Halle Airport. However, during the battle, Rogers and Barnes are able to escape. Stark learns that Barnes was framed and convinces Wilson to give him Rogers' destination. Without informing Ross, Stark goes to the Siberian Hydra facility and strikes a truce with Rogers and Barnes. They find that the other super-soldiers have been killed by Helmut Zemo, who plays footage that reveals that Barnes killed Stark's parents. Stark turns on them, dismembering Barnes' robotic arm. After an intense fight, Rogers finally manages to disable Stark's Iron Man armor and departs with Barnes, leaving his shield behind. Stark returns to New York to work on exoskeletal leg braces to allow Rhodes to walk again.[71] Steve Rogers sends a flip phone to Stark, his former ally and friend, to keep in contact. When Ross calls informing him that Barton and the others have escaped Stark refuses to help.

Peter Parker resumes his high school studies when Stark tells him he is not yet ready to become a full Avenger. Stark rescues Parker from nearly drowning after an encounter with Adrian Toomes now as the Vulture. Stark warns Parker against further involvement with the criminals. Another weapon from Toomes malfunctions during a fight with Parker and tears the Staten Island Ferry in half. Stark helps Parker save the passengers before admonishing him for his recklessness and confiscating his suit. Parker realizes Toomes is planning to hijack a D.O.D.C. plane transporting weapons from Stark Tower to the team's new headquarters. After Parker thwarts the plan and saves Toomes from an explosion, Stark admits he was wrong about Parker and invites him to become an Avenger full-time, but Parker declines. Pepper emerges from a packed press conference, called to make the announcement, and Stark decides to use the opportunity to instead propose to Pepper. At the end of the film, he returns the suit to Peter.[78]

The Infinity War

In 2018, Stark and Pepper are in a New York City park discussing having children, when Bruce Banner, who had disappeared after the Battle of Sokovia, crash-lands at the Sanctum Sanctorum. Banner relays a warning to Stephen Strange, Wong, and Stark that the mad Titan Thanos plans to use the Infinity Stones to kill half of all life in the universe. Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian arrive to retrieve the Time Stone, prompting Strange, Stark, Wong and Peter Parker to confront them. Although Cull Obsidian is incapacitated and thrown into Antarctica, Strange is captured by Maw. Stark and Parker sneak aboard Maw's spaceship to rescue him. After successfully freeing Strange and killing Maw, the trio proceed to Thanos’ home planet Titan, where they meet members of the Guardians of the Galaxy. They form a plan to confront Thanos and remove the Infinity Gauntlet, but the plan goes awry; Thanos overpowers the group and impales Stark. Strange surrenders the Time Stone in exchange for Thanos sparing Stark. Thanos takes the stone and departs Titan for Earth, retrieves the final stone, and activates the Infinity Gauntlet. Stark and Nebula, stranded on Titan, watch as Parker and others are turned to dust. Having seen the possible futures resulting from the conflict, Strange, before succumbing, tells Stark that "there was no other way".[80]

Stark and Nebula are adrift in space before being rescued by Carol Danvers who returns them to Earth, where Stark chooses to retire and raise his daughter Morgan over the next five years. In 2023, when Scott Lang discovers a way to bring back the fallen, the Avengers approach Stark, who initially refuses, considering the idea dangerously hypothetical. Despite this he examines the matter privately and figures out how to do it successfully and agrees to help. Traveling through time, Stark fails to steal the Space Stone from an earlier version of himself following the Battle of New York, and instead goes further back to the 1970s to steal it from a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, where he has a moving conversation with a younger version of his father, Howard Stark. The Avengers successfully obtain all of the Infinity Stones before returning to the present, which are incorporated into a gauntlet made by Stark which Banner then uses to resurrect those that were disintegrated by Thanos. However, they are followed by a 2014 version of Thanos and his forces, who are summoned to 2023 by Nebula, who had previously been captured by Thanos and also replaced by her 2014 self. Following a climactic battle, Thanos obtains Stark's gauntlet and the two of them wrestle for control of it. Thanos is able to fling Stark away before attempting another snap, but discovers that Stark has caused all of the Infinity Stones to move to Stark's own armor. Stark then uses them to disintegrate Thanos and all of his forces, saving the universe but fatally injuring himself in the process due to the gamma radiation caused by the stones. He dies peacefully, surrounded by Rhodes, Parker and Potts. A funeral attended by many heroes is later held for him at his homestead.[81]


Months later, the world continues to mourn and idolize the deceased Stark with murals and graffiti being drawn to honor the fallen Avenger. Parker, having resumed his studies at Midtown High School, still mourns his fallen mentor, as shown when Parker begins facing increased pressure from the public on whether he would succeed Stark, causing his survivor's guilt to surface at times. Parker considers taking a break from superheroics and travelling to Europe along with his classmates partly because of this. Parker later receives Stark's E.D.I.T.H (Even Dead I'm The Hero) glasses from Nick Fury who states it is for Stark's successor, which will give control to all Stark Industries technology. Parker relinquishes custody of it to Mysterio, who is masquerading as the hero Quentin Beck, initially Parker's ally, but later revealed to be a fraud and an ex-Stark Industries employee who was fired by Stark due to his unstable and callous nature. During their first battle, Beck taunts Parker for his failure to be a better hero and save Stark, even creating an illusion of a zombified corpse of Stark coming out of a grave to frighten and traumatize Parker. Beck tries to use E.D.I.T.H to access Stark Technology, which he intends to use to create an Avengers-level threat, but is ultimately stopped by Parker, who later comes to terms with Stark's death.[82]

Differences from the comics

Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe differs from the comic book version of the character in a number of details. In the comics, Stark becomes Iron Man following an experience in Vietnam, which is updated in the films to Afghanistan.[73] Jarvis, in the comics, is the family butler, while in the films, J.A.R.V.I.S. is an artificial intelligence created by Stark,[83] though still inspired by the butler from Stark's childhood who is revealed to have passed away by the time the first film takes place[73] Stark also proceeds through the early iterations of his armor to reach the now-familiar red and gold color scheme much more quickly. Stark's personality more closely resembles the Ultimate Comics version.[73]

The AI version of J.A.R.V.I.S. is eventually uploaded by Stark to an artificial body and becomes the Vision. The Vision, in the films, is created by Stark and Bruce Banner as a counter to Ultron. In the comics, however, Ultron is created by a different member of the Avengers, Hank Pym, and aspects of Pym's personality are integrated into this version of Stark, such as a desire for peace.[84] Another difference in the films is the romance between Stark and Pepper Potts. In the comics, Potts has unrequited feelings for Stark, and ultimately becomes involved with Stark's chauffeur and bodyguard, Happy Hogan.[83][84]

A new approach not seen in comics is Stark's familial relationship with Peter Parker, who he mentors. In the Ultimate Comics, Stark and Parker do not go past the normal trainer-trainee relationship. In the MCU, Stark is also the creator of multiple iterations of Parker's Spider-Man suits, unlike in the comics where he only creates the Iron Spider Armor, while Parker creates other suits by himself. Also a newer approach, Stark is shown to have a history with Parker's foes Vulture and Mysterio; both are depicted as having turned into villains after due to actions by Stark. While he does not end up facing them, his protégé does.

The villains faced by Stark in the films are also treated as more disposable. In the comics, characters like Obadiah Stane and the Mandarin are long-term recurring foes, while in the films, each is killed or rendered harmless in the course of a single film, while "The Mandarin" turns out to be an actor portraying the Mandarin, with the real criminal mastermind behind the acts claimed by "the Mandarin" being Aldrich Killian — a character who appears in the comics only in passing, and not as a serious villain.[84][85] The Mandarin is revealed to be a real person in All Hail the King,[86] this version will instead by portrayed as an enemy of Shang-Chi in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021).[87] Stark's death in Avengers: Endgame occurred without any depiction of Stark fighting the "real" Mandarin.


Anthony Lane of The New Yorker said of the character's portrayal in Iron Man 2, "To find a comic-book hero who doesn't agonize over his supergifts, and would defend his constitutional right to get a kick out of them, is frankly a relief".[88] Roger Ebert gave it 3 stars out of 4, stating that "Iron Man 2 is a polished, high-octane sequel, not as good as the original but building once again on a quirky performance by Robert Downey Jr".[89] Frank Lovece of Film Journal International, a one-time Marvel Comics writer, said that, "In a refreshing and unexpected turn, the sequel to Iron Man doesn't find a changed man. Inside the metal, imperfect humanity grows even more so, as thought-provoking questions of identity meet techno-fantasy made flesh".[90]

For The Avengers, Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal—despite complimenting Downey's performance—favored his work in Iron Man over his acting in The Avengers: "His Iron Man is certainly a team player, but Mr. Downey comes to the party with two insuperable superpowers: a character of established sophistication—the industrialist/inventor Tony Stark, a sharp-tongued man of the world—and his own quicksilver presence that finds its finest expression in self-irony".[91] In his review of Avengers: Endgame, Morgenstern lauded both actor and character, praising "Robert Downey Jr.’s startlingly smart Tony Stark" who, along with Chris Evans' Captain America and Chris Hemsworth's Thor, contributed to that film's "feeling of family ... because the debuts of its most prominent members remain vivid to this day."[92]

In 2015, Empire named Tony Stark the 13th greatest film character of all time.[93] In 2019, following Stark's death in Avengers: Endgame, a statute representing the character in his was Iron Man armor was erected in Forte dei Marmi, Italy.[94]


Downey has received numerous nominations and awards for his portrayal of Tony Stark. He notably won the Saturn Award for Best Actor three times, making him a record four-time winner (he had previously won the award for 1993's Heart and Souls); it is also the record for most wins for portraying the same character, tied with Mark Hamill for playing Luke Skywalker.

Year Film Award Category Result Ref(s)
2008 Iron Man Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actor: Action Nominated [95]
Scream Awards Best Science Fiction Actor Won [96]
Best Superhero Nominated [97]
2009 People's Choice Awards Favorite Male Action Star Nominated [98]
Favorite Male Movie Star Nominated
Favorite Superhero Nominated
Empire Awards Best Actor Nominated [99]
MTV Movie Awards Best Male Performance Nominated [100]
Saturn Awards Best Actor Won [101]
2010 Iron Man 2 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actor: Sci-Fi Nominated [102]
Choice Movie: Dance Nominated
Choice Movie: Fight (with Don Cheadle) Nominated [103]
Scream Awards Best Science Fiction Actor Nominated [104]
Best Superhero Won [105]
2011 People's Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actor Nominated [106]
Favorite Action Star Nominated
Favorite On-Screen Team (with Don Cheadle) Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Biggest Badass Star Nominated [107]
Saturn Awards Best Actor Nominated [108]
2012 The Avengers Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actor: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Nominated [109]
Choice Summer Movie Star: Male Nominated
2013 People's Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actor Won [110]
Favorite Action Movie Star Nominated
Favorite Movie Superhero Won
Critics' Choice Awards Best Actor in an Action Movie Nominated


Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Male Buttkicker Nominated [112]
Empire Awards Best Actor Nominated [113]
MTV Movie Awards Best On-Screen Duo (with Mark Ruffalo) Nominated [114]
Best Fight (with cast) Won
Best Hero Nominated
Iron Man 3 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actor: Action Won [115]
Choice Movie Actor: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Nominated
Choice Movie: Chemistry (with Don Cheadle) Nominated
2014 People's Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actor Nominated [116]
Favorite Movie Duo (with Gwyneth Paltrow) Nominated
Favorite Action Movie Star Won
Critics' Choice Awards Best Actor in an Action Movie Nominated [117]
Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Male Buttkicker Won [118]
Favorite Movie Actor Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Hero Nominated [119]
Saturn Awards Best Actor Won [120]
2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actor: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Nominated [121]
2016 People's Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actor Nominated [122]
Favorite Action Movie Actor Nominated
Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actor Nominated [123]
MTV Movie Awards Best Fight (with Mark Ruffalo) Nominated [124]
Captain America: Civil War Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actor: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Nominated [125]
Choice Movie: Chemistry (with cast) Nominated [126]
2017 People's Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actor Nominated [127]
Favorite Action Movie Actor Won
Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actor Nominated [128]
Favorite Frenemies (with Chris Evans) Nominated
#Squad (with cast) Nominated
2018 Avengers: Infinity War Teen Choice Awards Choice Action Movie Actor Won [129]
People's Choice Awards Male Movie Star of 2018 Nominated [130]
2019 Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Superhero Won [131]
Avengers: Endgame MTV Movie & TV Awards Best Hero Won [132]
Teen Choice Awards Choice Action Movie Actor Won [133]
Saturn Awards Best Actor Won [134]
People's Choice Awards Male Movie Star of 2019 Won [135]
Action Movie Star of 2019 Nominated

See also


  1. ^ This includes a brief cameo in The Incredible Hulk.
  2. ^ The events of the film also take place simultaneously with the events of The Incredible Hulk and Thor.


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