As the grandfather of the MCU, Iron Man holds a special spot in the hearts of most Marvel fans. Since 2008, we’ve watched as he invented new suits, conquered villains and battled alien armies— all while sporting a perfectly-sculpted goatee. But on April 26, Phase 3 of the MCU will come to a close and it will be time for the original Avengers to step aside, allowing a new generation of heroes to take the spotlight.
There are several key moments from Tony Stark’s MCU journey that have been particularly important in shaping who he is today, and they will surely be on his mind during Avengers: Endgame, influencing the final chapter of his story. Here are Iron Man’s eight most important moments in the MCU.
8 Escaping the cave and starting afresh in Iron Man
Iron Man’s journey as a superhero didn’t begin with a test tube or a magic stone, but in a dark cave in the Middle East. Captured by terrorists, Tony Stark was coerced into building a weapon— or at least, that’s what he wanted the terrorists to think. In reality, Tony was building the very first iteration of the Iron Man suit, which he would later use to blast his way out of captivity.
The Iron Man suit wasn’t the only thing Tony Stark took out of that cave with him, though. Having witnessed American soldiers die because of the very weapons he created to defend them, Tony was forced to reckon with the dark legacy of Stark Industries. He also became close friends with a fellow captor named Yinsen, who helped Tony to realize the importance of family and the hollowness of his playboy lifestyle. Forced into three months of self-reflection, Tony came back to America a different man, shutting down the weapons arm of his company, focusing on his close relationships and building a new prototype of the Iron Man suit. Tony will begin his Endgame journey isolated in the darkness of space with Nebula, so we have a feeling his time in that shadowy cave will be heavy on his mind.
7 Getting together with Pepper Potts in Iron Man 2
When we first meet Tony Stark, he’s the billionaire equivalent of a frat boy, flirting with anything that moves and eschewing serious relationships like they’re trying to hand him things. But over the course of his MCU journey, Tony comes to realize the importance of close relationships and starts to build something real with Pepper Potts. In Iron Man 2, the two finally get together in the final act of the film, and ever since, Pepper has played a central role in Tony’s story arc.
For fear of losing his loved ones to the superior firepower of extraterrestrials, Tony has obsessed over building bigger and better Iron Man suits for the most part of the past seven years. But even his most advanced suit couldn’t defeat Thanos, and half of his friends faded to dust before his very eyes. Luckily, Pepper Potts survived the Snap, and she’ll likely play a central role in Tony’s Endgame journey.
6 Flying the nuke into the wormhole in The Avengers
One of the appeals of Tony Stark is that he isn’t your typical hero. Unlike Captain America, he’s not a walking, talking ethics textbook, preferring sassy one-liners to inspirational speeches. But despite his narcissistic nature, Tony still puts others first, showing the world that you don’t need to have a perfect moral compass to be a hero. In The Avengers, even if the first thought on Tony’s mind when that missile was heading for Manhattan was, “Screw this, I’m getting shawarma,” that’s not the thought he acted on, and it’s the action that defines the hero. Putting his life on the line, he directed the missile into the wormhole and saved millions of people in New York City.
This moment was a turning point in Tony’s story arc, showing that it wasn’t just the Iron Man suit that made him a hero, but also the man beneath the metal. In Avengers: Infinity War, Tony made a similar decision, flying off into the deep recesses of space to defend the Earth from Thanos. It’s because of this selfless decision that Tony is now stranded on the opposite side of the galaxy, but we know he’ll eventually find his way back to his fellow Avengers on Earth.
5 Reckoning with the constant threat of alien invasion in Iron Man 3
In Iron Man 3, we see Tony struggling to come to terms with his experience during the alien invasion of Manhattan. Having witnessed the might of alien forces, Tony fears the possibility of another attack from space and becomes obsessed with preparing for the next invasion, experiencing panic attacks whenever anyone mentions New York.
Although he eventually overcomes his anxiety about the battle in Manhattan, Tony’s fear of an extraterrestrial war becomes a recurrent theme in his story arc, driving him to continuously work at his suits in preparation for future alien attacks. All of his fears came to fruition in Avengers: Infinity War, but despite seven years of preparations, he still couldn’t stop Thanos from getting his way. In Avengers: Endgame, it seems that Tony will start to realize that the key to defeating Thanos isn’t fancy technology, but the unity of the Avengers.
4 Seeing a vision of his fellow Avengers dead in Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Although Scarlet Witch eventually sided with the Avengers, she began her MCU journey by planting a vision in Tony Stark’s head that would go on to haunt him for years. Playing on all of his greatest fears, she showed him a version of the future in which aliens return to Earth and kill all of the Avengers. As Tony recounts to Nick Fury later in the film, the worst part of the vision wasn’t that everyone else was dead— it was that he was the sole survivor. Seeing this version of the future leaves Tony feeling as if he hasn’t done enough to prepare for the possibility of extraterrestrial attacks, and as a result, he creates Ultron, which… well, we all know how that turns out.
Even after the failure of Ultron, the image of his fellow Avengers dead at his feet influences Tony’s decision-making for years, leading to the creation of Vision and the reinstallation of the Arc Reactor in his chest. In Avengers: Infinity War, Scarlet Witch’s version of the future becomes a reality despite all of Tony’s preparations, and although the original Avengers are still alive, Tony will almost certainly struggle with survivor’s guilt in Endgame.
3 Falling out with Steve Rogers in Captain America: Civil War
Although Tony clashed with Steve Rogers from the beginning, the two managed to maintain a close friendship despite their differences. But this all came to an end in Captain America: Civil War, when it was revealed that Steve had kept the truth about the death of Tony Stark’s parents a secret.
This led to an intense battle between Steve and Tony and a rift in the Avengers that persisted right up until Avengers: Infinity War. Even in the face of alien invasion, Tony still hesitated to contact Steve Rogers for help. But the Snap changed everything, and in Endgame, the two will be forced to resolve their differences and fight together one last time.
2 Becoming a mentor to Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming
Things were a lot different during the early days of the MCU. Few people discussed ants and superheroes in the same sentence. Talking raccoons had not yet taken over pop culture. And Tony Stark was about as far from a father figure as you can get.
But over the course of the past 11 years, Tony has slowly embraced a more family-centered lifestyle, and in Spider-Man: Homecoming, he became a mentor to Peter Parker, taking him under his wing and helping him adjust to his new heroic lifestyle. This made it particularly hard to watch as Peter faded to dust in Tony’s arms during the third act of Infinity War. Tony’s relationship with Spider-Man has changed him, and Peter’s death will certainly have a significant impact on Tony’s Endgame journey.
1 Watching his friends fade to dust in Avengers: Infinity War
It wasn’t just the death of Peter Parker that Tony bore witness to in Avengers: Infinity War. Every new ally he made during his time in space faded into nothingness before his very eyes.
Although losing Peter Parker will no doubt affect him the most in Endgame, the deaths of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange will also weigh heavy on his conscience, pushing him to get back to Earth and do whatever it takes to bring back the fallen.
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