Ever since Robert Downey Jr. appeared as Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man movie, the character’s popularity has been soaring and it’s only natural that he has become an essential part of the MCU. This makes even more sense since Iron Man actually launched the MCU with the post-credits scene from the original 2008 movie.
In this article, we are going to bring you a chronological list of all the Iron Man movies within the MCU, with a guide to each of them and some additional information.
Since the focus is on Iron Man, we’re going to list just his individual movies and not the ones where he appeared as a supporting character, in a cameo role, or as part of a group. If you want a complete watch order of all MCU movies where Iron Man has appeared, you can check our whole MCU watch order.
How Many Iron Man Movies Are There?
As of the time of writing this article, three Iron Man solo movies have been released. They are:
- Iron Man (May 2, 2008)
- Iron Man 2 (November 8, 2013)
- Iron Man 3 (November 3, 2017)
Iron Man has, naturally, appeared in MCU movies as well, including all four Avengers movies, but since they’re not individual Iron Man movies, we haven’t put them on this list
Iron Man Movies in Order
The list is going to include all the Iron Man movies that have, so far, been released as part of the MCU. The list is, as we have said, going to include just the individual Iron Man movies, without those where Iron Man appeared as part of a group or not as the main character. We’re going to bring you some basic production info and an overview of each of the movies’ plots.
Iron Man (2008)
Director: Jon Favreau
Screenwriter: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Release Date: April 14, 2008
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark / Iron Man), Terrence Howard (James Rhodes), Jeff Bridges (Obadiah Stane), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan)
Tony Stark, a playboy, and billionaire, is not only the heir of his father’s arms factories (Stark Industries), he is also a genius inventor. While traveling in Afghanistan to present his latest creation, the Jericho missile, he is kidnapped by terrorists from the “Ten Rings” organization.
Seriously injured in the attack, he only survives with the help of a scientist, Professor Yinsen, who grafts an electromagnet powered by a car battery to his chest in order to prevent shards of fire shells from reaching his heart. Not giving in to the threats of the terrorists who want to make him reproduce his missile, he manufactures, instead and in the greatest secrecy, a miniaturized reactor called “ARK reactor” to replace the car battery, and a primary armor.
Thanks to it and Yinsen’s sacrifice, Stark escapes, but his armor disintegrates during his escape. Deeply marked by this three-month captivity, he decides to stop the production of weapons by Stark Industries, which causes panic among shareholders and the anger of his mentor Obadiah Stane who was the friend and successor of his father Howard.
Tony Stark launches, in two months, the development of a new and much more evolved armor including a new reactor to put an end to the actions of the Ten Rings. He manages to destroy a large part of the terrorists’ equipment but discovers that these weapons are products of Stark Industries.
Worried and suspicious of Stane, he instructs his assistant Pepper Potts to spy on Stane and ends up discovering that he is in cahoots with the Ten Rings. Meanwhile, Stane eliminates the leader of the Ten Rings and collects the remnants of the first armor to modernize it. Unable to reproduce Tony Stark’s new reactor, he sets a trap for him to steal it.
A S.H.I.E.L.D. team led by Agent Coulson arrives too late to intercept Stane who manages to don and activate his armor. Tony Stark succeeds thanks to his friend, Air Force Lt. Col. James Rhodes, in re-equipping his first ARK reactor, and leaves to arrest Stane.
The two men clash, but the ARK reactor is not powerful enough against Stane’s. As the latter is about to finish Stark, Pepper Potts detonates the ARK reactor at Stark Factory. The energy dump spares Tony but deactivates Stane’s armor and kills him instantly.
The next day, during a press conference intended to pass off the events of the day before as an accident, Tony Stark admits to journalists that he is “Iron Man” (a name given by the press to the mysterious man in armor) instead of simply sticking to the version of the story that S.H.I.E.L.D. offered to give him.
In the post-credits scene, Tony Stark comes home and sees a man. The latter said to him: “‘I am Iron Man’. You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”
The man introduces himself as Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., who has come to talk to him about “the Avengers Initiative project”. In 2019, an alternate version of the post-credits scene was released, in which Nick Fury makes a direct reference to the X-Men and Spider-Man.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Director: Jon Favreau
Screenwriter: Justin Theroux
Release Date: April 26, 2010
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark / Iron Man), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Don Cheadle (James Rhodes / War Machine), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow), Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer), Mickey Rourke (Ivan Vanko / Whiplash), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan)
In Moscow, Anton Vanko, on the verge of death, hands over to his son Ivan the design of the Arc Reactor, which he had invented together with Howard Stark. Ivan, therefore, begins to build a reactor similar to that of Tony Stark and plans his revenge against him.
Meanwhile, Tony inaugurates the Stark Expo, a great exhibition in which the best men in the world will bring together ideas and resources. Meanwhile, the inventor keeps everyone in the dark about the fact that he is about to die, as his blood is poisoned by the palladium that powers the Arc Reactor in his chest.
According to the calculations of J.A.R.V.I.S., there is no other known chemical element capable of powering the reactor. Understanding the gravity of the situation, Tony appoints Secretary Pepper Potts as CEO of Stark Industries. Tony, Pepper, and Natalie Rushman, Pepper’s new assistant, travel to the Principality of Monaco to watch a car race.
There Tony meets Justin Hammer, owner of Hammer Industries, a rival company of Stark Industries.
Tony decides to take part in the race by competing in a car from his team. However, the race is interrupted by Ivan Vanko who, dressed as a steward, enters the track and hits Tony’s car with powerful electric whips powered by the Arc Reactor he had built. Pepper and Happy Hogan, Tony’s bodyguard, enter the circuit to deliver his new armor to Iron Man.
Wearing it, Tony manages to harm and arrest Vanko. Tony meets Vanko in prison, with the latter predicting a painful death to the inventor. Back home, Tony discovers that Ivan is the son of Anton Vanko, a physicist who had worked with his father on the Arc Reactor. However, Vanko saw this project only as a way to get rich and for this, he was deported to the Soviet Union by Stark himself.
Later, Justin Hammer breaks Vanko out of prison and convinces him to work on new armor for him. Meanwhile, Tony’s health deteriorates and, on the occasion of what could be his last birthday party, he gets drunk wearing his own armor.
His best friend, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, is infuriated by Tony’s reckless behavior: wearing armor, Rhodey fights Tony, only to escape by handing over the armor to the army, which is upgraded by Justin Hammer so to be ready for a presentation at Stark Expo, together with the new army created by Ivan Vanko, who convinced Hammer to focus on combat drones.
Meanwhile, Tony meets Nick Fury, who, after revealing to him that Natalie Rushman is actually agent Natasha Romanoff, provides Tony with old notes and some Howard Stark footage; thanks to them Tony discovers a new element, which, once inserted into the reactor, completely cleanses his blood, saving his life.
After receiving a call from Ivan Vanko, Tony flies in his new armor to Stark Expo, where Hammer is showcasing his new drones, along with Rhodey’s power armor. Vanko remotely takes control of Rhodey’s armor and drones.
Tony is forced to fight against his best friend until Agent Romanoff and Happy reach the Hammer Industries factory forcing Vanko to escape. Romanoff manages to unlock Rhodey’s armor, who along with Tony eliminates all drones. At that point, they are joined by Vanko who, equipped with an armor armed with two electric whips, confronts them putting them in difficulty.
Joining forces, Tony and Rhodey manage to defeat Vanko, who detonates the drones before dying; Tony saves Pepper just in time, with whom he exchanges a kiss. Meanwhile, Justin Hammer is arrested.
When the fight is over, Fury tells Tony that he is currently deemed inadequate for the Avengers Initiative, but that the inventor could still act as a consultant. For their heroic feat, Tony and Rhodey are awarded a medal. Subsequently, Agent Coulson, in the middle of a crater in the desert, warns Nick Fury that he has found Thor’s hammer.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Director: Shane Black
Screenwriter: Shane Black, Drew Pearce
Release Date: April 14, 2013
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark / Iron Man), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Don Cheadle (James Rhodes / War Machine), Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Ben Kingsley (Trevor Slattery)
Tony Stark remembers the New Year 2000 in Bern. There, he arrogantly avoids scientist Aldrich Killian to spend the night with researcher Maya Hansen. Killian wished he had worked with him to grow his business, Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM).
Hansen tells him about the project she’s working on, Extremis, a self-regenerating gene. However, the gene is unstable and the plant subjected to Extremis explodes. In December 2012, after the battle against the Chitauris, at his mansion in Malibu, Tony obsessively set out to build a lot of Iron Man armor during his sleepless nights.
This relentlessness is at the origin of tensions with his girlfriend and president of Stark Industries, Pepper Potts, who sees his companion finding comfort and security only while wearing armor.
A series of bombings claimed by the Mandarin, a British terrorist with a keen interest in Chinese culture, leaves the US government helpless, entrusting James Rhodes, in the renowned War Machine armor Iron Patriot, with the task of locating the terrorist.
When Stark Industries’ security chief Happy Hogan falls victim to one of these attacks, Stark challenges the Mandarin through the media. The terrorist’s response is not long in coming and the Stark mansion is destroyed by helicopter fire. Potts and Hansen (the latter having in the meantime arrived at the scene) survive thanks to the armor that Stark briefly puts on Pepper.
After retrieving it and once Pepper is taken to safety, Stark manages to escape, but he loses consciousness in the armor, and J.A.R.V.I.S. (Tony’s virtual assistant) sends him to Tennessee after ‘a misunderstanding. The armor lacks the energy to return to California, leaving the billionaire’s death in doubt.
With the help of Harley, a young boy of about ten, Stark investigates the site of one of the explosions caused by the Mandarin. He quickly discovered the existence of the Extremis program, an experimental treatment aimed at curing people suffering from mutilation.
Developed by Killian from Hansen’s research, the serum is unstable and subjects whose bodies have not been able to accept the treatment have their body temperature rise before exploding. These failures are disguised to make people believe in terrorist attacks.
Stark is attacked by Ellen Brandt and Eric Savin, two Mandarin agents benefiting from Extremis abilities, but comes out unscathed. Thanks to Harley, he locates the Mandarin in Miami and prepares his infiltration into the terrorist’s premises by manufacturing various weapons.
Once in Miami, he discovers that the one who calls himself the Mandarin is just a drug addict British actor called Trevor Slattery, oblivious to the role he is playing. The character of the Mandarin was created by Killian after he appropriated Hansen’s research to cure mutilations.
Killian captures Stark and, to force him to help him with his research, reveals to him that he also captured Pepper and that he is injecting him with the Extremis treatment. Hansen is about to force Killian to free Stark by threatening to kill himself. Killian then shoots Hansen down as he judges that she has become useless since Stark can replace her.
At the same time, Killian managed to manipulate the US government and capture Rhodes to steal the Iron Patriot armor from him. Stark however manages to escape by summoning his armor remotely from Harley’s hut and manages to join Rhodes to try to protect President Ellis who is aboard Air Force One.
By controlling his armor from a distance, Stark manages to save the passengers and crew of the plane attacked by Savin equipped with Iron Patriot, but arrives too late to prevent Killian’s kidnapping of the president. Stark and Rhodes find them on an abandoned oil rig, where Killian prepares to kill Ellis live on television.
Vice President Rodriguez would then come to power, and receive his orders from Killian, in exchange for the Extremis treatment healing of his crippled baby girl. Stark and Rhodes are joined by the Iron Legion, the Iron Man armor built by Stark and controlled by JARVIS. They attack Killian’s men and Rhodes manages to save the president and take him to safety.
Stark tries to save Pepper, but she falls about 60 meters and disappears in flames. Stark then confronts Killian, and manages to trap him in an Iron Man armor which he then detonates. Pepper, who survived thanks to the Extremis treatment, recovers a repulsor from lost armor and finishes off Killian.
Stark then asks JARVIS to destroy all the armor to celebrate Christmas and to be forgiven by Potts. The two then undergo surgery: Pepper to deactivate the treatment, and Stark to no longer need the miniature ARK reactor implanted in his chest. He then throws the object into the water, knowing that he is and always will be Iron Man.