Hidden details in Iron Man movies

Movies with shared continuity are all the rage these days, and you've got one movie franchise to thank: Iron Man. When the Robert Downey Jr.-starring action flick debuted in 2008, no one could've predicted the effect it would have on movies for years afterwards. As it happens, Marvel Studios and director Jon Favreau laid the groundwork for the forthcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe by stuffing in as many Easter eggs and hidden references as they could. For Easter egg-obsessed comic fans, the Iron Man franchise can be summed up in one word: Marvelous.

The Dude survives

Jeff Bridges' performance as bad guy Obadiah Stane in the original Iron Man may have been just fine, but everyone knows it wasn't the role for which he'll always be known. No, that distinction belongs to The Dude from The Big Lebowski. As it turns out, the effects guys on Iron Man agreed, and added small tributes to The Dude in Stane's secret computer files. The weapons Stane sent to the bad guys went on a ship called Lebowski, while fine print on the files features dialogue from The Big Lebowski. Those details really tied the scene together, man.

Urdu, or don't

In the beginning of Iron Man, Tony Stark is kidnapped by a terrorist group known as The Ten Rings. Stark's captors discuss their plan, and their secret partnership with Tony's friend, Stane, right in front of him, seemingly spoiling the whole movie before it can even really begin. But as it happens, most viewers in the Western world were none the wiser, since the exchange happens in Urdu, the national language of Pakistan.

Ten Rings to rule them all

Speaking of the Ten Rings, the first Iron Man flick may have spawned a franchise, but the filmmakers didn't know that at the time. There was no way to know when, or if, we'd ever get to see longtime Iron Man villain the Mandarin (who wears ten magic rings) make it to the big screen. So instead of featuring the bad guy with handfuls of bling, the filmmakers instead decided to pay tribute to the Mandarin by naming the terrorists after him.

That song rings a bell...

Still on the subject of rings, when Tony's pal Rhodey gets a call from him on his cell phone, we can hear a very unique ringtone. That little tune is actually the theme song from the 1966 Iron Man cartoon. Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" probably would've been a little more badass, but maybe a little too on-the-nose.

O Captain! My Captain!

Fans really felt the first big hints at a larger Marvel Cinematic Universe when they spotted a familiar sight on Tony Stark's work bench. Sitting amid unfinished projects and other junk is none other than Captain America's famous shield. The shield shows up again in Iron Man 2, while a couple of Captain America comic books make an appearance in Howard Stark's trunk. Both movies predate the legendary superhero's first cinematic appearance in 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger.

Bambi Arbogast

In the comics, Bambina "Bambi" Arbogast has been a valued Stark employee for decades. She made her first appearance in 1979, helping Iron Man defeat Whirlwind in the middle of her own job interview, and played a key role in a number of other storylines (including the classic "Demon in a Bottle" arc). She's much more of a background character in the movies, but she's definitely there. You can spot Bambi (played by Margy Moore) in Iron Man 2, when she goes from being Tony's assistant to working for Pepper Potts after Pepper takes over as CEO of Stark Industries. Bambi's the one who ends up unwittingly hiring Black Widow, for which we can all be grateful, and she's also heard offscreen in Iron Man 3, informing Pepper of her 4 o'clock appointment with Aldrich Killian.

Livin' la vida Stan Lee

Spotting Stan Lee's cameos has become a favorite pastime for MCU fans, and his appearances in the Iron Man movies are some of the best. In the first film, he shows up as "Hugh Hefner," with a beautiful woman on each arm, and in Iron Man 2, he can be glimpsed as a (pretty uncanny) stand-in for legendary talk show host Larry King. In Iron Man 3, it's back to the babes, as Lee pops up for a moment as a very enthusiastic beauty pageant judge.

Mapping the future of Marvel

Near the end of Iron Man 2, Tony meets with Nick Fury to discuss the emerging Avengers Initiative, and in the background, you can see a map marking locations of interest for S.H.I.E.L.D. It's the kind of thing you need to pause and zoom to really get a good look at, but it's loaded with pretty obvious references to the comics, including a spot in the middle of the ocean (presumably one of the Sub-Mariner's lairs), one in Africa (Wakanda, home of the Black Panther), one near Norway (where the Red Skull tracks down the Tesseract in Captain America: The First Avenger), another near Greenland (where Cap crashes the Skull's ship at the end of First Avenger), and one in New Mexico, where Thor's hammer had just turned up. This was way back in 2010, before Marvel really started rolling out its MCU Phases, so it gives you an idea of just how detailed the planning was.

Hulking out

During Stark's meeting with Nick Fury to discuss the Avengers Initiative, particularly observant viewers can see a television in the background, tuned to a news report being delivered live from the campus at Culver University. Not coincidentally, Culver is where the Hulk faced off against Thunderbolt Ross and Emil Blonsky in The Incredible Hulk, which puts the events depicted in that film concurrent with Iron Man 2 in the MCU timeline.

Lady Man-Thing

In Iron Man 3, Ellen Brandt is a war veteran recruited into Aldrich Killian's army of Extremis soldiers who's killed in an explosion after attempting to get some sensitive documents from Tony Stark. It's a fairly minor role, but hardcore Marvel fans recognized Brandt's name from the comics, where she's the ex-wife of Ted Sallis, better known as the Man-Thing. In the original story, Ellen's actually responsible for Sallis' transformation, and she's ultimately attacked and disfigured by the creature, a detail nodded to in the movie with the scars on her cheek.