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The Best Decisions Iron Man Made In The MCU

A long time ago, during an age of solo superhero movies when Marvel Studios was still looking for its big hit, there came the 2008 movie called "Iron Man." Starring Robert Downey Jr. in the lead, the film told the story of jet-setting billionaire playboy Tony Stark and his moral dilemma upon witnessing at close quarters the wars around the world fueled by weapons that his company created.

Tony's response to the life-changing discovery is to create his own personal flying body armor that he uses to restore balance to some of the most war-torn places in the world. Thus was created the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first breakout hit movie, and it laid the foundations for all that was to come later, as the MCU became one of the most successful franchises in box office history

Much of the history of the MCU has been shaped by Tony Stark, befitting his status as the unofficial leader of the franchise. While not every decision that Tony has made over the years has been a home run, he has always tried to do what was in the best interests of the safety of his friends, his family, and the world at large. Let us take a look at some of the best decisions that Tony took in the MCU that still impact the franchise to this day. 

Building the Iron Man suit

For most other heroes, becoming a superpowered character is not a matter of choice. Either they get their powers through an accident, like Spider-Man, or they are born with their abilities, like Thor. On the other hand, Tony Stark becomes Iron Man because he makes the conscious decision to build his armor.

At first, the motivation behind building the suit is self-preservation, as Tony is captured by terrorists who want him to make a new weapon for them. The only way out of the situation is to pretend to do the terrorist's bidding while secretly creating the armored suit that will bring Tony safely out of their stronghold. 

The ruse works. Tony escapes, and he goes on to use his resources to create a stronger, faster, more agile version of the suit. This time around, Tony's motivation is to use his Iron Man armor to make the world a better place by taking out terrorist cells around the world. As such, a true superhero is ultimately born from Tony's desire to personally ensure the safety of mankind.

Stopping war profiteering

Tony Stark has undergone possibly the greatest redemptive arc in the entire MCU. The man who would one day sacrifice everything to stop Thanos (Josh Brolin) starts in a very different headspace at the start of "Iron Man." Back then, Tony's company was best known for making the deadliest weapons humankind had ever seen. 

Tony himself had a pretty glib attitude towards his company's work at the time, explaining that his father had taught him "peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy." It is only after a terrorist organization captures Tony that he is forced to come to grips with the reality of his legacy — terrorists are using his company's weapons to unleash destruction on innocents the world over.  

After managing to escape from his captors and make it back home, Tony makes the landmark decision to shut down his company's weapons manufacturing division. His shocking choice does not sit well with many members of the company's board. In fact, it almost leads to Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) killing Tony with a knockoff Iron Man suit and assuming control of the company. However, in the end, the true Iron Man prevails, and Tony puts an end to his warmongering days. 

Befriending Bruce Banner

Out of all the MCU heroes, few are as tortured as Doctor Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). While other heroes may have problems with their abilities, the nature of Bruce's superpower is more akin to an uncontrollable disease. Due to his Hulk alter ego, Bruce spends years on the run, unable to settle down or trust anyone.

The few times that we get to see Bruce relax in the early MCU films is when he is around Tony Stark. This is because Tony goes out of his way to help Bruce relax. While other heroes and Nick Fury's people walk around Banner on tiptoes to avoid accidentally summoning the Hulk, Tony has no issues getting up close and personal to tell Bruce he's a big fan of his work in the scientific community.

Their bond only strengthens in later movies, as Tony and Bruce work together on the "Ultron" project. While that project doesn't go great, it is the first time in years that Bruce feels he is being appreciated for his brains rather than being feared for his condition. That feeling must have been like a balm for his tormented soul. 

Creating the Hulk-buster armor

In 2012's "The Avengers," there is a moment when Captain America (Chris Evans) gets angry at Tony for poking Bruce Banner with an electric stick to see if he would turn green. Cap thinks Tony does not understand the gravity of the danger from antagonizing Banner. However, Tony knows Bruce is in control of his alter-ego at the time. As future events prove, Tony is several steps ahead of everyone else when it comes to dealing with a Hulk-level threat. 

In 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron," Bruce really does lose control of the Hulk after being bewitched by Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). That is when Tony reveals he had been working on a special "Hulkbuster" version of his Iron Man armor, just in case the day ever came when he would have to go toe-to-toe against his friend.   

Thanks to the Hulkbuster suit, Tony is able to keep Bruce's alter-ego in check for most of their fight. He even manages to knock Hulk out for some time and bring him out from under Wanda's spell before he can hurt any innocent civilians. The Hulkbuster armor resurfaces years later in 2018's "Avengers: Infinity War." However, this time it is worn by Bruce himself after he is unable to summon Hulk to fight Thanos' forces in Wakanda. 

Not selling out his suit

While 2010's "Iron Man 2" had the standard main villains in the form of Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), and Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), the real battle in the movie was the one taking place between Tony Stark and the U.S. government. However, that battle was about ethics rather than physical power.

At the end of the original "Iron Man," Tony has officially announced his superhero identity to the world. Naturally, the government is highly interested in getting their hands on Tony's suit tech, easily the most advanced military technology in the world. The only problem is that the former weapons builder had no intention of letting the government get its hands on his invention.

Tony maintains throughout "Iron Man 2" that he does not trust anyone, not even the government, with the power of the Iron Man armor. He is afraid that if the U.S. Army gets their hands on a bunch of Iron Man suits, it would begin a cataclysmic arms race, with other nations building even more dangerous weapons. Despite facing incredible pressure, Tony sticks to his guns as he declares in court, "You want my property? You can't have it." 

Settling down with Pepper Potts

As a self-proclaimed "genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist," there were not many people who were able to influence Tony to change his mind. However, chief among the select few who can is Tony's assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), whom Tony trusts with his entire business empire and even his own life. 

At first, Pepper simply works for Tony and has to deal with a string of women that her boss sleeps with and expects Pepper to get rid of the next day. Over time, Tony realizes that he has started to develop feelings for Pepper. For her sake, Tony willingly gives up his playboy lifestyle in favor of settling down with one woman.

It has been repeatedly shown that Pepper is the most important person in Tony's life, someone who keeps him on the straight and narrow path as a hero and a human being. Later on, Tony's biggest source of strength and comfort is the family he starts with Pepper. In 2019's "Avengers: Endgame," Tony takes his last breath while staring into the eyes of Pepper, the woman who has proved to be the salvation of his life.  

Joining the Avengers

The "Iron Man" trilogy is not the only time fans get to see the character growth for Tony Stark. Much of what ended up changing him as a person occurred in the crossover movies whose formula the MCU perfected. We got our first taste of that growth in 2012's "The Avengers."

It should be noted that Tony was quite reluctant to join the superhero team headed by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) at first. Fury himself has second thoughts about adding Tony to the lineup. This is why Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), is brought in to observe Tony up close and decide if he could be an Avenger. 

Despite everyone having misgivings about the prospect, Tony eventually does join the Avengers. As a member of the team, not only does Tony help save the planet and later the entire universe, but he also takes on a leadership role within the group. It would be hard to imagine the Avengers being nearly as successful if Tony had chosen to continue lone-wolfing it as a superhero.   

Creating Vision

Tony's superhero persona is an offshoot of something much more integral to his nature — his work as a genius inventor. Tony doesn't just invent the original Iron Man armor from scratch and call it a day. He continues to obsessively work on new designs and inventions intended to make the world a safer place. 

Some of those new designs can be seen in the army of Iron Man suits that Tony keeps in storage, should they ever be needed. However, Tony did not stop there. His dream is to create an army of AI-powered Iron Man drones to keep watch over the planet 24/7. The quest to make this dream into reality gives birth to the malevolent robot entity Ultron (James Spader). 

While Ultron's creation was a major mistake on Tony's part, something good does emerge from that disaster with the creation of Vision (Paul Bettany). An android body paired with the mind of Tony's AI butler Jarvis and powered by an Infinity Stone, Vision became one of the most powerful and empathetic superheroes in the entire MCU.   

Bringing in Spider-Man

For the longest time, a big source of dissatisfaction for Marvel fans was that the MCU did not have access to one of the most popular superhero from Marvel Comics, Spider-Man. Then came the trailer for "Captain America: Civil War," and fans the world over cheered as one when Spidey (Tom Holland) webbed in Captain America's shield and somersaulted right into the middle of the MCU.

Instead of being a random outsider, the MCU's version of Spider-Man was personally recruited by Tony Stark himself. It turns out that Tony had been keeping an eye on a new superhero who had been seen swinging around the New York City borough of Queens. In fact, Tony had already tracked down the secret identity of the wall-crawling superhero and showed up at Peter Parker's house to announce he was coming with Tony to fight Captain America's squad of rogue Avengers. 

Some argue, with good reason, that it was irresponsible of Tony to bring in a teenager to fight some of the most powerful beings on the planet. Thankfully, Spidey proves himself more than capable of standing up to the big boys. Spider-Man's appearance in the movie was a game-changer for the Avengers and for the MCU as a whole.

Mentoring Spider-Man

One unique aspect of the MCU's depiction of Spider-Man is that Uncle Ben is nowhere to be seen in his supporting cast. While we don't get to see the iconic character guiding Peter on the path to manhood, that role is taken over by Tony Stark in the MCU. Much to everyone's surprise, Tony proves himself quite adept as a father figure. 

After the events of "Captain America: Civil War," Tony does not simply forget about Peter. He keeps in contact with the young superhero and regularly checks in on him to offer advice. One of the harshest lessons Tony teaches Spidey is when he takes away the latter's suit that Tony had personally created, so Peter can learn the importance of being a hero on his own terms. 

Tony continued to be a mentor to Peter during "Avengers: Infinity War," constantly watching over and worrying about the latter when the two are sent to the planet Titan onboard Thanos' spaceship. In the end, when Peter succumbs to the effects of Thanos' snap, his death hits Tony the hardest. In later movies, Peter is hit equally hard by Tony's death, as he no longer has Iron Man to rely on for wisdom and is expected to take up the mantle left behind by Tony in the superhero community. 

Making up with Captain America

"Captain America: Civil War" sees Tony Stark and Steve Rogers on the opposite sides of the argument regarding the Sokovia Accords. The conflict escalates even further after a falsely accused Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) gets thrown into the mix. The movie ends with Tony and Steve nearly killing each other before ending their relationship on bitter terms. 

It is not until 2019's "Avengers: Endgame" that the two finally reunite. However, too much has happened by that point for the reunion to be a happy one. Tony squarely blamed Steve for abandoning the Avengers and allowing Thanos to succeed in his quest to end half of all life in the universe. Tony even exits the Avengers after concluding there was nothing they could do to make things right.

Fortunately, Tony eventually comes around in his thinking and rejoins the Avengers. As a preliminary step, he hands Steve his Captain America shield back, and the two patch things up. With Tony and Steve back at the forefront, the Avengers are able to succeed in gathering the Infinity Stones from the past and use them to bring back all the people who had been snapped away.   

Working with the Guardians and Strange

In the report that Natasha submits to Nick Fury regarding Tony Stark's induction into the "Avengers" initiative, she states that "Mr. Stark displays compulsive behavior." She also described him as a "textbook narcissist" who doesn't "play well with others." All those assessments are fair, and many are things that Tony even somewhat agrees with when he reads the report.

Those same qualities lead to Tony butting heads with both Captain America and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) when he first joins the Avengers. However, at some point in his journey, Tony realizes that he cannot make a team function if he continues to antagonize everyone around him. There is never a time to heed the lesson more urgently than when Tony finds himself on the planet Titan with Spider-Man, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and the Guardians of the Galaxy. 

After realizing that his position as the leader of the Avengers means nothing to Doctor Strange or the Guardians, Tony decides to put his ego aside. For once, he stops making snarky jokes and politely says to Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), "Mr. Lord, could you get your folks to circle up?" so they could make a plan together. It was this same humble approach that finally got Strange to work alongside Tony when they fought Thanos.  

Saying a proper goodbye to his father

Many of Tony's personal hang-ups can be traced back to his troubled relationship with his father. Howard Stark was never the most expressive person when it came to communicating with his son, and as a result, Tony always views his dad as a brilliant but cold figure who would rather spend time in the lab than with his family. 

As Tony gets older and begins to understand some of the responsibilities that Howard had to struggle with, he gains a deeper appreciation for the man his father was. This gives way to regrets, as Tony thinks of all the things he never got a chance to say to his father while he was still alive. Fortunately, the time heist in "Avengers: Endgame" allows Tony the opportunity to take another shot at saying goodbye when he runs into a younger version of his father in the past.  

Despite the urgency of the situation, Tony decides to take the opportunity to have one final heart-to-heart with his dad. Howard reveals that there was nothing he would not do for his soon-to-be-born child, while Tony admits that he has come to realize how much his father always cared for him. The meeting ends with Tony giving the slightly-confused Howard a lingering hug and saying, "Thank you for everything," before hastily adding, "you've done for this country." 

Sacrificing his life for the universe

During an argument in "The Avengers," Captain America lashes out at Tony by saying he is not a true hero who would sacrifice himself to save others. This was not a new perspective, since most people view Tony as a deeply self-centered person who would put the needs of himself and his inventions above others.

Back then, Tony proves he is more selfless than people realize when he carries the nuke through the wormhole towards the Chitauri spaceship. Although it looks like he is about to die in space, Tony manages to get back to Earth and recover fully from the incident (save for some niggling PTSD). However, he is not so lucky during the events of "Avengers: Endgame," when the superhero team struggles to keep the Infinity Gauntlet out of Thanos' hands. 

One glance at Doctor Strange tells Tony what he needs to do at that moment. Faced with the most difficult decision of his life, Tony does not hesitate. He captures the Infinity Stones and uses them to snap away Thanos and his army, knowing full well that his own body would not survive activating the stones. Surrounded by his comrades and the love of his life, Pepper, Tony finally succumbs to his injuries after proving that he does indeed have what it takes to be a truly selfless hero.