In light of Tony Stark’s real-time canon death in Avengers: Endgame, here are the top 10 saddest moments in Iron Man’s brilliant MCU arc.
- Iron Man’s saddest moments include watching his fellow captive Yinsen die and realizing he needed to make positive changes in his life.
- His complicated relationship with his father is highlighted when he watches a video message from Howard Stark expressing his love, which is heartbreaking for Tony.
- Iron Man’s battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks in Iron Man 3 show his vulnerability and struggle with feeling powerless.
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Here are Iron Man’s saddest moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in light of his upcoming real-time death. Per the MCU timeline, Iron Man dies on October 2023 per Avengers: Endgame. While the franchise tends to stick to the year-by-year progression of its events to the real world, the five-year time jump after Thanos’ snap in Avengers: Infinity War effectively flash-forwarded the universe to half a decade in the future. Now, the real world is catching up, with the majority of the events of Avengers: Endgame supposed to take place in October 2023.
Iron Man’s arc may have ended in death, but it remains one of the best personal storylines in recent movie history. Starting out as a self-centered industrialist, Tony grew to become one of the most dedicated heroes in the MCU; even Captain America dubbed him Earth’s best defender in Avengers: Infinity War. Amid his charisma, genius, and sarcastic comments, Iron Man actually went through a lot. From his difficult relationship with his father to his own struggles being a father figure to Peter Parker, Tony has some of the saddest moments in the MCU.
10 Tony Stark Watching Yinsen Die
Jon Favreau’s Iron Man not only laid the groundwork for the MCU, but it has also become the gold standard when it comes to the franchise’s origins stories. Despite that, however, the movie was unnervingly dark at times. One of the most character-shaping moments in Tony’s life was when he watched his fellow Ten Rings captive, Ho Yinsen die. After helping him create Mark I as their escape plane, Yinsen sacrificed his life to ensure that Tony would be able to break out safely. Tony didn’t know that Yinsen had always known that he was going to die, but it was the first time that the hero realized that he needed to make some positive changes in his life.
9 Tony Stark Watching Howard Stark’s Video In Iron Man 2
Despite inheriting his father’s company and genius, Tony’s relationship with Howard Stark was complicated. This was a big factor in the character’s arc in Iron Man 2 as he also dealt with his mortality after his eye-opening experience in Afghanistan. While trying to find ways to keep his arc reactor from poisoning him, Tony stumbled upon an old video message from his dad, where he essentially expressed his hopes and love for the young Stark. Seeing Tony coming to terms with the idea that his father may have actually loved him was heartbreaking.
Related: 10 Best Avengers Scenes Across The Team’s 4 MCU Films
8 Tony Stark’s Panic Attacks In Iron Man 3
After the Battle of New York, Tony was at his most vulnerable as he secretly dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of his wormhole experience. As someone who was used to being in control thanks to his genius and resources, feeling powerless shook him to his core in Iron Man 3. Downey was praised for doing a great job realistically displaying the symptoms of what it’s like to have a panic attack. While he tried to cope using his sense of humor, it was clear that Iron Man was out of his depths throughout the whole ordeal.
7 Tony Stark Coming To Terms With JARVIS’ Death In Avengers: Age of Ultron
JARVIS was an integral part of all three Iron Man movies. Voiced by Paul Bettany, the AI was created by Tony to function as his main assistant. Being extremely secretive and cautious, JARVIS also served as Iron Man’s company and even his friend. So when JARVIS was essentially killed by the corrupted Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony was understandably distraught. Admittedly, the film itself didn’t really get to fully delve into his grief because of the threat that Ultron posed, but one moment in the film showed him ruminating on the wreckage left by the villain, where he was clearly thinking about Ultron.
6 Tony Stark Finding Out About Steve Rogers’ Betrayal In Captain America: Civil War
Despite taking a supporting role in Captain America: Civil War, Marvel Studios was still able to move Iron Man’s story forward in the film. It also included one of the most tragic revelations for the character when Stark learned about Captain America lying about Bucky’s involvement in the death of his parents. Downey perfectly played the moment, which added to the emotionality of it. Steve Rogers trying to deny his betrayal made his deception worse, resulting in the heroes’ conflict that led to the break-up of the Avengers.
5 Tony Stark Candidly Talking About Thanos In Avengers: Infinity War
After Thanos’ threat became clear at the start of Avengers: Infinity War, Iron Man figured that it was best to catch the purple villain off guard by attacking his home planet. Doctor Strange was against the idea, primarily because it would mean that the Time Stone would be in proximity to the purple alien, which would make it easier for the alien to snatch it. In the end, however, he agreed with Iron Man’s plan after the genius, billionaire honestly talked about how the arrival of Thanos had been haunting him for years. Tony was emotionally off-balance during this scene, knowing that he was gearing up for the biggest fight of his life.
Related: Avengers Endgame’s Coolest Captain America Moment Still Has 1 Confusing Question
4 Tony Stark Watching Peter Parker Die In Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War is one of the boldest MCU to date in a way that it ended with the heroes truly defeated. Among all the heartbreaking moments in the film, however, the brief moments between Iron Man and Spider-Man just before the latter turned into dust is one of the most tragic. Tony watched helplessly while his worst nightmare came to life, which was emphasized by his mentee slowly fading away in his arms, scarred him. Iron Man was so haunted by his failure to save Spider-Man that it convinced him to come out of retirement and join the time heist in Avengers: Endgame.
3 Tony Stark’s Breakdown In Avengers: Endgame
Because Iron Man knew for a long time that Thanos’ threat was coming, failing against the villain was a personal failure for him. So after being emotionally and physically spent for weeks after the snap, Tony was fed up when he was relentlessly questioned about his encounter with the villain. In perhaps the most emotionally charged scene in Avengers: Endgame, Iron Man started an intense rant about how his repeated warnings about Thanos fell on deaf ears, resulting in the alien snuffing half of life in the universe.
2 Tony Stark’s Reunion With Young Howard In Avengers: Endgame
As the heroes broke into smaller groups during the Avengers: Endgame time heist, Tony and Steve were forced to improvise and make the jump further back to the ’70s to steal the Tesseract. There, Iron Man encountered his father just before his birth. It gave him the chance to come to terms with his issues with Howard, but it was also a bittersweet moment because he realized that he wasted his time harboring a grudge against the older Stark when they could have spent their time having a good relationship.
1 Tony Stark’s Death In Avengers: Endgame
As MCU’s inaugural hero, Tony was part of so many memorable moments in the Infinity Sage, but arguably, nothing was as iconic as his snap in Avengers: Endgame. Understandably, there continues to be an argument against Iron Man’s death, especially since he was at the point where he finally found happiness in his personal life. However, it’s difficult to argue that there was a better way to end the Infinity Saga than seeing the MCU’s poster character make the biggest sacrificial play in its history thus far. Additionally, Iron Man dying was also a poetic way to end his storyline, considering his origins in the universe.
Key Release Dates
- The Marvels Release Date: 2023-11-10
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- Captain America: Brave New World Release Date: 2024-07-26
- Marvel’s Thunderbolts Release Date: 2024-12-20
- Blade (2025) Release Date: 2025-02-14
- Marvel’s Fantastic Four Release Date: 2025-05-02
- Avengers: The Kang Dynasty Release Date: 2026-05-01
- Avengers: Secret Wars Release Date: 2027-05-01