The very first scene in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the opening minutes of Iron Man is played for laughs. Before everything goes south, before the superhero origin story and everything that comes after, Tony Stark is riding in a military convoy making three soldiers chuckle. That moment set a tone that the MCU has rarely looked back from, and a formula for success that's lasted for 10 years and made billions of dollars at the box office.
Even as he's been challenged in the years since by the comedic stylings of Star-Lord, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, and even Thor thanks to recent outings like Thor: Ragnarok, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark has remained the MCU's king of the one-liner. He's the godfather of the MCU and can still spit quips faster than any other character it contains, whether he's in a tuxedo playing to an adoring crowd or fighting an army of robots.
So, in celebration of the comedic stylings of Iron Man (and Downey Jr.), here are our picks for Tony Stark's 10 funniest lines, ranked.
"His first name is 'Agent.'" - The Avengers
"I have successfully privatized World Peace." - Iron Man 2
"Hogan, drive. Cheeseburger first." - Iron Man
"And for gosh sake, watch your language!" - Avengers: Age of Ultron
"Have you ever tried shawarma?" - The Avengers
Tony's assessment (Iron Man 2, 2010)
Iron Man 2 is probably the weakest big-screen outing for the character thus far, but because we're talking about Tony Stark and the always-charming Downey Jr., it's still pretty entertaining, particularly when it digs into little character moments that remind us all why we love this guy.
Like so many lovable scoundrels before him, Tony gets away with a lot because while, yes, he's rich and handsome and extremely smart, he's also charmingly self-deprecating. This serves him well in his second film because, if it's about anything, it's about Tony tearing a self-destructive path through his life — both inside and outside of his superheroic persona — because he thinks he's dying.
When the dust settles and Nick Fury hands Tony the evaluation put together by Natasha Romanoff, this reaches its conclusion with just three words. As Tony reads the document, he comes across one phrase and can't help but cop to it: "Textbook narcissism? Agreed..."
Tony Stark may be a mess, but we love him because he's well aware of it.
Tony feels a connection (Iron Man Three, 2013)
Iron Man Three is a divisive movie amongst Marvel fans, but thanks to the script by Shane Black and Drew Pearce, it features some of the sharpest Tony Stark dialogue we've ever seen in the MCU. Even when Tony is stranded in a small Tennessee town where the only ally he seems to have is a 10-year-old boy, Ty Simpkins' Harley Keener, the one-liners still flow. Tony, being more of a machine person than a people person, tends to treat Harley like an adult, and when the kid acts like a kid, that creates a sense of playful antagonism that's equally affectionate and hilariously savage.
This relationship culminates as Stark leaves town. Harley is eager to continue helping out his new Avenger pal but doesn't necessarily want to do it from the comfort of his rural garage. Tony, on the move again, is eager to get out of town. When Harley tries to guilt-trip him by declaring the two of them have a connection, then tries to dig his claws in more by declaring "I'm cold," Tony shoots him down.
"I can tell," he says with a pouty face. "You know how I can tell? Cuz we're connected!"
With that, Tony drives off.
Tony plays in a castle (Avengers: Age of Ultron, 2015)
By the time Avengers: Age of Ultron rolled around, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a well-established place, and the heroes on the titular team (except for the new recruits, anyway) had been at this game a while. That gave plenty of room for writer/director Joss Whedon to embrace the comic bookishness of the whole thing and throw in plenty of touches showing that — while it may all look fantastical and weird to us — these men and women are just at work. They enjoy simple workplace pleasures.
This kicks in from the opening sequence onward, and perhaps the best Tony Stark examples comes when he first infiltrates Baron Strucker's HYDRA fortress. With the room cleared out, the HYRDA files downloading, and his suit on sentry mode, Tony scans the room and finds an air current coming from a wall. Speaking to no one but himself, he offers a simple prayer that his day will get a little more interesting.
"Please be a secret door, please be a secret door, please be a secret door."
The "Yay!" he lets out as the hidden panel opens before him is such a small moment in the grand scheme of the movie, but it's a reminder of the joy inherent to this kind of comic book movie.
Tony's advice to Spider-Man (Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2017)
One of the great joys of the past two years of MCU storytelling has been the evolving mentor/mentee relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker, something that hit some of the real emotional high notes of Avengers: Infinity War. Their connection works as veteran and rookie, as a surrogate father and a surrogate son, or just as a cranky old genius and the overenthusiastic young genius who works for him, depending on when and where you catch them.
Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tom Holland's first outing as Peter in a lead role, is a little bit of all three, and it kicks off with a simple conversation in a car. Tony and Peter have just come back from Germany, where Peter was given his first real superhero assignment: Trying to help Tony stop Captain America and his team. Peter's gone from that to landing right back home in Queens, and while he's riding high, Tony's trying to keep him grounded, suggesting he stick to local jobs and not worry too much about being an Avenger. As he's trying to outline his expectations, he sums it up this way:
"Don't do anything I would do, and definitely don't do anything I wouldn't do. There's a little gray area in there, and that's where you operate."
The advice doesn't really stick, but in many ways, it's a perfect encapsulation of how Tony views his relationship with Peter. It's touching and funny at the same time.
Tony calls On his team (Captain America: Civil War, 2016)
One of the hallmarks of the MCU is its ability to inject humor into even the most intense moments, and no one is better equipped to do that than Tony Stark. He's almost always got a clever line in a fight, no matter how desperate things may seem, and he puts that to good use during the airport clash at the heart of Captain America: Civil War.
On the one hand, it's a heartbreaking situation as an ideological clash spun out of control has forced friends to turn on friends. On the other, no one wants anyone else to die, so even when things get really heated there's a good amount of levity at play. As such, Tony and several other Avengers (Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Hawkeye), get in several good zingers. It's hard to pick just one (Tony calling in Spider-Man by shouting "Underoos!" will always be a classic), but perhaps the best arrives when Tony has just witnessed Ant-Man turn into Giant Man for the first time, and is a little pressed for a solution.
"Anybody on our side hiding any shocking and fantastic abilities they'd like to disclose? I'm open to suggestions."
It's a perfect comic book line, balancing the intensity and ridiculousness of the situation while also feeling oddly practical.
Tony evaluates his relationship (Iron Man Three, 2013)
Though real romance is often missing in the MCU, what with the superheroics and all, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts have somehow managed to keep their on-again, off-again thing going for roughly a decade now. Through life-threatening situations, corporate strife, Tony's PTSD, and even the "break" they took during Civil War, they've mostly remained connected.
Iron Man Three was one of the greatest tests of that connection, and the one that saw Pepper more directly involved in the action than any other MCU film. After rescuing Tony in the film not once but twice, and being subjected to the fiery Extremis serum, Pepper finally gets to take a breath at the end of the film. With nemesis Aldrich Killian dead, she's still not sure if she'll be able to survive her new condition. After all, other people have literally blown up because of it. So, she asks Tony "Am I gonna be OK?" Tony can't help but open with a joke before telling her she'll be fine.
"No. You're in a relationship with me. Everything will never be OK."
It's funny, but it's also romantic in a very Tony Stark way.
Tony meets Loki (The Avengers, 2012)
The Avengers is thrilling for many reasons, but perhaps the greatest is how often we get to see various MCU characters encountering each other for the first time, and how they each process that. For Tony Stark, at least in the earliest parts of the film, it's often with a sense of humor. Yes, he's rubbing elbows with gods from other dimensions and a man who's been frozen for 70 years, but he's still Tony, and Tony has to crack wise whenever and however he can.
Just look at how he enters the fray in the film, flying into Germany to help Captain America (who he's never met) take down Loki (who he's also never met) while Black Widow looks on. He could just fly in and put Loki down, but Tony Stark has to make an entrance, so he commandeers the Quinjet speakers and blasts AC/DC until he's got the God of Mischief on the pavement. Then, with every weapon at his disposal trained on Loki, he punctuates it all with this:
"Make your move, Reindeer Games."
Was he referring to the film Reindeer Games, the "Reindeer Games" played in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," or was he just grasping for a quick turn of phrase based on the fact that Loki was wearing horns? Was it all three? That is the genius of Tony Stark. He contains multitudes, and he still found time to nickname the other Asgardian in the film (Thor) "Point Break," a joke that carried on in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok.
Tony's secret comes out (Iron Man, 2008)
From the moment we first saw him back in 2008, Tony Stark was quipping. He did it through weapons demonstrations, through captivity in a cave, through designing Iron Man, and through fighting an old friend who was trying to kill him and take his company. Now, it would seem unnatural if he wasn't cracking wise, but Iron Man was instrumental as a tone-setter, and as a result, some of those one-liners are flat-out monumental in what they did for the future of the MCU.
This reaches its apex in Iron Man when Pepper Potts wanders down to Tony's basement garage/workshop and discovers him in the Iron Man suit for the first time. As he's struggling, trying to get his robots to remove the cumbersome Mark 3 armor, Pepper can barely get a word out. Tony, who probably knew this moment would come eventually, just turns around and offers a dose of reality.
"Let's face it, this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing."
Tony appreciates the classics (The Avengers, 2012)
As previously mentioned, so much of the joy of The Avengers comes from watching characters interact for the first time. This particular line, which gets one of the biggest laughs in the film (The Hulk gets perhaps the biggest one), comes after Tony's already met Loki and then meets his brother Thor. The film wastes no time in milking both Thor's bombastic fish-out-of-water characterization and the rest of the team's reaction to it for laughs, and it starts right here.
After tearing him away from his Loki, Tony faces Thor, who tells him he has no idea what he's dealing with. Tony, because he's Tony, makes a Shakespeare in the Park joke.
"Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?"
It's a great laugh line, and it builds the antagonism ahead of a fight involving Tony, Thor, and Captain America.
Tony meets Doctor Strange (Avengers: Infinity War, 2018)
For a film packed with as much darkness and intensity as it has, Avengers: Infinity War still manages to squeeze a surprising number of laughs into its runtime. Of course, many of these come early in the film, before our heroes really know the full weight of what they're facing. Unsurprisingly, most of those laughs come from Tony.
After butting intellectual heads with Doctor Strange and reuniting with his pal Bruce Banner, Tony heads outside to find Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian invading New York in search of the Time Stone. He knows what the stakes are, but this is Tony's home turf. He's not worried, and he's especially not worried because he's got his old buddy Bruce at his side, and Bruce has a Hulk.
Tony asks Bruce to Hulk up, but Bruce can't. Hulk has witnessed the might of Thanos, and Hulk is having none of this fight. Doctor Strange and Wong, who are standing right there, can only look on in confusion. That's when Tony gets exasperated.
"Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards."
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has long since stopped apologizing for or trying to gloss over its pure comic book elements, but even with that in mind, Infinity War never lets up. It embraces its source material to such a degree that Tony Stark is cracking wizard jokes just minutes after meeting Doctor Strange. It's little moments like these that remind you, even in the dark moments, why you have so much fun during films like Infinity War.