If, as many fans suspect, Robert Downey Jr. will exit the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Avengers 4 comes out, it will be a huge deal. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, has been there since the beginning, and the hero has, in many ways, been the lynchpin that’s held the whole franchise together. That means Tony has had plenty of opportunities to prove just how great a hero he is.
These are Tony Stark’s best moments — not necessarily his most badass or coolest moments, though there is some overlap. These are the moments where Tony Stark is at his peak, the ones that prove he’s the MCU’s greatest hero.
Making Senator Stern give him a medal
This is admittedly petty, but you’ve got to give Tony credit for knowing how to extract just the right amount of humiliating revenge. Throughout all of Iron Man 2, Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) is a major thorn in Tony’s side, and it’s so satisfying to see Stern praise Tony through gritted teeth. That happened before we knew the senator was actually loyal to Hydra, which makes Tony’s power-move even sweeter in retrospect.
Announcing that Stark Industries would no longer make military weapons
It’s easy to forget now that he’s been the heroic Iron Man for a decade, but Tony Stark wasn’t always a great dude. His transformation after returning to America following his captivity in Afghanistan in the first Iron Man is notable and worthy of praise. Even before Tony became a straight-up superhero, he had resolved to make the world a better place by taking his company out of the lucrative military-industrial complex.
The "barrel of monkeys" rescue
Tony saves the president in Iron Man 3, but his acrobatic commitment to saving every passenger on Air Force One as they plummeted to Earth might just top rescuing the Commander-in-Chief. Jury is out on whether the reveal that Tony was controlling the Iron Man suit remotely makes the accomplishment more or less impressive.
Making it work with Pepper
Tony is Iron Man, yes, but he’s also just a man — a human being with a personal life. Things got kind of shaky in Civil War, but Spider-Man: Homecoming reveals that Tony and Pepper Potts have patched things up and are getting engaged! Infinity War makes it clear that the two are doing great (pre-Thanos, at least), so congrats to the happy couple.
Being a good mentor to Spider-Man
Sure, Tony first brought Peter Parker under his wing because he needed to fly the teenager to another continent in order to enlist him in a dangerous superhero civil war, but once they got back to Queens, Tony was a very good and caring mentor to Peter Parker. He got mad and disappointed at Peter after the Staten Island Ferry incident because he cared. Tony's gonna be a good dad someday (assuming he makes it through) Avengers 4).
The Mark II’s first flight
The Mark I Iron Man suit, constructed from a box of scraps in a cave, was a triumph, but Tony’s exhilarating first flight in the slick Mark II was truly a groundbreaking moment. If the first suit was a tool, the Mark II was an identity, and when Tony took to the skies, everything changed.
Intercepting the nuke at the Battle of New York
Tony didn’t hesitate to sacrifice himself to save New York City from nuclear annihilation, if that’s what it would have taken. Flying into space while carrying a rocket took a mental toll on Tony (as seen in Iron Man 3), but the selfless, heroic moment was one of Iron Man’s finest hours.
Being right in Civil War
Hey, real talk here? It is insane, to me, that there is a debate over whether Iron Man or Captain America was right. All Tony wanted to do was ensure that there was some sort of oversight, because otherwise the Avengers were just a super-powerful group of individuals with no accountability who could do whatever they wanted to do, unilaterally. That’s what supervillains do, and Tony deserves lots of credit for trying to do the right thing, even if Captain America was making it very, very hard for him.
“Call it, Captain"
With these words, the Avengers truly came together. Tony is a big personality and he likes to be in charge, which led to some head-butting and dysfunction at the start of The Avengers. But, in the iconic “assemble” scene, Tony defers to Captain America, acknowledging him as the team leader. In this moment, Tony is putting his ego aside for the sake of the world — and the team.
His one-on-one fight with Thanos
The Mad Titan dismissed Iron Man’s heroic last stand (“All that for a drop of blood”), but the moment was much more than that. Even though Thanos had just defeated all of Tony’s allies, he leaped into action without a second thought, throwing everything he had at Thanos in a last-ditch effort to save the day. In addition to displaying mastery of his Iron Man skills, Tony also demonstrated unparalleled heroism. This is why he’s the MCU’s greatest hero.
"I am Iron Man"
But, of course, the MCU would be a very different place had he decided not to tell the truth about his heroic persona at the end of the first Iron Man. The shocker of a press conference was peak Tony Stark — a bold, brave moment that still managed to indulge his ego, but in a productive way. Could there be a better moment?
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.