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Film / Iron Man

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"Truth is... I am Iron Man."
Anthony Edward "Tony" Stark / Iron Man

Iron Man is a 2008 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Iron Man, starring Robert Downey, Jr. as the armored Super Hero. Directed by Jon Favreau, the movie went on to become the first movie in Paramount's (and later, Walt Disney Pictures') Marvel Cinematic Universe.

After being captured by terrorists following a missile demonstration in Afghanistan, multi-billionaire Tony Stark uses his brilliant intellect to devise a powered armor to escape. Being an irresponsible, wealthy playboy before, he (literally) has a change of heart regarding his company policies and dedicates himself to cleaning up Stark Industries' patented weapons and taking care of the terrorist group that got their hands on them. To do so, he builds an even better suit of armor. However, not everyone in his company likes the new change of pace.

The film is followed by its 2010 sequel Iron Man 2, and Tony takes part in the 2012 Crossover film The Avengers. 2013 saw the release of the second official follow-up Iron Man 3. Tony is next seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015, Captain America: Civil War in 2016, Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017, and will appear in Avengers: Infinity War in 2018 and 2019.

Iron Man contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Tony Stark is seen munching on Burger King burgers after he's rescued. While on a bender, Robert Downey, Jr. was driving around with a trunk full of drugs and stopped by a Burger King to get something to eat. He took one bite and found the burger to be so disgusting that he had to stop and take a moment to seriously consider what he was doing with his life. Realizing that he needed to shape up and take responsibility for himself, he immediately drove to the ocean and threw out the drugs he'd just bought and proceeded to clean up his life. Downey had the Burger King products placed in the film to acknowledge how the company played a role in his getting healthy enough to play Tony Stark.
    • Not the first time Robert Downey Jr.'s buzzed somebody.
    • When Tony tells Colonel Rhodes, "Looks like someone did your job for you," referencing Terrence Howard's earlier role in The Brave One.
    • There's something strangely familiar about Obadiah shooting the glass out from under Tony. (It's even round and segmented.)
    • Jeff Bridges plays nice piano at Tony's house. He plays even better when Michelle Pfeiffer is lying on top of it.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Pulls together a lot of Iron Man story elements over the years.
    • The evolution of the armor throughout the film parallels the first three or four Iron Man suits in the comics (which were introduced over the course of twenty or so issues)
    • Pepper Potts and Jim Rhodes were rarely part of Tony's inner circle at the same time in the comics.
    • Tony's origin takes place in Afghanistan rather than Vietnam (an update taken from Ellis' Extremis story) and the thugs are hinted to be involved with the Mandarin (a bit like in The Invincible Iron Man or the 90s cartoon)
  • Adaptation Origin Connection: Obadiah Stane is a long term business partner to both Tony Stark and his father. His betrayal is what leads to the creation of Iron Man. In the comics, Stane has no connection to Tony's origin, being simply a rival arms manufacturer.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted. JARVIS is as helpful and good as his butler counterpart in the comics.
  • Almost Kiss: Tony and Pepper during the Stark charity event.
  • Alone in a Crowd: After Obadiah reveals that he had the board file an injunction (a legal order restricting Tony's power over Stark Industries) against Tony.
  • Amusing Injuries:
    • Tony sets the suit's thrusters to ten percent power, and is slammed against the ceiling hard enough that, realistically, he should have broken at least a few bones, either from that or from the subsequent face-first fall on the floor.
    • Tony's assistant, Pepper Potts, walks into his lab just as he's testing one of the repulsor beams in the suit's gloves. The recoil throws Tony off screen and you hear him hit the far wall a couple seconds later. Pepper's reaction, mainly her complete lack of concern for his safety, is what really sells it.
  • And Show It to You: A variation. Obadiah toys with Tony's new arc reactor right in front of him after yanking it out. It wasn't actually his heart, but the reactor kept his heart from failing and the symbolism is definitely there.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: "It's a shame you had to involve Pepper in this, I'd have preferred that she lived."
  • Appropriated Appellation: Tony got the name Iron Man after the media gave him the nickname at the end of the film.
  • Are These Wires Important?: Tony does this to Iron Monger and it knocks out his targeting system. Provides the quote for the trope page.
    Iron Man: This looks important! [yank]
  • Arms Dealer: It is discovered that Obadiah Stane has been secretly selling weapons to the Ten Rings.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: The Ten Rings terrorists waffle between proper trigger discipline while lounging around their base to rather stark disregard for gun safety during their video transmission of their demands.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • Being encased in a metal suit wouldn't offer Tony any protection from the damage he'd take from simple inertia from his various crash landings.
    • Tony's jet thrusters would be pushing his hands and feet in the opposite direction with the same force they provide to give him lift. While his suit may provide him superhuman strength to prevent his hands and feet from flailing wildly like an unattended firehose, he often uses the thrusters without his full suit, with no support for his joints above the wrist or ankle.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: Yinsen does this to some Ten Rings terrorists shortly before he gets shot.
  • Bald of Evil: Obadiah Stane's cueball head.
  • Bad to the Bone: The Black Sabbath opening melody of their song, "Iron Man".
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: After Iron Man takes out all of his men, the mercenary leader tries to call for reinforcement while hiding behind a wall. Tony punches through the wall and brings him in the open.
  • Bear Hug: Iron Monger catches the smaller Iron Man armor in its huge arms and start crushing it. Tony manages to get free by firing his anti-missile flares at point-blank.
  • Benevolent A.I.:
    • All of Tony's A.I. creations, from JARVIS to the armature robot, Dum-E (or Dummy), are not only extremely helpful, but extremely affable too.
      Tony Stark: [looking at a solid gold render of his armor] A little ostentatious, don't you think?
      JARVIS: What was I thinking? You're usually so discreet.
      Tony Stark: Tell you what. Throw a little hot-rod red in there.
      JARVIS: Yes, that should help you keep a low profile.
    • For another example, the mobile robotic arm he built when he was a child behaves exactly like a faithful dog. During one of the climactic scenes, Tony is dying, and needs to reach the spare arc reactor to put into his chest, but can't reach it. Tony crumples to the ground, about to die, when the robotic arm suddenly fetches it for him, and even whimpers like a dog concerned about his owner. Tony smiles and says "Good boy," and takes the arc reactor. The same robotic arm — believed to be Dum-E — also shows up in the sequel, although in a somewhat smaller role. Needless to say, he's the closest thing Tony has to an actual pet.
    • The other robotic arm, U (or You), is chiefly Tony's videographer in this movie. In Iron Man 2, it graduates to smoothie maker, though many viewers mistook it for being Dum-E in that role. See below.
  • Beta Outfit: Tony Stark builds the first suit "in a cave! With a box of scraps!", which was big and bulky due to both being a mechanical prototype, and as a nod to the original Iron Man suit in the comics. After getting back to the city he makes a few different gray unpainted prototypes before building its iconic form and deciding to paint it red and gold. One of the unfinished gray suits goes on to become the War Machine suit.
  • Big Bad: Obadiah Stane's attempts to take control of the company drive the plot.
  • Bigger Stick: Invoked when Tony is talking to the reporter about his father. "Peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy." This speech comes back to bite him when everyone from the Ten Rings to Obadiah Stane wants to get their hands on Tony's Iron Man technology so they can outstrip everyone else's weapons.
  • Big Guy Rodeo: Iron Man jumps on the back of the Iron Monger to pulls out the cable connecting the helmet to the rest of the armor, blinding Obadiah Stane and forcing him to open the chest piece to see.
  • Bilingual Bonus: If you speak Urdu, you know that Obadiah Stane was behind Tony's kidnapping an hour before Pepper translates the ransom tape.
  • Black Market: Stane, the VP of Tony's company has been selling weapons to the Ten Rings organization behind Tony's back.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • "I'm just driving with the top down."
    • "Nothing to worry about, people, just a training exercise."
    • "This isn't about me!"
  • Body Horror: When Tony first wakes up after getting shrapnel embedded in his chest, he finds a metal tube cut into his chest that's hooked up to a car battery.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Played with.
    • Iron Man's power source, the arc reactor, will run out of power if the power drain from the suit outstrips the power output of the reactor for too long. So shooting too much it not an option, at least in this film.
    • Played straight with everyone who fires kinetic weapons.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Tony's first arc reactor, which becomes a Chekhov's Gun.
    • Invoked later, when James Rhodes briefly contemplates using Tony's unused Mark II armor to help him fight Obadiah.
    Rhodes: "Next time, baby."
  • Breakout Character: Agent Coulson was a minor Canon Foreign character made up for the movie, but has since become a much larger part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He received a starring role in his own television show and even immigrated to the main comics line.
  • Brick Joke: The first thing Rhodey says to Tony after the latter has just escaped from spending 3 months in captivity is call-back to the last thing Tony said to him before being captured: "How was the fun-vee?" Tony thinks this is Actually Pretty Funny.
  • Butt-Monkey: Dum-E, the robotic arm that Tony regularly calls useless and threatens to donate to a city college.
  • The Cameo:
  • Captain Obvious: When the Iron Monger fires up its Rocket Boots:
    JARVIS: Sir, it appears that his suit can fly.
    Tony: Duly noted.
  • Car Cushion: The Mark II's test flight ends with Tony smashing down on top of one of his vintage sports cars.
  • Car Fu: During their battle on the highway, Iron Monger grabs a motorcycle as it's driving by and smacks Tony into a bus with it.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The arc reactor that powers the suit also keeps Tony's heart going, which means that the longer he battles the closer to cardiac arrest he gets. Tony wisely changes this in the sequels so the suits have their own reactors.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Alluded to. When Pepper walks in on Tony being peeled out of the Mark III suit following his battle with Ten Rings, the scene plays out as though this trope were in effect.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Tony Stark builds an arc reactor to power the electromagnet that protects his heart, then upgrades the unit by having his secretary, Pepper, install a larger version in his chest. He tells her to throw the small unit away, but Pepper has it put in a display case for him. The miniature reactor becomes crucial later on, when Obadiah Stane takes the larger reactor from Tony's chest while he's paralyzed, and he must rely on the smaller model to power his suit and his heart.
    • The flares that the Iron Man armor use to stop missile fire are also used in the final fight to escape from the Iron Monger's Bear Hug.
    • The giant Arc-Reactor which is mentioned in the first third of the movie, then overloaded at the end to finally defeat Obadiah Stane.
    • The terrorists appear to do a standard ransom demand video after capturing Tony Stark. Thanks to Bilingual Bonus, it's more significant than it appears.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Tony Stark is testing his Mk. II armor's flight capabilities, and decides to break the altitude record, just because. He fails because the suit builds up a layer of ice which shorts out its systems; Tony later Hand Waves a fix for this. Later in the movie, he lures Obadiah Stane to similar altitudes, causing Stane's suit to freeze up while his own suit is protected.
  • Chest Blaster: Tony uses this during the climax to blast Stane out from under the car he's holding. It's one of the extremely few appearances in the films of the Unibeam; in the comics, Tony's chest plate can project not only a searchlight but various kinds of energy. When Iron Man really needs to blast someone or something, the Unibeam fires a super-sized repulsor ray.
  • Child Prodigy: Tony's backstory. He built his first circuitboard when he was four years old, his first V8 engine when he was six years old, graduated summa cum laude from MIT when he was 17 years old, and took over as CEO of Stark Industries at age 21.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Stane plotted from the beginning of the movie to eliminate Tony so he could seize the company and engage in any sort of weapon deals he wanted. However, he also turns his back on the terrorists who he was paying later in the film to get his hands on the Mk. I suit they recovered from the desert. They had mildly backstabbed him also when they learned their captive was Tony Stark, causing them to keep him alive so he could build them a missile instead of killing him like their orders.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: After building his Iron Man suit in a cave, with a box of scraps, Tony understands that its power must be used to help people and begins an arduous transition from a glorified Jerkass Arms Dealer to humanitarian hero and champion of world peace ...who is still kind of a Jerkass.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Coulson states that S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to provide a heroic example of that — Obadiah Stane is currently on vacation, taking a very unsafe vehicle.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Obadiah Stane, along with the other members of the Stark board of directors that supported his efforts against Tony.
  • Create Your Own Hero: The Big Bad Obadiah Stane causes Tony Stark to become Iron Man after the latter spends three months in the captivity of an Afghan terrorist group (under Stane's instructions) and realizing just how much evil there's in the world. Forcing him to create the Iron Man armour and eventually using it to become a hero and stopping Stane.
  • Creation Sequence: The movie contains some of the most elaborate and memorable examples.
    • First the creation of the Mk. I armor in a cave with a box of... ahem. Quite tense since Tony is under surveillance by his captors, and has to finish it within a day when the bad guy gets impatient and gives him a deadline. Include the obligatory Forging Scene for the iconic helmet.
    • Then the creation of the Mk. II and Mk. III, in safer circumstances, and thus lengthier and more detailed. Start from the conception phase, helped by holographic technology. Then the manufacture of the separate pieces, including several testing sequences, with variable success.
  • Critical Annoyance: In one fight, Tony's suit is running very low on energy and JARVIS near-continuously reminds him of this, until Tony finally tells him to "just leave it on the screen!"
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Tony Stark's Power Suit vs. a group of terrorists armed with powerful automatic weapons, grenade launchers, and tanks = easy Stark victory in under 6 full minutes. The more he upgrades the armor, the more epic the curb-stomp.
  • Dance of Romance: Tony only notices Pepper romantically when he gets her out onto the dance floor.
  • The Darkness Gazes Back: In the finale, Pepper Potts and agents of SHIELD are looking for Big Bad Obadiah Stane in his darkly-lit workshop. Pepper notices a suspiciously-large shadow and cautiously stares into it, only for the Iron Monger to power up and two glowing mechanical eyes to stare back at her.
  • Deadly Nosebleed: The hand-held paralyzer that Stane used causes these. Played straight with Raza, subverted with Stark: Stane only used it to paralyze Stark so that he can get the Arc Reactor from his chest
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone has their moments here and there, and sometimes with each other, but as noted under Benevolent A.I., JARVIS takes the cake, managing to out-snark Tony.
  • Den of Iniquity: Tony's jet is a PG-13 rated version, complete with drinks, stripper pole and lascivious dancers.
  • Description Cut: Stane attempts to make a hasty excuse for Tony's failure to accept his award.
    Obadiah Stane: You know, the best thing about Tony is also the worst thing: he's always working.
    [cuts to Tony throwing dice at a Craps table]
    Tony Stark: Work it!
  • Disc-One Final Boss: It seems like the main antagonists will be the Ten Rings terrorist organization, led by Raza, but it's revealed that they're working for Obadiah Stane, who wants control of the company and needs Tony removed.
  • Double-Edged Answer
    Soldier: Is it true that you went twelve-for-twelve with last year's Maxim cover models?
    Tony Stark: That is an excellent question. Yes and no. March and I had a scheduling conflict but fortunately the Christmas cover was twins.
  • Do with Him as You Will: Tony leaves the mercenary leader to the mercy of the villagers he's been terrorizing.
  • Dramatic Shattering: Three times in rapid succession with Tony's Mark III repulsor.
  • Drunk on the Dark Side: Obadiah Stane, normally calm and Affably Evil, loses his shit after becoming the Iron Monger, and realizes it.
    Stane: I never had a taste for this sort of thing, but I must admit, I'm deeply enjoying the suit!
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Yinsen had one of these when, in his last moments, he compelled Tony to not waste his life.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • This film presents SHIELD as a new organization that hasn't even figured out their name yet. The rest of the MCU presents it as having been formed after World War II, and named after Captain America's weapon.
    • Tony is implied, especially in the novelisation, to have had a very good relationship with his father. Subsequent movies in the MCU give him more daddy issues.
    • The Mark III's helmet has a voice changer in it, making Tony's voice unable to be recognized and lending credence to the idea of a Secret Identity. Since Tony went public with his identity at the very end, however, later Iron Man armors have little to no voice modulation, making Tony's voice very distinct underneath the helmet.
  • Evil Knockoff: Stane builds the Iron Monger suit, a mass production model based off Tony's Mark 1 Iron Man suit. It's bigger, has more weapons, features flight and a targeting system and is expertly manufactured compared to the ramshackle Mark 1. However, it lacks some of the upgrades in the later Iron Man suits such as the ice protection. He also can't copy the arc reactor, having to steal Tony's to power it.
  • Evil Plan:
    • Obadiah Stane plans to seize control of Stark Industries by having the terrorists to whom he's been selling weapons assassinate Tony Stark during the latter's visit to Afghanistan.
    • To achieve his goals of becoming a modern day Gengis Khan, Raza wants to abduct Tony Stark and force him to build weapons for his cell of the Ten Rings.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Pepper, Coulson, and his men enter Sector 16 and find Tony's original suit, mistaking it for Stane's power armor. Pepper remarks, "I thought it'd be bigger". It is.
  • Feigning Intelligence: Raza isn't exactly a fool, but in the novelization, Tony realizes that he makes a show of understanding his workshop better than he actually does.
  • Five-Bad Band
    • The Big Bad: Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger, who plans the attempt on Tony Stark's life and tries to take over his company.
    • The Dragon: Raza, a local leader of the Ten Rings in Afghanistan.
    • The Brute: Abu Bakaar, Raza's muscle.
    • Evil Genius: William Ginter Riva, the Beleaguered Assistant of Obadiah Stane and one of the head engineers for the arc reactor and Iron Monger suit.
    • The Dark Chick: Ho Yinsen, a doctor who was forced to work for the Ten Rings as a surgeon and a translator.
  • Five Rounds Rapid:
    • When Stark fires up the Mk. I, various members of the Ten Rings try to bring it down with arms fire to no avail.
    • Paralleling the previous example, when Iron Monger powers up in the midst of several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, they immediately start shooting at it with their sidearms. The hapless agents are cut down in short order.
  • Floorboard Failure: Tony's first flight test ends with him crashing through his ceiling and the floor during an attempted landing. Further casualties are a piano and a car. Followed shortly thereafter by what little remains of Tony's dignity when his Robot Buddy Dum-E blasts him in the face with a fire extinguisher. Again.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • The running gag about the government agency with the overly long name... which they eventually shorten to S.H.I.E.L.D. Unless you read the comics it's hard to catch the acronym the first few times.
    • According to the novelization (by Peter David) JARVIS stands for Just A Rather Very Intelligent System.
  • Funny Background Event: A bit Black Comedy example, but still, in the scene where Pepper swaps out Tony's Arc Reactor for the upgraded model, pay attention at the heart monitor behind them.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The news feed during Rhodes' press conference, right after Stark saved the F-22 Pilot, has the ticker tape flashing "KNKY News" under Rhodes' name.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • An angry Rhodey lectures Tony on responsibility while rejecting his offer of alcohol during their flight to Afghanistan.
      Rhodey: No, I'm not drinking. I don't want any.
      [cuts to both of them drunk and the flight attendants dancing around a retractable stripper pole]
    • Tony accidentally destroys an F-22 Raptor while piloting the Mk. III, and is forced to reveal to Rhodes that he's the man with the flying armored suit:
      Col. James Rhodes: Now, what am I supposed to tell the press?
      Tony Stark: Uh, "training exercise", isn't that the usual B.S.?
      Col. James Rhodes: It's not that simple.
      [cuts to Rhodes delivering a press conference]
      Col. James Rhodes: An unfortunate training exercise involving an F-22 Raptor occurred yesterday...
  • Going Critical: Just as the trope description says, calling anything a reactor is a sheer sign that it's going to blow up before the movie's done. Stark Industries is powered by an arc reactor. In the climax, guess what it does.
    • Although unlike the most common examples, the reactor isn't nuclear and the explosion had to be intentionally and meticulously instigated.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Tony sums up his new change in direction to Obadiah Stane when he chews him out for shutting down the weapons division of Stark Industries;
    Tony: We're not doing good enough, we can do better, we can do something else.
  • Heel Realization: While Tony wasn't personally, knowingly selling weapons to the likes of the Ten Rings, seeing weapons produced by Stark Industries in the hands of terrorists and warlords (and personally being mock-respectfully addressed as "the most famous mass murderer in the history of America" by the second-in-command) still has this effect.
  • Hero for a Day: Stane powers his own version of the power suit by stealing Stark's portable generator, leaving Stark literally powerless for a short while.
  • Heroic R.R.O.D.: Forced to use his first ARC reactor after Stane stole his improved reactor, Tony ends up pushing himself past its capacities, faintly flickering after he defeats Stane
  • Hey, Wait!: "Is that today's paper?" This is an exploitation of the trope. Obadiah suspects Pepper is up to something the moment he enters the office. He only asks for the paper because he (correctly) thinks she's hiding something in it. He doesn't care about the paper, he throws it down onto the desk as soon as she leaves.
  • High-Up Ice-Up: Nearly gets him killed while he's testing the suit, but then proves useful against Obadiah Stane.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: One of the terrorists tries for a head shot while Tony Stark's Mk. I armor is momentarily stuck... but he's killed by the bullet ricocheting on the helmet.
    • Stane made his suit to be much larger and heavier than Tony's. As a result, when the factory's Arc Reactor detonates, it sends out a shockwave first that knocks Tony out of harm's way, while Stane doesn't budge and he takes the brunt of the explosion.
  • Hollywood Science: Tony's arc reactor. Lampshaded by one of Obadiah Stane's scientist: "Sir, the technology we need doesn't exist!"
  • How Do I Shot Web?: The first half of the film is Tony trying to figure out how to fly. The Mark I armor doesn't so much fly as rocket skyward and then fall, and after building his boot jets for the Mark II armor, Tony invents the repulsors to act as flight stabilizers and then after that, there's the icing problem.
  • How We Got Here: We start with Tony Stark in a military convoy that gets ambushed. He is the lone survivor from his Jeep. He gets out and is about to safety when a missile with the Stark Industries logo painted on it lands nearby and explodes. We then go back 36 hours to look at the events leading up to this ambush.
  • Icarus Allusion: In something of an elemental reversal, Tony flies toward the moon because he can and ice builds up on his suit, causing it to short out and plummet. He later solves this problem and uses it to his advantage against an enemy.
  • I Knew It!: An In-Universe example with Christine Everheart's (the reporter who got into a one-nighter with Tony in the early parts of the movie) actions in the finale. She was the only person who remained seated, as the rest of the Reporters present went bonkers after Tony revealed he is Iron Man.
  • Impossible Task Instantly Accomplished: Tony Stark is captured by would-be conquerors, and forced to build a Jericho Missile (which he designed) within a week or so or the battery powering his new "pacemaker" will die. Within that week, he instead designs a miniature arc reactor, builds it, installs it to power his heart, then designs a suit of Powered Armor, builds that, and escapes... just as the terrorists were growing suspicious.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: During Tony's first combat action with his new suit, he suffers a direct hit from a battle tank's main cannon — in mid-air, while flying at high speed. Main battle tanks aren't designed to engage flying targets, least of all ones as small as a human, so a shot like that would require Hawk Eye behind the controls, and it'd be damn near impossible to pull off in Real Life.
  • Improv: According to Jeff Bridges, there was no script; the entire movie was improvised. Bridges said he had problems getting his head around this style of film making until he told himself to think of it as "a $200 million student film". In an interview, director Jon Favreau confirmed that there was no completed script, and wrote and rewrote many scenes during production. Also while most of the dialogue scenes were improvised, the action scenes were thoroughly planned out. Lastly, all of the changes got approval by Marvel studio executives along the way. Think about that. A near-total improvisation movie is one of the most highly rated movies ever (95% on the Tomato Meter; more than half of the PIXAR movies out there) and grossed well over $585 million worldwide.
  • In Medias Res: The movie begins a little while in with Tony in Afghanistan being escorted back to his plane. He jokes around with the troops before his convoy is attacked. His guards are quickly slaughtered and when he tries to take cover, a missile produced by his company lands beside him and explodes in his face knocking him unconscious. Tony is then captured by the Ten Rings, and forced to work for them. The story then flashes back 36 hours to show Tony's personal life up till that point.
  • Insistent Terminology: Tony Stark is the lone civilian riding in a Humvee in Afghanistan. He asks the driver whether it's appropriate to call her a "Soldier" or if there is a preferred nomenclature since she's female. She points out that the correct nomenclature is Airman, because she is in the US Air Force.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Played with; Christine Everhart clearly wants to be this, but the fact that she ends up sleeping with Tony not long after self-righteously calling him out as the 'Merchant of Death' alone indicates that she's probably not as intrepid as she wants people to think. She generally comes off as being a bit smug and incompetent. Then again, she is the one to reveal to Tony that his company is selling weapons to the villains.
  • Irony:
    • Much of the underlying plot of the film is tragic irony, as pointed out by Stane:
      Stane: How ironic, Tony! Trying to rid the world of weapons, you gave it its best one ever!
    • Also, the reason Tony needs the arc reactor? He got blown up by a Stark Industries weapon. "Boomstick", in discussion of Iron Man's backstory, aptly called it a "shrapnel-filled irony bomb".
    • In a deleted scene, Tony tries fending off his captors by picking a weapon off of the the fallen airmen, only for a weapon he designed to jam on him.
  • It's Personal: Tony decides to go back to Afghanistan and take on the Ten Rings after seeing they've attacked Yinsen's hometown, Gulmira. This is his debut as Iron Man.
  • Jerk-to-Nice-Guy Plot: After Tony is kidnapped and held prisoner by a ring of terrorists, he has a change of heart and becomes the superhero Iron Man, learning in the process how to be less of a jerk.
  • Join or Die: This is how the Ten Rings recruits. They attack villages and either kill or capture the men. Then, they take their women and children to an unknown location where they're used as collateral. The men are asked to join them, with their families' lives, as well as their own, on their line if they refuse. This is Truth in Television for many terrorist groups and militaristic regimes.
  • Karmic Death: Stane belittled the arc reactor they'd constructed before, so it's appropriate that he dies falling into the same reactor after being electrocuted by it.
  • Kubrick Stare: Stane's expression in the poster implies his true nature.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Tony's little speech about the "realities" of being a superhero right before his press conference at the end.
  • Literal Change of Heart: Sort of. Getting the arc reactor installed in Tony's chest symbolically represents his assumption of the role of Iron Man.
  • Living Legend: Tony's jealous of his own coverage and outs himself as Iron Man.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: The Ten Rings terrorists holding him hostage literally gave Tony everything he needed to build the first Iron Man suit in a cave, with a box of scraps, and escape. This movie is the page image for a reason.
  • Look Ma, No Plane!: The "fight military aircraft" version (though he never actually attacks them; the only damage to a plane comes from accidentally colliding with him).
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Stark Industries' Jericho missile is basically a tactical MIRV system that breaks apart shortly after launch to unleash a massive barrage of smaller, independent warheads which then seek out their individual targets. This way a single missile is enough to vaporize an entire ridge during the weapon's first demonstration. It's later seen deployed in combat to terrifying effect by the Ten Rings terrorists.
  • Made Of Titanium: Literally. The Iron Man Powered Armor is coated by "gold-titanium alloy". Why? To correct a design flaw that the previous iteration's steel casing had that only manifests in specific circumstances... and because he can.
  • Majority-Share Dictator: Notably averted; while Tony has the controlling share in Stark Industries, Obadiah points out that the board still has rights and was able to file an injunction against Tony when he shut down the company's weapons program.
  • Mauve Shirt: The airmen escorting Tony at the start of the film received a few fleeting minutes of characterization before they were wiped out by Stark's captors.
  • Meta Casting:
    • Robert Downey, Jr. was cast almost specifically because he is a gifted actor who's had drugs problems in the past. He's portraying a gifted scientist and businessman who lives fast and can never seem to put the bottle down.
    • Jeff Bridges is also a great choice to play a villain like Obadiah Stane, because it's a role he doesn't normally play. He makes Stane come across as friendly and likeable, albeit a bit of a smooth talker. And when we learn he was behind everything, we empathize with the betrayal Tony is feeling, because we're feeling it as well.
  • Mighty Glacier: In contrast to Tony's main suit, the prototype Mk. I is this. It can only Slow Walk at most (excluding its flight capabilities), but it's still a Juggernaut and One-Man Army. Though it eventually becomes a full-on Lightning Bruiser when Stane upgrades it into the Iron Monger.
  • Mini-Mecha: Iron Monger is more this than a suit.
  • Mook Horror Show: Tony's Mk. I storming out of the Ten Rings camp like a killer robot from a fifties science-fiction film.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Stane drinking whiskey. He drinks the hell out of it, too!
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The first suit of armor Tony builds looks very similar to Iron Man's original appearance in the comics.
    • The terrorist group's name, "The Ten Rings", is a reference to Iron Man's Arch-Enemy the Mandarin, who had magic rings on each finger.
    • The "bodyguard" excuse at the end of the movie is taken from the story used in the early comics by Tony to explain why Iron Man was always hanging around Stark Industries (and Tony in particular).
    • The lead F-22 Raptor pilot's callsign is "Whiplash One"; Whiplash was an Iron Man villain and became the villain in the sequel.
    • During the final battle, a Roxxon Corporation building and a movie billboard featuring Fin Fang Foom can be seen in the background.
    • "I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative". Nick Fury did not simply mention The Avengers; "Avengers: The Initiative" was a comic book that began in 2007.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Agent Coulson's deadpan response to both Pepper's and Tony's complaints about his organization's name makes it clear he's heard it before.
    Coulson: I'm with the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division.
    Pepper: That's quite a mouthful.
    Coulson: Yeah. We're working on it.
  • Newscaster Cameo: One scene features a segment of Jim Cramer's "Mad Money" television show, warning about the sudden drop in the price of Stark Industries stock.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Tony helped to design and build many of the weapons being used by the Ten Rings.
    • Iron Man unintentionally causes the destruction of an Air Force F-22 that attempted to intercept him (before they knew he was a good guy). But once that happened, he made sure that the pilot's ejection suit worked properly.
  • Nice to the Waiter: As part of his Establishing Character Moment, Tony is very friendly to the lower enlisted airmen assigned to drive him back to the airfield after the Jericho demonstration. He insisted on trying to get to know them, even though they were clearly prepared to ride the whole way in silence. It adds a human face to his later decision to shut down his weapons program (as they were among those killed by Stark technology).
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Media dubs him "Iron Man", despite the suit being an alloy of stronger metals. Stark likes it.
    Stark: "Iron Man." That's kind of catchy. It's got a nice ring to it. I mean, it's not technically accurate. The suit's a gold-titanium alloy, but it's kind of evocative, the imagery, anyway.
  • Noodle Incident: Done for laughs. JARVIS is removing Tony's armor, their dialogue is loaded with Innocent Innuendo (well, innocent on JARVIS's part; Tony never met a Double Entendre he didn't like) and Pepper walks in. Tony reassures her, "Let's face it, this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing."
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Avoided in every way the writers could think of. The first suit and its plans are recovered and used as a basis for Stane's Iron Monger. Stark has two functional suits in his house, and the facilities to build a new one from scratch in five hours... If not for Pepper's leaving the original mini-arc reactor as a gift to Tony, Obadiah would have successfully left Tony for dead.
  • Not a Game: Rhodey says something to this extent to Tony during their phone conversation while Tony is in the middle of evading a pair of F-22 Raptors over Gulmira.
  • Not His Sled: For years in the comic, Tony used the cover story that Iron Man was an employee of his using the suit to act as his bodyguard/corporate security. So comic fans would have had every right to be surprised when the movie ends with Tony dismissing this manufactured excuse and instead simply coming out and confessing "I am Iron Man".
  • Oh, Crap!: Obadiah's reaction when Tony points out the following design flaw.
    Tony: How'd you solve the icing problem?
    Obadiah: ...Icing problem? [suit cuts out]
    Tony: [smugly] Might want to look into it!
  • Omniscient Database: Variant; when Pepper Potts is hacking the Stark Industries mainframe from Obadiah Stane's office computer (and at his request), she instantly translates the soundtrack of a foreign language video into (appropriately accented!) English by typing in "Translate" on the video viewer's window. This is a case of Shown Their Work — New Scientist checked up the plausibility of this and found that there are programs in development that do the same thing, if not quite so smoothly just yet, nor knowing the accent to use.
  • Operation Game of Doom: When Pepper had to help Tony change out his nuclear pacemaker; don't touch the sides!
  • Overly Long Name: The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. Fans of the comics would know it better as S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • The Paralyzer: Obadiah uses a device of some sort that has this effect. It seems to work using sound, as he protects himself from the gadget's effects with what appear to be fancy earbuds. Specifically, the frequencies used severely disrupt the inner ear, leading to severe vertigo, disorientation and lack of balance. Of course given Tony's overall reaction, it would be a safe guess that it does a bit more than described.
  • Pillar of Light: When the big arc reactor blows/vents
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: As Iron Man emerges from the cave in the Mk. 1 suit, the gathered terrorists all open fire on him, thousands of rounds ricocheting off his sturdy armour. Once they empty their clips and Tony still hasn't fallen, he prefaces his flamethrower rampage with two words:
    Iron Man: My turn.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Attempted by Obadiah Stane near the end of the film, leveling the Iron Monger's chaingun at Pepper Potts.
    Obadiah Stane: Your services are no longer required.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Reality Ensues: After Tony decides to completely overhaul Stark Industries, the Board uses it as grounds to file a legal injunction against his control, majority shareholder or not.
    • After his first mission in Gulmira, Tony has a lot of trouble getting out of his suit because the damage it weathered warped it.
    • After his first test flight, Tony lands on the roof. The suit punches a hole through, and he falls through his living room, his piano, all the way down to the garage.
    • After J.A.R.V.I.S. renders the Mark III, he is told that the automated system will take five hours to manufacture it. Even Tony can't speed up the process, so he goes out to the benefit party.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • There was a scene planned for the climax where Iron Man drives his Audi into Iron Monger, where it flips and he breaks the roof in half and jumps out. The effects team found that A) the car was too well-engineered to flip, and B) the roof was too difficult to cut through. The entire scene was scrapped. Yes, that's right, the Product Placement car was (in a sense) Too Awesome to Use.
    • The unfinished version of this scene can be found on the DVD and, hilariously enough, it references the above flaw: the first thing Tony says to Rhodes is "Did you flip it?", to which Rhodey incredulously responds "No, I didn't flip it!"
  • Released to Elsewhere: The Ten Rings promise to let Tony go after he has finished building the Jericho missile.
    Tony: No, they won't.
    Yinsen: No, they won't.
  • The Reveal Prompts Romance: Lampshaded, but averted.
  • Roadside Surgery: Tony receives heart surgery in a cave in the Middle East after being kidnapped.
  • Rule of Funny: Most of the Amusing Injuries Tony gets when testing the suit.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Tony Stark has a moment like this right at the start of the film, towards one of the airmen escorting him.
    Tony: Good God, you're a woman!
  • Saved for the Sequel: Rhodey looks at the silver prototype Iron Man suit and says, "Next time, baby."
  • Save the Villain: A deleted scene shows Tony trying to save Obadiah after their suits have been disabled. Stane attempts a Taking You with Me.
  • Schematized Prop: Multiple times within the film, including a significant portion of the closing credits.
  • Secret Identity: Tony defies this at the end, when he throws away the prepared speech Coulson gave him to be Tony's cover story. Instead Tony ends the film by flat out stating "I am Iron Man".
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Exactly what Tony tries to do with Stark Industries, after he breaks free from his captors.
  • Sequel Hook: Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in The Stinger.
    Fury: You think you're the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet.
  • Seen It All: Coulson has: "This is not my first rodeo, Mr. Stark."
  • Setting Update: As originally written, Iron Man's origin took place during the Vietnam War. Due to The War on Terror, the film replaces the Communists with terrorists. Dr. Yinsen retains his As Long as It Sounds Foreign East Asian name despite the actor not looking East Asian at all.
  • Sequel Hook: Both the ending and the stinger.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Pepper's dress at a party, that she got for herself from Tony for her birthday.
  • Sexy Stewardess: Tony's private flight attendants double as go-go dancers.
  • Shooting Superman: Both terrorists and SHIELD, what the hell do they expect to accomplish by firing guns against a steel-armoured figure?
  • Shout-Out:
    • Tony's climactic line at the ending could be one to Black Sabbath
    • Look closely at the invoices on Obadiah Stane's computer. One of them is full of references to The Big Lebowski, which Jeff Bridges starred in as The Dude. The "Special Cargo Instructions" section has phrases in the text like "the parlance of our times" and "rugs that tie the room together."
  • Shoot the Hostage Taker: Tony does this during his raid on Afghani warlord, using shoulder-mounted guns that can target and kill the taker without harming the hostage.
  • Skewed Priorities: Upon returning to America after three months in terrorist captivity, Tony insists on first getting an American cheeseburger and hold a company press conference rather than go to the hospital.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Christine Everhart and Tony do the argument version by use of a quick cut from one scene to the next.
    Christine: Have you ever lost an hour of sleep in your life?!
    Tony: I'd be prepared to lose a few with you.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Backgammon variant, in the cave. Using scraps (like nuts and bolts), presumably from a box.
  • Stealth Insult: Pepper delivers one tainted with Slut-Shaming to Stark's one-night stand, reporter Christine Everhart.
    Pepper: I do anything and everything Mr. Stark requires. Including, occasionally, taking out the trash. Will that be all?
  • Suit-Up of Destiny: Done three times — once with the armor cobbled together out of twisted wiring and spit, once with the prototype suit that Tony first went flying in, and finally with the first red and gold model.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: It's one thing to question the official story, and another to insinuate that Tony's some kind of superhero. Oh, you didn't? Whoops.
  • Tanks for Nothing: Tony Stark (in his Iron Man suit) is matched up against a tank. The tank is able to accurately knock him out of the sky with a shell and scuff up his armor (there's a deleted scene that showed how bad the damage was), doing the most damage of any enemy attack yet. Iron Man stands right back up, looks at the tank, fires a dinky missile, and walks away. Said tank then explodes.
  • Taught by Experience: Stark invoked this — "Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk." — by refusing calculations and diagnostics to get a feel for the Mark II design and whatever flaws it may have. Stane had never even worn his Mini-Mecha knockoff prior to the fight, and thus had no understanding of how to fly a humanoid craft or even shoot straight. Without auto-targeting systems, he can't hit a human-sized target at six meters with automatic weapons and explosives. The icing problem caught him by surprise, too.
    Iron Man: This looks important! [yoink]
  • Technology Porn: The Movie. The lovingly rendered sequences of Tony suiting up are pure unadulterated Nerdgasm fetish. Many other tech-heavy scenes can be enjoyed throughout the film, but these easily take the cake.
  • Tempting Fate: Pepper comments that she expected Obadiah's suit (actually Tony's recovered Mk. I) to be bigger. Oh, how right she was.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: We don't really know what the Ten Rings is fighting for. Raza claims it's so he can rule an empire of his own with Stark's weapons, but Iron Man 3 and some of the expanded material have shown that the REAL Mandarin leads the Ten Rings, and that this is simply one chapter of a much larger terrorist organization.
  • Throwing Out the Script:
    • At the end of the movie, Tony Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D. had earlier come up with a cover story that Tony was supposed to give at the press conference. After a few questions from a skeptical press, Tony decides to just tell the truth: "I am Iron Man."
    • Also, assuming the movie had a script, something like this happened during shooting. This is the case according to Favreau, Bridges, and Downey.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • Paramount marketing put this movie on a heavy trailer rotation for a clean month before the US release, allowing a lot of people to figure out many of the plot elements.
    • Obadiah Stane being the villain isn't made clear until later on in the movie. His lighting and expression on the official poster is a near giveaway though.
  • Travelling at the Speed of Plot: Well, it's either this trope, or we're to assume that Tony Stark is so good at seducing women that he can infatuate the reporter at the beginning of the movie enough to make her drive four-and-a-half hours from Las Vegas to Malibu just to have sex with him.
    • Not a lot of time is spared showing Tony flying halfway across the world to Gulmira after suiting up in the Mark III in Malibu. In a deleted scene this is mitigated by him throwing a party at his home in Dubai first, then using fireworks and an orgy to cover up his tracks and launch from there.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Obadiah Stane, a major villain from the comics who drove Tony into alcoholism and took over his company, before Stark sobered up and defeated him, is retooled as having co-founded Stark Industries with Tony's dad, then serves as a mentor to Tony and the second-in-command of his company when the elder Stark dies and Tony inherits the company. Naturally, this being an adaptation, Obadiah turns out to be more villainous than he lets on.
  • Trespassing to Talk: At the end of the film, Nick Fury breaks into Tony Stark's house to talk to him about the Avenger Initiative.
  • Twenty Minutes In The Future: While not remarked upon during the story, the film (released in 2008) is set in 2010.
  • Twist Ending: Most superhero movies end with the hero's Secret Identity intact, but at the end of the first film, Stark reveals it to the world. This is even after the comic book "bodyguard" explanation is devised as a cover... which is dismissed by both Stark and one of the reporters, remarking on how ridiculous it is. Considering Stark's humanitarian ways, this makes a great deal of sense.
  • Unflinching Walk: Iron Man fires a remote explosive at a tank in Afghanistan then calmly walks away. A few seconds later it detonates and takes the tank with it.
  • Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: The film has a sort-of example: The Iron Monger suit is based off research from the original Mark I armor, and is certainly larger and more powerful than Tony's Mark new Mark III. Conversely, Stane's suit is powered by Tony's newest miniturized Arc Reacor while Tony himself is forced to use his original Mini Arc reactor that he built in a cave. With a box of scraps.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: Most of the images inside the Iron Man suit's holographic interface are so large that they would obstruct Tony's view, display data he doesn't need at that time, and generally are there more to look cool for the viewer than be useful to Tony. However, it can at least partially be justified in that Tony designed the display himself, and Tony is (since Reed Richards doesn't exist in the MCU (yet)), one of the smartest guys in the world, we can assume that even though it looks like there's way too much stuff there, his mind works so much faster than ours that he can make use of all that input, and he specifically made it that way.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Obadiah Stane, after finding out no one but Tony knows how to make a miniaturized arc reactor.
  • The War on Terror: The first act of the movie is set in Afghanistan as the American military battles guerrilla fighters hiding out in caves, obviously influenced by the War on Terror. However, the antagonists have been changed from Afghan Islamic extremists to a multinational, multilingual, foreign militia called the Ten Rings. The Ten Rings has no explicit religion and a more generic "Take Over the World" raison d'etre.
  • Weaponized Exhaust: Tony's repulsor beams started as high powered exhaust emitted by his prototype suit's flight system. Before that, the repulsor was the engine for the new Jericho missile.
    Pepper: I thought you said you were done making weapons.
    Tony: It isn't. This is a flight stabilizer. It's completely harmless
    Tony: ...I didn't expect that.
  • Wham Line:
    • When Tony confronts Stane about selling weapons on the black market.
      Obidiah Stane: Who do you think filed the injunction?
    • A smaller one for those who didn't catch it before.
      Agent Coulson: Just call us S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • The ending.
      Tony Stark: [to live audience] Truth is... I am Iron Man.
    • At The Stinger.
      Nick Fury: I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: A variation, as Tony calls Pepper out for walking out now that he wants to protect everyone he's put in danger, whereas before she had no problem with his reaping the benefits of destruction.
  • When Things Spin, Science Happens: When the outer breastplate is closed during the Mark III suiting-up sequence, the structures surrounding the arc reactor spin counter-clockwise ever so slightly. Justified, as it's the internal mechanisms of the suit helping lock all those pieces it's made out of together.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Tony is forced to use his original arc reactor after Stane steals the improved reactor, which isn't powerful enough for his improved suit.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Stane has Raza and his men killed after getting Tony's first armor suit and its plans.
    Raza: I hope you'll repay me with the gift of iron soldiers.
    Stane: [in Urdu] This is the only gift you shall receive.