The billionaire-playboy-philanthropist who started it all, Tony Stark AKA Iron Man’s final standalone film leaves him primed for the wild, high-stake events to come. Iron Man 3 returns to the titular man-in-the-can after his heroic act in the first Avengers, suffering from insomnia and anxiety attacks. But little does he know that far more than his recent past is coming back to haunt him.
The other side of the Iron Man camera also went through some change, with Iron Man 1 & 2 director Jon Favreau giving way to legendary Hollywood scribe Shane Black. Black brought his patented style to the hugely successful MCU series, using these beloved character’s screen time to dish out his trademark one-liners.
10 President Ellis (~5:34)
Even though President Ellis is barely onscreen, he comes out of the film looking pretty bad, having a rougher time than most characters. Ellis leads a government at the mercy of the seemingly formidable Mandarin, who undermines Ellis’s authority on national television to powerful effect.
Ellis is then kidnapped off of Air Force One and brought to Aldrich Killian (in the government’s very own Iron Patriot suit) to answer for his shameful history in letting a prominent oil company escape answering for their crimes. To look this bad in such a short amount of time is actually one impressive feat.
9 Trevor Slattery (~9:40)
If there’s anyone who’s in over his head, it’s Trevor Slattery. Posing as the Mandarin, the face of the terroristic incidents raging across the country, Tony discovers that Slattery is nothing more than a down-on-his-luck English theater actor with many (many) vices.
Stark learns that Slattery is an elaborate cover-up for not only Killian’s identity as the true Mandarin but also the explosive failures from his risky experiments. Despite his obvious obliviousness, Slattery was still complicit in actions that had some real-world consequences, but he seemed to be handling his imprisonment well.
8 Harley Keener (~10:57)
The sidekick Tony never knew he needed, fan-favorite Harley Keener is easily one of if not the most memorable newcomers to the Iron Man trilogy. Bursting into his own garage, armed with his trusty potato gun, Harley first meets Tony shortly after the superhero barely escaped a devastating attack on his own home.
From then on, Harley serves as Tony’s annoying guide through the small town of Rose Hill, Tennesee as he investigates an explosion oddly similar to the one that put Happy in the hospital. Although Tony eventually ditches him, he entrusts Harley with his suit for safekeeping. After all, they’re connected.
7 Happy Hogan (~11:00)
Since his position as Tony’s bodyguard became obsolete when Stark invented his own state-of-the-art iron suit, Happy Hogan moved up, becoming head of security for all of Stark Industries. But despite this upgrade in responsibility and a slew of staff to oversee, Happy can’t help but do some things himself.
When Aldrich Killian comes to meet with Pepper, Happy keys in on the shady character of Savin, accompanying Killian on their visit. Happy’s hunch about Savin proves to be right but costly when Savin triggers an explosion that puts Happy in the hospital. But of course Happy had to survive as he hadn’t met Aunt May yet.
6 Savin (~11:40)
Aldrich Killian’s right-hand man, Savin is both one cool customer and also hot enough to melt the steel beam of almost anything. First appearing in the cozy offices of Stark Industries, Savin quickly heats things up when he triggers an explosion in front of the fabled Chinese Theater.
He follows that up by leading the helicopter assault on Tony’s house, hijacking the Iron Patriot suit, and kidnapping President Ellis right off of Air Force One. Savin’s time in the MCU and on screen may have been short, but he certainly made the most of it.
5 Maya Hansen (~15:20)
A prime example of pure intentions being tainted by real-world circumstances, Maya Hansen’s short-lived run in the MCU is actually a somewhat tragic one. Hansen first appeared in 1999 under Tony Stark’s arm, pitching her well-researched theories on the potential to recode the part of the brain that governs repair.
Years later she reappears at Tony’s doorstep claiming that her boss is working for the Mandarin. However, Maya reveals herself to be in league with Killian, blinded by her ambitions to finally perfect her creation, Extremis. While she does show some remorse, aligning with Killian ultimately leads to her murder by his hand.
4 James Rhodes/Iron Patriot (~15:32)
Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes is one of the lucky few that can truly call Tony Stark a friend. Coming off a team-up with Tony in the finale of Iron Man 2, Rhodey (AKA War Machine) is going through a bit of a rebrand, complete with a new name in Iron Patriot (and a fresh paint job to match).
He’s sent all over the world on a wild goose chase for the Mandarin, only to be caught and hijacked by the very people he was chasing. But it’s Rhodey who gets the last laugh, recovering both President Ellis and his suit during the final showdown with Killian. While Iron Patriot tested well, Rhodey would eventually go back to his old paint job and title.
3 Aldrich Killian/The Mandarin (~22:13)
First showing up in 1999 with a desperate pitch to Tony Stark, Aldrich Killian finds himself ringing in the new millennium alone on a roof, waiting for someone who would never show. The seeds of Killian’s villainous path were planted that day and began to bloom in the present-day with the entrance of his creation, the Mandarin (given new context by an upcoming MCU film).
After successfully abducting President Ellis and experimenting on Pepper, he reveals his grand plan to control the war on terror, creating both supply and demand. But despite viewing Pepper as little more than a trophy, in the end, it is she who delivers the final blow to Killian.
2 Pepper Potts (~25:17)
Putting up with Tony Stark is a 25/8 job, and no one deserves a break more than the Head of Stark Industries. Debuting back in 2008 in the first Iron Man, Pepper is now the one making the calls, including taking a meeting with a charming Aldrich Killian.
Though she turns down both his offer and advances, it isn’t long before he returns, kidnapping and injecting her with the experimental Extremis. While Pepper initially finds herself in the role of the damsel, she is ultimately the one to come to Tony’s aid. Powered by the Extremis injection, she takes down Killian herself, an act that would foreshadow her participation in future battles.
1 Tony Stark/Iron Man (~1:29:26)
While Tony Stark in the MCU has always been synonymous with his legendary suit, in Iron Man 3, he spends the bulk of his time without it. In the time since the mythic battle in Avengers, Tony has spent many a sleepless night in his workshop, building suit after suit.
But after his and Pepper’s home is destroyed, he is separated from them and must rely solely on his massive intellect to fix the only suit at his disposal and uncover the truth behind Mandarin’s claimed attacks. His vulnerability forces him to confront both his fears and past mistakes, leaving him better prepared to face the massive challenges that he knew were coming, as well as his final destiny.
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