The crown jewel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is undeniably Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, whose greatest creation is his extensive gallery of Iron Man suits. Thanks to his extraordinary genius and his rampant ambition, Stark created a multitude of armors that let him battle fire-breathing terrorists and literal gods. After evolving from a selfish businessman into the role model for future generations of superheroes, his armor continues to be a symbol of heroism. But the armor – while it served a similar purpose in every outing – continually changed in the series, receiving upgrades, new equipment, specialisations, altered designs, and even changed materials. It proved Tony’s relentless dedication to improving and refining his own tech, and stood as symbolism for his own character arc and journey through his 10 Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
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As the owner of Stark Industries, Tony began his narrative journey as “The Merchant of Death.” His life turned upside-down when a terrorist group used his own weapons against him and left his life hanging by a thread. Unbeknownst to everyone involved, this is the first step toward the salvation of the universe, as Stark shifts his worldview away from warmongering and focuses on building a suit of armor to protect the world and those he loves. Despite his constant failures at righting his wrongs, the character is now a paragon of courage inside and outside the movie screen.
Many of Iron Man’s coolest armors never made it into the movies. However, the numerous Iron Man armors that Tony Stark built throughout his presence in the MCU perfectly showcased his otherworldly intellect as well as his penchant for spectacle. But despite making around 93 suits of armor in total, the genius Avenger only wore 19 of them onscreen.
Mark I – Iron Man
The first armor Tony Stark builds in the MCU is a matter of life and death. Instead of building a missile for the Ten Rings inside a cave in the middle of the desert, Tony and fellow hostage Ho Yinsen (Shaun Tob) secretly put together a rough suit of armor with the few resources they can salvage. They arm it with two flamethrowers under each hand, a limited rocket launcher, and very crude jet boots. Given the source of its materials, the whole armor is bulletproof, although its rushed design leaves multiple vulnerable spots at risk, such as the joints and eye holes. As unrefined as it was, it served to inspire Tony to become the invincible Iron Man.
Mark II – Iron Man
After surviving Afghanistan, Tony Stark returns with an ambitious goal in mind. He commits himself to build an improved version of the armor he created, in the words of Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), “with a box of scraps.” Tony first develops advanced repulsor technology and then devises the now-famous armor design. Sleek and aerodynamic, the Mark II is the first suit to integrate JARVIS (Paul Bettany) and a fully-functioning HUD, apart from the hundreds of carefully arranged moving parts that grant Tony maneuverability while flying. Its major weakness is its inability to reach high altitudes without freezing, a flaw that Tony later uses to defeat Stane. This armor is the first one used by James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) preceding the official debut of War Machine.
Mark III – Iron Man
Tony Stark’s Mark III armor symbolizes the consolidation of Iron Man as a full-fledged superhero. The most evident change he implements in this model is the iconic red-and-gold scheme, inspired by one of his many luxury cars. This is also the first armor fully designed to hold up in battle, incorporating a whole arsenal of anti-tank missiles, flares, and shoulder-mounted miniguns, besides the intensified repulsors and stronger uni+beam in its chest. Its gold titanium alloy fixes the icing problem and enhances its strength as well as its durability.
Mark IV – Iron Man 2
After the Mark III suit is heavily damaged in Tony Stark’s final battle with Obadiah Stane, Tony builds the Mark IV armor to replace it. By this point, his ego has returned and he wears the armor as a symbol of luxury. For this reason, he doesn’t come up with further improvements besides a higher degree of mobility, a brighter shade of red, and — one of the most peculiar Iron Man armor features — a biological waste disposal system that lets him relieve his basic necessities without the need to go to the bathroom.
Mark V – Iron Man 2
Dubbed Iron Man’s “Suitcase Suit’, the Mark V armor prioritizes accessibility over strength, flight, and endurance. This model owes its name to its ability to transform into an inconspicuous suitcase for cases of emergency like the attack of Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) in Monaco. It’s composed of a large number of lightweight plates that allow for a quick suit-up and a great range of movement at the cost of its durability. Although it saves Tony from Whiplash’s rage, it gets heavily damaged with just a few blows.
Mark VI – Iron Man 2 and The Avengers
When the arc reactor in Tony Stark’s chest poisons him, he creates a cleaner and more powerful one — plus a proper armor to go with it. This gives him the bonus advantage of harnessing an incredibly higher energy supply that allows him to add more mobility, more weapons, and more protection to the suit. The new features include a powerful laser, arm-mounted mini-missiles, considerable resistance to electricity — as evidenced by its durability against Whiplash and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) — and the ability to perform perfectly underwater.
Mark VII – The Avengers
Tony Stark’s suit-up after Loki (Tom Hiddleston) threw him off Stark Tower helped the Mark VII armor get engraved in the minds of the fans. This model takes the shape of a rocket-like pod that attaches to a pair of bracelets and assembles around Tony, simplifying the suit-up process. The circular arc reactor returns and so does the suit’s whole arsenal, plus a new bunch of missiles, rechargeable lasers, and rear thrusters. The Mark VII possesses a powerful thruster in its back, which frees up Tony Stark’s hands and allows him to blast his opponents while flying at full speed. The suit is able to withstand heavy battle damage and take down a Leviathan, but it can’t withstand a trip to space without shutting down.
Mark XLII – Iron Man 3
After experimenting with the Iron Legion’s 35 Iron Man suits, Tony Stark develops an armor that he can manipulate remotely with subcutaneous chips implanted on his arms that control the individual parts that assemble, one by one, around his body. This feature also allows him to lock the suit onto another person. “Prodigal Son” can also be controlled with a headset that allows Tony to take full command of the suit from a very distant location. It sports a lighter shade of gold and, while still equipped with all of the regular weaponry, relies on its high-powered repulsor technology to fight.
The Iron Legion Armors – Iron Man 3
Mark XXXIII “Silver Centurion”: Based on its popular comic book counterpart, the Silver Centurion has one hidden blade in each arm and an enhanced energy system. It’s the first armor that Tony Stark wears after calling the Iron Legion to battle Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and the first one to be destroyed by him.
Mark XVI “Nightclub”: This model is one of Stark’s stealth-based suits, designed with an electronic cloaking system and color camouflaging technology. It’s the second suit he uses against Killian. Like the Mark V armor, Nightclub also sacrifices strength, firepower, and durability for enhanced mobility.
Mark XL “Shotgun”: With the ability to reach speeds over Mach 5, this is one of the fastest Iron Man armors Tony Stark ever created. It’s the suit he chooses to fight Killian after Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is presumed dead. This model has a powerful thruster in the back to stabilize it while flying and fighting.
Mark XV “Sneaky”: It’s the first suit Tony Stark designed for stealth purposes, the first one in the Iron Legion to have a nickname, and the last one he uses in the final battle, getting totaled after the explosion of Mark XLII. Its design stands out for its rugged helmet and the sharp angles in its plates.
Mark XLIII – Avengers: Age of Ultron
Tony Stark promised not to continue his armor-building venture with the “Clean Slate” protocol in Iron Man 3. However, Mark XLIII proved otherwise. This model takes the best features from the Mark VII and Mark XLII armors, merging the versatility of the latter with the endurance of the former. Contrary to the previous model, this suit can break into pieces at will but doesn’t shatter under heavy hits. It also adds an infrared scanning system and the ability to switch into Sentry Mode.
Mark XLIV – Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Hulkbuster armor finally arrived in Avengers: Age of Ultron after years of anticipation since Tony Stark’s cameo in the post-credits scene of The Incredible Hulk. This colossal suit is developed by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) as a contingency plan in case the gamma-radiated scientist lost control. Powered by multiple arc reactors, the armor is deployed by a satellite named Veronica and assembled onto Tony’s regular armor. All of its weapons are custom designed to subdue the Hulk, with sedatives, jackhammer hands, and replaceable parts to help him. The Hulkbuster returns in Avengers: Infinity War, this time worn by Bruce Banner.
Mark XLV – Avengers: Age of Ultron
This model carries over all of the features from Mark XLIII and reinforces the whole armor with chromed gold titanium, making it considerably tougher and shinier. The overall design is sleeker and pioneers the hexagonal shape around its arc reactor. Since JARVIS was used by Ultron (James Spader) to create Vision, this is the first Iron Man model to use his replacement, FRIDAY (Jennifer Connelly). This suit is so durable that it manages to withstand a fight against Ultron and his minions and still be able to overload the machine that detonates Sokovia, subsequently surviving the raining debris.
Mark XLVI – Captain America: Civil War
The suit Tony Stark used to fight Captain America (Chris Evans) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is the first one to be inspired by the Bleeding Edge armor from the comics, prior to the nanotech armor he uses in Avengers: Infinity War. The miniature arc reactors scattered throughout the armor enhance its power and its collapsible structure enable Tony to manipulate it more easily. He can put it on effortlessly with the touch of a button and the helmet can retract into the suit. Tony keeps a glove stored in his watch that has sonar and flashbang blasts that help him fight Bucky even without the need to wear the rest of the suit.
Mark XLVII – Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Mark XLVII armor that appears in Spider-Man: Homecoming is directly inspired by the Ultimate Marvel comics, with its middle portion sporting a silver color. The design, however, is the same as the Mark XLVI, although its main improvement is the ability to be controlled by Wi-Fi without the need for a headset, as Tony Stark demonstrates while on vacation in India. It also has powerful detachable jets that allow Tony Stark to put the damaged ferry back together faster than Spider-Man’s webs. When not controlled by Tony, FRIDAY takes care of it.
Mark L – Avengers: Infinity War
Tony Stark’s fiftieth armor marked the penultimate step toward perfecting his greatest creation. Since it’s based on nanotechnology, its features are basically endless and only dependent on Tony’s creativity. It can materialize and reshape itself in a matter of seconds, creating a wide variety of missiles, thrusters, cannons, blades, hammers, shields, wings, freezing spray, and even glasses. The design is the sleekest of all Iron Man suits and mimics the shape of Tony’s body. It also has the ability to fly into deep space without any damage, while protecting Tony from radiation and also supplying life support.
Mark LXXXV – Avengers: Endgame
Tony Stark spent the five years after Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) snap polishing his ultimate suit, which resulted in the Mark LXXXV. Perfectly resembling the classic look of Steve Ditko’s comic book illustrations, Tony’s final armor blends the Mark L’s sleekness and nanotechnology with a visibly more muscular and stronger design. Not only does this model perfect all of the previous features but also possesses enough strength to withstand an all-out fight with Thanos and harness the power of all six Infinity Stones.
Bonus: Pepper Potts’ Rescue Armor – Avengers: Endgame
One of the many fan-pleasing surprises that Avengers: Endgame brought to fans was Pepper Potts’ own suit of armor, previously teased by her wearing the Iron Man Mark XLII armor in Iron Man 3. The Rescue armor isn’t as weapon-heavy as most of Tony Stark’s suits in the comics, but the MCU did give Pepper all the features Iron Man is known for, such as the floating ion cannons and the uni-beam, courtesy of Tony’s determination to protect Pepper and their daughter Morgan. Although Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is unlikely to have a big role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after the death of Tony Stark, she could don her Rescue armor in a future Avengers or an all-female A-Force project, in the form of a cameo. After all, the Rescue suit might be the most powerful Iron Man armor Tony Stark never wore.
- Black Widow (2021)Release date: Jul 09, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
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