It may be difficult to consider anything but the idea that Tony Stark's Iron Man was a hero to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, given his sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame to save the universe from Thanos. We even see in Spider-Man: Far From Home the high level of hero worship for Tony Stark following his death, a true testament to his heroism, right?
Well, when examining the MCU's first few phases and Tony Stark's role in the films that followed his iconic debut in 2008's Iron Man, there are a number of times that Stark, both as himself and as Iron Man, proved to be the true villain of the MCU. We'll take a closer look today at a few of these villainous moves that continue to taint Tony Stark's heroic sacrifice.
10 HELICARRIER ENDANGERMENT
When the Avengers Initiative was in the early stages, the original team of Avengers first gathered on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s unique aircraft and personnel carrier, the Helicarrier. Stark and Banner spent a good amount of their time on the Helicarrier working together to find Loki and the Tesseract, but Tony still managed to endanger everyone aboard, presumably for fun.
Curious about Bruce Banner's monstrous alter ego, Tony hopes to get a reaction from Banner so he can see the Jade Giant with his own eyes. We see the result of this when Loki does just that and Hulk lays waste to the Helicarrier. Thankfully that crisis was averted by Thor but had Banner lost control due to Stark's prodding, the damage may have been catastrophic.
It was during The Avengers that we see Tony's first act of treason as well, as he arrives on the Helicarrier to begin working with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers. Of course, he isn't on the ship for very long before he secretly attaches some tech and begins hacking into secure government files.
Sure, by hacking into S.H.I.E.L.D. files he manages to uncover Fury's dark plans for the Tesseract, it is still an overt act of treason on a government entity that should have had more consequences, even if he was technically hacking Hydra files at the time as well.
8 DRINKING AND ARMORING
Tony Stark has suffered from alcoholism in the comics for years, though he has been in recovery for decades since the iconic "Demon in a Bottle" storyline. The MCU briefly touched upon his addiction in Iron Man 2, when Tony retreats into the bottle to deal with his inability to stop the palladium poisoning running through his body.
While most people trying to escape their problems with a bottle only end up hurting themselves, Tony Stark decided to go out with a bang while wearing his Iron Man armor. This led to incredibly dangerous stunts like repulsor blasting a watermelon and other various items and turns into a full-on armored battle with his best friend. Not the best way to crash a party, Tony.
7 INSPIRED THE CREATION OF A.I.M.
Tony doesn't need the Iron Man suit to create problems in the MCU, as fans learned in Iron Man 3. As the film opens we see Tony before his kidnapping and creation of Iron Man at a tech conference. There he meets Aldrich Killian, who he rejected and embarrassed, which almost led to Killian taking his own life.
Instead, Killian dedicated himself to building up his thinktank known as A.I.M. to take down Tony and further his Extremis project. Comic fans know A.I.M. is actually the brilliant terrorist organization known as Advanced Idea Mechanics, which become a worldwide threat on the same scale as Hydra. Way to go, Tony.
6 CREATED ULTRON
Avengers: Age of Ultron saw Tony attempting to protect the Earth from the looming threat of the unknown army that attacked Earth in The Avengers, which fans know to be Thanos. To do this he teamed with Bruce Banner to use the Mind Gem housed within Loki's Sceptre to create a "suit of armor around the world."
That suit of armor was the artificial intelligence known as Ultron, who very quickly turned evil and set about a plan to save the Earth from its greatest threat - humanity. Ultron is one of the Avengers greatest enemies and has even threatened the entire galaxy in the comics, and the MCU's version is even more dangerous, considering it was molded from its creator, Tony Stark.
5 CHILD ENDANGERMENT
Perhaps one of the most irresponsible moments in Iron Man's cinematic career occurred during Captain America: Civil War. The Avengers were forced to pick a side during the Sokovia Accords that called for more oversight and supervision of the team to avoid loss of life and collateral damage, which would split the team in half.
Tony was the figurehead of the Sokovia Accords, and when the final team battle happened in Germany, Tony broke the Accords rules and Child Endangerment laws when he recruited a young unregistered Peter Parker to serve alongside him in battle as Spider-Man. Sure, Peter's a tough kid, but his age alone would make him ineligible for service as a registered hero with the government.
4 MURDEROUS REVENGE
Civil War did not showcase the best of Tony Stark, as he was forced to make a number of questionable decisions in the film that fall in line more with an angry child than the privatized singular security force of the United States.
Not only does he lash out at Falcon after the winged hero dodged an attack from Vision that left War Machine paralyzed, his attempt to kill Bucky (and Cap) after learning that a mind-controlled Winter Soldier was responsible for the death of his parents was anything but heroic.
3 POOR BUSINESS ETHICS
While Tony Stark made a step in the morally right direction in Iron Man when he halted the production of Stark Industries weapons, some of his other business decisions after that moment weren't as altruistic. As we learned in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tony Stark's forming of Damage Control may have had good intentions, but it caused major problems.
Damage Control took over the salvage operations following the "Battle of New York," which put Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes and his crew out of work. This ultimately led to Toomes becoming the Vulture, which not only threatens young Peter Parker/Spider-Man yet again but almost causes a number of deaths and a near-catastrophic plane crash.
2 BAD BOSS
At the dawn of the MCU, Tony Stark was the head of Stark Industries, which was primarily a weapons manufacturer before moving into new areas. Throughout the following phases, we see Tony use his company and assets to produce new Iron Man tech as he distanced himself from his company by putting Pepper Potts in charge.
However, as we learned in Spider-Man: Far From Home, Tony's years of questionable business decisions and potentially immoral and illegal uses of technology created for him by others inspired a team of disgruntled employees led by Quentin Beck/Mysterio to attempt to strike back against their former boss, putting the world once again in danger due to Tony's failures.
1 BAD MENTOR
We've been talking about Spider-Man a lot here, but when Spidey made the move to the MCU Tony Stark became a huge part of his life as he took Parker under his wing. Unfortunately, this often led to Tony throwing Parker into the deep end without his help, as we saw in Homecoming when tony gifted him a new deadly suit and then promptly disappeared from his life.
Then in Infinity War, Tony's rash actions after the attack on the Sanctum Sanctorum by the Children of Thanos once again put Peter Parker in danger as he rushed into space without a plan or backup to take on the biggest threat the Avengers had ever faced. This ultimately led to the death of Peter Parker, a death that rightfully haunted Stark for years and led to his eventual sacrifice in Endgame.