The movie begins with Tony Stark visiting soldiers on duty in the Middle East. He is joking with some members of a convoy who seem to be genuinely amused by his persona. Suddenly, the convoy is attacked. The soldiers fight to defend themselves but are quickly killed. Stark flees when a bomb (bearing the logo of his company, "Stark Industries") explodes, severely wounding Tony's chest. Tony is captured and recorded by a group of terrorists.
A flashback sequence reveals Tony's history as a child prodigy before taking over his father's technology company at age 21. Colonel James Rhodes attends a ceremony to present Tony Stark with an award for his work, but Stark is not in attendance. Tony's right-hand man (and his father's former partner) Obadiah Stane accepts the award in Tony's honor. Rhody later finds Tony partying in a casino. On his way out, a reporter named Christine approaches Stark with some questions regarding the ethics of his weapons business. Stark deflects her questions with some swift quips and the two end up spending the night together.
Next morning, Christine is awakened by a voice on a computer monitor. It's JARVIS, the artificial intelligence program responsible for running Tony's house. Christine is greeted by Tony's assistant, "Pepper" Potts as she leaves the house. Pepper helps Tony catch up on some business before Tony heads out to the airport where his plane is kept.
In flight, Tony talks with Rhody. Rhody is unhappy about Tony's lax attitude, and Tony tries to get his old friend to relax. Before long they are drunk and leering at the stewardesses.
Tony arrives at a military outpost in the Middle East to demonstrate his company's latest project - the Jericho, a super-missile system. After the demonstration, Tony gets a phone call from Obadiah and they are both pleased that the demonstration went well. Tony goes off with the convoy that is soon attacked by terrorists.
Much later, Tony regains consciousness in a cave. His chest is hooked up to a strange device. Another captive, named Yinsen, explains that he operated on Stark but was unable to remove all the shrapnel fragments from the bomb blast. Yinsen created a device - essentially a battery-powered magnet - that will keep the remaining fragments out of Tony's heart.
The terrorists who captured Tony & Yinsen enter the room. Yinsen translates; they want Tony to build them a Jericho missile. Tony refuses, so they begin to torture Stark.
Hours later, the terrorists show off a huge stockpile of weapons-all made by Stark Industries. Tony appears to relent and start building the missile, but has other plans. With Yinsen's help, Tony constructs a tiny device called an Arc Reactor - a new type of power generator - streamlined from a much bigger design used in one of his companies factory. The power output is enough to run Stark's heart for fifty lifetimes... or something much bigger for about 15 minutes.
Tony designs a way out for them - a powered weapon suit that he will wear and use to defeat the terrorists. Midway through construction, the head of the terrorist group known as The Ten Rings, a man named Raza arrives and attempts to torture Yinsen, angry because he thinks Stark is not working on the Jericho as they wanted. Raza gives them one more day to finish.
Working overnight, Yinsen straps Tony into the completed armored suit, telling him the way out of the cave. They set off a bomb inside the cell as a distraction for the guards as Tony powers up his suit. Yinsen realizes that they will not have enough time. He grabs a gun and runs off to distract the surviving guards.
Tony, fully powered, muscles his way through the cave. The guards try to stop but his suit easily deflects their weapon fire. Halfway out, Stark finds Yinsen, mortally wounded. Tony tearfully thanks Yinsen for saving him, and Yinsen encourages Tony to not waste his life as he dies.
Tony turns his suit on the terrorists, igniting flame-throwers. He destroys their stockpile of weapons and uses a rudimentary jet-pack to blast away from the captive zone. The armor is ruined as he crash-lands into a sand dune, but he escapes alive.
Stark walks over more sand dunes when a couple of US helicopters fly overhead. A group of soldiers, led by Rhody, come across Tony. Rhody is overjoyed to find that his friend is alive.
Tony returns to the United States after three months in captivity. Pepper wants Tony to receive medical treatment, but Tony states that there are only two things he wants: an American cheeseburger and a company press conference. Shortly after, Tony appears before a group of reporters and announces that he intends to shut down Stark Industries' weapons manufacturing division immediately. At the same time, Pepper is approached by Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Marvel Cinematic Universe)|the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement & Logistic Division]] agency. They want to talk to Tony Stark about his capture. Pepper schedules an appointment for them.
That evening, Obadiah confronts Tony about his actions, furious. Obadiah knows that the stock value for their company (and, by extension, their financial status) is going to take a serious drop because of this announcement. Tony wants Stark Industries to move forward with Arc Reactor technology, but Obadiah thinks that the Arc Reactor is nothing but a publicity stunt. Through the conversation, Tony ends up revealing his prosthetic power-heart to Obadiah. Stane convinces Tony to lay low for a while so the company can sort things out.
Pepper watches a news report on the declining value of Stark Industries when Tony asks for her help. He's created an upgraded Arc Reactor but can't install it into his chest without someone to help. Pepper accidentally yanks out the cords for the old reactor too soon, putting Tony on the verge of cardiac arrest. They manage to complete the process in time. Tony tells Pepper to get rid of the old model since he's not a sentimental person.
Tony comes to visit Rhodes and asks for help with a new private project. Rhody does not agree with Tony's approach; he thinks Stark is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of his capture and needs time to recover.
Tony turns to his other best friend - JARVIS, the A.I. program - for help. Tony's plan is revealed to be an upgrade to his armored suit (referred to as "Mark 2," with the suit from the terrorist cave being Mark 1).
Meanwhile, the terrorists who held Tony captive are searching the desert, gathering all fragments of the original armored suit.
Tony decides that the first thing he has to do is to perfect the armor's flight system. Since the leg-mounted jets prove too unstable, he creates arm-mounted stabilizers to balance out the system. Pepper comes in when he is testing the stabilizers and they find that it also creates a powerful repulsion beam that could also be used as a weapon. Pepper leaves a box on Tony's desk.
Obadiah visits Tony and reveals that the board of directors have filed an injunction to gain control of Stark Industries. Tony isn't worried; he still maintains controlling interest in Stark Industries.
Tony finally manages to perfect his flight system, and is delighted at the prospect of flying.
A new armored suit is soon finished, looking like a heavily-streamlined version of Tony's Mark 1 armor. Tony connects with Jarvis to monitor the progress in the suit. Tony decides to take it out for a test flight, and he is thrilled by everything the suit can do. Tony decides to push the limit for higher-atmosphere flying, but at such great heights the suit becomes coated with ice and his power supply shuts down. Tony is barely able to reactivate his thrusters in time to avoid crashing into the ground. Stark returns home, but the armor is so heavy that it crashes through three floors of the house.
As Tony recovers from his crash landing, he opens the box that Pepper left behind earlier. It's his original Arc Reactor heart, with a special border around it reading, "Proof That Tony Stark Has A Heart."
Tony analyzes more data and decides to rebuild the suit using gold titanium from an old project to solve the icing problem. Tony also instructs Jarvis to add some "hot-rod red" paint to the next suit, codenamed Mark 3. Tony then leaves to attend his annual benefit dinner while the new suit is being assembled and painted.
At the charity event, Tony meets with Agent Coulson, who still wants to learn about Tony's incident. Tony then leaves to dance with Pepper and they share a moment together in the moonlight.
Tony is then confronted by Christine, the reporter from an earlier scene. She shows him photographs of his weapons being used by a terrorist group the previous day in the Middle East. Tony confronts Obadiah on the matter, and Obadiah reveals that he is the one who filed the injunction against Tony. Obadiah calls himself an "Iron Monger," and has no qualms about selling Stark Industries weapons to both sides of the conflict. Tony returns home, furious. When the new suit is completed, Stark steps in and essentially transforms into Iron Man for the first time.
In a Middle East village, terrorists are rounding up civilians for capture & execution when they are confronted by a mysterious figure in red and gold. Iron Man has arrived. Within seconds, he defeats the terrorists the armors superior targeting allows him to kill a group using civilians as human shields without harming the hostages and destroys the weapons they had obtained. The leader of the group tries in one of the buildings to hide only to find a red and gold arm smash through the wall and yank him back out into the street Iron Man then hands him over to the villagers saying "He's all yours." before taking off.
As Iron Man leaves the area, two F-22 jets spot him. Col. Rhodes is asked about the status of any new developments. He contacts Tony, who claims that he knows nothing about what is happening. Iron Man tries to outrun the jets but they are too much for him. Tony calls Rhodes and reveals that he is responsible for the "unidentified craft." Rhody is furious about Tony sending in unauthorized equipment, and horrified when Tony explains that the "equipment" is actually himself! Iron Man is hit by one fighter jet, sending him flying into the wing of the second jet. The pilot is forced to eject, but the parachute fails to open. Iron Man, still under fire, manages to fly in and successfully deploy the parachute in time to save the pilot's life. Tony convinces Rhody to pass off what happened with the jets as a "training exercise."
As Tony arrives back at home, Pepper catches him removing the battle-damaged Iron Man armor.
Meanwhile, the Ten Rings terrorist group is visited by none other than Obadiah. It is revealed that Stane paid the Ten Rings members to kill Stark, but they realized who Stark was and demanded a much higher price. Obadiah takes the remnants of the Mark 1 armor they have gathered.
Tony tries to talk Pepper into helping him, believing that nothing else matters but stopping the people who he put in harm's way. Pepper is moved by Tony's dedication, and agrees. She goes into Obadiah's office with a tiny piece of equipment designed to copy files from the computer. As Pepper sifts through stored files, she finds a video from the terrorists proving that Obadiah was responsible for Tony's capture.
Obadiah comes into the office just as she is leaving, but Pepper manages to get away. However, as soon as he powers up the computer, Obadiah realizes what she was up to. On the way out, Pepper is joined by Agent Coulson and he agrees to help stop Obadiah with his fellow agents.
Obadiah meets with his team of developers working on his own armored suit. They cannot figure out how to create a power source for the suit. Stane is furious; then realizes that he has one other option.
Stane arrives at Tony's house and paralyzes him with a sonic weapon. Obadiah yanks out the power source from Tony's heart, taunting him all the while. After he leaves, Tony realizes that he has only one hope for survival - the preserved Arc Reactor that Pepper gave him in a display case. He gets the power source installed just as Rhody arrives.
Pepper, Coulson and several other agents arrive at Obadiah's research facility. They spot the Mark 1 Armor and a storage location where something else was kept. Just then, a gigantic robotic suit comes to life and attacks them - it's Obadiah's counterpart suit, code-named the Iron Monger.
Rhody watches Tony suit up, awestruck at the Iron Man costume. As Tony flies away, Rhody looks at the prototype silver suit Tony built earlier... then shakes his head and mumbles "Next time."
Iron Man arrives and begins to fight Iron Monger. Jarvis warns Tony that he has only about half power in the suit; the older power source wasn't designed to work alongside the newer suit. The two ironclad warriors have a huge battle. Iron Man, after being beaten by his nemesis, attempts to flee from the battle scene. However, Iron Monger counters this by flying after him and carrying him high into the sky. Iron Monger, as he thinks he has the upper hand, instantly freezes up as he goes higher into the atmosphere, freeing Iron Man in the process. Iron Monger crashes in the Stark Industries building, and Iron Man falls moments after, his battery running out of power. The two fight again.
Tony instructs Pepper to overload the building's Arc Reactor, which will generate a shockwave strong enough to knock out the Iron Monger's suit. Pepper is hesitant, believing that Tony could also be killed. Tony manages to keep fighting while she builds up power to the Reactor. The Arc explodes, taking out Obadiah and injuring Tony. But the energy wave from the Reactor also manages to re-charge Tony's heart battery, saving him from death.
Days later, Rhody holds a press conference about the incident with the two robots. Tony is impressed with the newspaper's coming up with the name "Iron Man," and plans to adopt it. Agent Coulson has released cover stories about Obadiah and the "truth" about Iron Man (who will be referred to as Stark's bodyguard). Pepper thanks Coulson but cannot remember the full name of the group he belongs to. Coulson just tells them to call it S.H.I.E.L.D. and states that they will be in touch again.
Tony goes before the reporters once more, and prepares to comply with the cover story. But, before he can even start, Tony Stark throws away his notes and declares "I am Iron Man.". Much later (after the credits), Tony returns home to find a mysterious man in black telling him that as Iron Man, Tony has become part of a larger universe. Tony asks who the man is. He turns around and introduces himself- Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Samuel L. Jackson). He's come to talk with Tony Stark about an upcoming project- known only as "The Avenger Initiative."
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
- Terrence Howard as Colonel James Rhodes
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia Potts
- Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger
- Sayed Badreya as Abu Bakar
- Leslie Bibb as Christine Everhart
- Nazanin Boniadi as Ameera Ahmed
- Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan
- Paul Bettany as the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S.
- Fahim Fazli as Omar
- Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson
- Micah A. Hauptman as Lacy
- Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
- Gerard Sanders as Howard Stark
- Bill Smitrovich as General Gabriel
- Faran Tahir as Raza
- Shaun Toub as Yinsen
- Sahar Bibiyan as Gulmira mom
- Ghostface Killah as Dubai Tycoon
- America Olivo as Dubai Beauty
- Stacy Stas as Girl at Craps Table
- Tom Morello as Insurgent
Continuity and References to the Marvel Cinematic UniverseEdit
- Nick Fury makes an appearance after the credits.
- When Tony was taking off his suit in the background Captain America's shield can be seen.
- In the climatic fight scene, you can see the Roxxon Energy Corporation building behind Iron Monger when he shoots Iron Man with his back rocket.
Composer Ramin Djawadi is an Iron Man fan, and still has issues of the comic from the late 1970s. While he normally composes after watching an assembly cut, Djawadi began work after seeing the teaser trailer. Favreau clearly envisioned a focus on "heavy" guitar in the score, and Djawadi composed the music on that instrument before arranging it for orchestra. The composer said Downey's performance inspired the several Iron Man themes (for his different moods), as well as Stark's playboy leitmotif. Djawadi's favorite of the Iron Man themes is the "kickass" because of its "rhythmic pattern that is a hook on its own. Very much like a machine." The other themes are "not so much character based, but rather plot based that carry you through the movie". Guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave contributed (credited) additional guitar work to the movie's soundtrack.
The premiere was held at the Greater Union theater at George Street, Sydney, on April 14, 2008. The film was released worldwide between April 30 and May 3, 2008 (except Japan, which will receive the film in September 2008).
Video Business is reporting Paramount will release three versions of Iron Man to DVD on September 30. The three versions are single disc, Two-Disc Special Collectors edition, and Blu-Ray Special Collectors edition. Amazon.com is offering pre-orders now. At Comic-Con 2008, Marvel Studios will hand out flash drives that contain a sneak peak of the DVD.