Monkeys Fighting Robots

Fans and critics alike have consistently proclaimed that Iron Man is among the best films to ever come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ironically, its 2010 sequel is often labelled as one of the weakest MCU entries released so far. Considering that this summer‘s Captain America: Civil War marks a turning point of sorts of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, we thought it about time to re-address common perception on Iron Man 2 and explore why — despite its black sheep status — it’s actually one of the most important films in the MCU. For the record, we’re not saying that Iron Man 2 is superior to other films in the franchise, such as The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy. Rather, we’re looking to point out the ways in which Jon Favreau’s film set up future events and laid the groundwork for the MCU as a whole.

Tony’s Daddy Issues

John Slattery in Iron Man 2

Captain America: Civil War emotionally centers on Tony’s guilt over the death of his parents and, in particular, his animosity towards his father. Most of his appearances in the films don’t directly address that, save for Iron Man 2. A major plot point delves into the father-son relationship of the Stark family, and Howard Stark (played, for the first time, by John Slattery) expressed the faith he had in his son all along.

Introducing Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2

Mainstream audiences had no clue who Black Widow was before Scarlett Johansson slipped on that leather bodysuit to bring the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Avenger to life. Iron Man 2 introduced her while working undercover at Stark Industries. This not only sets up her sneaky, morally ambiguous nature but her contentious relationship with Stark himself. Who knew then that Natasha Romanoff would turn out to be such a fan favorite?

Rhodey Suits Up

Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2

In the first Iron Man film, James Rhodes declares that perhaps he’ll get the chance to wear one of Tony’s suits “next time.” Well, when the sequel came around, fans finally get their chance to see War Machine in action. The character has since continued to evolve into a key supporting player in Tony’s life as well as a team member of the Avengers. It all started here, with Rhodey taking a suit for himself and tricking it out with all manner of weaponry.

Government Intervention

Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 2

In Captain America: Civil War, the government finally takes action against the Avengers, who have gone unsupervised for years. Yet, the U.S. government first tried to gain control of superheroes in Iron Man 2, with Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) — later revealed to be a HYDRA agent — calling Tony Stark to hand over the Iron Man suit. Though Tony would be more open to regulation down the line, the seeds for the Sokovia Accords truly begin here.

Phil Coulson Returns

Clark Gregg in Iron Man 2

Phil Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) death in The Avengers serves as one of the most memorable moments of that film, though Gregg’s casting on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. less than a year later undermined its impact for some fans. However, the biggest reason why his murder at Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) hand was so impactful is because of Tony Stark’s reaction. In this film, we get the chance to spend a bit more time with Coulson (as does Tony), setting up his heroic act of defiance against the evil Asgardian.

Are there any other major MCU connections we missed in Iron Man 2? Let us know in the comments section below!

Robert Yaniz Jr. has been a professional writer since 2003 and a student of pop culture long before that. If he had a nickel for each hour he spent gazing up at a screen in a darkened theater, he would be far too busy swimming around his Scrooge McDuck-style vault to write anything for the Internet. As it stands, you can find his musings on the entertainment world at or chat movies with him directly on Twitter @crookedtable.