With the upcoming release of Thor: Love and Thunder, we are now 29 films deep into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it all began with the 2008 release of Iron Man. Critically acclaimed and commercially accessible, its reputation has only grown since its release. It is so ubiquitous, so established in popular culture, that it’s difficult to conceive of a time when the average person did not know who Tony Stark was. The comics fans knew who he was, of course. But prior to 2008, Iron Man wasn’t mainstream in the way that The Hulk, Captain America, or Spider-Man were.
Robert Downey, Jr. changed all that. It’s been said countless times, but casting him in the role of the billionaire antihero-turned hero was a stroke of genius. Similar to Harrison Ford in Star Wars, Downey’s irreverence grounded the franchise in the real world and gave us someone flawed and funny to identify with. And so many of the MCU’s key moments revolve around this character, whether they be the circumstances that shaped him or the effects of his actions, no matter how well-intentioned.
Here are 28 Easter Eggs for you to look for when you rewatch Iron Man, now available for streaming on Disney Plus.
The metal song playing in the “fun-vee” that opens the film is “Back in Black” by AC/DC. It recurs in Spider-Man: Far From Home, to figuratively demonstrate the “passing of the torch” from Tony Stark to Peter Parker.
2. Hey Forrest!
Tony calls the soldier who’s too nervous to speak to him “Forrest.” This is a reference to Forrest Gump; in that movie, the main character has a tendency to go mute when he’s nervous.
3. The Ten Rings
In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we learn that Zheng Zu, sometimes known by his alias The Mandarin, is the true leader of the Ten Rings. In that movie, we see a live feed of Tony Stark being held captive during a flashback scene.
4. Dum-E and U
Tony has two robot assistants in his workshop, named Dum-E and U. During the Apogee Award highlight reel, we see that Tony built Dum-E and U in his father’s workshop when he was 16 and attending MIT. Tony insults Dum-E throughout the movie, but we see from the photo’s caption that Dum-E won the annual MIT Robot Design Award. Later in the movie, Tony claims he is not nostalgic, but two of his decisions–to hold onto Dum-E despite technological advances and name his virtual butler J.A.R.V.I.S. after the late family butler–suggest otherwise.
5. Bill Gates
Another part of the highlight reel shows a young Tony Stark alongside Bill Gates. Gates is the co-founder of Microsoft. Like the fictional Tony Stark, Gates was also a childhood tech prodigy, who created his first software program at the age of 13.
6. Happy Hogan
Tony’s driver and head of security is Happy Hogan. He’s played by Jon Favreau, who also directed the first two Iron Man films.
7. Render Unto Caesar
When Tony gives his Apogee Award to a costumed Roman soldier at the Caesar’s Palace casino, he paraphrases a quote by Jesus Christ from Mark 12:17: “Unto them, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” It’s ironic, given that at the time he makes this allusion, Tony is primarily motivated by wealth and ambition. He also has an inflated self-image of himself as a savior of sorts, whose weapons prevent the world from descending into chaos.
8. Bond Tribute
When Tony hooks up with Christine Everhart, the writer for Vanity Fair, the musical theme in the background is very reminiscient of the James Bond main theme. When Christine wakes up the following morning, face-down and naked in Tony’s bed, she’s posed in the exact manner that Bond girl Jill Masterson was in the film Goldfinger.
9. Jackson Pollock
Tony asks Pepper if the Jackson Pollock painting he wants to buy is a good representation of the artist’s “Spring Period.” Pepper correctly points out that this is a reference to the Long Island neighborhood that Pollock lived in for a period of time, called “The Springs.” It was during this period that Pollock began perfecting the drip-style technique that would propel him to international renown.
10. Doing A Piece
When Rhodey asks Tony why he’s late, he responds that he was “caught doing a piece for Vanity Fair.” There’s a lot of little sexual innuendos and double entendres that slip under the radar, like this one.
11. Ghostface Killah
The song that’s playing on Tony’s plane, when Rhodey and Tony get sloshed on sake, is “Slept on Tony,” by Ghostface Killah. Ghostface goes by many different aliases, one of which is Tony Starks; his debut solo album is named Ironman. Ghostface had a cameo in the movie, but it was cut from the film during post-production.
Tony Stark paraphrases political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli when he asks rhetorically, “Is it better to be feared or respected?” The full quote, which comes from The Prince, is, “Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.”
13. What Are You Doing Up?
Tony expresses surprise that Obadiah Stane is still awake after the Jericho missile test. There is an 11-hour time difference between California and Afghanistan.
In the original comic origin story from the early 1960’s, Yinsen is a man of Asian descent, and Tony Stark is kidnapped by Asian terrorists with communist ties. The MCU canon reimagines Tony’s origin story and relocates his kidnapping to Afghanistan. Yinsen is correspondingly reimagined as a Middle Eastern man, hailing from Gulmira, Afghanistan.
15. Remember Me?
Yinsen tells Tony that they actually met at a conference in Bern, but that Tony was too drunk to have remembered him. We see a flashback to this conference in Iron Man 3.
16. Rage Against The Machine
This guard is Tom Morello, the guitarist for 90’s rap/rock band Rage Against The Machine. In addition to being a gifted musician, Morello is also an outspoken political activist and speaks out against America’s military/industrial complex.
17. Cheeseburger First
The two cheeseburgers that Tony gets before holding the press conference are from Burger King.
18. Cigar Smoker
Obadiah Stane and Happy Hogan are both smoking in this scene after Tony’s speech. We’ll probably never see a scene like this one again; Disney updated its anti-smoking policy to include Marvel in 2013. Characters are now only allowed to smoke under very specific conditions, where it’s explicitly shown to be a hazard to the character’s health.
19. Piano Solo
Obadiah is playing Antonio Salieri’s Piano Concerto in C major. According to urban legend, Salieri had a fierce, jealous competition with fellow composer Amadeus Mozart, who was more gifted and accomplished than he was. One could parallel this competition to the relationship between Obadiah (who was always in Howard or Tony’s shadow) and Tony (the prodigal son).
20. A Box of Scraps!
The scientist that Obadiah is yelling at reappears in Spider-Man: Far From Home as a disgruntled Stark Industries employee, who is one of several people behind the supervillain Mysterio.
21. Proof of Tony’s Heart
Pepper encases Tony’s first arc reactor in a glass box as a nostalgic memento. We later see this memento in Avenger’s Endgame, at the memorial service honoring Tony’s life.
22. Stan Lee Cameo
Marvel writer and creative visionary Stan Lee cameos in every MCU film up through Avengers: Endgame. In Iron Man, Tony mistakes him for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner at the benefit he crashes.
23. Sequel Foreshadowing
We see Tony drinking a chlorophyll cocktail while troubleshooting the Mark II. We learn in Iron Man 2 that he’s drinking this to counteract the effects of palladium poisoning.
24. Beethoven’s Ninth
Obadiah calls the arc reactor Tony’s “Ninth Symphony.” This is a reference to classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven, whose Ninth Symphony is widely considered to be his greatest. It’s also the final symphony Beethoven composed before his death–a possible reference to what Obadiah believes is Tony’s inevitable demise.
25. Incoming War Machine
Rhodey looks at the Mark II and exclaims, “Next time, baby,” a foreshadowing of his War Machine alter-ego in the comics. Indeed, Rhodey does appear as War Machine in the next Iron Man film, but the producers replaced actor Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle, owing to salary disputes.
26. Tabloid Shot
The shot of Iron Man in the newspaper that Tony is reading was an actual tabloid shot, taken during the movie’s filming. Due to legal concerns, it was removed during the movie’s home release and replaced with a similar photo.
27. I Am Iron Man
Robert Downey, Jr. famously improvised the line that closes the movie: “I am Iron Man.” In many ways, it changed the entire trajectory of the MCU, from one where superheroes were clandestine vigilantes to one where the superheroes were more self-aware and out in the open. Downey thought that revealing his alter-ego would be keeping in Tony Stark’s character and massive ego.
28. Nick Fury Appearance
In what would become an MCU tradition, Iron Man ends with a post-credits sequence that foreshadows what’s to come. Samuel L Jackson makes his debut as Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. He wants to talk to Tony about the Avengers Initiative, which eventually comes to fruition in the 2012 MCU crossover film The Avengers.