The Marvel Cinematic Universe is so wide and far-reaching that the most intense rivalry to develop in it was between a 1,000-year-old alien from the planet Titan and a billionaire genius from the planet Earth. Iron Man and Thanos closed out the Infinity Saga in the MCU by going out in a battle for the universe, and their rivalry is now etched in cinematic history. While the MCU has seen many rivalries, their's is the end all and the be all, the rivalry that more or less dictated the first ten years of the MCU's history.
Now that they’ve perished, it’s time to analyze just what made these two like yin and yang in a huge storyline that played out over eleven years. While they only interacted in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, the revelations we’ve found over these two stretches back years in the real world, and even further in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here are 20 such revelations of this rivalry.
20 Thanos Never Wanted To Take Iron Man's Life
Watching Avengers: Endgame might have clouded the previous film’s events where we learned that Thanos never wanted to finish Tony completely. Even after he’d stabbed Tony, Thanos chose not to end his life, and honored Doctor Strange’s deal to let Tony live if he gave up the Time Stone. Tony might have tried to finish Thanos off during the Battle on Titan, but that was never Thanos’ intention.
19 Tony’s PTSD Was Because Of Thanos
Iron Man 3 had Tony show severe cases of PTSD due to the events of The Avengers. While the film made it seem as if Tony was haunted by the Chitauri, it was instead due to Tony having the knowledge of Thanos. Tony’s worst fear of seeing the Earth invaded was because he knew that Thanos was the one behind the scenes.
18 Thanos Recognized Iron Man Because He Saw His Soul
You won’t catch this while watching the movies, as Thanos told Tony the latter wasn’t the only one cursed with knowledge when Thanos had revealed he knew who Tony was. In the script for Avengers: Infinity War, an added line followed this interaction, where Thanos told Tony he’d seen his soul using the Soul Stone, and thus now knew Tony’s identity.
17 Thanos Kept His Grudge At Losing The Battle Of New York
Thanos might not have known Iron Man’s identity during The Avengers, but he did know Iron Man was the person who had blown up the Chitauri in space. This was evident in Avengers: Endgame, where he instantly recognized Tony in Nebula’s memories and termed the Avengers as “unruly wretches,” signifying he still held a grudge against them for the Battle of New York, and Thanos spotting Iron Man confirmed this particular contempt.
16 Civil War Happened Because Iron Man Was Afraid Of Thanos’ Invasion
You need to reflect back on everything that happened to appreciate how one MCU film folds into another. With the end of The Avengers seeing Iron Man destroy the Chitauri, his fear of Thanos began as he realized who was the one pulling the strings. This fear paved the way for Ultron’s birth, as Tony wanted a “suit of armor around the world.” When the Ultron thing went south, the Sokovia Accords came into place, leading to Civil War. All this because of Tony’s fear of Thanos.
15 Iron Man Is The Only One To Make Thanos Bleed
We’ve now seen all of Thanos’ appearances across the MCU, and he’s only bled in Avengers: Infinity War, that too at the hands of Iron Man. Doctor Strange gave Thanos the fight of his life, prompting the Titan to use all the stones to fight him, but it was Iron Man who ultimately got close enough to land a crushing blow straight to Thanos’ face. It didn’t put Thanos down, although Iron Man now has the honor of being the only one to land a full hit on Thanos’ face.
14 Tony Was Afraid Of Thanos
These two might be considered rivals, but on Tony’s part it was based on fear. Tony’s extreme anxiety attacks in Iron Man 3 were prompted due to the fear of the unknown man orchestrating the invasion of Earth. While Tony learned to live with this fear, he always kept knowledge of it within him. The whole Ultron project came about because of his intense fear of Thanos.
13 Their Rivalry Became Personal Due To Spider-Man's Demise
Tony’s fear of Thanos was never personal until Thanos made it so. It was Peter’s demise that made it all too real for Tony, who couldn’t bear to live with how he couldn’t protect Peter. When the rest of the Avengers wanted Tony to go with them on the Time Heist, Tony’s reluctance was quelled because of the reminder that Thanos had caused Peter’s demise.
12 Thanos Begrudgingly Respected Iron Man
We heard this straight from the Titan’s mouth, as Thanos admitted he held respect for Iron Man after their epic battle. It was a big declaration from Thanos, who didn’t seem to care much for his victims, and we’d seen him leave Thor to perish without another glance, despite Thor having put up an enormous fight. This respect was begrudgingly given, though, since Thanos considered Iron Man a thorn in his side.
11 Thanos Despised Iron Man For Trying To Change The Past
By Avengers: Endgame, the respect that the 2018 version of Thanos had for Iron Man never came to pass, as the 2014 version from the alternate timeline grew to despise him instead. Thanos had figured Iron Man and the rest of the universe would be grateful for the snap he caused, but found out they went out to undo his work. Thanos took this as a great insult, and his hatred for Iron Man was palpable.
10 Their Ends Were Fated To Be Together
You might ask how we figured this out, and your answer would be by noting Doctor Strange holding up his index finger to indicate to Iron Man that the ending we saw in Avengers: Endgame was the only one where victory was possible. This meant that in order for Thanos to perish, Tony had to follow suit. This also made these two fated to be together.
9 They Were Underestimated By Both Their Civilizations
Poor Tony was as selfless as they came, but he was always considered an egotistical man who didn’t care about others. In actuality, he was a futurist whose vision for Ultron, while a disaster, was what was needed to protect the world. Likewise, Thanos’ plans to end half of life on Titan made him seem deplorable, but in the end, all life on Titan perished because they didn’t listen to Thanos. Had both civilizations listened to these two, they might have made it.
8 Both Had Similar Egos
This was why they were both underestimated, as their egos were their undoing. Tony having such a massive estimation of his importance would put people off of his ultimate message, and this caused him to not be taken seriously. Thanos, too, was deeply egotistical, as he never considered what the universe would feel about him taking half of all life for his own plans. He didn’t even think about failure when he traveled to 2023 to fight the Avengers, and we know how that worked out for him.
7 Tony Specifically Let Thanos Stay Alive Till The End
Spider-Man’s slow demise in Avengers: Infinity War was due to his powers suppressing his ultimate fate, but Thanos’ demise in Avengers: Endgame was specifically designed by Iron Man to be delayed until the end. He wanted the Titan to see his army and his plans evaporate before his eyes, and for Thanos to perish once he saw there was no escaping his demise. This was done so as to make Thanos feel how Tony felt back in Infinity War - helpless and alone.
6 They Are The Only Two Beings To Snap People To Nothing
Sure, Hulk did do a snap himself and brought everyone back, but this wasn’t the destructive snap that the other two men committed. Thanos’ one was the deadliest, as he finished off trillions of lives with his snap, while Iron Man’s was contained to finishing Thanos’ army in the Battle of Earth. Of the trillions of lives that have existed across time and space, only Thanos and Iron Man have ever snapped beings to their ends.
5 Both Had Daughters They Loved The Most
Making these two counterparts is another thing they had in common, but something that ended with stark contrasts. Thanos loved Gamora truly as his daughter, but was willing to sacrifice her on Vormir. On the other hand, Tony also loved his daughter more than anything else, but made the sacrifice of his own life to ensure Morgan lived to see the universe. Both men had daughters connecting them, but one chose life and the other chose sacrifice.
4 They Met Their End By Describing Themselves
Their egos wouldn’t allow either Thanos or Iron Man to go silently into the night, as both of them would have their last words where they described their character. Thanos goofed up by proclaiming “I am Inevitable”, instead of checking if he still had the Infinity Stones in the Gauntlet, while Iron Man waited until he said “I am Iron Man”, before he completed the snap. Both men needed to taste victory before experiencing it.
3 They Were Each Other’s Curses
Since Thanos and Iron Man were fated to perish together, it’s clear they truly were a curse to one another. Thanos claimed he was “cursed with knowledge” at what Iron Man was capable of doing, while Iron Man himself stated Thanos was his true curse. They didn’t know truly that the end was what tied them together, but they were aware they were cursed with each other somehow.
2 Iron Man Wasn’t Thanos’ Only Rival
Some might forget that Thanos had an equally intense rivalry with Thor, as the Titan took the lives of the Asgardians and personally finished Thor’s brother. It’s also interesting to note that Thanos’ two demises were inflicted by Iron Man and Thor, both of whom had personal beefs with the Titan. In this way, all three men are connected to one another, as they have friendship and intense hatred in common.
1 Iron Man Never Beat Thanos One-On-One
Officially, it will state that Iron Man took Thanos’ life, but the fact remains he never managed to beat him in a fight. Even his final victory was a sleight of hand rather than combat efficiency, as Iron Man needed to fool Thanos. Their match-up on Titan in Avengers: Infinity War had ended with Iron Man being stabbed, while Avengers: Endgame had seen Thanos repeatedly beat him down. At least Iron Man did get the last laugh.