Warning: Major, major spoilers are ahead from the ending of Avengers: Endgame.
BIG Spoilers. You've been warned.
After 22 movies over 11 years, Robert Downey Jr. has finally hung up his Iron Man suit. Avengers: Endgame did the seemingly impossible: Iron/Man Tony Stark is dead. And TBH we’re still extremely shook. He wasn’t the first original Avenger to bite the dust (that honor goes to Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow who died earlier in Endgame) but he was the man, the myth, the legend who started the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, so his death is the most impactful and shocking. That’s why Marvel took the time to focus so much of Endgame not only on Tony Stark's death, but also making sure his legacy was honored throughout the entire movie and potentially in future movies as well.
But Is Iron Man Really Dead?
Yep, there's no unsnapping this one, folks. But let's note that Tony went out a hero. After the Avengers used the Infinity Gauntlet to bring everyone back who had been dusted by Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) snap in Infinity War, the villain got his hands on the Gauntlet again. Thanks to Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and all the female Marvel heroes teaming up, Tony had the time and opportunity to be able to steal all the Infinity Stones from the Gauntlet and put them on his own Iron Man suit glove, rendering the Gauntlet on Thanos’ hand completely powerless when he tried to snap again.
And knowing that his human body wouldn’t be able to withstand and survive the power from using all six Infinity Stones at once, Tony still snapped his fingers and dusted Thanos and his entire army of bad guys. He sacrificed his own life to make sure the fighting stopped, his friends were safe and the world was protected once and for all. Surrounded by his friends and loved ones, including Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts and the recently returned Peter Parker (Tom Holland). The movie spent lots of its three hours of dialog to make sure we knew snapping the gauntlet would kill a human, and so when the time came, it's unbearably permanent: Tony Stark died on the battlefield, after saving literally the entire world. It was a true hero’s death, and a call back to his final move in the original Avengers, in which he nearly sacrifices himself to keep a nuclear weapon from striking New York City.
The real proof, even if you're still in denial, that Iron Man has truly fallen, is that Endgame then majorly focused on Tony’s funeral. Every single major Marvel hero from the past 21 movies and their families gathered at the Stark cabin to pay their respects to the fallen hero. Not only was the scene gorgeous and incredibly heartbreaking, it was also a major logistical feat because of how many MCU heroes they were able to gather in one spot for one single shot. (Can you even imagine being on set that day?)
Endgame Left Clues That Tony Stark's Death Was Coming
And even though many fans knew that Tony’s death was inevitable in Endgame, as Downey Jr.’s contract expired with this MCU film, all the events of the movie continued to foreshadow his death heavily by strengthening his connections to his family in the present and past. After the five year time jump, when it was revealed that Tony had retired to the woods in a modest cabin with Pepper and their daughter Morgan, it was clear that Tony’s priorities shifted. He didn’t even want to try to bring back everyone who was dusted at first because he didn’t want to risk losing his daughter. He was finally fulfilled in a way he never had been before, all because of his family.
Secondly, when Tony went to the past for the Infinity Stone time heist, he had a meaningful interaction with his father Howard Stark (John Slattery), which finally allowed him to connect with his dad at quiet all the questions and tumult in their previous relationship.
Lastly, in the final battle against Thanos, Tony asks Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) if this is the one in a million Thanos-besting-scenario that Strange foresaw in Infinity War. Strange replies that if he tells him, it won't happen; later, just before the final snap, Strange signals Tony with a number one gesture, seemingly telling Tony that yes, the only way for them to win is for Tony to make one final sacrifice.
All those moments of emotional growth — and Doctor Strange's clues — signaled that Tony’s end was approaching, and fast. When it did come, we technically should have been more prepared, but it was still a gut punch, so don't beat yourself up if you didn't realize it was coming.
Will There Be A New Iron Man After Avengers: Endgame?
Of course, just because Tony has passed doesn’t mean that Iron Man is gone from the MCU. In fact, it seemed as if Endgame was positioning Tony’s young daughter Morgan to potentially take up the Iron Man mantle in the future by pointing out all the ways she is like her dad. Morgan shares her father's affinity for tinkering around the garage, donning Iron suit masks, saying "shit!" when she shouldn't, and of course, asking for cheeseburgers during trying emotional moments. (If you didn't cry when she asked Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan for a cheeseburger, go re-watch Iron Man immediately.)
She may be less than five years old now, but give the MCU another couple of phases (we're about to begin Phase Four) and she’ll be old enough to become an Avenger in her own right. In the comics, the character of Morgan Stark is actually a male cousin of Tony’s and an antagonist. But Marvel did just debut a young female as Tony Stark’s Iron Man successor with Riri Williams, a 15-year-old genius and woman of color who first debuted in 2015 as Ironheart. Could it be possible that the MCU has plans to merge the two characters in a future phase? The MCU has never followed the comics exactly, instead choosing to put its own spin of the comic book canon, so it’s not hard to see how Morgan could eventually become the new Iron Man in the vein of Riri.
And yes, Pepper Potts has her own Iron Woman suit (and really knows how to use it!), but it's unlikely that she's the next Iron hero since Paltrow told Variety in February that she was done with Marvel after Endgame.
No matter what happens with the suit itself, the future of the MCU will never be Iron Man-less. Tony's contributions to the franchise will forever be a part of the MCU's fabric and his emotional goodbye in Endgame was proof of that.