Iron Man 3 Director Explains How It Became A Christmas Movie, And Why It Worked

Pepper and Tony in Iron Man 3 with a stocking in the background
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Tis the season for folks out there to watch their favorite Holiday movies. But there are some which are debated as Christmas flicks, including Die Hard, Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, and the third Iron Man flick. The latter movie was helmed by Shane Black, and is framed by the holiday season. And Iron Man 3’s director recently explained how it became a Christmas movie, and why it ultimately worked for the MCU’s first threequel.

Iron Man 3 hit theaters back in 2013, and was the seventh overall movie in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. In it we see Tony Stark lose everything, including his armory of Iron Man suits. Shane Black recently spoke to Empire about the movie’s connection to Christmas, and revealed that he actually wasn’t always on board for that setting for the movie. As he put it,

I didn't want Christmas to feel like a gimmick, or something that was predictable, or ostentatious on my part. It started out as fun, and as soon as people noticed it, it stopped being fun. But I acquiesced largely because of the Christmas Carol aspect of it. Tony loses his support, loses his base, he's adrift in Mid-America.

Some points were made. While Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is known for having a giant ego, he was definitely humbled throughout the course of Iron Man 3’s 131-minute runtime. And it took him being pretty much powerless in mid-America to make that happen. Cue the entrance of Harley Keener, who would end up reappearing at Tony’s funeral in Endgame

Iron Man 3 doesn’t exactly scream A Christmas Carol to moviegoers, given the very different circumstances between Tony Stark and Ebenezer Scrooge. But they are both insanely rich protagonists who learn a hard lesson during the Holiday Season. During that same interview, Shane Black offered more connective tissue that shows the Christmas connection to his MCU blockbuster, saying:

And he's not going to be visited by ghosts, but he's certainly going to be in the middle of a reckoning, or a reconciliation, where he has to take stock, figure out what's troubling him, and how he's going to continue. It worked out well for the ending. The coda is basically him at Christmas, giving a gift to his fiancee, and giving a gift to a little kid who helped him. And there's a Christmas miracle when Jon Favreau's character comes out of a coma. There's something about it, where you can get dark and dark and dark, as harsh as you want, and then summon up a little Christmas, and it gives you that pleasant out that you're looking for.

Do you hear that sound? It’s countless Marvel fans booting up Disney+ to give Iron Man 3 a rewatch before Christmas. Shane Black makes some serious points, revealing why some moviegoers might be giving the threequel a play annually in December. 

Since Iron Man 3, a few other Marvel projects have incorporated the Christmas season. Hawkeye is one prime example, with the final battle even happening at Rockefeller Center. Then there’s this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which revealed that Mantis is actually Star-Lord’s half-sister.

The next installment in the MCU is Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, which hits theaters on February 17th. In the meantime, check out the 2023 movie release dates to plan your next trip to the theater. We’ll just have to wait and see if we get more Holiday themed content, possibly from the Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.