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Century Old Argument: Captain America or Iron Man? 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has some of the top-grossed films of our generation and is widely known for their fantastic worlds that have collided. I grew up watching many of these movies with my family and it was a staple to make an afternoon out of new films coming out. Marvel films mean a lot to me due to their significance in my childhood and how I grew up seeing such powerful women take the stage. Scarlett Johanson is one of my favorite actresses to this day due to the impact she made on me from a young age in showing the power of women. I have always wanted to watch the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe in chronological order, but never had an excuse to watch thirty-two movies and several television show extensions to the world. Over this past week, I got a positive Covid-19 result that caused me to be in isolation for approximately a week and a half. During that time, I took on the task of watching all the Marvel movies in chronological order from the first movie in 2008 to the most recent movie in 2023. 

The century-old argument with any Marvel fan is who is better: Captain America or Iron Man. After watching the entirety of the Marvel universe in a week, I have found facts and opinions about both characters that make an impact on who logically is better. I am planning to look in-depth at this fun argument and determine once and for all who was better. Everyone has their own opinions and biases when it comes to any situation, but I want to try and make this as objective as it can be. That being said, I have always been and will always be a Captain America fan at heart. But the overall question is who is better objectively and with little personal bias on the characters or actors. 

Chris Evans
‘Captain America’
Robert Downey Jr
‘Iron Man’
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Avengers (2012) **
Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014) 
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) **
Captain America: Civil War (2016) **
Spider-Man Homecoming (2017) **
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) **
Avengers: Endgame (2019) **

**Films together 

Iron Man (2008) 
The Incredible Hulk (2008) 
Iron Man 2 (2010) 
Avengers (2012) **
Iron Man 3 (2013) 
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)**
Captain America: Civil War (2016) **
Spider-Man Homecoming (2017) **
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) **
Avengers: Endgame (2019) **
Solo Films: 2
Avengers Films: 4
Featured: 1
Total Films: 8
Screen Time: 242 minutes
Box Office Total:$2.2 billion 
Solo Films: 3
Avengers Films: 4
Featured: 2 
Total Films: 10 
Screen Time: 365 minutes 
Box Office Total: $2.4 billion

Shown above is a table I made to show exactly how many movies Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. have done with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As seen, it is clear to say that Robert Downey Jr., aka Iron Man, has had more screen time and movies than Captain America. He has an additional solo film that does not feature Evans, but Captain America’s third named film has various other Avengers present. It is also important to note that Downey started the Marvel franchise with his hit film “Iron Man”, which was the triumphant start to the over 53 billion dollar franchise. Looking at the statistics, the “Iron Man” films made more money than “Captain America” films with their total box office revenue being approximately 2 million dollars apart. Robert Downey Jr. had more screen time as Iron Man than Chris Evans as Captain America and seemed to be gaining more popularity due to his higher success numbers in the industry. Therefore, when looking at the specific topic of sales and revenue, Iron Man is stronger in its success than Captain America. 

Now, I would like to move on to the individual character traits of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, and Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. Beginning with Rogers, after much research from the movies and countless hours of movie watching, I have concluded that his greatest asset is his outstanding moral compass. Rogers originally got noticed within the army by Dr. Josef Reinstein for his outstanding moral character and would make the greatest Super-Soldier in their project. Throughout the franchise, Rogers never loses this key trait as he keys the term, “I can do this all day” with his continual effort to stand up for what is right. He stands up for the little guy on more counts than one and makes it a point to do what is best for the greatest number of lives. Additionally, his moral compass is displayed clearly as he checks in with the team on numerous occasions to ensure that they are feeling/doing alright. He motivates a team in a way that no other could and creates a strong inspiration within every member of the Avengers team. Within the Avengers movies, there is almost always a scene where Cap gives a strong motivational speech to the team that results in their efforts continuing and winning in the final battle. It is easy to conclude that without Rogers’s optimism and leadership qualities, the team would not have been able to continue their success in the wars. 

On the other hand, Rogers had a sore spot and a blind eye to his loyalty. He was raised to believe in the United States military and have somewhat blinding trust in the government. Therefore, his greatest weakness was his ability to be too trusting, which allowed for the character development beginning in the “Civil War”. When Rogers found out that Bucky, his longtime best friend, had been tortured over the last seventy years, his view of the government quickly was disturbed. Previously, he was oblivious to any discrepancies that SHIELD was causing with bringing the Avengers together, which did cause some danger in the team’s whereabouts. He always tried to do what was right, but with Bucky, he was initially blinded by loyalty and would do anything to prove his innocence. The reality was that Bucky hurt a lot of people and caused pain to several civilian lives. Additionally, on the smaller level, he very clearly had a disadvantage when it came to time changes due to being trapped in the ice for seventy years. He was not as strong when it came to any technology, scientific points, and big events that took place during his incapacitation. He lacked the logical ability to understand all new technical pieces of a plan or solution to a problem. 

Tony Stark was a complicated character who ultimately gave his life to save half the universe. Stark’s character development was some of the best in the franchise and resulted in a much stronger human being at the end. His greatest asset as an Avenger was that he was always the smartest guy in the room. He provided countless pieces of advanced technology that furthered their ability to communicate, finish the war, and provide an even more detailed plan. His suits weren’t his only asset as he and his legacy created most of the weapons used by the Avengers to end the war. His father essentially created Captain America and his shield, while also providing the technology to make artificial intelligence that would assist the team in any way that they need. Additionally, Stark was the one always looking to make improvements in their technology and the team’s abilities. He created the majority of the elements that made each Avenger excel and continued on the pathway to make them stronger. Each movie consisted of further improvements that led to some immaculate pieces of the fight. Through Stark’s genius experience and astonishing creations, he was an asset to the logical ability within “Avengers: Endgame”. He created the time portal and the technology that was able to hold the stones, which resulted in the impending success of the team. There is zero doubt in my mind that without Tony’s inventions, the team would not have succeeded in their ultimate goal to save the universe. 

I think we can all agree that a huge flaw of Tony was that he was above all concerned with himself, at least at the beginning. He had grown up getting whatever he wished and as a result, became a selfish playboy who was more concerned about what he would get out of a deal. A huge issue I see with this is, yes he created all the advanced technology to help the Avengers, but he also created all the dangerous technology that got in the hands of the majority of the bad guys. A few good examples of this are in “Iron Man 1” and “Iron Man 2” where the villains used his explosive and arc reactor technology to hurt people. Additionally, Tony combined the mind stone with vibranium to create Vision, which ultimately helped Thanos destroy half of humankind. Although all these issues were present and impactful, the greatest weakness in Tony was his ability to let his emotions take control of his actions. He often became clouded by his own personal emotions and selfishness that it stopped him from doing what could be seen as the right thing to do. For instance, in “Civil War” when he found out Bucky had been on a mission to kill his parents, and was completely overcome by emotions in his attempt to kill him or anyone that stood in his way. The emotions of Stark come into play within almost every movie and result in a bad decision that has to be solved by the rest of the team. In the end, he added incredible effort and advanced technology to fix the problem that at some points was caused by himself. 

As shown, both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers had incredible strengths and difficult weaknesses, but the combination created one heck of a team. I would have to conclude that it is difficult to say which of the two is better because they are in different lights. For instance, Iron Man brought in more money within revenue, had dynamic character development, and brought in technology that positively impacted the fights. Captain America brought in a great moral compass, positively motivated the team, and created the ideal that you never give up. Both characters impacted the universe in ways that others couldn’t and brought their incredible mix of traits to the table. In the end, it looks to be that Iron Man had a much more dynamic impact on the overall conclusion of the big war: “Avengers Endgame”. Without Stark’s weapons and intelligence, the team would have not been able to time travel or find a way to snap Thanos out of existence. Additionally, the amount of money Iron Man brought in comparatively is incredible and the sheer amount of movies he’s been in creates such an influential pathway for the character. 

I think we can all agree that without the combined efforts of Captain America, Iron Man, and the rest of the Avengers there would not have been victory in saving the universe. Their experiences, traits, and abilities came together to create a powerful group of people that influenced us and the fictitious society. In the end, all characters are important and everyone who reads this has a different opinion after watching the movies. Therefore, objectively Iron Man was a more successful piece of the franchise, but Captain America meant more to me in his values. To me, he stood for honesty, trust, and never giving up on what you want to accomplish in life, which are values I stick by to this day. The incredible thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that it caters to anyone watching and tries to give everyone something to relate to. Therefore, I would like to conclude that every character matters to the plot, and each person watching should come to their own conclusion on who they relate to most. Differences and opinions are what make the world a more beautiful place. 

Dana Cutti

CU Boulder '25

Dana Cutti is a writer for the Her Campus chapter at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is responsible for writing at least two articles a month and attending weekly meetings with the chapter! She enjoys coming up with new ideas for articles and having the ability to write about what she is passionate about. Dana Cutti is a junior studying Strategic Communications as her major and a double minor in Business and Film Production. She has previously worked as the Director of Hospitality, Manager, and Trainer in various companies. Currently, she works as a Marketing Assistant at CU Presents on campus with a focus in the Social Media Team and Marketing Team. She finds great love in organizing, creating culture, multi-tasking, and putting creative ideas into action. One of her biggest passions is leading people in an influential way and bringing happiness to everyone's life to the best of her ability. She hopes to eventually find a career that combines her passions for Entertainment Media and Marketing. In her free time, Dana will often be seen studying, spending time with her family, and playing/listening to music. She enjoys traveling to new places, trying new foods, and attempting to grow in her knowledge of the world. Her favorite TV shows consist of a good binge-watch of Friends, New Girl, or the Big Bang Theory. She loves having a relaxing movie night with friends and taking the time to get to know people better!