Tony Stark recalls a New Year's Eve party in 1999 where he meets scientist Maya Hansen, the inventor of Extremis, an experimental regenerative treatment intended to allow recovery from crippling injuries. Disabled scientist Aldrich Killian offers them a place in his company Advanced Idea Mechanics, but Stark rejects the offer, humiliating Killian.
Years later, six months after the Battle of New York, Stark's experiences during the alien invasion are giving him panic attacks. Restless, he has built several dozen Iron Man suits, creating friction with his girlfriend Pepper Potts. Meanwhile, a string of bombings by a terrorist known only as the Mandarin has left intelligence agencies bewildered by a lack of forensic evidence. Stark's security chief Happy Hogan is badly injured in a Mandarin attack, causing Stark to issue a televised threat to the Mandarin, who responds by destroying Stark's home with helicopter gunships. Hansen, who came to warn Stark, survives the attack along with Potts. Stark escapes in an Iron Man suit, which his artificial intelligence J.A.R.V.I.S. pilots to rural Tennessee, following a flight plan from Stark's investigation into the Mandarin. Stark's experimental armor lacks sufficient power to return to California, and the world believes him dead.
Teaming with Harley, a precocious 10-year-old boy, Stark investigates the remains of a local explosion bearing the hallmarks of a Mandarin attack. He discovers the "bombings" were triggered by soldiers subjected to Extremis, which at this stage of development caused certain subjects to explosively reject the treatment. After veterans started exploding, these explosions were falsely attributed to a terrorist plot in order to cover up Extremis's flaws. Stark witnesses Extremis firsthand when Mandarin agents Brandt and Savin attack him.
Killian has manipulated American intelligence agencies regarding the Mandarin's location, luring James Rhodes – the former War Machine, now re-branded as the Iron Patriot – into a trap to steal the armor. With Harley's help, Stark traces the Mandarin to Miami and infiltrates his headquarters using improvised weapons. Inside he discovers the Mandarin is actually an English actor named Trevor Slattery, who says he is oblivious to the actions carried out in his image. Killian, who appropriated Hansen's Extremis research as a cure for his own disability and expanded the program to include injured war veterans, reveals he is the real Mandarin, using Slattery as a cover. After capturing Stark, Killian shows him Potts (whom he had kidnapped) being subjected to Extremis, in order to gain Stark's aid to fix Extremis's flaws and thus save Potts. Killian kills Hansen when she has a change of heart and tries to stop him.
Stark escapes and reunites with Rhodes, discovering that Killian intends to attack President Ellis aboard Air Force One. Stark saves some surviving passengers and crew but cannot stop Killian from abducting Ellis and destroying Air Force One. They trace Killian to an impounded damaged oil tanker where Killian intends to kill Ellis on live television. The Vice President will become a puppet leader, following Killian's orders in exchange for Extremis to cure his young daughter's disability. On the platform, Stark goes to save Potts, as Rhodes saves the president. Stark summons his Iron Man suits, controlled remotely by J.A.R.V.I.S., to provide air support. Rhodes secures the president and takes him to safety, while Stark discovers Potts has survived the Extremis procedure. However, before he can save her, a rig collapses around them and she falls to her apparent death. Stark confronts Killian and traps him in an Iron Man suit that self-destructs, but fails to kill him. Potts, whose Extremis powers allowed her to survive her fall, intervenes and kills Killian. After the battle, Stark orders J.A.R.V.I.S. to remotely destroy each Iron Man suit as a sign of his devotion to Potts, while the Vice President and Slattery are arrested. With Stark's help, Potts' Extremis effects are stabilized, and Stark undergoes surgery to remove the shrapnel embedded near his heart. He pitches his obsolete chest arc reactor into the sea, musing he will always be Iron Man.
In a present day post-credits scene, Stark wakes up Dr. Bruce Banner, who fell asleep listening to his story.Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man:
Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia "Pepper" Potts:
Don Cheadle as James "Rhodey" Rhodes / Iron Patriot:
Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian:
Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen:
Stephanie Szostak as Brandt:
James Badge Dale as Savin:
Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan:
Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery:
Paul Bettany reprises his role from previous films as J.A.R.V.I.S., Stark's AI system. Ty Simpkins portrays Harley Keener, a boy who becomes Stark's sidekick, as part of a three-picture deal with Marvel Studios. Ashley Hamilton portrays Taggart, one of the Extremis soldiers. William Sadler plays President Ellis, (named after Warren Ellis, who wrote the "Extremis" comics arc that primary influenced the film's story) and Miguel Ferrer plays Vice President Rodriguez. Adam Pally plays Gary, a cameraman who helps Stark. Shaun Toub reprises his role as Yinsen from the first Iron Man film in a brief cameo, and Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance as a beauty pageant judge. Dale Dickey plays Mrs. Davis, mother of an Extremis subject that is framed as a terrorist. Wang Xueqi briefly plays Dr. Wu in the general release version of the film. A cut of the film produced for release exclusively in China includes additional scenes featuring Wang and an appearance by Fan Bingbing as one of his assistants. Mark Ruffalo makes an uncredited cameo appearance, reprising his role as Dr. Bruce Banner from The Avengers, in a post-credits scene. Comedians Bill Maher and Joan Rivers and Fashion Police co-host George Kotsiopoulos have cameo appearances as themselves on their respective real-world television programs, as do newscasters Josh Elliott, Megan Henderson, Pat Kiernan, and Thomas Roberts.
Following the release of Iron Man 2, a conflict between Paramount Pictures, which had distribution rights to certain Marvel properties, and The Walt Disney Company, Marvel Entertainment's new corporate parent, clouded the timing and the distribution arrangement of a possible third film. On October 18, 2010, The Walt Disney Studios agreed to pay Paramount at least $115 million for the worldwide distribution rights to Iron Man 3, with Disney, Marvel, and Paramount announcing a May 3, 2013 release date for the film.
Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau said in December 2010 that he would not direct Iron Man 3, opting to direct Magic Kingdom instead. He remained an executive producer of director Joss Whedon's crossover film The Avengers and also served as an executive producer of Iron Man 3. Also in 2010, Downey reached out to Shane Black, who directed him in 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, to write and direct the film. In February 2011, Black entered final negotiations to join the project, and in March it was announced that Drew Pearce, who Marvel had originally hired for a Runaways script, would work with Black on the script. Downey said, "Bringing in Shane Black to write and direct Iron Man 3 to me is basically the only transition from Favreau to a 'next thing' that Favreau and the audience and Marvel and I could ever actually sign off on."
Shane Black described his take on the film as not being "two men in iron suits fighting each other," and more like a "Tom Clancy thriller," with Iron Man fighting real-world type villains. Drew Pearce added that they would avert magic and space, with Iron Man 3 being "a techno-thriller set in a more real world than even The Avengers." The duo spent some time discussing themes and images and ideas before starting the script. While writing, the focus was to avoid scenes of pure exposition, making every moment propel other narrative points forwards. Some elements from the comics were used even if in different connotations, such as making Rhodes wear Norman Osborn's Iron Patriot armor, and naming some characters with names from unrelated people in the Marvel Universe, such as Eric Savin and Jack Taggart.
The film's plot is influenced primarily from "Extremis," the 2005-2006 Iron Man comics storyline written by Warren Ellis. The first two acts would remain character-centric, albeit in Shane Black's words "more hectic, frenetic, and large scale" to fulfill its sequel obligations, with the third act going for more over-the-top action to what Drew Pearce described as "giving a sense of opera." The middle act was compared to Sullivan's Travels in having Tony meeting various people on his journey, and the writers made sure to not make the characters too similar. The initial draft had Maya Hansen herself leading the villainous operation, with the Mandarin and Killian emerging as antagonists in later versions of the script. During one of the writing sessions, Pearce suggested that the Mandarin was a fake, and Black agreed by going with making him an actor, which in turn Pearce detailed as an overacting British stage performer. Black explained: "Who would be fool enough to declare that is an international terrorist? If you're smart, whatever regime you're part of, you'd put a puppet committee and remain your house." In turn Killian would hide Slattery in "his own frat house, in kind of a drug-related house arrest" to keep the secret alive.
According to Black, the reveal of the actual villain being Hansen was "like Remington Steele, you think it's the man but at the end, the woman has been running the whole show." The role was eventually shifted to Killian because of objections by Marvel Entertainment executives, who were concerned with apparent merchandising losses that could come with having a female villain. The roles of several other major female characters were also made smaller in the final film compared to earlier drafts.
Both the opening and the ending of the film were reworked in various ways. First it would begin with a flashback to Tony's childhood. Then like Iron Man it would begin in medias res, with Tony crashing in Tennessee before a voiceover that would lead to how he got there, until it got changed to the final version. For the climactic tanker battle, it was originally considered that Brandt would show up in the James Bond tradition of the henchman coming back for the heroes. Instead they chose to use Killian himself, and have Pepper, whom he abused earlier, cause his downfall as a way of poetic justice. The final dialogue was originally written as "I am Tony Stark" to be a response to the first film's ending, but eventually it changed to "I am Iron Man" to enhance the mythical qualities.
In September 2011, Marvel Studios reached an agreement to shoot the film primarily out of EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina. Michigan was also in contention to land the production, but the Michigan Film Office could not match North Carolina's tax incentives. In April 2012, Ben Kingsley entered into negotiations to play a villain in Iron Man 3. The following week, producer Kevin Feige revealed that Iron Man 3 would begin shooting in North Carolina "in five weeks," and said that it "is a full-on Tony Stark-centric movie... very much inspired by the first half of Iron Man ... [H]e's stripped of everything, he's backed up against a wall, and he's gotta use his intelligence to get out of it. He can't call Thor, he can't call Cap, he can't call Nick Fury, and he can't look for the Helicarrier in the sky." A few days later, The Walt Disney Company China, Marvel Studios and DMG Entertainment announced an agreement to co-produce Iron Man 3 in China. DMG partly financed, produced in China with Marvel, and handled co-production matters. DMG also distributed the film in China in tandem with Disney.
The next week, Guy Pearce entered into final talks to play Aldrich Killian, a character who is featured in the "Extremis" comic book story arc. Chinese star Andy Lau became involved in negotiations to join the film, as a Chinese scientist and old friend of Stark's who comes to his aid. Lau would later turn down the role, and Wang Xueqi was cast instead. Jessica Chastain entered into discussions for a role in the film, but bowed out due to scheduling conflicts. In May, Rebecca Hall was cast in her place, and her role was described as "a scientist who plays a pivotal role in the creation of a nanotechnology, known as Extremis." Over the next few weeks, James Badge Dale was cast as Eric Savin, Ashley Hamilton was cast as Firepower, and Favreau returned to reprise his role as Happy Hogan from the first two films. Stephanie Szostak and William Sadler were also cast in the film, with Sadler playing the President of the United States. Despite erroneous early reports that Cobie Smulders would reprise her role as Maria Hill from The Avengers in the film, Smulders wrote on her verified Twitter page that this was not so.
Filming began in Wilmington, North Carolina on May 23, 2012 at EUE/Screen Gems Studios, with the working title Caged Heat. Cinematographer John Toll opted to for the first time in his career work with digital cameras, as he found them more convenient for a visual effects-heavy production. Toll shot the film primarily on the Arri Alexa camera. From June 4 through June 6, 2012, filming took place in Cary, North Carolina at the Epic Games headquarters and SAS Institute, with a large Christmas tree set up on the front lawn. A scene was also shot at the Wilmington International Airport. The Port of Wilmington served as a location for the oil tanker in the climactic battle, along with a soundstage recreation of the dock. The crumbling house itself was filmed in a hydraulic-powered giubo platform that could bend and split into two pieces. All the interior footage had practical effects, including debris and explosions, with computer graphics used only to add exteriors and Iron Man's armor.
From July 19 to August 1, 2012, filming took place on Oak Island, North Carolina, to "film aerial drops over the Atlantic Ocean." They were done for the scene where Iron Man rescues the people falling from the Air Force One over Miami, which were originally envisioned done with green screen effects, but were changed to using actual skydivers as second unit director Brian Smrz knew the Red Bull skydiving team. Computer graphics were only employed to add clouds, the destroyed plane and matte paintings of the Florida coastline in the background, replace a stand-in with the Iron Man armor, and some digital compositing to combine different takes of the skydivers together. Filming took place in Rose Hill, North Carolina in early August 2012, and the town's name was incorporated into the script as the Tennessee city Stark visits. On August 14, actress Dale Dickey said she had been cast in the film, and was currently shooting her scenes. The following day, production was halted when Downey suffered an ankle injury. During the break, Black and Pearce made more script revisions before shooting resumed by August 24.
Cast and crew began arriving in Florida on October 1, to shoot scenes on Dania Beach and around South Florida. That same day, Downey returned to the set after his ankle injury. In early October, scenes were shot at a replica of the Malibu restaurant Neptune's Net, and filming took place on location at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Scenes were shot during the daytime inside the Miami Beach Resort at Miami Beach on October 10 and 11. The production returned to Wilmington in mid-October for additional filming. On November 1, scenes were shot at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Filming in the United States wrapped on November 7 in Wilmington.
Filming began in Beijing, China on December 10. Filming was scheduled to wrap a week later on December 17, 2012. The China filming did not include the main cast and crew. In January 2013, it was reported that a film crew led by Shane Black would begin location scouting in Hyderabad, India and Bengaluru, India between January 20 and 24. Also in January, Cheadle confirmed that reshooting was taking place in Manhattan Beach. Shooting also took place on the week of January 23, 2013 at TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. A major part of the content filmed in the reshoots regarded the Mandarin, with Drew Pearce saying that in early cuts, the character "didn't feel real enough — there wasn't a sense of him being [part of] the real world, mostly because he was just looking down a lens and threatening the world." A report on actual production costs for films from FilmL.A. Inc., indicated a gross budget of $200 million, with a net of $178.4 million for Iron Man 3 after tax incentives from North Carolina and Florida.
Chris Townsend served as visual effects supervisor for the film, which featured over 2,000 visual effects shots and was worked on by 17 studios, including Weta Digital, Digital Domain, Scanline VFX, Trixter, Framestore, Luma Pictures, Fuel VFX, Cantina Creative, Cinesite, The Embassy Visual Effects, Lola, Capital T, Prologue and Rise FX. Townsend said that from January 2013 through the end of filming in April, the collective crew had one day of downtime, otherwise working seven days a week and 14 to 18 hours a day.
Digital Domain, Scanline VFX and Trixter each worked on separate shots featuring the Mark 42 armor, working with different digital models. The studios shared some of their files to ensure consistency between the shots. For the Mark 42 and Iron Patriot armors, Legacy Effects constructed partial suits that were worn on set. Townsend explained that "Invariably we'd shoot a soft-suit with Robert then we'd also put tracking markers on his trousers. He would also wear lifts in his shoes or be up in a box so he'd be the correct height—Iron Man is 6'5". During shooting we used multiple witness cams, Canon C300s, and we had two or three running whenever there was an Iron Man or Extremis character." The artists studied time lapse photography of decaying fruit and vegetables and actual phenomena such as the aurora borealis as reference for the effect of the glowing Extremis characters.
The film's production was delayed following Downey's leg injury, and for certain shots they were forced to create a double for Downey. Townsend explained that "The collective VFX [supervisors] and unit leads ran into a room as soon as the incident happened to try to ascertain what sequences could they shoot." Certain shots were filmed with a body double on set, and Weta Digital created a digital body double for others.
A total of three hours and 15 minutes of footage were shot before editing, where it was brought down to 130 minutes (119 without the credits), marking the longest stand-alone Iron Man film. Post-production also had a 3D conversion and a digital remaster for the IMAX release. Todd-AO mixed the sound in Dolby Atmos to enhance the immersive experience.
In October 2012, Brian Tyler signed on to score the film. According to Tyler, he was approached more for his "thematic" scores such as The Greatest Game Ever Played, Annapolis and Partition rather than his "modern" action scores such as The Fast and Furious films, with Kevin Feige asking a theme that was recognizable and featured those dramatic tones. To employ the "deeply thematic component with a strong melody," the score employs mostly orchestra sounds. The main theme for Iron Man focuses on horns and trumpets, to be "both a march and anthem." Tyler mentioned that John Williams' work in Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first thing he thought as an influence, and the cue for the Well of Souls in Raiders influenced the Extremis motif, as Tyler felt it should enhance an spiritual side for having a "technology so advanced that nears magic." Echoing the Mandarin's amalgamated personality, his theme was religious music "that borrows from many cultures," from "Monastic, Gothic, and Christian chants to music from the Middle-East." The score was recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. Tyler is the third primary composer to score an Iron Man film, following Ramin Djawadi of Iron Man and John Debney of Iron Man 2.
Along with Tyler's soundtrack album, Hollywood Records released a concept album inspired by the film, Heroes Fall. It features twelve original alternative rock and indie rock songs, with only one appearing in the film itself, Awolnation's "Some Kind of Joke."
Iron Man 3 was distributed worldwide by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures1 with the exception of China, where it was released by DMG Entertainment, and Germany and Austria, where it was released by Tele München Group. The Chinese version of the film offers specially prepared bonus footage made exclusively for the Chinese audience. This version features a four-minute longer cut of the film, with a scene showing Dr. Wu on the phone with Iron Man visible on a television screen behind him, as well as a longer scene of Dr. Wu operating on Stark. The extra material also features product placement for various Chinese products.
The film's premiere happened at the Grand Rex in Paris, on April 14, 2013, with Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in attendance. While the UK premiere of the film was originally set for April 17, the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher taking place in that date made the event be pushed to the following day. Downey, Ben Kingsley and Rebecca Hall were present for the advance screening at London's Odeon Leicester Square. The El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles hosted the United States premiere of Iron Man 3 on April 24. The film opened in 46 countries through April 22–24, with the United States release, in 4,253 screens, happening one week later. Regal Cinemas, AMC Theatres and Carmike Cinemas put presale tickets on hold, two weeks before the US premiere. The cinemas were in a contract dispute with Disney, who wished to receive more of the ticket sale profit than they currently did, largely based on the projected premiere-weekend intake Iron Man 3 was expected to have. Carmike was the first to come to terms with Disney. It was later reported that Cinemark Theatres had also stopped selling presale tickets, and Regal Cinemas had removed all marketing material for the film from its locations. On April 25, 2013, Regal, AMC and Disney ended their dispute, which allowed Regal and AMC to proceed with selling presale tickets again.
IMAX screenings began on April 25, 2013 internationally and May 3 in the United States. The film was shown in the 4DX format, featuring strobe lights, tilting seats, blowing wind and fog and odor effects in selected countries. In Japan, the technology opened its first room at the Korona World theatre in Nagoya, Japan with the release of the film.
In July 2012, at the San Diego Comic-Con International, a new Iron Man armor from the film, the Mark XLII, was on display on the convention floor, along with the Marks I-VII from the first two Iron Man films and The Avengers. A panel was held, during which Shane Black, Robert Downey, Jr., Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau and Kevin Feige discussed making the film, and several minutes of footage from the film were shown. The first television advertisement aired during Super Bowl XLVII on the CBS network in the United States. On March 25, 2013, Marvel and Disney revealed on the official Iron Man Facebook page, "Iron Man 3: Armor Unlock," to reveal suits Stark has made before the events of the film. In January 2013, Marvel Comics released a two-issue comic book prelude by writers Christos Gage and Will Corona Pilgrim with art by Steve Kurth and Drew Geraci. The story set between the second and third Iron Man films centers on War Machine, revealing why he was absent during the battle in New York of The Avengers.
Like with the first two films, Audi again provided product placement with various vehicles. Oracle also returned from Iron Man 2, showcasing both the Oracle Cloud and the Oracle Exadata server. Verizon FiOS and TCL's flat panel televisions and Alcatel One Touch smartphones are also featured in the film, and the Chinese cut also shows a Zoomlion crane and Yili milk. Promotional deals were arranged with Subway and the Schwan Food Company, and tie-ins included Lego sets, Hasbro action figures, and a mobile phone game by Gameloft.
Disney also promoted the film at its domestic theme parks. Disneyland's Innoventions attraction received a Stark Industries exhibit beginning April 13, and Monorail Black of the Walt Disney World Monorail System was given an exterior Iron Man scheme. The exhibit, entitled Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries, features the same armor display that was shown at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, with the Marks I-VII and the new Mark XLII. In addition, there is a simulator game, titled "Become Iron Man," that uses Kinect-like technology to allow the viewer to be encased in an animated Mark XLII armor and take part in a series of "tests," in which you fire repulsor rays and fly through Tony Stark's workshop. The game is guided by J.A.R.V.I.S., who is voiced again by Paul Bettany. The exhibit also has smaller displays that include helmets and chest pieces from the earlier films and the gauntlet and boot from an action sequence in Iron Man 3.
Iron Man 3 was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment in digital download form on September 3, 2013. This was followed by the film's release on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, digital copy, and on demand on September 24, 2013. The home video release includes a Marvel One-Shot short film titled Agent Carter starring Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter from Captain America: The First Avenger. It debuted atop the DVD and Blu-ray charts in the United States, and second in the rental charts behind World War Z. As of January 31, 2014, Iron Man 3 is the eighth best-selling DVD of 2013, earning more than $79 million in sales in the U.S.
The film was also collected in a 13-disc box set titled "Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Two Collection", which includes all of the Phase Two films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was released on December 8, 2015.
Iron Man 3 grossed $409 million in North America and $805.8 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $1.2 billion, outgrossing both of its predecessors combined. Worldwide, it became the 5th-highest-grossing film, the second-highest-grossing film of 2013, the second-highest-grossing film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (behind Marvel's The Avengers), the highest-grossing film of the Iron Man film series, the sixth-highest-grossing film distributed by Disney, and the highest-grossing threequel. It achieved the sixth-largest worldwide opening weekend with $372.5 million. On the weekend of May 3–5, 2013, the film set a record for the largest worldwide weekend in IMAX with $28.6 million. On its 23rd day in theaters, Iron Man 3 became the sixth Disney film and the 16th film overall to reach $1 billion. It is the first Iron Man film to gross over $1 billion, the second Marvel film to do so after The Avengers, and the fourth-fastest film to reach the milestone. As part of the earlier distribution agreement made with Disney in 2010, Paramount Pictures received 9% of the box office gross generated by Iron Man 3. Deadline.com calculated the net profit of the film to be $391.8 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues for the film.
Iron Man 3 became the 13th-highest-grossing film, the second-highest-grossing 2013 film, as well as the fourth-highest-grossing comic-book and superhero film. By the end of its opening day, Iron Man 3 made $68.9 million (including $15.6 million from late Thursday shows), achieving the seventh-highest-grossing opening day. By the end of its opening weekend, the film earned $174.1 million, making it the fourth-highest opening weekend of all time (behind Jurassic World, The Avengers, and Avengers: Age of Ultron). Of the opening-weekend audience, 55% was over 25 years old, and 61% were males, while only 45% of the gross originated from 3-D screenings. Opening-weekend earnings from IMAX amounted to $16.5 million. It topped the box office during two consecutive weekends and achieved the fifth-largest second-weekend gross with $72.5 million.
Iron Man 3 became the 5th-highest-grossing film, the second-highest-grossing 2013 film, the second-highest-grossing superhero and comic-book film, and the fifth-highest-grossing film distributed by Disney. The film earned $13.2 million on its opening day (Wednesday, April 24, 2013) from 12 countries. Through Sunday, April 28, it earned a five-day opening weekend of $198.4 million from 42 countries. The film's opening-weekend gross included $7.1 million from IMAX venues. It set opening-day records in the Philippines (surpassed by Man of Steel), Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Ukraine, Russia and the CIS, both single- and opening-day records in Thailand and South Africa, as well as a single-day record in Hong Kong. It also scored the second-biggest opening day in Argentina (only behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2). The film set opening-weekend records in the Asia Pacific region, in Latin America, and in individual countries including Argentina (first surpassed by Fast & Furious 6, when including weekday previews), Ecuador, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates. It also achieved the second-largest opening weekend in Mexico, Brazil, and Russia and the CIS. In India, it had the second-best opening weekend for a Hollywood film after The Amazing Spider-Man. IMAX opening-weekend records were set in Taiwan, the Netherlands, Brazil, and the Philippines. It is the highest-grossing film in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam and the second-highest-grossing film in Singapore and the Philippines (behind The Avengers). It topped the weekend box office outside North America three consecutive times.
In China, where part of the production took place, the film set a midnight-showings record with $2.1 million, as well as single-day and opening-day records with $21.5 million (on its opening day). Through its first Sunday, the film earned an opening-weekend total of $64.1 million, making China's opening the largest for the film, followed by a $23.1 million opening in Russia and the CIS, and a $21.2 million opening in the UK, Ireland and Malta. With total earnings reaching $124 million, it was the highest-grossing American film in China in 2013, and the country is the film's highest-grossing market after North America, followed by South Korea ($64.2 million) and the UK, Ireland and Malta ($57.1 million).
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 79% approval rating with an average rating of 7/10 based on 292 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "With the help of its charismatic lead, some impressive action sequences, and even a few surprises, Iron Man 3 is a witty, entertaining adventure and a strong addition to the Marvel canon." Metacritic gave a score of 62 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
In an early review by the trade magazine The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy said that, "After nearly crashing and burning on his last solo flight in 2010, Iron Man returns refreshed and ready for action in this spirited third installment... [that] benefits immeasurably from the irreverent quicksilver humor of co-writer and director Shane Black. Calling the film "darker and more serious than its predecessors," Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times credited Black for "chang[ing] this billion-dollar-plus franchise's tone for the better while keeping the same actor as Tony Stark. ... There is quite a bit of Black's trademark attitude and humor here as well, things like a throwaway reference to the sci-fi classic Westworld and a goofy character who has Tony Stark's likeness tattooed on his forearm. Black and company throw all kinds of stuff at the audience, and though it doesn't all work, a lot of it does and the attempt to be different and create unguessable twists is always appreciated." Rafer Guzman of Newsday characterized Iron Man as "the anti-Batman, all zip and zingers. He's also, suddenly, rather family-friendly. Some of the movie's best moments are shared by Stark and latchkey kid Harley (Ty Simpkins), who mock their budding father-son relationship while acting it out." Psychology Today concluded that the film presented an accurate portrayal of Tony Stark's posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms.
Nick De Semlyen of the UK film magazine Empire had criticisms, even while giving the film four of five stars. Finding it "a swinging caper with wit, balls, heart and exploding baubles," he said the villainous "super-soldiers who can regenerate body parts and survive astounding damage [are] visually interesting ... but their motivation is murky and unconvincing." Likewise Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out New York bestowed 3 of 5 stars, saying, "Black has massively upped the verbal sparring and kept the broad inventiveness of comic-book malleability in mind. ... The most wonderful of Black's surprises harkens back to his '80s reputation for character revision and is simply too good to ruin here." But, he asked, "[W]hy, finally, are we down at the docks—in the dark, no less—for one of those lumbering climaxes involving swinging shipping cranes? The energy bleeds out of the film; it's as if the producers were scared the crowd would riot over not enough digital fakeness."
Reacting more negatively, Stephen Whitty of The Star-Ledger found the film "slickly enjoyable" for the visual effects, but said, "[T]here's something empty about the film. Like Tony's suits, it's shiny and polished. But this time, there's nobody inside... This movie has neither the emotionalism of the first film, nor the flashy villains of the second... Tony's relationship with girlfriend Pepper Potts is in inexplicable jeopardy—and then simply fixes itself. A supposedly cute kid sidekick—a true sign of authorial desperation—is introduced, and then dropped." Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune echoed this, saying, "[I]n a gleefully cynical bid for a preteen audience (a few years too young for the violence in Iron Man 3, I'd say), Stark befriends a bullied 8-year-old [sic] (Ty Simpkins) who becomes his tag-along and sometime savior... Stark no longer needs to be in the Iron Man suit. He's able to operate the thing remotely when needed. The movie's like that too. It's decent superhero blockbustering, but rather remote and vaguely secondhand. At this point, even with Black's flashes of black humor, the machinery is more or less taking care of itself, offering roughly half of the genial wit and enjoyment of the first Iron Man."
In March 2013, Black stated that Downey's original contract with Marvel Studios, which expired after the release of Iron Man 3, may be extended in order for the actor to appear in a second Avengers film and at least one more Iron Man film. He said: "There has been a lot of discussion about it: 'Is this the last Iron Man for Robert [Downey, Jr.]?' Something tells me that it will not be the case, and [he] will be seen in a fourth, or fifth." In April 2013, Cheadle stated that Iron Man 3 could be the final film in the series, saying, "The door is always left open in these kinds of movies especially when they do as well as they have done. I know there was talk of making sure we did this one right, and if it worked it could be the last one. There's room for more to be done with these characters. We're getting to a sweet spot with Tony and Rhodey, anyway." In September 2014, in regards to a fourth film, Downey said, "There isn't one in the pipe ... No, there's no plan for a fourth Iron Man." Despite this, in April 2016, Downey stated that he was open to reprising his role in a potential fourth Iron Man film, saying "I feel like I could do one more."
In February 2014, Marvel released the One-Shot film, All Hail the King, on Thor: The Dark World's home media, featuring Kingsley reprising his role as Trevor Slattery, and continues Slattery's story from the end of the film.