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Does IRON MAN 3 qualify as a Christmas movie?

by Stewart Cole

Some movies are obviously Christmas films such as Frosty the SNOWMAN and It’s a wonderful life. But this characterization is not so clear for other films. They may be set during the holiday season, and may even touch on Christmas themes, but does that mean they really qualify in the traditional sense? To find out, we test these films and present all the evidence for and against them, answering some relevant questions, as we did with Mold Tough Moreover Gremlins.

And there’s no better movie to jump into the big Christmas conversation than the MCU’s most festive film, Iron Man 3.

Members of the jury, ask yourself….

How much from Iron Man 3 does it happen on christmas

All these. Near the beginning we see Tony working in his basement with a Christmas tree. He’s listening to a rock version of “Jingle Bells.” He also gives Pepper her Christmas present — a giant stuffed rabbit that looks like a dog. There are also a handful of other Noel touches throughout. There is a bar playing Christmas music and a Home Shopping Network decoration for sale. Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian also plans to put the president on top of the festive tree-shaped lights. Tony even references A Christmas Story and says he has a “holiday message” for Mandarin.

Tony and Pepper in front of a fireplace with Christmas stockings

The grand finale takes place on Christmas Eve. Tony says, “And so, as Christmas morning dawned, my journey had come to an end.” However, while the movie reminds you of everything that happens at “Christmas,” it doesn’t do enough to really get you into the spirit of the season.

I will Iron Man 3 be fundamentally different if any other season of the year had been set?

Not even a little. Losing the decorations, the two holiday songs, and the seasonal references doesn’t sacrifice any plot or character development. However, there is one celebration that is relevant: the flashback to New Year’s Eve in Switzerland in 1999. The film constantly revisits ideas of sorrow, rebirth and new beginnings. If you changed this scene to another time of year, it would really hurt the movie. But its Christmas setting contributes neither to the story nor to its theme.

Do any of the movie’s main themes apply to Christmas?

Iron Man 3 touches on many ideas. The most immediate is how we “create our own demons” through our mistakes and fears. This is linked to issues of sadness, cruelty, shame, selfishness, dealing with our past, compromising our ideals and dealing with trauma. Considering that the villains are literally reborn and both the main protagonist and the antagonist are figuratively reborn, regeneration is also important. On a much smaller scale, the film also touches on family and friendship, but doesn’t develop them or have much to say.

photo of tony sitting next to an iron man suit in iron man 3 christmas movie
Marvel Studios

Some of these themes, like being selfish and forgetting to keep our best intentions at the forefront of our actions, feel appropriate for the holidays. Others share a direct connection with holiday classics like Christmas carols and It’s a wonderful life. Regret and being haunted by your past is a big part of all three films. These themes are just not very Christmassy Iron Man 3especially since they tie in with New Year’s Eve much more.

The relevant topics here are Christmas-neighborly at best.

He watches Iron Man 3 in the Christmas season improve the experience?

However, you won’t have any less fun watching it the other 11 months of the year. Listening to Christmas music out of season is always weird, but there’s only two songs here, so it’s not much of a deal. The film also has three main settings, and two of them are warm and sunny Malibu and Miami. Not exactly a winter wonderland.

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Has this movie been accepted as a Christmas movie tradition?

Iron Man 3 used to pop up on basic cable every once in a while during December, but Disney+ has made it much less common. The MCU movie didn’t do enough to become a holiday staple before the Mouse House entered the streaming wars, and with streaming slowly destroying all of our shared viewing experiences, it seems unlikely it’ll get another chance anytime soon.


Director Shane Black loves to set his films around the holidays, especially at Christmas. Iron Man 3 it certainly does that too. But it certainly doesn’t qualify as a Christmas movie. Holidays are just decoration to anchor it to a certain time of year. He doesn’t embrace Christmas in his story and does so only tangentially in his themes.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a holiday movie though. This is secretly one of the great New Years movies of all time. Moving on, rebirth, starting over, these are all great themes and ideas for this holiday. It’s a real shame that the whole movie doesn’t take place just one week later. It should end on December 31st, when Killian decides to end his Mandarin “lessons” with a bang.

Christmas movie killian in iron man 3
Marvel Studios

Killian is literally reborn in flames that night. But it’s actually Tony who turns the page by finally moving on and embracing who he really is. His suit does not define him. It’s Iron Man. Tony could then blow up all of Iron Man’s suits at midnight, making this “fireworks” and a proper celebration.

Really, who sets off fireworks on Christmas Eve?

Originally published on November 30, 2018.

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