RANKED! The 8 Best Robert Downey Jr. Movies
Photo: Marvel Entertainment
Robert Downey Jr. has had quite a career. The son of Robert Downey Sr., who is a bonafide member of the Hollywood elite himself, Downey Jr. has managed to carve out his own little space in the film industry.
That place just happens to be the largest-scale expanded world of interconnected films history has yet known. But to identify him as Tony Stark and Tony Stark only misses much of the story of Downey Jr. Here are his eight best films to date, in or out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
8. 'Natural Born Killers' (1994)
Oliver Stone’s colorful and hyper-violent satire Natural Born Killers came from a story by Quentin Tarantino himself, but Stone made it all his own in the details. Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis play Mickey and Mallory Knox, two young lovers from desperate situations who go on a brutal killing spree and capture the hearts and minds of the American public along the way. The film points its finger at the media and the way it portrays mass murderers, embodied here by Downey Jr.’s Wayne Gale, a tabloid journalist who profiles the couple.
7. 'Iron Man 3' (2013)
In the mostly homogenized Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man 3 feels like a departure in some small ways. The reason for this is Jon Favreau (director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2) ceding the director’s chair to Shane Black. Black—best known for writing Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2 and directing The Nice Guys and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang—brings his own sensibilities to Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. The film sees little but disaster for the central hero, forcing him to reckon with people he had wronged in the past and with his post-traumatic stress disorder from the events of The Avengers (2012).
6. 'Short Cuts' (1994)
Director Robert Altman—perhaps best known for The Long Goodbye and McCabe and Mrs. Miller—made Short Cuts as a sprawling tale that takes, in total, two dozen actors to tell. One of the actors in this ensemble film is Downey Jr. It is difficult to describe his role in the film as it exists relative to the rest of the cast, which includes Matthew Modine, Lily Tomlin, Julianne Moore, Frances McDormand, Tim Robbins, Tom Waits and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Photo: Spelling Pictures International
5. 'Chaplin' (1992)
Downey Jr. plays the titular silent era comedy icon in Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin. The film details Charlie Chaplin’s mostly tragic life from desperate childhood poverty to his career’s severe downturn following the end of the silent era. It is one of Downey Jr.’s most immersive performances and critics widely lauded him for it. He even earned a nomination at the Academy Awards for Best Actor.
4. 'A Scanner Darkly' (2006)
Richard Linklater is best known for making Boyhood, a movie that was shot over 12 years. He is no stranger to unconventional filmmaking. With A Scanner Darkly, he does something quite odd. He rotoscopes each scene, giving it a smooth, unreal effect. Based on a Philip K. Dick novel—as many great science fiction films are—Keanu Reeves plays an undercover agent for the DEA who can change his appearance and is addicted to a futuristic drug called Substance D. Downey Jr. plays a key role as one of Reeves’ character’s roommates who is also addicted to the drug.
3. 'Tropic Thunder' (2008)
Tropic Thunder is one of the most underrated comedy films of the modern era. Inspired partly by Hearts of Darkness, the documentary which tells the hellish behind-the-scenes of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, the film sees a crew of pretentious actors fighting for their life for real while making a film about the invasion of Vietnam in Vietnam. Here, Downey Jr. gives one of his most controversial performances, as he plays a method-acting white Australian who takes on the role of an African-American soldier to push his boundaries and earn more accolades.
2. 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' (2005)
Downey Jr. and Shane Black teamed up years prior to Iron Man 3 to create something even better. In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Downey Jr. plays a burglar who finds himself suddenly a Hollywood actor as the result of hiding out in an audition after a job gone wrong. There he meets his old high school crush (Michelle Monaghan) and an openly gay private investigator (Val Kilmer) who works as a consultant for actors. The film is a characteristically funny modern addition to the noir genre.
1. 'Zodiac' (2007)
Zodiac is one of, if not the best, David Fincher film to date. It puts to film the journey of Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he goes from a San Francisco-area political cartoonist to an obsessive of the Zodiac Killer. As he slowly allows his extracurricular investigation of this enigmatic serial killer to take over his life, he is occasionally joined by Downey Jr.’s Paul Avery, a smart but aloof reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.