A look back at the best Robert Downey Jr movies before Iron Man returns in Captain America: Civil War!
As strange as it may sound, Robert Downey Jr is a 51-year-old man with a 46 year career in Hollywood. That’s right, Downey got his start at the age of five in Pound, a film written and directed by his father and fellow showbiz legend, Robert Downey Sr. in 1970. Downey Jr. went on to become a teen superstar in the ‘80s as one of the Brat Pack and a leading man on the rise in the ‘90s before his career was derailed by well-documented substance abuse and legal issues.
When Downey attempted to get the leading role of Marvel Studios’ Iron Man film, his reputation was still in tatters. And yet Downey turned out to be the perfect choice to play Tony Stark and Iron Man, as the success of that film gave birth to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. Now, Downey is one of the biggest box office draws in the world, and his latest film, Captain America: Civil War, seems likely to rival the Avengers films among the top of Marvel’s all-time grossing projects.
Before Captain America: Civil War opens on May 6, ComingSoon.net has created a retrospective of the ten most important Robert Downey Jr movies. What are your own favorite Robert Downey Jr movies? Let us know in the comment section below!
Robert Downey Jr Movies Spotlight: Weird Science (1985)
Weird Science is an ‘80s classic in which Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith play two nerds who use their computer to magically create a perfect woman named Lisa (Kelly Le Brock). In the inevitable modern remake, we’re sure that Lisa will be created with a 3-D printer.
Downey had a role in Weird Science as Ian, one of the bullies who made Gary (Hall) and Wyatt’s (Mitchell-Smith) lives hell before they brought Lisa into the world.
Robert Downey Jr Movies Spotlight: Less Than Zero (1987)
Two years after Weird Science, Downey had one of the leading roles in Less Than Zero, an adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis‘ novel of the same name. Downey played Julian, a troubled drug user who seemed to be unable to escape the pull of addiction despite the best efforts of his friends, Clay (Andrew McCarthy) and Blair (Jami Gertz).
For a while, Less Than Zero appeared to be prophetic about the fate of Downey himself. However, Downey ended up writing a happy ending for himself two decades later.
Robert Downey Jr Movies Spotlight: Air America (1990)
As Downey transitioned into adult roles, he was paired with Mel Gibson near the height of his career in the action comedy, Air America. Downey and Gibson played a pair of pilots for the CIA who were unwittingly drawn into an illicit plan to smuggle heroin.
Believe it or not, Air America was actually controversial at the time for putting the CIA in a bad light. Critics also savaged the film for what they called its inconsistent tone. But it’s reputation has improved in the quarter century since the movie came out.
Robert Downey Jr Movies Spotlight: Chaplin (1992)
Everyone knew pretty early on that Downey was going to be a superstar. In the long run, it didn’t play out as expected. But Downey’s title role in Chaplin solidified him as a leading man and it earned him a nomination for Best Actor at the Oscars. Downey played the iconic movie star, Charlie Chaplin in an biography film that took some dramatic license with Chaplin’s life.
Marisa Tomei played Chaplin’s frequent co-star Mabel Normand, and there’s a good chance that Tomei and Downey will be reunited onscreen in Captain America: Civil War or Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Robert Downey Jr Movies Spotlight: Natural Born Killers (1994)
It’s funny how Downey’s character, Wayne Gale, feels less over the top 22 years after Natural Born Killers hit theaters. Downey portrayed Gale as a sensasionalist tabloid journalist (in the vein of Geraldo Rivera) who was fascinated by the killing spree of Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis).
In 1994, Downey’s Gale was everything that was wrong with TV news. Today, he’d have his own primetime cable show five-nights-a-week. And Gale actually seems less crazy than the real talking heads on TV.
Robert Downey Jr Movies Spotlight: The Singing Detective (2003)
During some of his darkest years, Downey starred in the adaptation of the BBC miniseries The Singing Detective that turned out to be one of the biggest bombs of his career. Paradoxically, critics loved Downey’s performance as Dan Dark, a man who loses his grasp on reality and fantasy. And yet those same critics savaged The Singing Detective as a whole.
But if nothing else, The Singing Detective helped pave the way for Downey’s late career resurgence.
Robert Downey Jr Movies Spotlight: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2004)
Another step on the Robert Downey Jr. redemption tour was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Shane Black’s directorial debut. Downey played Harry Lockhart, a thief who inadvertently won a leading role in a film while trying to elude the police. Along the way, Harry and his childhood crush, Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), stumbled upon murder and mayhem.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was only modestly successful at the box office, but Downey once again won rave reviews for his performance. Eight years later, Black and Downey reunited for Iron Man 3.
Robert Downey Jr Movies Spotlight: Iron Man (2008)
It was the first Iron Man that truly changed Downey’s career. It was almost as if all of his years battling addiction had made Downey into the perfect choice to bring Marvel’s Tony Stark/Iron Man into live action. Supposedly, director Jon Favreau had to really push Marvel to get the studio to sign off on Downey’s leading role.
At the time, Iron Man was considered to be a genuine risk as Marvel’s first film. But instead of failing, it had a massive opening weekend and it successfully set the tone for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now Iron Man is Downey’s signature role and it’s made him a very rich man.
Robert Downey Jr Movies Spotlight: Sherlock Holmes (2009)
It’s rare that an American actor gets a chance to play the great English detective Sherlock Holmes, but director Guy Ritchie chose Downey to portray Holmes in his more action-focused take on the character.
Downey co-starred opposite Jude Law as Holmes’ friend/sparring partner, John Watson. It turned out to be a winning formula for another box office hit that led to a sequel in 2011. Downey has indicated that he and Law will eventually return for a third Sherlock Holmes movie, but it’s not currently on the schedule.
Robert Downey Jr Movies Spotlight: The Judge (2014)
As you might expect, Downey is kind of busy reprising his role as Iron Man in multiple Marvel movies. The Judge was the most recent film that Downey has made that wasn’t based on any kind of pre-existing franchise. In The Judge, Downey played Hank Palmer, a man who ends up having to defend his estranged father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), against a murder charge.
While The Judge wasn’t received very well by critics, Downey and Duvall were singled out for praise. Duvall was even nominated for Best Supporting actor at the Oscars, while Downey was snubbed. Presumably, The Judge is the type of movie that Downey will go back to making once he’s done playing a superhero and a detective. But there’s currently no end date in sight for that!