Since his first screen appearance in 1970 for his dad’s film Pound, Robert Downey Jr. has enjoyed a hugely successful career spanning over five decades. But with over 90 acting credits to his name, it’s difficult to sift through all his work to separate the good from the bad.
Well, we’ve done the hard work for you and found Downey Jr.’s best films. In order to make room for some of his lesser-known works, we have excluded any Marvel franchise films where he appears as Iron Man.
Directed by David Fincher, Zodiac is based on the infamous real-life serial killer of the same name who terrorized Nothern California in the late 1960s. It follows Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist by profession who finds himself obsessively thinking about the Zodiac killer. Downey Jr. portrays Paul Avery who was an American journalist well known for reporting on the case that remains unsolved to this day.
One of Downey Jr.’s more controversial pieces of work, Tropic Thunder is a satirical comedy that follows a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie. The group is forced to become the soldiers they are portraying when they are attacked by a gang of poppy-growing local drug dealers. In the film, Downey Jr. plays Australian method actor Kirk Lazarus who got “pigmentation alteration” surgery to darken his skin in order to portray a black sergeant. Despite the controversy surrounding Downey Jr.’s use of blackface, he was still nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Based on the novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them by Brett Halliday, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a crime mystery that has flown under many people’s radars. Downey Jr. plays a thief who stumbles into an audition room and pretends to be an actor in order to escape from a robbery gone wrong. After the audition goes well, he gets sent to Hollywood where he befriends a private eye, but the duo soon gets swept up in an ongoing murder investigation.
Directed by Richard Attenborough, Chaplin is a biopic on the incredible life of Charlie Chaplin who rose from a poverty-stricken childhood to worldwide success. Downey Jr. does an incredible job at playing the iconic celebrity and was nominated for his first Oscar for Best Actor.
Downey Jr. plays the titular narcissistic genius detective Sherlock Holmes. The first Holmes film was a massive success, pulling in $524 million worldwide. That was followed by a sequel in 2011, but despite a third being in pre-production, it’s still unclear whether the threequel will ever see the light of day.
With so many great performances it was hard to narrow down the list of Downey Jr.’s best films but these five films are a great place to start. Since becoming one of the most recognized names in Hollywood for his exceptional performance as Iron Man, we think it’s important fans of the star watch some of his other works that deserve to be appreciated.