Discovering Downey Jr.: Beyond Iron Man

Now that Iron Man is a bonafide hit, Robert Downey Jr. looks set to make the figurative leap onto Hollywood's A-List. For those wanting to bone up on Junior's past films, here are a few movies I think show the actor at his neurotic, brilliant best. Your mileage may vary.

There's more to RD Jr. than creepy goatees and glowing palms

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - In my favorite film of the bunch, Downey seems to play himself if he were a small-time crook mistakenly cast as an actor in a crime drama and instructed to ride shotgun with a gay private detective (played by an appropriately smug Val Kilmer) to develop his character. Along the way, Downey's loveable screwup runs into an old flame whose sister's death prompts a real investigation that sizzles with neo-film noir style and whip smart dialogue.

Only You - I'm a sucker for (some) romantic comedies and Downey -- again playing himself, it seems -- falls hard for Marisa Tomei during an Italian rendezvous that flips the concept of soul mates on its head (Doesn't it sound like I'm writing an IMDB plot summary?). Expect the usual twists but the chemistry between the two leads is undeniable and makes for great fun that you can never admit to your friends (if you're a guy).

Chaplin - Downey takes a break from starring as himself to portray Charlie Chaplin in the film that garnered him an Oscar nod for Best Actor. He didn't win, but Chaplin remains Downey Jr.'s most critically acclaimed role to date.

Wonder Boys - Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire take center stage in this comedic gem as a struggling English professor and his troubled star student but Robert Downey Jr. steals most of his scenes as the book editor who speaks and acts a lot like every other Downey character, which is to say, hilariously. And did I mention the film is based on Michael Chabon's book of the same name?

Did I miss any other Robert Downey Jr. films worth seeing? Leave your recommendations in the comments section.

And don't forget to check out the Large Association of Movie Blogs for your one-stop resource of movie blogs written by other guys who secretly like romantic comedies but aren't man enough to admit it.


Sarah said...

I would add The Pick up Artist...gotta love Molly Ringwald. In Dreams came to mind, not because it is a great movie, just because I remembered, oh yeah he is in that too!

natasha said...

iron man rocks..the movie did the comic book justice.
but the ending really pissed me off...why can we never have a full fledged
superhero vs villan fight..they always pussify it..anyway check out this crazy stand up comic i
found..funniest stuff ive seen in months..you have got to check it out!!!

Sadie said...

How 'bout "Less Than Zero?" It certainly wasn't the best movie ever, but I feel like it's one of the first ones I ever saw with him. After Weird Science, of course. Which is DEFINITELY worth seeing, but his part is not big.

Steven said...

I also liked, get ready, Air America. He was also good in Natural Born Killers.

Matt said...

sarah - I never heard of the Pick Up Artist but I could see Downey being a teenaged smooth talker.

natasha - I was never been a big comic reader but it sounds like one of the knocks on the Iron Man character is that he's always had weak sauce enemies.

My favorite bit by the comic is the part about the unicorn. Unicorn taint jokes get me every time.

sadie - Less Than Zero looks like it chronicles Downey Jr.'s real tailspin into drugs. And, honestly, I completely forgot about his part in Weird Science. Who is he?

steven - I never saw either, but I like watching films with Mel Gibson and other actors who go a little crazy and look for for early warning signs.

Also, I forgot to add Heart and Souls, another film that isn't great but remains entertaining when nothing else is on television.

WaywardJam said...

I still need to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Loved Wonder Boys.

I'd say you should check out Heart & Souls...but don't let anyone know you did!

Michael J. Mendez said...

I love his small bit in Bowfinger, very Downey as himself.

Also, he's done some great work lately, like Zodiac, A Scanner Darkyl, Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Singing Detective.

I love RDJ.

Graham said...

I'm with Michael - pretty much any Downey movie lately is golden.

From an earlier era, I happen to like True Believer. Downey's good in it, although mostly understated. It's most interesting to me because James Woods gives exactly the kind of performance that Downey is known for now - off the wall, narcissistic, fast-talking pot head.

Finally, I'd like to warn everyone away from US Marshals. Yeesh.

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free movies said...

Robert done some very good.Out of the given list I watched only two movies One is Only You and other is Iron man and I like both of them.Now I am thinking to watch other movies also.