Robert Downey Jr’s story is so inspiring. An imperfect but hugely talented actor, Downey has gone through various struggles in his life, most of them related to drug addiction. After years of substance abuse, Downey met the love of his life and turned his life around. Today, he stands as one of the most famous actors in the world and one of the finest of his generation.
We know Robert Downey Jr. mostly as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But RDJ is much more than that. In an imperfect career, Downey has shown the range of his acting prowess in a variety of roles. One can only wonder how the man hasn’t won an Oscar yet. Avengers: Endgame saw Tony take centre stage in an ensemble of mega stars, and as usual, steal the show. Hopefully he’ll be getting his due credit this time.
But in the meantime, let’s take a look at 9 incredible RDJ performances that prove that he’s one of the best in Hollywood.
9. Hank Palmer in The Judge (2014)
Director: David Dobkin
Okay, I know a lot of you may not agree with this one, but hear me out. The Judge was a courtroom drama with strong family overtones, with an uneasy relationship between a father, a Judge accused of a crime he doesn’t remember committing, and his hotshot lawyer son who despises his father. Sure, the movie isn’t perfect, but hey, I’m a bit of a romantic, and this one really got to me.
Say what you will about the movie, but no one can deny the impeccable performances given by Robert Duvall (who got nominated for an Oscar for his role) and RDJ himself, who played the charismatic, cocky hotshot lawyer. This movie is bound to hit you in the feels.
8. Wayne Gale in Natural Born Killers (1994)
Director: Oliver Stone
Another slightly controversial choice. I feel Natural Born Killers is given more flak than it actually deserves. This Oliver Stone-directed black comedy satire stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis, but you can’t not recognize RDJ as Wayne Gale, bloodthirsty tabloid journalist. Brilliant as always.
Some people may feel it was too dark and violent for them. But for me, it was a genius way for Oliver Stone to portray violence. Not for the sake of portraying, but to show how human beings react to violence.
7. Julian Wells in Less Than Zero (1987)
Director: Marek Kanievska
Less than Zero was Robert Downey Jr.’s breakthrough role, as Hollywood saw the emergence of a young exciting talent. RDJ plays Julian Wells, a rich L.A. boy who loses everything to drugs. While the movie didn’t fare so well critically or financially, RDJ’s unmistakable talent was spotted.
For a guy who went on to encounter many struggles with drugs, problems which almost ended his career, this hit pretty close to home.
6. Paul Avery in Zodiac (2007)
Director: David Fincher
One of David Fincher‘s finest films also contained one of RDJ’s finest performances. This is right up RDJ’s alley, and is also a Tony Stark-esque performance of sorts. He thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, squeezes a few clever quips in, and we’re always ready to see where his instincts take him.
For a movie that starred Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo, it was RDJ (as usual) who stood out with his performance of real life journalist Paul Avery, who investigated on the infamous Zodiac Killer.
5. Harry Lockhart in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Director: Shane Black
Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favourite black comedies of all time. It’s literally a parody of itself and the genre it represents (crime) and it does it in such an unapologetic manner. Robert Downey Jr. gives one of the most funniest and most enjoyable performance of his career as Harry Lockhart, a burglar who accidentally gets cast for a movie whilst running away from a botched robbery, and then getting caught up in a murder with a PI he’s assigned with, which involves a girl from his past.
Sounds ridiculous at first, but Downey wastes no time in making that evident in his voiceover narration. His chemistry with Val Kilmer, who plays the PI, is extremely funny. I love absolutely everything about his performance. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a hugely underrated cult classic and deserves a lot more recognition.
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I'm an engineering graduate trying to make the most out of what life throws at me. Currently working as a Brand Strategist at Mitsogo Inc, Chennai. Outside work, you can find me on a football pitch, a basketball court, or in front of a tea stall - still trying to make the most out of what I get.