Robert Downey Jr. has played Tony Stark on the big screen for a whole decade now, as the first Iron Man movie is from 2008. RDJ is so key in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s easy to forget he had an amazing career before that. He’s easily one of the best actors of his generation!
Here are some of his best non-MCU movies to celebrate RDJ’s birthday.
A nearly forgotten ensemble comedy, this is Downey at his most comedic, as a crazed and easily duped TV producer. Come for RDJ in his 20s and stay for the hilarious and ridiculous comedy. The film’s amazing cast includes Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Whoopi Goldberg and even Princess Leia herself, the late Carrie Fisher.
Well regarded as Downey’s best performance, and with good reason. In this Richard Attenborough-directed biopic, RDJ channels the iconic classic Hollywood actor, writer and director. Not only does Downey nail the physicality and accent, the levels he reaches as a performer are without paragon. If you’re only watching one of these films, let it be this one.
Natural Born Killers
An insane Oliver Stone film with a Quentin Tarantino screenplay, Downey plays a vital supporting character here. He’s an Australian tabloid journalist interviewing celebrity murderers Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis when hell breaks loose at the prison. This is the actor at his most frenetic, and a truly enjoyable (albeit violent) film to watch.
A sweet romantic comedy from Moonstruck director Norman Jewison, it falls is under the realm of Beautiful Movies in Italy. Co-starring Marisa Tomei, the two have great chemistry and travel around the Mediterranean with a lot of absurd moments. A great movie to watch when you get the Sunday blues.
A smaller role, RDJ steals each scene as the quirky bisexual editor trying to get into Tobey Maguire’s pants. A small and underrated dramedy, it also stars Michael Douglas, Frances McDormand and Katie Holmes.
The Singing Detective
This was Downey’s first major film after his fall from grace in the early 2000s, and it’s a great return to form. A film about a writer who’s living his own novel, it follows Dan Dark throughout a series of weird events. It also has a fantastic cast, which includes Mel Gibson, Adrien Brody and Robin Wright.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
One of the greatest buddy movies of all time, this is Downey at his best, alongside fellow superhero Val Kilmer. Written and directed by Shane Black, the man behind the Lethal Weapon screenplay, it’s everything you’d expect from this combo. A fun and highly quotable movie, it’s another great example of Downey’s knack for comedy. Plus, it’s great to watch Iron Man and Batman solving crimes!
Probably the wildest character on this list, this came out on the same year as Iron Man. Part of a major comeback year, Tropic Thunder earned RDJ an Oscar nod, and it’s easy to see why. His character, a mockery on extreme Method actors, is an Australian thespian playing a black man for a film. The entire cast is constantly befuddled by the depth of the character’s ridiculousness, and so will you.
On the year after his big return, Downey starred on Guy Ritchie’s version of sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective. A slick and very Ritchie-like movie, Holmes here is more of a fiend than the hyper-calculating BBC version. The buddy chemistry between Downey and Jude Law here is also outstanding. Let’s hope there’s an in-joke on Sherlock Holmes between Downey and Benedict Cumberbatch on Avengers: Infinity War!