The 10 Best Movies Starring Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. (RDJ) is one of the most versatile and charismatic actors of his generation. His career, spanning several decades, is marked by an impressive range of performances across various genres. From dramatic roles to action-packed superhero portrayals, RDJ has left an indelible mark on the film industry. Here, we explore the ten best movies starring Robert Downey Jr., showcasing his talent and the breadth of his filmography.

1. Iron Man (2008)

“Iron Man” is perhaps the most significant film in Robert Downey Jr.’s career, not just for its box office success, but for its cultural impact. Directed by Jon Favreau, the film follows the story of Tony Stark, a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who builds a high-tech suit of armor to escape captivity and ultimately become the titular superhero. RDJ’s portrayal of Stark is iconic; his charismatic, witty, and complex performance helped establish the character as a fan favorite and set the tone for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The success of “Iron Man” launched RDJ into superstardom and revitalized his career, making him a household name.

2. Sherlock Holmes (2009)

In Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes,” RDJ plays the famous detective Sherlock Holmes with a fresh, modern twist. His interpretation of Holmes is dynamic, combining intelligence with physical prowess and a quirky, unpredictable nature. The film’s energetic pace and RDJ’s chemistry with co-star Jude Law (who plays Dr. John Watson) bring a new dimension to the classic literary character. RDJ’s performance was widely praised, earning him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. The success of the film led to a sequel, further solidifying RDJ’s position as a versatile leading man.

3. Chaplin (1992)

One of RDJ’s most critically acclaimed performances came in “Chaplin,” directed by Richard Attenborough. In this biographical film, RDJ portrays the legendary silent film star Charlie Chaplin. The role demanded an extraordinary range of emotions and the ability to replicate Chaplin’s iconic physical comedy. RDJ’s dedication to the role was evident; he underwent extensive preparation to capture Chaplin’s mannerisms and comic timing. His performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, highlighting his ability to take on complex and challenging roles early in his career.

4. Tropic Thunder (2008)

“Tropic Thunder,” directed by Ben Stiller, is a satirical comedy that takes a humorous look at the film industry. RDJ plays Kirk Lazarus, an Australian method actor who undergoes a controversial skin pigmentation procedure to play an African-American character in a war film. RDJ’s performance is both hilarious and daring, showcasing his comedic timing and ability to tackle politically sensitive material with finesse. His portrayal earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, proving his versatility and fearless approach to acting.

5. Zodiac (2007)

David Fincher’s “Zodiac” is a gripping thriller based on the true story of the Zodiac killer, a serial murderer who terrorized San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s. RDJ plays Paul Avery, a journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle who becomes deeply involved in the investigation. The film is notable for its meticulous attention to detail and its ensemble cast, which includes Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo. RDJ’s portrayal of Avery, a man consumed by the case and struggling with personal demons, adds depth and intensity to the film. His performance is both compelling and nuanced, contributing significantly to the film’s critical acclaim.

6. The Avengers (2012)

As Tony Stark/Iron Man, RDJ became the cornerstone of the MCU. “The Avengers,” directed by Joss Whedon, is a landmark film that brings together several superheroes to form the Avengers team. RDJ’s performance as Stark is pivotal; his sharp wit, leadership qualities, and emotional depth anchor the film. The dynamic between Stark and the other characters, particularly Captain America (played by Chris Evans) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), is central to the film’s success. RDJ’s ability to balance humor, action, and drama helped make “The Avengers” a cultural phenomenon and a box office juggernaut.

7. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” directed by Shane Black, is a neo-noir dark comedy that blends elements of crime fiction with sharp humor. RDJ plays Harry Lockhart, a petty thief who inadvertently lands an audition for a movie role and ends up embroiled in a murder mystery. The film is notable for its witty dialogue and RDJ’s charismatic performance. His chemistry with co-star Val Kilmer, who plays private detective Perry van Shrike, is a highlight of the film. RDJ’s role in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is often credited with helping to revive his career, showcasing his talent for blending comedy and drama.

8. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

In “Captain America: Civil War,” directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, RDJ reprises his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The film explores the ideological clash between Stark and Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) over government oversight of the Avengers. RDJ’s portrayal of Stark is complex and emotionally charged, reflecting the character’s internal conflicts and sense of responsibility. His performance adds depth to the film’s exploration of themes such as loyalty, freedom, and accountability. “Civil War” is a standout entry in the MCU, in large part due to RDJ’s compelling performance.

9. The Judge (2014)

In “The Judge,” directed by David Dobkin, RDJ plays Hank Palmer, a successful defense attorney who returns to his hometown for his mother’s funeral and ends up defending his estranged father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), against a murder charge. The film is a character-driven drama that explores themes of family, forgiveness, and redemption. RDJ’s performance is powerful and emotional, capturing Hank’s struggle to reconcile his past with his present. His on-screen chemistry with Duvall is particularly noteworthy, adding depth to the father-son relationship at the heart of the film.

10. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)

“Good Night, and Good Luck,” directed by George Clooney, is a historical drama set during the early days of television journalism. The film focuses on journalist Edward R. Murrow’s (David Strathairn) conflict with Senator Joseph McCarthy over the latter’s anti-Communist witch hunts. RDJ plays Joe Wershba, one of Murrow’s colleagues. Although his role is supporting, RDJ’s performance is nuanced and integral to the film’s portrayal of journalistic integrity and courage. The film was critically acclaimed and received several Academy Award nominations, with RDJ’s contribution being a key part of its success.


Robert Downey Jr.’s filmography is a testament to his versatility and talent as an actor. From his iconic role as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the MCU to his critically acclaimed performance as Charlie Chaplin, RDJ has consistently demonstrated his ability to take on diverse and challenging roles. Whether in dramas, comedies, or action-packed blockbusters, his charisma and depth bring a unique presence to the screen. These ten films represent the best of Robert Downey Jr.’s illustrious career, showcasing his range and leaving an indelible mark on the film industry.