How does one not love Robert Downey Jr.? Yes, you can seem like a real iconoclast by complaining about his almost constant presence in blockbusters, but why would you want to? His quick wit, his casual good looks (those chocolate-drop eyes? Mmm), his dedication to his roles, his defeat of drug addiction, and his determined climb back onto the A-list are all good reasons to be a fan. Rolling your eyes at his Marvel career feels like jousting at a windmill. Let Downey have his moment.
Oh, why are we downplaying this? The "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" star is a man of many iconic moments, and we here at NextMovie have rounded up nine of his best roles. It's not easy to pick just nine (have you seen "Zodiac"?), but making hard choices is what we do best. We're like Iron Man that way.
9. 'Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang' (2005)
Even a great actor can still reek of the screenplay he's reciting. That's not the case when you combine Shane Black and Downey, who are a match made in movie heaven, moving together as some kind of bizarre writer-director-actor hybrid. Downey's Harry Lockhart is a lowlife, an accidental noir detective, and an aspiring actor ... and Downey's attempting to juggle all of these things and survive to tell the tale produces one of the best black comedies you'll ever see.
8. 'Home for the Holidays' (1995)
When Tommy first appears on the awkward family scene, it's easy to dismiss the character as another rapid-fire Downey performance. Not so! It's all in the face as Tommy mocks his siblings and family football and attempts to carve the turkey; it's in his wounded expression when his homophobic sister cuts him down, his pained insistence to his mom that no one is unhappy. It's one of his kindest and sweetest performances.
7. 'Weird Science' (1985)
It isn't just in the 2000s that Downey movies have become iconic. He was making his mark in the '80s as a member of the Brat Pack, and popping up in the movies that defined the decade. In "Weird Science" he's Ian, one of the bullies who drives Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) into creating their dream woman. Ian is a nasty, smarmy, scheming nightmare straight out of high school The only thing more awful than his personality? His clothes.
6. 'Wonder Boys' (2000)
It would have been easy for Downey to play eccentric editor Terry Crabtree as a variation of "Home for the Holidays'" Tommy. But Terry is decidedly weirder, quieter, more ambiguous (he's offended that the tall woman he hooked up with is a transvestite), and more toothily desperate than any of Downey's other characters. Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire stole the show, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun if Terry weren't lurking and waiting to pounce on them.
5. 'Sherlock Holmes' (2009)
It's currently popular to dismiss Downey's Sherlock in favor of Benedict Cumberbatch's modern take, but Downey showed sides of Sherlock rarely seen on-screen -- the grubby addict who finds it difficult to cope between cases, the physically adept martial artist who can cripple a man with a few blows, and the bromantic who favors Watson over all female company. The brilliant, manic detective is here, too, and no worse for wear despite a few more explosions than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might have scripted.
4. 'Chaplin' (1992)
During Downey's darker years, critics and commenters would often demand to know why anyone hoped he'd pull out of his downward spiral. The answer was given was always Chaplin. Despite a plummy accent and a few glossy biopic tropes, Downey mimicked Charlie Chaplin's Tramp to perfection, and gave us a good peek at the man behind the bowler hat and wiggly mustache. Downey is probably the only actor who could remind you Chaplin was quite the sexy beast in (and out of!) bed without completely grossing you out.
3. 'Less Than Zero'
Downey wasn't exactly unknown when he did "Zero," but this was the performance that made everyone sit up and take notice. Julian is a drug addict keenly aware of his empty surroundings. Broken and volatile, he cleans up just long enough to reunite with his father and beg him for help. It's a short period of honesty and emotion, and Julian is soon sucked back into prostitution and addiction before that last fateful sleep on his friend's shoulder.
2. 'Tropic Thunder' (2008)
He knows who he is! He's the dude playing a dude disguised as another dude! Downey's glee at shredding the industry's most beloved Method men is obvious and infectious. It's downright brilliant, actually, because Downey isn't just Kirk Lazarus, he's Kirk-as-Lincoln, and the self-awareness is what keeps it working long after it should have worn out. Admittedly, the laughter becomes rather uncomfortable once you hit the DVD extras. There's something about that "Rain of Madness" mockumentary that just makes you wonder if it went full circle, and Downey lost himself within Kirk-as-Lincoln.
1. 'Iron Man' (2008)
Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale may have brought sophistication to comic book movies, but it was Robert Downey Jr. who made them fun. He was the perfect fit for Tony Stark, blending all of the character's acidity, carelessness, promiscuity, fragility and ferocious genius into a relatable (and reluctant) big-screen hero. When Stark loses his will to fly in "Iron Man 2," it actually feels like a real personality flaw, and not just an item on a character arc checklist. Downey took Iron Man from a second-tier Marvel book to a superhero as beloved as Batman or Superman.