Tony Stark might be the role that Robert Downey Jr. was born to play, but he had a decades-long career before he took up the mantle of Iron Man. While RDJ definitely had many ups and downs in his career and his personal life, he had many standout roles, and some rather hilarious ones, that Marvel fans might not be aware of.
If you love Robert Downey Jr. and Tony Stark, you’ll definitely want to check out these films. We’ve put together a list of 10 of the most iconic roles RDJ has played that many Iron Man fans aren’t aware of.
10 TOMMY LARSON IN HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
If you’re looking for a holiday movie that has some RDJ in it, you’ll need to check out Home for the Holidays. This movie, which was actually directed by Jodie Foster, is about a dysfunctional family around Christmas.
RDJ plays the brother of the main character, Tommy Larson. This character is a little weird and neurotic and definitely the most interesting in the film. So, next time you need a little Tony Stark flair for your holiday movie marathon, you know where to look.
9 PAUL AVERY IN ZODIAC
It’s difficult to pick just ten Robert Downey Jr. roles as he really has done so much work over his long career. His role as Paul Avery, a journalist in San Francisco during the Zodiac killings, is definitely worth watching.
He easily plays this alcoholic, smoking, smart reporter, and the star-studded cast of this film also includes Jake Gyllenhaal and fellow Marvel star Mark Ruffalo. Zodiac is the perfect film to watch for Iron Man fans who also have an interest in true crime stories.
8 SHERLOCK HOLMES IN SHERLOCK HOLMES
This role is likely the most-known on the list. While there have been many version of Sherlock Holmes on the big screen, Robert Downey Jr. brings his signature charm and wit to the character. In these two films, which also star Jude Law, Downey, Jr. plays the legendary detective with a lot of hilarity and adventurous spirit.
While Benedict Cumberbatch’s take on the character in the BBC show has been well-known, RDJ brings something fun and lively to the character. The third film in the trilogy isn’t out yet, but fans can look forward to its release in 2020.
7 PETER HIGHMAN IN DUE DATE
Due Date is a comedic film that also stars Zach Galifianakis and has a very similar vibe to The Hangover films. In this movie, RDJ plays Peter Highman who is about to fly home from L.A. to Georgia to be with his wife who is about to give birth.
When he and Galifianakis’ character are kicked out of the airport after the TSA mistakenly thinks they have a bomb, Peter has to figure out a way to get home to his wife before the birth of their child and a lot of hijinks and humor ensue. This role might not be one of RDJ’s best, but it does showcase his comedic talents.
6 DR. KOZAK IN THE SHAGGY DOG
Not all of Robert Downey’s roles have been serious or even for an older audience. He has also had a couple of stunts in movies meant for kids. In The Shaggy Dog, RDJ plays Dr. Kozak in this film that stars Tim Allen.
The premise of this film(a remake of a film by the same name from 1959) is a bit ridiculous since it’s about Tim Allen’s character, Dave Douglas, who sometimes spontaneously turns into a sheepdog. In the film, RDJ plays the bad scientist who does experiments on dogs and causes this case of shape-shifting.
5 HARRY LOCKHART IN KISS KISS BANG BANG
This role was extremely important for RDJ’s career as it was very much his comeback role. While Iron Man might have propelled him into superstardom, it was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang that showed people that he was ready to take on a leading role again.
In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he plays a crook, actor, and private detective in this spoof of the film noir genre. This movie is a must-see for any Robert Downey Jr. fans, and the witty, quippy character was perfect for RDJ to inhabit.
4 CHARLES CHAPLIN IN CHAPLIN
RDJ has brought some pretty iconic characters to life in his career. From Tony Stark to Sherlock Holmes, he’s captured some genius, eccentric fictional characters with great skill. However, he also played a real-life icon, Charlie Chaplin.
The role is quite different than others he has taken on, and it’s definitely worth watching him portray this silent-film era comedic star. This role even got him nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars.
3 JULIAN IN LESS THAN ZERO
Just like Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr. had a time period where he had substance abuse problems but was then able to rise above that. Before this rough period of his life, RDJ played a charming, drug-addicted rich boy.
The character of Julian is charming and has no self-control. This is a serious and heart-wrenching role that RJD played perfectly in his young days. Thankfully, things for RDJ had a much happier ending than they did for Julian.
2 LARRY PAUL IN ALLY MCBEAL
While Robert Downey Jr. has mostly been known for his roles in movies, he did have a pretty memorable stint on a TV show that has secured itself as a 90s classic. Ally McBeal is one of those shows that gets referenced a lot when talking about the decade.
In the show, RDJ played Larry Paul an attorney and love interest to Ally McBeal herself. He even won a Golden Globe for the role, proving that he has some major television acting skills, too.
1 1.NATHAN GARDNER IN CHARLIE BARTLETT
While a young RDJ was perfect for playing those beautiful, tragic rich kid roles, an older RDJ is perfect for playing the former tragic rich kid who is now grown up and also a little tragic, kind of like Iron Man.
In Charlie Bartlett, however, RDJ plays Nathan Gardner, a principal who also has some alcohol issues. (There’s definitely a theme here with these roles). The film also stars Anton Yelchin as a private-school kid forced to go to public school. This might not be RDJ’s most iconic role, but it’s a solid one that many fans will love.