Tony Stark, Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr.’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies

Robert Downey Jr.

Latest vs. Greatest is a relatively new feature here at Killing Time.  We’re going to look at directors, actors and actresses and assess the state of their career as it stands.  We’ll look back at the last 10 movies the artist has done, give it a grade and then average them out to see where they stand today.  We’ll also rank their 10 best movies and give it the same treatment to see what they have been doing compares to their very best work.  (A quick side-note: if an artist is also a regular on a TV show we’ll grade the seasons as individuals and, clearly, artists need 10 projects to qualify).

Has there ever been a comeback in Hollywood history to equal Robert Downey Jr.’s?  Early critical acclaim in mostly indie films, an Oscar nomination for his brilliant performance as Charlie Chaplin, and then a spiraling series of drug and alcohol addiction incidents to rival the entire Sheen family.  The pinnacle of these debacles was in 1996 when he was arrested for waking up in his neighbor’s kids bed having wandered into the house after one of his binges and falling unconscious (paramedics had to rush him to the hospital).  Downey Jr. seemed destined to be a Hollywood burnout and an O.D. waiting to happen.

In 1999, having exhausted every celebrity trick the judicial system offers, Downey was sentence to three years in prison for violating parole on illicit drugs and weapons charges.  Alcohol, heroin, cocaine, marijuana; you name it – Downey had a history with it.  He’s lucky the 24-hour news cycle wasn’t what it was in the 1990’s or he might not have been able to get to the point where he was ready to get sober.  In 2001, he enrolled in rehab for the final time and by all accounts has been clean since.  That, in itself, would be a remarkable success story.

Robert Downey Jr., Iron man

However, Downey and Marvel Comics came together in a perfect storm of events, character and talent that reignited his career to the point where today he’s one of the five biggest stars in the world.  It all began with an Iron Man.  Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark.  I don’t mean that in the way that he’s inhabited the character, made it his own and almost impossibly iconic.  I mean that the character’s story IS his.  Tony Stark is a rich kid with no responsibility and a substance abuse problem more legendary than any in comic history.  He had to face his own demons and make his life matter.  It might be the best match of real life story and character background there’s ever been.  Downey and Marvel took Iron Man, a character comic fans knew, but had no kind of global identification, and raised him to the level of Spider-Man, the X-Men and I would argue PAST the Fantastic Four.  He led a film renaissance that was mirrored in the comics and where the mutants had been Marvel’s bread and butter for two decades, it’s now literally an Avengers world in the Marvel Universe.

Downey made stupendously acute choices over the next five years (if you overlook the rancid Due Date).  His best film was actually released a few months before Iron Man with David Fincher’s Zodiac.  He followed Iron Man with one of the boldest comedic performances ever as Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder.  The movie didn’t quite live up to its premise, but Downey was astonishing.  He played an Australian method actor playing the part of an African-American sergeant in a movie within a movie.  That’s the MC Escher of film roles.  Not to mention how offensive or controversial working in full black face could have been if Downey hadn’t somehow slammed down this fearless comedic wonder-show that may be his BEST performance.  It was his second Oscar nomination in a climate that never nominates comedic acting.  He followed that by redefining Sherlock Holmes for a new generation, though-like with Iron Man- the sequel fell far short of the original.  They are planning to make another, but to be honest, his biggest problem with Holmes is that in the meantime Benedict Cumberbatch turned in an even better performance.

I digress though.  Downey’s continued to score with Marvel (though I’m one of three people who have serious problems with Iron Man 3) and Disney backed up a van full of cash to his door to get him to agree to return as Stark for Avengers 2 and 3 (which will probably be his last film in the armor).  I would also highly recommend an overlooked performance with Jamie Foxx in The Soloist.  In 2014, Downey will be in the comedy Chef and in a small-town legal thriller in The Judge.  His acumen in choosing roles gives him-by far-the highest average of his last ten movies of any actor we’ve examined to date.

DOWNEY’S LATEST TEN:
1. Iron Man 3 (2013) …………………………………………………………… 5.75
2. The Avengers (2012) ……………………………………………………….. 9.75
3. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows (2011) …………………………. 6.00
4. Due Date (2010) ……………………………………………………………… 3.25
5. Iron Man 2 (2010) …………………………………………………………… 8.75
6. Sherlock Holmes (2009) …………………………………………………… 9.50
7. The Soloist (2009) …………………………………………………………… 9.25
8. Tropic Thunder (2008) …………………………………………………….. 9.25
9. Iron Man (2008) ………………………………………………………………10.00
10. Zodiac (2007) ………………………………………………………………..10.00
ROBERT DOWNEY JR’S CURRENT WORKING AVERAGE: 8.150
NEW HIGH SCORE FOR ACTORS!

Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes

DOWNEY’S GREATEST TEN:
1. Zodiac (2007)………………………………………………………………… 10.00
2. Iron Man (2008) ……………………………………………………………..10.00
3. Good Night and Good Luck (2005) ………………………………………9.75
4. The Avengers (2012) …………………………………………………………9.75
5. Bowfinger (1999) ………………………………………………………………9.50
6. Sherlock Holmes (2009) …………………………………………………….9.50
7. Tropic Thunder (2008) ………………………………………………………9.25
8. The Soloist (2009) ……………………………………………. ………………9.25
9. Chaplin (1992) …………………………………………………………………..9.00
10. Iron Man 2 (2010) ……………………………………………………………8.75
ROBERT DOWNEY JR.’S CURRENT GREATEST AVERAGE: 9.475
NEW HIGH SCORE FOR ACTORS!

Downey also slightly edges out George Clooney for the lead in the Greatest Average category.  Chaplin, like Tropic Thunder, is not the perfect movie that Downey’s perfect performance warrants so he’s even better than that.  His comedy career also includes one of the best comedies of the last 15 years, Steve Martin’s Bowfinger.  Mostly, though, this is an actor whose current work is the best he’s ever done.  Downey can do anything he wants.  He has dramatic and comedic chops without limit.  And he’ll tell you too.  The only thing ever holding him back was himself.  If he stays sober and keeps picking smart scripts, it’s only a matter of time before he gets an Oscar to go with his critical and financial success.  Downey, regarding the Academy Award, is on record as saying, “I want one of those.”  I have no doubt he’ll get at least one before all is said and done.

Tony Stark, Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr.

2 thoughts on “Robert Downey Jr.’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies”

  1. Good for RDJ. If I’m not mistaken, he’s the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, isn’t he? IM3 did have some serious problems; for one thing, it didn’t do anything at all to advance the mythology. But even though RDJ can play Tony Stark in his sleep by now, I thought he was as good as he ever was, and you can’t really blame the film’s flaws on his performance. For that matter, you can’t fault Kingsley’s performance, regardless of how you feel about the strangest twist in the history of film. Kingsley totally committed to the role, both before and after the reveal, and in a perfect world where films like IM3 got recognized, he would receive an oscar for best supporting actor, or at least get nominated. But I digress. RDJ rocks.

    Like

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