Top 10 Robert Downey, Jr. Performances
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Top 10 Robert Downey, Jr. Performances

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by George Cimurt.

Appearing on screen for the first time at the age of 5, and persevering through drug addictions and prison time, he's grown to become one of the highest-paid Hollywood actors today. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 Robert Downey, Jr. performances. Playing some of Hollywood's biggest roles, he is now a leading man.

Special thanks to our users Jose Miguel Alvear Carrion, jwiking62, TheDude, Aman Bhonsle, Tristan Hartup, Andrew A. Dennison, chrism_gamestar, Juan Pedro, - Aspie Kid - and Daniel Salazarfor submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
Script written by George Cimurt.

Top 10 Robert Downey Jr. Performances

Appearing on screen for the first time at the age of 5, and persevering through drug addictions and prison time, he’s grown to become one of the highest-paid Hollywood actors today. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Robert Downey, Jr. performances.

For this list, we’re taking a look at those big screen and small screen performances that show off this actor at his finest and/or most memorable.

#10: Julian Wells
“Less Than Zero” (1987)

One of his earliest acclaimed roles, Downey Jr. grips us and doesn’t let go with his portrayal of a smart and charming young graduate who becomes enslaved by cocaine on his road to success. Although he’s urged by his two best friends to quit, the movie follows his downward spiral as the addiction takes over his life and ruins his health and relationships. Though first known for his teen flicks with the Brat Pack, Downey Jr.’s painfully-real performance in this drama showcased his maturity and talent even as a young actor.

#9: Ian
“Weird Science” (1985)

Anybody who loves ‘80s movies won’t forget Downey Jr.’s turn as Ian, one of two school bullies who loves antagonizing the nerdy protagonists of this 1985 teen flick. When the two nerds manage to create “the perfect woman” using their computer and a Barbie doll, however; Ian’s focus shifts from terrorizing the geeks to landing a date with the gorgeous creation. Though only a supporting actor in the John Hughes sci-fi-comedy, Downey Jr. nevertheless made his mark as an entertainer and all-around funny guy.

#8: Wayne Gale
“Natural Born Killers” (1994)

Taking on the persona of a conceited, power-hungry journalist, Downey Jr. holds his own in a movie that features big names like Tommy Lee Jones and Woody Harrelson. In Oliver Stone’s satirical and controversial crime flick, Downey Jr. takes the hot seat as perhaps the prime example of the media’s obsession with and veneration of criminals and serial killers. As the repulsive yet fascinating Wayne Gale, Downey Jr. proves that he can be charismatic no matter what the role may be – Australian accent and all.

#7: Larry Paul
“Ally McBeal” (2000-02)

Who can forget Downey Jr.’s Golden Globe-winning portrayal of Calista Flockhart’s flame Larry Paul in this TV comedy-drama? Joining the cast in the fourth season and appearing in more than a dozen episodes, Downey Jr. stole the show numerous times – though he’s probably most remembered for his duet with Sting. Unfortunately, while his drug issues during the early 2000s meant that Larry Paul was written out of the show, the character still won him critical praise and the love of an audience greater than ever before.

#6: Sherlock Holmes
“Sherlock Holmes” franchise (2009-)

Though many renowned actors have played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective, none has played him quite like this. Donning a British accent and a much more rumpled appearance than previous Holmes interpretations, Downey Jr. spends these movies making dry remarks, fighting bad guys, wearing women’s clothing—oh yeah, and doing some detective work. His work in the franchise was so well received that he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy for the first film.

#5: Paul Avery
“Zodiac” (2007)

Based on the real-life American police correspondent Paul Avery, Downey Jr. channels the journalist’s persona flawlessly in this film. Working for the San Francisco Chronicle, he finds himself investigating the murders in the Zodiac case and trying to uncover the killer’s identity. However, when the killer takes a personal interest in Avery and threatens him with his life, we feel Avery’s dread, and Downey Jr.’s transformation from a once-confident and skilled reporter to a paranoiac who uses drugs and alcohol to cope is powerful.

#4: Kirk Lazarus
“Tropic Thunder” (2008)

It’s not often that the Academy honors actors in comedies, but even the Academy couldn’t refrain from nominating Downey Jr. for his portrayal of an Australian method actor who has his skin surgically dyed to portray a black man. Remaining in character for almost the entire film, his character becomes the brains and mentor of a group of actors that finds themselves in the jungle along with a menacing gang of drug lords. Although “Tropic Thunder” is ultimately a parody, Downey Jr. plays the character deadpan, and that’s why we love him.

#3: Harold ‘Harry’ Lockhart
“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005)

In yet another role as an actor, Downey Jr. shines as the crook-turned-thespian-turned-detective in this crime comedy that parodies the literary detective genre. With a witty script and fantastic chemistry with fellow actor Val Kilmer, Downey Jr. brings life and laughs to this multi-layered role. Though he isn’t very effective as a detective, he is effective at playing fast-talking, slightly neurotic characters, and thus is perfectly cast in this Shane Black directorial debut.

#2: Tony Stark / Iron Man
“Marvel Cinematic Universe” (2008-)

In perhaps his most beloved role and certainly his most memorable one, Downey Jr. becomes Tony Stark and the superhero Iron Man so completely that the line between character and actor blurs. The series of films follows Downey Jr.’s character through thick and thin while he plays a self-absorbed playboy, inventor, and billionaire who creates a suit of armor that will eventually enable him to fight evil. We watch as his concepts of life, love, and self-change evolve as he matures and later becomes part of a new team of superheroes - although he remains loveably conceited.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- James Barris
“A Scanner Darkly” (2006)
- Dan Dark
“The Singing Detective” (2003)
- Joseph Wershba
“Good Night, and Good Luck.” (2005)
- Thomas Reilly
“Heart and Souls” (1993)
- Peter Highman
“Due Date” (2010)

#1: Charlie Chaplin
“Chaplin” (1992)

No one would disagree that Downey Jr. is uncanny in the way he interprets the famous actor and director in this biopic: the similarity in appearance is remarkable, and the way that he captures the spirit of the man and the famed Little Tramp character Charlie Chaplin played is even more extraordinary. The film follows the English actor’s beginnings, his inspirations, his career, his love life, and his struggles, and throughout, Downey Jr.’s portrayal is convincing and even moving. For his efforts, he won a BAFTA award and was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

Do you agree with our list? Which is the most memorable Robert Downey, Jr. performance in your book? For more great top 10s, be sure to subscribe to
How dare you not put Tony Stark in the #1 spot!
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