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9 Films You Forgot Robert Downey Jr. Was In

Gavin Boyter

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Robert Downey Jr career image

You know him as Iron Man, the wise-cracking millionaire playboy turned tech-savvy superhero. But Robert Downey Jr. enjoyed a long and varied career before he snapped into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). We’re looking at films you forgot Robert Downey Jr. was in.

Before Marvel, there were the wilderness years. It’s common knowledge that Downey Jr struggled with drink and drug abuse. He even did a stint in prison as a result of his misadventures. His rise from recovery to super-stardom since 2008 is little short of miraculous. And let’s face it – Hollywood loves a comeback.

But this isn’t the whole story. Downey Jr. starred in a host of great movies, long before he donned the red metal suit. Let’s take a look at nine of those, starting with the most recent and working back to his baby-faced youth.

1. Zodiac (2007)

It’s the year before he debuted for Marvel Studios. Downey JR played seasoned journalist Paul Avery in David Fincher’s true-life serial killer tale.

A cynical, wise-cracking alcoholic. The role might have been tailor-made for the actor, who channels his easy charm into a performance so subtle, it was overlooked at awards season.

The perfect foil to Jake Gyllenhaal’s puppy-dog enthusiasm, Downey JR excels in this standout performance.

2. A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Genius director Richard Linklater took cult sci-fi author Philip K. Dick’s novel of mind-bending druggy paranoia. Then assembled a stellar cast for this highly original film.

Using rotoscoping, a technique where animators paint over filmed frames, Linklater cast Downey Junior as Keanu Reeve’s skin-headed, opinionated housemate Barris.

The freewheeling comic dialogue is perfect for Downey’s scattershot style. Later exhibited when he became Tony Stark in Iron Man.

3. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Downey Jr is searingly powerful in this independent crime drama which also features Channing Tatum and Shia La Boeuf.

A latter-day Mean Streets, the film is set in the 1980s and present-day New York. It’s a semi-autobiographical character study by director Dito Montiel.

Downey Jr plays Dito, a writer returning to his old neighborhood with mixed feelings about his ailing father, with whom he clashed as a boy.

La Boeuf plays 1980s Dito, which makes this the film where Shia La Boeuf grows up to be Robert Downey Jr. Wishful thinking, some might say.

4. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

This independently-financed action-comedy was screenwriter and director Shane Black’s comeback film. After the million-dollar spec script bubble burst in the 1990s, Black was persona non grata in Hollywood. He enlisted equally blackballed stars Downey Jr and Val Kilmer for his directorial debut.

Against all odds, they created a film that critics enjoyed, although audiences mostly stayed away. The film plays like a crazy pinball machine of twists and wisecracks. Downey Jr breezes through it with ineffable charm, even when a dog eats his finger.

5. Wonder Boys (2000)

It’s fun seeing Downey Jr playing a gay character for a change. As a publisher who seduces and toys with the affections of Tobey Maguire’s wannabe writer.

In a supporting role, Downey Jr plays it rather straight, leaving most of the witticisms to star Michael Douglas.

It’s a generous and roguish performance to add to his varied repertoire. The film also provides the answer to a perfect pub quiz movie trivia question – “in which film does Iron Man end up in bed with Spiderman?”

6. Bowfinger (1999)

It’s tough playing straight man to Steve Martin on a career-high. But Robert Downey Jr almost steals his scenes as smug Hollywood studio executive Jerry Renfro.

In a film that also features the comedic talents of Eddie Murphy playing two contrasting characters, Downey Jr. more than holds his own. He’s in a role where’s he’s required to do little but look slick and ridiculously handsome. Nice suit too.

7. Heat and Souls (1993)

In 1993 Downey Jr worked with the legendary Robert Altman on his Hollywood-set ensemble movie Short Cuts. In the same year, he also made this, largely forgotten, high concept comedy from City Slickers director Ron Underwood.

Downey Jr plays a man inhabited by the souls of four recently-deceased people with business on earth to complete.

The actor clearly relishes the challenge of playing four contrasting roles, including two female characters. His bouncing back and forth between the clashing personalities is a comic tour-de-force in an underrated and remake-worthy movie.

8. Chaplin

This is the film for which Downey Jr won his Academy Award, and rightly so.

Playing comedy icon Charlie Chaplin was a huge challenge for an actor who’d been stuck in mushy rom-com and dumb comedies for the best part of a decade. Richard Attenborough clearly saw more than just a likeness in the young actor. Here he displayed a previously unexplored gift for physical comedy.

Although critics were a little cool about the film, Downey Jr’s performance was singled out for praise. His career should have taken off. Alas, some unfortunate life choices (and career choices) kept him from superstardom for a little longer.

9. Less than Zero (1987)

Even before his Oscar, there were glimpses of real talent in the 22-year old star.

There’s a feeling that the “out of control” drug-addled character he plays in this long-forgotten 80s drama isn’t so much of a stretch for him. Two years before the better-known Drugstore Cowboy, Bret Easton-Ellis’s expose of the young and privileged of Beverley Hills allows Downey Jr to act everyone else off the screen. He even steals the scene after his character’s demise – that’s the sign of a charismatic actor!

Whether he’s a lowlife, a charmer, a silent screen star or a black single mum (in Heart and Souls – seriously), Robert Downey Jr has always been the comeback king. He’s worked hard to enjoy his newfound mega-stardom. Perhaps it’s time to cut the wisecracking reprobate some slack?


That’s our list of nine movies you forgot Robert Downey Jr. appeared in. Did we miss any? Which was your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.


Check out more of our MCU articles HERE.

Read about IMDB information on Zodiac HERE.

Read about IMDB information on A Scanner Darkly HERE.

Read about IMDB information on A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints HERE.

Check out IMDB information on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang HERE.

Read IMDB information on Wonder Boys HERE.

Check out IMDB information on Bowfinger HERE

Read IMDB information on Heart and Souls HERE.

Check out IMDB information on Chaplin HERE.

Read more about Less than Zero on IMDB HERE.

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Movie News

The 9 Greatest Spoof Movies Ever

Aaron Phillips

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This is Spinal Tap image
Embassy Pictures

There have been so many great spoof movies over the past four decades. So, sit back and buckle up as we countdown the nine greatest spoof movies of all time. And “don’t call me Shirley”.

9. Team America: World Police

Ok, so it’s all-puppet action as opposed to real-life actors, but it’s still up there. Written by the guys behind South Park, it parodies an American counter-terrorism force as they take on global terrorists. As you would expect, there are some cracking scenes throughout the movie. Kim Jong-il singing about being “so roney, so roney” is a highlight that isn’t easily forgotten. You also have to feel sorry for poor old Matt Damon. Although he’s had a glittering film career it’s still hard not to say “Matt Damon” in that monotone way every time you see him on screen. According to writers Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Damon’s puppet looked so vacant that they decided to make his character only able to say his name. Poor Matt. Add in some fantastic one-liners, over-the-top violence and sex scenes with puppets, you have a great film that will make you laugh, and cringe.

8. Blazing Saddles

Mel Brooks is the king of spoof and parody. He’s directed and written many a great spoof over the years, but Blazing Saddles was only his third movie in the director’s chair. This 1974 offering takes the proverbial from all the great western movies from the 40s and 50s. The film throws joke after joke at you, along with anachronisms aplenty. Lead actors Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little also deliver comedic gold performances that help make this film great. Brooks also does a clever job of dealing with racism throughout the movie; something that hadn’t really been done before. One of those moments is where Wilder and Little confront two Klan characters, before stealing their white gowns. Clever, and poignant. It’s also interesting to note that execs wanted to pull the plug before release, but soon realised they got it wrong. It was a financial success and has firmly sealed its place in history as an iconic piece of filmmaking. Not only that, but it’s also still rated very highly on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb today. Just goes to show that a classic stands the test of time.

7. Spaceballs

Yep, our old friend Mel Brooks features again in the director’s chair. This time he delves into the world of sci-fi; more specifically, Star Wars. Although it only made a small profit at the time, it’s gone on to become a cult classic and holds a fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The key to its success is it’s genuinely funny. The jokes are good enough to make you belly laugh. And the characters are so close to those on Star Wars, it’s amazing George Lucas gave his blessing for it to be made at all. He even went a step further and sent Mel Brooks a note to say he almost fell apart laughing through it. Praise indeed. Brooks’ other golden touch was casting Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet. I think you’ll struggle to find a funnier bad guy. There are also rumours of a sequel, predicted in the film itself as ‘The search for more Money’, although nothing has been greenlit at the moment. We live in hope.

6. Scary Movie

Ok, so there have been five films in the Scary Movie franchise but the first one from 2000 makes our list of spoof movies. Written by Shawn and Marlon Wayans and directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans, it’s definitely a family affair. Although later films parody a wide range of films, this one heavily relies on Scream, and I Know What You Did Last Summer. This works in the film’s favour as you don’t spend the entire movie wondering what film they’re parodying for each joke. You know that Ghostface from Scream is going to feature a lot. And he does. The scene where he gets stoned with a bunch of guys and prank calls people is still funny today. The later films just feel like a collection of forced jokes as they ran out of horror movies to parody. Although it received mixed reviews, it made a monumental profit at the box office.

5. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad

No spoof movies list would be complete without at least one that features the brilliant Leslie Nielson. The Naked Gun, released in 1988, was based on the short-lived TV series from 1982. Created by the legend of deadpan comedy David Zucker, it follows Lt Frank Drebin on his escapades. The original Police Squad series was a spoof of 60s police dramas; particularly M Squad, and The Naked Gun follows the same theme. Plus, it ends with one of the best death scenes in film history with Nielson waving his arms and calmly addressing the crowd with “nothing to see here”. With superb writing and acting, The Naked Gun was released to critical acclaim. It also made a healthy profit at the box office and is often listed as one the greatest comedy films ever made.

4. Hot Shots!

Released in 1991 and directed by Jim Abrahams, Hot Shots! keeps things simple by purely being a spoof of Top Gun. And a very good one it is too. Not only is the writing funny and sharp, but it also has a fantastic cast. Playing the lead roles are Charlie Sheen and Cary Elwes as the two feuding pilots. Both actors are masters of comedic timing and they deliver their lines with razorlike sharpness. The plot revolves around a mission to Iraq, with the added love triangle involving Sheen and Elwes’ characters and a female therapist. This sub-plot lends itself to some genuinely hilarious scenes between the two actors. Credit also has to go to the fantastic Lloyd Bridges. He plays a commander who seems to have had every part of his body replaced due to it being blown off in various battles. His lines in the movie are comedy gold. A great film that hits all its spoof targets with absolute aplomb.

3. Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Written and performed by legendary British comedy troupe Monty Python, Life of Brian had a controversial start. Being a satire of Jesus’ life was always going to cause some angst among some religious communities. In fact, some countries including Ireland and Norway banned it from being shown on release. In some cases that ban the latest decades. Life of Brian is often quoted as one of the greatest comedy films ever made. The writing is as good as you would expect from the Monty Python crew, and the jokes keep coming all the way through. Who can forget the immortal line, “he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”. It made a modest box office profit at release but has gone on to earn iconic status. Rotten Tomatoes have it as a 95% certified fresh rating and it’s still raved about today.

2. This is Spinal Tap

This is the film that kicked off a new genre of filmmaking – the mockumentary. Parodying band biopics from the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, it follows fictional band Spinal Tap on their debut American tour. If you’ve ever played in a band – as I do – so much of what’s in this film is true. I can personally attest to getting lost in venues and playing shows where no one turns up. Director Rob Reiner was sending up the pretensions of rock and roll bands and he nailed it. What’s also interesting is the majority of the dialogue throughout the film is improvised. Credit to the actors for pulling off some truly iconic lines. Whether it’s the Stonehenge scene or the legendary amp up to eleven scene, this film has embedded itself in our culture forever. It was only a modest success when it was first released, but its impact has left a lasting impression.

1. Airplane!

Well, we’ve flown; shot and rode our way to number one on our list of spoof movies. Once again, we arrive at a film directed by the dream team of the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams. Loosely based on air disaster movies of the 50s and 60s, it follows a plane whose crew are taken out with a sickness bug. Cue disgraced former pilot Ted Striker to save the day. Released in 1980, this was the film that set Leslie Nielson on the path of spoof comedy. He only has a fairly minor role as the doctor, but he delivers some of the best lines in the movie. ‘I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley’, is iconic. Lloyd Bridges also features as the man on the ground at air traffic control and turns in a chaotic but brilliant performance. Upon release, it made a whopping $168 million dollars at the box office and received critical acclaim. It’s also certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, along with ranking as one of the best on IMDb. It’s one of those films that make you cry with laughter thanks to clever writing and some fantastic performances. A timeless classic.


That’s our list of the nine greatest spoof movies. Did we miss any? Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.


Read about movie remakes that should never have happened HERE.

Read IMDb information about Airplane! HERE.

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