Robert Downey Jr.’s Best Movie Isn’t The One You’re Thinking Of

By Tyler Pisapia | 4 months ago

Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. is largely considered one of the most beloved American actors of our time. With a troubling personal life that blossomed into one of the most successful acting careers of the modern-day, one may be surprised to hear that his best movie is not necessarily the one most fans would gravitate toward. The actor’s best movie is the 2005 romantic mystery noir Kiss Kiss Bang Bang directed by Shane Black and co-starring Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan. Now, before we continue, let’s address the big Marvel-sized elephant in the room — Tony Stark. 

Yes, obviously Robert Downey Jr.’s biggest and most acclaimed role was in the 2008 hit Iron Man, which launched the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and led to two more standalone films and appearances in a grand total of 10 movies in the franchise before his character’s death in 2019. He delivers a rock-solid performance in all ten of those movies and therefore it’s hard to lock down one as the “best.” Additionally, it’s also entirely no fun. Picking any version of Tony Stark as the best Robert Downey Jr. movie is a lot like picking Superman when asked “who is the best superhero?” Yes, you’re technically “correct,” but is there is a more fun, nuanced and thought-provoking response? Why yes, yes there is!

So, I say again, Robert Downey Jr.’s best movie is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. While you can argue with me on that fact, you can’t argue with the man himself, who told Joe Rogan in 2020 that he considers it to be the best film he’s ever made for various reasons. 

For those who haven’t heard of this movie, which judging by its poor box office performance is most people, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang stars Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart, a burglar who finds himself in an acting audition after he flees the scene of a botched robbery in which his partner was shot and killed. The scene just so happened to be a police detective blaming himself for the death of his partner, which sends him into an emotional tizzy that the casting directors love. The next thing he knows, he’s on a plane to Los Angeles having just been cast in a new detective movie. 

robert downey jr. val kilmer kiss kiss bang bang
Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Robert Downey Jr.’s character is tasked with shadowing a real private investigator named “Gay Perry van Skrike. While out one night, the duo witness a real-life crime and Harry suddenly finds his fake acting gig has become a real-life crime noir story, complete with the former love of his life, a slew of nefarious bad guys and a sexually provocative framing plot that just keeps sinking him deeper and deeper into trouble. 

Although the film didn’t do very well at the box office at the time of its release, having barely broken even on its budget, it currently has a great critical (86 percent) and audience (87 percent) rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This is thanks in large part to people checking it out after falling in love with Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark. However, many may not know that Robert Downey Jr. may not have even been considered for Tony Stark had Shane Black not taken a chance on him with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

By 2005, Robert Downey Jr.’s career was in a bit of a nosedive after some prison time and struggles with drugs and alcohol. Famously, Jon Favreau had to fight hard in order to get the studio to cast the once-troubled and difficult to insure. However, what many may not know is that it was seeing the actor in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang that made the director so sure he’d found the wise-cracking hero type that he needed to launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or at least make one hell of a good superhero movie). 

robert downey, jr. val kilmer kiss kiss bang bang
Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

In that same chat with Joe Rogan in 2020, SlashFilm notes that Robert Downey Jr. himself said that seeing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was what made Jon Favreau fight so hard for him to be Tony Stark, calling the 2005 movie, not Iron Man, his “calling card.” 

Robert Downey Jr. is a man whose life could have gone in a million different directions after going in a thousand throughout the years. He’s had a ton of great performances in movies and some not-so-great. However, the fact of the matter is that he’s a household name to this day thanks to, yes, his turn in the Marvel movies. However, pulling back a bit, it’s clear that he would never have been in those films if it weren’t for him giving it his all and fighting tooth and nail for his career armed with nothing but raw talent in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

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