Robert Downey Jr Movies: 12 Best Films of All Time (Ranked)

By Richard Nebens Posted:
Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man, Lewis Strauss

It's time to dive into the best movies of all-time featuring megastar Robert Downey Jr. (RDJ), with a ranking of his top films.

Coming from a family embedded in entertainment, Downey Jr. became a household name through his work on the big and small screen over the course of a career that's gone on for more than half a century.

Before earning two Oscar nominations, three Golden Globes, and countless other awards and accolades, Downey Jr. fought through addiction and legal trouble to turn his life into something magical, now standing as a Hollywood legend.

Robert Downey Jr.'s 12 Best Movies Ranked

But which RDJ movies stand as the best of the best?

Ahead is a ranking of the 12 best movies in history that feature Robert Downey Jr. as a leading or supporting actor. The ranking is based on the average between their Rotten Tomatoes critics' score and their score listed on IMDb.

12. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Val Kilmer, Robert Downey Jr., Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
  • Average Tomatometer: 86%
  • IMDb Score: 7.5

Directed by Shane Black, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang features Downey Jr. as a crook named Harry Lockhart who unintentionally wins a screen test for a movie while running from the police in New York City. Starring alongside Top Gun's Val Kilmer, Mission: Impossible's Michelle Monaghan, and Psych's Corbin Bernsen, Downey's leading man wins the part in this mystery movie before being thrust into a murderous conspiracy in Los Angeles.

This movie features one of Downey's best-reviewed performances of his career as Black mixes the thriller and romance genres brilliantly while bringing a unique comedy element. It's even said to be the film that kickstarted Downey Jr's true comeback in Hollywood, with Downey Jr. himself even looking back fondly on the experience.

11. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Tom Holland, Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Spider-Man: Homecoming
Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Average Tomatometer: 92%
  • IMDb Score: 7.4

The MCU's 16th movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the first solo Spider-Man movie for Tom Holland's hero as he teams up with Michael Keaton (Vulture), Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds), Zendaya (Michelle Jones), and Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan). Under Jon Watts' direction, the web-slinger returns home to Queens and embraces his superhero identity under Tony Stark's watch while trying to return to his normal life, all before the Vulture threatens everything he knows and loves.

Although Downey Jr's role here is more limited than his other Marvel Studios appearances, he becomes an important part of Peter Parker's origins by serving as a mentor to the MCU's youngest hero at the time. Praised for differentiating itself from past Spider-Man movies while not being dependent on MCU worldbuilding, Homecoming got a big return from Downey Jr's inclusion as he and Spidey joined forces.

10. Zodiac

Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Zodiac
  • Average Tomatometer: 90%
  • IMDb Score: 7.7

Zodiac features Downey Jr. as real-world journalist Paul Avery as his character reported on the infamous Zodiac killings from the 1960s and 1970s under the direction of David Fincher. Teaming up with Spider-Man: Far From Home's Jake Gyllenhaal and fellow MCU regular Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Downey Jr's character becomes obsessed with finding out the killer's identity and bringing him to justice as bodies pile up across the San Francisco area.

This film's cast all gave compelling performances as Fincher delivered a dark and gritty thriller, with Zodiac being regarded as one of the best films ever made based on real-life events. While the killings are an important part of the story, what's maybe even more compelling is what the hunt for the killers does to those searching both emotionally and psychologically.

9. Good Night, and Good Luck

Robert Downey Jr., Good Night, and Good Luck
Good Night, and Good Luck
  • Average Tomatometer: 93%
  • IMDb Score: 7.4

Two-time Oscar-winner George Clooney pulls triple duty as the star, writer, and director of Good Night, and Good Luck, joining a cast featuring David Strathairn and Jeff Daniels as the film was nominated for six Oscars. Downey Jr. plays CBS writer/editor/correspondent Joseph Wershba as the network looks to investigate Senator Joseph McCarthy's campaign to expose Communists in America, with the team facing pressure from their employers to stop pursuing the story.

Praised for its ensemble cast, Good Night, and Good Luck earned rave reviews for its deep look into the political and cultural climate of the day as fans learned how journalism should operate. Particularly, critics and fans loved how the black-and-white footage didn't take away from the passion Clooney and his team had for the story as they mixed real-world footage into this cinematic recreation of events.

8. Captain America: Civil War

Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War
  • Average Tomatometer: 90%
  • IMDb Score: 7.8

After seeing massive collateral damage across the MCU's first two phases, Captain America: Civil War kicked off Phase 3 with a bang by pitting two factions of Avengers against one another over new rules keeping superheroes in check. Downey Jr. co-stars alongside Captain America star Chris Evans and Black Widow actress Scarlett Johansson as the film introduces the late Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther and Tom Holland's Spider-Man amidst over a dozen Marvel stars.

Civil War earned praise from critics for its more mature themes, taking a real look at a world that's been ravaged by heroes and villains over the years as Earth's Mightiest Heroes were divided heavily over how to best protect the world. Downey Jr. was particularly captivating as he explored a darker side of Tony Stark than fans had seen before, dealing with themes like grief and revenge as he looked deep into his past.

7. Avengers: Infinity War

Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Dave Bautista, Chris Pratt, Pom Klementieff, Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War
  • Average Tomatometer: 85%
  • IMDb Score: 8.4

2018's Avengers: Infinity War brought together a massive cast of characters from all across the Marvel Universe in a battle against Josh Brolin's Thanos as the Mad Titan sought out the six Infinity Stones scattered across the galaxy. Downey Jr's Iron Man is one of dozens of heroes to join the fight as the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and everyone in between joins forces to stop Thanos' quest for power.

Joe and Anthony Russo's film was the first part of the culmination of everything the MCU had built toward for the previous 10 years, bringing one of the biggest casts in comic-book movie history in what would peak as the fourth-highest-grossing movie in history. Making over $2 billion at the box office, it was also a hit from a critical perspective as viewers saw the MCU tackle stakes as heavy as those in any past film.

6. Richard III

Robert Downey Jr., Richard III
Richard III
  • Average Tomatometer: 96%
  • IMDb Score: 7.3

Using a 1930s setting for a retelling of William Shakespeare's Richard III, director Richard Loncraine utilized X-Men star Ian McKellen and two Harry Potter icons, Maggie Smith and Jim Broadbent, for this unique movie. As Richard aspires to enact a dictatorship, he must first tackle his brother's entire family as he puts his fascist practices at the forefront, with Downey Jr. playing the Queen's brother, Rivers.

Richard III earned overwhelmingly positive reviews for its visuals and storytelling, with many praising the film for its non-stop drama and action. McKellen got special recognition from critics too for his haunting portrayal of the titular character as he embodied yet another terrifying villain the way he has so often in previous movies.

5. The Avengers

Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers
The Avengers
  • Average Tomatometer: 91%
  • IMDb Score: 8.0

To close off Phase 1 of the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. led the way as Iron Man in The Avengers, bringing the six core heroes from the first five Marvel Studios movies together in their initial team-up outing. Joining the previously mentioned Evans, Ruffalo, and Johansson along with Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Earth's Mightiest Heroes assembled in 2012 to stop the God of Mischief, Tom Hiddleston's Loki, from conquering Earth.

This movie was a revolutionary moment in superhero movie history, becoming the first true team-up effort of its kind as it wowed critics and fans - it even peaked as the third-highest-grossing film in history and still ranks in the top 10. Downey Jr. solidified his superstar status while sharing the spotlight with over half a dozen other big names as the movie world changed forever thanks to Marvel Studios.

4. Short Cuts

Robert Downey Jr., Short Cuts
Short Cuts
  • Average Tomatometer: 95%
  • IMDb Score: 7.7

Director/writer Robert Altman continued his run of excellence in 1993 with Short Cuts, featuring an impressive ensemble cast including Lily Tomlin, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tim Robbins at Robert Downey Jr.'s side. Tomlin's Doreen Piggot, a waitress, accidentally runs into a young boy with her car before the boy lapses into a coma, leading to a slew of wild events with the young boy's family as they get ready for his birthday.

Although Short Cuts didn't perform well at the box office with only $6.1 million on a $12 million budget, critics were enamored by what they saw in this ensemble drama as it wove a number of different stories into one narrative. Its Los Angeles setting allowed for a sense of uneasiness and uncertainty with all of these interwoven plot points, with the cast working together beautifully to make the entire plot cohesive and highly engaging.

3. Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark, Iron Man
Iron Man
  • Average Tomatometer: 94%
  • IMDb Score: 7.9

Director Jon Favreau and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige gave Downey Jr. a true shot at becoming a star once again with 2008's Iron Man, the first film in the now record-shattering MCU. Joining Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Terrance Howard (James Rhodes), and Jeff Bridges (Obidiah Stane), Downey Jr's Tony Stark got his superhero origin story after being taken captive by terrorists, learning how to manage his ego, skills as a weapons developer, and place as a hero.

Making $585 million in box office revenue (the eighth-highest total of the year), Downey Jr. put forth a performance as Tony Stark that resonated deeply with fans and critics while putting a formerly B-list hero from Marvel Comics on top of the world. Iron Man became the first stepping stone for the MCU's good fortune as the first of over 40 movies and TV shows that now make up the most successful movie franchise in cinema history.

2. Avengers: Endgame

Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark, Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame
  • Average Tomatometer: 94%
  • IMDb Score: 8.4

Downey Jr. takes center stage in 2019's Avengers: Endgame, the pinnacle of Marvel Studios' Infinity Saga that pitted the Avengers into one more epic battle against Thanos after the Mad Titan fundamentally changed the universe in Infinity War. Teaming up with the original six Avengers and nearly every other major star to play a role for Marvel Studios, Endgame became one of the biggest pop culture events ever, ranking as the highest-grossing movie in history for a short time.

Downey Jr. had arguably the biggest moments of his MCU career in Endgame, serving as the headlining star in a movie that boated one of the most impressive casts ever assembled in a Hollywood movie. His journey as Iron Man came full circle after 11 years of playing the role, with fans flocking to theaters across the world to see the MCU's crowning achievement to that point in time.

1. Oppenheimer

Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer
  • Average Tomatometer: 93%
  • IMDb Score: 8.6

Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer is not only Robert Downey Jr.'s most recent movie but also the highest-rated film of his entire career by the previously mentioned metrics as he returns to the big screen. He plays a key role as USA Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Lewis Strauss, starring alongside huge names like Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, and countless others as the film depicts J. Robert Oppenheimer's work on the Manhattan Project in WWII.

The movie continues earning rave reviews and is excelling at the box office, with Downey Jr's performance becoming one of the highlights for fans in his biggest post-MCU project yet. There are even rumblings that Downey Jr. could be in consideration for some major awards love when the time comes in 2024, which could put him on an even higher level of fame than the one he's on rnow.

All of Robert Downey Jr.'s MCU appearances on this list are available to stream on Disney+, while the others can be purchased through various online retailers and in stores. Oppenheimer is still playing in theaters worldwide.

- In This Article: Oppenheimer
Release Date
July 21, 2023
Cillian Murphy
Matt Damon
- About The Author: Richard Nebens
Richard Nebens joined The Direct in March 2020, now serving as the site's Senior Writer and also working as an assistant editor and content creator. He started his journalism career as a hobby in 2019 and is passionate about sharing news and stories from the entertainment industry, especially comic book movies, comedy, and sci-fi. Richard looks to expand his knowledge about movies and TV every day, and he is eager to stay locked into the latest releases and breaking news at every opportunity.