Robert Downey Jr. left the MCU three years ago, but both he and Tony Stark still feel ever-present. One of the most prolific and respected actors of his time, Downey Jr. has had anything but a straight path to success and stability. A star of the 1980s, Downey Jr. ended up falling on hard times, and throughout this period, there were inferior films like Danger Zone.
But even during the lull period, there were highlights. In other words, there’s never been a period of Downey Jr.’s career where his performances were anything less than devoted and versatile. With that range comes any number of vastly different characters, and quite a few of them have spouted a famous line or two.
“I Hate The Whole Bourgeois Mentality Of This School.”
Back To School (1986)
Back to School was an early example that Downey Jr. would be one of the ’80s biggest teen movie stars. Although, with that being said, his lead role in The Pick-Up Artist was far less interesting than his supporting roles in Weird Science and, especially, the Rodney Dangerfield led Back to School.
As Derek Lutz, the only friend of Jason Melon (Keith Gordon), Downey Jr. is on the front line for Dangerfield’s antics. The plot follows the Caddyshack star’s Thornton Melon, who enrolls at his son’s college in the hopes of gaining his respect. It’s hard-earned, but at least Melon has the whip-smart and articulate Lutz, who’s more than capable of giving a searing graduation speech that serves as a deconstruction of hierarchal systems.
“Can’t You Tell When I’m Telling The Truth?”
Less Than Zero (1987)
The tumultuous nature of Downey Jr.’s younger years is well-documented and best left in the rearview mirror. But there’s little doubt that the man’s real life informed the actor’s performance, and his work is really the sole reason Less Than Zero ever works.
The film is a loose adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ (American Psycho) superb debut novel, but substantial liberties are taken at every turn. Downey Jr. has the difficult role of heroin addict, Julian Wells. He’s a sinking ship and, when he asks his friend whether he believes him anymore, the audience already knows the answer because they’re forced to look at Downey Jr.’s stone-cold honest face as he delivers the line.
“The Tramp Can’t Talk. The Minute He Talks, He’s Dead.”
The late Richard Attenborough wasn’t just notable for his role as John Hammond in Jurassic Park, he also had a pretty terrific directorial career. Most notable were his biopics, specifically the Oscar-winning Gandhi.
Then, a decade after Ben Kingsley brought Mahatma to life (and one year shy of JP), Downey Jr. brought an equally adroit performance to the table as Charlie Chaplin. As a whole, the film isn’t as organized as Gandhi, but the script clearly understands who Chaplin (and “The Tramp”) was, as does Downey Jr.