Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

3 underrated Robert Downey Jr. movies you should check out

Moviegoers may have noticed that Robert Downey Jr. had a rare villainous turn as Lewis Strauss in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. It served as a nice reminder that even after a decade of playing Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Downey remains one of the greatest actors of his generation. Downey started acting when he was five years old, and aside from a very difficult personal period when he battled addiction, he has been continuously appearing in films and TV shows for over fifty years.

With so many roles under his belt, it’s easy to overlook some of Downey’s best roles in the earlier years of his career. That’s why we’re taking a look back at 3 underrated Robert Downey Jr. movies that you should check out. These are only three of the films that helped Downey establish himself as one of the very best in front of the cameras.

Less Than Zero (1987)

Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Jr., and Andrew McCarthy in Less Than Zero.
20th Century Studios

Downey isn’t the main character of Less Than Zero, but the film largely revolves around his performance as Julian Wells. When Julian’s childhood friend, Clay Easton (Andrew McCarthy), returns to Los Angeles for the holidays, he’s alarmed to find that his ex-girlfriend, Blair (Jami Gertz), and Julian have given over their lives to illicit drugs.

While Blair is able to get sober fairly quickly, it’s not as easy to save Julian from himself. Downey’s character is so dangerously self-destructive that it’s hard not to see parallels between this role and Downey’s own widely publicized struggle with sobriety. This is one of Downey’s darkest performances, and you can’t take your eyes off of Julian when he’s onscreen.

Watch Less Than Zero on Starz.

Chaplin (1992)

Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin.
TriStar Pictures

Although Downey earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his turn as Charlie Chaplin, Chaplin has been overshadowed in the three decades since its release by all of his subsequent blockbuster movies. That’s unfortunate because Downey is absolutely incredible as he channels one of Hollywood’s original superstars. The story follows Chaplin from his humble beginnings and chronicles his life as his fortunes rise, fall, and rise again. As with Less Than Zero, there do seem to be some very specific parallels between Downey the actor and the role he portrays here. The key difference is that Downey got the second act that Chaplin was denied, which is the real tragedy at the heart of this film.

Stream Chaplin on Paramount+.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Robert Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Downey reestablished himself as a leading man in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, his first collaboration with Iron Man 3 director Shane Black. Downey plays Harold “Harry” Lockhart, a man who inadvertently finds himself in the running to portray a private investigator in a movie. While in Los Angeles to research the role, Harry is paired with a real P.I., Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), who is working a case for Harry’s childhood crush, Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan).

As Harry starts to embrace his new role, he and Perry fall deeper into Harmony’s orbit as their case takes some very dangerous turns. And this is one role that Harry is going to see through to the bitter end.

Rent or buy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on Prime Video, Google Play, Apple TV+, and YouTube.

Editors' Recommendations

Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
3 underrated action movies on Amazon Freevee you should watch in April 2024
Denzel Washington in The Equalizer.

Free is the best price there is, but Amazon Freevee's selection in April is looking a little suspect. The movies may be free, but the selection is awful. This is a big problem with the action movies on Freevee, which are overrun with dreck and more Steven Seagal films than we've ever heard of before.

Hopefully, this is an aberration, and Freevee will add better films at the beginning of May. But for now, the following films are our choices for the three underrated action movies on Amazon Freevee that you have to watch in April. Enjoy them while you can, because we had to really dig to find them on Freevee.
Safe (2012)

Read more
3 underrated sci-fi movies on Amazon Freevee you should watch in April
Elisabeth Moss looking up in an overhead view while on the phone in a scene from The Invisible Man.

While Amazon Prime Video is great, Amazon Freevee adds another level to the experience. That’s because the streaming service, formerly known as IMDb TV, can be accessed entirely for free, both with or without an Amazon Prime subscription. You only get personalized movie and TV recommendations when signed in to an Amazon account, but we have some suggestions for you, too.

If sci-fi is on the menu tonight or the next time you’re ready to relax with a good movie, we have scoured what’s available to highlight three underrated sci-fi movies on Amazon Freevee you should watch in April. You’ll have to deal with a few commercials here and there, but it’ll be worth it to check out these gems.
The Invisible Man (2020)
The Invisible Man - Official Trailer [HD]

Read more
3 underrated action movies on Amazon Freevee you should watch in March
The cast of Warcraft.

As much as we enjoy watching free movies on Amazon Freevee, sometimes you really get what you pay for. While it's true that there are a handful of great movies on Freevee, they are badly outnumbered by flicks that aren't even good enough to be called direct-to-video B-movies. It can also take a long time to search through all of the lesser titles before you find something worth watching.

Fortunately, we've already done the work for you with our selection of the three underrated action movies on Amazon Freevee that you should watch in March. This month's pics include a video game adaptation with a massive budget, an icon of Hong Kong cinema, and an early '90s action flick starring Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.
Warcraft (2016)

Read more