Robert Downey Jr. is popularly known for his starring role as Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, while the actor has largely appeared in MCU movies after 2008’s Iron Man, he has an extensive list of acting credits that goes back four decades.
Interestingly enough, Downey’s movies have a particular formula they follow that can make it simple enough to predict what will happen. In essence, something that happened in a comedy like Due Date can very well take place in a drama such as The Judge. While not every single Robert Downey Jr. movie may feature these aspects, the majority of them certainly have a tried and tested model.
10 A Character Takes The Role Of The Straight Man
Fans of Iron Man have seen their fair share of Tony Stark’s rebellious moments in the MCU and Downey always has a straight man character to provide contrast. MCU characters who have served this purpose are Steve Rogers and Pepper Potts, while Downey has filled in this role himself in other movies.
Due Date saw his character, Peter, get stuck with the erratic Ethan (played by Zach Galifianakis) in a cross-country adventure, whereas Downey’s role as Harry in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang had him play the loony character to Val Kilmer’s Gay Perry where the two solved a murder mystery.
9 Confusion Between The Characters
There’s always a lack of clarity surrounding the characters that either turn into a comedy of errors or leads to estrangement between them. In Wonder Boys, Downey’s character, Terry, makes it appear as if he’s in a romance with Antonia, only for Michael Douglas’ Grady to learn that Terry’s had an affair with Tobey Maguire’s James.
In Zodiac, the entire story is about the characters being unclear over who the Zodiac Killer is supposed to be and becoming paranoid about it. Similarly, Iron Man 2 has Tony Stark’s friends misconstrue his impending demise with him wanting to push them away.
8 The Protagonist Realizes They’ve Been Wrong About Something
This is one of the most common themes in Robert Downey Jr.’s most well-received movies, as the actor excels in playing the lovable jerk. It usually has his character start out thinking he knows best but ultimately realizes he’s been thinking only of himself, although Downey isn’t always the actor playing the character that has this realization.
Iron Man 2 had Tony admit he was wrong not to trust his friends with the secret of his palladium poisoning, which is similar to Only You where Peter admits to Faith that he lied about being the man she thought she was destined to be with. Additionally, in U.S. Marshals, Tommy Lee Jones’ protagonist Sam Gerard realizes that Downey’s John Royce was the bad guy all along.
7 A Big Rush To Fix Some Sort Of Mistake
Going in tandem with the confusion theme, Downey’s movies generally have the climax bring all the issues together with the characters racing around to fix things. This is more striking in thrillers like Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, where the titular protagonist had to prevent Moriarty from claiming the lives of Watson and his wife before it was too late.
It is also in place in dramatic movies, such as The Judge, in which Hank realizes his father has been hiding his cancer and he rushes over to reconcile with him. Comedies like Charlie Bartlett had Downey’s character of the principal fired by the mistake of the titular character assuming him to be abusive and trying to make things right again.
6 A Scene Where Characters Bicker
As Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr.’s MCU movies had him bicker with just about everyone as they would have enough of his knack for annoying them, be it a love interest like Pepper or a friend like Steve Rogers. This occurs in other movies starring the actor varying in intensity, usually playing a major part in romantic dramas.
In earlier roles, the actor was usually the one getting yelled at, such as in Two Girls and a Guy where he had to contend with the two women his character was simultaneously dating confronting him. It was similar in Friends & Lovers, in which Downey’s Hans quarreled over a girl he was attempting to steal from her boyfriend.
5 An Emotional Or Villainous Betrayal
This plot point comes about when the protagonist learns that someone they are close to has either been plotting against them or has already done them wrong in some way. In MCU movies, this takes on a villainous turn while other genres usually have an emotional betrayal.
Due Date had Peter suspect that his friend Darryl may have been having an affair with his wife, while Tony Stark was betrayed by Obadiah in Iron Man when the latter revealed he was the one who had the terrorists capture him.
4 Sudden Shifts In Tone
This is more apparent in Robert Downey Jr.’s movies outside of the MCU, as the genres tend to alter. Whether it’s a comedy, drama, or thriller, there comes a moment where the tone of a scene suddenly changes, usually to a foreboding one as something major comes to light.
In Tropic Thunder, the comedic situation of the actors in a forest turns horrifying when they see their director get blown up by a mine. Likewise, in The Soloist, Lopez’s attempt to help the troubled but gifted Ayers gain work as a musician backfires when the latter gets overwhelmed and makes a scene.
3 Heavy Focus On Soundtracks
There are generally sequences in Downey’s movies where dialogue takes a backseat and montages show the progression of the story. On other occasions, the soundtrack is used to create tension in a scene as the characters’ emotions are conveyed through music.
This was shown in a drama such as Chaplin, where the titular protagonist’s career timeline was showcased set to an accompanying musical track, along with the comedy-thriller Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in which the characters’ attempts to escape their enemies has a humorous theme playing. In Avengers: Endgame, Tony’s prerecorded final message is played to a melancholic soundtrack.
2 Contrasts Between The Protagonist And Their Friends’ Personalities
In his impressive filmography, Robert Downey Jr. has played characters with varying personalities and this always contrasts with those playing the role of his friends. It usually has one be the composed, mature type while the other is something of a loose cannon or has an unorthodox manner of conducting themselves.
Chief among these is in the MCU, where movies starring Tony Stark have him as the unorthodox hero who’s cool and suave in contrast to nice guy characters like Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers. In Hearts and Souls, everyman Thomas has to help quirky ghost friends move on, while Danger Zone’s had Billy Zane’s protagonist, Rock, be a straight shooter to his friend, Downey’s Jim, a rogue agent.
1 Love Interests Becoming Bemused By His Character’s Faults
The movies that feature Robert Downey Jr’s character with love interests largely have them try and fix him somehow. Iron Man saw Pepper Potts being disgruntled by Tony’s inability to grow up and confront his feelings for her, which continued into the sequels.
In Two Girls and a Guy, the plot follows both women attempting to get over the guy who’s been cheating on them but returning to him in hopes he’ll change. Furthermore, Chances Are features Downey’s love interest dismayed when he starts to pursue her mother.
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