Robert Downey Jr.’s 3 Most Unforgettable Characters (and the Next in Line)

Robert Downey Jr. has played several parts — trying different hats on for size — sometimes real-life individuals, other times fictional creations — yet he almost always manages to strike the right chord. Though choosing the most memorable roles from the actor’s portfolio may prove difficult, three seem to stand out. Certain roles seem to embody Downey, as his depictions of the below three characters are either enmeshed with popular culture, critically adulated and award-receiving, or both. And, one of the next real-life individuals he is set to play may be joining the list!

Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

3. Charlie Chaplin

Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in 1992’s Chaplin went on to receive positive critical and audience reception. The movie traced Chaplin’s life — from his humble beginnings in South London to his early days in British Vaudeville, until ultimately reaching his silent film career — and RDJ captures each moment in time, each personal life transition with perfection. 

RDJ went on to receive an Oscar nomination for his performance in 1993, and though he didn’t win, it remains one of the actor’s best-received and unforgettable turns. From the endearing, yet investigative facial expressions to the exaggerated physical comedy, RDJ embodied Chaplin, and he gave a performance no one will soon forget. 

2. Sherlock Holmes 

With Sherlock Holmes 3 reportedly on the horizon, no one is going to forget RDJ’s take on the character anytime soon. With a knack for combat, a tendency to eschew social orthodoxies, and the character’s trademark investigative mindset, Downey’s depiction pays homage to the Sherlock Holmes in the source material, yet modernizes the character for a contemporary viewing audience. 

Downey’s Holmes is fun, clever, and brave; the character simply fits within a filmic age that often demands a bit of high-octane action in its crime sagas. 

1. Iron Man 

Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man are virtually one and the same. Playing the character for over a decade — and bringing audiences far and wide to the theater — Downey became the billionaire playboy philanthropist with a silver tongue, a bit of a superiority complex, and an arrogant air of omniscience. Yet, Downey’s character transformation in the Infinity Saga — from selfish egotist to selfless savior — is one for the books, and his performance in Endgame was award-worthy, despite the Academy’s resilience to acknowledge superhero movies at the Oscars. 

While Robert Downey Jr. will now move onto projects outside the MCU, unlikely to return to Tony Stark (at least for the foreseeable future), he will always be the world’s Iron Man. So, what’s going to be Downey’s next most memorable role? One upcoming turn seems most likely to join this list. 

Robert Downey Jr. is set to play scam Doctor John Brinkley 

An untitled John Brinkley biopic is currently in pre-production with Downey slated for the title role. If you’re wondering why this movie will join the list above, you only need to know one pivotal fact: Dr. John Brinkley was a scam doctor who convinced the world that the xenotransplantation of goat testicles into humans would cure male impotence.

Brinkley later went on to claim that the procedure was a cure-all for a variety of ailments. He rose to international fame, accruing vast amounts of wealth before his fraudulence caught up to him, and he died in poverty. This will be quite the interesting biopic, and may just earn Downey another Oscar nomination.