Robert Downey Jr.’s 10 Most Iconic Movie Quotes
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.
“The Point Is, I Don’t See Another God**** Narrator, So Pipe Down.”
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Shane Black (who later collaborated with Downey Jr. on Iron Man 3) wrote a love letter to both the entertainment industry (or at least its propensity for decadence) and the potboiler with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Downey plays amateur actor Harry Lockhart, who suddenly finds himself in what amounts to a Raymond Chandler novel.
Bang has only gotten better over time. It’s Black’s smartest script, and Downey Jr.’s intellectually inclined, motor-mouthed presence is a perfect fit for Black’s wit.
“This Is A World Getting Progressively Worse. Can We Not Agree On That?”
A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Downey Jr. is one of several major actors who’s yet to do an animated film that skews towards the younger set. However, Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly comes very close and is further proof that Downey Jr. was at the top of his game, even before suiting up.
The group follows a group of 30-somethings hooked on a hallucinogen called Substance D. Primarily, there’s Keanu Reeves’ undercover narcotics agent Bob Arctor and his roommates Luckman (Woody Harrelson) and Barris (Downey Jr.). The latter is a man without direction and a lying tongue, and instead of accepting personal responsibility for either, he’ll falsely rationalize via nihilism. So, at that point, why not try to frame your own friend as a terrorist?
“Somebody Should Write A F**king Book, That’s For Sure.”
Easily one of Downey Jr.’s best movies, David Fincher’s Zodiac features the actor’s Paul Avery teamed up with fellow journalist Robert Graysmith as they seek the true identity of the Zodiac Killer. Unfortunately, and notoriously, the despicable real-life monster’s identity is never discovered, which does no wonders for the mental health of either man or those around them.
Avery is a seasoned professional who ends up strung out on fear and drugs. He has a close call with Zodiac and things are just never the same. This is how the movie portrays Avery’s history (inaccurate, he later wrote on the Patty Hearst case), and a deflective line about how “somebody” should write a novel is in line with his awe of the situation, his interest in it, and his tiring of it.
“I Am Iron Man.”
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man relaunched RDJ’s career in a major way, but it’s not as if he was making films of poor quality in the several preceding years. Even small indies like Charlie Bartlett (2007) are excellent films worth discovering. But Jon Favreau’s mostly improvised, highly entertaining film is of another financially successful level and would effectively go on to further shape how future tent pole films would be structured and marketed.
However, before the MCU was the sprawling multimedia beast it is now, it was basically on the shoulders of Downey, Jr. He knocked it out of the park, and when the film closes with his classic utterance of “I am Iron Man,” the viewer believes him, and they can’t wait for more.
“I Know Who I Am. I’m The Dude Playin’ The Dude, Disguised As Another Dude!”
Tropic Thunder (2008)
The same year Downey Jr. debuted as Iron Man, he wore blackface in Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder. That being said, it’s more or less the main example of having done with full self-awareness at its inappropriateness and without generating any real vitriol.
That’s because Tropic Thunder is intelligent, and it goes out of its way to inform the audience that, “deep” down, Downey Jr.’s method actor Kirk Lazarus is not. He’s a wonderful actor, yes, but he’s also so committed to his craft that he’s rendered tone-deaf. Even his self-analysis is fueled by delusion, and fully indicative of someone searching for their place in the world.
“Well, Now We Have A Firm Grasp Of The Obvious.”
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Many of Downey Jr.’s most iconic characters are smart alecks. So, right on the heels of the equally arrogant Tony Stark, the actor was a perfect fit for Sherlock Holmes. Director Guy Ritchie infuses the film with period charm, but it’s equally bolstered by the presence and chemistry of Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s Dr. Watson.
Downey Jr.’s Holmes doesn’t even spare his buddy Watson his constant sarcasm and arrogance. However, what Watson gets is nothing compared to bumbling (in Holmes’ mind) investigator Lestrade (Eddie Marsan). For instance, when Holmes snidely quips that really, all Lestrade is good for, is stating the obvious.
“If You’re Nothing Without This Suit, Then You Shouldn’t Have It.”
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Tony Stark’s influence on the entire MCU only intensified with the introduction of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. Along with being a poignant father-son relationship, Stark’s influence on Parker has resulted in what amounts to a passing of the torch.
But it didn’t quite start that way. In Captain America: Civil War, Parker is thrown into a major situation without formal training, yet he’s chipper. Then, in Spider-Man: Homecoming, he’s getting that “formal” training. But Stark’s a tough teacher, even if he knows his pupil’s an altruistic soul, and he won’t hesitate to take the suit from him and leave with a few harsh words. Naturally, it’s all a method for Stark. He’s not cruel, he’s trying to have Parker learn a valuable lesson on his own. Stark’s words come from a place of compassion and wisdom, not unlike Downey Jr. himself.
NEXT: 10 Video Game Characters Who Could Easily Be Played By Robert Downey Jr.