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Robert Downey Jr. Says His Most Important Films of the Last 25 Years Have Nothing To Do With ‘Iron Man’

Photo Credit: Karwai Tang / WireImage / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Karwai Tang / WireImage / Getty Images

When people think of the most important film in the acting career of Robert Downey Jr., most would likely say it has to be one from his portrayal of Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Many would attribute it to the first and titular film Iron Man, which was released in 2008 and sent him on an 11-year journey in the role. However, that is not even close to what he chose for himself. In an interview with The New York Times, RDJ explained the two picks that mean the most to him, and honestly, they’re pretty shocking.

The first is The Shaggy Dog

People could be forgiven if they don’t remember The Shaggy Dog. It was a Disney film released in 2006, featuring Tim Allen as a district attorney-turned-sheepdog. The transformation began after he was bitten by a sacred dog from a Tibetan monastery, with RDJ playing the evil Dr. Kozak responsible for bringing Allen in contact with the dog.

Robert Downey Jr. looking at a sheepdog in a cage in a scene from "The Shaggy Dog."
The first film Robert Downey Jr. says is one of his most important is The Shaggy Dog. (Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures / Zayne / MovieStillsDB)

Considering the film did not break box office records, nor was it remembered by most audiences, it’s hard to believe this would be one of RDJ’s most important films. However, his reasoning makes perfect sense.

He explained that The Shaggy Dog was the first time that a major film studio was willing to sign him back on after he was arrested in April 1996. The arrest was quite serious, as he was taken in for possession of narcotics and an unloaded gun. The Shaggy Dog was the film that brought RDJ back into Hollywood after one of the hardest points in his life.

He credits Dolittle as the second most important

The second most important film that RDJ says he’s ever done was the 2020 flop, Dolittle. The film, based on Hugh Lofting’s second Doctor Dolittle book, was expensive to make but was expected to generate a serious financial return. Unfortunately, the family flick was both a commercial and critical bust, with RDJ receiving some of the worst reviews of his acting career.

Robert Downey Jr. looking sideways at a parrot in a scene from "Dolittle."
The second film Robert Downey Jr. says is one of his most important is Dolittle. (Photo Credit: R/K Films / Team Downey Productions / MePrDB)

“I finished the Marvel contract and then hastily went into what had all the promise of being another big, fun, well-executed potential franchise in ‘Dolittle,’” he explained. “I had some reservations. Me and my team seemed a little too excited about the deal and not quite excited enough about the merits of the execution. But at that point I was bulletproof. I was the guru of all genre movies.”

He called Dolittle a “two-and-a-half-year wound of squandered opportunity.” He and his wife, Susan Downey, produced the film through Team Downey Productions. “The stress it put on my missus as she rolled her sleeves up to her armpits to make it even serviceable enough to bring to market was shocking,” RDJ recalled. However, it served a greater benefit for their business. “After that point — what’s that phrase? Never let a good crisis go to waste? — we had this reset of priorities and made some changes in who our closest business advisers were,” he said.

RDJ’s pivot was important to him, but not necessarily to audiences

After Dolittle and running out his term as Iron Man, RDJ pivoted his filmmaking aspirations to document the life of his father, Robert Downey Sr. His father was an indie filmmaker in the 1960s and ’70s, and RDJ made this film while he still had the chance, as his dad was dying. Robert Downey Sr. died of complications from Parkinson’s disease on July 7, 2021.

Robert Downey Jr. and his father Robert Downey Sr. pose for a photo together.
Robert Downey Sr. with his father, actor Robert Downey Jr. in 2008. (Photo by Larry Busacca / WireImage / Getty Images)

The project was called “Sr.” and it was released on Netflix in 2022. Obviously a personal project, RDJ acknowledged that its significance to him doesn’t matter to the general audience. Instead, he said that “to everyone else it was a piece of content that they could have chosen to click on and watch or not.”

More from us: Keanu Reeves Passed Up on Starring in a Movie With Al Pacino and Robert De Niro

When asked about other films in his arsenal, he was quick to say which were merely “content” and which were not. He says Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) is not content, while Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) is.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!