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Robert Downey Jr as Harry Lockhart in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Over the course of his very long career, Robert Downey Jr. has made a lot of fantastic films. In recent years he's been making great Marvel Studios blockbusters, but in the years before that he was an actor known for having titles like Chaplin, Less Than Zero, and Zodiac on his resume. If you were to guess that any of those titles would be the one he considers the best he's ever done, however, you'd be wrong.

Instead, that distinction belongs to Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – a movie that he not only loves, but also, in his opinion, was a massive piece in the puzzle that led to him landing the role of Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In promotion of his new movie Dolittle (his first non-Marvel movie since 2014), Robert Downey Jr. sat down as a guest on the Joe Rogen Experience podcast, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang came up in a chain of thought following a question about how long the actor dedicates to a given film production. Downey Jr.'s answer to Rogen included a reference to producer Joel Silver, which then led him to list Silver's work and their collaborations together – a list that includes Kiss Kiss Bang Bang:

... Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is, I think, in some ways the best film I've ever done. It wound up being a calling card. It came out, and it bombed, but Jon Favreau saw it, and he said, 'This guy could do an action movie.' And so that wound up being my calling card into the Marvel Universe.

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Written and directed by Shane Black, the 2005 film stars Robert Downey Jr. as petty thief Harry Lockhart, who winds up accidentally auditioning for a movie about a private investigator while escaping the police following a heist gone wrong. He's flown from New York to Los Angeles where he is meant to do some background research with a professional P.I. named Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), but things quickly get out of hand when he runs into his high school crush (Michele Monaghan), and gets embroiled in a case involving a dead body, old pulp fiction novels, and an older generation movie star.

At the time that Robert Downey Jr. made Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, his stock in Hollywood was at a real low due to his publicized substance abuse issues, but Shane Black looked past that to pair him with Val Kilmer in the dark buddy comedy (and the filmmaker and actor later reunited to make Iron Man 3 together). As noted, the movie was definitely not a success when it was theatrically released, making a grand total of $15 million worldwide before leaving the big screen, but it wound up having a huge impact on Downey Jr.'s life.

If it weren't for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Robert Downey Jr. never would have had the career resurgence that came as a result of Iron Man – which now has him positioned as one of the biggest movie stars in the world at age 54. There's a lot to be thankful for in that respect, which could alone explain why the actor has such love for it, but one can also understand Downey Jr. calling it his best film simply because it really is amazing. It's cleverly plotted, absolutely hilarious, and thanks to its holiday season setting, a wonderful treat that can be enjoyed every year around Christmas.

Those of you who haven't seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang should definitely make an effort to seek it out – and then you can follow it up by enjoying some new Robert Downey Jr. antics on the big screen in Dolittle, which will be out everywhere on Friday.