Robert Downey Jr.’s True Iron Man Replacement Has Been In Limbo For 11 Years After Just 2 Films


  • Robert Downey Jr.’s most successful non-MCU character is Sherlock Holmes, with both films in the franchise grossing over $1 billion worldwide.
  • Sherlock Holmes 3 has faced significant delays in its development, partially due to Downey Jr.’s involvement and his busy MCU schedule.
  • Despite the uncertainty surrounding the sequel, Downey Jr. has expressed a deep interest in continuing the Sherlock Holmes franchise and reprising his role as the iconic detective.



Robert Downey Jr.’s follow-up after his now-legendary introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Iron Man can be attributed to one character that hasn’t appeared on-screen in 11 years after only two movies. Downey Jr. is most known for playing Iron Man, the first Avenger to set off the MCU. With this role, he’s been credited across nine films, making it his most commercially successful character. Combined, Downey Jr.’s MCU films grossed $9.45 billion worldwide (via Washington Post).

However, Downey Jr.’s talents extend beyond the high-tech iron suit as he’s gone on to play other titular characters since, such as Dr. Dolittle. His focus on producing and his company, Team Downey, also means his work sometimes bridges on-screen and off-screen roles, like his leading part as Hank Palmer and executive producer credit in The Judge. Arguably, because of his charismatic Iron Man portrayal, he has a taste for franchises. One of Downey Jr.’s highest-grossing movies and franchises offers his follow-up role to the MCU, yet it’s yet to complete a trilogy.

Related: Every Actor Who Played Sherlock Holmes (In Movies & TV)

Sherlock Holmes Is Still Robert Downey Jr.’s Most Successful Non-MCU Character

Robert Downey Jr. As Sherlock Holmes

Downey Jr.’s Iron Man journey began in 2008, skyrocketing him to commercial and critical success. His Sherlock Holmes portrayal started one year later. Sherlock Holmes even made a bigger box office profit than the first Iron Man, with its worldwide box office being 5.5 times more than the production budget (via The Numbers). Although the Sherlock Holmes franchise is much smaller, Sherlock is Downey Jr.’s second most successful character. Both films – Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – totaled $1.034 billion worldwide (via The Numbers). The closest role after this is $951 million for Oppenheimer, where he plays Lewis Strauss.

Why Sherlock Holmes 3 Hasn’t Happened

Sherlock and Watson looks on from Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes 3 has been in the works since 2011, when the first sequel was released, but has yet to move past the development stage. Following the success of the first two films in the franchise and the immediate approval for a threequel, few strides forward have been taken in 11 years. Delays for Sherlock Holmes 3 have also been attributed to Downey Jr.’s hands-on involvement in all aspects. Additionally, Downey Jr.’s busy MCU schedule after the Sherlock Holmes sequel must’ve affected development.

While the sequel performed slightly worse critically with a 60% Rotten Tomatoes score, 10% less than the first film, it’s arguable that all involved would want the threequel to measure up to if not exceed the franchise’s first installment. Moreover, Sherlock Holmes 3‘s original 2020 release date was pushed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic yet hasn’t received a new release window. Although Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher signed on to the project, Warner Bros. reportedly have been unsatisfied with script attempts so far.

Sherlock Holmes 3 involved a writers’ room assembled in 2016. However, screenwriters brought on have long since moved on to other projects.

Will Robert Downey Jr. Ever Play Sherlock Holmes Again?

Robert Downey Jr in Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows

Although Downey Jr. has expressed a deep interest in continuing the Sherlock Holmes franchise and reprising the titular role, there’s no concrete news on when this might happen. In 2022, Downey Jr. and his Team Downey production company announced two HBO Max Sherlock Holmes spinoff TV shows were in the works with no story details or further updates. Seemingly, Downey Jr.’s two Sherlock Holmes shows are in the same stagnant boat as the franchise’s threequel.

Despite this, producer and Downey Jr.’s wife has confirmed that Sherlock Holmes 3 is a priority for Team Downey and Downey Jr. While waiting for the right time, the chances of Sherlock Holmes 3 are unknown. Based on Robert Downey Jr.’s love for the character and goals to expand the franchise, it’s best to be cautiously optimistic that he will play the iconic detective again.

Sources: Washington Post, The Numbers, The Numbers, Rotten Tomatoes

  • Sherlock Holmes 3

    Release Date:

    Guy Ritchie

    Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law

    Not Yet Rated

    Main Genre:

    Mystery, Crime, Action

    Chris Brancato

    Plot details are unknown at this time.This is the third installment of the modern Sherlock Holmes film series, which stars Robert Downey, Jr. as the famed detective. The first movie was released in 2009 and earned $209 million at the domestic box office. A sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, came out in 2011, but fared worse commercially ($186.8 million). Both films received generally positive reviews from critics. Sherlock Holmes 3 has been in development since 2011 and was slow-moving ever since. Warner Bros. finally confirmed the film in 2018.Want to know more about Sherlock Holmes 3?

    Sherlock Holmes 3 Gets Writers Room


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