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Small-breed dog enthusiast, George W. supporter, and son of a broken home, Mickey Rourke has known trouble all his life. A boxer turned actor, Rourke is the man who brought us Marv from Sin City and Harry Angel in the neo-noir disturbing thriller, Angel Heart. As he ages, Mickey Rourke grows more dedicated to his craft with each film: “[A]ll that I have been through … [has] made me a better, more interesting actor,” Rourke told The Gate in 2003. From starring roles on the silver screen to more low key portrayals, must see Mickey Rourke movies has something for everyone.
The year is 1982 and Ellen Chenoweth is in search of a ladies' man for Barry Levinson’s semi-autobiographical film, Diner. She’s already locked up Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Kevin Bacon, and Tim Daly. Straight out of private lessons with Sandra Seacat of the Actor’s Studio New York, Mickey Rourke blazes into her office like a comet, a positive fireball of acting! This Mickey Rourke movie concentrates on a group of male friends, Eddie, Fen, Shrevie, Billie, and Boogie (Rourke) who reunite in their home town of Baltimore for a wedding. The changing relationships of the early twenty-somethings is portrayed through a series of vignettes, as opposed to the traditional narrative.
Long before he publicly voiced his support for the war in Iraq, Mickey Rourke, playing FBI agent Gorman Lennox stands over Deputy Sheriff Ray Dolezal (Willem Dafoe) and asks, “How are we going to keep the military industrial complex chugging forward?” The man can play a ladies' man, the man can play a murderous FBI agent. Even in his final performance before he returned to professional boxing, his face was badly beaten, he underwent facial reconstruction surgery, and the plastic surgeon botched the job, Rourke knew how to balance intimidation with straight up elegant delivery. Was that a line from a Hollywood script or a prose poem? Golly.
Iron Man 2
Wait, that was a Mickey Rourke movie? Iron Man 2 (2010) features our man as Ivan Vanko or Whiplash, a Russian tech dude who loves his bird and needs to right the wrongs that Tony Stark’s dad committed against his family. In classic Rourke fashion, the actor publicly blasted Marvel for their post-production decision surrounding his role. Speaking to Screen Rant, he recounted: When I did Ivan Vanko in Iron Man , I fought… I explained to Justin Theroux, to the writer, and to [Jon] Favreau, that I wanted to bring some other layers and colors [to the character], not just make this Russian a complete murderous revenging bad guy. And they allowed me to do that. Unfortunately, the [people] at Marvel just wanted a one-dimensional bad guy, so most of the performance ended up on the floor." Oh, by the way, Rourke went to study with Russian prisoners for three months to prepare for that role…
They say that truth is stranger than fiction. In this classic 1989 Mickey Rourke movie, truth is fiction, but in reverse. Rourke plays John ‘Johnny Handsome’ Sedley, a man born with a disfigured face who turns to crime. He gets double crossed during a heist and sent to jail. In jail, he is offered the chance for an experimental facial reconstruction surgery, the surgeon, portrayed by Forest Whitaker, makes him handsome, and he leaves jail a transformed man. Back on the outside, he has to choose between an honest life and his thieving ways, as New Orleans cop, portrayed by Morgan Freeman, looks on waiting for a mistake. Less than ten years later, Mickey Rourke would seek reconstructive surgery in real life to turn his professional boxing face back into a professional acting face! This is some crazy Benjamin Button action right here!
With Francis Ford Coppola at the helm, this 1983 follow up to The Outsiders (1983) is a bonafide star-studded kaleidoscope. Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Nick Cage, Vincent Spano, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne, and Tom Waits—Tom freakin’ Waits—co-star in this Mickey Rourke movie classic. Despite the crowd, our man shines brightly as the Motorcycle Boy, Rusty’s older brother (whom Rusty presumed dead), a character who commands respect via his prior gang member's loyalty. After escaping a troubled home, the Motorcycle Boy and Rusty reunite for a true Coppola gem: “California’s like… a wild, wild girl on heroin,” the Motorcycle Boy similes. Rourke acted for Coppola again in his film adaptation of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker (1997).
9 1/2 Weeks
No, that is not the gestation period for Mickey Rourke’s kidney stones, it’s that erotic drama he starred in opposite Kim Basinger (Tim Burton’s Batman, 8 Mile). Here’s how it goes: an art gallery assistant starts sleeping with a guy she barely knows—no strings attached. It gets complicated. Mickey and Kim somehow edged out Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not (1944) to grab the number one spot on Moviefone’s "The Top 25 Sexiest Movie Couples.” The folks at Moviefone have clearly never seen Harold and Maude (1971). They say that before he broke his nose, Brando was pretty. After he broke his nose, he was beautiful. The same cannot be said of Mickey Rourke—after this classic 1986 romance that spawned posters on the inside of lockers everywhere, the actor lost something he’s simply never going to get back.
The year is 2005. Mickey Rourke has been feeling washed out for nigh on a decade, awash in an ocean of supporting character roles in B movies with only the stellar first term of George W. Bush to support him. Out of nowhere, Mickey Rourke gets Tarantinoed, a phrase referring to when a washed-up actor—e.g. John Travolta, Tim Roth—is plucked by Quentin Tarantino’s midas hand and turned into Hollywood gold. This is highly ironic because Mickey Rourke was Tarantino’s original choice for Butch Coolidge (played by Bruce Willis) in Pulp Fiction (1994), the film in which he arguably pulled his first ‘Tarantino’. Ok, fine, Tarantino only gets a “guest director” credit, but still our man is back! “I try to slow my heart down and breath the fire out of my lungs… My muscles make me a thousand promises of pain to come…" Covered in bandages, Rourke’s voice is gravel; his face is hewn from rock making a perfect page to screen transition literally becoming Marv, in this Mickey Rourke movie.
The Pope of Greenwich Village
Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke and Darryl Hanna—oh baby—weave a tough guy New York hustler drama out of a subtle script in which Rourke says the inevitable line “I’m the Pope of Greenwich of Village.” Perhaps nobody knows if this young-man brother duo is Italian or Irish. Let’s go with Irish. Rourke was raised Roman Catholic and, to this day, practices his faith. He no doubt drew heavily on this personal attribute to deliver our number three Rourke pick. Five years after this classic hustler role, Rourke revealed that he had donated nearly 1.5 million euro to support Joe Doherty in his search for political asylum in the U.S. Joe Doherty, a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), was wanted by Scotland Yard for his involvement in a 1980 attack that left a British Special Air Service member dead. If Rooney’s money couldn’t gain the man’s trust, he could at least assure him that he was a prominent Greenwich Village clergy member.
A favorite Mickey Rourke movie is his portrayal of Henry Chinaski in Barfly (1987), a role written by Charles Bukowski based on the life of Charles Bukowski. There has and, literally, never will be an actor more suited for this role than Mr. Rourke. Drowning in fire, burning in water, Rourke portrays a deadbeat, alcoholic writer who fights his friend Eddy every night. One night, he finally beats him and gets thrown out of the bar. He wanders to another bar where he meets Wanda (Faye Dunaway) who admits “if another man came along with a fifth of whiskey, I’d go with him.” Henry falls in love and moves in with her. The Cannon Group was reportedly planning on axing this film due to financial distress at the time. Director Barbet Schroeder showed up one day in the Cannon offices with an electric saw threatening to cut off his own finger if they cut the film. It was an apt moment for a metaphor: Schroeder believed that, by Cannon cutting his film about a poet, they were cutting off a piece of his own corporal body.
When Mickey Rourke was at the University of Miami, he decided to drop out, borrowed $400 from his sister, and left the state of Florida (where he was wanted on burglary charges) for New York City where he auditioned to study in the Actor’s Studio. Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront) later admitted that Rourke’s audition was the best he had seen in thirty years. Despite our hero’s awkward moments, his failed marriages, and tempestuous career(s), he is an actor! The Wrestler (2008) presents Rourke as a washed up wrestler (sound familiar?) who knows he must retire but struggles to transition into something new. In his Oscar-nominated role, Rourke as Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson faces health issues, reconnects with his daughter, and falls in love with a stripper.
Directed by Sylvester Stallone, who also stars in the film, The Expendables offers a powerhouse cast of some of the most rough and tough guys in the biz. The 2010 Mickey Rourke movie includes the man himself, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, as well as uncredited cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Expendables are a group of mercenaries, elite in their field, who are hired by the CIA to take out a dictator and a CIA agent gone rogue. Rourke portrays Tool, a tattoo expert, and though his role isn't a lead role compared to some of his others, his part in this film filled with kick ass actors made it a must see!
Mickey Rourke stars as Harry Angel in the 1987 adaptation of Falling Angel, a novel by William Hjortsberg. Set in 1955, Angel, a NYC private eye is hired to hunt down a man known as "Johnny Favorite" by Louis Cypher, played by Robert De Niro. During his quest to find Favorite, Angel comes across the man's daughter, Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet) with whom he engages in intense, dark, voodoo sex, during which he has has visions of blood coming from the ceiling. It has been regarded as one of the most intense sex scenes to date. The plot thickens when Angel learns that Louis Cypher is actually the devil and Angel has in fact committed murder and as his soul is being taken by Cypher. Creepy.
As part of an all star cast, Mickey Rourke stars alongside Danny DeVito, Matt Damon, Claire Danes, Danny Glovers, Jon Voight and others in the 1997 Mickey Rourke movie, The Rainmaker. Based on John Grisham's novel of the same name, Rourke portrays crooked but successful personal injury lawyer, J. Lyman "Bruiser" Stone. He recruits Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) as an associate and teaches him his corrupt ways, but before Bruiser can really get around to guiding Rudy, his office is raided by police on the charges of raketeering and Rudy sets up a two man practice with Danny DeVito's character, Deck Shifflet. The film mostly focuses on Damon's character, but Rourke's role with this stellar cast is one that had to be noted in the list!