Mickey Rourke is one of the acting greats. When he has the right material, he is a master of his craft. In the 1980s, Rourke had tremendous critical success in a string of well-received movies that cemented his place on the acting mantle, alongside greats such as Brando, Clift, De Niro, and Pacino.
In the 90s, Rourke became bored by acting, gaining a bad reputation amongst producers. He left to pursue a brief stint in boxing before turning to act in a series of straight-to-video releases, but his career began to take off again thanks to some notable performances. Though the actor has endured a rocky roller-coaster career, his body of work remains diverse, to say the least. This list features a few new additions showcasing Rourke’s best and worst movies.
Updated on November 24th, 2020 by Derek Draven: As mentioned in the updated intro, we’ve added a few more of Mickey Rourke’s hits and misses to this list which each tell a greater story about the actor’s up and down career. Some are guilty pleasures, while others were genuine Oscar material.
15 Best – Man On Fire (2004)
Mickey Rourke enjoyed only a small part in this tense action thriller about an aggressive bodyguard who goes on a one-man war after his nine-year-old charge is abducted in Mexico City. His soiled history and gritty personality make life hell for the ones who conducted the kidnapping.
Meanwhile, Rourke stars as Jordan Kalfaus, a lawyer who devised the kidnapping plot in order to snag a hefty insurance payout which he would get a cut from. Rourke’s character gets his just desserts in short order.
14 Worst – Harley Davidson & The Marlboro Man (1991)
Rourke teamed up with Don Johnson in a movie about two outlaw buddies who decide to fix their money problems by taking things a bit too far to the extreme, with comedic and action-packed results.
They decide to rob an armored car to steal the money, but things go significantly wrong when they discover that they’ve lifted a new illegal street drug instead of cash. What follows is an all-out war with the bad guys to stay alive and thrive. Unfortunately, the movie got a critical scathing.
13 Best – Iron Man 2 (2010)
The second Iron Man movie wasn’t quite capable of matching the critical success of the original that kicked off the entire MCU, but few Marvel movies are truly a write-off. Mickey Rourke got to play one of the main villains in a role that was practically born for him.
Rourke played Ivan Vanko, a vengeful man seeking to supplant Tony Stark and his newfound weapons technology. A tech genius in his own right, Vanko proves to be more than a match for Stark, forcing him to get creative in order to survive.
12 Worst – Get Carter (2000)
Sylvester Stallone and Mickey Rourke starred in this remake of the 1971 Michael Caine movie about a mob enforcer who comes home to learn that his brother has been killed seemingly in a drunk driving accident.
The more he digs, the more he uncovers a cesspool of disgusting criminal activity, including amateur pornography. All roads lead to Cyrus Paice, the local crime boss played by Rourke. Too bad the movie was a bleak dud that failed to resonate with audiences who would have rather seen Stallone do another Rocky pic.
11 Best – The Wrestler (2008)
Mickey Rourke scored one of the best gigs of his entire acting career, and one that earned him a ton of Best Actor awards along with a host of other accolades including Best Picture.
Rourke played Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a down on his luck wrestler who yearns for the glory days of his young career. As he struggles to deal with the reality of growing old in a world that is quickly forgetting him, Randy decides to go all-in for one final show that may end up costing him his life.
10 Worst – They Crawl (2001)
Mutated cockroaches are the basis of this grade Z horror flick. Mickey Rourke has only one scene as the leader of some kind of cult that is responsible (or not responsible – the screenplay is never clear) for the scientific abominations.
Rourke hadn’t fully climbed his way back to big paydays just yet and took this movie to pay the bills. His one scene is bizarre and it is more than obvious the actor could’ve cared less about the movie he was in or the lines he was saying.
9 Best – Diner (1982)
Writer/director Barry Levinson solidified his career and those of his excellent cast with his 1982 classic, Diner. The movie was a love-letter to Levinson’s days with his 20-something friends in 1960s Baltimore.
Mickey Rourke played “Boogey”, a womanizing hairdresser in debt to a local bookie. The role stood out amongst the strong ensemble cast, as Rourke’s natural charm and calm, confident acting style anchored the different personalities of the small group of friends.
8 Worst – The Informers (2008)
The Informers was a universally panned adaptation of a novel by Brett Easton Ellis. The movie revolved around music executives, kidnapping, a maybe-vampire, sex, and drugs.
The talented cast (Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Bassinger, Winona Ryder, and Rourke) couldn’t save this movie from ridicule. Rourke seemed to sleepwalk through this one, as well, as an ex-con drifter who gets caught up in the mess.
7 Best – Year Of The Dragon (1985)
Based on the crime novel by Robert Daley, Michael Cimino’s Year of the Dragon (scripted by Cimino and Oliver Stone) was a moderate box-office and critical success. Over the years, the action drama has gained a strong reputation and is now regarded as a highlight of both Cimino and Rourke’s career.
Mickey Rourke stars as Stanley White, a detective who is battling the Triads in NYC’s Chinatown. Rourke was at the height of his powers in 1985 and gave the role everything he had. His performance is tough and forceful and looms large over an already violently operatic movie.
6 Worst – Another 9 1/2 Weeks (1997)
1986’s 9 1/2 Weeks was a worldwide hit for Mickey Rourke. An ill-advised and straight-to-video sequel, Another 9 1/2 Weeks is considered to be one of the true low-points of the actor’s career.
Rourke reprised his role as John from the first movie. This time, due to lack of interest and a heavily re-written screenplay, Rourke gave the role nothing, and gone was the smoldering sexuality and method-style mannerism of his performance from the first movie. The movie disappeared quickly into critically-drubbed oblivion.
5 Best – Rumble Fish (1983)
Francis Ford Coppola had a big hit with his adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. The filmmaker wanted to make an “Art film for teenagers” with his next Hinton adaptation, 1983’s Rumble Fish, an Avante-Garde piece filmed in black & white and set to the pulsating percussion-driven score from Stewart Copeland.
Mickey Roure was “The Motorcycle Boy”, a symbol of the false-machismo of the gang life. The actor gave a tightly mannered performance of a man who is a fallen idol of the Oklahoma gang world. His presence in the movie was powerful and permeates every moment, even when his character isn’t on screen.
4 Worst – Exit In Red (1996)
An erotic thriller starring Mickey Rourke, his ex-wife Carie Otis, and Anthony Michael Hall. What could go wrong?
The movie tries to cash-in on Rourke’s sex-symbol status but, by this time in his career, the actor was walking through sub-par movies. Exit In Red was no exception, as Rourke gave a dull performance, and the few critics that bothered to review it commented that the combination of Rourke’s disinterest and bad plastic surgery made this one of his absolute worst.
3 Best – The Pope Of Greenwich Village (1984)
Labeled by many as a masterclass of acting, The Pope of Greenwich Village featured Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts as two cousins who rob an NYC mobster in this very New York movie.
Roure was on fire as he channeled everything brilliant about The Method. The actor tore into the role with a wild abandon the acting world hadn’t seen in years. Most critics agreed that Rourke was robbed of an Oscar nomination, one that he wouldn’t receive until Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler in 2009.
2 Worst – Double Team (1997)
Everyone agreed that Mickey Rourke made a big career mistake by playing the villain in this movie. While directed by Hong Kong action movie legend Hark Tsui, this movie was a failure on all levels. Hark argued that the studio hampered his vision and Rourke looked out of place in a martial arts movie.
Rourke buffed up for his fight scenes with Jean-Claude Van Damme, but even the actor agreed this wasn’t his type of movie. Double Team was a critical and commercial failure.
1 Best – Angel Heart (1987)
Alan Parker’s Angel Heart opened to major controversy, due to its explicit sex scenes between Lisa Bonet and Mickey Rourke. It failed at the box office but critics recognized it as a well-directed and atmospheric horror movie.
Rourke played a 1950s detective who is hired by a sinister character (Robert De Niro) to track down a man. Rourke’s character falls into the occult and devil worship. Parker keeps the movie dark and evil and received critical acclaim for his direction, while Mickey Rourke earned high praise for his performance, which many consider being one of his finest.