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The Rise, Fall, And Return Of Mickey Rourke's Face

May 12, 2017 443.7k views13 items

Hollywood is always looking for the next rising star among the hottest male celebrities, someone handsome and brooding with a dark, mysterious undercurrent. For a few years, it looked like Mickey Rourke might assume this mantle. After Body Heat and Diner, his chiseled face, terrific hair, and slightly mumbling line readings all pointed to "It Boy" status. 

But then something happened. Actually, many bad things happened. "Mickey Rourke Plastic Surgery" appeared in more headlines than his actual acting work. Then there was the boxing, the drugs, more bad movies, the Chihuahua addiction, and dating Courtney Love. And the handsome Rourke gave way to - well, let's just call him a less handsome Rourke. His acting followed suit, as working with A-list directors gave way to appearing in Z-list films.

Then something even more unexpected happened. Mickey Rourke's face made a huge comeback. While not exactly in line with its former glory, Rourke's face went from being the look of a "cautionary tale" to the posterboy for a "weathered character." Hollywood loves second and third acts - just ask Jackie Earle Haley. And if you stick around in the entertainment industry long enough, you begin to get the respect of an elder statesman simply by still being alive. Just ask Bon Jovi. 

  • Photo: Tri-Star

    At the time, Angel Heart was mostly known for Rourke's explicit sex scene with Lisa Bonet, which raised the ire of her TV Dad Bill Cosby.  Allow the irony of that seep in for a moment.  

    In Angel Heart, Rourke broods beautifully as private detective Harry Angel, who investigates a series of grisly murders against the backdrop of a creepy New Orleans. The movie initially bombed in the box office, only to be resuscitated on home video as a neo-horror-mystery that's nearly a classic.  

    • Released: 1987
    • Directed by: Alan Parker

    #294 of 512 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked#74 of 180 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time#336 of 755 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

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  • Photo: Cannon

    Barfly may not have been the best representation of Rourke's face, but it showed his depth and range as an actor. In a role nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, Rourke plays a thinly-veiled version of author Charles Bukowksi as he drinks away his troubles. Matching him shot for shot is Faye Dunaway and one of Hollywood's true renaissance men, Frank Stallone. Unfortunately, it would be another two decades before Rourke found another role that challenged him this much. 

    • Released: 1987
    • Directed by: Barbet Schroeder

    #294 of 305 The Funniest '80s Movies#444 of 675 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars#57 of 109 The Best Movies About Writers

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  • Photo: Tri-Star

    The plot is like a reverse manifestation of this Ranker list. Rourke's Johnny begins the film as a lowly hoodlum who is betrayed by his partners during a robbery. While in prison, Johnny gets a chance to do an experimental procedure on his deformed face. He goes from looking like the protagonist from Mask's cousin to looking like MICKEY F'ING ROURKE.   

    The film itself is quite good. Director Walter Hill strikes just the right tone with the help of a top-notch cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Lance Henriksen, Ellen Barkin, and Forest Whitaker. It's pulp, and mighty tasty pulp at that.  

    • Released: 1989
    • Directed by: Walter Hill
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  • The next few years were not the greatest for Mickey Rourke. He began to populate the tabloids. Boxing began taking its toll on his face and his feature films weren't faring any better. Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man had a wee bit of potential with a clever title, the director of Lonesome Dove, and a never-hairier Don Johnson. But this was no Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, especially because Rourke had begun to resemble a non-union Rourke impersonator. 

    • Released: 1991
    • Directed by: Simon Wincer
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