At this very moment I am in a room with two Patrick Swayze aficionados. They’ve been texted by a surprising amount of people condolences. I am re-watching Dirty Dancing with them, after that we’re onto his SNL episode, and hopefully we’ll have time for Point Break as well. The rest of the night will most likely ensue with memories of the man himself. I happen not to know much at all about his life, but his legacy is a fantastic one to leave behind. The amount of swooning this man induced is nearly incomparable. A couple things that will never be separated from Swayze in my mind are the 80’s, his hair, and saxophone solos. Here are my Top 10 Swayze films in order from 1 thru 10.
1. Point Break – 1991- An FBI agent goes undercover to catch a gang of bank robbers who may be surfers.
It’s just the best action film ever made ~ that’s all ladies and gentlemen. It doesn’t happen everyday, and it’s unlikely to happen again. This film has more adrenaline pumping action sequences per capita than anything that predated it, and I think is the prism by which bank robbery scenes were reinvented. You’ve got ex-president bank robbers, surfing, skydiving, Busey, and Reeves. Is there anything more you could ask for? The answer is NO, but did they listen to you? Again the answer is NO. Swayze Happens! Before 1991 all I could do was swoon when I saw Swayze. After this film Swayze became synonymous with baddest mofo on the planet. He is the ultimate best friend turned bad guy, and makes the movie a complete success.
2. Dirty Dancing – 1987 – Spending the summer in a holiday camp with her family, Frances (‘Baby’) falls in love with the camp’s dancing teacher.
It’s strange that a movie like Dirty Dancing is pretending to be in the 60’s when it feels so emblematic of the 80’s. It’s weird that every time I saw this movie growing up it had more dimensions. It was the first sex scene I ever saw when I was a kid. Later on I realized it was about having an abortion. Way later I caught onto the fact that they were at a Jewish camp. Here I thought all this strife was over a class struggle. I know that for a lot of people this is not only their number 1 Swayze flick, but their number one movie of all time. This is the quintessential Swayze movie, and what will keep him in alive in the annals of history. I hear you all, and I love this movie too. It’s got some of the most memorable scenes in any film, and a couple quotable lines that will outlast most of us reading this today. There are only two movies where I am moved by dancing, and this is one of them.
3. Ghost – 1990 – After being killed during a botched mugging, a man’s love for his partner enables him to remain on earth as a ghost.
It’s easy to get gushy over this movie about how romantic it is, but there is also something pretty badass going on here as well. The idea of heaven and hell in this movie are fun to watch play out, and interesting to see how people’s choices affect them immediately. It’s something scary that I think any God fearing person worries about when they ponder what happens as one crosses over to the after life. The clay scene is also fantastic and unfortunately has become the takeaway for this film. I think there are much better ones to choose from ~ like when Swayze learns from the other ghost how to touch things in the real world.
4. Road House – Dalton is the Cooler in bars; He backs up and directs the bouncers. He takes a job in a Road House that has gotten far too rough. His attempts to clean things up put him in conflict with Brad Wesley, the town bully and rich person. Things heat up.
When I first made this list I hadn’t seen Road House yet. I know, it’s bad. Thanks to Ji-un (fellow Poptenner) I was able to right my wrongs. I’m sorry Patrick. Because I should have known this genius while you were still alive. Brilliant action sequences, pure fun to watch, and classic Swayze looks. From the first moment where he comes out in white pants to the near end where he pulls out someone’s throat with his bare hands – this just has it all.
5. The Outsiders – 1983 – When two poor greasers are assaulted by a vicious gang tension begins to mount between the two rival gangs setting off a turbulent chain of events.
This movie is a nice Swayze gem. If you haven’t had the pleasure of checking this out then you should. Strangely enough the only reason this picture got made was because a class of students wrote to Coppola saying, “Hey you would be the perfect person to make this film”. Basically he agreed, and that was the next project he did. So if you have any dreams of getting films made by your favorite director, just ask. Maybe they’ll say yes.
6. To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar – 1995 – Three drag queens travel cross-country until their car breaks down, leaving them stranded in a small town.
I just never really understood how this movie got off the ground. Swayze, Snipes, and Leguizamo as Vida, Noxeema, and Chi Chi. ~ What?! What is going on? I’m so confused how this got the greenlight, but I’m glad it did. The story is a lot of fun, and the guys put on a great show as drag queens. Snipes is probably the most convincing of the bunch, but Swayze really doesn’t slump on the job either.
7. Donnie Darko – 2001 – A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit that manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after narrowly escaping a bizarre accident.
Although this isn’t specifically a star vehicle for Swayze I think his small part is so riveting that it deserves a place in the pantheon. Swayze plays Jim Cunningham, a local celebrity with a dark secret, and it’s sort of uncanny how well he slips into this role.
8. 11:14 – 2003 – The story follows the chain of events of five characters that all converge to tell the story of murder and deceit.
It will probably give you a couple of nightmares. Hawkes wishes she had never seen this movie, and that she could get her time back. Which goes to show you how damned disturbing it really is. I’m actually surprised it didn’t make a bigger splash, because it really does have some teeth on it. Hilary Swank is brilliant as a convenience store worker afraid to lose her job. Swayze (the powerhouse) has the usual intensity, and here portrays the overprotective Father. While Rachael Leigh Cook’s character creates her own little world of chaos in this small town. Whether you like it or not it will probably fester in your head.
9. Red Dawn – 1984 – It is the dawn of World War III. In mid-western America, a group of teenagers bands together to defend their town, and their country, from invading Soviet forces.
I would have ranked this one higher than its brother ‘Steel Dawn’, but not every movie has a world record. This film was entered into the Guinness Book of Records as having the most acts of violence of any film up to that time. It was calculated that on average an act of violence occured at a rate of 134 per hour or 2.23 per minute.
10. Steel Dawn – 1987 – In a post-apocalyptic world, a warrior wandering through the desert comes upon a group of settlers who are being menaced by a murderous gang that is after the water they control.
I accidentally caught this once, and it’s not quite exactly good, but it deserves to be on here. In college we created an Absolute scale for movies where are movie could be a positive 10 or a negative 10. Each score was perfect in its own way. A +10 equaled an honestly perfect film such as Treasure of the Sierra Madre. A -10 on the absolute scale is The Mummy Returns which is also perfect for exactly the opposite reasons. In that way Steel Dawn gets a -7.
Honorable Mention: Youngblood – 1986 – A skilled young hockey prospect hoping to attract the attention of professional scouts is pressured to show that he can fight if challenged during his stay in a Canadian minor hockey town.
This movie isn’t very good, but the cover sure is. Rob Lowe stands alongside Swayze for mediocre results. While this film seems pretty benign to me it has inspired some anger in Canadian hockey fans. If you end up catching it I would suggest checking it out with someone with love for the game just to see them cringe.