We lost Patrick Swayze today, and even though we knew it was coming thanks to his long and public battle with cancer, it doesn’t hurt any less to know he’s gone. Part romantic heartthrob, part action hero, he was definitely a man we won’t soon forget. Below, we’ll have a look back at his 30-year film career and the iconic movies he’s left behind for us to enjoy.
One of the first films Swayze made was 1983’s The Outsiders, with a talented young crew of actors including Matt Dillon, Diane Lane and Tom Cruise. He then appeared alongside Charlie Sheen in the cult classic Red Dawn, as Midwestern high schoolers suddenly forced to help fight off a Russian invasion of America. After the hockey drama Youngblood with Rob Lowe came the movie he’ll always be known for – Dirty Dancing, the musical romance with Jennifer Grey that swept the nation back in 1987 and spawned stage versions and a generation of people saying “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” It also gave him a hit on the Billboard charts, crooning the soundtrack song “She’s Like The Wind,” which made a poignant appearance in this summer’s indie romantic comedy hit 500 Days of Summer.
Then came Steel Dawn, a vastly different kind of movie set after the apocalypse (watch the whole film on Fancast) and Road House with Sam Elliott, a rough and tumble bar bouncer flick that butched up his image. Next of Kin, wherein he played a Chicago cop after Liam Neeson, also solidified him as an action hero. But by 1990, he starred opposite Demi Moore in Ghost, a massive hit that proved his main appeal was as a romantic lead.
Swayze has a lot of cult classics under his belt, and 1991’s Point Break was no exception, this time playing the ringleader of a crew of surfers/bank robbers along with Keanu Reeves. After playing an American doctor in Calcutta in City of Joy, he turned his manly image on its head in 1995 with To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, playing a drag queen alongside Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo. There was the magical vagabond stranger he played in the children’s film Three Wishes, and then it was back to bad-ass action with the trucker flick Black Dog (watch the full film on Fancast).
The last decade of his life started off with Along For the Ride with Melanie Griffith, and then a career-changing supporting role in yet another cult classic, Donnie Darko, as a sleazy self-help expert. This helped people look at Swayze in a new light, but that didn’t mean he strayed too far away from what made him famous, as evidenced by his role as an older man trying to rediscover his dancer’s heart in One Last Dance.
He appeared with Hilary Swank, Barbara Hershey and Rachael Leigh Cook in the thriller 11:14, with Piper Perabo and a dragon in the medieval fantasy George and the Dragon, and he even had a cameo on the 2004 sequel Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. He showed up as an alluring golf instructor tempting Kristin Scott Thomas away from Rowan Atkinson (not to mention tempting Maggie Smith’s penchant for murder) in Keeping Mum, and his last on-screen acting work was in the acclaimed but short-lived television series The Beast.