Patrick Swayze Has Left Us For the Great Bar Fight in the Sky

The actor has died of cancer at 57. Some—perhaps most—people will remember Swayze primarily for his roles in Ghost and Dirty Dancing. Me? I'll remember him best as the lead beer-chugging, mullet-coiffed, naked-martial-arts-practicing bouncer in Road House—and the pool-cue-swinging badass behind the greatest bar fight in movie history:

Road House is one the great B-movies, and, even more crucially, it's pretty much the definitional flip-on-TBS-at-1-in-the-morning bad action flick. It's been a few years since I've seen it, but I'm pretty sure the plot involves Swayze and his fellow bouncer, played by Sam Elliot, doing nothing but drinking beer and bar-fighting for a solid forty-eight hours. I wouldn't call it believable, exactly, but Swayze's delightfully vacant Zen-thuggery—at times, he was a sort of proto-Keanu Reeves—made it easy not to care.

Speaking of Keanu Reeves, Swayze also deserves a lot of credit for his role opposite the dead-eyed future Matrix denizen as Bodhi, the leader of The Ex-Presidents, a mask-clad gang of surfing, bank-robbing, thrill-junkies in Point Break, one of the most underrated action movies of the 90s. Stuck with maximumly silly lines like, "It's that place where you lose yourself and you find yourself, and you don't know it, but you got it right there," he transformed the role's inherent absurdity into a virtue by delivering each nugget of corny philosophical gibberish as a sort of existential dare—a test to see if you had the guts to call him on his nonsense. If you didn't, he won.

Swayze hasn't worked on much of note recently, but I'm sad to see him go. Here's hoping there are bar fights in the afterlife; if so, they just got a little more awesome.

In 1998, Mike Lynch referenced Swayze's most famous role with this article, titled "Dirty Dancing."

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  • T||

    Everyone is a genius. After they die, of course.

  • Mike M.||


  • Benjamin||

    Well, being an Atheist I don't think there's a bar-fighting full after life, but he will be missed. He never did Academy Award level work, which in my mind is a good thing (thank you crazy leftist Sean Penn for tainting that demographic), but with Road House, Next of Kin and Red Dawn under his belt he made my 80s thoroughly enjoyable.

    My condolences to his family, and may I wish everyone here an early Patrick Swayze Christmas.

  • Jeff P||

    Kinda dissappointed there's been no mention of Jim Carroll dying yet.

  • ||

    Well, I for one was singing Swayze's praises long before he died. I even put him on one of my homebrew labels. And, as Benjamin points out, how many action heroes have their own Christmas carol? RIP Dalton; pain definitely don't hurt where you are now.

  • ||

    All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.

  • ||

    Jeff P | September 14, 2009, 9:39pm | #
    Kinda dissappointed there's been no mention of Jim Carroll dying yet.

    Are you sure about that?

  • ||

    Yes, Road House was a great movie. When those fans of Swayze watch the movie, be sure to do so on DVD. Otherwise you will miss the greatest line in movie history.

    "I used to fuck guys like you in prison."

  • alan||

    I'm going to miss Swayze even though I can only recall him in one movie I liked -- Point Blank. Did he do Little China? That was him, right? Okay, make that two. I'll look it up later.

    Am I the only one who sympathized with Jennifer Grey's father in Dirty Dancing. I wouldn't let my teen age daughter date a dancing ruffian in his late twenties hunting for tail either. And, then at the end, when they proved how right they were by dancing? WTF?

    American ethics equals American aesthetics. God, I hated that movie. Footloose two.

    To make this stream of conscious complete, when I think of all the bad movies that dates dragged me to see back in the 80's, I wonder why I ever stopped flinging dice and building up my thief/illusionist gnome.

    Swayze, RIP, big buddy.

  • Red Dawn||

    Let it turn. Let it turn into something else.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    For my money there's no contest: Point Break is the movie on which any future Swayzeism will be built. It took almost 20 years and a war in Iraq for audiences to figure out that Kathryn Bigelow has got bigger balls than Michael Bay, John Woo and Quentin Tarantino put together, but recognition has come at last.

  • T||

    Isn't that five simple rules?

  • ||

    "I used to fuck guys like you in prison."

    Just a little thing I like to whisper in the ear of new co-workers.

  • Jeff P||

    Wow, Andrew, I cannot believe I missed that.

  • alan||

    Footloose two

    Damn you homonyms and the neural connectors in my head that can't process them correctly!

  • ||

    Swayze hasn't worked on much of note recently, but I'm sad to see him go.

    Donnie Darko
    was a very good film but maybe not recent. And his danceoff with Chris Farley on SNL is a serious classic.

    Kurt Russell plays Jack in BTILC. Bigger mullet.

  • alan||

    Point Blank?

    May Kathryn Bigelow put me on the rack and beat me with a cat'o'nine tails for that one.

  • smartass sob||

    I'll always remember Swayze for his roll in the TV mini-series, North and South - that and for the fact that he used to board his horses about a mile from where I live. He was a decent guy and a pretty good actor; it's a shame he's gone.

  • ||

    Was the Donnie Darko character based on the leader of EST, Werner Erhard?

    Love, love, love Point Break BTW. My buddies and I frequently bust out ridiculous Bodhi-isms.

  • ||

    "Pain don't hurt."

    Gah, I love Road House. Godspeed, you crazy Swayze.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I can't stand Dirty Dancing, but you can put me down as another Point Break fan. The old Semiotext(e) staffer did good when she made that one.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Am I the only one who sympathized with Jennifer Grey's father in Dirty Dancing.

    Fuck no! Lennie Brisco can never be wrong.

  • ||

    The book the Point Break screenwriters ripped off, Tapping the Source, is fairly decent too.

  • The Winter Soldier||

    ditto . . .

  • ||

    Don't forget "To Wong Foo." Swayze could do some serious damage in a day dress and heels.

  • ||

    Rifftrax covers Swayze's greatest hits:

  • The Angry Optimist||

    ew, guys...Point Break...really? I mean, don't judge a book by its cover, but a surfing movie with Keanu Reeves? Sounds terrible.

  • Nipplemancer||

    it's so terrible that it's awesome. that is fact.

  • Nipplemancer||

    it's got a crazy parachute scene in it too. and bank robberies. and gary motherfucking busey as keanu's aging FBI partner.

  • ||

    And meat ball sandwiches!

    Seriously, you've never seen Point Break? You suck so hard.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    guys, if you name some random movie, there is a 99% chance I have never seen it. Sorry. On Facebook just now, I got "Dirty Dancing" and "Footloose" mixed up.

  • ||

    Just f*ckin' with ya, TAO. But seriously, see Point Break. It's worth it just to hear the phrase "Back off warchild, seriously." And don't get me started on "basic dog psychology."

  • alan||

    Kurt Russell plays Jack in BTILC. Bigger mullet.

    Thanks. I was having trouble keeping my bad mullet memories apart.

  • Rhywun||

    My top 3 Swayze movies:

    1. Donnie Darko
    2. Ghost
    3. The Outsiders

    OK, those are the only movies I've seen him in. Anything with surfing or dancing in it is an instant turnoff.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    I'm going to go out on a limb 'round these parts:

    Donnie Darko sucked.

  • alan||

    The Angry Optimist | September 14, 2009, 11:01pm | #
    I'm going to go out on a limb 'round these parts:

    Donnie Darko sucked.

    I'm going to meet you half way on that one. DD had an intrigue based on a weird vibe and Jake G.'s dead man walking appearance which was like picking up cigs at the 7-11 at 2 am only to run into a drugged out zombie rummaging through the back aisles whom you could just stand there and watch for a long time given the moribundity of the moment, but all in all, it was a boring movie.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    You missed a great chance with the headline:

    Patrick Swayze gives up the Ghost

  • ||

    I'm a little disappointed nobody has mentioned Black Dog yet.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||


    1. Road House
    2. Point Break

    So Bad its good:

    3. Red Dawn

    Saw it once. It was OK, but never bothered again:

    4. Next of Kin
    5. The Outsiders

    You can keep em

    6. Ghost
    7. Dirty Dancing

    I also rather liked his bit in the Television M*A*S*H.

  • $||

    The old Semiotext(e) staffer

    Knowing that = 2 Cool Points.

    Saying it = -10.

  • Nipplemancer||

    i didn't much care for Donnie Darko, but that's because i really really want to slap jake gyllenhal and i don't know why.

  • ||

    What, no mention of Steel Dawn?

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Donnie Darko sucked.


    Anyway, RIP, Swayze.

  • Paul||

    I think to mourn his passing, I'll fire my gun into the air and yell "Arrrrgh!"

  • Paul||

    No mention of To Wong Foo?

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Also, TC, I feel ya on the Bigelow love. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to catch The Hurt Locker yet due to being deployed to Iraq.

  • ||

    Bigelow also directed Near Dark and Strange Days, don't forget.

  • ||

    Red Dawn

    he had no great role in it...still it was a great movie and he was in it.

  • test||


  • jester||

    'Vaya con Dios, bro.' to mimic Keanu's clunkily delivered adieu to Bodhi.

    Vaya con Dios, Mr. Swayze.

  • ||

    Avenge me!!!! AVENGE ME!!!!!!!

  • Voton||

    Is this guy famous?

  • ||

    I must be the only hockey fan here as there has been no mention of Swayze's role supporting Rob Lowe in "Youngblood". It wasn't "Slapshot", but it was a hockey movie.

  • WWJGD||

  • ||

    You're wrong on one count Suderman.

    In Road House, Swazye spends exactly zero time "chugging beer."

    He was a teetotaler throughout, harmlessly sipping coffee at the bar -- the better to stay sharp and fight a gang of meth-dealing power-drinkers looking for trouble at the Double Deuce.

  • ||

    He won't even take painkillers to get stitches.

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    Stay golden pony boy

  • How Big is Your End of Life Fo||

    Point Break

    My personal favorite.


  • ||

    I wouldn't call "Darko" a Patrick Swayze movie, as his character was pretty minor.

    I liked it, but it was a pretty much a "mood" piece, and those things tend to generate strong opinions both ways. The plot made no sense in the theatrical version, and the director's fleshing out of it in the DCut that came out a couple of years ago just made it even more ridiculous.

  • ||

    I wouldn't call "Darko" a Patrick Swayze movie

    But "kiddie porn dungeon" is the best part!

  • JLM||

    If you want a really good movie involving surfing (and also with Gary Busey) see Big Wednesday. Point Break is silly. BW was fairly true to what surfing is about (about as close as you'll see from Hollywood, anyway).

  • botw||

    When you grow up, you'll know these things. Now get up here and piss in the radiator.

  • Girth||

    Road Housian:

    He may have had one or two beers when he was outside of work, but you're definitely right that he drank more coffee in the movie than beer.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Bigelow also directed Near Dark and Strange Days, don't forget.

    It was Near Dark that made me a Bigelow fan. It was Strange Days that made me reconsider.

    But overall I like her. Another point in her favor: She directed the one consistently good episode of Wild Palms.

  • ||

    She directed the one consistently good episode of Wild Palms.

    I have the DVD but I'm afraid to watch it. After the Otherworld debacle, I think I'd rather remember it as it was, not as it is.

    See also: Max Headroom and Mann and Machine

  • Mokers||

    If in Los Angeles, go see Point Break Live. Be warned: buy the poncho.

  • ||

    Wang Foo!
    How can you all forget his greatest role?
    Roadhouse might last another decade on cable@1:00am, but To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar will live a hundred years as a great camp classic.

  • Amy||

    Very sad to hear the news, I offer my prayers and condolences to the family. He will be missed by everyone.

  • lee brenn||

    What about his role in Clerks: The Animated Series, as voiced by Gilbert Gottfried?

  • jade john||

    This is a terrible loss, for his wife-first, then for his extended family and friends, then for Hollywood. He was a great actor and now cancer took his life. Well, life is short and the unexpected does happen!

  • Marshall||

    I saw Point Break live action play recently in San Francisco. To play the main character Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) they randomly pick someone from the audience and have him read cue cards. If you guys get a chance, I highly recommend it. :D


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