October 31, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT

Rumble Fish (1983)
Francis Ford Coppola’s S.E. Hinton adaptation cast Rourke as the brooding, enigmatic Motorcycle Boy. Coppola recalls the actor having a unique style that combined ”mystery and an attractive weirdness.”

Body Heat (1981)
The sultry noir was Kathleen Turner and William Hurt’s show, but Rourke nearly stole it as a sleazy arsonist. ”That’s when I first noticed him,” says fan Steve Buscemi. ”I remember thinking, Wow, who is this guy?”

Diner (1982)
Barry Levinson’s ensemble comedy set in 1959 Baltimore earned the actor the best reviews of his career and sparked a decade of leading-man assignments. Tough, sensitive, and damaged, Rourke, the star, is born.

The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)
An underseen gem about a couple of small-time New York cousins and crooks. ”Mickey doesn’t learn the lines,” says costar Eric Roberts. ”He’s 95 percent improvisation.”

Barfly (1987)
As boozing gutter poet Charles Bukowski (he’s named Henry Chinaski in the film), Rourke paints a harrowing and not-very-pretty portrait of talent squandered. Makes Leaving Las Vegas look like a Disney movie.

Angel Heart (1987)
Alan Parker’s moody head-trip whodunit was set in the voodoo demimonde of New Orleans. Rourke’s Method acting face-off with a Luciferian Robert De Niro is alone worth the price of a rental.

Sin City (2005)
Based on the comic, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s pulp hit is pure digital eye candy. And no confection is sweeter than Rourke’s Marv, a cement-faced gorilla of a man who is the movie’s best special effect.

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