Arts & Entertainment

From romantic to action-hero: Patrick Swayze’s best throwback movies

Your 1980s Swayze education begins here.

Voted People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1991, Patrick Swayze’s ennui and grace propelled him to superstardom. Known for pushing his own limits with dangerous stunts, his fantastic physique and amazing dancing skills, Swayze earned his place as both a respected actor and ‘80s heartthrob. As we patiently wait for in-person learning to return, sit down with your mom, your aunt or your favorite Gen X’er and dive back into Swayze’s action-packed 1980s collection.


This movie has it all: intense fight scenes, shirtless Patrick Swayze doing tai chi, young Sam Elliot and more fight scenes. “Roadhouse” is a classic example of a movie so bad it becomes good. Yes, the plot is a bit derivative. However, Swayze’s dedication to the role makes this movie come to life, turning around themes that would otherwise be cliché. Centered around a bar in Missouri known for drawing in troubling characters – from men looking for trouble to flawless women who love to instigate fights – Swayze’s character is a “cooler” brought in to turn the bar’s reputation around. The town itself is revealed to hold deeper issues than just the Double Deuce bar, resulting in Swayze’s complex character taking on new responsibilities. Between the fighting and saving the town, Swayze finds time for an intelligent doctor love interest, a progressive addition to this 1989 masterpiece. 

“Point Break”: 

While Swayze typically plays stoic, strong romantic roles, “Point Break” is his first jaunt into villainhood. This 1991 epic involves a young Keanu Reeves playing an undercover FBI agent trying to discover the identity of infamous bank robbers. Swayze’s character, is an experienced surfer and adrenaline junkie who takes Reeves under his wing, but only as Reeves investigates his friends and acquaintances. “Point Break” is action packed – from daredevilish surfing scenes to skydiving – Reeves and Swayze make a crazy duo. Motivated by Reeves and Swayze’s shared tomboy love interest, played by Lori Petty, this highly-quotable saga explores a web of secrets, surfer wolf packs and spiritual justifications for robbing banks. 

“Dirty Dancing”:

The adorable Jennifer Grey teams up with Swayze for this ‘80s summer vacation classic. Exploring social norms at relic Catskills Jewish-family resorts in upstate New York, Swayze plays a handsome dance teacher who runs raucous after-hours dance parties in the employee cabins. After Grey sneaks into one of the events, she becomes enamored of Swayze, later proving her resourcefulness in difficult situations and becoming his dance partner. “Dirty Dancing” evolves in a believable manner, beginning with awkward performances by Grey for a Latin-dance night and later growing into flawless choreography highlighting Swayze’s dance abilities. The storyline is a direct reflection of Grey’s dance as she seeks her independence on a family vacation. While “Dirty Dancing” is a prime example of historical chaos, as the movie switches abruptly between the early ‘60s setting and the remarkably ‘80s soundtrack and outfits, the quirks of the movie are far outweighed by both Grey and Swayze’s performances.

“I Am Patrick Swayze”:

This documentary is the perfect encore after the Patrick Swayze trilogy. Digging deeper into each of Swayze’s roles, it becomes clear that Swayze is far more than an actor. Raised by a strict mother who shaped him into a world-class ballet dancer, this formative balance of masculinity and femininity affected his roles and clearly contributed to his success. From being a ranch cowboy to performing roles in roller skates, Swayze was a perfectionist who excelled at every challenge thrown his way. “I Am Patrick Swayze” illustrates his beyond-kind nature and star quality that propelled both his career and personal life.