Hailing from Alabama, Michael Rooker‘s southern drawl is just one of his memorable traits. On first breaking into film, his intensity and “don’t-mess-with-me” good looks were highlighted to chilling effect as he title character in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Since that widely noticed and highly praised performance, much of his career has been spent playing brutes, villains, and psychopaths. However, his occasional turns as a “good guy” are always well-acted and a welcome change for a talented actor too often typecast. We can not wait to see him grace the screen in White Elephantone of Bruce Willis’ last films.
That brings us to our narrowed-down top 5 best film efforts when it comes to the versatile Rooker. Some honorable mentions are some of the more iconic films of all time, such as Mississippi Burning, Sea of Love and JFK. On the TV front, Rooker is best known for his series regular role as Merle Dixon on AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead. He also made his mark with a killer one-episode cameo in the third season of True Detective. But enough about the small screen – here are Rooker’s best films.
5 Slither (2006)
Rooker’s connection to acclaimed filmmaker James Gunn dates back even before the Guardians of the Galaxy films. After working for years in Hollywood as a writer and producer, Gunn got to make his directorial debut with Slither, which centers on an alien parasite invading a small town in South Carolina. A throwback to alien invasion films of the earlier days with a modern flair for gore and gross-out visuals, Gunn’s first film clearly establishes his style right off the bat and begins a process of long-term collaborations with stars like Rooker, Elizabeth Banks, and Nathan Fillion. Rooker’s grocery store scene where he buys an obscene amount of meat from the butcher is priceless. Though a box office bomb at the time of its release, Slither has rightfully developed a cult following over the years.
4 Love and Monsters (2020)
In addition to its universal acclaim, Love and Monsters also has an Oscar nomination under its belt. The hit film offers a refreshing take on the tired apocalypse genre. It’s a heartfelt, surprisingly funny adventure with a charming lead performance from Dylan O’Brien. Rooker steals his scenes as survival expert Clyde – it’s simply a perfect supporting role for him. What begins as a quest for a lost girlfriend becomes a transformative experience about being human. Love and Monsters reminds us that a little courage and empathy goes a long way in a world gone to hell.
3 Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Loosely based on serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, the controversial film follows Henry and his roommate Otis, whose sister comes to visit and sets off a seemingly endless killing spree by Henry. The people Henry and Otis kill are strangers, and in one particularly gruesome attack, they kill all three members of a family during a home invasion. Henry lacks compassion in everything he does and is not the kind to leave behind witnesses. He’s a terrifying character to watch, and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was certainly a memorable film debut for Rooker. Following successful shows, during which it attracted both controversy and positive critical attention, the film was rated “X” by the MPAA, further increasing its reputation for controversy. It was subsequently picked up for a limited release in 1990 as an unrated version.
2 Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Rooker’s moment to shine as Yondu perhaps came in the sequel, but it’s the first Guardians of the Galaxy film that takes the cake overall, effectively introducing the beloved Yondu character and securing his character in the spotlight. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most important films in the MCU, as it established a new group of heroes and proved that the company’s commitment to story and character could launch even the most obscure Marvel Comics character into a massive box office hit. With a surprisingly beloved soundtrack of ’70s radio classics, inventive character design, and thrilling direction from James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most crowd-pleasing sci-fi films of the decade. It also offers Rooker another scene-stealing supporting role that he completely owns.
“Having the biggest laugh with, ‘I’m Mary Poppins, y’all,’ and then having one of the biggest emotional moments in the sequel, giving your life for your son. What daddy wouldn’t? So it was really a well-written character, “Rooker once told SYFY. “I owe it all to James Gunn. James is just a fabulous writer. That character was drawn out so perfectly. As an actor, he made it easy for me. Very amazing. It was a beautiful celebration of Yondu’s life, to allow it to move on through his surrogate son. “
1 The Suicide Squad (2021)
Moving seamlessly from Marvel to DC, Gunn pulls no punches in his jaw-dropping rollercoaster of a reboot, The Suicide Squad. This film brings back established characters like Rick Flag and Harley Quinn, and adds new faces like Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) and Savant (Rooker). This entire group of villainous misfits work together perfectly to execute their mission. It’s a wonderful reboot and far superior film to the original, adding more than just the word “the” to the franchise’s title.
“Savant bring everything to this team … but how do you know they’re villains? How do you know Savant or any of these guys are villains? These guys are … they’re tough, okay, but villains I don ‘t know. Maybe in the past they were villains because it’s Suicide Squad. It’s basically the same idea, but it’s a totally different set up, man, “Rooker once told ComicBookMovie.com, adding that Savant should have his own TV series. “It’s really different, and Savant brings … hair back in style. My hair. Dude, my hair as Savant should have its own credit. Absolutely. Above my credit as the actor. Savant’s hair [Laughs] should be the lead character in this movie. “