Barfly (1987)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Romance  |  16 October 1987 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 13,667 users  
Reviews: 81 user | 56 critic

Based on the life of successful poet Charles Bukowski and his exploits in Hollywood during the 60s, 70s, and 80s.


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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
J.C. Quinn ...
Gloria LeRoy ...
Harry Cohn ...
Joe Rice ...
Old Man in Bar
Julie 'Sunny' Pearson ...
Hooker in Bar
Donald L. Norden ...
Man in Alley


Henry Chinaski never cared for the American dream, the thought of needing to become 'something' and fit into the system disgusts him. He believes that life is free and yours to live like you see fit, and if that in some cases involves copious amounts of whiskey then so be it. Henry spends his days drinking and listening to the radio, and he spends his nights drinking and fighting against Eddy who he thinks personifies shallowness and shameless self promoting. Sometimes in the middle of this he finds the time to jot down a few lines of poetry or a short story. After fighting Eddy and winning for a change Henry is thrown out of his regular bar where Eddy is a bartender. This leads him to seek another watering hole where he happens to find Wanda who is a barfly, in her own words "if another man came along with a fifth of whiskey, I'd go with him". Henry is not fazed by this thou and moves in with her. Of course Wanda immediately goes off and sleeps with Eddy, but after some clothes ... Written by Erik Wallen <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

bar | whiskey | radio | bartender | fight | See All (69) »


Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.


Comedy | Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

16 October 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bar kelebegi  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$3,000,000 (estimated)


$3,221,568 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The slogan for "The Golden Horn" cocktail bar was "A Friendly Place". See more »


Henry calls an ambulance and gives address of apartment building as 334, while in scene earlier that day building is clearly marked 360. See more »


Henry: This is a world where everybody's gotta do something. Y'know, somebody laid down this rule that everybody's gotta do something, they gotta be something. You know, a dentist, a glider pilot, a narc, a janitor, a preacher, all that.
Henry: Sometimes I just get tired of thinking of all the things that I don't wanna do. All the things that I don't wanna be. Places I don't wanna go, like India, like getting my teeth cleaned. Save the whale, all that, I don't understand that.
Jim: You're not supposed to ...
See more »


Followed by Factotum (2005) See more »


Hair Street
By John Lurie
Published by Barking Lady Music (BMI)
Performed by The Lounge Lizards
Courtesy of Island Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Drinks for all my friends...
21 November 2005 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Despite Bukowski's condemnation of Mickey Rourke's portrayal of him/Chinaski in the film (claiming Rourke was too cocky with the role, and didn't stick to the character of Chinaski as Bukowski intended) states Bukowski in the documentary "Bukowski: Born Into This", I still view it as one of the highlights of Rourke's career.

Whether the depiction of a character is exact in the fashion of perfect mimicry is often irrelevant to me in relation to biopics. As a matter of a fact, I often find it the downfall of some biopics, where the physicality may be captured, but the meat and potatoes of the character's are often left by the wayside. Not so in the instance of "Barfly." Rourke nailed Bukowski/Chinaski's crazy, alcoholic, free spiritedness brilliantly, I felt. There was a humor, a tenderness, a coldness, a twisted romanticism, and a bleakness, all wrapped into a greasy, overweight (Rourke pulled a "De Niro", gaining weight and not bathing months before the film's shooting) package you could almost smell from the theater seats.

Faye Dunaway as the aging, sad, beautiful barfly Wanda, gives a performance that yet again reminds us why she is a cinematic legend in her own time! She plays the subtleties and intricacies of Wanda with such aplomb, offering even this - the most pathetic of her roles - a dignity and a sad beauty that not many actresses can pull off.

The casting of this film deserves a round of applause! I've tended bar and worked in the sorts of joints where these all too real people can be found, and I felt as if I was right there again, pouring shots of bourbon, polishing glasses, and making certain that the brawls boiling in the bar get taken to the streets. Frank Stallone's swaggering, bully-of-a-bar tender, macho-man Eddie is hilarious! Gloria LeRoy as "Grandma Moses" the ancient prostitute infamous for her ability to "swallow paste" is priceless. I could go on and on, but I won't! Bukowski's male character counterpart is a macho, beer swilling, bare knuckle fighting, farting kind of man who some may not appreciate, considering that outside of the seedier bars in North America, these types of fellas are a dying breed. With males being force-fed the over-sensitive, turn the other cheek, annoyingly "metro sexual" kinds of roles models and ideals these days, it must be a strange look back over the evolutionary shoulder for some men to see the realities of people like Bukowski! Don't get me wrong - I'm not applauding all of the Chinaski character's behaviors, but I think that some guys could learn a thing or two about themselves from the worst example of the diametric opposite of what they've been told they should be. Sometimes a fight has to be - sometimes it's just plain pathetic, and both examples can be found in Barfly.

Bukowski has always dared to put to page whatever entered his head, and did so with a twisted lovely flourish.

Barbet Schroeder, the man behind such brilliant and critically acclaimed films such as "More" (1969), his work with director as Jean-Luc Godard, his contribution to French "Nouvelle Vague" or New Wave cinema, and his more mainstream flicks such as "Single White Female", places him in a category above many directors working in North America today.

With Barfly, Schroeder captures the gritty realities of lives given over to the excesses of substances and circumstances in a true-to-life way, as he did with his first film "More", a flick about heroin addiction done at a time when the subject was still considered very taboo. The musical score for Barfly supports this film perfectly, too, with the Hammond organ whirling out Booker T. Jones' "Hip Hug Her" as we P.O.V. our way through the film's first scene, past the bar sign, to the bar's door, and into the world of Henry Chinaski. This is all counter-pointed wonderfully by the use of Mozart and Beethoven under Rourke's voice-overs of Chinaski's writing.

To sum it all up - as much as I dig and respect Bukowski, I have to say that even though he wasn't a fan of the flick (long after its release I may add, and he was on set as an adviser and unaccredited cast member - why didn't he say something at the time?), I look at this movie as a wee gem and as a masterpiece daring enough to capture life's underbelly with an acuteness and accuracy many wouldn't dare to put to screen.


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