Barfly (1987)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Romance  |  16 October 1987 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 13,671 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?


Mickey Rourke's voice characterization is an approximation of Charles Bukowski's own voice. 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 »


Lenny: Well, Wanda's just drunk and besides that, she's too fat.
See more »


Referenced in Bukowski: Born into This (2003) See more »


Exsultate, Jubilate, K166
By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Courtesy of Regent Recorded Music
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User Reviews

20 August 2002 | by (Alexandria, Egypt) – See all my reviews

Perhaps Mickey Rourkes' final great performance, BARFLY sees him as prolific writer/poet Henry Chinaski who rejects conformity in every day society and believes it to be frustratingly fake. As a result, he is a drunk, and prefers to hang out with 'all his friends' in a regular bar by getting into fights whilst the crowd pays the winner (no guesses as to what he spends his money on) until he meets a 'strange girl' at a bar- Wanda (Faye Dunway). The two instantly click- both are intelligent indivuals who reject over regularity in every day passive conversation (Dunaway- 'I hate people, don't you? Rourke- 'I don't mind them, but I seem to feel better when they're not around'). The two form an instant freindship/relationship because of one major primary function that can keep them together- drink. A researcher who picks up talented writers like Henry enters the frame and falls for him due to his prolific writing and offers him a place in 'the good life' with her- but Henry rejects this when she tells him he will 'grow into it' (Rourke- growing is for plants- I hate roots).

BARFLY manages to do something profound that so many films fail to do- in showing us that conformity isn't suited to intelligent, open minded creative individuals like Henry. Rourke excels himself in this role, it's as good a performance but a completely different one from his role in ANGEL HEART (starring in 3 great films, including RUMBLE FISH, really doesn't do him justice- he was the best of his generation in the 80's). He plays Henry not unlike how Jeff Bridges plays Jeffrey 'The Dude' Lebowski in THE BIG LEBOWSKI (I'd be very surprised if the Coens didn't take inspiration from this film, and fans of that particular film should also check this out) as some one who you would consider to be an every day loser but is probably a darn sight more smarter than you believe them to be (as well as having a self serving purpose for the life they have chosen to live). Faye Dunaway, as usual, is uniformly excellent as Henrys lover/drinking partner, managing to convey an aura of sassiness and casual sophistication, and who has also chosen to take this particular path in life for a reason- the same as Henry's. The chemistry between these two leads is astounding, and the script is pitch perfect with dozens of memorable lines (Dunway- 'Whatever happens, don't expect me to fall in love with you', Rourke- 'That's ok, nobody has ever fallen in love with me anyway'). To me at least, Rourke's performance as Henry is the single most likeable character created in any film, and it stays with you long after the film is over. Touching, funny and profound- a minor masterpiece, a 'nice' film, I RECOMMEND IT!

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