The Acting Roles of Henry Rollins, Ranked

The Acting Roles of Henry Rollins, Ranked

Let's dig in to his 25-plus year movie career of playing cops and hired goons.
March 16, 2017, 3:59pm

Outside of his music, his spoken word performances, authoring several books, and being a talking head in every rock documentary every recorded, Henry Rollins has amassed a hodgepodge acting career of bit parts in TV and film over the last 25 years, making him fairly recognizable to most of America as "that guy from that one thing." To the average viewer, he's that semi-familiar, salt-and-pepper tough guy, flexing his tattooed forearms in roles like Cop #2, Different Kind of Cop #2, or Security Guard Who Is Also a Retired Cop #2. But for fans of his work in Black Flag and Rollins Band, it's always a fun surprise to see Hank pop up in random movies in which he stands an extremely high chance of being torn to shreds by the film's end.

Advertisement

Rollins has no pretensions about his talents as an actor nor much discrimination about the roles he chooses to take on. "I'm not an actor," he once said of his career. "You'd think Hollywood would have figured that out." His refreshingly workmanlike approach has garnered him something of a Gen X cult following because, well, anything that occupies enough of his time that he doesn't start a third iteration of a reunited Black Flag is a welcome distraction.

We recently spent five perfectly good days watching nothing but the collected films of Mr. Henry Rollins so that you don't have to. Below is a list of Rollins' acting roles, ranked in order from worst to best.

Ground rules for rankings:

  • Movies only. No TV. (Sorry, Sons of Anarchy fans.)
  • No voice acting roles. 
  • Nothing where he plays himself. 
  • Rankings are determined by a number of factors: How much screen time Rollins gets, how well suited he is for the role, how good the movie is, how ripped his trap muscles look, etc.

Oh, and there will be spoilers.

19. Scenes of the Crime (2001)

Character: Guy who sits in a car

Scenes of the Crime is basically the movie Drive if it was produced by the studio that makes all those afternoon TNT Network movies and all the actors got their hair styled at Supercuts. Rollins gets just a split second of screen time in this movie and it's not entirely clear what his character's purpose is other than sitting in a car on a stakeout. A tremendous let-down, although to be honest, he could have played every single character in the whole movie and still not have saved this thing.


18. The New Guy (2002)

Character: Prison warden

Two years after DJ Qualls made a name for himself as the skinny college loser in Road Trip, he returned to play a skinny high school loser in The New Guy. Like most high school students, Qualls gets advice on how to be cool from a convict at the local penitentiary, where Rollins plays the warden. Several other musicians make half-assed cameos in this movie including Vanilla Ice, Gene Simmons, and Tommy Lee. They all amount to one big inside joke aimed at music geeks that lands like a fart at a funeral.


17. Kiss Napoleon Goodbye (1990)

Character: Jackson

This is an indie film that Rollins and Lydia Lunch made in 1990. They do sex in it. You're welcome/sorry.


16. Suck (2009)

Character: Rockin' Roger, radio DJ

Simply put: Suck sucks. It's a movie about a struggling bar band becoming vampires in an effort to make it big. That might sound far fetched, but feasting upon human flesh honestly sounds like a more pleasurable promotional strategy than playing a showcase at SXSW. A slew of other music celebs somehow got roped into starring in this movie and, sadly, Rollins gets the smallest part out of all of them. Alice Cooper plays a creepy bar owner and gives his best (only?) performance since he taught Wayne and Garth the meaning of Milwaukee. Iggy Pop plays a producer who gets slashed in the throat. Hell, even Moby gets to poke fun at his staunch veganism by playing an aggro bro named Beef who fronts a meat-themed metal band. But poor Hank only gets a quick scene as a smartmouthed shock jock radio DJ. It was undoubtedly a cathartic role for Rollins, who could finally exact revenge for all of the awful drivetime interviews he's been subjected to over the years by hosts with names like Rude Dave in the Morning and Terry and the Toilet Boys. But hey, not all interviewers can be Nardwuar.


15. Feast (2005)

Character: Coach, motivational speaker

Rollins' character in Feast is described in the movie as "the poor man's Tony Robbins." He is one of a handful of people (including Judah Friedlander) defending a bar from a swarm of horny demons who fuck vigorously in order to spawn more demons. Rollins doesn't do much in this film aside from having his pants ripped off for some reason and getting crushed to death by the aforementioned fornicating demons. And aside from the hilarity of seeing two actors in ill-fitting demon suits giving it to each other from behind, this movie is not worth watching for the brief gag of seeing Rollins in a pair of pink sweatpants.


14. Desperate But Not Serious (Reckless + Wild) (2000)

Character: Bartender

Some day, the Academy will get its head out of its ass and recognize the sleeveless arts. When they do, Rollins will be awarded all the Oscars for his performance as the sleeveless, potentially homicidal bartender in this campy buddy comedy about the shallowness of Los Angeles that plays like something between a second-rate Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion and a fourth-rate Clueless. Oh, and it also features Joey Lawrence.


13. Lies & Alibis (2006)

Character: Putty, hired goon

What is it that's so wonderful about the sight of Henry Rollins in a short sleeved shirt and tie? He looks like a Dilbert who deadlifts. He plays a hired goon in this movie about a service that covers up for people's marital infidelities. His character's name is Putty and you've really got to wonder if it was intended for the guy from Seinfeld, which, come to think of it… have those two ever been seen together?


12. Heat (1995)

Character: Hugh Benny, muscle

When discussing the biggest names in Hollywood in the 90s, it's impossible to escape the big three: Pacino. DeNiro. Rollins. All three titans of cinema appear in this crime thriller about angry men who have professional dick swinging contests and hang up phones super aggressively. Rollins must've had other obligations to film a Scorsese movie or something, though, because he only gets a few seconds of screen time in Heat, during which Al Pacino grabs him by the face and throws him through a window.


11. Bad Boys II (2003)

Character: TNT Leader, Miami PD

Bad Boys II pulls a fast one on the Rollins faithful, featuring him heavily in the opening scene as the leader of a special-ops unit for the Miami PD. All signs point to this being a typical Rollins role where he furrows his brow and looks cool in combat boots in the background, occasionally popping off a line of dialogue until inevitably being gruesomely offed in the third act. But no. Rollins inexplicably disappears after the first five minutes and IS NEVER SEEN AGAIN FOR THE ENTIRE TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF THIS MOVIE! He doesn't even get the dignity of being blown away while covering for Will Smith as he shoots a gun out of his Porsche while it does a 360 flip over a drug dealer's car and says, "Now THAT's how it's done by the Bad Boys… 2." Fuck you, Michael Bay! (Cool explosions, though.)


10. The Devil's Tomb (2009)

Character: Fulton, priest

The Devil's Tomb is a movie wherein Cuba Gooding Jr. leads a team of soldiers which includes the yellow-eyed bully from A Christmas Story, the white trash inmate who gets her head bashed in on Orange Is the New Black, and a few other less prestigiously decorated actors. While a group of semi-recognizable military types might seem like a natural fit for someone of Rollins' talents, he was surprisingly cast here as a priest. Rollins' character has coveted knowledge about a fallen angel terrorizing the area and is visibly shaken and terrified throughout the movie. Unfortunately, years of playing hard-headed tough guy characters did not adequately prepare Rollins for exhibiting "emotions" and his attempt at displaying fear just comes off as him having to pee really badly. Occasionally Cuba presses Rollins for information and he rattles off a bunch of apocalyptic Bible jargon like a kid who rushed into his parents' bedroom to tattle on his brother. But major points for venturing out of his comfort zone.


9. Jack Frost (1998)

Character: Sid Gronic, peewee hockey coach

Jack Frost is a movie about a dad (played by Michael Keaton) who dies in a horrific car accident (This is a family comedy, by the way) and comes back to life as an anthropomorphic snowman because of a magic harmonica. Henry Rollins plays the high-strung coach of a youth hockey team. The soundtrack features Hanson covering "Merry Christmas, Baby." 1998 was a weird time, man.


8. Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)

Character: Dale Murphy, USMC tough guy/TV show host

Rollins' role in the straight-to-video Wrong Turn 2 is almost too on-the-nose. He plays a USMC member turned TV host, a nod to both his stoic, military demeanor and the fact that he is not shy about taking any TV hosting gig for a paycheck. If his character had a backstory where he fronted a 90s band in tiny bike shorts, he'd essentially just be playing himself. Rollins gets a pretty kickass fight scene where he engages in some close combat with a cannibal redneck and even gets to drop a Schwarzeneggerian catchphrase after blowing another one away: "Say hello to the missus for me." Oh hellllll the fuck yeah.

Advertisement

Rollins' character was probably supposed to be killed off in the opening scene but then he showed up on the first day of filming, looking all jacked in his Marine fatigues and the director let him Rambo his way through the woods for 90 minutes. Ultimately, Wrong Turn 2 is a pretty forgettable woodland survival horror story that would have been nothing without Rollins, who carries the movie on his broad, rippling shoulders. (Oh, speaking of, Rollins also gets a shirtless scene and looks pretty shredded for a 46-year-old aging punk icon, if that's your thing.)


7. Lost Highway (1997)

Character: Prison guard

David Lynch brilliantly cast the odd roles in Lost Highway, with appearances from Richard Pryor (RIP), Robert Loggia (RIP), and Gary Busey (RIP?). So naturally, Rollins got a small part as a prison guard. Hank has a couple of short lines of dialogue and folds his arms a lot in this movie, as he does. If you needed someone to fold his arms in your movie in the 1990s, Henry Rollins was the guy. No one could fold their arms like Rollins. No one.


6. The Last Heist (2016)

Character: Bernard, religious extremist

Rollins plays a religious nut with an ocular fetish, running around a bank, slicing people's eyeballs out while a massive heist is going on. It should be noted that this movie has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Zero. Not one critic watched this movie and was moved by the sight of Rollins in a black duster jacket, getting progressively more blood splattered on his white shirt as he yanks people's eyes out of their sockets. Their loss.


5. Morgan's Ferry (2001)

Character: Monroe, escaped convict

Let's cut right to the chase here: Morgan's Ferry is the movie where Rollins hangs dong. Kind of. There's a scene where he, Billy Zane, and the dude from The Big Bang Theory are washing themselves in outdoor bathtubs when Rollins stands up, completely naked. Although he once played up the scene in a spoken word performance, saying that it took him almost two hours to get the take right, there's actually little to no dong to be seen (not sure how closely you're willing to look). A quick shot of his wet ass, though! Neither Zane nor The Big Bang Theory dude had to be fully nude on set, in case you were hoping to see some bazinga.

Advertisement

Lackluster use of dong aside, Morgan's Ferry is one of the few movies in Rollins' filmography that actually respects the man as an actor. He stars in a lead role as an escaped convict and gets to try on a Southern accent to mixed results. Rollins gives a solid and believable performance here, overlooking the fact that the movie is set in the 1950s and he's rocking a Misfits tattoo. Like most of Rollins' movies, though, it's safe to turn this one off after his character gets killed.


4. Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

Character: Spider, flesh mechanic

Johnny Mnemonic was 1995's vision of the digital future, wherein words like "download" and "gigabytes" are social currency and we all try to get our fuck on in cyberspace bars (which turned out to be half true). And in this dystopian digi-scape, the scientists look like Henry Rollins. Actually, he is a "flesh mechanic," to be precise, an alt-doctor in thick-framed glasses who clanks away on homemade computers in his makeshift underground laboratory and hits viewers over the head with themes of the perils of technology overload. Rollins would go on to suffer many, many unceremonious deaths throughout his acting career, but no others where he gets torn apart by an angry Dolph Lundgren—truly the greatest honor one can receive in the field of acting, or at least more prestigious than a People's Choice Award. The great thing about appearing in a movie starring Keanu Reeves is that no one ever notices how stiff your acting is. So Hank gets to look like Marlon Brando alongside Keanu doing his pre-Matrix computer boy schtick. Oh, and Ice T, too. He was also in this movie for some reason.


3. In the House of Flies (2012)

Character: The Voice, kidnapper

Rollins plays a guy holding a couple captive in a concrete bunker here, and for the entirety of this movie he is simply the ominous voice on the other side of a phone and we never actually see his face. He deprives them of food and water, though he stops short of subjecting them to the worst torture imaginable: forcing them to listen to the Loose Nut LP. While this role might sound like Hank is literally phoning it in, he actually gives a pretty chilling performance here. Anyone who has listened to his monotoned readings of his Get in the Van diaries about girls dumping him over the phone long distance knows that it's not much of a stretch for him to play a sociopathic loner. Rollins proves here that he can be terrifying without flexing his neck veins.


2. He Never Died (2015)

Character: Jack, immortal cannibal

After 20 years of grinding it out as set decoration and the result of stunt casting, Rollins got his first true lead role in 2015's He Never Died. He plays an immortal sociopath (again, not much of a stretch for him) who has his daily routine of discretely drinking bags of blood like Capri Suns disrupted when his estranged daughter suddenly enters his life. Aside from the action and gore Rollins executes dutifully while crushing a guy's dick with his bare hands and slurping a puddle of blood off the floor, the movie also gives him a chance to pull off some deadpan humor, like when he plays Bingo or spends a full minute rattling off every job he's had since the Dark Ages (no mention of that Häagen-Dazs gig he had with Ian Mackaye). And while Rollins' attempt at emoting a grizzled sadness hidden behind a pair of old, tired eyes failed to garner the acclaim it did for actors like Mickey Rourke, to a lesser extent, the role did feel like a reward not only for an actor who had put in his workmanlike dues as hired muscle over two decades, but also for the punks who had been following his weird, winding acting career for just as long.


1. The Chase (1994)

Character: Officer Dobbs, cop

The Chase is peak 90s Rollins. We're talking back when all of his grey hairs were confined to that confusing patch on the back of his head and the top button on his shirt clung on for dear life. The movie sees Rollins embracing the fact that, although he spent years singing a song about how much he hates cops, he looks exactly like a cop. He used his squareheaded, dimple-chinned appearance to portray the ugly stereotype of the LAPD in the 90s, following the Rodney King beatings: a trigger-happy pig with a hard-on for crime and a God complex. Rollins doesn't do much more than drive his police cruiser very aggressively against a green screen and drop a couple of one-liners, which, according to the very trusted source known as the "Trivia" section on IMDB, Rollins and co-star Josh Mostel (who you may best know as the horny principal from Billy Madison) largely ad libbed.

In hindsight, it's easy to see why Rollins would be a perfect fit for a dickhead cop role, but in 1994, it was like John F. Kennedy proclaiming that America was going to the fucking moon. The Chase singlehandedly mapped out Rollins' career path as an actor for the rest of his life, setting him up for a long line of tough guy roles. Truly, Hollywood—nay, the world—is a better place because of it.

Dan Ozzi would LOVE to hear from Sons of Anarchy fans on Twitter.