Rowdy Roddy Piper was many things to many people. To some he was the boisterous, kilt wearing wrestler who squared off against the likes of Hulk Hogan, 'Superfly' Jimmy Snuka and also yelled at people as the host of Piper's Pit. To others he was an actor in some of the more interesting films to ever be lensed. With Roddy Piper it didn't matter. He was many things to many people but no matter what, whether he wanted you to hate or love him, you loved him.
Roddy Piper sadly died this past Sunday of a heart attack. The man left us way too soon. At 61, he accomplished more with his career than most performers ever get a chance to fathom. He was a consummate entertainer who did what he did for the fans. He was once quoted as saying, "They cheered for me because they wanted to, not because they were programmed to."
It would be very easy to look at the career of this icon as simply that: the fun career of a wrestling legend. However, Rowdy Roddy Piper was so much more than a wrestler. Sure, his movies may not be talked about in the same breath as something by Robert De Niro and Daniel Day-Lewis, but I am willing to bet that Roddy Piper's movies are ultimately a lot more fun.
With titles such as They Live, Hell Comes to Frogtown and Terminal Rush littering his long resume, it is apparent that Roddy Piper never lacked confidence. Acting is a brutal profession. To get one role is a major achievement. Roddy Piper got several and he always brought his own acting style to it. He left a mark on every character he played. Many of his films went the straight-to-video route, but that shouldn't detract from Roddy Piper's work in them. It isn't every day that someone gets to fight Mr. T and Don "The Dragon" Wilson in their career.
There's part of me that really wants to have a serious tone to this online eulogy. I was a big wrestling fan when I was younger. Sure, I, like most people, rooted for Hulk Hogan (a famous ring nemesis of Roddy Pipers), but I was always excited when Rowdy Roddy Piper came on the screen. I didn't know what was going to happen and I didn't care. I just knew I was in the viewing presence of someone awesome. And the fact that he knew he was awesome, for some reason made him even better. So it is with humble respect that I present 7 Rowdy Roddy Piper Movies You Need to See.
1They Live (1988)
With John Carpenter at the helm, Roddy Piper does probably his best work here as the character of Nada. At its core, this film recalls Roger Corman's X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. Essentially, Roddy Piper's character finds a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see that aliens are not only inhabiting the earth but that they've taken it over as well. Looked at this way, They Live is a highly credible film that deserves a bit more than the cult status bestowed on it. When you go a little deeper, you see how it skewered Reagonomics and the idea of money trickling down from the top to the bottom. Ultimately, this film has both a hopeful and bleak outlook, but then what can you expect when such forces of nature as Roddy Piper and John Carpenter come together? If there's anybody that never took Roddy Piper seriously as a thespian, this film certainly helps push that argument down the pegs a little bit.
2Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)
How's that for a great title, right? Even better? The concept of this film more than lives up to the name. Roddy Piper is truly bold here as the main character Sam Hell. He is a prisoner of a bunch of women who are in charge of the US after a nuclear war. If this wasn't bad enough, there are beings who are trying to wipe them off the face of the earth now! Okay, aside from this sounding a lot like Wayward Pines, this movie shows Rowdy Roddy Piper in another role that he made all his own. It isn't just anybody that can handle the duties of saving the planet and making sure that he's keeping his ladies happy. Yes, Hell Comes to Frogtown is filled with winks, asides and the kind of moments that mark the comical aspect of Roddy Piper's career. We think when you step back and examine the film objectively, his performance truly stands out and shows his range.
3Immortal Combat (1994)
Alright, if aliens and bad guys that look like frogs are not your thing, Immortal Combat could be just the Roddy Piper film you need. This movie pairs him with Sonny Chiba as they tackle a band of ninjas. Okay, forget for a second that Roddy Piper doesn't seem like the type that could defeat the Three Little Ninjas, but the ninjas in this film are immortal. This is where Roddy Piper truly has a sense of who he is. And it's also why the producers of this film probably saw fit to match him with Sonny Chiba. The concept of this film might seem far out, but if there's anybody that's not gonna stress over fighting immortal ninjas it's Rowdy Roddy Piper. Again, no Oscars were given out here but one can't quantify what movies like this give the people watching them.
4Last to Surrender (1999)
This late 90s gem gives us Roddy Piper in the role of Nick Ford. This film seems like it was back in the day of foreign pre-sales covering the budget of a movie before it was made. Hence, the amount of actors in the film that we haven't heard of. Never mind this! Roddy Piper is a cop who does things his own way. He partners up with Wu Yin (Ong Soo Han) and together they take on a drug dealer and his team. Filled with a lot of cop movie moments where they reveal their pasts and generally open up, this movie tops most of those moments with the final one. Ford and Yin have just defeated the bad guys. They are walking down the river and they talk about getting coffee and donuts. How much more quintessential cop can you get? Again, Roddy Piper gives us everything he has and more.
5Alien Opponent (2011)
Roddy Piper really branches out here playing, of all things, a priest. As Father Melluzzo, Roddy Piper, as well as a whole lot of townsfolk, take on an alien who has landed in a junkyard. Apparently, when the alien came to earth, it crashed into said junkyard killing some people in the process. These people want to get revenge on the alien so they offer money to anybody who can kill it. Even in 2010, Roddy Piper hadn't lost any of the grit, brashness and style that he displayed in his wrestling career.
6Terminal Rush (1996)
Roddy Piper is quite different in this film than any of the others on the list. He plays a mercenary working with a band of terrorists. They have taken a bunch of hostages at the Hoover Dam and lord only knows what they might do with their power now. Playing this role with both brashness and a somewhat effeminate quality, Roddy Piper again puts it all on the line as Don 'The Dragon' Wilson comes to take him out. While playing the bad guy worked for Roddy Piper in the WWF, he really puts a different spin on the character of Bartel in Terminal Rush. What is the true standout here is just how different Roddy Piper is as a bad guy. With a "mask" that somewhat recalls Jared Leto's make-up in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie, Roddy Piper again seems to be having fun here, but never winking too much to have us feel he isn't taking the proceedings seriously.
7The One and Only (1978)
Putting this film on this list might seem odd. Afterall, it was Roddy Piper's first film and he went uncredited. However, this tale of a man (Henry Winkler), who falls into pro wrestling since he can't get a job, is hailed in many wrestling circles as one of the best films about the sport. Ever.
So, the fact that Rowdy Roddy Piper is in this seminal movie along with Chavo Guerrero, H.B. Haggerty and the late Herve Villechaize only seems to bolster his credibility. Is Piper memorable? Truthfully, I have seen this movie a bunch of times and I didn't even know Piper was in it. However, this is a movie he should be in because he truly seemed to love acting, both as a wrestler and on screen, it seems like we all got to see the best Rowdy Roddy Piper there was to see. RIP Champ. Okay, what do think? Did we do Rowdy Roddy Piper proud? Was our list way off the mark? Did we miss something? Let us know! And you can even get Rowdy about it!