During the 1980s, Rourke starred in Diner, Rumble Fish, and the erotic drama 9½ Weeks, and received critical praise for his work in Barfly and Angel Heart. In 1991, Rourke decided that he "had to go back to boxing" because he felt that he "was self-destructing ... (and) had no respect for (himself as) an actor." Rourke was undefeated in eight fights, with six wins (four by knockout) and two draws. He fought internationally in countries including Spain, Japan and Germany.
In 2005, Rourke made his comeback in mainstream Hollywood circles with a lead role in Sin City, for which he won awards from the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Irish Film and Television Awards and the Online Film Critics Society. In the 2008 film The Wrestler, Rourke portrayed a past-his-prime wrestler, and garnered a 2009 Golden Globe award, a BAFTA award, and a nomination for an Academy Award.
In 2010, he appeared in the blockbusters Iron Man 2 and The Expendables.