John Sedley is a man with a disfigured face, mocked by others as "Johnny Handsome." He and a friend are double-crossed by two accomplices in a crime, Sunny Boyd and her partner Rafe, and a judge sends Johnny to jail, where he vows to get even once he gets out.
A surgeon named Fisher is looking for a guinea pig so he can attempt an experimental procedure in cosmetic surgery. Johnny, figuring he has nothing to lose, is given a new, nearly unrecognizable face before he is released back into society.
Lt. Drones, a dour New Orleans law enforcement officer, is not fooled by Johnny's new look or new life, even when Johnny lands an honest job and begins seeing Donna McCarty, a respectable woman who knows little of his past. The lieutenant tells Johnny right to his changed face that, on the inside, Johnny is still a hardened criminal and always will be.
The cop is correct. Johnny cannot forget or forgive his sworn vengeance against Sunny and Rafe, joining them for another job, which ends violently for all.
Mickey Rourke - John Sedley a.k.a. Johnny Handsome/Johnny Mitchell
Ellen Barkin - Sunny Boyd
Elizabeth McGovern - Donna McCarty
Morgan Freeman - Lt. A.Z. Drones
Forest Whitaker - Dr. Steven Fisher
Lance Henriksen - Rafe Garrett
Scott Wilson - Mikey Chalmette