Wilford Brimley: 5 Tough Guy Roles the Quaker Oats Spokesman Played in Movies

If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s you saw Wilford Brimley on TV every day talking about Quaker oats. His kindly old grandfather aura also landed him a role on the family drama Our House and the Coccoon movies. There was a lot more to Brimley’s acting career than his most famous roles though. 

Wilford Brimley - Our House
Wilford Brimley | NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Brimley died on August 1 at the age of 85 years old. He leaves behind more than 75 credits in film and television. Here are a few that show a different side of him.

Wilford Brimley vs. ‘The Thing’

John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of the 1951 sci-fi horror movie The Thing from Another World pitted an Antarctic crew against an alien. Being trapped at the end of the Earth with a creature wasn’t their biggest problem. The alien could take the form of any living creature, so whole crew became paranoid that one of them ws The Thing. 

Wilford Brimley in The Thing
L-R: Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Joel Polis and Donald Moffat | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

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Brimley played Dr. Blair, the biologist on the station who does some autopsies to try to figure out exactly what they’re dealing with. Once he discovers exactly what The Thing is capable of, he succombs to his own paranoia. Blair’s plan to contain the potential alien invasion shows Brimley at his most intense. 

Wilford Brimley shows where Van Damme gets his skills in ‘Hard Target’

Hard Target was a Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle and John Woo’s first Hollywood movie. It is an adaptation of The Most Dangerous Game, that classic story where rich hunters decide to hunt human beings. Chance Boudreaux (Van Damme) is helping at Binder (Yancy Butler) find her missing father and ends up hunted by Fouchon (Lance Henriksen).

After fleeing into the bayou woods, Boudreaux visits his Uncle Douvee (Brimley). Douvee proves to be just as tough as Boudreaux and helps them battle Fouchon’s men, all with a cajun accent. You won’t see Brimley riding a horse away from an explosion in an oatmeal commercial!

He brought John Grisham’s greatest fear to life in ‘The Firm’ 

The Firm was the first John Grisham novel to be adapted for film. It was such a blockbuster that adaptations of The Pelican Brief, The Client and A Time to Kill soon followed. The Firm is about a law firm that happens to be a front for the mafia, and Brimley plays the chief hitman. 

Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) goes to work for Bendini, Lambert & Locke fresh out of law school in Memphis, Tennessee. As soon as Mitch discovers that the firm is hiding money for its clients and breaking legs when people don’t comply, security chief Bill DeVasher (Brimley) blackmails Mitch with incriminating photos. 

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When DeVasher says, “I know you’ll do your best to protect the firm,” it’s clear what’s at stake if Mitch doesn’t. Brimley springs into action when intimidation and hired guns won’t do the job for him. 

‘Ewoks: Battle for Endor’ made him a tough guy in a galaxy far, far away

After Return of the Jedi, the Ewoks starred in two TV movies. The first, The Ewok Adventure or Caravan of Courage, introduced the Towani family who crash landed on Endor. The Ewoks helped the kids find their parents. 

In Battle for Endor,  Marauders attack the Ewok planet. Cindel Towani (Aubree Miller) and Wicket (Warwick Davis) find another straded human, Noa Briqualon (Brimley), in the woods. Noa ends up helping the Ewoks fend off the Marauders in a epic Star Wars battle for the small screen. 

Wilford Brimley teamed up with ‘Remo Williams’

As the title suggests, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins was supposed to be the first of many adventures for Remo Williams (Fred Ward). Presumed dead in the line of duty and rebranded Remo, Williams trains to become an assassin for the secret agency CURE. Brimley plays CURE computer guy Harold Smith.