Burt Reynolds’s Most Memorable Roles

The iconic movie star made a career out of action, stunts, and self-deprecating humor.

A Young Burt Reynolds
Terry Disney / Getty Images

The iconic movie star made a career out of action, stunts, and self-deprecating humor.

News broke today of the passing of actor Burt Reynolds, an icon of ’70s movies involving fast cars, beautiful women, and the occasional illegal beer run. Reynolds died of a heart attack at Jupiter Medical Center in Florida, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Here is a list of his 10 most memorable movie and TV roles in chronological order.

Gunsmoke – After working a number of small television roles in the late ’50s and early ’60s, Reynolds landed the role of Quint Asper on Gunsmoke from 1962-65, a recurring character of mixed heritage (Comanche and caucasian.) At least two episodes of the series focused on Quint specifically, according to IMDB: “Quint Asper Comes Home” and “Quint-Cident.”

Dan August – Reynolds’s work on Gunsmoke and other shows garnered him enough of a reputation to have his own TV show, Dan August, in 1970. In this show, he starred as police lieutenant Dan August, a homicide detective in the fictional town of Santa Luisa, California. The show was not renewed for a second season, according to TV.com, but when Reynolds’s popularity increased a few years later, the show became popular again in syndication.

Deliverance – Though he had appeared in a few movies before 1972, Deliverance became his first big Hollywood break. Despite not being directly involved in the controversial “squeal like a pig” rape scene, Reynolds’ character, Lewis Medlock, is remembered as the savior of Ned Beatty’s character, Bobby Trippe, when he puts an arrow through the rapist’s body, killing him.

The Longest Yard – Reynolds played Paul Crewe in 1974’s popular football movie, The Longest Yard. The movie showcased his comedic skills, opening up a strong direction for his career. It’s interesting to note that Reynolds had a cameo in the movie’s 2005 remake as Coach Nate Scarborough.

Smokey & the Bandit – If there was one movie that defined Burt Reynolds to the world, it was Smokey and the Bandit. The 1977 movie about a pair of CB radio-wielding beer smugglers was an unqualified comedic success, spawned two sequels, and elevated the careers of Reynolds, Jerry Reed, Jackie Gleason, and Sally Field. It also turned the 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am into a legend; the car was as much of a character as Bandit, and became linked to Burt Reynolds forever after the movie. Below is a recent shot of Reynolds with one of the “Screaming Chicken” Trans Ams, affectionately called that because of the flamboyant Phoenix symbol emlazoned on the car’s hood in gold.

The Bandit
  Mike Windle / Getty Images

Hooper – Since Smokey and the Bandit generated box office gold, Reynolds embarked on a series of similar movies involving plucky characters and automobiles. In 1978’s Hooper, he played stuntman Sonny Hooper. One of the funny scenes involves Hooper driving a Chevrolet pickup truck backwards at speed on a beach.

The Cannonball Run – In 1981, Reynolds starred in The Cannonball Run, with an ensemble cast including Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and a very young Jackie Chan, credited only as “Subaru Driver #1” on IMDB. The movie also featured a number of star cars, including the following listed on Ranker.com: a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, a Lamborghini Countach, an Aston-Martin DB5 (the car made famous by James Bond, playing off the Roger Moore appearance), and a Ferrari 308 GTS.

Stroker Ace – Continuing the car formula, Reynolds teamed up with Bandit and Cannonball director Hal Needham again and made Stroker Ace in 1983, a movie about a southern race car driver on the NASCAR circuit. Stroker Ace was not as well received as the prior Needham movies, but did introduce him to his future wife, Loni Anderson. They married in 1988 and remained together until 1993.

Striptease – The Reynolds star faded a bit in the ’80s, and though he continued to be cast in various movies, his box office mojo faded with it. He was offered the unusual role of Congressman David Dilbeck in Demi Moore’s 1996 movie, Striptease, and his performance caught the attention of Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson, revitalizing Reynolds’ career a bit.

Boogie Nights – In his crowning achievement as an actor, Reynolds played the role of adult film director Jack Horner in 1997’s Boogie Nights, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. Despite the accolades, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Reynolds stated later in life that although he appreciated the recognition, he preferred making the fun, popular movies of the mid-’70s to the more serious films.