Anytime you sit in front of your TV and flip through the channels, chances are you’ll most likely happen across Dennis Quaid movies. With his charming good looks and charismatic grin, Quaid is one of the most prolific and versatile actors of his generation, with an extensive résumé that includes comedies and dramas, science fiction and real life.
The acting bug bit Quaid early, and the Houston native dropped out of college and moved to Hollywood to pursue his dream. He made his first film in 1975 at the age of 21, but it was 1979’s Breaking Away that saw him really gain notice.
Quaid admits he’s most often drawn to true stories and over the years has portrayed such real-life men as Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jerry Lee Lewis in Great Balls of Fire, Doc Holliday in Wyatt Earp and NFL coach Dick Vermeil in American Underdog. He’s also brought to life characters from all walks of life during his almost 50-year career. He portrayed a quarterback in the football drama Any Given Sunday, a fishing captain in Blue Miracle and a fireman in Frequency. His lengthy list of credits includes Flight of the Phoenix, Soul Surfer, Midway, Traffic, Jaws 3-D, Enemy Mine, G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Footloose, Dragonheart, Yours, Mine and Ours, The Alamo, A Dog’s Purpose and Far From Heaven, which earned him the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Everyone has their own favorite Dennis Quaid film, but Woman’s World went directly to the source himself to find out his 10 favorites. On this sunny afternoon, Quaid is sitting in the office of his Nashville publicist where he has been promoting his new album, Fallen: A Gospel Record for Sinners, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Christian Gospel Albums chart. (Click through to read as Dennis Quaid opens up about his faith journey.)
As the discussion turns to his film career, Quaid says, “I love true stories, I really do.” So as he is thinking about his favorite films, many landed on the list because he had such a great experience making them.
Dennis Quaid’s favorite movies
1. The Right Stuff (1983)
“It was like being a boy. It was a boyhood dream to be an astronaut, and I got my pilot’s license after that. It was just a blast making it!” says Quaid, who plays Gordon Cooper. The movie delves into the early days of the United States’ space program. Set during the Cold War era, the story follows the lives of seven courageous astronauts known as the Mercury Seven, chosen to be the first Americans to venture into space, and the intense physical and psychological challenges they have to face.
2. The Rookie (2002)
The Rookie is the true story of Jim Morris, played by Quaid, who debuted in Major League Baseball at age 35. Morris is a talented but inexperienced athlete who must overcome doubts and challenges, and he forms unexpected friendships and learns vital life lessons. “I enjoy playing a real-life person, and getting to pitch, really pitch a baseball in the stadiums was like a vicarious dream doing that,” Quaid recalls. “And it’s a beautiful story.”
3. Reagan (Not yet released)
One of the newest Dennis Quaid movies has yet to be released but is getting a lot of buzz already. “I just finished Reagan, and it’s not out yet, but it’s probably the most challenging role that I’ve ever played,” shares Quaid. “Just getting to wonder what it was like being in his shoes. I was such a great admirer and trying to get inside his head was just really interesting, and it was an interesting part of history too.”
4. The Parent Trap (1998)
In this remake of the 1961 film starring Haley Mills, identical twins Annie and Hallie (Lindsay Lohan), separated at birth and each raised by one of their biological parents, discover each other for the first time at summer camp and make a plan to bring their wayward parents back together. “I really loved it because it revitalized my career and opened up a whole new audience,” smiles Quaid, who plays Nick Parker. “And it’s a fantastic story that just won’t go away.”
5. Breaking Away (1979)
Breaking Away is one of the first Dennis Quaid movies and follows working-class friends Dave (Dennis Christopher), Cyril (Daniel Stern), Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) and Mike (Quaid) who spend their post-high school days sparring with snooty university students, chasing girls and — in Dave’s case — dreaming of competitive bicycle racing. “This kind of started it all, made life easier for me and what an incredible story,” Quaid says. “It still holds up even though it was made in 1979.”
6. I Can Only Imagine (2018)
This movie is the true story of Bart Millard, who suffers physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father, Arthur (played by Quaid). When Arthur becomes terminally ill, he finds redemption by embracing his faith and rediscovering his love for his son. Years later, Bart’s troubled childhood and mended relationship with his dad inspires him to write the hit song “I Can Only Imagine” as singer of the Christian band MercyMe. “This is definitely one of my favorites because of the Erwin Brothers,” Quaid says. “They really took faith films to another level, and they continue to do that. I want to be in every one of their movies. They are just so great to work with.”
7. Frequency (2000)
John Sullivan (Jim Caviezel) is able to go back in time and undo the events of October 12, 1969, when the out-of-control Bruxton fire took the life of his father (Dennis Quaid), a heroic firefighter. “I loved getting to work with Jim Caviezel, who turned out to be Jesus [in The Passion of the Christ], and it’s a great father and son story,” Quaid says. “It was unexpected and such an interesting story.”
8. Innerspace (1987)
“I like doing that kind of a comedy,” Quaid says of the quirky sci-fi that involves him being shrunken in a capsule and injected into the bloodstream of Martin Short. It’s considered one of the funniest Dennis Quaid movies. “I’ve got to rate films by the experience that I had doing them. I remember sitting in the trailer with Marty Short every day, and I’d just laugh and laugh and laugh. That guy made me laugh so much. He’s the reason I still have my abs, my six-pack, because I was laughing so much with him.”
9. The Big Easy (1986)
“The Big Easy was a big turning point in my career because the movie came out and just went nowhere and then all of a sudden — which never happens — the second week it was out, it started to go because people discovered it through word of mouth,” Quaid recalls of the steamy drama, set in New Orleans, about the relationship which develops between a young police lieutenant and an uncompromising female DA. “It took off, and it made a lot of other things possible.”
10. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
One of the most thrilling Dennis Quaid movies is The Day After Tomorrow. After climatologist Jack Hall (Quaid) is largely ignored by U.N. officials when presenting his environmental concerns, his research proves true when an enormous “superstorm” develops, setting off catastrophic natural disasters throughout the world. “I loved working with director Roland Emmerich,” Quaid reveals. “Those big disaster movies are usually so difficult to shoot, and he just made everything so easy. He just knows what he’s doing, and it was fun. When you see the movie, you just go, ‘Wow!’ “
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Deborah Evans Price believes everyone has a story to tell and, as a journalist, she considers it a privilege to share those stories with the world. Deborah contributes to Billboard, CMA Close Up, Jesus Calling, First for Women, Woman’s World and Country Top 40 with Fitz, among other media outlets. Author of the CMA Awards Vault and Country Faith, Deborah is the 2013 winner of the Country Music Association’s Media Achievement Award and the 2022 recipient of the Cindy Walker Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Western Artists. Deborah lives on a hill outside Nashville with her husband, Gary, son Trey and cat Toby.