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The Most Successful Brian Dennehy Movie Of All Time

On April 15, 2020, acting legend Brian Dennehy died at the age of 81, his talent agency confirming the sad news in a statement (via CNN). During his four decades of working as an actor, Dennehy appeared in nearly 200 movies and TV shows, netting a handful of award nominations and a Golden Globe win. He was also a celebrated theater actor and two-time Tony award winner for his performances in Death of a Salesman and Long Day's Journey Into Night.

Dennehy was mostly known as a character actor who took on supporting roles and turned them into the most memorable parts of the project. Whether it was a comedy, drama, sci-fi, or just about anything in between, Dennehy's presence in a movie was always welcome. With a filmography as extensive as Dennehy's, there's no surprise that he's been a part of some of the most memorable commercial and critical hits of all time. Let's celebrate the late actor's memory by taking a look back at his most successful film of all time — plus a few other sparkling stand-outs.

The biggest financial success that Brian Dennehy was in

Dennehy has been in more than a few box office successes. The actor portrayed Sheriff William "Will" Teasle in the inaugural entry in the Rambo franchise, First Blood, which raked in an impressive $125 million worldwide when it premiered in 1982. Other films he's appeared in — like 1979's 10 and Baz Lurhmann's 1996 feature Romeo + Juliet, were also commercial hits. However, none of them come close to the juggernaut of Dennehy's career: Disney-Pixar's Ratatouille.

In the film, Dennehy joins a first-rate voice cast that includes Patton Oswald, Janeane Garafalo, and Will Arnett to play the part of Django, the leader of the rats and father of protagonist of the film, Remy. Even though he's voicing an animated rat in Ratatouille, the role is similar to many of the parts that Dennehy was known for during his career. As Remy's father, Django has a stern exterior that seems tough until you realize it's all in service of protecting his family.

Ratatouille raked in a whopping $623.7 million globally, and was also a hit with critics; the movie holds an impressive 96 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This also makes Ratatouille one of Dennehy's most successful critical accomplishments on film. However, there is another movie that bests it in terms of critical consensus.

Brian Dennehy's most critically acclaimed film

The biggest critical success of Dennehy's film career is the 1983 live-action Disney film Never Cry Wolf, which holds a 100 percent "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Based on the autobiography of Canadian environmentalist Farley Mowat, the movie tells the story of a man named Tyler (Charles Martin Smith) who ventures into Canada's northern extremes on a scientific expedition, and who ends up forming a bond with the region's wolves. In the film, Dennehy plays the role of Rosie Little, an eccentric bush pilot whom the protagonist encounters multiple times during his journey through the arctic.

Film critic Ronald Halloway, writing for Variety, said of the movie when it was released: "For the masses out there who love nature films, and even those who don't, [Never Cry Wolf] more than fits the commercial bill and should score well too with critical suds on several counts." Critics Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat offered even more exuberant praise for the film in their joint review: "Never Cry Wolf is a magical and moving work of art. It is exotic in its wilderness settings, rich in its character portraits of both humans and canines, and stirring in its timely message about the interrelatedness of all living things."

Both Ratatouille and Never Cry Wolf were major success stories, but neither are likely to be first on the list of memorable roles of Dennehy's career. So, what are the parts the late actor is best remembered for?

Brian Dennehy's most iconic roles

Dennehy is often remembered for playing fatherly roles, but one of his early iconic parts was anything but warm and paternal. As Sheriff Will Teasle in the first film of the Rambo franchise, Dennehy is merciless, cruel, and chilling. Although the franchise produced multiple sequels on the strength of Sylvester Stallone's Rambo, Dennehy was instrumental to the first pic's success by giving the troubled Vietnam vet a dynamic villain to take on.

Another '80s film that Dennehy left his mark on was Ron Howard's Cocoon, in which he played the role of a mysterious alien being who comes to earth to retrieve members of his race that are living under the ocean in the titular cocoons. As "Walter," Dennehy had the difficult task of portraying the emotions of an alien race through the body of a human, and he pulled off the feat miraculously well.

Perhaps Dennehy's most loved part is in the 1995 comedy Tommy Boy. In the film, he plays the late Chris Farley's boisterous on-screen father, Thomas "Big Tom" Callahan. Although he's only in the film's first act, Dennehy's chemistry with Farley resonated with viewers long after Big Tom's unexpected death on his own wedding day.