Believe it or not, veteran character actor Kurtwood Smith has a warm, endearing smile. It just took audiences over a decade to actually see him in a role that didn’t focus on his ability to scare children with his villainous gaze and determined grin. Thanks to That ’70s Show, we now associate him most as Red Forman, the curmudgeonly but loveable father to Eric Forman and patriarch to the gang of burnouts who hung out in his basement. Smith has had a long career of playing characters that weren’t always as soft and cuddly as Red Forman. Here are five of the most memorable Kurtwood Smith roles in which he didn’t have to hilariously teach a “foreign kid” to stop saying “Amedica.”
1. Flashpoint (1984)
Flashpoint may be a forgotten thriller from 1984 starring Kris Kristofferson and Treat Williams as border cops who find a dead body and a ton of cash, but Kurtwood Smith shines in a role as a crooked federal agent. This character is as sinister a son-of-a-bitch as they come, with contempt practically oozing out from his eyes. You are more likely to find a VHS copy of Flashpoint at a random flea market than catch it on Netflix, but take a look at just how good he is at being a bad guy as he delivers a John Malkovich-level performance.
2. Robocop (1987)
Clarence Boddiker, the villain Smith played in Robocop, is still remembered fondly by sci-fi fans for the Jack Nicholson-like glee that he displayed for causing mayhem and inflicting pain. Any scene that has Kurtwood Smith entering a room delivering the line “B–ches leave!,” and ends with him pulling a grenade pin out with his mouth, then killing a coked-up ‘80s yuppie, will surely elevate a film’s cult status.
3. Dead Poets Society (1989)
Red Forman might have had a hard time expressing outward displays of affection for his son Eric, but compared to Mr. Perry in Dead Poets Society, he’s a regular Phil Dunphy. To say this character was chilling is an understatement. Smith nailed the cold detachment of a father determined to make his son live the life he was being groomed for. If you haven’t seen Dead Poets Society, in the words of Red Forman, what are you waiting for, “dumbass”???
4. Citizen Ruth (1996)
Smith got the chance to act in Alexander Payne’s first movie, a dark comedy in which Laura Dern’s Ruth plays a poor pregnant woman who likes to huff paint and gets mixed up with both sides of the abortion debate. Norm Stoney (Smith) and his wife enjoy nothing more on a beautiful day than to take the kids down to the free clinic, scarf a box of donuts and shout “murderer” at the people entering the building. A still relevant satire, the film gave Smith the chance to display his comedic chops before That ’70s Show. Though we doubt that Red would’ve let a “dirty hippy” like Ruth stay in his home.
5. True Believer (1989)
Smith shines as a no-nonsense prosecutor in this underrated crime thriller where James Woods and Robert Downey Jr. attempt to defend a man wrongfully accused of a gang murder.