A bit part in Crazy Mama (1975) led to Quaid's first major role in the 1977 drama September 30, 1955. He gained notoriety as a rebellious townie in the sleeper hit Breaking Away (1979), resulting in higher-profile parts. Quaid scored a career breakthrough four years later playing astronaut Gordon Cooper in The Right Stuff, a role that turned the actor into a bankable leading man in movies such The Big Easy (1986) and Suspect (1987).
Among Quaid's other big-screen credits are Great Balls of Fire (1989) and Far from Heaven (2002), for which he earned a Golden Globe nod. His TV work includes an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated turn as Bill Clinton in the HBO film The Special Relationship (2010).