Today is André the Giant’s birthday. If he was still with us, he would have been 69. In honor of the big guy’s big day, we’re going to be looking at a slightly different side of his career. In terms of both size and star power, André was one of the biggest celebrities in the world at the height of career, which led to a lot of varied non-wrestling work. TV shows, commercials, movies, the talk show circuit, the giant did it all.
So, here’s a definitive ranking of André the Giant’s appearances outside of the squared circle…
10. Zorro (1991)
Did you know they made a Zorro show in the early ’90s? Well, they did. It starred a guy who kind of looked like John Cleese and paid tribute to it’s Latin main character by looking like the cheapest telenovela you’ve ever seen. André’s episode of the show actually gives him more to do than many of his TV roles. He plays the big brother of an accused bank robber, and he gets actual lines and everything, but the show still sucked, and André was way past his prime (hell, according to Hulk Hogan, he was about four years dead at this point). Not a high point of his career, but even so-so André appearances are still pretty fun.
9. B.J. and the Bear (1979)
For those not aware (and why would you be?), B.J. and the Bear was about a hunky trucker named B.J. and his pork pie hat wearing chimpanzee, Bear. Hey, it was the ’70s. Between this and the Clint Eastwood classic Every Which Way But Loose, “rogue-ish trucker travels the highways and byways with his totally random pet ape” was a full-on genre. Don’t ask me to explain why the f*ck the chimp was named Bear though.
André appeared in the sprawling two-part epic “Snow White and the 7 Lady Truckers.” See, there’s this group of sexy lady truckers, but iconic ’70s/’80s villain Charles Napier (you’ll definitely remember him as the leader of the Good ol’ Boys in The Blues Brothers) doesn’t think big rigs and ladies mix. That’s about all you need to know. These two episodes are a prime source of poofy-haired ’70s tail, but a pretty lousy source of André the Giant. The dude just exists in these episodes, popping up in the background from time to time with no explanation. His greatest contribution is holding a door closed, then briefly intervening in a decidedly homoerotic hot tub brawl between B.J. and Charles Napier.
8. The Greatest American Hero (1983)
The Greatest American Hero was a cheesy superhero show, mainly remembered today for having easily the best ’80s theme song in history. No, really, even better than Perfect Strangers
The Greatest American Hero was sort of a comedy and sort of not. I think they were trying to make a real superhero show, realized they weren’t capable more making things look better than complete garbage with an ’80s TV budget, and just decided to shrug it off and act like it was a goof all along.
Anyway, André plays a mad scientist’s “genetic monster” on the show. He doesn’t wear any make-up or anything; he’s just himself in sort of a dirty jumpsuit. André doesn’t get to do any acting, but it’s an interesting scene in that we actually get to see André overpowered by the superpowered star of the show.
7. Trading Mom (1994)
Trading Mom is one of those “classic” movies from the ’90s that celebrates kids being super crappy to their parents. In this case, a bunch of brats use a magic incantation to make their mother disappear. They then go to a magical “Mommy Market” where they pick out new moms. There are many reasons this one hasn’t entered the ’90s movie pantheon, despite it starring Vada from My Girl.
One of the moms they bring home is a circus performer, and she naturally brings the entire circus with her, including a strong man played by André. This was the big guy’s last acting role, and he’s not in great shape, but he’s clearly having fun. He gets to do all sorts of wacky André the Giant things! He lifts a cartoon dumbbell! He rips a bike apart! He throws knives at a little girl’s head! Okay, maybe he didn’t do that last one all that often.
6. Casse-tête Chinois Pour le Judoka (1967)
We’ve already covered this one in-depth, but you haven’t lived until you’ve seen baby André the Giant and his bowl cut rolling around and throwing judo chops with an agility that a guy his size has no right having. Also, much like the Greatest America Hero clip, André gets his ass owned here, which is always a fascinating sight.
5. Late Night with David Letterman (1984)
André’s appearance on Letterman is the prototypical giant wrestler late-night talk show appearance. The Big Show has essentially been reciting this same interview for his entire career. André talks about traveling and how he can’t deal with everything being so small in Japan. He also talked about how much he eats and drinks, touching on his legendary capacity for booze, and about how he used to be even bigger and recently trimmed down (definitely something Big Show always has to do). Pretty much everything he says has become a trope, but it all seems completely sincere coming out of André’s mouth. This is a dude just a little bit out of his element, answering questions to the best of his ability, and it’s charming as heck.
4. Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Hey, you know crazy vagina-mouthed monster from the end of Conan the Destroyer? That was actually André the Giant in an elaborate costume. You don’t even see André’s face in the movie, but I’m still rating it highly because the old Conan movies were extremely formative experiences for young Nate (I still have a very complicated relationship with Grace Jones), and come on… André the Giant played a flying purple people eater who beat up Arnold Schwarzenegger. Honestly, I should rate it higher.
3. Honeycomb Cereal Commercial (1989)
Okay, admission time: The Honeycomb commercial was easily my favorite André the Giant thing as a kid. Probably because I saw it a minimum of 10,000 times, but also because it was a friggin’ great commercial. I wanted to hang out in that treehouse so damn bad. Those kids had a robot! A life-sized robot with a little backwards hat that could detect the big taste of Honeycomb cereal! The big terrible taste of Honeycomb cereal, but André liked it, so my taste buds must have been mistaken.
Everybody tells stories about how gentle and kind André was, and it really comes across in this commercial. This huge weird looking dude hanging out with kids in the woods should have sent some serious stranger danger vibes, but it doesn’t at all. He just seemed like a chill dude to hang out with, y’know? Also, I will forever love André eating his Honeycomb with a giant wooden spoon.
2. The Princess Bride (1987)
Well duh, of course The Princess Bride ranks highly on this list. Anything else would have been, well, you know. Actually, I’m sure a lot of you expected it be number one (we’ll get to that shortly), but make no mistake, The Princess Bride is pretty much the perfect movie. All the characters in the movie are hugely likeable, and André’s Fezzik is certainly no exception. Unlike most André TV and movie projects, where he just shows up, growls and bodyslams somebody, he actually has a real character and a nice little arc here, going from rock-hurling bad guy to good guy.
If there’s a criticism to make about André in The Princess Bride, it’s that he was a physical mess at the time, so he’s not as mobile as he could be, but the movie actually uses he slowness to create sympathy for the character. Also, it probably forced them to give him more dialogue scenes. If André had been more action ready, we may never have learned about his legendary rhyming skills. Everybody loves The Princess Bride, but wrestling fans will always have a special attachment to it.
1. The Six Million Dollar Man (1976)
What could possibly be good enough outrank The Princess Bride? The frankly astonishing Six Million Dollar Man two-part extravaganza, “The Secret of the Bigfoot,” that’s what. André in full Bigfoot regalia battling Lee Majors is almost enough to snag the top spot on its own. Just check out the video above. The crazy porno soundtrack, Lee Major’s all-khaki get-up that’s unbuttoned halfway to the bellybutton, the rampant slo-mo, the ludicrous sound effects, the revelation that Big Foot is a robot. It’s seven minutes of flawless television.
Wait a minute… Big Foot was a robot? You better believe it. Make sure you’re in a safe place because you’re going to freak the eff out when I describe this plot to you. See, it turns out that Bigfoot is a robot created by aliens that live inside a mountain in the woods. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a giant earthquake set to destroy California, which can only be prevented by detonating underground nuclear bombs because, sure, that would totally work. The aliens try to stop Steve Austin (no, not that Steve Austin) from setting off the bombs, but they naturally fail. Thankfully, Steve and Bigfoot team up to free the aliens, so all’s well that ends completely insanely. Never let anybody tell you that old TV wasn’t ridiculous as all hell.
There you are, André the Giant’s most memorable adventures outside of the squared circle, definitively ranked. Do you want to try in vain to dispute my indisputable rankings? Know of any super obscure, yet great André appearances I missed? Hit the comments and we can have a giant conversation.