He and his Deliverance (1972) partner Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward were named the top villains of all time in Maxim magazine's "Maxim Goes to the Movies" issue for their performance as the mountain men in the John Boorman classic.
He appeared in eight movies with Clint Eastwood from 1974 to 1989, when Eastwood stopped using his "stock company".
Originally, Stanley Kubrick wanted McKinney for the role of the Drill Instructor in Full Metal Jacket (1987). McKinney was about to fly to London to meet with him, but Kubrick canceled at the last moment. He later explained to friend John Boorman that the prospect of meeting the Mountain Man from Deliverance (1972) was simply too terrifying.
After their infamous scene together in Deliverance (1972), McKinney and Ned Beatty played genial (and platonic) friends who are members of the same Western gang in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972).
Ghost Town: The Movie (2007) was McKinney's last Western film.
Had one son, Clinton McKinney.
He has appeared in two films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Deliverance (1972) and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).