For Belgium, Wilmots scored 28 goals in 70 caps, his first coming in May 1990. He went to four World Cups, playing in three. After being an unused substitute in 1990, he went scoreless in 1994, but getting two goals in 1998 and adding three in 2002. Wilmots is Belgium's leading goal scorer in World Cup history. Wilmots also played in Euro 2000, when Belgium co-hosted the tournament.
Wilmots became a football manager in summer 2004 for Sint-Truidense, but was sacked in February 2005. From 1 October 2009 on, he served as assistant for Dick Advocaat and later for Georges Leekens. On 15 May 2012, following the exit of Georges Leekens, Wilmots assumed the Belgium reins on an interim basis before going onto become permanent coach, signing a contract until June 2014. Wilmots shows eager to build in automatisms in the Red Devils squad: "I have been commenting Euro's and World Cups for too many years, I want to be actually there again now", he explains his wish to qualify for the World Cup 2014 tournament in Brazil. On 11 October 2013, Belgium qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Wilmots is credited with "not only giving the young group confidence in themselves as well as enjoying a close relationship with his players but also at the same time being capable of instilling discipline to the squad."
After retiring as a footballer, Wilmots went into politics. He was elected to the Senate for the French-speaking liberal party, the Reformist Movement (Mouvement Réformateur or MR) in the 2003 federal election. His political career is not considered very successful. In 2005, he announced that he wanted to resign as a senator, a rather unconventional, and criticized constitutional move.