While several athletes have appeared in movies over the years, movies are almost always about sports. In 2022 alone, a handful of NBA players appeared in Hubbub, a movie about basketball by Adam Sandler. The only notable moment an athlete recently made an appearance at an unsportsmanlike facility has been on the Netflix series Murderville, with Marshawn Lynch. With that in mind, there have been many movies in the past that prove that athletes can make a good move to Hollywood.
It seems that the best sports movies based on history are comedies. There are athletes who have turned out to be so adapted to acting that they developed a second career out of it, starring in action movies, dramas and even horror films. For every LeBron James appearance in a sports film like Cosmic Jam 2there are athletes who prove that they can hang even when there are no balls or baskets in them.
Kareem Abdul-Jabber – The Plane! (1980)
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In 1980, the parodies were still hilarious and few of them had ever achieved the success of the Zucker Brothers Plane!. The comedy rigged a catastrophic film Airport and contained a star-studded cast in the history of a plane that lost its pilots and needed someone to help land it.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of the NBA’s most popular and intimidating stars in the 1970s and 1980s. In Plane!, assumed the role of co-pilot. The funny thing was that he was playing a man named Roger Murdock, but everyone thought it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The punch line came when the camera finally showed he was wearing the Los Angeles Lakers match shorts.
Andre the Giant – Princess Bride (1987)
Stream on Disney +
In the 1980s, professional wrestling was booming thanks to big stars like Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. Both gentlemen tried their hand at the cinematic world, and the best film that came out of this effort was easy Princess bride.
There have not been many roles for someone like Andre the Giant. When he took on the role of Fezzik, he had reached the point where he had trouble walking and was nearing the end of his wrestling career. However, his endless charisma and charm made him an instant fan favorite in the movie.
Dave Bautista – Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Stream on HBO Max
Many wrestlers moved to Hollywood to become actors. Names like Dwayne Johnson rule the money, while John Cena has made a name for himself in more comedic and adventurous roles. However, Dave Bautista overshadowed both the quality of his performances.
Bautista has taken on some of the roles expected of athletes, such as his place in the James Bond movie and as Drax in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy. However, that was where he assumed a silent role as Replicant in Blade Runner 2049 that he has proven to have much more to offer than just physical appearance.
Vinnie Jones – Lockout, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Available for rental on Apple TV and Prime Video
Before staring in several action movies, Vinnie Jones was a very popular soccer star. Jones has played for some of the biggest teams in the UK, including Leeds United and Chelsea. When he retired, he wanted to try acting.
His first film made him a star when he took on the role of Big Chris in Guy Ritchie’s full-length debut, Lock, spare and two smoking barrels in 1998. He stole the scene every time he appeared, an impressive and always dangerous looking figure. It was the template on which he based his entire career.
Brett Favre – There’s Something About Mary (1998)
Stream on Freevee
Sometimes it is enough for an athlete to show up at the right time and make the audience laugh to be successful. This has happened several times in real sports movies, such as when Dan Marino appeared in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective as him.
However, it also happened in the Farrelly brothers’ comedy, A way for a blonde. The movie starred Cameron Diaz as a woman with loads of suitors, but then revealed who she chose at the end, and it was Brett Favre who played himself. Favre showed his full charisma and amused the audience with a perfect performance.
LeBron James – Train Wreck (2015)
Stream on AMC +
When people watched Train wreckOne of the great takeaways was John Cena as a very funny actor. It was the movie that really pushed Hollywood to give it more diverse roles. However, Cena wasn’t the athlete who stole this movie.
While this launched Cena’s career after WWE, it also showed just how fun LeBron James was. James played himself in the movie and stole every scene he appeared in. At the end Train wreckfans wanted to see him in another movie. Unfortunately, Cosmic Jam 2 he did not have the same success.
Terry Bradshaw – Failed Start (2006)
Stream on Paramount +
No one could have expected what would happen when NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw took on a role in a comedy film Unsuccessful startup. He starred with Kathy Bates as Matthew McConaughey’s parents in an attempt to get him to marry.
Bradshaw was always funny and showed his comedic timing in this movie. Then he kicked off his pants, and no one would ever look at him the same again. He even has a reality show with his family now and it could be because of the new fans he has gathered in this movie.
Jim Brown – The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Stream on Netflix
Once upon a time Jim Brown was the best runner to ever step onto the soccer field. The retreating Cleveland Browns was the all-time leader of the NFL until Walter Payton broke his record. After retiring, Brown began his career in Hollywood and has made some great films to his credit.
Brown only proved his talent in his second film, when he joined the star cast The dirty dozen. Being one of the least experienced actors in the movie, Brown stuck to his own which helped him progress to several action films throughout his career.
Jason Lee – Almost Famous (2000)
Stream on Starz
Before taking the roles of Banky and Brodie for Kevin Smith and then becoming a TV star named Earl, Jason Lee was a professional skateboarder. Lee was a successful athlete, one of the first professional skateboarders to receive advertising contracts. Lee wanted to play and Kevin Smith gave him a break.
However, a few years later, Cameron Crowe allowed Lee to stretch his acting muscles and did not disappoint. He played Jeff Bebe’s rock and roll star in Almost famous. It was Lee’s best performance so far and was instrumental in taking on bigger roles in the future.
Alex Karras – In the Fire of Saddles (1974)
Stream on Hulu
Burning saddles remains one of the most beloved comedies in the history of cinema. It is impressive that in the movie, which stars the hilarious Gene Wilder, there is still a less experienced athlete turned into an actor who stole this movie from him.
Alex Karras was an NFL star who played for the Detroit Lions for 12 seasons before retiring and switching to acting. In Burning saddles played a supporter of Mongo, sent to kill Waco Kid. Karras was hilarious in the role which helped lead him to his greatest role as George Papadopolis’ television dad Webster.
NEXT: Top 10 Professional Athlete Performances in Sitcoms