Since movies were invented sometime around when ET came out, there has always been an influx of cross-platform performers. Comedians becoming actors, politicians making cameos to make people believe they’re not aliens, and a plethora of athletes showing up in films so they can add some supplemental income to their often meager professional sports person salary. More often than not, the athlete plays a small, bit role in the film, but on occasion, the athlete is given the burden of carrying the entire flick. In honor of the Academy Awards coming up this weekend, which you probably don’t care about, I’ve complied the “best-of” list of athletes in film history, accompanied by a few “worst of,” which you assuredly do.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar – Airplane
As the co-pilot in the hilarious Airplane, Kareem stole a couple of scenes, especially when he acknowledged himself as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, just the kind of self-awareness an athlete needs to be taken seriously in a movie.
Carl Weathers – Happy Gilmore, Rocky, Arrested Development
It’s easy to forget that Weathers was a linebacker, briefly, for the Oakland Raiders and the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. In fact, I plan on forgetting that in the next day or so. But his legendary role as Apollo Creed, as well as his later-in-life career revamp as Chubbs (Happy Gilmore) and a penny-pinching version of himself in Arrested Development.
Jason Lee – My Name is Earl, Almost Famous, Dogman
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jason Lee was one of the most notable professional skateboarder in the entire world, inventing flips and founding Stereo Skateboards along the way. His acting career has taken off with his lead role in My Name is Earl, though he was also a powerhouse in Almost Famous, playing a member of Stillwater, an up and coming band.
The Rock – The Scorpion King, Fast Five, The Other Guys
According to The Rock a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson’s IMDb page, every wrestling event he has ever participated in is considered acting. Apparently wrestling might not be real. But Dwayne Johnson was a highly touted football player at U-Miami before he laid smackdown on jabronis on a weekly basis.
And now for the Worst Performances
Michael Jordan – Space Jam
If being bad at acting were being good at basketball, Michael Jordan would be Michael Jordan. But it’s not, so if acting were baseball, Michael Jordan would be Michael Jordan. There were about six real humans in Space Jam, and Michael Jordan was about the ninth-best actor. At least he helped save Bugs and the crew.
Arnold Schwarzenegger – Batman and Robin
The Governator was the world’s biggest (pun!) bodybuilder, then turned into an action star. He excelled in the Terminator movies, when his acting chops could be on display as a robot. But Batman and Robin was a film that may have actually been below Arnold’s career.
Shaquille O’Neal – Kazaam
“Hey guys, let’s get a genie who raps.” The worst movie pitch of all-time, yet it somehow came to fruition. Oh, and (spoiler alert for those of you who plan to watch ancient bad movies), “Let’s kill the child he befriends.” Shaq is, for the most part, a likable, funny guy, but Kazaam was a disaster.