Celebrities The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors  

Ranker Film
12.6k votes 1.3k voters 15.5k views 35 items

List Rules Vote up the athletes-turned-actors who have had the best acting careers

You probably didn’t even know that some of your favorite actors got their start in the sports world! In fact, several athletes found a second career in film and television, thanks to their talent on and off the field. These athletes who became actors prove that they have star power no matter what industry they’re in.

From football players and pro skateboarders to soccer stars and basketball legends, plenty of athletes turned actors are shaking off the dumb jock stereotype and proving that they’ve got true emotional depth. Or at least a knack for comedic timing. Some went on to star in their own TV shows and movies, other played spot-on impressions of themselves on screen.

Who is the most famous athlete turned actor? Sean Connery is definitely one of them. The actor best known for playing James Bond was such a good soccer player that he was offered a position with Manchester United. He ultimately declined, saying, “I realized that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23. I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves."

Former professional skateboarder Jason Lee has starred in the hit TV show My Name is Earl. Carl Weathers appeared in the Rocky films and he also played a parody of himself in the series Arrested Development.

Are you surprised that there are so many actors who used to be athletes? Vote up the former sports stars who became the best athletic actors to ever grace the screen. Vote down the hacks who should have stuck to their first love.
list ordered by

1
531 141
Carl Weathers is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Rocky, Predator, Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Professional football player, 1970-1974

2
449 144
Sean Connery is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Goldfinger, The Untouchables, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Bodybuilder and footballer

3
401 132
Chuck Norris is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
The Expendables 2, DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, The Delta Force

4
412 140
Kurt Russell is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Forrest Gump, The Thing, The Fox and the Hound - Professional baseball player

5
426 166
Lou Ferrigno is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, Hulk - Professional bodybuilder, 1969-1994

6
353 163
Esther Williams is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
That's Entertainment!, Till the Clouds Roll By, Bathing Beauty - Competitive swimmer

7
203 136
Bubba Smith is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Police Academy, Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, Police Academy 3: Back in Training - Professional football player, 1967-1976

8
199 139
Jason Lee is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
The Incredibles, Almost Famous, Dogma - Professional skateboarder

9
181 124
André the Giant is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
The Princess Bride, Conan the Destroyer, Micki & Maude - Professional wrestler, 1963-1992

10
202 146
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
The Undefeated, Mitchell, Juggler of Notre Dame - Professional football players, 1962-1976

11
201 175
Ed O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Wayne's World, Wreck-It Ralph, Little Giants

12
229 209
Bruce Lee is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Enter the Dragon, Limitless, Fist of Fury

13
211 198
Arnold Schwarzenegger is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Terminator, Predator

14
296 305
Dwayne Johnson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Fast & Furious 6, Fast Five, The Other Guys

15
149 138
Fred Williamson is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
From Dusk till Dawn, MASH, Starsky & Hutch - Professional football player, 1960-1967

16
134 125
Dolph Lundgren is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Rocky IV, The Expendables, The Expendables 2

17
150 146
Jesse Ventura is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Predator, Batman & Robin, The Running Man - Professional wrestler, 1975-1986

18
114 128
Tony Danza is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Crash, Don Jon, Cannonball Run II

19
99 139
Terry Bradshaw is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Robots, The Cannonball Run, Failure to Launch

20
116 166
Steven Seagal is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Machete, Above the Law, Exit Wounds

21
105 151
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Space Jam, He Got Game, Looney Tunes: Back in Action

22
108 156
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
The Hangover, The Hangover Part II, Scary Movie 5

23
99 145
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Grown Ups 2, Jack and Jill, Scary Movie 4

24
88 131
Alex Karras is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Blazing Saddles, Porky's, Victor Victoria

25
91 138
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Broken Arrow, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Dollar for the Dead

26
89 135
Jim Brown is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Mars Attacks!, Any Given Sunday, The Dirty Dozen

27
86 131
Bob Uecker is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Major League, Major League II, Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco

28
98 151
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Magic Mike XXL, The NFL's Funniest Players, NFL Moment of Impact

29
80 136
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Airplane!, Fletch, BASEketball

30
148 254
Stone Cold Steve Austin is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
The Expendables, The Longest Yard, The Condemned

31
67 144
Ed Marinaro is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, Fingers, The Gong Show Movie

32
63 176
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, The Towering Inferno, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear

33
55 159
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Any Given Sunday, Shaft, The Comebacks

34
51 152
Ray Allen is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
He Got Game, Harvard Man

35
71 202
Caitlyn Jenner is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Jack and Jill, Can't Stop the Music, The Hungover Games