Entertainment

The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors  

Ranker Film
12.9k votes 1.3k voters 16.5k 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
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
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
Kurt Russell is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Forrest Gump, The Thing, The Fox and the Hound
Professional baseball player
4
Chuck Norris is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
The Expendables 2, DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, The Delta Force
5
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
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
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
The Undefeated, Mitchell, Juggler of Notre Dame
Professional football players, 1962-1976
8
Bubba Smith is listed (or ranked) 8 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
9
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
Jason Lee is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
The Incredibles, Almost Famous, Dogma
Professional skateboarder
11
Bruce Lee is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Enter the Dragon, Limitless, Fist of Fury
12
Arnold Schwarzenegger is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Terminator, Predator
13
Ed O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Wayne's World, Wreck-It Ralph, Little Giants
14
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
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
Jesse Ventura is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Predator, Batman & Robin, The Running Man
Professional wrestler, 1975-1986
17
Dolph Lundgren is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Rocky IV, The Expendables, The Expendables 2
18
Tony Danza is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Crash, Don Jon, Cannonball Run II
19
Terry Bradshaw is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Robots, The Cannonball Run, Failure to Launch
20
Alex Karras is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Blazing Saddles, Porky's, Victor Victoria
21
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
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
Steven Seagal is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Machete, Above the Law, Exit Wounds
24
Jim Brown is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
Mars Attacks!, Any Given Sunday, The Dirty Dozen
25
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