12 Famous Athletes Who Went On To Star In Hollywood Films

OJ Simpson

OJ Simpson

Before running from the police in the most publicized car chase in history, OJ was one of the greatest running backs the NFL has seen. His hilarious roles in all three Naked Gun films are by far the best in his career after he became an actor and broadcaster in between his NFL career and becoming a criminal.

Of course, he later became the subject of the first season of American Crime Story in The People vs. OJ Simpson.

John Matuszak

John Matuszak

The man behind the deformed monster named Sloth in The Goonies was the 6’8˝ and 300 pound former NFL star who played for five different teams and helped the Oakland Raiders win two Super Bowls before he retired in 1982.



Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain

Presumably inspiring the likes of Mike Tyson and Luis Suárez to come, Wilt Chamberlain played Bombaata who bit off a chunk of Conan’s ear in Conan The Destroyer. Of course we all know that he was a champion on the court and (apparently) between the sheets.

Hulk Hogan

Hulk Hogan

If ever there was a perfect situation for a crossover then this was it. One of the most famous professional wrestlers in history, Hogan could not fail in the 80s and so was hired by Stallone to play Thunderlips in Rocky III.

Oh yeah, and he also appeared in a somewhat racist and controversial sex tape.



Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was one of the greatest basketball players of all time, played a few roles post-sports career but his best was as a co-pilot in the hilarious Airplane! Released in 1980, the film saw him get mistaken for himself by a little kid who gives his on-court performance some constructive criticism.

Tommy Morrison

Tommy Morrison

Back in the late ‘80s and before the current era of Eastern European domination in the heavyweight boxing division, America was in search of the next great white heavyweight champion in an era when black boxers had the monopoly in the weight division. Tommy Morrison, a professional heavyweight boxer at the time, successfully portrayed the next white heavyweight champ in Rocky V and a few years after the movie was shot, life imitated art when Morrison became the WBO heavyweight champion of the world by beating George Foreman for the title.



Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson began his acting career after winning the WWE heavyweight title on more than one occasion. Obviously, he’s used that platform to become one of the biggest names in Hollywood, and one of the most likeable guys on the planet.

Bubba Smith

Bubba Smith

Starring as the intimidating cop in the Police Academy films known as Moses Hightower, Bubba Smith played nine seasons with three different teams in the NFL.



Dolph Lundgren

Dolph Lundgren

Dolph Lundgren’s unbelievable list of achievements; master’s degree in chemical engineering; he served two years in the Swedish Marine Corps at the Amphibious Ranger School; he worked as a model, he worked as a bouncer and also competed as a professional karateka (karate practitioner) in international tournaments winning the European championships in 1980 and 1981, and a world heavyweight title in Australia in 1982. All somewhat overshadowed by his role in Rocky IV as the Russian killing machine, Ivan Drago.

Johnny Weissmuller

Johnny Weissmuller

He was a professional swimmer and water polo player winning five gold medals and one bronze medal at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics. He is however, best known for his role in the Tarzan films, shocking audiences with shirtless display in the pre-steroid era.



Jet Li

Jet Li

Jet Li won the Chinese national championship in the acrobatic martial art of wushu at age 11 where his prize included a trip to the US to meet the President. Li made a living as professional martial artist and acrobat for many years before he was spotted by local Chinese film producers. He has starred in a number of blockbusters and is one of today’s highest-paid action stars.

Jason Lee

Jason Lee

Lee’s former career saw him popularize the 360 flip, during his time as one of the most prominent professional skaters in the world before becoming an actor who plays the bum with the mustache in the small screen's My Name Is Earl.