Top 10 Sports Movie Actors of All Time
We all love sports movies. Hollywood puts such a fantastic touch on the drama, the comedy, and the euphoria of sports.
The movies also serve in the documentary role, preserving wonderful sports stories for us and putting them in front of us so that we can feel like we were there for great moments of sports past.
Just as the movies so well complement the experience of sports, some actors were just born to be in sports movies.
Here is a list of the Top Ten Sports Movie Actors of All Time.
10. Jackie Earle Haley
Haley played Kelly Leak, the most Bad News of the Bad News Bears, and also the best player on the team. A few years later, he played small-in-stature-but-large-at-heart Moocher in Breaking Away.
Moocher's character was the natural outcome of Kelly Leak having been the biggest kid in middle school but then not having had a growth spurt with all the other kids the summer after ninth grade.
9. Woody Harrelson
Before playing washed up point guard Monix in Semi-Pro, Woody Harrelson played a high school football in Wildcats, street ball in White Men Can't Jump, and a washed up one-handed bowler in Kingpin.
8. Rene Russo
Given Russo's penchant for appearing in sports movies, it is difficult to believe they couldn't find a role for her in A League of Their Own.
Russo played the romantic opposite to Cleveland Indians catcher Jake Taylor in Major League, and then starred opposite Kevin Costner in Tin Cup.
7. Denzel Washington
In He Got Game, Denzel plays a convict who has been paroled for one week to try to convince his son, one of the top prep players in the country, to play for the warden's alma mater in exchange for a severely reduced sentence for Denzel.
In Remember the Titans, he plays the uplifting Coach Herman Boone, who brought white players and black players together in the uncertain and at times violent aftermath of desegregation.
In The Hurricane, Denzel plays wrongfully jailed Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in the story of about his life being jailed for over 20 years for murders he did not commit, and then eventually being freed and exonerated.
Hard to make jokes about Denzel Washington's sports movies.
6. Paul Newman
The original sports movie star (okay, maybe that was Gary Cooper), Newman starred as Fast Eddie Felson in 1961's The Hustler, starring opposite Jackie Gleason, and then reprised the role 25 years later in Martin Scorsese's The Color of Money, starring along side Tom Cruise.
In between, Newman starred in the much acclaimed hockey comedy Slap Shot. At the end of his life, he gave the voice to Doc Hudson in the movie Cars.
5. Chelcie Ross
The inimitable Chelcie Ross, a career character actor, happened to have landed key roles in four of the greatest sports movies of all time.
Ross played George in Hoosiers (best quote: "Look, mister, there's two kinds of dumb, uh guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and, uh, guy who does the same thing in my living room.")
He played the junk-balling bible-thumping Harris in Major League (best quote: "you tryin' to say Jesus Christ couldn't hit a curveball?).
It was Ross, as Dan Devine, who reluctantly allowed Rudy to get on the field at the end of Rudy.
And it was Ross who played the crooked Sen. Calvin Baynard, whose life Damon Wayans saves by throwing a football from the field into the luxury boxes at the very instant that a sniper attempts to kill Baynard in The Last Boy Scout.
Okay, so maybe The Last Boy Scout isn't one of the greatest sports movies of all time.
4. Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro does sports movies in a way that only Robert De Niro can. He played a Hodgkin's disease-afflicted catcher in Bang the Drum Slowly, a dark, angry, self-destructing boxer in Raging Bull, which, by the way, many feel was one of the greatest performances of all time, and a deranged San Francisco Giants stalker in The Fan.
Robert De Niro, ladies and gentlemen.
3. Dennis Quaid
Dennis Quaid has quietly put together an excellent career playing athletes.
His characters represent a steady progression through the life of an athlete. In Breaking Away, he portrayed Mike, the star quarterback-turned-misanthrope struggling with the realization of his own commonness.
With Gavin Grey, the Heisman winning quarterback he plays in Everybody's All-American, Quaid has obviously succeeded now at the college level, but Grey's life is torn apart by alcoholism, failed business ventures, and marital issues.
In Any Given Sunday, Quaid is now a veteran quarterback whose sun has begun to set with the emergence of Jamie Foxx's Willie Beamon.
In The Rookie, Quaid plays a washed up former minor leaguer making one last miraculous run at making it to the majors.
Finally, in The Express, about the life of Ernie Davis, Quaid plays Syracuse University football head coach Ben Schwartzwalder.
2. Wesley Snipes
Although better known for the Blade movies and for starring as drug dealers in Sugar Hill and New Jack City, Snipes has had a prolific sports-movie career.
Snipes first ever role was as Trumaine, one of Goldie Hawn's unruly high school football players in Wildcats. From there, Snipes moved to baseball and starred as one of the great sports movie characters of all time, Willie "Mays" Hays, in Major League.
Snipes moved on to basketball in White Men Can't Jump, starring opposite Woody Harrelson. He then moved back to baseball, starring as major league superstar Bobby Rayburn in The Fan.
Finally, Snipes appeared in Futuresport. I don't know what that was about, but the tag line is "In 2025, a revolutionary sport is the only way to stop a revolution."
1. Kevin Costner
The Irony of Kevin Costner's career is that he had several huge-budget blockbuster flops that were all terrible, while his humble, unassuming, low-budget sports movies were all charming and wonderful.
I'm not saying that JFK, Dances with Wolves, and The Untouchables were bad, because they weren't. But the true Costner projects, including The Postman and Waterworld, were just awful.
Meanwhile, Costner—who played college baseball at Cal State Fullerton—created Crash Davis, one of the great iconic sports movie characters of all time, in Bull Durham.
He put a permanent imprint on the collective sports psyche of America in Field of Dreams.
He was charming, humble, unassuming, and fun as Roy McAvoy in Tin Cup.
And For the Love of the Game was campy, ridiculous, melodramatic, over-the-top, and frankly, really kinda great.
Talk about a guy who needs to stick to what he does best.