by Joel Hanek
With the Oscars coming up just around the corner, it’s time that we pay tribute to some of the most versatile and overlooked actors: professional wrestlers. They are masters of the live performance, can pull out surprisingly funny and heart-felt performances on screen, and have convinced me to eat more processed meat than any other acting demographic on the planet. (Rest in peace, Macho Man!)
While these giant men in tights make cameos as the unidentified goon in every other action movie (I’m looking at you, Kevin Nash), here are my picks for the top five starring roles for pro-wrestlers in film.
5. “Walking Tall” (2004)
Way before Dwayne Johnson starred in PG-rated family friendly flicks and even way before he became the franchise savior, the man formerly known as The Rock was destined to be the new Arnold of the action world. In this remake of the 1973 film by the same name, Johnson takes vigilante action against a corrupt town with his fists and a badass weapon: a chunk of wood. Much like after I watch any Batman movie, this film instills the desire to want to patrol the streets and take justice into my own hands – but instead, playing “Arkham City” seems more reasonable.
» HONORABLE MENTION: “The Rundown” (2003). Swap one ’90s icon for another (Sean William Scott instead of Johnny Knoxville) as a sidekick, add in an “I’ve been over it since ’Pulp Fiction'” Christopher Walken as the villain, and voila… “The Rundown”!
4. “No Holds Barred” (1989)
In the 1980s, during pro-wrestling’s first reign, Hulk Hogan ran wild all over pop-culture. In his first starring role, Hogan put his acting chops to the test by playing an extremely popular pro-wrestler named Rip who, much like you and I, was tormented by The Man and resolved his problems with body slams.
» HONORABLE MENTION: “Suburban Commando” (1991). In this scenario, Hulk Hogan’s impossible body mass is explained by him being a space alien and not being a ‘roided out ’80s pro-wrestler. Playing off Christopher Lloyd as the straight man, this movie has a surprising amount of cheesy charm.
3. “Predator” (1987)
Who knew that two of the stars of this movie were destined to be future United States governors? Apparently, the Predator did, because he was a jerk and promoted interstellar anarchy. Although he doesn’t survive, the original friendly neighborhood libertarian Jesse “The Body” Ventura provides great support to Schwarzenegger & co. by chewing lots of tobacco, being a “sexual tyrannosaurus” and having literally no time to bleed.
2. “They Live” (1988)
In my opinion, John Carpenter’s 1988 movie “They Live” is one of the best science-fiction movies of all time. Like all great sci-fi, there’s a powerful underlying message wrapped in a fantastical metaphor — in this case, the motive for this outlandish allegory comes from Carpenter’s anti-conservatism stance and his distrust of Reagan-era politics. If that last sentence bored you, it’s a movie where Roddy “Rowdy” Piper goes around beating up people who are secretly space aliens. The movie also gave us one of the greatest lines of all time (“I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubble gum!”), not to mention the best fight scene of all time. It’s six minutes long. It’s the best.
1. “The Princess Bride” (1987)
If you have not seen this movie yet – please stop what you’re doing, leave your work/school/wherever you are and immediately watch it. For children of the ’80s, Rob Reiner’s tribute to fairy tales became an instant definition of the genre as the homage became fortified into a classic itself. I’ll restrain myself and will try not to rattle off quotes from Vizzini or The Dread Pirate Roberts and instead focus on the lovable big man himself, Andre Rousimoff, otherwise known as Andre the Giant. In one of his only starring roles, Andre plays Fezzik, the big-hearted protector of Westley and Inigo – and while Andre isn’t the best actor on this list, he adds a level of charm that no one else can. Enough said: just play us out, Andre.
Tell us your favorite wrestler-starring movies in the comments section and on Twitter!