I wanted to do something a bit different and fun this week, and seeing as David Beckham had a cameo in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword I decided to look at some of the other times that sports stars appeared in films. Now this could be cameos or staring roles. It’s also important to note that being British there will probably be fewer athletes from American centered sports like Basketball, Baseball, or American Football simply because those sports don’t have the global presence and I don’t know most of the stars.
10) Lewis Hamilton, Cars 2 – Cars 2 if easily the worst Pixar film ever made, but you know what really made a lot of sense? Casting one of the biggest and best names in motorsport to play the car version of himself, Lewis Hamilton. In some of the non-English language versions of Cars 2 there was also the inclusion of other great Formula 1 drivers such as Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, or Emerson Fittipaldi. He does only appear in a small voice role so he can’t be higher on the list, but it is casting that makes so much sense.
9) An insane amount of people, Goal 2: Living The Dream – Goal 2: Living The Dream makes the list for the sheer amount of legendary footballers they managed to get involved with the film. Whilst the first Goal only managed to score the Newcastle United Football Team, Goal 2 somehow managed to secure what was essentially the entire Real Madrid team (oh and the Real Madrid team involving Raul, Zidane, and Figo), not to mention many players from Barcelona and Arsenal. It’s a ridiculous list of talented sport stars, probably more than any other film out there.
8) Neymar, xXx: Return of Xander Cage – The most recent xXx film is completely ridiculous. And the level of silliness that it would go to is well established in the opening scene where Samuel L. Jackson’s Agent Gibbons is attempting to recruit Neymar into the xXx program. It’s a scene that completely sets the tone for the film, and is hilarious to boot. Neymar’s appearance will instantly let you know as an audience member whether you will enjoy the film or not. Oh and stops a robber by kicking a napkin holder into their face. xXx: Return of Xander Cage is insane over the top fun, and that starts right there in the opening scene with Neymar.
7) Lance Armstrong, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story – This one is in here just because of how hilariously ironic it now is. His motivational speech to Vince Vaughn’s Peter La Fleur to convince him not to quit the dodgeball tournament now just comes across as one of the most accidentally hilarious pieces of casting ever. At the time his speech about never quitting after his cancer and how “with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and I won the Tour de France five times in a row” was a genuine moment. But, since he was revealed to be drug cheat it has just become a hard moment to stomach in the film, and makes the scene awkward comedy gold.
6) Tony Bellew, Creed – Most of the sport stars to appear on the list are cameos either for comedic effect or to make the sporting world they’re in feel real by having these genuine sport stars show up. What is so great about Tony Bellew’s appearance as “Pretty” Ricky Conlan in Creed is that he’s a genuine boxer. So rather than selling the world that the films in, because the Rocky franchise has had 6 films to establish that, he’s there to sell the fight sequences and the action. And boy does he do that. Thanks to Bellew, the work put in by Michael B. Jordan, and the direction from Ryan Coogler, the final fight in Creed is probably the best boxing match in cinema history.
5) Mike Tyson, The Hangover – The less said about the Hangover sequels the better, but that original film still has some big laughs. None more so than when Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champion of the world shows up. When the friends return to their hotel room to find Tyson singing and air drumming along to Phil Collins before just cold-cocks Alan and demanding that they return his tiger. It is so bizarre, that it’s still the moment most people remember from the film. Tyson’s cameo was such a big part of what made The Hangover a success, he was even the big talking point from the trailer, that he earned a high spot on this list.
4) Michael Jordan, Space Jam – So Michael Jordan cannot actually act, but that doesn’t stop Space Jam being a huge nostalgic experience from my childhood. Throwing Michael Jordan together with some of the classic Looney Tunes characters in a basketball game is just a ridiculous idea, but one that makes or a highly entertaining movie for kids. Set after Michael Jordan retired from basketball to try his hand at baseball, and its Jordan’s ability to make fun of himself with Space Jam that kind of makes it work. The whole concept is patently ridiculous, and without Jordan’s involvement it would have been a complete flop. It’ll be interesting to see if the LeBron James helmed sequel will be as big a hit.
3) Pele, Osvaldo Ardiles, Bobby Moore, and others, Escape To Victory – Escape To Victory is seen by most people as the best film about football every made, and quite right to. Taking football out of the normal setting and throwing it into an exhibition match between Allied prisoners of war and a German team during the Second World War just gives it something more interesting than the normal rigmarole of Sport films. Whilst there are more than just the three players mentioned, those are the ones who stand out during the match, probably because they were the biggest stars. Oh and Pele banging in an overhead kick in one of those epic moments, that only really works because Pele is clearly able to actually pull that off.
2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Airplane! – Airplane! may just be the funniest film of all time, if not it’s certainly in the Top 5, and one of the most memorable sequences in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s appearance as the flight’s navigator? Roger, who may or may not be Abdul-Jabbar. He’s part of the hilarious interactions between the cabin crew revolving around their names, Roger, Oveur, and Victor. Most memorably he is confronted by the young boy who visits the cockpit as to whether he is Kareem Abdul-Jabar. His sudden snap out of character when the boy insults his performances that year is hysterical. This is easily one of the best appearances by a sport star in a film.
1) Vinnie Jones, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – Vinnie Jones was known as something of head case when he played football. He was always incredibly aggressive, so it’s no surprise that he turned that into playing the hard man in British gangster films. Whilst he’s good in Snatch, it’s his first collaboration with Guy Ritchie, Lock Stock, that earns him top place on this list. His turn as Big Chris is probably the moments that made him the most successful sport star to transfer to the world of acting, and may have even found a better niche in gangster films. The moment where he smashes a guys head in a car door for threatening his son is iconic, and is even kind of mirrored in the first season of Daredevil. For that scene alone Vinnie Jones would’ve earned himself the top spot on this list, but he manages to stand out throughout the film.
So those are my favourite appearance from sport stars in films. Let know what you think of my choices, and what your favourites are in the comments.