Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Ranking Movies Starring Pro Wrestlers From Worst To Best

Want to tick off a wrestling fan? Just ask them, "Y'know wrestling's fake, right?" If you want to see stars, then say that to a pro wrestler. If wrestling is "fake," every narrative is, too (e.g. Sir Ian McKellen isn't really a wizard). Pro wrestling is essentially live theater, only instead of lithe actors reciting Hamlet in Elizabethan garb, you have 6'6" monsters in spandex slapping each other. But wrestling is a tough gig for a performer, so it's no wonder so many of them hang up their trunks and try to make it in the movies. 

The most famous wrestler turned actor — and the most famous actor period — is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, followed by budding superstars John Cena and Dave Bautista. But pro wrestlers have starred in movies for decades. Some have stolen scenes in cult classics and all-time great films, while others wore tutus and tiaras. It's not pretty. And today, we're going to look at some of the best — and the worst — movies starring pro wrestlers. However, here are our ground rules. First, we're only including Johnson, Cena, and Bautista movies when those guys were still active wrestlers, not once they became full-time actors. Second, we're not talking about WWE-produced films (sorry, The Marine fans). Finally, you won't find any movies where the wrestler plays a wrestler, so no Rocky III or No Holds Barred. Ready to mark out? Join us as we break kayfabe and rank movies starring pro wrestlers from worst to best!

Before he was guarding the galaxy, Dave Bautista protected the House of the Rising Sun

Dave Bautista was one of the biggest (literally and figuratively) main event wrestlers of the 21st century. However, "the Animal Batista" actually didn't break into the business until relatively late, as he was born in 1969 (nice) and didn't show up in the WWE until 2002. Granted, it's easier to break big when you're, well, really, really big. Bautista was billed as "Batista" (probably because Vince McMahon doesn't like "u"), and during his initial seven-year WWE run, he won the Royal Rumble, multiple WWE and World Heavyweight Championships, and headlined WrestleMania. 

Big Dave took a break in 2010 to launch his acting career with House of the Rising Sun. In this 2011 straight-to-DVD release, Bautista (using his real name) plays a cop turned head of security who investigates a killing at a strip club called the House of the Rising Sun. So kind of a shadier Roadhouse ... but not nearly as awesome. House of the Rising Sun's critics' score is non-existent, as only two reviewed it (given both reviews are rotten, we'll say it's 0%). Meanwhile, the audience gave it 15%. That's usually a career killer, but Big Dave was not to be denied. He stuck with the Hollywood grind, finally earning his breakout role as Drax the Destroyer in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy.

Abraxas should've killed Jesse Ventura's political career

Jesse Ventura will go down in history for improbably being governor of Minnesota — and for being, uh, quite the character. But that's another article. He's also a legit badass, having served as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam. Ventura came home and became a bouncer, but he realized there was way more money in pro wrestling, so he changed his name from James George Janos to Jesse Ventura, and he launched an 11-year in-ring career, followed by an even more memorable career as color commentator and foil to the straight-laced, play-by-play guy, Gorilla Monsoon. 

Ventura left wrestling and launched his movie career in 1987, with featured roles in Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring vehicles The Running Man and Predator. In the latter, he uttered his famous line (which became his autobiography's title), "I ain't got time to bleed." But while Ventura didn't have time to bleed, he did have time to headline his first starring role, Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe. Ventura plays Abraxas, a space policeman who chases his former best friend turned evil supervillain to Earth. And yeah, Abraxas is awful. It has no critics' score (though the one critic who watched it gave it a rotten review), while its audience score is 19%. Is it terrible? Yes. Does it call into question his qualifications for political office? Also, yes. But if you have time to kill (but not to bleed), you should watch it if you're into "so bad they're good" movies.

Hulk Hogan leg-dropped his movie career with Mr. Nanny

Hulk Hogan is arguably the most famous pro wrestler ever. Sure, Dwayne Johnson is more famous as a movie star, while "Stone Cold" Steve Austin drew more money, but when you hear the words "pro wrestler," you think of Hulk Hogan's spray-tanned, 24-inch pythons tearing his red-and-yellow shirt. Hogan sought to parlay his wrestling stardom into a movie career, which makes sense given he first shot to fame following his pre-Hulkamania cameo as Thunderlips in Rocky III in 1982. However, since Hogan played an active pro wrestler in that, we won't include it here.

But 11 years later, Hogan played his most infamous role ... and the movie that's been used as a warning to any would-be "wrestler turned actor" ever since — 1993's Mr. Nanny. Yes, Hogan technically plays a pro wrestler, but we have to include it. Former pro wrestler Sean Armstrong becomes a bodyguard/nanny to some spoiled rich kids who habitually break babysitters, until, wouldn't you know it, they wind up bonding with Armstrong, then teaming up to stop a kidnapper. It's the classic tough guy turned teddy bear setup we've seen 10,000 times before. But with a 6% critics' score and 33% audience score, it's one of the worst movies on this list, killing Hogan's theatrical movie career and scaring Hollywood away from wrestlers for a decade. Dwayne Johnson finally kicked that door down but not before starring in his own Mr. Nanny2010's The Tooth Fairy.

Suburban Commando is really bad, brother

Vince McMahon tried to capitalize on Hulk Hogan's Hulkamania star-power with 1989's No Holds Barred, in which Hogan plays Rip Taylor (essentially himself), only in white-and-blue, not red-and-yellow. McMahon and Hogan supposedly tore up the original script and rewrote a new one in 72 hours, and given that backstory, you'd expect No Holds Barred to be a lot more entertaining. However, that's when Hogan broke free from McMahon's oversized biceps and prepped for a movie that's even more bonkers – 1991's Suburban Commando.  

In the movie, Hogan plays a space vigilante who comes to Earth for some rest and relaxation, renting a room from suburbanites played by Christopher Lloyd and Shelley Duvall ... where hilarity doesn't ensue. Yes, after starring in Back to the Future and The Shining, respectively, Lloyd and Duvall were playing supporting characters in a Hulk Hogan-starring vehicle. Show business is cruel, and so are critics, who gave this movie a 15% Tomatometer score. Thankfully, Hogan learned his lesson and never starred in a stupid movie again, launching an Oscar-winning career, starting with 1993's Mr. Nanny. That's sarcasm, brother!

Several pro wrestlers starred as football players in The Longest Yard

Adam Sandler is a huge pro wrestling fan, especially of the 1980s variety. And that definitely shows in his filmography. For example, Paul "The Big Show" Wight played Captain Insano, the pro wrestling hero to Adam Sandler's Bobby Boucher in 1998's The Waterboy. Sandler's love of the sorta' sport was even more on display in 2005's The Longest Yard. A remake of the 1974 comedy — but Sandler-ized for the 21st century – The Longest Yard is about a former pro quarterback (Sandler) who winds up in prison, but he becomes captain of the prison's inmate football team, which goes up against a team made of guards. 

Chris Rock, Nelly, and Burt Reynolds (who played the Sandler role in the original) also get on-the-poster billing, but the supporting cast is a who's who of pro wrestlers. There's Bill Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Dalip Singh Rana (aka The Great Khali), and "Stone Cold" Steven Austin. Critics didn't like it, but that's because it was an Adam Sandler movie, not because it featured pro wrestlers. It has a 31% Tomatometer score, but the audience gave it twice that, 62%, plus $158 million at the US box office, making The Longest Yard one of Sandler's biggest domestic hits.

The Scorpion King launched the Rock's reign as Hollywood royalty

Yes, Dwayne Johnson used to be a pro wrestler — a trash-talking, SmackDown-laying superstar known as the Rock. While Johnson is one of the world's most famous movie stars now, he was still very much an active wrestler when he got his first above-the-title starring role in 2003's The Scorpion King. Starring in The Scorpion King was a savvy move on Johnson's part, as it was a spinoff/prequel to the massively successful Mummy franchise, in which he played, you guessed it, the Scorpion King. 

The Rock (he was billed by his wrestling moniker until 2006's Gridiron Gang) is only in The Mummy Returns for about three minutes, but his presence hangs over the film like Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now until he finally shows up as ... one of the worst CGI characters ever. Yeah, that still "stings" (pun intended). The Scorpion King went from villain to hero in the 2003 prequel, for which the Rock was paid $5.5 million, the most ever by an actor in their first starring role, but chump change to his eventual nine-figure take home pay. Critics only gave The Scorpion King a 41% score, and moviegoers were even harsher, giving it 38%. However, it earned $165 million worldwide on a $60 million budget, much less than the previous Mummy movies but profitable enough to prove the Rock had serious movie star potential.

Steve Austin hasn't been as successful on the big screen as he was in the ring

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin is the biggest draw in pro wrestling history, selling more tickets, PPVs, and T-shirts than the Rock, Hogan, or Cena. However, Steve Austin was so associated with the "Stone Cold" character (his real personality turned up to 11) that he never parlayed his fame into movie stardom. Well, that, and he also starred in several horrible movies. Following Austin's supporting role in 2005's The Longest Yard, his first starring role was in 2007's The Condemned, a colossal bomb with $7.3 million (as a WWE-produced film, it doesn't make the list). 

Several straight-to-the junk bin films followed, which put the nail in the coffin of his big-screen career. Austin actually told Batista to learn from his mistakes and not take bad roles to pay the bills, advice Big Dave wisely took. But Austin finally got a notable role again, as a villain in the "every action hero ever" film, The Expendables. Austin was a small part of a massive ensemble, so he can't be blamed for its 42% critics' score, but he also can't be credited with its 64% audience score or its $268 million worldwide box office, either. But given that Austin's net worth is estimated to be $45 million, we doubt he's crying in his beer.

Kevin Nash went from wrestler to stripper in Magic Mike

Kevin Nash was one of the worst-drawing WWE champions of all time under his gimmick, Diesel (basically a bodyguard/truck driver/ladies man). He also killed one of the most successful angles in WCW's history, ending Goldberg's winning streak after Nash's BFF, Scott Hall, stunned Goldberg with a cattle prod (read that again if you need to). So yeah, his pro wrestling legacy is a bit mixed, though he also played Super Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze, which is more than we can say for Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, or the Rock. 

Nash was a natural for pro wrestling. The dude is hovering near seven feet tall, and admittedly, he is pretty (his nickname was Big Sexy). So it's only appropriate that his biggest post-pro wrestling gig was playing male stripper "Tarzan" in Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike. The 2012 comedy looks good on any actor's resume, pole-dancing its way to a 79% critics' score, 60% audience score, and $170 million worldwide box office on a $7 million budget. That's slightly more profitable than Nash's run as WWE champion, though Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey might've had something to do with that.

We never saw John Cena's star turn in Trainwreck coming

John Cena belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of pro wrestling, alongside the Rock, Stone Cold, and Hulk Hogan (oh yeah, and Ric Flair, because WOOOO!). Cena's accomplishments are even more impressive considering you can't see him. Being the company man that he is, Cena actually starred in several WWE-produced films (including The Marine, 12 Rounds, and Legendary) before his breakout role in 2015's Judd Apatow comedy, Trainwreck

Stealing the show in any movie is hard. Cena stole a movie from Bill Hader and Brie Larson — that's impressive (especially considering you can't see him). But it helps when you don't just look like Mark Wahlberg but like Mark Wahlberg ate Mark Wahlberg. Cena couldn't have asked for a more impressive (non-WWE Studios) big-screen debut, as Trainwreck earned an 84% critics' score, a 66% audience score, and $141 million worldwide. In a world without Dwayne Johnson, John Cena would be the most successful pro wrestler turned actor in film history, and we didn't even see him coming.

Roddy Piper kicked butt and chewed bubblegum in They Live

If a cooler line than "I'm here to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I'm all out of bubblegum" has been uttered in movie history (or history history), we haven't heard it. And frankly, we can't imagine anybody else but Roddy Piper saying it. 

By 1988, John Carpenter had established himself as the go-to horror and cult movie director, with Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York, and Big Trouble in Little China under his belt. Meanwhile, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper was establishing himself as one of the biggest stars in the squared circle, basically playing the Joker to Hulk Hogan's Superman (it makes sense if you watch pro wrestling). 

Piper main-evented WrestleMania, losing in a tag match against Hogan and Mr. T, and then had a boxing match with Mr. T at WrestleMania II that went to a no-contest when Piper body-slammed his opponent. Then at WrestleMania III, he met Carpenter. Piper (whose real name was Roderick Toombs) had already proved he had acting chops in Body Slam and Hell Comes to Frogtown, both in 1987, and he was just the kind of rugged, blue-collar badass Carpenter needed for his sci-fi satire of 1980s corporatism, They Live. Critics and audiences dug They Live, giving it 86% and 79% scores on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively. When Piper passed in 2015, he was remembered not only for his Hall of Fame wrestling career but also for They Live, which goes to show just how great this movie is.

Andre the Giant was a gentle giant in The Princess Bride

Director Rob Reiner needed a giant for his 1987 postmodern fairy tale, The Princess Bride, so he cast a literal giant, André René Roussimoff, better known by his ring name — Andre the Giant. Andre was born in Coulommiers, France, in 1946, and he was afflicted with acromegaly, a hormonal disorder that sometimes results in gigantism. While Andre's acromegaly made life physically uncomfortable — and at times even unbearable — he used his disorder to his advantage, becoming one of the (literally and figuratively) biggest stars in pro wrestling during the 1970s and 1980s. 

While nobody is exactly sure of his height (claims range from a more realistic 7'0" to a probably exaggerated 7'4"), Andre was undoubtedly massive, with his weight ranging from 380 lbs. to 555 lbs. Legend has it Andre could down 100 beers or 20 bottles of wine, but according to his Bride co-star Cary Elwes (via Biography), Andre's drinking was his way of self-medicating his physical pain. Andre is best remembered by wrestling fans for getting slammed by Hulk Hogan in front of at least 78,000 people in the Pontiac Silverdome (which the WWE inflated, like Andre's size, to 93,000). But to moviegoers, Andre the Giant will always be Fezzik the giant — and with good reason. With a 97% critics' score and 94% audience score, The Princess Bride is one of the best movies ever to star a pro wrestler.

A pro wrestler starred in one of the greatest movies of all time

The Godfather is one of the greatest movies of all time. That's not just hyperbole, the kind you'd hear from a wrestling promoter or a Hollywood producer. It won three Academy Awards (which is criminally small), including Best Picture. It was ranked by the American Film Institute as the second greatest movie ever, behind only Citizen Kane. It has an across-the-board 98% critics' and audience Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes. It also featured a pro wrestler. Surprised? We were, too. 

Lenny Montana (whose real name was Leonardo Passafaro) was a former pro wrestler and, according to The Frederick News-Post, a real-life mob enforcer. Montana was on The Godfather's set as a bodyguard to a mafioso from the Colombo crime family, who was there to keep tabs on Coppola's film. Coppola was so impressed by Montana's massive frame (6'6" and 320 lbs.) that, according to The Godfather Effect, he cast the Italian-American giant as Luca Brasi, Don Corleone's hitman. 

Despite being intimidating himself, Montana was so nervous about messing up his line in front of Marlon Brando that he practiced it over and over (a character trait added to the film). While Brasi wound up "sleeping with the fishes," Montana's acting career did not, as he had roles in The Jerk, Kojak, and Magnum P.I. But his greatest claim to fame remains The Godfather, the greatest movie to ever star a pro wrestler.