Top 10 Athletes Turned Actors


Looking for a list of athletes who have gone on to be successful actors? If so, you’ve found it! This list ranks actors by their career earnings through their acting careers, and omits their earnings as athletes. Quite a few athletes have had success on both the field and the stage, so read on to find out who the biggest names in both show business and sports are.

10. Shaquelle O’Neal,  $8 Million

Known as “Shaq”, Shaquille O’Neal only starred in one film, Kazaam. Unfortunately for Mr. O’Neal, Kazaam has gone down as one of the worst reviewed films in history (according to Rotten Tomatoes and IMBD). The movie also failed to recoup its budget at the box office and may have ended Shaq’s acting career before it even began. Still, Shaquille O’Neal did earn a nice $7 million dollar paycheck for his efforts. Besides staring in Kazaam, Mr. O’Neal has had smaller roles in various TV shows, music videos, and also had an important role in the film Blue Chips.

9. Carl Weathers, $8 Million

Carl Weathers played only eight games in the NFL and 18 games in the Canadian Football League. While success did not find him on the professional field, Mr. Weathers turned out to be pretty good on the stage. His most iconic role was probably as Apollo Creed in Rocky, but he also had memorable roles in Predator and other hit films. His most recent roles have been primarily guest appearances and other short roles, but Mr. Weathers is still active around Hollywood. Owing to his size and demeanor, he often plays military characters and other similar roles.

8. Bruce Lee, $9 Million

Unfortunately, Bruce Lee has passed away, however, if he were alive today, he would most likely rank higher on this list. The sad fact is that Mr. Lee passed away while still in his prime. Before he passed, he starred in several major movies and was on his way to becoming one of the greatest martial arts actors of all time. His movie Way of the Dragon (Return of the Dragon in the United States) is still considered by many to be the best martial arts film ever made. Before becoming a movie star, Bruce Lee enjoyed a successful career as a professional martial artist.

7. Burt Reynolds, $12 Million

Burt Reynolds was a fullback for the Florida State Seminoles. Coming out of high school, Mr. Reynolds was among the most coveted recruits in the country. An early injury, however, ended his football career before it every really got started. Mr. Reynolds ended up landing some parts in local plays, which kick-started his acting career. He would go on to play iconic roles in Smokey and the Bandit and White Lightening, among other films.

6. Jason Lee, $15 Million

Besides acting and working on films in other capacities, Jason Lee is also a professional skateboarder. While his skill in the streets is well-known, he brings home most of his money through acting. Right now he’s starring in his own sitcom My Name is Earl and earns $125,000 per episode. He has also stared in numerous movies and done voice acting for numerous projects. He still loves to hit the streets as a skateboarder, but is largely retired in that capacity. He does still have some sponsorships with skateboarding companies, which provide him with extra income.

5. Michael Jordan, $20 million

Michael Jordan starred in only one movie, Space Jam, and he played himself. Yet that one single appearance earned Jordon an estimated $20 million dollars. Turns out that it was a great investment for Warner Bros. While the movie received largely negative reviews, it went on to earn over $230 million dollars, largely due to Jordon’s fame. Of course, for a man believed to be worth over $650 million dollars, $20 million doesn’t make much of a difference. Jordon is now retired from the NBA and acting, but still earns millions through his business deals and sponsorships.

4. Chuck Norris, $26 million

Chuck Norris is one of the most beloved actors of all time. Before acting, however, Chuck Norris was a professional martial arts fighter. Mr. Norris actually lost the first two tournaments that he participated in, but improved quickly and became one of the most respected fighters in the world. He even won the Fighter of the Year award by Black Belt Magazine. Mr. Norris went on to act in various roles and become a pop icon. He is now worth approximately $26 million dollars, with most of his wealth coming from his acting career.

3. Mark Harmon, $40 Million

Mark Harmon never played professional sports, but he was a star quarterback at UCLA and led the Bruins in an upset over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who were then ranked number one in the country. Mr. Harmon’s on field success did not translate to a professional career, however, so he turned to acting. Now, Mr. Harmon is the star of the hit TV show NCIS, and earns over $500,000 per episode. With $40 million dollars in his pocket, Mr. Harmon is one of the highest paid and most successful TV actors in Hollywood.

2. Dwayne Johnson, $45 million

How should wrestlers be classified? Are they actors or athletes? For the sake of this article, we are going to count them as athletes and count their income from movies and other TV shows separately. Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson has easily become the most successful wrestler turned actor of recent years, if not all time. His hits include Fast and the Furious 5 and 6, and The Scorpion King. Mr. Johnson has a net worth of $70 million dollars, with at least $45 million of it coming from movies.

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger, $260 million

Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most famous actors of all time, and he is also number one on our list. Before acting, however, Mr. Schwarzenegger was a professional body builder and achieved numerous awards in said line of work. Mr. Schwarzenegger got his first big break in 1982 as Conan The Barbarian and in 1984 as the Terminator, a role he has now reprised through several sequels.