Super Bowl Scares: 5 Great Horror Movies Featuring Ex-NFL Players

Horror and football aren’t exactly common bedfellows (horror sports movies is an untapped genre we need to see milked for all it’s worth), but that doesn’t mean to say they’re worlds apart either.  Throughout the years, players of the great game have made the jump to Hollywood and, as such, occasionally found their way into our beloved genre fare.

Although footballers turned actors tend to be more at home in action and comedy flicks, a handful have featured in some fine scare fare (usually with action elements), and with the Super Bowl just around the corner, we thought it would be fun to look back at five of the best genre flicks featuring ex-NFL stars, whether in substantial roles or quick cameos.  No doubt most of you will agree that this selection of movies featuring former stars of the field is the cinematic equivalent of scoring the winning touchdown.

It is surprising that horror and football haven’t collided more often, however.  It is a sport where overgrown monsters manhandle each other after all, and Momma says it’s the Devil.  OK… enough Waterboy references.  Let’s get on with the show.

5) Terry Crews – Inland Empire (2006)

Terry Crews

Terry Crews has become such a big player in Hollywood that it’s easy to forget he once sported a football helmet, but his career included stints with the Rams, the San Diego Chargers, the Washington Redskins, and the Philadelphia Eagles.  Plus, he was in Adam Sandler’s The Longest Yard remake in 2005, a powerful story of inmates of a prison rising against authority by beating the guards in a ball game.  In the movie he played Cheeseburger Eddie, and that’s his best contribution to the sport ever.

Crews’ career has seen him appear in a number of tentpole action blockbusters and comedies, including Idiocracy (2006), Terminator Salvation (2009) and The Expendables series, but he did enter horror territory for a brief moment in 2006 with a “blink and you’ll miss it” appearance in David Lynch’s Inland Empire.

Crews’ role in Lynch’s surreal nightmare is nothing to write home about, but he was a part of the movie in a brief role, so he makes the list.  If you want to see him in some real horror, however, you can always check out The Ridiculous 6, which is horrific in its own right…

4) Bubba Smith – Gremlins: The New Batch (1990)

Bubba Smith’s NFL tenure lasted for nearly a decade, and during that time he won a Super Bowl, appeared in the Pro Bowl twice, and was a first team All Pro for the 1971 season. His playing days would see him don a jersey for the Baltimore Colts from 1967-1971, the Oakland Raiders from 1973-1974, and the Houston Oilers from 1975-1976 before he made the jump to acting in 1979.

Best known for playing Moses Hightower in the Police Academy movies, a role he reprised in all but one of the sequels, he would also appear in various films and television shows, including the overlooked action movie Black Moon Rising written by the one and only John Carpenter and starring Tommy Lee Jones.

His one foray into horror came in Joe Dante’s fearsome critter caper Gremlins: The New Batch in a cameo appearance as himself.  While far from the most substantial part on the list, we can’t ignore the fact that an ex-footballer starred in an underrated sequel to one of the best movies of all time now, can we?

3) Jim Brown – The Running Man (1987)

Jim Brown is an NFL legend. During his career he led the rushing touchdown charts five times, won a championship, featured in nine Pro Bowls, and won the NFL MVP award four times. He was the 1957 Rookie of the Year and a part of the 1960s All-Decade Team as well as the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. All in all, a pretty gosh darn successful career.

Brown made the jump to acting a couple of years before he retired from the sport that made him famous. In 1967 he would star alongside manly-man acting legends Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes, and Donald Sutherland in the western The Dirty Dozen before landing a starring role in the 1970 war adventure film Dark Side of the Sun, which is a favorite of Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. In the 1970s he would become a star of several Blaxploitation movies, and in the 1990s he’d gain mainstream recognition starring alongside Al Pacino in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday (1999). However, some of you might fondly remember him from Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! in 1996 or for lending his voice talents to Joe Dante’s excellent Small Soldiers in 1998. But The Running Man is where it’s at when it comes to Brown’s filmography…

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, The Running Man stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards, a wrongly convicted prisoner in a near future thrust into a deadly game show for the public’s entertainment. Mr. Brown plays Fireball in a fun supporting role.

The Running Man is turning 30 this year, and its memory still burns brightly in genre cinema. Rob Zombie’s 31 contains some of its DNA by borrowing from its concept, and the socio-political subtext has proven to stand the test of time with articles emerging recently discussing how it predicted the contemporary political upheaval being felt right now. But putting all of that to one side for a moment and taking it as a slice of entertainment, The Running Man is a kick-ass sci-fi action movie that stands the test of time because it’s good ol’ fashioned violent fun.

2) Carl Weathers – Predator (1987)

Weathers’ NFL career was brief, playing only a handful of times as a linebacker for the Oakland Raiders in the 1970-71 season.  In 1971 he would join the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League and play a further 10 games.  In 1973 he would retire from the sport and pursue acting, excelling at the craft almost from the get-go.

One of Weathers’ earliest roles saw him appear alongside fellow ex-footballer Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and Pam Grier in the marvelous Bucktown (1975).  He would also appear alongside Grier again that same year in Friday Forster.  His big break would arrive in 1976, when he starred opposite Sly Stallone in Rocky as Apollo Creed, which is the role he’s arguably most associated with to this day.

However, in 1987 came Predator, an action-packed rumble in the jungle and one of the greatest things to ever happen to this world.  His handshake/arm wrestle with Arnie is one of the most memorable moments in the history of motion pictures, and his performance in the film is more than up to scratch.  Weathers has a significant part in the movie until poop hits the fan and we’re left to the final showdown between the Austrian Oak and the extraterrestrial hunter with the Rastafarian locks.

1) Fred Williamson – From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

During his football career Fred “The Hammer” Williamson was renowned for his hard hitting tackles and unmatched charisma.  A self-promoter, he would often trash talk upcoming opponents and back it up on the field, and he enjoyed eight pro seasons as a player before retiring in 1967 and making the jump to acting in 1970.

Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, Williamson was the lead star in several Blaxploitation movies and a frequent collaborator of the legendary Larry Cohen. If you want to see Williamson at his best, hunt down Black Caesar (1973), but his filmography boasts countless gems including Bucktown (1975), Inglourious Basterds (1978), and Vigilante (1983). He’s no stranger to genre fare either and can be found in Italian post-apocalyptic gems like The New Barbarians (1982), 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982), and Warriors of the Lost World (1983). He was a great football player, but as a cult actor he’s one of the best.

However, without a doubt, the best movie Williamson has ever been a part of is Robert Rodriguez’s masterpiece From Dusk Till Dawn. Based on a script from Quentin Tarantino (who also stars), the crime/action/horror hybrid follows two criminal brothers on the run from the law who decide to hole up in a biker bar run by vampires. Who am I kidding? You all know this movie by heart…

In the film Williamson plays Frost, a ‘Nam vet and all-round bad ass who steals the show with his war flashbacks before turning into one mean bloodsucker. It’s a terrific performance from The Hammer, even though it’s only in a supporting role. He gets to tear it up alongside other great actors like George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, and Tom Savini, which is essentially a cinematic dream team.

Agree with our picks? Have a few favorites of your own?  Chime in below in the comment section!

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Kieran Fisher

You have your fear, which might become reality; and you have Godzilla, which IS reality.

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