The 411 Movies Top 5 03.08.12: Week 364 - Top 5 Movies Starring Wrestlers
Posted by Shawn S. Lealos on 03.08.2013
From Fast Five and They Live to The Princess Bride, The Wrestler, Predator and more, the 411 staff counts down the top 5 movies featuring professional wrestlers in the cast!
Welcome to Week 364 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.
The 411mania writers were given the following instructions: With Dead Man Down, The Call and the new G.I. Joe movie hitting theaters this month, fans get three professional wrestlers in varying roles. With that in mind, this week we count down the best five movies to have a professional wrestler in the cast.
Honorable Mentions: No Holds Barred (1989), The Expendables (2010), See No Evil (2006), The Wrestler (2008), Escape from New York (1981), Rocky III (1982), Over the Top (1987), Road House (1989)
5. Body Slam (1986)
I know lots of people don't like this movie because it's cheesy as hell. It isn't "realistic" when it comes to the business of pro wrestling (in this movie it's real and not staged). But what it lacks in reality it more than makes up for it with comedy. Dirk Benedict, of The A-Team, is a sleazy music producer who ends up managing pro wrestler "Quick" Rick Roberts (Roddy Piper) and creates "Rock 'N Wrestling" (rock and roll and pro wrestling). The Barbarian shows up, as does "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Bruno Sammartino, "Classy" Freddy Blassie, Sam Fatu, Sheik Adnan al Kaisy, the Samoans, and Captain Lou Albano plays the movie's villain ("Hey, sign this Lou!"). If you haven't seen this Hal Needham directed wrestling comedy, track it down and give it a shot. It's ridiculous but it's a ton of fun. It really is.
4. Tactical Force (2011)
I haven't seen all of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's movies, but of the ones that I have seen, 2011's Tactical Force is the best. Austin is the head of a small, badass SWAT team on probation for making a gigantic mess in a supermarket. While practicing maneuvers in an abandoned warehouse/training facility, Austin and his team (the great Michael Jai White is a member of the team) are attacked by heavily armed criminals hell bent on finding something valuable. Austin is a hoot in this, easily moving back and forth from legitimate action hero that can kill a guy by staring at them to ridiculous comedy (like the time Austin, after killing a guy, says that he would be proud if he killed the guy with his armpit smell). From what I've seen this Tactical Force Austin seems to be moving towards the stoic action hero idea instead of exploring the smart ass killer. I'm not going to say it's a shame, but I do wish Austin did more of these kinds of movies alongside the more straight up serious action movies. Variety is a good thing.
3. Jungleground (1995)
This low budget action flick used to be on The Movie Channel all the time back in the late 1990's. I don't think it's been on TV since then. It's a damn shame as it's one of Roddy Piper's best movies. Jungleground is a sort of riff on Escape From New York which sees Piper's undercover cop having to escape out of the Jungleground, a gang infested city area that few cops want to venture into. Led by Odin (JR Bourne), a major drug gang gives Piper's character until morning to get out. Piper kicks ass throughout the flick (he suplexes a guy over a car!). I really need to see this again. There's so much I don't remember.
2. Faster (2010)
I haven't seen all of the Rock's movies, either, but of the ones that I have seen, Faster is his best work to date. He's a total badass from the start of the movie and never lets up. The Rock even gets to act, and within the right movie he can emote and "feel" with the best of them. Faster is the right movie. The only thing I didn't care for was the professional assassin character. I still don't understand why he has to be in the movie. The movie isn't killed by that character's presence, but I wouldn't have minded seeing a leaner, meaner Faster. Hopefully The Rock delves into this kind of movie again at some point. He's obviously very good at it.
1. They Live (1988)
John Carpenter's alien invasion movie is one of the director's best efforts, and it's Roddy Piper's best movie. Piper plays John Nada, a drifter just minding his own business when he finds out the truth about the world. Basically, the world is run by ultra pro business alien Republicans hell bent on "expansion." The aliens keep humanity "asleep" via a signal sent out via a TV station in California. The only way to "see the truth" is with special sunglasses created by a resistance movement that, when it isn't planning on what it should do next to stop the aliens, helps the homeless and gets its ass kicked by the cops. Piper is so damn good in this movie it's amazing that no one since has really tried to get the same kind of performance out of him. And Keith David, as Nada's buddy Frank, is superb, too. Subversive., timeless, and chock full of great action bits (the alley fight between Piper and David is still the best on screen fight in movie history) and great lines ("I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum." Ha.
Honorable Mention: Blazing Saddles, Rocky III, Man on the Moon, Spider-Man
5. The Princess Bride (1987)
Andre the Giant appeared in a few films and TV shows during his life, but this is the one he will be most remembered for (you know, outside of that whole wrasslin' thing). Fezzik was the perfect role for Andre, the gentle giant who has prodigious girth and strength but is really just a kind guy forced into being a bad guy by circumstances. Rob Reiner's fantasy-action-romance is one of the great films of the 80s and was an easy inclusion on this list for me.
4. They Live (1988)
"I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubblegum." With those words, Roddy Piper walked into cinematic history in John Carpenter's fantastic sci-fi paranoid thriller. Piper has a relatively low percentage of great films considering how many he's done, but when he gets it right then he really nails it. His attitude, his epic fight with Keith David, his great one-liners...Piper's performance stands on par with some of the best action heroes of the 1980s and the film is one of the best films of Carpenter's impressive career.
3. Predator (1987)
"I ain't got time to bleed." Seriously, wrestlers get the best lines sometimes. As Blain in Predator, Jesse Ventura was the ultimate bad-ass and even Schwarzenegger's Dutch seemed less tough by comparison. Predator is, like They Live, an amazing sci-fi action film that edges on horror. It's such a well-constructed action film and Ventura is an essential part of it, making this another easy one for this list.
2. The Wrestler (2008)
Darren Aronofky's The Wrestler is a 411 favorite for obvious reasons, but it also doesn't hurt that the visionary director used real-life wrestlers to portray many of the roles in the film. Whether it's WCW alumni Ernest "The Cat" Miller as The Ayatollah or Necro Butcher, Claudio Castagnoli, Robbie E., Chuck Taylor or more, the film is filled with pro wrestlers and frankly it's to the film's benefit. The inclusion of these guys not only gave the film credibility among pro wrestling fans, it also made the film feel more legitimate and it contributed to making the film an absolute gem of a sports drama.
1. The Godfather (1972)
"Wait, what?" I hear you say. Yes, he may not be one of the top-billed stars but there is in fact a professional wrestler in The Godfather, and he is an important character in the film before he is sent off to sleep with the fishes. Lenny Montana, who played Luca Brasi, worked from the 1950s all the way through the 70s and held multiple NWA titles including the NWA Texas Tag Team Championship with Gene Kinski. Brasi is a relatively small but essential part of Coppola's epic crime drama and it qualifies for this list as a result. Do I really need to explain why it's the best film on this list? Didn't think so.
Shawn S. Lealos
5. Fast Five
The Rock is easily the best "movie star" to come out of the WWE and I love so many of his movies. However, if I could just pick out one of his movies to add to this list, it would be Fast Five, a movie that shocked me. I had given up on the Fast and Furious franchise, and suddenly it re-invented itself and roared back to life with this sequel. A lot of that has to do with The Rock playing the antagonist and the scenes with him and Vin Diesel were epic. The Rock is best as an action star and he really helped return this franchise to the greatness it has not seen since the first movie.
4. Ed Wood
In Plan 9 from Outer Space, Tor Johnson starred as one of the main antagonists, a monstrous man. In the biopic of that movie's director, Ed Wood, WWE superstar George "The Animal" Steele took on the role as Tor. The movie was fantastic, with Burton shooting it in beautiful black and white and Johnny Depp turning in a great performance as Ed Wood. Burton is a polarizing filmmaker, but this movie remains his true masterpiece, one that he doesn't rely on his gothic crutches to pull off and one that it was clear he made out of a true love for his subject.
3. They Live
At one time in my life, this movie would have been number one and nothing else could have touched it. I think I have quoted the "I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass" line more than I have almost any other movie line. This was a time when Rowdy Roddy Piper was cool and John Carpenter was the king. For the ones of you who have never seen it, They Live is about an alien invasion that happened under our noses. No one knows that the aliens have taken human forms and took over powerful roles in the world, both politically and corporate-wise. The only way to see the aliens is with special sunglasses, which Roddy Piper gets a hold of. The entire movie is nonsense, but it is the most entertaining nonsense you will probably ever see.
2. The Princess Bride
I think I have included The Princess Bride on a large number of my Top 5 lists since I took over this column. There is a reason: it is a GREAT movie. Of course, the wrestler involved here is Andre the Giant in one of his rare film roles. He plays a large monster of a man and a henchman to the villain in the movie. However, this is Andre, so his bad guy wasn't really that bad in the end. He has some really funny lines and never seems out of place in this role, despite his dialect problems. If The Princess Bride is on, I will watch it every time.
1. The Wrestler
There are a ton of real wrestlers in this movie about professional wrestling, so I'll just throw out the name of the Necro Butcher. There have been a lot of movies about wrestling, but none have respected the sport as much as this one. The movie shows the horrors, pain and suffering that comes in a sport that too many people call "fake," when they mean "pre-determined." Fake sports don't cause this many injuries to the competitors, and Darren Aronofsky shows it the respect it deserves here. Over all that, this is a story about what happens to someone when the only thing they know is taken away from them, contrasting Mickey Rourke's aging wrestler with Marisa Tomei's aging stripper. This is a story about life passing you by. It is not only the best movie with real professional wrestlers in the cast, but one of the best movies you can watch regardless of genre.