Hollywood has the capacity to recreate the sinking of the Titanic, so it seems reasonable to expect them to be able to recreate an authentic looking jump-shot. But for whatever reason, the athletic performances in sports movies often come off looking about as realistic as the Kidman-Cruise sex scene in Eyes Wide Shut.
We crown the most ridiculous performances in the four major sports: basketball, football, baseball and boxing (sorry movie-hockey, we'd compare you to real hockey but nobody remembers what an NHL game looks like anyways), and give the lifetime achievement award to the actor most frequently miscast as someone with any semblance of athletic prowess.
5. Tim Robbins as Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham
Kevin Costner tends to be able to mimic believable athletic motions, which is probably why he’s played a baseball player in 177 movies thus far in his career. Unfortunately for fans of sports flicks, Costner’s dramatic range doesn’t extend far beyond “my facial nerves have been damaged, rendering me incapable of expressing human emotion.”
Hoping that someone with acting chops could counterbalance Costner’s post-accident Christopher Reeves performance, Tim Robbins was cast as Costner's flame throwing rival. Producers apparently didn’t count on the fact that Robbins’ pitching wind-up would look like an arthritic donkey attempting to do yoga, and encountering violent muscle spasm midway through his routine. Thus, the film proves the old adage that if you're looking for someone to play a pitcher whose Major League-caliber fastball has earned him the nick name 'Nuke,' you might want to watch him throw first.
Honorable Mention for Un-Athletic Performance in a Baseball Movie
Gary Busey as Chet ‘Rocket’ Steadman in Rookie of the Year
Less convincing pitching motion than his 12-year-old co-star,
Chelci Ross as Eddie “Jobu Needs a Refill” Harris in Major League
While Harris probably has the most ridiculous throwing motion of any pitcher in fake-baseball history, the movie doesn’t take itself seriously enough for it to matter.
4. Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson in White Men Can’t Jump
The producers of White Men Can't Jump inexplicably decided to cast the retarded bartender from Cheers as a street ball phenom, which makes even less sense when you take into account that Harrelson is a slow white guy whose jump-shot looks more Bill Cartwright than Larry Bird.
We have a better idea of why producers thought that Snipes would work as the smack talking, juke throwing point guard. It’s the same reason he’d probably be the first guy picked up at the Minneapolis YMCA: white guys all assume that athletic looking black dudes are awesome at hoops. One can only imagine the awkwardness that ensued when Snipes showed up to the first day of the shoot dribbling the ball off his foot, and writer/director Ron Shelton had to avoid explaining why he'd assumed Snipes would be good at basketball in the first place.
Honorable Mention for Un-Athletic Performance in a Hoops Movie
Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf
For most of the film, the producers hide Michael J. Fox’s lack of coordination behind a Harlem Globetroter in a wolf costume, but when the script calls for Fox to play sanz body hair, it’s high comedy as he leads his team using what can only be described as a side armed jump shot.
Dwayne Schintzius in Eddie
Among the stiffest athletic performances by a white guy in the history of sports movies, Shinzis gets extra points for having been in the NBA at the time of the performance.
3. Vince Vaughn as Jamie O'Hara in Rudy
During the phase of his career when Vaughn made the mistake of trying to play roles that weren’t just hilariously perverted variations of his own personality, he showed up in Rudy as a blue chip quarterback on the same team as Sean Aston’s annoying go-getter. If you look at physical traits alone, which we’re assuming is the only thing that Hollywood producers look at when casting sports movies, Vaughn doesn’t seem like an outright bad choice here. Robbed of his riffing improvisational ability, he’s still a tall, athletic-looking guy (assuming that you catch him on a day when he doesn’t inexplicably weigh 250 lbs).
However, when Vaughn tries to make an athletic move with the football in one practice scene, he takes the two daintiest steps since man began walking upright and thrusts a hand out to the side like a woman with cramps, before getting leveled by Mikey from Goonies. This leads to an on-field temper tantrum, and a scene in Wedding Crashers in which the football-movie gods of karma unleash holy hell on him for ever trying to strap on the pads.
Honorable Mention for Un-Athletic Performance in a Football Movie
Scott Bakula in Necessary Roughness
We actually thought this was just an especially long episode of Quantum Leap in which the incredibly out of shape Bakula leaps into the body of a college football quarterback despite throwing like he's been sitting on his hand for a week. We're still betting that this is how the movie was pitched.
2. Sylvester Stallone in Rocky I-IV (Early Rounds Only)
Sure, the later rounds in Rocky fights are among the most compelling moments in sports cinema. But before you get to the part where Rocky guts one out for Mickey or Apollo or whichever loved one his opponent has recently killed, there’s always the first couple minutes of action in which Rocky uses his face to block every single punch the other guy throws. You'd think after four movie-long ass-kickings the guy would learn how to believably take a punch, but Stallone inevitably spends the early rounds of the fight with his hands at his sides, a surprised look on his face, trying and failing to snap his head back in rhythm with the jabs his opponent is throwing. Sly looks more like he's doing "The Elaine Dance" than he's taking a punch.
Honorable Mention for Un-Athletic Performance in a Boxing Movie
Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull
While DeNiro may have spent months gaining and losing weight for his role as Jake LaMotta, his boxing, and the way Scorcese shoots the ring action, evokes a creepy snuff film more than an exciting boxing match.
1. Damon Wayans in The Last Boy Scout, The Great White Hype, Celtic Pride
For six years in the early to mid '90s, it was apparently an unspoken rule in Hollywood that Damon Wayans was the only black actor that was allowed to play a professional athlete. We’re guessing it had something to do with the fact that he, like the most famous professional athlete at the time, had a shaved head. That’s really the only reason we can come up with to explain how Damon Wayans was, at various times in his career, cast as one of the most talented quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen, the best player in the NBA and, we shit you not, James "The Grim Reaper" Roeper, the Heavy Weight Champion of the World. Look at the picture to the right and read that nick name again. It looks more like James "Arms That Look Like Pantyhose Stuffed with Cookie Dough" Roeper would have been a more accurate nick name. We'd have a tough time believing that Damon Wayans could knock out Marlon Wayans, let alone a heavy weight title contender.