Jim Brown's film life should be as synonymous as his football life.
After nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns where he broke numerous rushing records, won three MVPs and a championship, Brown gave it all up for acting.
Brown began his thespian foray in 1964 in the western "Rios Conchos" playing a Buffalo Solider named Sgt. Ben Franklyn.
But it was while filming "The Dirty Dozen" in 1966 when he truly caught the acting bug. Production of the film got delayed and Browns owner Art Modell threatened to fine him if he didn't show up to training camp. Instead, Brown called it quits. Acting would become a full-time profession.
Brown has more than 50 acting credits to his name. He's starred in movies with Al Pacino and Burt Reynolds and worked with such well-known directors like Oliver Stone and Tim Burton.
In honor of "A Football Life: Jim Brown," we're picking our top five Jim Brown movie performances.
1) Dirty Dozen (1967)
In an ensemble cast of big alpha dogs like Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson, it was Jim Brown who remained the baddest man on the planet. This Word War II action flick featured a dozen malcontents with a mission to infiltrate and destroy a Nazi chateau. Brown played Robert Jefferson, a character who kicks butt and sacrifices himself for his country. It remains Brown's most iconic role and the movie is a classic.
2) 100 Rifles (1969)
My dad's personal favorite of Brown's films. "100 Rifles" was a spaghetti western that starred Raquel Welch and Burt Reynolds. Brown played an American lawman named Lyedecker who at first chases after Reynolds's robber character, but later teams up with him to help the Yaqui people defeat a repressive government. The most famous part of the movie that broke racial barriers is the love scene between Jim Brown and Raquel Welch. It would be one of the first interracial sex scenes on the silver screen.
3) Three the Hard Way (1974)
"Three the Hard Way" starring Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly is arguably the penultimate Blaxploitation film. It checks all the boxes of what made the genre so great: Big stars, stylized action, an improbable plot, multilayered political satire, beautiful women and groovy 70's audio. "Three the Hard Way" may not be Jim Brown's greatest film, but no one can argue its influence over the ensemble action film genre that has become a staple in modern cinema.
4) The Running Man (1987)
"The Running Man" starred Arnold Schwarzenegger at the peak of his stardom with a plot centered on government televised death matches. The bombastic over the top live action video game spectacle is just as bad as you remember for all the right reasons. Why is this film on the list? Other than the fact that Jim Brown plays the role of a villain named Fireball that wears a rocket pack that also shoots fire? "The Running Man" stands the test of time because of it's often imitated thinly veiled political commentary and its eerily accurate vision of reality television.
5) Mars Attacks! (1996)
Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks!" may not have pulled in any Academy Awards, but it did feature an eclectic cast of characters, including a strong turn by Jim Brown as Byron Williams, a Las Vegas casino worker and former champion boxer. On the football field, Brown made a name for himself by beating up defenders. In "Mars Attacks!" he unleashed his fury on a horde of martian invaders, managing to take down their ambassador before being overtaken himself. Suffice it to say, if and when aliens invade our planet, it's comforting to know Jim Brown has our backs.
(Bonus) I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)
In 1988, comedian/actor Keenen Ivory Wayans decided to resurrect the best worst parts of the blaxploitation films he grew up watching in a classic parody. "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" reintroduces Jim Brown and several other blaxploitation stars to a new generation. It simultaneously pays homage to the genre and outright pokes fun at its absurd aesthetics. "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" helped open the door to Wayans' "In Living Color" and a next generation of black stars like Chris Rock, Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier.