5. Kirk Douglas in "Champion"
In one of his first performances as a leading man, Douglas is hitchhiking out West with his brother when he's tempted into the ring and pummeled by a seasoned fighter. One boxing manager, however, says he's got talent. When he gets to California and finds nothing but menial jobs, he does the only thing anyone has ever said he was good at, throwing punches.
Douglas never won an Academy Award, but his performance in 1949's "Champion" earned him the first of three nominations.
6. Marlon Brando in "On the Waterfront"
When people speak of Brando as the greatest actor of his generation, his performance in 1954's "On the Waterfront" is at the heart of that argument. It earned Brando the only Oscar he ever accepted. He won a second for "The Godfather," but famously sent an American Indian woman (later revealed to be an impostor) to the podium to refuse the award.
An instant classic, "On the Waterfront" went on to win eight Oscars, including best picture. Brando's role as Terry Malloy, a dock worker with thwarted dreams of prizefighting, yielded some of the recently deceased actor's finest moments on film, including this oft-quoted line:
"I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it."
Malloy's destiny, as he puts it, is a "one-way ticket to Palooka-ville."
7. James Earl Jones in "The Great White Hope"
James Earl Jones earned his only Oscar nomination as fighter Jack Jefferson -- a fictionalized depiction of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world, who faced vile racism because he challenged the ethos of a white-dominated sport.
"He could beat any man alive," the movie posters boasted. "He just couldn't beat them all."
Jones had also played Jefferson in the Broadway play upon which the movie was based. He, of course, would eventually take on a deservedly hated character when he voiced the evil Darth Vader, a role he'll reprise this summer in "Revenge of the Sith," the final installment of the "Star Wars" saga.
8. Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky"
Stallone was a marginally employed bit player with no future in show business in 1975 when he watched a little-known club boxer from New Jersey named Chuck Wepner nearly take the heavyweight crown from Muhammad Ali.
Stallone wrote the script for "Rocky" in three days, and United Artists offered him $150,000 to let Ryan O'Neal play the title character. Stallone, however, insisted on being the star, and an action hero star was born.
"Rocky" earned 10 Academy Award nominations, and won for best picture. Stallone was following in the footsteps of America's finest filmmakers by earning acting and writing nominations. The only filmmakers who had done that before him were Charlie Chaplin for "The Great Dictator" and Orson Welles for "Citizen Kane."
Of course, since that point, Oscar night has been uneventful for Stallone. Nevertheless, he went on to become one of the highest-paid stars, and his work has earned him the dubious distinction of being the all-time Razzie Award champion, chalking up a record 30 nominations and 10 "wins."
Stallone attempted to relive his "Rocky" glory in four sequels, to increasingly lesser success each time. Later this month, he'll attempt to turn boxing into a reality TV show in NBC's "The Contender."