We all love watching sports in real life, but sometimes, movies can be almost as good. There’s nothing quite like the emotional rollercoaster of a sports drama. Some sports movies are powerful underdog stories where teams and individuals win against all of the odds.
Others on this list are hilarious comedies that offer a less serious take on alternative sports. There are also a few, like “Moneyball,” that totally changed our perception of what a sports movie could be. There are just so many good sports movies out there. We broke down the greatest below, so enjoy and tell us your favorites. Check out the list below, via Rolling Stone.
35. The Way Back
Ben Affleck is excellent in this redemption story. He stars as a former high school basketball star who ends up in a dark place. After working in construction, he receives a chance to revive his life. The former hero must coach a high school team to glory. But he faces his own demons in the form of alcoholism and isolation. Along with Coach Carter, it’s one of the standout basketball movies.
Meanwhile, Affleck brings an intensity to his performance to bring this film up a level. The film totally failed in the box office, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Blame the global health crisis for its failure. To sum up, it’s definitely worth a watch because it’s a great story with superb acting.
One of the least typical sports movies on this list, The Rider is mesmerizing. It tells the true story of a rodeo star who suffers a life-threatening injury. Doctors tell him that he should never ride again for his own health. Meanwhile, his best friend is paralyzed and mentally incapacitated following his own rodeo accident. It’s terrifying but beautiful and takes place in the Dakota Badlands.
Chloe Zhao directs this excellent film and all of the cast are untrained. In fact, they all play fictionalized versions of themselves. It makes it all the more the compelling and there are some stunning performances. Meanwhile, the backdrop of the Badlands is breathtaking. Released in 2018, this film definitely deserves to be ranked on a list of the best sports movies.
In 2017, Icarus flew onto screens around the world. This documentary was one of the most shocking sports movies ever. It revealed the extent of doping in Russian athletics. In short, Russia had an entire state-sponsored doping program. The documentary follows Grigory Rodchenkov, a Russian scientist, who was responsible for the national anti-doping laboratory.
Icarus won the Oscar for the best documentary that year. Furthermore, its reputation stands as one of the most notorious pieces of film-making in sports history. This one definitely isn’t just for sports fans because it is as much about politics and brinkmanship as it is about the Olympics. Many international athletes felt outraged after watching this documentary.
Based on a true story, Ford vs. Ferrari burst onto the scene in 2017. Christian Bale stars as cantankerous British racing driver Ken Miles. Meanwhile, Matt Damon is great alongside him as Carroll Shelby. The Ford family tasks the pair with building a race car to beat Ferrari. The Italian supercar giants were the masters of the Le Mans 24 hour race but Ford had ambitions to beat them.
This is one of those great movies that’s difficult to stop watching. Bale plays a surprisingly complex role while Damon provides balance alongside him. The race sequences are superb and realistic. It also ends with a powerful emotional punch, but we won’t spoil that. It’s a bizarre underdog story but one that is very enjoyable to experience. Definitely worth checking out.
One of the most recent films on this list, Foxcather won critical acclaim in 2014. It follows the true story of Olympic gold medallist wrestlers Mark and David Schultz as they prepare for the 1988 games. Multimillionaire John du Pont recruits the brothers for his wrestling team, Foxcatcher. It follows Mark’s descent into self-destruction and Du Pont’s subsequent murder of David.
This is a film that anybody can enjoy because it’s more about the psychology of men than wrestling. Bennett Miller directed this one. He was responsible for another of the greatest sports movies in Moneyball. With a standout performance by Steve Carell and excellent work from Channing Tatum, this is a great story, but the real story is just as crazy as this movie.
Devastatingly brilliant, Million Dollar Baby put another spin on the classic boxing movie. Hilary Swank is excellent as Maggie Fitzgerald, a female boxer who dreams of making it big. The problem is that nobody takes her seriously at all. When Maggie walks into Frankie Dunn’s gym, everybody laughs at her.
However, despite her age and lack of skill, she strikes up a bond with the aging trainer. Subsequently, they go on an emotional rollercoaster of a journey to the top of the boxing world. Starring Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, this film definitely packs a punch.
It’s very difficult to make a fresh sports film, but Murderball definitely achieved it. A documentary about quad rugby, AKA murderball, it’s brilliantly entertaining. In short, quad rugby is a full-contact sport played by quadriplegics in armored wheelchairs. Seriously, it’s brilliant.
Though the players featured in the documentary have already experienced their fair share of adversity, this film shows that they still push themselves to the limits. It’s all about redefining what it means to be a person and overcoming physical and mental odds.
It might be one of the oldest movies on this list, but National Velvet still stands up today. Released way back in 1949, it stars Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney. The film is about a confident young woman who wins a horse in a raffle. As a result, she is convinced that he will win the Grand National. This is Britain’s most prestigious steeplechase.
However, there’s one massive problem. Velvet is obviously a girl and she must break the no-females rule if she wants to take on the challenge of riding her horse in the race. Mickey Rooney’s scenes were shot one month before he was inducted into the US Army in 1944.
A sports film like no other on this list, A Knight’s Tale stars the late Heath Ledger. He plays William Thatcher, a peasant who dreams of being a jousting champion. However, you must be of noble lineage to compete in the tournament. Hence, Thatcher must take on a false identity if he wants to achieve his dreams.
This is a hilarious and touching film that clearly resounded with fans. While some critics panned it for its modern references, that’s all part of its joy. Paul Bettany, Mark Addy, and Rufus Sewell are there in support. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is phenomenal.
When champion skaters Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy get into a violent altercation on the ice, it culminates with them getting banned from competition for life. However, there’s a loophole in the rules which allows them to compete in pair skating. The duo grudgingly agrees to partner up and a series of hilarious misadventures ensue.
They agree to compete at the Winter Sports World Games, where they attempt to complete the Iron Lotus. The last time this was attempted, a North Korean woman got decapitated. That says a lot about this hilarious movie starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder.
When you think of Elijah Wood, we can guarantee that Frodo Baggins is what comes to mind. He’s not most people’s idea of a soccer hooligan. However, in Green Street, that’s exactly what he plays. An American college student falls in with a violent West Ham firm after he gets expelled from Harvard.
Also starring a pre-Sons of Anarchy Charlie Hunnam, it’s a great story. Soccer fans loved it but critics hated it. It shows the brotherhood of these hooligan groups and the lengths that they will go to defend each other. Above all, Green Street shows how quickly things can go wrong when chaos takes over.
Cool Runnings is as famous as the actual story it’s based on at this point. It is loosely based on the true story of the Jamaican bobsled team when it qualified for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. While it took many creative liberties, the film is very enjoyable, so it doesn’t really matter that much.
The dramatic ending of the film has become iconic. The bobsled team crashes out of the competition so they pick the sled up over their shoulders and run across the finish line, determined to finish. It’s a heart-warming, feel-good story. Now it’s one of the most-loved sports movies ever.
Sports Illustrated called Bull Durham the greatest sports movie of all-time. A lot of people seem to feel that way about the baseball classic. In brief, it tells the story of a talented pitcher who dreams of making it to the major leagues. Kevin Costner stars as ‘Crash’ Davis, the minor league veteran brought in to help refine the young hotshot’s game.
Typically, things get complicated when a woman comes onto the scene. Susan Sarandon stars as the two men’s love interest in an eye-catching role. Above all, Bull Durham is one of those movies with something for everybody. It’s as much of a romantic comedy as it is a sports drama.
This is the true story of Herb Brooks, a hockey coached tasked with training the US national team for the 1980 Winter Olympics. Specifically, he has to prepare the team to face the mighty Soviet Union, the longtime powerhouse of the game. Brooks’s team mostly consists of unproven college players, but they carry the weight of a nation’s pride on their shoulders.
Kurt Russell stars as Brooks, while the likes of Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich, and Eddie Cahill are in support. A crazy amount of detail went into this movie. In particular, players went through a six-week training camp to relearn the game with older equipment.
So many sports movies are about teams battling back against the odds. Hoosiers follows this traditional format in a fun and exciting. Gene Hackman, Denni Hopper, and Barbara Hershey star in this beloved basketball film. It’s the inspiring and enjoyable story of an underdog Indiana high school team as they try to win the state championship.
Hoosiers was nominated for two Academy Awards, so it should come as no surprise that it’s regarded as one of the best sports movies ever made. Made in 1986, it’s loosely based on the Milan High School team that won the 1954 state championship.
A classic American football story, Denzel Washington is at his most inspiring in this classic film from 2000. Yes, that’s right, Remember the Titans is almost 20 years old now. Still, it remains as relevant as ever with powerful messages about race relations across the United States.
Set in 1971, after a white southern high school is integrated by black students from another school, their two football teams are united. In short, they must get over their prejudices under their controversial black coach. When tragedy strikes they must stand strong together. In sum, it’s one of the best football movies ever.
Some might say that the original Rocky movie isn’t actually the best of the series, but it’s definitely the most iconic. Sylvester Stallone immortalized the fictional Philadelphia boxer in this brilliant sports film. A classic tale of an amateur fighter who gets the chance to become heavyweight champion of the world, it’s a great story.
Written by Stallone, Rocky is a true classic with an equally iconic soundtrack. The steps up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art have become legendary thanks to this timeless film. A statue of the boxer is also a famous tourist attraction in the City of Brotherly Love.
Chariots of Fire was released in 1981 and is based on the true stories of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams. These two religiously faithful men both felt like they have something to prove. They both want to win a gold medal at the 1924 Olympics in Paris.
The movie won four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Liddell is a devout Scottish Christian, running for the glory of God. Meanwhile, Abrahams is a Jew, running to overcome prejudice. In brief, it’s a very moving and compelling film with some excellent performances.
There are loads of sports movies about baseball teams, but A League of Their Own is different. Can you think of another film about the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League? We guarantee that you can’t. The movie is about the real-life women’s baseball league that was founded when men were away fighting in World War II.
With an all-star cast including Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna, A League of Their Own is a hilarious and heartwarming movie. Anne Ramsey famously broke her nose off of a baseball mitt during the making of the film. As historical sports movies go, this one is up there with the best.
This 1981 comedy is now a cult classic. Described by ESPN as the funniest sports movie ever made, it’s not difficult to see why. With an all-star cast including Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, and Ted Knight, this one was always going to be brilliant.
In brief, it recounts the hilarious misadventures at a fancy country club when a new member joins the ranks. Then they have to deal with a gopher who seems intent on destroying the golf course. It was met with underwhelming reviews when it was first released. But now it stands as one of the funniest sports movies ever.
Who knew Formula 1 could be so dramatic? Rush recounts the real-life rivalry between two Formula 1 drivers Nicky Lauda and James Hunt. This was a clash of personalities, as the two men went to desperate lengths to outdo each other on the track. Hunt, a playboy from England, went toe-to-toe with the brilliantly efficient Lauda.
Directed by Academy Award-winner Ron Howard, this saw a breakout performance by Chris Hemsworth. It was also lauded for being widely accurate. Lauda himself has praised the film. He said that he was very positively surprised by how close to real-life it was.
Mickey Rourke put in the performance of a lifetime as an aging wrestler who just couldn’t walk away. Critics and fans alike both loved this movie, with The Wrestler achieving outstanding reviews. Rourke starred as Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, a wrestler who once headlined professional wrestling.
Now, he’s estranged from his daughter and unable to hold onto any meaningful relationships, until he meets a long-in-the-tooth stripper. Robinson must overcome a desperate struggle between redemption and self-destruction, as he yearns for the excitement of his past life. Rourke won a Golden Globe for his performance. Movies like these reveal a different side of sports.
Who would have thought that one of the best Rocky movies wouldn’t even be about Philly’s most famous fictional son? Creed kicked off a reboot of the series, with the focus on the illegitimate son of Rocky’s great rival and friend, Apollo Creed. Played by Michael B. Jordan, Adonis is the son of the former heavyweight champion. He has a tough childhood but gets a good education. Then he yearns to fight like his father.
Insecure about his parentage, Adonis finds himself in a position to fight for the heavyweight title. He convinces Rocky to train him and the two embark on a journey of self-discovery. Sylvester Stallone was actually nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 2015 Oscars and won a Golden Globe.
Hoop Dreams is one of the most critically acclaimed sports movies ever made. It follows two young basketball players from inner-city Chicago as they face different challenges. In brief, they battle racism, poverty, violence, and on-court challenges in an emotional powerhouse of a film.
Although it was originally intended to be a 30-minute documentary, it soon became clear that the production team had a different beast on their hands. It eventually led to five years of filming and over 250 hours of footage. It remains the only documentary to win the Academy Award for Best Editing back in 1994.
Although it has a cheesy premise, Field of Dreams is a classic sports movie. Kevin Costner stars as the farmer who hears voices telling him to build a baseball diamond in his cornfields. Of course, it does sound a bit silly, but it’s a brilliantly entertaining story and well worth a watch today.
Nominated for three Academy Awards, Field of Dreams was subsequently selected for preservation by the US National Film Registry. The US Library of Congress described Field of Dreams as ‘pure magic.’ We definitely agree with that. In short, it’s one of the best family sports movies ever.
Every aspiring boxer should sit down and watch this brilliant film. Written, directed by, and starring Paddy Considine, this is a true emotional rollercoaster. It’s a tale of a battle against adversity, but there are no cliches in this one. Considine plays middleweight champion Matty Burton, who decides to fight one more time.
However, when he suffers a brain injury, Burton’s life implodes. Despite winning, he’s no longer the same person. As a result, he has to endure a grueling rehabilitation program. Jodie Foster is magnificent as his suffering wife as she tries to help him while also protecting their child. In fact, this film actually convinced former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping to retire.
Morgan Freeman was born to play Nelson Mandela. Based on the remarkable true story, Mandela turns his attention to rugby in an effort to try and unite his country. But in a nation ravaged by racial disparity and inequality, that’s much easier said than done. This makes this one of the most powerful movies on this list.
Mandela teams up with South Africa team captain Francois Pienaar to try and motivate the national squad for the 1995 World Cup. The journey is emotional, but the end result is inspiring. Matt Damon is excellent as Pienaar, earning an Academy Award nomination alongside Freeman.
A sports movie starring Tom Cruise? Not many people would expect the Hollywood megastar to be playing an agent instead of an athlete, but it works so well. He plays Jerry Maguire, a successful, ruthless, and selfish agent whose life is suddenly torn apart. When he loses his job with Sports Management International, he has to start over again.
He finds himself relying on the help of a single mother and her son, as well as a second-tier wide receiver. It also has a great supporting cast including the likes of Renee Zellweger and Cuba Gooding jr. This is definitely one of the most likable movies on this list. Furthermore, it also gives a very interesting perspective on another side of the sport.
Tonya Harding is an infamous figure in the figure skating world. So, it should come as no surprise that a film has finally been made about her dramatic life. Margot Robbie stars as the notorious skater in this faux-documentary style movie. Made with the blessing of the real Harding, this is darkly hilarious and entertaining.
At the 2017 Oscars, Robbie was nominated for the Best Actress award. At times, this movie is surprisingly poignant, as it reflects on Harding’s tough upbringing and her infamous rivalry with Nancy Kerrigan. Alison Janney is magnificent as Harding’s cruel mother. This is certainly unlike any of the other movies on this list.
A sports film like no other, Moneyball tells the real-life story of the Oakland Athletics. Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the general manager of Oakland A’s team. The team are operating on a tiny budget, so Beane has to think outside the box when he tries to assemble a competitive squad for the season.
Beane turns to Peter Brand, an Ivy League recruit, who creates a computer program that can sort through every available player and bring together the perfect team. Moneyball has literally changed how fans see sport today and also left fans enthralled with its exposure to how the business really works.
The movie that inspired the award-winning TV show, Friday Night Lights is a joy to watch. In Odessa, Texas, football means everything. Friday Night Lights captures the joy, drama, and excitement of an entire season. Set in 1988, it follows the Permian High Panthers and chronicles their challenges and victories.
In short, we get an insight into the lives of the players, their parents, the coaches, and the fans. Billy Bob Thornton, Garret Hedlund, and Lucas Black all play big parts in this immensely enjoyable flick. Above all, if you love the series, you should watch the movie too.
Free Solo is a remarkable piece of film-making and is like nothing else on this list. So it’s definitely worthy of its place. Directed by Jimmy Chin, this Oscar-winning documentary follows Alex Honnold on his quest to become the first free soloist to climb El Capitan. To free solo means to climb a rock face without any safety equipment.
It’s an incredibly revealing study into the mindset of an extreme sports athlete. Honnold knows that one fingertip out of place could cost him his life. It’s remarkable to watch the crew struggle to come to terms with knowing they could be following a man to his death.
This is one of the best boxing movies ever made. ‘Irish’ Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is a talented boxer whose life is plagued by family problems and personal insecurities. Christian Bale puts in a magnificent performance as his older brother Dicky. Also a boxer, Dicky possessed more natural talent but wasted it all in a life afflicted by drugs and crime.
When Micky gets the chance to fight for the title he has to come to terms with what is important in life. It’s a gritty but inspiring film with some supremely uplifting moments. In addition, Amy Adams is great as Micky’s love interest. There are a lot of boxing movies but this one jumps out as one of the best.
MMA actually isn’t that old, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there aren’t many movies about it. Warrior is definitely the best. Two estranged brothers cross paths again when they sign up for an epic MMA tournament. The winner will walk away with a life-changing $5 million cash prize.
Directed by Gavin O’Conner, this film contains some visceral performances. Tom Hardy is like a wounded animal throughout the movie. Meanwhile, Nick Nolte won a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his part as the brothers’ father. Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Morrison, and Frank Grillo also star.
Robert De Niro won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1980 for his stunning performance in Raging Bull. He played Jake LaMotta, a real-life boxer who struggled with anger management and problems outside the ring. This is more than just a classic redemption story, it’s also one of the most complex boxing movies ever. It also has some of the most incredible boxing scenes ever.
Many regard Raging Bull as Martin Scorcese’s greatest achievement. The man also directed the likes of Taxi Driver and Goodfellas, so that says a lot. This is more than just a sports movie, it’s also a work of art. Therefore it more than deserves its place at the top of this list. In short, if you haven’t seen it, go and watch it now.