Sports movies are the best way to show non-athletes a look into the world of what sports does to an athlete’s mind or body. These movies demonstrate to moviegoers what kind of strain sports puts on these athletes’ relationship with their family.
They also show the struggle that these athletes go through to achieve their dream and in the end make us feel warm and fuzzy inside.
So what are some of the best sports movies out there? Here is a list of our top 15 sports movies of all-time.
Number 15: The Sandlot
Nothing makes a kid’s summer more than getting together with a bunch of his friends to play a game of baseball at an old rundown field. What if you are the new kid in town? You don’t know any of the other kids and you don’t feel like you belong. That is exactly what happened to Scotty Smalls in this 1993 family classic. He is eventually accepted by the group of friends, but not before they help him retrieve his stepfather’s Babe Ruth autographed baseball from a dog that has become known around town only as “The Beast.”
The movie ends with the kids enjoying their summer and how they continued to play baseball every summer. The movie ends in classic sports movie fashion with an epilogue telling what the kids grew up to do, including Squints who married Wendy Peffercorn even after faking drowning at the local pool to get a kiss.
Number 14: The Bad News Bears
From one bunch of ragtag kids just having fun to another group of kids who would probably prefer doing something else rather than spending their summer on a baseball diamond. The Bad News Bears still holds up as one of the more comical, teambuilding movies of all time. Walter Matthou plays former professional baseball player Morris Buttermaker, who washed up in the major leagues and now has to coach the worst team in the city’s little league.
He quickly realizes that the kids hate baseball, but hate losing even more and sets out to change that for the kids. By season’s end, after doing the unthinkable and putting a girl on the team, they have gone on a good winning streak only to meet up with the best team in the league in the championship, the Yankees who mercilessly destroyed the bears in the first game of the season. The team may not win the championship, but they have built a bond that none of them will ever be able to forget.
Number 13: Rocky
When you say the name Sylvester Stallone, people will either think of Rambo or Rocky, two of his most iconic characters. Rocky is a failing professional boxer who the World Heavyweight Champion, Apollo Creed, at the time decides to give a title shot to. Everyone is seemingly against Rocky and tells him he has no shot of winning the title.
Rocky displays the heart of a champion and works to prove to himself, Creed, and the city of Philadelphia that he is a true boxer. Although Rocky fails in winning the title, he wins something even more important: respect.
Number 12: The Rookie
The Rookie gives the backstory of Jim Morris, played by Dennis Quaid, who as a kid is shown to have some promise as a skilled pitcher. His father doesn’t approve of his dream to play in the big leagues. The local high school team is skilled, but unmotivated. Morris makes a deal with the team that if they win the district and make the playoffs, he will try out for the MLB.
Morris breaks barriers after being picked up by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and eventually becoming the oldest rookie in MLB history. The Rookie is a movie that exemplifies that it is never too late to chase your dreams.
Number 11: Miracle
The first movie on our list to be based off of a true story is one of the greatest events in American sports history. The 1980 Winter Olympics were truly a trying time for the United States. The Cold War had just ended and we still weren’t able to convince the rest of the world that we were on par with them in technology and academics, even after becoming the first people to land on the moon just eleven years earlier.
Miracle is the true underdog story of the American Olympic hockey team that makes a historic run to win the gold medal. The team hits the biggest roadblock of them all in the form of the Soviet Union in the semifinals. The team overcomes adversity to get into the gold medal round of the Olympics. Miracle is an example of what it takes to be a true champion, even when the whole world is against you.
Number 10: Hardball
In one of the most emotional sports movies of all time, Keanu Reeves plays Conor O’Neil, a gambler who has gotten way in over his head in gambling debts. He is forced to coach a bunch of inner-city African-American kids on a baseball team. He realizes that he is again way in over his head, but he pushes through to help lead the team to believe in themselves.
In the end, following a tragic death of one of the younger members of the team, O’Neil leads his team to win the Chicago city championship and he is able to pay off his gambling debts. Hardball shows fans that no matter where you come from or what situation you are in, you can achieve anything with dedication and team work.
Number 9: Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights is based off the novel of the same name written by H.G. Bissinger. The movie tells the tale of the Permian High School Panthers in Odessa, Texas and their struggle in the late 1980’s. Coach Gary Gaines played by Billy Bob Thornton who is constantly on the hot seat with his job as head coach of the football team. Once star running back Boobie Miles goes down with essentially a career-ending knee injury, the entire town calls for his resignation.
The tumultuous 1988 season sees the Panthers experience troubles both on and off the field. With his job riding on whether or not the team makes the playoffs, Gaines leads his team to a three-way tie for the final spot in the playoffs. The coin flip goes the Panthers’ way and they make it to the state finals. Friday Night Lights shows not only the team overcoming adversity, but Coach Gaines as well.
Number 8: Moneyball
Moneyball tells the story of Oakland Athletics manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, who starts to see his team slowly fade away following the 2001 season. He decides to go a different route and hire a Yale economics graduate Peter Brand, played by Jonah Hill, who tells Beane to make radical potentially detrimental moves by signing and cutting players that are unpopular moves with the team’s scouts.
The A’s go on to have a poor season in the early stages of the year, but then they turn things around and then the team goes on to win an American League record twenty straight games. The team loses in the playoffs that season and Beane is offered a lucrative contract by the Boston Red Sox after they found his system of signing and cutting players to be innovative. He turns it down and the Red Sox go on to win the World Series in 2004 using Beane’s system. Moneyball proved that if you stick to your guns and never back down, good things will come to you in the end.
Number 7: Field of Dreams
Field of Dreams is one of the more peculiar movies to ever grace the silver screen. With Kevin Costner playing Ray Kinsella, a farmer who had a strained relationship with his father, fans of the movie see a baseball field built over the crops that essentially allow the family to live a sustainable life. Kinsella is told in a vision to build the field, sparking the famous line “If you build it, they will come.” Months pass and nobody comes to the field, until a ghost of banned baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson is seen playing on the field.
No one believe Kinsella of the visions that he was having, but in the end, everyone started to believe Kinsella. He pursued his dreams and you see people arriving at the field at the end of the movie.
Number 6: A League of Their Own
“There’s no crying in baseball!” This famous line was sparked in this movie that starred a sea of celebrities from Tom Hanks to Rosie O’Donnell to Madonna. In a flashback, Dottie Hinson remembers her playing days during World War II. The war nearly shut down the MLB and this prompted Cubs owner Walter Harvey to start a women’s league while most of the men are overseas. The rest of the owners are not convinced enough to begin a full league, but one season still happens.
The Peaches are the class of the league, but go on to lose the World Series after many complications throughout the season. The fans get so behind the women’s league that the rest of the owners feel compelled to fund a new league. This movie, although fictional, transcended women’s sports and has even sparked the gender equality movement of the last twenty years.
Number 5: Bull Durham
This romantic sports movie sparked the career of Tim Robbins and turned Kevin Costner into the star we know and love today. This movie looks at the world of the MLB’s minor leagues that usually don’t enough love. Robbins is being mentored by Costner in preparations for the big time. Costner is a veteran of the minor leagues, doomed to stay away from the majors forever. In the end, Robbins goes on to become a dominant pitcher in the major leagues while Costner leaves the Bulls and goes on to break the record for most career home runs in the minor leagues.
Bull Durham shows the relationship between master and apprentice. It gives fans the look into the baseball world that can be seen as dangerous and messy. It also shows that, with a little time, even the apprentice can show his mentor a thing or two.
Number 4: Raging Bull
From one bull to another, Raging Bull tells the story of real life boxer Jake LaMotta, played by Robert DeNiro. LaMotta was a dominant boxer in the 40’s and 50’s, and Martin Scorsese does an excellent job of showing that. After winning multiple titles, LaMotta is suspended for allegedly throwing a fight. Upon reinstatement, LaMotta continues to dominate in the ring before finally hanging up his gloves forever.
This movie has been called the greatest film of the 80’s and there is really no way of summarizing its story simply. It not only told the story of one of the greatest boxers of all time, but it also gave us one of the greatest filmmakers of all time as well.
Number 3: Rudy
In what is the ultimate story of dedication and beating the odds, Rudy sparked the “little guy” movement of the 90’s. Rudy Ruettiger, played by Sean Astin, has one dream: to play for Notre Dame. He is told by everyone that he can’t do it, but he still never gives up. After being admitted into the school, he goes out every year and tries out for the team before finally being giving a spot on the practice team for his sheer heart. He is then given the chance to dress out for the varsity team in the final game of his senior season.
The crowd chants his name and he is finally given the shot to play on the field, proving everyone that said he couldn’t achieve his dreams wrong. The movie shows that no matter what people tell you, you are the only one that can decide your ultimate fate.
Number 2: Coach Carter
A movie that sees one of the worst high school basketball teams of all time, Coach Carter is a great film that shows Ken Carter, played by Samuel Jackson, a tough coach and former Richmond basketball star pushing the players who have been put down and told that they have nothing to look forward to in life. Carter is disciplined and tells his players that they must maintain at least a C+ average. The team goes on a long unbeaten streak before Carter locks his team out until they get their grades up. They do, the season continues, and they go onto the state playoffs before losing to state powerhouse St. Francis.
Coach Carter is a film of teambuilding and shows that hard work pays off in the end. It has inspired many high school basketball coaches to push their players to be their very best while showing them that it’s okay to make mistakes.
Number 1: Remember the Titans
Integration in public schools was a big reason why this movie was such a success. Herman Boone, played by Denzel Washington, is a black coach hired by T.C. Williams to be the team’s new head coach. He has unorthodox coaching methods and tells his team to embrace the new integration. He tells them that they are a team no matter what anyone outside of them say. After a grueling summer camp, the team, comprised of whites and blacks, has built a strong bond that transitions into the regular season. The team goes undefeated and eventually wins the state championship.
Remember the Titans tells fans to look past the color of skin and just to work together. Boone teaches his team and moviegoers that when you work together, the team is one color.