The 50 Best Sports Movies of All Time: Part 1
Who doesn't love a good sports movie? Seriously, I can't think of anyone. Even my friend who thinks movies are a waste of time would become violent if you made a snide comment about "Brian’s Song." It's simple. In some way, sports has shaped or affected or at least been a minuscule part of almost everyone's life in this country.
If you tried to play football but couldn't, because you were too small, you probably loved "Rudy."
If you ever have gotten the urge to say, kidnap someone, then the movie "Celtic Pride" should appeal to your sentiments.
Heck, if you think Rosie Perez is hot in the mid-90's and you like gratuitous sideboob, as long as the TV is on mute, then "White Men Can't Jump" will be a godsend.
I'm a huge fan of movie lists, and ranking sports movies is a fun, yet challenging task. I had to rank 50 because there are definitely more than 25 really good movies that need to be talked about. These are all movies I've seen, so I don't have many old time movies like you'd see in an AFI-type list.
I'm only going to give some observations and thoughts on the movies I chose, as it would take forever to thoroughly analyze each ranking. Please, comment with your thoughts as I'm sure many people have different views from mine on this, as there are so many good ones to choose from. Stay tuned for my top 25.
50. Teen Wolf
I think the picture speaks for itself as to why this had to make my list. The Sports Guy had recently mentioned "Teen Wolf," and when I re-watched it, I remembered how amazing it was.
Handstands on a moving van. A father and son werewolf tandem. The fact that at no point was the general public truly scared of a mythical beast.
Even with all that, the most hard-to-believe aspect was that Michael J Fox's character was the best player on a varsity team, even though he was 5'5" on a phone book and took a jump shot for his free throw.
49. Out Cold
This movie was a last minute addition to the list. I realize it's only vaguely about sports, though it is completely centered around snowboarding. If you haven't seen this movie, don't judge me. It is VERY entertaining.
It might because my roommate in college was a Colorado snowboarder and swears by this flick, but it really is a hilarious movie. It might not deserve to make a top 50, but I feel a lot better wasting a pick with a movie like this instead of "For the Love of the Game" or "The Cutting Edge."
48. Cool Runnings
This was a mainstay in my VHS arsenal when I was a kid. Disney knows how to pump out these kinds of movies, and having something as unique as a bobsledding team in Jamaica was a strike of pure genius.
I love that one of the actors has one name, Leon, and another actor has one name, repeated, Doug E. Doug.
Also, any movie that can successfully lull you into believing that John Candy was at one point an athletic Olympian has done quite a job.
I almost left this off my list because Billy Crystal absolutely idolizes the Red Sox' mortal enemy, and anyone who besmirches the Sox on a regular basis better have done something pretty damn good to deserve praise. Luckily for Crystal, "*61" is a pretty special movie.
Especially with all that we've seen in the steroid era, it was refreshing to go back to a simpler time, when the players were still heroes, only the lead character, Maris, was a virtual nobody. He just went about his business of crushing baseballs, and before he knew it, he was challenging the biggest icon of sports, Babe Ruth.
It brought me back to the McGwire and Sosa chase for 62, before I knew they were juicing, and how exciting that time was for me and so many other people. Any movie that can invoke that is making my list.
Also, look at a picture of Barry Pepper and a picture of Roger Maris, and they could be twins separated at birth.
46. Varsity Blues
This was an impossible one for me to leave off, as it was a vital part of my teenage years. James Van Der Beek shows off his Dawson's Creek star power, only lacking in the accent department, because his southern drawl sounded like a cross between someone from Long Island and Alabama.
The final locker room and game scenes, though highly hard to believe, do manage to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on edge, and any movie that prominently involves a whipped cream bikini is bound to enthrall even the cold-blooded.
It might not be the best sports movie out there, but it is extremely entertaining and shows me a high school life I think any guy would give a pinky toe for.
If it were on right now, you'd watch it.
For those of you who have seen this movie, you understand why this is on the list. It's a feel good movie with a great cast and an underdog story, though I think jockeys are the most under-appreciated athletes in modern sport.
Instead of delving more into the movie, I'd rather use this time to say that if anyone is looking for a good road trip, they should go to Louisville in the spring for the Kentucky Derby. It is an experience everyone should have, whether you like mint juleps or not.
The Preakness in Baltimore is an unbelievably raucous time as well and I'd say go there if you're looking for the frat party on a grand scale.
44. Mystery, Alaska
I love hockey movies. I say that first because it is the only real reason this cracks my top 50. There's nothing too special about this one, though Russell Crowe certainly carries the movie both with his acting and his Barry melrose flow. The premise is what does it for me.
I love the idea of a town like this that has such a nutty pickup hockey atmosphere. Playing pond hockey is one of the most fun things to do, and to have that be their "Friday Night Lights," well that'd be unbelievably cool.
I admit, it's a little over the top when they have their game with the Rangers, but (spoiler alert) I love that they don't allow the team of nobody's to win, instead coming valiantly close. I'm usually not an advocate of that because why be a downer, but I think at least that helps make some of the rest of the movie seem a tad more believable.
43. White Men Can't Jump
For some reason, this picture accompanied with the name of the movie, and you'd think it was directed by Spike Lee, though it's actually a Ray Shelton joint.
As before mentioned, Rosie Perez brings a fun vibe to the movie, and I am always excited to hear her say "Stookey Brothers." It's also nice to see Woody Harrelson have more game in basketball than Wesley Snipes, while also taking down a Jeopardy queen. It's not an ebony and ivory thing, it just only seems fair after Snipes snagged Jennifer Lopez in "The Money Train."
I've seen it more times than I can remember, so for that reason alone, I owe it to myself to give it some love on this list.
On my all-time movie list, this one is right near the top, but it's a stretch to call it a sports movie, or else it would be ranked higher on my list. If gladiator fighting were still something I could still bet on, then this would be on the top of this list, I assure you.
I think any situation where you either win the contest or you otherwise die is probably the most carnal and rawest form of sport, like fighting Mike Tyson early in his career. Russell Crowe nails that aspect as Maximus, and gives an absurd performance in an ancient, epic journey.
41. The Mighty Ducks
Oh, Gordon Bombay, you drunk driving lawyer who was a 12-year old star, come coach our floundering peewee team of misfits. This one's a classic hockey movie that I've seen on so many bus trips that it's almost scorched into my memory.
It has some of the worst sports scenes in the history of movies, but that is actually selling point, the same way you would describe a "Saved by the Bell" episode.
I wish to share two separate scenes that will always reel me in. The first being Charlie Conway's triple deke, and how absurdly slow and early his move was. It would only fake someone out if they were playing in a rink that had strobe lights.
The second is, when Gordon Bombay is venting to Charlie about his missed goal; how he was a quarter of an inch from scoring the game-winner, but hit the post and missed.
Charlie's advice: "A quarter of an inch the other way, and you would have missed altogether." Bombay seems to have almost a religious epiphany at this, happy to have this decade's old weight off his shoulders, and Charlie's advice was sheer idiotic common sense, almost an insult. If I were Bombay I would have benched Charlie and done weird things with his mom, but then we there probably wouldn't be a pro team now would there.
40. Blue Chips
I couldn't find a great picture for this movie but I figured this one would do perfectly, as it's a legendary mug shot. "Blue Chips" is truly a great movie. Shaq? Penny Hardaway? Larry Bird sighting?
I love college sports movies that show the underbelly, because the underbelly is always a lot more fun. I want to see the kid who gets a new sports car or a ranch, or group of girlfriends, strictly because he's very good at a sport. Not to mention, Nick Nolte really does nail his coach, channeling Bobby Knight and really giving this movie some staying power.
A must see for any hoops fan.
39. Rocky III
I pity the fool who doesn't want to see this movie. I had to put this somewhere on here, and it's certainly the 4th best of the Rocky movies. I try to pretend "Rocky V" never happened. "Rocky Balboa" is entertaining as well, but I still don't really it count it.
I love this poster of Mr. T's Clubber Lang, it really says everything I want you to know about his performance. Obviously, he nailed it.
This movie is as formulaic as they come, but it's an easy two hours that on any given night, could grab hold of me and keep me until the end.
38. Celtic Pride
Maybe this is as high as it is because it's set in Boston and follows the Celtics, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a classic.
Super fans Dan Akroyd and Daniel Stern kidnap disgruntled Utah Jazz superstar, Damon Wayans, and they are quite possibly the worst criminals in the history of kidnapping.
The twist at the end was hilarious, when they are forced to root for against their beloved Celtics, and I was interested to see that it was one of Judd Apatow's first writing credits.
37. He Got Game
Here's your Spike Lee Joint. This move is chalk full of racist references and issues regarding black and white, though in my eyes, it doesn't take away from the film but fits seamlessly.
Ray Allen as Jesus works for me as well, and a lesser player/actor would have ruined this movie. Denzel obviously shows up, proving yet again he can be likable in just about any role he plays, regardless of whether he's a good or a bad guy. I found myself rooting for him in "Training Day," and that was after he convinced Ethan Hawke to smoke angel dust and robbed Macy Gray.
Even in "American Gangster," Denzel's Frank Lucas probably killed thousands by flooding the street with his heroine, but he was still the man, and that's why this movie makes the list.
36. Friday Night Lights
I'm not going to lie to you, I like the TV show with the same name more. It's awesome, but that's not to say this movie isn't great in its own right.
It makes high school football in this small town look like an "E: True Hollywood Story" life of a rock star. These guys were larger than life on the field, but when it came down to it, they still lived in a rundown, spec on a map in Texas.
The best actor in this movie wasn't Oscar nominee Billy Bob Thornton, but rather Grammy-winning Tim McGraw. The acting is deep, and there are some great characters here, but it is the game scenes that really set this one apart from other movies. I felt like I was watching the final game live, and that's very rare with any movie game.
35. The Karate Kid
This had to be somewhere on my list. As far as underdog stories go, this is about as good as they come.
It made for an unbelievable 80's soundtrack and montage setup, and the costume design for the teenagers was just mesmerizing, so much jeans and windbreaker.
This picture I found was pretty aggressive in my mind, and something tells me that if this movie were made in 2009, it'd be called "Doubt." Well that's just wrong, but they are talking of a remake with Will Smith's kid and Jackie Chan. It has some potential to be really bad, only because movies like this seem to work only under the guise of a hot 80's movie.
34. Chariots of Fire
It's surprising that there aren't more movies about the Olympic dream, because there are plenty of great stories there. This particular one gave me the chills multiple times, and I'm sure more people would probably have this ranked higher.
This picture made me laugh because for one thing, he just ran an Olympic race in the medal round in that outfit. He looks like he's about to play tennis at Wimbledon. Imagine Hussein Bolt, not in his super sleek leotard, but doing sprints in jean shorts and a polo. Sports have changed a little since 1924.
33. Vision Quest
I went to a high school that had an absurdly talented wrestling team, so this movie really hits home. In my eyes, if you're a wrestler, you have somewhat of a screw loose when it comes to competitiveness.
It's a sport where you know for a fact that you get out of it what you put in, and if you work harder than everyone else, you can win constantly. And nobody likes to lose in wrestling, because it's a demoralizing, slow defeat, ending when you lose your free will and are pinned back to the mat.
That is as motivating as sport gets today short of MMA and boxing, and this movie shows just how far someone would go if they wanted to win more than anything. Matthew Modine pretty much starves himself for the entire movie, and you know he has a problem when a major sideplot is his nose bleeds from malnourishment.
32. The Sandlot
This is one of those movies that makes me truly miss being twelve years old. There is nothing better than when your only responsibilities are to play pick-up baseball and be home by the time the street lights come on.
The innocence of the kids in this movie, coupled with the mystique that baseball had over fans from that 60's era when stars were truly larger than life, is what makes this movie special to me.
Being a fan of baseball seems a little different now, like some of that innocence has been lost. Whether it be the overexposure in the media, or the steroids scandal, or even the absurd money that they make, the way people view baseball stars is just different.
The players might be more talented nowadays, but there is no Joe Dimaggio or Ted Williams. No Hank Aaron or Willie Mays. They were Gods to kids an adults alike in that era, men who deserved to have stories and myths written about them. A classic movie.
31. The Program
Is there a better maniacal football character than Lattimer (Pictured above)? For those of you who haven't seen "The Program," Lattimer is a career second string gym rat. The guy works harder than everyone and wants it really bad, but just doesn't have the ability. He's like Rudy, if Rudy got fed up and did a few cycles of anabolic steroids.
Lattimer turns into a crazed lunatic; painting his face, letting a guy spit in his mouth, and raving like a psycho. It completely skewed my view of anyone who does steroids. I now picture Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa doing crazy stuff off the camera, like threatening ball boys, attacking media, lifting a half ton. It may not be true, but it'd make for a pretty entertaining movie.
30. Million Dollar Baby
Don't get me wrong, this is a fantastic movie--If you haven't seen it and would like to, stop reading this slide now because I'm going to spoil it for you if you read on--
A great movie to see once, and then regret that you saw it in the first place. Was it really necessary for this movie to have potentially the most horrifyingly sad ending in the history of film? If you could think up any possible ending for this movie, the way it could be sadder is if Clint Eastwood had a heart attack as he pulled the plug on Swank in the hospital.
It was a moving film, obviously, but it seemed to be almost sadistic in its approach, making Swank's character so innocent and likable. This would be higher on my list, but I know I'll never sit down and watch it again, which hurts its ranking. It'd be like knowingly walking into a kick to the groin. No, thanks.
29. Remember The Titans
This is probably a pretty generous ranking for this movie now that these particular types of movies have become so formulaic. Luckily, Denzel is here again, bring his A-game as coach Boone.
The football scenes aren't phenomenal, but the actors on the football team make the movie work as well as it does. They even have Avon Barksdale, from "The Wire," as the main linebacker who doesn't get paralyzed. (Actually, while I'm here; Watch "The Wire" if you haven't seen it. All of it. It is by far the best show I have ever watched television, and this is the best sure-thing advice I could ever give someone.)
28. Kingpin/Big Lebowski
Before I talk about these movies, I need to admit something. I am an unbelievably fantastic bowler. People know me. Not only do I throw with excessive spin, I use lefty spin with my right arm; a screwball if you will.
Kingpin: This was literally the first movie I can remember where I actually got all the raunchy jokes and innuendo, so it is near and dear to my heart. Without a doubt, every single time I bowl, Big Ern McCracken makes an appearance when I hold up my ball and make my approach with pinache and a limp wrist. One of the funnier movies you could ever watch.
The Big Lebowski: When it comes to Halloween, I'm not the biggest fan of dressing up. That's when I realized, I have the perfect opportunity to be "The Dude" on Halloween. Long robe, sunglasses, White Russian. It made my life a lot easier, took little effort, and looked creative, when in reality, it was sheer laziness. Too many people have yet to see this movie, and if you're one of them, go rent it.
27. A League of Their Own
Tom Hanks is the glue that holds this movie together. It's not Madonna. It's certainly not Rosie O'Donnell. No, it's Jimmy Dugan, one of the better baseball coaches in movie history. Add Geena Davis, who actually looks like she could have been in the Mitchell Report, and you have a pretty entertaining movie.
Tom Hanks is another one of those actors who is going to make any bad movie average, and every average movie into a good one. Though I can't ever imagine going to an all-women's league (If I'm being honest...I can't see myself buying a ticket to the WNBA), this movie feels authentic enough to have had a legitimate place in a very tough era.
26. Eight Men Out
Imagine if this happened in today's game? Something as absurd as fixing games? Oh, Tom Donaghy, my bad. Think about it though, if a team like the Kansas City Royals has actually been losing on purpose all these years, throwing games for money under the table. It would explain a lot.
The tables have sure turned since this era, when owners used to be able to hold their players hostage with unfair contracts, making the scandal a possibility. Nowadays, the players have all the power, and it's definitely a problem, so at some point, the players and owners are going to have to meet in the middle.
See the completion of this list at: