Top 11 Feel-Good Sports Movies

Matthew GilmartinSenior Analyst IAugust 24, 2008

The Benchwarmers

Somehow seeing that far-superior team with that dictator of a coach screw up their shutout in the championship just so the Benchwarmers, a team of losers, could score was heart-warming.


The Rookie

One of the ultimate feel-good (and comeback) stories:  Boy grows up dreaming about being a major-league pitcher, but he becomes a high school baseball coach instead.  He thinks his chances of becoming a big-leaguer are slim to none. 

He ends up going to a big-league tryout as the result of a bet with his team.  The old fart makes the team and goes on to success in the big leagues. 



A small-town high school basketball team beats one of the state's perennial powerhouses for the state title on a last-second shot.  If you've seen the clip of what I'm talking about, and your heart didn't soar after seeing the ball swish through the net, there's something wrong.


Remember the Titans 

Set in times of segregation and extreme racial prejudice, a high school football team blends black and white players to win the state championship against all odds.  The fact that the team won the title game without its best player just makes it that much more special.


We Are Marshall

A college football program rebuilt from the ground up after a devastating plane crash destroys their program, killing almost all of the players and coaches, sees action again just one season after the crash.  The team gives hope to all residents of the town, and their games offer an escape to them as well.



Substitute teacher Vince Papale tries out for the Philadelphia Eagles, his favorite NFL team, through open tryouts, and makes the team.  I think I remember he scored a touchdown in his first game.


Gridiron Gang

Juvenile delinquents form a football team under the tough-love warden who becomes one of their coaches.  The progress the kids make in just one season is incredible. 

They go from losing their first game 42-0 to losing by just a few points in the state championship game.  Not only that, but many of the players on the team turn their lives around once they get released from prison. 



The ultimate feel-good story of a boy following his lifelong dream.  A boy grows up dreaming of playing football, his favorite sport, for Notre Dame, his favorite school.  He only just barely gets into the university.

Even though he makes the school team, he doesn't play, much less start, despite being the hardest worker in practice.  Before his final home game as a senior, the other players protest that Rudy should start.  The coach refuses.

But late in the game, his teammates start chanting his name (I think that this chant spreads to the crowd, too, if I remember this correctly), petitioning the coach to put Rudy in.  He does, and Rudy gets carried off the field after the game.


Glory Road

A story similar to Remember the Titans.  A white coach takes over the Texas Western Miners, a team with black players in a time, 1962, when it was unacceptable to have black players on your team.  The coach leads the Miners to the national title game, and they win. 

I believe the '62 Texas Western Miners were the first team to win a national championship with black players.  That only adds to the heart-warming element of this movie.


Rocky Balboa

Famous boxer Rocky Balboa has been retired for a long time, but the current world-champ looks up to Rocky and wants to fight him in an exhibition.  Rocky consents, sending him on a roller-coaster ride back into the ring for the fight of his life.

Rocky and his opponent draw, but the fact that Rocky could come back for one last fight is remarkable enough.



Nice guy Peter LaFleur needs 50 grand to keep his lowly gym open.  So he and his regulars form a dodgeball team to compete in a tournament in Vegas that has a first-place prize of $50,000.

They advance to the championship match, where they nearly get disqualified due to not having the right number of players  But the judge panel gives a 2-1 vote to let them play, and the match unfolds. 

At the end, Peter defeats the greedy, full-of-himself, arrogant owner of Globo Gym—who not only runs his gym but also works out tirelessly there—in sudden death. 

Peter steals the ownership of Globo Gym due to a legal technicality and fires the former owner of Globo Gym.

Honorable mentions: Waterboy, The Mighty Ducks.

These are just the movies that got me all warm and fuzzy inside.  Feel free to chime in with your own feel-good moments.  I'm sure that there are some feel-good moments in sports movies you've seen but I haven't.