Michael Jordan, Master Thespian? The 20 Best 'Bad' Sports Movies of All Time
Michael Jordan is in the discussion of the best athletes ever, but to a generation of kids, he is also known as the protagonist of the highly intellectual film Space Jam, in which Jordan must save the Looney Tunes from being kidnapped and sent to Moron Mountain.
Sylvester Stallone may be known today as a guy who is loaded on HGH and needs to stop making terrible action movies, but to a generation of kids, he is the iconic figure who defeated Ivan Drago and ended America's Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Both men are extraordinary figures in their own rights, but they are both part of a list that features the 20 best "bad" sports movies of all time.
The criteria for determining a "bad" sports movie is simple. If the movie received a "rotten" rating on rottentomatoes.com, a world-renowned movie-reviewing website that compiles reviews from all over the Internet, then the movie in question is "bad" and deserves to be on this list.
Officially, Rotten Tomatoes' ledger for determining a rotten movie is if fewer than 60 percent of reviewers believe a certain movie is good.
B/R Featured Columnist Sam Westmoreland wrote a great article about the 50 worst sports movies of all time, a fantastic piece which you can read here.
I was writing this article on the day of that article's release, so once I saw his article, I decided to axe this. But since you can't delete half-finished articles, and this was staring me in the face forever, I decided to finish it.
Most quotes and trivia are courtesy of imdb.com.
My movie ratings are based on entertainment value, not actual quality.
20. Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977)
The Bad News Bears win their Little League championship and earn the right to play an exhibition game against the tough Houston Toros in the Astrodome, overcoming numerous obstacles and hijinks along the way.
Once there, the Bears defeat the Toros even though Astros officials try to stop the game early, inciting of the most famous scenes in sports cinematic history. Watch it here.
Astrodome crowd: "LET THEM PLAY!"
The "Let them play" quote was shouted down to Bud Selig and the umpires during the 2002 All-Star Game that was stopped after 11 innings with the score tied at seven. I remember watching this game with a friend thinking that the crowd was chanting, "Let's kill Bud!"
The original actor who played obese catcher Mike Engelberg in the original Bad News Bears didn't get his part back because he lost too much weight.
6/10. It's just not a good movie, though it has its moments. Losing Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal hurt.
19. Ready to Rumble (2000)
Two schmoes try to get their favorite WCW wrestler, Jimmy King, back into the business after he's kicked out by the WCW owner.
Eugenia King (Jimmy King's ex-wife): "What are ya, high? I haven't seen [Jimmy King] in two years. All I've got to remember him by is an itchy crotch. You ever see crabs up close? Wanna see?"
David Arquette, who is the movie's star, won the WCW World Heavyweight title as part of a deal to promote the film.
6/10. It's good for a few laughs, but the film is mostly crude and stupid. If you're a former pro wrestling diehard like myself, you can't help but watch it if it's on cable.
18. Mystery, Alaska (1999)
The New York Rangers fly to Mystery, Alaska, and play the locals, led by Russell Crowe, in an outdoor hockey game. Subplots include random love stories that act as filler.
Skank Marden (player on Alaska team): "I play hockey and I sleep around, 'cause those are the two most fun things to do in cold weather."
Director Jay Roach has quite the resume, leading all three Austin Powers films as well as Meet the Parents and Dinner for Schmucks.
This is the least successful movie on the list, grossing under $9 million.
6.5/10. Russell Crowe carries a movie that has some funny lines, a cool plot and little else going for it.
17. The Program (1993)
This was Any Given Sunday, college football edition.
Amidst a litany of college sports scandals in the 1980s and 1990s came this movie about a college football program, led by coach Sam Winters (James Caan), that is having some issues.
This film contains a simply ludicrous piece of screenwriting. Steve Lattimer, the stereotypical juiced-up lineman, gets arrested for attempted sexual assault.
However, he doesn't get in trouble for it because, as James Caan puts it, "You're lucky the girl's father is a big fan of the program."
What a miserable dad.
Head coach Sam Winters: What's your assignment?
LB Alvin Mack: "Hit the tight end so hard, his girlfriend dies."
The Program is best known for kids trying to emulate the "chicken" scene, where star QB Joe Kane and some teammates lie in the middle of the road as cars whizz by.
A kid died playing "chicken" after seeing the movie, and now the edited-for-TV version does not contain the scene for fear of others trying to play "chicken" as well.
7/10. Just a fun way to kill a couple hours. The plot holes are numerous, the music is cheesy, the narration during the football scenes is laughable and everything is too over-the-top. But the movie's downfalls make it entertaining.
16. Any Given Sunday (1999)
Somehow, a movie directed by Oliver Stone and featuring Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, LL Cool J, James Woods, Matthew Modine, Aaron Eckhart, Dennis Quaid, Charlton Heston, Jim Brown and Ann Margret turned out to be pretty mediocre overall and remembered almost solely for one of the best speeches in movie history.
That's right, movie history. How many other movie speeches have almost 7 million views on YouTube?
Al Pacino plays Tony Amato, the Miami Sharks head coach who has to deal with a meddling owner, a new offensive coordinator, brash players, a corrupt doctor, an immoral reporter and his own messed-up life all while trying to lead his team to the playoffs to save his job. This film was supposed to be a look into life in the new, fast NFL.
Sportswriter Jake Rose: "It's like my ex-wife. Twenty-one different personalities and seven of them hated me."
This movie cost over $55 million to make.
Robert DeNiro and Clint Eastwood were considered for Pacino's role as Tony Amato.
7/10. This movie could have been so much better. Oliver Stone just did too much. The cinematography is Blair Witch Project-esque at times, and the pace is too fast. It's a highly entertaining film, though.
15. Hard Ball (2001)
Keanu Reeves, a gambling addict, must re-pay a loan to a friend by coaching a Little League baseball team in inner-city Chicago. Apparently the friend had to coach the baseball team for whatever reason but didn't want to. Whatever.
Anyway, Reeves overcomes early difficulties and leads the kids to the championship amidst numerous hardships.
Ray Ray (player): Coach Conor? You're not really trying to get Ms. Wilkes, are you?
Head coach Conor O'Neill: No.
Ray Ray: Good. 'Cause I already tried and she ain't havin' it.
G-Baby (player): Yeah, me too.
The actor who played Jamal, the player who left the team for a gang, is named Michael Jordan.
7.5/10. It's Bad News Bears with a twist. Bad News Bears is a great movie, so even though this film is formulaic, it's not so bad, either.
14. A Knight's Tale (2001)
Jousting to England in Medieval times was what American football is today to the United States, so it certainly can be considered a sport.
A squire (Heath Ledger) obtains false papers and poses as a knight to enter a prestigious jousting competition to win fame and fortune. He finds love, friendship and his estranged father in the meantime.
Geoffrey Chaucer: "A wha- a what? A writer. You know, I write, with ink, and parchment. Geoffrey Chaucer's the name, writing's the game. You've probably read my book? the Book of the Duchess? No? Well, it was allegorical."
Obviously, Geoffrey Chaucer is portrayed in this film. He is one of Heath Ledger's friends in the movie.
David Manning wrote great reviews for the movie. The only problem was that Manning did not exist. A Columbia (production company which produced the movie) employee made up the quotes and had them printed on some of the film's movie posters.
7.5/10. The best attributes of this film are its wit, charm and good script. A Knight's Tale is nothing special, but it's a good modern-day take on medieval jousting.
13. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
A once-promising golfer (Matt Damon) who is suffering from post-tramautic stress disorder following World War I returns to golf 10 years later during the Great Depression as he plays in a tournament with both Bobby Jones and Walter Hagan.
He is helped by a mystical caddy named Bagger Vance (Will Smith) who has something up his sleeve.
Bagger Vance: "Yeah, I always felt a man's grip on his club just like a man's grip on his world..."
This was Jack Lemmon's final movie role.
7.5/10. This film got mediocre reviews, but listen, a film with Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Robert Redford as the writer and director cannot be mediocre.
Granted, the film gets overly romantic and is a bit preachy (some of Will Smith's lines, like the one above, make even the most sentimental person roll his or her eyes), but overall, it's a solid effort.
12. Little Giants (1994)
A former Heisman Trophy winner (Ed O'Neill) doesn't pick his niece Becky for the Urbana, Ohio, Pee Wee football team (Cowboys), inciting his younger brother (Rick Moranis) to form a rival team (Giants) and challenge them to a game to decide who would represent the town in the Pee Wee League.
The new kids on the block are eccentric and aren't very good at football, but with a star quarterback and Becky "The Ice Box" O'Shea at linebacker, they win the final game after a trick play.
Steve Emtman, a former pro player who makes a cameo and helps the Giants: "Just remember, football is 80 percent mental and 40 percent physical."
The original director was fired two-thirds of the way through the film's production.
Cameos were made by John Madden, Bruce Smith, Emmitt Smith, Steve Emtman and Tim Brown.
7.5/10. Aside from the awkward romance angle between Becky and Junior, the team's QB, this was an entertaining movie, with the stars clearly being the fat kid, Zolteck, and his supporting cast of teammates.
11. Rookie of the Year (1993)
Henry Rowengartner breaks his arm during recess at school and somehow gains the capability to throw a 100-mph fastball. The Cubs take notice and Rowengartner inspires the team to the division title, and eventually the World Series.
Cubs pitching coach Phil Brickman: "Hey, your mom has a pretty good arm! I ain't seen the floater pitch since Scuffy McGee!"
Rowengartner was played by Thomas Ian Nicholas, also known as Tara Reid's boyfriend Kevin in the American Pie series. He also played the protagonist in A Kid in King Arthur's Court opposite Kate Winslet.
Daniel Stern, who played Brickman, was also Marv the robber in the Home Alone series and the director of Rookie of the Year.
7.5/10. What kid didn't want to be Henry? However, the film tries to take itself to seriously with scenes about Henry's deteriorating relationship with his friends and his mom's boyfriend trying to take advantage of his success.
If the film stayed goofy throughout and we got more of Gary Busey and Daniel Stern's brilliance, this could have been an all-time classic.
10. The Sandlot (1993)
Scott Smalls moves to a new neighborhood and befriends a sandlot team which features Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez, a legendary ballplayer.
The group encounters numerous challenges in the summer of 1963, most notably retrieving a Babe Ruth signed baseball that fell into a neighbor's yard that is protected by a mastiff known as "The Beast."
Squints (Smalls' teammate): Where did your old man get that ball?
Smalls: I don't know. Some lady gave it to him. She even signed her name on it...Ruth. Baby Ruth.
With much thanks to the Dark Lord Cthulhu (see comments section below), the younger Benny (played by Mike Vitar) and older Benny (Pablo Vitar) are real-life brothers. Pablo Vitar has sadly passed away, and Mike Vitar played Luis Mendoza in the second and third Mighty Ducks films. Today, Mike Vitar is a firefighter in Hollywood. In fact, see where all The Sandlot guys are here.
Five players on the Sandlot team would end up taking small cameo roles in Boy Meets World at some point or another.
8/10. A sentimental favorite among baseball fans that grew up in the 1990s, you can't go wrong with The Sandlot. You can go wrong with Sandlot 2 and Sandlot 3, movies that should never have been made.
9. Mighty Ducks (1992)
A former Pee Wee hockey legend turned cocky lawyer named Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) is forced to coach a Pee Wee hockey team following a community service sentencing for a DUI.
He then coaches a Pee Wee team in his former league and leads them to the state championship amidst numerous hardships, most notably turning the kids into legitimate hockey players.
Goldberg (goalie): My mother is not gonna approve of this, Coach! She wants me to live to be Bar Mitzvah'd!
Gordon Bombay: This is your Bar Mitzvah, Goldberg. Today, you become a man.
Goldberg: No. I think you've got the ceremonies mixed up. This is more like a circumcision.
Fulton (the enormous slapshooter) and Guy Germaine (the sensitive one) are brothers in real life.
8/10. The plot holes are cavernous and the acting is pretty poor, but who cares? It's still an entertaining film.
8. The Waterboy (1997)
A shy waterboy (Adam Sandler) finds his inner linebacker and becomes a defensive beast for his college's football team despite his mother's objections. The Fonz plays Sandler's coach.
Paco, a fan of the Waterboy's team: "I am not what you would call a handsome man. The good Lord chose not to bless me with...with charm, athletic ability...or a fully functional brain. You see, you're an inspriation, to all of us who...who weren't born handsome, and charming and cool, and and..."
This is Adam Sandler's highest-grossing movie and the second-highest grossing movie about football (The Blind Side is No. 1.)
8/10. Sandler's character can get annoying, but the supporting characters are good for laughs.
7. The Replacements (2000)
Keanu Reeves plays a washed-up former pro quarterback who gets another shot when a players strike occurs. He leads a rag-tag group of players, including an ex-con and a convenience store janitor, to late-season success after winning three of their last four games to take the fictional Washington Sentinels to the playoffs.
WR Clifford Franklin, explaining what he looks like with stickum: "Now you know this don't look natural, Coach. Now you know it don't...I look like I just jacked off an elephant."
Quietly, this was a pretty stacked cast in terms of star power. Reeves, Gene Hackman, Jon Favreau, Orlando Jones, Pat Summerall and John Madden were in the movie.
Washington's home field was actually the Baltimore Ravens' home stadium, M&T Bank Stadium.
8/10. Each character had his or her own idiosyncrasies to make this film funny, and the chemistry between the teammates was readily evident. Gene Hackman obviously mailed in this role, though. Compare his acting in Hoosiers and The Replacements: It's like night and day.
6. Angels in the Outfield (1994)
A young orphan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) prays for the sad-sack California Angels to win the pennant after his estranged father sarcastically tells him that he'll take him back when that occurs. Gordon-Levitt prays for that to occur, and with the help of real-life angels, the baseball team wins the pennant.
Ranch Wilder (Angels play-by-play man): Whit Bass takes the mound with his oddball antics that are now well-known to the fans.
Wally (Angels color commentator): That's right Ranch. This season alone we've seen him lick dirt, eat bugs and floss his catcher's teeth in the dugout.
Ranch Wilder: None of that, may I add, seems to have helped his pitching. He's 2 and 11.
This film made the same mistake Rookie of the Year did. In this movie, it's stated that the Angels won the pennant after beating the White Sox for the AL West title in a regular season tiebreaker game (the film was made in 1993 when both teams were in the same division).
Of course, they would have needed to beat the AL East champion to then win the pennant. Rookie of the Year made the same mistake, except substitute the Cubs for the Angels, the Mets for the White Sox and the NL East for the AL West.
The following accomplished actors appeared in this film: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Danny Glover, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Matthew McConaughey, Adrien Brody, Brenda Fricker, Neil McDonough, Dermot Mulroney and Jay O. Sanders.
8.5/10. I'll admit that of the many kids sports movies that came out in the early to mid-1990s (I count at least 11 off the top of my head), this is my favorite. I don't know why.
The acting is solid all around, and you can't help but feel connected to the orphans' plight to find a home. It's a cheesy Disney movie, but it's good.
5. Bloodsport (1988)
Frank Dux (Jean-Calude Van Damme) fights in the Kumite, a no-holds-barred MMA tournament in Hong Kong that is ruled by a fighter named Chong Li. He wins despite American authorities trying to bring him back home the entire time.
Janice Kent, a reporter who sleeps with Dux to get closer to him and access to the Kumite: "That's not the first time I went undercover for a story."
Frank Dux is a real-life fighter and instructor.
8.5/10. If you're at the very least a casual MMA fan like myself, you can't help but be fascinated by the fighting scenes in this film and the different styles portrayed. All the fights are shot very well; anything else that occurs in the movie is inherently worthless aside from its unintentional comedy.
Another hidden gem in this movie: the soundtrack is very well done.
4. Space Jam (1996)
Despite getting universally panned by critics, Space Jam is an iconic film for any basketball-loving kid who grew up in the 1990s.
I wish I had some of Michael's Secret Stuff so I could play more than 15 seconds a game in my Armenian Church basketball league when I was younger. Sucks to be 5'7", fat and slow.
Charles Barkley: "I promise I'll never swear again. I'll never get another technical. I'll never trash talk... I won't go out with Madonna again."
The names of the aliens are Pound (orange one), Bang (green), Nawt (magenta), Bupkus (purple) and Blanko (blue).
Cameos include Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Bill Murray, Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond), Dan Castellanetta (Simpsons fame) and Larry Bird.
9/10. It's a bit dated, but the subtle humor makes this film great.
3. Happy Gilmore (1996)
A failed hockey player (Happy Gilmore, played by Adam Sandler) tries his hand at golf to make some money and get his grandmother's house back after she fails to pay taxes.
With an unusual swing and putting style, he overcomes his arch nemesis Shooter McGavin, gets a girlfriend, gets beaten up by Bob Barker and wins a big tournament to get his grandmother's house.
Happy Gilmore: "The price is wrong, bitch."
You would think that a movie every sports fan has seen once would earn more than $33 million in the box office. If you did, you thought wrong.
Carl Weathers, who played Sandler's caddy Chubbs, was Apollo Creed in the Rocky series and is now the coach in the Bud Light playbook ad campaign.
9/10. Sandler nails the role of Happy Gilmore, and Christopher McDonald does the same as Shooter McGavin. The movie is consistently hilarious even 15 years later.
2. BASEketball (1998)
The funniest sports movie I've ever seen, with Major League and Caddyshack not too far behind. If you like juvenile and sophomoric humor mixed with a witty script, this film is for you.
By the way, the sport of baseketball is really fun to play. Give it a shot.
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker play two everyday guys who create a sport that becomes an overnight phenomenon.
The bulk of the film chronicles their championship season in a new basketball league, all while poking fun at the big-money nature of then present-day sports culture.
Every memorable quote in the movie is in the video above, but here's my favorite, simply because of who said it.
Baseketball announcer Bob Costas: "You're excited? Feel these nipples!"
Ernest Borgnine, the actor who plays the Milwaukee Beers team owner, won a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Marty.
9.5/10. It's a laugh-a-minute movie.
1. Rocky IV (1985)
Rocky ends the Cold War and beats the greatest boxer of all time in one fell swoop. Somehow, Sylvester Stallone got away with making a movie that was almost entirely filled with montages. Hence, Rocky IV is both the laziest and most entertaining sports movie I've ever seen.
Ivan Drago: "If he dies, he dies."
Rocky IV made the most money of any film in the series, taking home over $300 million worldwide.
The training scenes were actually filmed in Wyoming.
10/10. For sheer entertainment value, it doesn't get better than this. Plus, the song played during the climactic fight scene (see video) is actually great music.