20 Most Unrealistic Sports Movie Plots Ever
Sports films may not occupy a huge space in the cinematic canon, but no one can argue that many of the best aren't some of the most beloved.
While the teams, players and athletes we loyally cheer on, or just enjoy watching, don't always follow the script written in our hopes and dreams, sports films often capture the moments of triumph that are often so fleeting in reality, as well as bring to life the game in ways we could never imagine.
Just as the seemingly impossible sometimes becomes all too real on the field, the rink or court, great sports movies often take liberties with reality. How entertaining would a biopic about Muhammad Ali be if it was nothing more than actors recreating history without any re-imagining?
That's what documentaries are for. Creativity doesn't have to betray the essence of the story. However, sometimes sports films ask us to suspend a belief just a little too much, for better or worse. This can be totally true to the spirit of the movie, but it can also be a major distraction or can lie somewhere in between.
These are the "20 Most Unrealistic Moments in Sports Movies Plots."
20. Little Big League: Sure, This Kid Can Manage the Twins
Like many of these movies, I've always loved Little Big League. It starts out with an emotional Billy Heywood losing his beloved grandpa and inheriting his beloved Twins. And let's just say you had me at "hello" with this tween classic.
After a relatively realistic start, things eventually start to venture into the absurd. Can't blame a starry-eyed Heywood for wanting to get rid of the Twins' unhinged, rageaholic general manager George O'Farrell, but there were plenty of adults in his life that dropped the ball when they allowed him to name himself the skipper.
Heywood is first despised, then respected, then beloved, then despised again and then respected by the team—all in the course of a single season. All because poor Billy got wrapped up in the ego-driven "this is a business" mentality of professional sports. He even forgives pitcher Lou Collins, who has the cojones to date the boss's mom.
Eventually Heywood recognizes that he's been a monster jag from the planet d-bag who let fame and fortune go to his head and manages to right all of his countless wrongs. And they all lived happily ever after.
In Reality: It goes without saying that nobody would let a kid manage a baseball team, and there's not a chance in hell that O'Farrell doesn't may Billy cry in that early scene. Okay, maybe the Cubs would. But even so, the team would have never come around to being bossed around by a kid, and Billy probably would have cried even more.
19. She's the Man: Or IS She? No...no...She Isn't.
This isn't the first time you're going to encounter a tragically failed gender-bending athlete on this list, but fallen Nickelodeon princess Amanda Bynes is the best of the worst. In a plot line that is flipped on its head, Bynes plays Viola Hastings, a high-school soccer superstar who is good enough to compete with the boys. Except they won't let her. Jerks.
Viola comes up with a brilliant plan to switch schools and dress up as her brother who usually goes there, but is out of town to make their soccer team. Jeez that would so fail immediately in real life. She actually looks kind of like a boy—an awkward, relatively feminine one who just happens to be great at soccer.
Things get dicey when the brother returns home. Basically indescribable hijinks ensue, but naturally everything works out for the best in the end. If you've ever seen that 80s movie Just One of the Guys, just replace "soccer" with "journalism" and you've basically seen this movie without having to see it.
In Reality: No mentally stable person would come up with this plan to buck the system like this. There are plenty of ways to get around rules these days that do not involve dressing up as another gender.
Nobody would have been as fooled for nearly as long as they were. And when everyone found out—school officials, parents, other students and likely local authorities—they all would have had some questions.
18. Bring It On: The Clovers Get Sweet Revenge?
The basic premise of Bring it On is that the lily-white Rancho Carney Toros have been winning national cheerleading championships for years by sending Raggedy Ann down to East Compton to jack the Clovers' cheers, and eventually the Clovers decide to put a stop to it.
The Clovers were none too fond of watching their routines on ESPN, so after a very dramatic confrontation with the Toros, the Clovers raise the money to send themselves to nationals and shock: They win!
Naturally the Toros are all better people, happy with second place, and one-time rivals become friends. All that hostility melts away, and they gather for their big closing dance number to "Hey Mickey." Oh, and the geek gets the girl.
Probably the dumbest movie I've ever loved.
In Reality: There is actually nothing about this movie that I can place in reality.
17. Jerry Maguire: You Had Me at You're Fired
Admittedly, I've never been the biggest Jerry Maguire fan, but I definitely don't think it's a terrible movie, and it really has some pretty great moments, most of which include Cuba Gooding Jr. The movie starts off as real as it gets. Sports agency is a cut-throat business, and all it takes is one unhinged mission statement to get you fired.
Tom Cruise plays a relatively likable Jerry Maguire, despite the fact that we find out he was basically a charismatic sociopath in in past life. Kinda like an employed Bob Sugar.
Maguire doesn't take well to Sugar giving him his walking papers and stealing his clients, but he vows revenge, and poor Dorothy Boyd, the only employee touched by his manifesto, inadvisedly decides to go with him.
In Reality: Things definitely would have worked out just fine for Bob Sugar, because that's just how life works. Jerry would probably rebound eventually because that's usually how life works.
But realistically, there would just never be a "you had me at hello" moment. Poor Dorothy.
16. Lucas: Leaves a Loser, Returns a Hero
In Lucas, former teen idol Corey Haim plays the title character. High school student Lucas Bly is a typical smarty-pants nerd who is lusting after a girl that just wants to be friends. In what is usually a can't-fail move, Lucas decides to join the football team to impress her, but shockingly, he isn't that great at football.
Lucas' plan doesn't even really get off the ground because he's severely injured in his very first game and is hospitalized in serious condition. The object of his affection learns what he had been doing to impress her and dashes to the hospital where she makes him promise not to play football anymore and tells him she still wants to be his friend.
Salt in the wounds, girlfriend. But Lucas suddenly seems to be on the same page—probably all the pain meds.
Eventually Lucas returns to school, but he's no longer an outcast! There are no more bullies, wedgies, swirlies or whatever else jags in high school do. He looks in his locker to find a varsity letterman jacket with his name and number and the entire hallway breaks out into the (only in the movies) slow clap.
In Reality: Actually, everything up until his triumphant return to school sound about right—particularly the fact that Cappie, played appropriately by Charlie Sheen, lands the girl of Lucas' dreams.
15. The Air Up There: Kevin Bacon Steals an African...with Permission
The Air Up There is built on the fundamental premise that pretty much all tall black people are innately fantastic basketball players. My first instinct is that the whole premise is a bit on the culturally insensitive side, but having seen the movie I know for sure that wasn't the intention.
You know that an American treasure like Kevin Bacon would never be involved in something like that.
Bacon plays an assistant hoops coach named Jimmy Dolan who needs new star player if he wants to get that big promotion to head coach. Rather than holding some local tryouts, Dolan decides to head to Africa because he sees a video confirming there is a tall black man there who is not terrible at basketball.
Despite what sounds like the dumbest idea ever, Dolan pulls it off. He recruits Saleh, convinces his family to let him move, and Saleh rules at basketball. Of course they each teach the other a little bit something about life and are richer in the end for it.
In Reality: Not all tall black people are good at basketball, dammit. I'm quite short you know; that doesn't mean I'd make an ace jockey.
14. The Bad News Bears: Not Such Bad News After All
The Bad News Bears is the movie that originated a now extremely familiar premise: A gang of misfits with marginal talent but plenty of heart shock the world with their unlikely success.
The Bears are added to the league as the result of a lawsuit settlement on behalf of a city official who is hellbent on getting his son on a team. The same responsible public official recruits former minor leaguer Morris Buttermaker, played by a crotchety Walter Matthau who was old even in the 1970s, to coach the lowly Bears.
Buttermaker is an alcoholic with a foul mouth who has no business being around children, but it turns out he's a pretty solid recruiter. The Bears come within a single run of winning the championship but claim the moral victory, and everyone walks away a better person—especially the kid with the horrible father who started this mess.
In Reality: Foul-mouthed alcoholics are rarely given jobs in general, let alone jobs that involve children, and even then they are almost never good at them. The Bears would loose every game, and most of the players would eventually end up in juvey.
13. The Ringer: Let's Rig the Special Olympics!
Steve Barker, played by jackass Johnny Knoxville, gets promoted and is forced to fire his friend Stavi. Racked with guilt, he pays Stavi to do odd jobs around his home, but his charitable effort backfires when Stavi loses three fingers in a lawnmower accident.
To make matters worse, Stavi is uninsured and must come up with $28,000 in two weeks before the hospital will re-attach his fingers. No good deed goes unpunished.
Barker vows to raise the money and quickly finds himself embroiled in a repugnant scheme with his gambling addict Uncle Gary.
Reluctantly, Barker—who was a high school track and field star—enters the Special Olympics and pretends to have disability. His task? Defeat the Usain Bolt of the games, a fellow named Jimmy and his uncle wins $100,000 from a wager against the champion.
Barker fools the idiot officials but not the other athletes. However, Jimmy is kind of an a-hole, so they go along with the ruse in an effort to knock the arrogant jerk down a peg. In the end, everyone kind of wins and Katherine Heigl falls in love with Johnny Knoxville—got that?
In Reality: I can't get into every bit of nonsense, but you can't just roll up to the Special Olympics and sign up. There are eligibility requirements and all kinds of process-related hurdles like any other major athletic event.
Barker never would have gotten in, but even if he had, the athletes would have exposed him immediately and he would have ended up a Casey Anthony-like villain.
His love interest Lynn—a person who’s a passionate advocate for persons with disabilities—wouldn't fall for Barker. He wouldn't get the girl. He'd get a swift kick in the crotch.
12. Varsity Blues: Flagrant Teenage Nudity with No Consequences
Varsity Blues is a movie I'm always down to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but there's nary a moment of the movie that reminds me in any way of my own high school experience. The good guys are too good. The bad guys are too bad, and the fat guys are too fat.
Not that it makes the whole film any less awesome.
Although, maybe it was just from a simpler time, but the last time I watched I couldn't help but think that Charlie Tweeder would probably end up in federal prison for jacking that cop car and having a naked orgy in it. I guess I'm just getting old, folks.
And then there's Miss Davis, the full-time teacher and part-time stripper living in the town the size of a postage stamp, who manages to keep her job teaching teenagers even after the football team has seen her naked. Parents are many things besides accepting and understanding of the life decisions of others.
No judgement though. I fully support Miss Davis doing her thing.
In Reality: Charlie Tweeder would be in jail. Miss Davis would be unemployed. The evil coach Kilmer would have kept his job and Mox would have never left Darcy Sears alone in her whipped cream bikini.
11. Happy Gilmore: Would Definitely Be in Jail in Real Life.
Adam Sandler plays Happy Gilmore, a terrible hockey player with a vicious slap shot, but with an uncontrollable temper. His biggest claim to fame is trying to stab someone with his skate—which seems plausible enough. And, this is where any basis in reality ends.
Happy may suck at hockey, but it turns out he's not half bad at golf and has a wicked drive.
A chance meeting with Chubbs, a legend at a driving range who recognizes his talent for golf, steers Happy into an amateur competition that could ultimately save his grandmother's house.
Happy's foul mouth, personal meltdowns and the fact that his caddie washes his underwear in the water hazards, really attracts a new blue-collar crowd to the tour.
After almost getting kicked off the tour for acting like a psycho and attacking Bob Barker, Happy actually starts to improve, much to the dismay of his arch nemesis Shooter McGavin, who is hellbent on destroying the tour's newbie.
Then things get real…really real. Shooter buys Happy's family home, says he eats pieces of sh*t for breakfast and then promises the house back if Happy beats him in the tour championship.
Then Happy kills an alligator, the shock of which kills Chubbs, is nearly killed on the course by a lunatic hired by Shooter McGavin and then makes an absolutely impossible putt to win the championship. Don't ya just love happy endings?
In Reality: Chubbs would have had that nasty wooden arm replaced with something more substantial. Happy would be terrible at golf, but even if he made the tour, Shooter McGavin would have won the championship because that's just the way of the world.
And Happy would definitely be in jail in real life.
10. Juwanna Man: Well You Gotta Man in a Wig
Maybe it's possible to have a man or woman play the opposite gender in a sports movie that isn't a cinematic terror, but it has yet to be done. 2002's horrifying Juwanna Mann definitely stands as the worst of the worst of this gender bender genre with nothing redeeming about it.
The plot is pretty much always the same. In Juwanna Mann the UBA's (not NBA, for copyright purposes) resident problem child Jamal Jeffries is such a jag wagon that he is literally blackballed from the league after stripping down to his birthday suit to protest the fact that he was pulled from a game.
Jeffries is naturally unable to find work doing anything else because he has no other skills in life, so he makes the only logical decision: Put on a wig and play in the WUBA (not WNBA, for copyright purposes).
He comes up with the clever name "Juwanna Mann" (get it?), and nobody seems to notice that there's a superstar man in a wig and un-clever made up name playing in the women's league.
Oh and of course Juwanna Mann falls in love with one of her teammates, played by Vivica A. Fox, and she forgives him for being a disgusting liar after he wins the championship and is re-instated into the WUBA (not NBA, for copyright purposes). I ain't sayin' she a gold digger (I am).
In Reality: Part of this cinematic turd reminds me of Allen Iverson's story. Only with Iverson there's no gender bending, no getting the girl, no story of redemption. Just bankruptcy and bummer after bummer. :(
9. Like Mike: Now You Know Why Those Shoes Cost $300
I've tried to stick to movies that have some kind of footing in reality but couldn't exclude the Lil' Bow Wow vehicle Like Mike. Despite having actually seen this mess, I actually checked the Wikipedia page which astutely noticed that the plot is shockingly similar to Slam Dunk Ernest.
Bow Wow plays teenage orphan Calvin Cambridge who scores tickets to see the Los Angeles Knights (basically the Clippers before CP3 and Blake Griffin). In a fantastic coincidence before the game, Calvin stumbles upon some old Nikes at the Salvation Army which just so happen to have the initials "MJ" emblazoned on them.
Hmmm...those initials sound familiar.
He and his boys hit the game, and stunningly Calvin and his shoes get randomly chosen to participate in a halftime contest against a couple of NBA "stars." Turns out his MJ shoes transform Bow Wow into a straight-up baller because he makes the Knights look like the Bobcats. Of course he's signed on the spot—I guess the Knicks and Cubs opted out.
In an unpleasant twist, the evil Annie-esque orphanage owner is determined to get his grubby mitts on all Bow Wow's winnings, and dude even steals his shoes and bets against the team. Too bad there's a bully-turned-friend around to help Bow Wow get his sneaks back, make it to the game, destroy the lowly Raptors and make the playoffs!
Awwwwww…and then he and his BFF get adopted by the same family!
In Reality: Those smelly old shoes would just stink, and poor Calvin would never even get those tickets to the basketball game. Nobody would get adopted. The "Knights" and Raptors would continue to suck for eternity. And Michael Jordan will forever be crapping in a solid gold toilet bowl thanks to the most over-priced, in-demand kicks in the world.
And the producers of Like Mike would have been sued by Jim Varney and would have lost big time.
8. Major League: The Indians Win the Whole Bleeping Thing
Major League, despite the inclusion of Corbin Bernsen, is one of the funniest sports comedies of all time.
And it actually has a pretty realistic premise: The owner of a professional sports franchise wants to move it from Cleveland—that's been known to happen. All the owner has to do to get out of the Cleve is drop attendance enough to get out of the team's lease.
The evil owner Rachel "jag face" Phelps puts together a hilariously deficient group of characters who make up in crazy what they lack in talent. The team overachieves because really there was nowhere to go but up, so Phelps decides to stop coddling the team—which means no more hot water and frightful plane rides in a leaky plane.
Eventually the boys get wind of the plot and learn they'll all be out of a job at the end of the season. That's when Tom Berenger (as Jake Taylor) comes up with the most glorious plan of all time: Win more games.
If only someone had spoke up at spring training. Well, it's a little more nuanced than that, but all that matters is that it works! Phelps is foiled. Cleveland has a brief moment in the sun, and Jake Taylor gets the girl!
In Reality: They would not win the whole bleeping thing. That kind of thing just doesn't happen in Cleveland. And the sexy librarian would have married that hateful d-bag she was with when her philanderer-ex Jake swooped back into town.
7. Eddie: Fan Fantasy, Team Suicide
You probably haven't even heard of this movie, but the Knicks have been so bad for so long that many of us wouldn't even raise an eyebrow if they hired Whoopi Goldberg to coach the team. Couldn't be any worse than Isiah Thomas' reign of terror.
Back when Whoopi was flying high in the mid-90s, she landed the role of Eddie Franklin, a limousine driver and diehard Knicks fan in Eddie.
She has the fortune of winning a halftime contest to be an "honorary coach" for the second half a game because why the hell not? Well, she rocks the crap out of it and the Knicks, obviously with no options, decide to hire her as their real coach.
Eddie goes on to rock the crap out of coaching the Knicks in general and completely turns the team around. They make the playoffs, prevent the team from being moved to vile St. Louis and for the first time since the 70s—the Knicks had a happy ending.
In Reality: There's no way in hell Spike Lee wouldn't get the temporary coaching job! No offense, Whoopi. Either way, the Knicks would have continued their proud tradition of crapping the bed and Isiah Thomas would have still been brought in to make sure of it.
Also. A New York team under the threat of being moved to St. Louis? That has got to be the most laughably unbelievable nonsense in this entire slideshow.
6. Ladybugs: It Turns Out That Boy in the Wig Is A...BOY?
In the Rodney Dangerfield classic (?) Ladybugs, he plays Chester Lee, a bumbling businessman who decides to coach a girls soccer team in order get a leg up at work. Which would have been an excellent plan had the team, which includes his boss's daughter, not been the most comically terrible soccer team in history.
Because the captain of a sinking ship rarely gets promoted, Chester knows he's knee deep in, and he decides to go behind his girlfriend's back to recruit her son to play for the girls team. Matthew looks like a boy in a blonde wig playing soccer and quite obviously wants to be more than "just friends" with the boss's daughter. But nobody seems to notice.
Eventually the mom gets wise to the situation and she is pissed. Chester loses his star player just before the championship game, but Matthew's halftime gender confession to the team somehow makes them good enough at soccer to overcome a three-goal deficit.
Everyone forgives Chester. Matthew gets the boss's daughter and, naturally, Chester gets that promotion and finally decides to make an honest woman of his girlfriend.
In Reality: Nobody would have believed Matthew was a girl. Chester could have never landed a broad like Bess, let alone seal the deal with her after his gender-bending soccer experiment with her son. Ditto on the promotion—he probably wouldn't have been employed in the first place.
One would imagine the boss's daughter would have had some very serious hesitation about dating Matthew after knowing him intimately only as Martha for months. And I'm pretty certain police would have become involved at some point.
5. Ed (the Monkey Playing Baseball Movie)
Obviously every movie in which an animal becomes a sports superstar is unbelievably silly, but they are made on a shoestring budget to make them profitable. Which is why you'll only see one on this list. The worst one. I couldn't even bring myself to make it No. 1 because it's just too stupid.
It's no secret that the cast of Friends have made a number of cinematic stinkers, but chief among them has to be Matt LeBlanc's starring role in Ed. A movie so absolutely ridiculous that it's hard to imagine that green lighting it didn't cost at least one person his job.
Joey plays "Deuce" Cooper, a struggling baseball pitcher who gets booted down to the minors after coming up small in some big moments. Deuce also has an attitude problem, but it seems justified when it turns out the team's third baseman, and his new roommate, is a chimpanzee named Ed.
Because they had to add context to how a monkey ended up playing for the Rockets, it turns out Ed actually got promoted from team mascot after demonstrating his baseball prowess for what was obviously the most desperate minor league baseball team in history.
In Reality: There is just no professional sports team on earth that would let a chimpanzee play third base. But maybe the Cubs would let him pitch.
Man, I'm going to get some hate mail from Cubs fans.
4. The Mighty Ducks: Gordon Bombay Makes Over His Soul
If you didn't love The Mighty Ducks, then you're downright un-American. That being said, there are few sports movies that exist in a more unrealistic world than this Emilio Estevez classic. It starts off with Gordon Bombay being sentenced to coach a hockey team, the very sport he gave up as a child, after being busted for DUI.
Why a judge is sentencing a drunk-driving hot-shot attorney to work with kids is anyone's guess.
Bombay has his limo drive up on a frozen pond to find a group of vagabonds that very vaguely resemble a hockey team. There are no uniforms. The kids aren't steady on the ice, and I'm pretty sure at least one of them is wearing tennis shoes, but they all have sticks.
Yet Bombay, who hates hockey and doesn't like kids, manages to make over this rag-tag group of losers into a championship team. He also has the added bonus of a makeover to his soul and exercises all his childhood demons in the process.
In Reality: It would have made for a shorter movie, but in real life Bombay would have probably been arrested for having his limo drive up on that ice the very first day and would have been required to keep a safe distance away from schools for the rest of his life.
He would have done some appropriate community service, gone back to being a lawyer and Team U.S.A. never would have won the Junior Goodwill Games.
3. D2: The Might Ducks: Gordon Bombay Makes Over His Soul...Again
In the sequel so powerful that it spawned an entire NHL team, coach Gordon Bombay returns to Minnesota after an injury cuts his minor league hockey career short. Bombay is working as a lowly skate sharpener when a city slicker breezes in and offers him the job coaching the U.S. team at the Junior Goodwill Games.
Coach doesn't waste much time in picking the team, instructing Charlie to get the old gang, who sure don't look like they've spent much time playing much hockey, back together to…ya know…represent the country at an international competition. Thankfully Bombay recognizes he's got a few duds on his hands and brings in a few ringers.
And then things start to get unbelievable. Coach Bombay, high on his own celebrity, gets cocky and mean, neglects the team and even has the stones to start dating the Iceland lady—the sidekick of the coach of their biggest rival! Before you know it Coach has a full-on mutiny on his hands!
It's hilarious that it's just the whole plot of the first movie, but in reverse.
He shows up late to the big showdown against Iceland, but manages to get the team back on his side with a duck call, some new jerseys and a motivational locker-room speech. And naturally the U.S. defeats those pesky blonde Nordic giants.
In Reality: Bombay would probably still be banned from contact with children stemming from his conduct in the first movie. That point aside, Team U.S.A. would lose—and they would lose big.
2. Field of Dreams: Field of Financial Ruin and Mental Institutions
While I'm fully aware that there are a great number of people who adore Kevin Costner's swan song Field of Dreams, I must confess that I am not one of them. Its target audience is obviously male baseball fanatics with a sense of whimsy, of which I am neither.
Costner plays Ray Kinsella, a humble Midwestern farmer, raising his children with his wife in Iowa. Things are going well for the family until their patriarch starts spending time with a very dead "Shoeless" Joe Jackson who convinces Kinsella to chop down his crops and build him a baseball field instead.
What could go wrong?
The whole ordeal puts Kinsella on the verge of financial ruin, but just when you think he's going to have to sell his farm, "they" do come—just as promised. And then apparently the baseball field becomes a moneymaking machine because people are suckers.
In Reality: They would not come because they are all dead. I'm sorry, but they just wouldn't. Ray would likely be committed to a mental institution, but not before his family lost their home and life savings because he was listening to the friendly suggestions of a dead baseball player.
He would later be served with divorce papers in his sanitarium and a sticky note on the front that says F*** you.
1. Rookie of the Year: Only on the Cubs...
Rookie of the Year is one of those adorable movies that gives hopes to awkward middle schoolers everywhere. Henry Rowengartner is your average 12-year-old struggling in little league and having trouble attracting the eye of the ladies.
And let's face it—that name of his sure isn't upping the cool factor.
Then Henry breaks his arm trying to catch a fly ball because he sucks at baseball, and it miraculously heals in a way that gives him magical pitching abilities. Naturally the Cubs, who always are on the lookout for a disaster in the making, sign the kid, and he's immediately thrown into their starting pitching rotation.
Because nothing great lasts forever, Henry eventually loses his magical ability at an inopportune time, but he still wins the big game thanks to some advice mom gives him from the stands. Henry's foray into the big time causes a rift with his buddies, but eventually they all work it out and the kid even gets a date.
In Reality: Henry's arm would have healed, and he would still have sucked at baseball. That's what happens when you break bones. It's lame as hell, but that's just real life.
In actual reality, I can't believe Gary Busey starred in something where he wasn't the crazy one.
Now Who Did I Miss? Yell at Me on Twitter About It.
Besides Might Ducks 3! It was just the same dag movie.
You can also yell at me about being a Steelers fan, but it won't bother me.