10 Great Sports Movie One-Liners from the Past 25 Years
We love sports films for a lot of different reasons, usually tied to some combination of heartfelt emotion, rooting for the underdog and razor-sharp dialogue, which is why these 10 great sports movie one-liners from the past 25 years should bring back good memories.
Who doesn’t love Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) in Jerry Maguire saying, “A real man does not shoplift the pooty from a single mom,” which is just one of at least a dozen gems from that Oscar-nominated film.
The truth is, we remember sports movies for iconic moments and memorable lines that produced spit-take laughs, put a lump in our throat or made us go “Awww” even though we were fully aware of the emotional manipulation.
The one-liners in this list are confined to films made in or after 1991, and they have nothing to do with the quality of the movies from which the lines are taken.
In other words, not every film on this list is a classic by any means; in some instances the one-liners are the best part of that film.
So get comfortable, grab some popcorn and sample some tasty dialogue.
Happy Gilmore (1996): Video Contains Adult Language
The film traces the quest of Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) as he tries to become a golf pro to earn enough money to save his grandmother’s house from foreclosure.
The movie is rightly known for the gut-busting scene in which Gilmore suffers a beatdown at the hands of a well-tanned Bob Barker. That scene has the distinction of winning the first MTV Movie Award for Best Fight, and also contains one of the film’s signature one-liners.
“The price is wrong, b---h.”
After Gilmore beats down famous game show host Bob Barker for maligning his golf skills, he delivers this classic as he stands triumphantly over the fallen old man, until Barker reverses things and knocks Gilmore out.
Jerry Maguire (1996): Video Contains Adult Language
A soulless sports agent named Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) has a crisis of conscience and tries to hold on to his last client, Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a talented but inconsistent wide receiver, while also romancing a single mom (Renee Zellweger).
Although some fans debate whether this is in fact a sports film, Foxsports.com ranked it 12th on its list of 20 greatest sports movies of all time.
Maguire has to prove he’s worthy of representing Rod in an epic phone conversation that also contains the film’s best one-liner.
“Show me the money.”
Tidwell delivers this line after Maguire asks him what it will take to keep him as a client, and forces Maguire to shout this line into the phone before finally agreeing to stick with him.
Could there really be any other one-liner from this movie that defined why it remains a classic? Yes, “You had me at hello” is outstanding and “Help me, help you” is marvelous, but Jerry Maguire is most famous for “Show me the money.”
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) Video Contains Adult Language
NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) tries to regain his championship form after an accident leaves him in the hospital, he loses his Formula One title to newcomer Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his wife Carley (Leslie Bibb) leaves him for his best friend Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly).
The family dinner prayer scene. (Warning, the link to the video of that scene contains language that may not be suitable for children)
“If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
Bobby’s memorable one-liner after winning yet another race is hilariously simple and true if analyzed from the point of view of a champion who thinks of second place as the first loser.
Placing first is all that matters in Bobby’s world, which comes back to bite him when Girard takes away his title and his best friend beds his woman.
The laughs in the film are fast and furious, which is why Bill Simmons writing in a Grantland review called it an “exceedingly rewatchable cable movie,” that had more than a dozen laugh-out-loud moments.
White Men Can’t Jump (1992): Video Contains Adult Language
Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) and Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) team up on the street basketball circuit to con other teams and win money to pay off Hoyle’s debt to mobsters, while learning some valuable cultural truths about each other.
Hoyle and Deane run a street ball con on Raymond (Marques Johnson), who reacts badly and threatens to shoot everyone on the court after he learns he’s been swindled. (Warning, the link to the video of that scene contains language that may not be suitable for children.)
“See white people, y’all can’t hear Jimi…you listen.”
Deane says this in a conversation with Hoyle and his girlfriend Gloria Clemente (Rosie Perez), as they’re driving in a car and Hoyle puts in a tape of Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” (Warning, the link to the video of that scene contains language that may not be suitable for children.)
This funny line encapsulates the entire cultural argument between Deane and Hoyle about the differences between blacks and whites, and is one of the reasons Thomas Golianopoulos of the now-shuttered Grantland, called it the “funniest basketball movie ever made,” a sports film that examined race relations and stereotypes without shying away from controversy.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Gym owner Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) and his band of misfits must compete in a dodgeball contest to raise the money to save their gym from ruthless health club guru White Goodman (Ben Stiller).
The movie has become a sports classic and holds a 70 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The scene in which Patches O’Houlihan (Rip Torn) trains La Fleur’s ragtag group how to dodge a ball by using a wrench as a painful example.
“Nobody makes me bleed my own blood.”
Katherine Veach (Christine Taylor) smashes Goodman's into the wall outside her house when he tries to kiss her, despite the fact he disgusts her. Goodman responds to the assault with this ridiculous line that showcases the depths of his stupidity.
A League of Their Own (1992)
Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), a failed baseball manager, coaches an underdog team in the first professional all-female baseball league, dealing with in-fighting, jealousy and outsize egos.
Dugan flings a glove at a chubby kid in suspenders who stands in front of the team’s dugout and taunts the players that they are about to lose a game.
“There’s no crying in baseball.”
No other quote from this most-quotable sports film is as well-known or repeated than this gem Dugan utters in astonishment after he chews out Evelyn Gardner (Bitty Schram) for a fielding mistake, and she begins to weep.
The one-liner was ranked 54th on a list of 100 greatest movie quotes published by the American Film Institute (AFI).
Space Jam (1996)
The Looney Tunes gang, led by Bugs Bunny, challenge aliens to a basketball game to determine whether they will be taken to a planet to become attractions at a theme park, or win their freedom. After the aliens steal the powers of NBA stars such as Larry Bird and Charles Barkley, Bugs Bunny recruits Michael Jordan to help his team win.
During an NBA game between the New York Knicks and the Phoenix Suns, the aliens steal the basketball talents of Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley, which results in some hilariously bad acting by the hardcourt legends.
“I don’t play defense.”
Murray utters this classic one-liner after arriving on the court during the climactic game against the aliens. He huddles up with Jordan and the rest of the Looney Tunes team, and draws up an offensive play. When Jordan tells him “Bill, we’re on defense,” Murray responds with this deadpan quote.
Zach Lowe, writing for gone-but-not-forgotten Grantland, suggested Murray is the real hero of the film and steals every scene in which he appears, including ones with the charismatic Jordan.
Any Given Sunday (1999): Video Contains Adult Language
Football coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) must learn how to wrangle his wild child new quarterback, Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), and unite his team as he faces mounting pressure from the ambitious owner, Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz).
Pagniacci walks into her team’s locker room, while the players are in various states of undress, and congratulates them on a victory. Watching the men react to their owner’s presence as she walks through their midst is priceless, and as Stephen Marcie of Esquire wrote, the scene shows how completely Pagniacci owns these men, body and soul.
“And I know, if I'm gonna have any life anymore it's because I'm still willing to fight and die for that inch, because that's what living is, the six inches in front of your face.”
D’Amato says these words as part of an inspiring speech he gives his team before a big game, and despite the usual “big-game speech” clichés, it’s a powerful and emotional scene that nearly atones for some of the film’s more operatic and grandiose moments.
Fever Pitch (2005)
Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon) falls in love with Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore), who thinks he’s a great guy until she discovers he’s a diehard Boston Red Sox fan, which becomes a huge obstacle in their relationship.
At a Red Sox game, Wrightman explains to his friend why fans of the team continue to attend even though the team continues to lose (the film’s ending had to be rewritten after the team’s 2004 World Series win). Wrightman’s speech is simple, clear and goes to the heart of what it means to be a fan.
“Will you go to opening day with me?”
Holding a small box, Wrightman gets on one knee in front of Meeks as if he’s going to propose marriage, and instead opens the box to reveal Red Sox tickets.
(The actual “proposal” starts at 2:03 of the video)
The Actual “proposal” Starts at 2:03 of the Video
The Sandlot (1993)
Scottie Smalls (Thomas Guiry) befriends a group of boys led by Hamilton Porter (Patrick Renna), who love sandlot baseball, and together they hang out together in this coming-of-age story Bryan Alexander of USA Today referred to as a “cult classic.”
Porter gets into an insult contest with the leader of a rival group of baseball kids and wins the face-off by telling the boy he plays baseball like a girl.
“You’re killing me, Smalls.”
This is Porter’s response to Smalls, after Porter asks him if he wants a s’more, and Smalls, having no clue what a s’more is, wonders how he can have more of something he hasn’t had yet, which triggers Porter’s classic one-liner that is now part of pop culture.