The 100 Greatest Sports Movies of All Time
Is there anything a sports fan loves more than a good sports movie? Judging by the staggering amount of them out there, I'm inclined to say no.
If you think about it, sports movies aren't even fair. We already love sports, so we're halfway there before the movie even starts. Throw us a good story and we're ready to go for the ride.
A good sports movie can make you sit on the edge of your seat, laugh, or even cry. But most of all, a good sports movie makes you care.
I've compiled the best comedies, dramas, family films, action movies, and documentaries to make up the list of The 100 Greatest Sports Movies of All Time.
Let the debate begin.
No. 100: Space Jam
I still remember the goosebumps in the theater when the Quad City DJs were playing during the credits.
Even though Michael Jordan was a terrible actor, he was such an enormous star and personality that it didn't matter in the least. We just were excited to see him do anything.
Space Jam was a fun movie. Even though you have to ignore the bad acting and the implausible plot line that some alien would think it was a good idea to steal Shawn Bradley's "talent."
No. 99: Youngblood
What's the best part about hockey? The fighting, right?
That's what I like about Youngblood. The final apex of the movie isn't the winning goal; it's the finesse player finally taking on the thug in a fight.
Other than the completely unbelievable thought that Rob Lowe could beat anybody up ever, it's a pretty cool ending. Who doesn't love a good fight?
No. 98: Rookie of the Year
I bet parents hated this movie. Not because it was bad, but because for a whole summer, kids were secretly hoping to break their arm for the remote chance that it might make them a professional baseball player.
Even though the end with the "just float it" moment with his mom was super weak sauce, it was a fun movie to watch because it made you think about not just what it would be like to play in the major leagues, but to do it NOW!
No. 97: The Great White Hope
This movie deserves to make the list for no other reason than this spectacular picture of James Earl Jones looking like Debo from Friday.
It sounds like it should have been about a scrappy white underdog, but was actually about the big black guy that kept kicking all of their asses. Twist!
No. 96: All the Right Moves
See, Tom Cruise could totally relate to Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire. He used to be a football player too, in a different life.
This is your typical "athlete stuck in a small town whose only chance out is an athletic scholarship" movie, with Craig T. Nelson as the coach before he became Coach.
I won't spoil the ending for you, but let's just say that Cruise makes All the Right Moves...Shhhh.
No. 95: Blades of Glory
A while back I had this movie on my list of worst sports movies, but have eventually come around to see the light. When you're the best movie for your sport, you belong on this list.
Sorry all you Cutting Edge fans and anybody who watches ABC Family. No hard feelings. Your movie just didn't have enough gay jokes.
No. 94: Kickboxer
I actually took a screenwriting class from the guy who wrote Kickboxer. He seemed like he smoked a lot of weed.
Funny, because I'm pretty sure that's how Kickboxer is best enjoyed. But hey, doesn't mean that watching Van Damme beat up a bunch of dudes and make crazy faces in a thinly veiled "sport" isn't good times for the rest of the population either.
No. 93: The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
What's the one thing that could make basketball in the '70s even better than it already was? If you said disco, you are correct my man!
With a healthy dose of funk (not meant in an ironic way like in Will Ferrell's insufferable Semi Pro), The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is pretty damn fun.
And it doesn't hurt that Dr. J plays a prominent role in all the action.
No. 92: The Waterboy
If there's one thing Adam Sandler likes more than fart jokes, it's making sports movies, which isn't really such a bad thing, because a couple actually turned out OK.
The Waterboy is one of those movies. The mild-mannered, half-mentally-retarded man child who is secretly a wrecking ball of a linebacker is an actually pretty funny concept.
Plus who doesn't love seeing people get just leveled. Terry Tate and Reebok built a whole ad campaign off that idea.
No. 91: The Program
The world of high-profile college sports is ripe for drama. These kids are treated like gods and are basically given free reign over their school because they can play a sport well. That never ends well in real life, so you can bet they're going to amp things up in the movie.
The program had it all. Roid rage, DUIs, dating the coach's daughter, and Halle Berry. Nick Saban called it "not realistic enough."
No. 90: Redbelt
Redbelt has got some pretty kick-ass fight scenes. Chiwetel Ejiofor play a jiu-jitsu instructor who ends up having to fight for honor at the end of the movie, as do most martial artists in movies who claim they don't want to fight.
We know that if somebody has the ability to throw down in a sports movie, we're going to see it eventually. The movie takes a little while to get to that point, but the payoff is totally worth it.
No. 89: Blue Crush
Despite the fact that this is a blatant chick flick, it actually turns out to be pretty decent surfing movie as well.
Plus, come on, you know that you find even moderately attractive girls (pictured to your left) hotter when they can do cool shit like surf or hotwire a car.
No. 88: The Champ
John Voigt is a boxer! And he doesn't look old and gross like we're accustomed to seeing. And he's a good guy, too?
OK, this is weirding me out. Can we go back to the natural order of things?
No. 87: Varsity Blues
Ahhh, there we are.
Voigt plays an evil high school coach who will do whatever it takes to win. James Van Der Beek plays a quarterback with a gawdawful southern accent.
But at least this movie showed the fun aspect of being town heroes while you're still in high school. Benders to the strip club where you see your hot teacher? Yes, please!
No. 86: The Basketball Diaries
In The Basketball Diaries, Leonardo DiCaprio plays a talented basketball player who eventually falls into the world of drugs because of the messed up world around him.
At least, that's what I think it was about. It could have been a dream all along.
No. 85: Kingpin
An underrated Farrely Brothers movie, and not because of Woody Harrelson or Vanessa Angel. I'm talking about the man you see pictured.
Give it up to Bill Murray for being one of the most awesome sports villains of all time and totally committing to the part. So worth it just to watch him in this movie.
No. 84: Diggstown
What's just as good as a sports movie? That's right, a con movie. And Lord help me if Diggstown doesn't combine the two.
James Woods is a con artist who bets that his fighter can knock out 10 guys in one day. He's at his slimy best, and the movie is an entertaining mix of actual fights and guys taking dives.
The final twist in the movie is what makes it a classic, though. I won't ruin it for you.
No. 83: BASEketball
Another underrated movie. It's by the same guys who brought you South Park and Team America, so you know you're going to find some gems in here.
It's not perfect, but it's fun, and it stars Jenny McCarthy before she got totally crazy and started making really crappy movies.
No. 82: Green Street Hooligans
Soccer hooliganism is basically just as much a sport as soccer is. You have two teams that face off against each other in a heated battle with one side emerging victorious. There's just more drinking involved, which makes it that much better than soccer itself.
Green Street Hooligans shows us the world of people who are so crazy about soccer that they just destroy stuff. I'm still not really sure what I learned at the end of it, but it sure was fun to watch.
No. 81: Cool Runnings
Thanks to Cool Runnings for providing me with the only scenario I can imagine where it would be OK for me to post a picture of four guys in a bathtub together.
I don't even care that John Candy could never have been a bobsledder; I loved him in this movie, and it's such a crazy story you can't help but be sucked in even when Doug E. Doug is telling people to kiss his lucky egg.
No. 80: More Than a Game
Before LeBron James became one of the most unlikeable athletes of all time, this movie helped make him one of the most likeable.
Yes, he still referred to himself in the third person a bit too often, but when you saw how he came up, with everyone telling him how great he was his whole life, it helps give you a perspective on why he thinks and acts the way he does.
The real story here was his friendship with his teammates, which seems to have kept him grounded for as long as humanly possible. Without that, it's scary to think about the jerk he'd be now.
No. 79: Over the Top
You can thank Sly Stallone for knowing why you turn your hat around when you arm wrestle somebody. That's valuable information there.
Seriously, though—it's a movie about arm wrestling. How awesome is that? It's Stallone right around the time he discovered steroids, facing off against some guy with more neck rolls than a pug. As a man, you just have to love this. It's man law.
No. 78: Blue Chips
Blue Chips is one of the most important films of my lifetime, if for no other reason than it sparked the movie career of Shaquille O'Neal. 'Nuff said.
It also took a good look into the shady dealings in college sports, on the coaching level, and showed John Calipari how to do things. Maybe he needs to rewatch it again just to sharpen up, because I'm not about to have one of my UK seasons vacated.
No. 77: The Mighty Ducks
Aw, look at those little troublemakers in the background. What a zany bunch.
Yeah, you can watch The Mighty Ducks again and point out all the stupid stuff in it, but that would just make you a tool. You don't want to be a tool, do you?
Instead, just remember the good times, like when Emilio taught the kids how to pass eggs or how to get called for offsides during the flying V.
And remember Goldberg the Goalie? He was really fat. That's high comedy there.
No. 76: Any Given Sunday
A football movie that just tried a little too hard to be gritty. We get that this wasn't a feel-good story, but Oliver Stone may have pushed just a smidge much here.
There are a few redeeming moments, though, none more so than when Pacino gives his locker room speech about inches. I don't care who you are, that should fire you up. Now get out there and do some blow!
No. 75: Something for Joey
It's not usual for a made-for-TV movie to show up on a list like this, but I'm a sucker for this stuff.
It's the true story about John Capelletti, who won the Heisman while his little brother had leukemia, then named his brother as his motivation and gave him the trophy.
I've got no joke here. That's just good stuff.
No. 74: Vision Quest
Matthew Modine is a wrestler who tries to drop two weight classes. Oh, the drama!
It's actually a pretty decent movie, about as good as one about high school wrestling can be, with the necessary feel-good ending.
And somewhere Bill Simmons is angrily arguing that it should have been placed higher. Too bad, Bill. Should have kept up with that movie list you were putting together. You're in my house now!
No. 73: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
If you can mock a sport while making it seem awesome at the same time, you've done something special.
This has got Vince Vaughn at the height of his coolness, before he started making terrible movies with Jennifer Aniston.
And even though we have to deal with an over-the-top Ben Stiller the whole movie, Vaughn's charisma carries it and the Lance Armstrong and Chuck Norris cameos drive it home.
No. 72: Days of Thunder
Days of Thunder was the quintessential NASCAR movie before NASCAR was fashionable.
They even do a good job of not making NASCAR folks seem like complete hillbillies. And, honestly, when Robert Duvall is involved, it takes things up at least 20 notches.
The plot device of having Cruise's signature move be passing on the outside was totally unrealistic, but then again so is anything where Cruise is an athlete of any sort, so I just went with it.
I also love how Cole Trickle seemed like such a weird name, until an actual NASCAR driver named Dick Trickle came along. Now that is how you name a character.
No. 71: The Replacements
Any movie with Gene Hackman as a coach deserves a spot on this list. And even Keanu "I am an Enn Eff Ell Quarterback!" Reeves doesn't screw things up nearly as much as you'd think.
This was entertaining, had a good cast, and even a solid speech from Reeves in the huddle:
"Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory...lasts forever."
No. 70: Bend It Like Beckham
Bend It Like Beckham is a movie about a young girl who is forbidden to play soccer, but—guess what?—she goes against her parents and plays anyway.
You'll never guess how she truly figures out who she is. I'll give you a hint—it's by playing soccer.
I kid. It's actually a pretty decent movie, and at the very least it's got Keira Knightley right around the time when it was OK to acknowledge that she was hot.
No. 69: Ali
Ali was a very good sports movie, but it missed the chance it had to be great.
Why? Because even the most charismatic leading man in Hollywood at the time couldn't even touch the charisma and charm of Muhammad Ali.
That's a tall order and a reason why the movie starring Ali himself is much further up the list.
No. 68: The Express
It's not that hard to see why The Express was a failure in the box office. It's a family movie, and families want to go see an uplifting story.
I don't think a story where the main character wins the Heisman trophy, then gets leukemia and dies is very uplifting. Yeah, he got the trophy, but if given the options, I'd probably take living over it.
That being said, for those of us who don't mind a little bit of a downer, The Express is a decent enough movie about overcoming adversity and racism.
And any time you can get Charles S. Dutton in a football movie, you do it.
No. 67: North Dallas Forty
North Dallas Forty is what Any Given Sunday was trying to be. It gives a more realistic look into the lives of football players as they struggle with whether football is a game or a business.
This next part may sound foreign to anyone under 30, but it also starred Nick Nolte at his apex of cool. The man just used to be a badass. We forget that now because of this.
No. 66: Above the Rim
I'm a big fan of streetball movies. Maybe it's the fact that I couldn't just stroll onto a court and play with the kind of guys who were out there, so it had kind of a mystical quality about it.
This movie showcased the danger that was around the game and the kind of sanctuary it gave to those who played it.
It also had Tupac's first acting gig, which he freaking nailed. Makes me even more pissed off that he died early. Then again, it's entirely possible he would have turned into this.
No. 65: We Are Marshall
On the outside it might just look like a movie where Matthew McConaughey does goofy stuff and makes goofy faces and Matthew Fox does intense stuff and makes a bunch of Jackfaces.
But you know what? I liked it. You throw an underdog story at me, especially an underdog story while overcoming something as crazy as your entire team dying in a plane crash, and it's going to take a lot to make me hate it.
Not enough scenes of McConaughey playing the bongos naked, but other than that it was a good movie.
No. 64: Girlfight
You know what I like about this movie? It's not the fact that it's well acted and interesting (which it is).
It's the fact that it's a movie where I don't have to pretend that I find Michelle Rodriguez attractive. They pretty much put it out there that she's tough and that's all that matters. Not that it's a hot girl boxing.
I appreciate that. (See Baby, Million Dollar for another example)
No. 63: Happy Gilmore
Admit it, you tried the swing. The one where you get a little running start at the ball and totally thought you could hit it 400 yards. Don't lie to me.
A golfer with a hockey player's mentality. Gotta hand it to him, Sandler hit this one out of the park. He basically plays two characters: the smug, too-cool-for-school guy (which sucks) and the totally unhinged guy (which can be entertaining). He chose correctly here.
The fight scene with Bob Barker never fails to makes me laugh just a little bit. If for no other reason than somebody had the idea to do a fight scene with Bob Barker.
No. 62: Victory
What's this? It's a sports movie and we're playing the Germans during WWII? Yes, please.
You could make a water polo movie where a team faces off against the Germans during WWII and I would be all in. It's too easy. The villain is built in. You don't need to build them up or give them any depth. It's cool. We hate them. Let's move along.
I also have a soft spot for sports movies ending a ridiculous note. Sly Stallone catching a penalty kick pretty much fits that bill.
No. 61: Tyson
That tattoo should tell you all you need to know about why Tyson is such an interesting subject. He was once the baddest man on the planet; now he's a punchline.
Tyson helps to tell the story that fills in the gaps. It's not easy to turn one of the most hated men in America, somebody who hit his wife and said he would eat another boxer's babies, into a sympathetic figure, but that's exactly what it does.
It's a good one to pick up while you're waiting for The Hangover 2 to come out, at least.
No. 60: Radio
It took me a while to see this movie because it seemed like such an Oscar grab. Obviously Cuba Gooding Jr. didn't win because, as Robert Downey Jr. said in Tropic Thunder, he went "full retard."
But when I finally got around to watching it, I enjoyed it. It's a movie like The Blind Side where an unusually kind person takes somebody in, and through their kindness inspires others with that person.
Does that make sense? Who am I kidding, it's not like Radio is a movie with all these layers. You can pretty much figure out what it's all about just by this picture. Doesn't mean it's not good, though.
No. 59: Heaven Can Wait
This movie may seem confusing to kids now, because it involves somebody actually wanting to not only buy the Rams, but to play for them as well, then leading them to a Super Bowl win. That's a bigger plot stretch than the whole "dying before it's your time" deal.
But it had some fun old-school cameos and was entertaining. And even though it spawned a horrible Chris Rock remake, I've got a soft spot for it.
No. 58: Mystery, Alaska
Mystery, Alaska seems like one of those true-story kind of movies, but it's completely fictional. That puts it right about in the middle. Because if it WAS a true story, it might jump up about 20 spots.
Basically, a town has their weekly hockey game profiled by Sports Illustrated, and they end up playing an exhibition game against the New York Rangers, ultimately losing 5-4.
If a bunch of amateurs managed not to get murdered by 17 goals, that would be remarkable. But to lose 5-4? Just could not happen, hence the fiction part. Too bad. Would have been a great true story.
No. 57: The Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars & Motor Kings
Can you imagine how awesome it would be on the set of this movie? You've got Darth Vader, Lando Calrissian, and then Richard Prior thrown into the mix.
James Earl Jones would just command everyone's attention with that voice, Billy Dee Williams would be smooth talking some lady on the side, and Richard Prior would be trying to buy drugs from the key grip.
Oh yeah, and you've got a baseball movie in there too. How could this not be a good time?
No. 56: Love & Basketball
Through no fault of my own (OK, maybe some fault), I had this movie on my list of the worst sports movies of all time. After listening to the masses, I went and watched the movie and realized I was wrong.
I was blinded by the thought of a girl playing one-on-one against a pro basketball player and even having a chance. Turns out, I missed the whole point.
It's a supremely watchable chick flick with copious amounts of basketball thrown in for the guys in the audience. If you doubt me, check it out yourself.
No. 55: Damn Yankees!
Honestly, when you have a movie about a fan who makes a pact with the devil so that his team can win the World Series, you're automatically going to assume it's a Yankees fan. I'm pretty sure that's how 1996-2000 happened.
But this is about a fan who is so sick of the Yankees winning that he takes such a drastic measure to stop it. He becomes the power hitter who can change things around for them.
If I sold my soul to play a sport, I'd go somewhere other than Washington. Maybe a place like South Beach.
No. 54: Coach Carter
YOUR EDUCATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN BASKETBALL.
IF YOU DON'T START GOING TO CLASS I'M LOCKING THE GYM DOORS.
YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO PLAY TOGETHER.
WHY AM I YELLING? THIS IS JUST HOW I TALK. HAVEN'T YOU SEEN MY MOVIES?
No. 53: Tin Cup
Why Tin Cup is great boils down to the final scene. The "give me another ball" scene is what sports movies are all about.
You're so pissed at Cosner the whole time. He throws away the US Open because he's too prideful. He's down to his last ball... AND HE FREAKING HOLES IT!
The drama is still there, as is the surprise because his whole issue was just getting it there, so you're not expecting him just to make it.
And as annoying and Rene Russo was that whole movie, she's right on when she says that all anybody is going to remember is that shot, which ended up being just as true about the movie itself.
No. 52: Dogtown and The Z-Boys
I decided to go with the actual documentary of this one instead of the movie starring Heath "The Joker" Ledger.
It takes you back to when skateboarding started. To when guys were skating around in empty pools and revolutionizing a sport that wasn't yet cool and mainstream.
If you look at the X-Games now and the humble beginnings back in Dogtown, it's pretty remarkable.
No. 51: Seabiscuit
Horse movies are always a little tough for me. I'm not a big animal guy, so when the little horse that could succeeds, it doesn't mean as much to me as if it were a human.
Still, it's an uplifting story and even with the horse and the fact that when I saw the movie I still couldn't imagine Jeff Bridges as anyone other than The Dude, I enjoyed it and got goosebumps a couple of times.
That's what I ask from my sports movies.
No. 50: Sugar
Sugar is a story that has been swept under the rug of professional baseball. The Dominican Republic kid who is making his way through the farm system and into the major leagues.
Just because these players look black to us, we don't think of them as foreign, when in reality they're going through a huge culture shock. All we see is what they do on the field, but Sugar helps us to understand what goes on outside the diamond.
No. 49: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Will Ferrell is at his best when he's playing a giant man-baby, so needless to say, Talladega Nights was right in his wheelhouse.
I love how the movie basically makes fun of all NASCAR people for being stupid, but NASCAR fans still love the movie because they think it's an homage.
It's choke full of quotes and even gets some good racing scenes in, none more dramatic than the footrace at the end of the movie which doesn't end up mattering at all. Good stuff.
No. 48: The Color of Money
Most people crown Kevin Coster as king of the sports movie genre, but a sneaky member of that group is Tom Cruise. Yes, all five foot nothing Tom Cruise.
Of course, aside from his role as a high school football player, Cruise gets to play more believable roles for a sports movie. It doesn't take a lot of height or athleticism to play pool, but it gets shown on ESPN so it must be a sport.
Hard to made pool seem dramatic, but this movie accomplishes it nicely. Even with the token wet blanket girlfriend, I'm invested the whole time.
No. 47: Eight Men Out
Everyone knows the story of the 1919 Black Sox. Eight took money from gamblers to throw the World Series.
The end result isn't what's interesting, but how it all went down. It's easy to look back and say that you never would have done what they did, but watching it unfold makes you think differently.
I would have taken the money. Hell, even the best players fail 2/3 of the time. I'd say say I threw it and then go out and play like I always did. Maybe Shoeless Joe had it right the whole time.
No. 46: Rocky IV
It's hard to rank the Rocky movies. Usually when a sports movie comes out with a sequel, it sucks. But Rocky managed to make not one, but three sequels that are extremely watchable.
Somebody has to bring up the rear and, while I do have a special place in my heart for Ivan Drago and Rocky IV, it can't compete with the others.
It does however give us some amazing lines (I must break you) and a training montage that set the gold standard for cheesy goodness. I'll always be thankful to Rocky and the fourth installment for singlehandedly winning the Cold War.
No. 45: Invictus
It's about time that we had a definitive rugby movie. I know I've been clamoring for one for years.
I said, "give me a rugby movie, one with a good human interest angle... and give me Morgan Freeman!" It's there in the archives somewhere. I'll leave it up to you to find.
Even though you have no idea what's going on in the actual games (even though you probably claim you do) you can still get the drama that does along with them.
No. 44: Friday Night Lights
The craziest part about Friday Night Lights, is that it's a pretty accurate snapshot of how people see high school football in Texas. It's life. Kids that can barely drive have their town's hopes and dreams pinned on what they do each game.
FNL was a really good movie, but obviously with the success of the TV show, it does better as a long, drawn out story where you can focus on the characters every day lives instead of having it thrown at you over two hours.
No. 43: The Longest Yard
Obviously we're talking about the original with Burt Reynolds, not the bastard child starring Adam Sandler and Burt Reynolds.
Reynolds' Paul Crewe was a badass. Reynolds was just inherently cool. He didn't have to try hard like Sandler. He just didn't give a shit, which is exactly the kind of attitude you needed for Crewe.
No. 42: Bang the Drum Slowly
Aside from having the most easily porn-parodied name of all time, Bang the Drum Slowly is also one of the best baseball movies of all time.
Along with Mean Streets, it actually helped launch the career of one Robert Deniro, so it's got that going for it.
Deniro plays a simpleton catcher with Hodgkins disease. It's one of his most nuanced performances where he's not a big, tough guy. Definitely worth checking out.
No. 41: Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns
Do you have 18 and a half hours to spare? Then you need to watch Ken Burns' documentary on all things baseball.
Sure it's a little tough to call this one movie, but it's so incredibly well done all the way through and touches on everything you could think of about the history of the game.
For any self professed baseball nut, this is a must-see. For everyone else, it's a you-probably-should-see.
No. 40: The Damned United
When Michael Sheen is taking a break from playing Tony Blair, he apparently makes other movies. And The Damned United is a damn good one.
Sheen plays Brian Clough, the newly appointed manager of Leeds United. Most coaches in sports movies are either perfection personified or just plain evil. Clough was pretty much right in the gray area, which is where things always get interesting.
No. 39: Cinderella Man
It's amazing that Russell Crowe had never played a boxer before this movie. With his history with the paparazzi and adventures Fightin Round The World, he's the perfect fit for somebody who just likes hitting people.
Boxing movies are almost exclusively about the underdog and it's not a shock that a film titled Cinderella Man would follow that same formula.
It's a great story, though. A fighter fighting during the depression because opportunities to make money were few and far between. Good fight scenes and good acting. You can't go wrong with Russell Crowe and Paul Giamatti.
No. 38: Big Fan
This movie should have made Patton Oswald a bigger star than he currently is.
Not only is the acting great, but it's a terrific look inside the mind of a really, really, really big fan.
It's easy for people to look on the outside and just call him crazy, but it takes a look into what really goes on in these people's heads. Just a fascinating film.
No. 37: Invincible
Every sports fan has dreamed about getting a chance to impress the coach and making the team out of nowhere. It may have just been a fleeting thought, but for anyone who has ever felt that they "still got it," this is the movie for you.
Mark Wahlberg plays Vince Papale, who goes to an open tryout and actually makes the team. Although for a movie that has Dick Vermeil as the coach, I don't think there was enough man tears there.
No. 36: The Rookie
Speaking of movies where somebody who's "still got it" making his way to professional sports... The Rookie everyone!
Dennis Quaid is a high school science teacher and baseball coach who promises his team he'll try out for a minor league team if they win the state championship. It's a pretty remarkable true story.
Well, kind of true. When the actual guy who looks like this and is played by Dennis Quaid, it becomes at least partly fiction.
No. 35: White Men Can't Jump
I love this movie. Maybe it's because I'm a white boy who doesn't look like he can ball, but can ball. I identify with Billy in this movie. Except for the fact that I'm under no disillusion that I can dunk.
Wesley Snipes is great as the trash talking scam artist partner as well. Plus bonus points for all of the crazy 90s style including the neon colored clothes and the Snipes' hat with the brim turned up.
No. 34: For Love of the Game
A lot of people dislike For Love of the Game. I can see why. Every scene with Kelly Preston is painful and boring. That whole part of the movie is no fun at all.
But the perfect game scenes are incredible. Every perfect game thrown in reality has enough drama to be made into a movie, so to break one down inning by inning is just awesome to watch.
Add in the "old guy looking for one last hurrah" element with Cosner pushing his body to the very limit and it's just everything we love about sports. You can almost see Nolan Ryan nodding as he watches the movie.
No. 33: Jerry Maguire
An absolutely iconic movie, Jerry Maguire was one of those quintessential 90s films, complete with a bevy of catchphrases at its disposal.
Tom Cruise is great as the agent, but it's obviously Cuba Gooding Jr. that brings it home with his Oscar-winning portrayal of Rod Tidwell.
And even though it led to idiots shouting "show me the money" for far too long than was actually relevant, I still catch this any time it's on TV.
No. 32: Rocky II
At the end of Rocky, Apollo tells him that there won't be a rematch and Rocky says that he doesn't want one.
Good ending, but that's hard for us sports fans to accept. We need some kind of resolution.
It's the same reason most Americans hate soccer for three out of every four years: we hate ties.
Thankfully, Rocky II gave us that rematch and managed to do so without seeming like a horrible cash grab and was a really solid movie.
No. 31: Riding Giants
To me, this picture says it all. There's something awe inspiring about those guys that can ride waves the size of ten-story buildings.
It's beautiful yet dangerous. And when you see it happen without movie magic, it makes it so much better. That's why Riding Giants trumps any other fictional surfing movie.
Also, surfers are such characters in and of themselves. Have you ever listened to a real surfer? They sound like they're playing a surfer for a movie, but that's actually who they are. It's fantastic.
No. 30: The Bad News Bears
Want to play a good joke on somebody that has kids? Get them reminiscing about the original Bad News Bears movie. Then suggest they show it to their kids. Then stick around to see their face.
The Bad News Bears is one of the most politically incorrect movie ever made, and it's made even better by the fact that kids are doing most of the stuff.
Every slur imaginable is used, Buttermaker drives them around drunk, and at the end of the movie they start a huge brawl with the team that wins.
Make no mistake, The Bad News Bears is NOT a kid movie... and I LOVE it that way.
No. 29: The Hurricane
Denzel plays a boxer wrongly imprisoned for murder in The Hurricane. This was a couple of years before Training Day and he obviously had the Oscar itch.
It's a good movie, and the boxing scenes are great, but Washington is awesome as a fighter who is struggling against the urge to stop fighting to be free.
No. 28: The Blind Side
Unless you've been trapped under a rock this past year, you've heard about The Blind Side. It's a feel-good Disney sports movie that was so feel-good that it went as got itself nominated for Best Picture.
Obviously, Sandra Bullock is great. If you've ever seen the woman she's playing, you'd know she deserved that Best Actress award.
The story itself is good. The writing is a little hokie at times and anytime you have Lou Holtz making an appearance, it's going to be really crappy at times.
It's just a really solid sports movie, the best mainstream one in a long time.
No. 27: He Got Game
The Hurricane had Denzel near his best, but He Got Game got Denzel at his finest. He can play intimidating so well.
Ray Allen does his best not to bring the movie down as Jesus Shuttlesworth, and he's not terrible, but he's certainly not that great.
Spike Lee does a great job though and I love the story about the final father-son matchup on the court. Spike told them to play for real and Denzel actually got a couple of legit buckets on Allen before Ray Ray decided to shut him down.
That makes for realistic game action, which is always a premium in sports movies.
No. 26: Pride Of The Yankees
It's an old movie, but the story of Lou Gehrig is one that everybody knows, mostly because he had his disease named after him, but mostly because of his farewell speech, which Pride of the Yankees immortalized.
"Today (today, today), I consider myself (myself, myself) the luckiest man (man, man) on the face of the earth (earth, earth)."
It's hard for me to watch without thinking of that SNL sketch where Norm McDonald follows it up with "I'm being sacastic! I'm dying from a disease that's so rare they named it after me! I'm not lucky at all!"
No. 25: Murderball
When Murderball came out, I was 20 years old. I loved sports movies, but I never had much of a desire to see documentaries. Those were boring to me. But I went to see Murderball in the theater.
That's how strong this story was. That I found the crappy art theater that played only documentaries and foreign films and went to go see it.
It's about as inspirational as you can get.
No. 24: Rocky III
Rocky III is probably the most entertaining Rocky movie. It's got over-the-top characters like Hulk Hogan and Clubber Lang, Mickey dying, and a great final fight.
Mr. T really did kick ass as Clubber. With the first two Rockys, you always liked Apollo at least a little bit. He was mouthy, but it came with charm. Clubber Lang was just big, scary, and mean.
No. 23: The Karate Kid
My own personal rule here is that I'm not putting originals and remakes on the list. It's one or the other. So even though people had such glowing things to say ("it's not the WORST thing I've ever seen) about Jaden Smith and his remake, it can't hold up to Ralph Macchio.
The Karate Kid was SUCH an 80s movie, which I love. Billy Zabka's blond, nazi-like villain was so over the top that it worked.
There's a reason kids were trying the crane kick in their backyard after this movie came out. It rocked.
No. 22: A League Of Their Own
There's no crying in baseball!
I'll be the first to admit that a story about women playing baseball while the men are at war doesn't sound like the most exciting idea off the bat (so to speak), but you'll be hard pressed to find a guy around that won't admit this is a good movie.
Obviously Tom Hanks owned this movie. His sarcastic and exasperated manager was perfect, but Gena Davis made being a tomboy sexy, too. I do love a good, sexy tomboy.
No. 21: Brian's Song
Can you feel the bromance in this picture? I know I can.
Another made-for-TV movie that went down in the annals of history. It wasn't perfect, but when you're the movie that 95 percent of men cite as one that made them cry, you know you're doing something right.
No. 20: Miracle
I wonder why it took so long for Miracle to get made. It's one of the greatest moments in (American) sports history. Maybe they were just waiting for Kurt Russell to get old enough, because he freaking nailed the role.
If you can come away from this movie without feeling full of national pride, I don't want to be your friend. Between the locker room speech ("this is what we've EARNED here tonight) to the moment the team finally "got it" ("who do you play for?" "I play for the United States of America!") there's enough goosebump moments to make it an instant classic.
No. 19: The Sandlot
What's not to love about The Sandlot? I mean, really.
Sure it could be a corny kids movie at times, but it perfectly captured the fun of just being a kid and how great it was to play pickup baseball in the summertime.
Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez was my hero growing up. I didn't even care that he grew up to have a creepy looking mustache when he played for the Dodgers.
No. 18: Rounders
As long as ESPN keeps showing poker on TV I'm going to count it as a sport, and there's no better poker movie than Rounders.
Rounders is just so... cool. It's kind of a hipster movie, it was on to poker before the rest of the world was onto poker.
The terminology, the hands, the characters. It all flows together to make one hell of a movie.
No. 17: Chariots Of Fire
Chariots Of Fire is proof of what inspirational music can do for a movie.
Without its soundtrack, Chariots Of Fire is just a movie about some dudes running in the Olympics. With the music, it's an inspirational film about friendship and overcoming personal struggles.
Na na na na naaaa naaaaa. Na na na na naaaaaa.
No. 16: Remember The Titans
It's amazing what training camp and a little locker room sing along can do for a team. Not playing well? Now you're unstoppable. Racist before? Now you're best friends. Thanks Marvin Gaye!
In all seriousness though, Remember The Titans is a freaking fantastic movie. Denzel Washington is doing Denzel Washington things and everything else just falls into place.
Remember The Titans is just one of those universally loved movies. I bet you can't think of anyone who didn't like it. That's the mark of a great movie for sure.
No. 15: Major League
Of all the failings in Cleveland sports history, at least they have Major League.
I think more than anything, what makes Major League stand out is the characters. You've got the gruff, but awesome manager. The wily vet that's the unspoken leader of the team. The hotshot athlete. The rookie flamethrower with no accuracy. And of course the fundamental voodoo worshiper who can't hit a curve ball.
"Straight ball I hit very well. But curveball... bats are afraid."
No. 14: When We Were Kings
Will we ever see another athlete like Muhammed Ali? Not only the biggest name in sports during his prime, but also someone who never censored himself. It was refreshing, exciting and fascinating.
In When We Were Kings, we get to see Ali up close and personal as he prepares for the biggest fight of his career, against a fighter many people were sure would crush him.
Ali was made for the camera. He's egotistical, but so charmingly funny that you can't help but like him.
No. 13: The Wrestler
Wrestling is a joke. To most of the world it's just a soap opera with chairs being smashed over people's heads adored by fans who still live in their mom's basement.
But to the wrestlers themselves, it's life. It's a dark world with a much higher than normal suicide rate. And The Wrestler takes a very uncompromising look at the life of a washed up wrestler who is still trying to hold on.
Mickey Rourke is amazing and Marisa Tomei gets naked... so yeah, this is a must see.
No. 12: The Hustler
Dammit Paul Newman was cool. Just look at that picture.
The Hustler reminds me of The Wire. It's got a character (Newman's Fast Eddie) who is obsessed with proving that he's the best at something. Eventually he gets what he almost wanted, but only at a terrible personal price.
Sounds like McNulty, doesn't it? And since The Wire was amazing, it reasons that The Hustler is pretty damn good itself.
Plus it totally made pool cool. Who doesn't want to be the guy who walks into a billiards room and can beat anybody there?
No. 11: Million Dollar Baby
It took me too long to see this movie. Hilary Swank didn't exactly appeal to me after she danced on the grave of the Karate Kid movies with The Next Karate Kid.
I should have known better. Clint Eastwood as the ornery old trainer and Morgan Freeman as his wise buddy is just gold. And Swank pretty much makes me care about her immediately by being so tough.
Obviously the movie has been out for a while and you probably know what happens, but man, I remember audibly gasping when it happened. I was depressed for like a whole two days after I saw it.
That's my mark of a great sports movie. Good or bad, if it makes you feel something strong enough, it's a classic.
No. 10: Slapshot
Slapshot is like a good dark beer. You're probably not going to like it as a kid and you might not like it right away when you do see it, but sooner or later you get to a point where you realize just how great it is.
I don't know, maybe I'm wrong and you loved it right away, but the point is that it's a great movie. It's funny in an existential way, but also in that slapstick, knock-the-shit-out-of-people way.
The Hansen Brothers are just perfect. I'm slightly jaded now by the fact that they've done about seven straight-to-video Slapshots because this role is the only thing those guys can do. But damn if it wasn't the best part of this movie.
No. 9: Hoop Dreams
Hoop Dreams is the best documentary ever in my honest opinion. It follows two black high schoolers with NBA aspirations who play at a predominately white high school 90 minutes away.
It was originally supposed to be just a half hour special on PBS, but the filmmakers stayed with Arther Agee and and Williams Gates for five years and got over 250 hours of footage that turned into a three-hour movie.
You know when something like that happens, you have got something special. There's a reason Roger Ebert called it the best film of the decade.
No. 8: Caddyshack
Caddyshack is just an amazing comedy that happens to be about golf. It's one of those movies that you have to rewatch because there's no way you caught all the jokes that are jam packed into it the first time. Probably because you were busy laughing, but also because they come so fast and furious.
Chevy Chase was at his best, Rodney Dangerfield was actually funny, and Bill Murray is just Bill Murray. Caddyshack also has that "it's funny because it's true" aspect about caddies. Anybody who has ever carried clubs at a course swears by its accuracy.
"Don't sell yourself short, Judge. You're a tremendous slouch."
No. 7: The Natural
If you like baseball, cinderella stories, and crazy women, you loved The Natural.
There's something about baseball movies that captures people's imagination. The idea that somebody can just appear after 16 years, totally unknown, and somehow be the greatest player in the game is fascinating.
Plus, every great sports movie has to have an iconic moment. With The Natural you have him hitting rounding the bases as lights explode around him. Who cares if that wasn't the ending from the book. That's good stuff.
No. 6: Rocky
The ultimate underdog story.
The first Rocky was the ultimate everyman. He's just an unassuming, humble guy from Philly who ends up getting a shot at the champ through a series of events and making the most of it.
Eventually, Rocky turns into this super fighter in later movies, but in this one he's just your average guy with a bigger than average heart. Nothing special.
Stallone will never be considered a great actor, but he's terrific in the movie. He nails the "aw shucks" attitude.
And who could forget Mickey. That gruff voiced little troll is one of my favorite sports movie characters of all time.
No. 5: Bull Durham
Ask any baseball player what their favorite sports movie is. Almost all of them will tell you it's Bull Durham.*
That's because if you came up through the minor leagues, you have even more respect for this movie. It's funny, smart, and it nails the complete ridiculousness that is the minors.
Once again, Kevin Costner gives us sports movie gold and Tim Robbins kills it as the talented idiot, Nuke Laloosh.
It gets the little things right, like Nuke wearing a garter belt to take his mind of pitching, the players turning on the sprinklers to give them a much-needed rainout, or the way Crash tells a hitter the fastball is coming because Nuke keeps shaking him off.
That's why I love Bull Durham.
*Based on answers from approximately two pro baseball players
No. 4: Rudy
One guy I work with hates Rudy. He complains that Rudy is just an annoying little guy who tries too hard and makes everyone else look bad. Somehow he sees what Rudy did as wrong. He also apparently rooted for Billy Zabka in Karate Kid and the Nazis in Victory.
For the rest of us in the world who actually have souls, Rudy is everything that's right with sports. Why should it be limited to those just blessed with physical gifts? Why can't somebody work hard enough that they overcome their own physical shortcomings? Isn't that basically the American Dream?
I put Rudy this high on the list for plenty of reasons, but mainly because it's all I can do not to cry during this movie. When the players come into the coach's office to give up their spot, when he leads the team out of that tunnel, or when he gets a sack during the game... it's almost impossible to withstand.
No. 3: Raging Bull
Raging Bull is the highest ranked sports movie that's not a feel-good movie of any sort. But it's so powerful that it can get away without having any of the usual sports cliches.
It's dark, violent, and angry. Only Martin Scorsese could pull something like this off and have it be a beloved piece of cinema.
You also have Robert DiNero at his peak, even going so deep into the character that he gained 60 pounds to look the part.
Raging Bull is not the movie you want to put in to get inspired. That's for the rest of these. But if you want to get pumped up to kick someone's ass, this is the movie for you. And we need those movies.
No. 2: Field Of Dreams
It's crazy how good a movie about dead baseball players coming out of a cornfield to play some pickup baseball can be, isn't it?
There's just a simplicity to Field of Dreams that everyone gets. Ultimately, the big payoff at the end of the movie is that Kevin Costner finally gets to have a catch with his dad.
In the grand scheme of things it doesn't seem like such a big deal, but it's so connected to all of our youths that we totally understand and there's usually not a dry eye in the place aftewards.
"Hey dad... wanna have a catch?"
No. 1: Hoosiers
Hoosiers is the greatest sports movie of all time. It's almost not even debatable.
It's got everything you want from a sports movie standpoint:
- The new coach who bucks the system and does things his way, despite not seeing eye to eye with everyone around him.
- The reluctant star who is eventually convinced to play.
- The group of misfits that nobody believes in, but far surpasses everyone's expectations.
- The alcoholic father that puts too much pressure on his son to succeed.
- The big pregame speech
- The big game, the big shot, and an iconic moment (Coach... I'll make it)
- The wet blanket love interest
The list goes on. Thank you, Coach Normal Dale, for reminding us that no matter where we go or what the circumstances are, the rim will always be just 10 feet off the floor.