Entertainment

60 Best Sports Movies Of All Time

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Nothing brings us to our feet quite like a good sports movie. Basketball, football, baseball, wrestling, soccer, boxing, golf, track and field, cheerleading, hockey, pool, racing …. even if you’re not a fan of the games themselves, movies get you hooked with compelling characters and excitingly staged action, and before you know it, you’re cheering along with everyone else. You might even be discovering a new passion.

While a lot of the classics of the genre (and a lot of our favorites) are traditional underdog stories — ranging from the triumphant to the bittersweet — this corner of film has really brought us a little bit of everything over the years. There’s no way we could round up the top sports movies without including comedies, biopics, and grim character dramas too. So whether you want to clap, cry, laugh, or even reflect on everything from athletic skill to family trauma to real-life history, we have you covered.

Updated on January 14, 2022: As long as people keep playing sports, they’ll keep making sports movies to try to capture that electric human drama. We’ll be keeping track of new releases and emerging classics to make sure this article always reflects the best and most irresistible sports movies around.

42

Few people changed baseball more than Jackie Robinson, who crossed the game’s color line when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. Being the first Black player in the Major Leagues put Robinson in a difficult, unenviable position, and this biopic follows the process of breaking that new ground. “42” shows him facing rejection from his own teammates (who threatened to refuse to take the field with him), resentment from the crowds in the stadiums, and outright violence from opposing teams. Despite it all, he played like the legend he was. “42” may be a little too earnest in its attempt to give Robinson his due, but it’s still compelling and illuminating, and Chadwick Boseman is magnetic in the key role.

Ali

This Muhammad Ali biopic offers a serious exploration of a man and his time, and it’s all held together by rich performances (especially from Will Smith), eminently capable direction, and spectacular fight choreography. By sticking to a 10-year span, the film is able to devote more time to the most major incidents of Ali’s career — everything from his famous bouts with Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman to his life-altering political and religious convictions. This is a vivid, worthy portrait of one of the best athletes of all time.

  • Starring: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight

  • Director: Michael Mann

  • Year: 2001

  • Runtime: 158 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%

The Bad News Bears

The Bears is a team made up of all the kids the other youth baseball teams didn’t want or wouldn’t take. They’re natural-born losers, and they wind up with a loser of a coach: washed-up, alcoholic pitcher Morris Buttermaker. However, Buttermaker is able to recruit a few players who — though misfits like the rest of the bunch — at least have some talent, and against all odds, he gradually and grumpily starts shaping the Bears into a real team. He even starts getting emotionally invested in them. This appealingly grubby, sunny film has plenty of low-key charm and a genuine moral about winning vs. satisfaction and real greatness.

  • Starring: Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal, Vic Morrow

  • Director: Michael Ritchie

  • Year: 1976

  • Runtime: 102 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Bang the Drum Slowly

“Bang the Drum Slowly” is a funny and heartwarming paean to the friendship between two baseball players. There’s smart, skilled pitcher Henry “Author” Wiggen and sincere but intellectually limited catcher Bruce Pearson. Only Bruce and Henry know it, but Bruce has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and doesn’t have long to live. Against all odds — and sometimes despite the objections of the other players — Henry is determined to make Bruce’s last few months good ones. While the movie can sound too self-consciously schmaltzy in summary, it’s so amusing and so grounded in the little details of baseball and human interaction that it’s wistful and down-to-earth instead.

  • Starring: Robert De Niro, Michael Moriarty, Vincent Gardenia

  • Director: John Hancock

  • Year: 1973

  • Runtime: 96 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Bend It Like Beckham

Jess is a British-Indian girl who’s passionate about football (soccer, to Americans) but whose parents are reluctant to let her play. They don’t think it’s appropriate for a young woman, and they worry about her facing racism on the pitch. But behind their backs, Jess makes it onto the Hounslow Harriers, an amateur team, and also develops a close friendship with fellow player Jules and a flirtation with Coach Joe. While she struggles to sort things out with her family, her athletic career advances. “Bend It Like Beckham” manages to stay light and likable even as it provides unexpected amounts of emotional realism and delicately handled social criticism.

  • Starring: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Archie Panjabi

  • Director: Gurinder Chadha

  • Year: 2002

  • Runtime: 112 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Big Fan

“Big Fan” takes a look at the dark, melancholy side of sports obsession. Parking garage attendant Paul lives for the New York Giants. He watches the games on a portable TV in the stadium parking lot so that, even though he can’t afford tickets, he’s still right there where the action is happening. When he gets the chance to meet his favorite player, of course he takes it — and it goes horribly wrong. In the aftermath, Paul still tries to value the Giants over everything else in his life … but he’s clearly deteriorating psychologically, and something has to give. The movie amps up the tension while still keeping everything realistic, and Patton Oswalt turns in an extraordinary central performance as the troubled Paul.

  • Starring: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rapaport

  • Director: Robert D. Siegel

  • Year: 2009

  • Runtime: 88 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

Breaking Away

“Breaking Away” uses bicycle racing — in particular Indiana University’s famous Little 500 race — to provide structure for its story of working-class townies butting up uneasily (and sometimes enviously) against snobbish college students. 

Dave loves Italy and its cycling culture, so much that he’s even adding a dose of glamour to himself by posing as an Italian exchange student to woo a girl. When a dust-up over her unexpectedly wins Dave and his friends the right to compete in the Little 500, everything is on the line. Dave’s pride, devotion, and athleticism all get tested in the long race to the finish line. “Breaking Away” is a charming, low-key sports movie with good performances, and its gentle optimism will win over even the most cynical viewers.

  • Starring: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern

  • Director: Peter Yates

  • Year: 1979

  • Runtime: 100 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Bring It On

The Toros are an all-star cheerleading squad, and it’s time for Torrance Shipman to take up the reins as team captain. Just as she steps into the role, however, she finds out that the Toros have been stealing moves from another squad, the Clovers, for years. Now that everything’s out in the open, her rival team captain, Iris, wants to make sure the Clovers get their long overdue moment in the sun — no matter how hard they have to fight for it. But Torrance also wants a chance to rehabilitate her team’s image and prove herself as captain. No matter which side you want to root for, this is a funny, peppy movie that’s become a cult classic.

  • Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford

  • Director: Peyton Reed

  • Year: 2000

  • Runtime: 99 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%

Bull Durham

The Minor Leagues get a major sports movie in “Bull Durham.” The Durham Bulls bring in Crash, a weathered but celebrated catcher, to put some much-needed polish on the raw talent of pitcher Ebby “Nuke” LaLoosh. While Crash mentors Nuke, he also shares intense romantic chemistry with Nuke’s girlfriend, Annie, a longtime “baseball groupie” who pours her love into a different player every season. With both Crash and Annie working to make him better, Nuke can’t help improving — and Crash and Annie can’t help falling in love. Perfect casting makes this a delightful and deservedly celebrated romantic comedy.

Caddyshack

Danny Noonan caddies for an upscale — but comedically wacky — country club. While he works to endear himself to the influential members so he can take home their scholarship for caddies, we get a tour of the snobbish and hilarious goings-on at Bushwood. Highlights include Bill Murray’s unhinged groundskeeper, who’s obsessed with hunting down a gopher making holes all over the course, and Rodney Dangerfield’s “new money” crass and hard-partying club guest. Goofy, quotable, and full of high-quality slapstick, “Caddyshack” is a shaggy but amiable comedy.

  • Starring: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight

  • Director: Harold Ramis

  • Year: 1980

  • Runtime: 98 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

Chariots of Fire

This classic inspirational film follows two aspiring Olympic runners: Harold Abrahams, whose running offers an escape from the grim anti-Semitism of his day-to-day life, and Eric Liddell, an aspiring missionary who believes God made him to run. Each of them faces obstacles — Abrahams attracts disapproval for hiring his own trainer, and Liddell’s sister criticizes him for supposedly neglecting God in favor of running — and each of them find unique and affecting ways to overcome them. “Chariots of Fire” is simple, beautifully made, and features a famous and incredibly stirring score.

  • Starring: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers

  • Director: Hugh Hudson

  • Year: 1981

  • Runtime: 124 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

Cinderella Man

An injury forces light heavyweight boxer James Braddock to give up his career in the ring, and during the Great Depression, other honest, lucrative work is hard to come by. Braddock nevertheless scrapes by, maintaining a sense of dignity and honest pride even in the lowest of circumstances. When his boxing career gets a surprising resurrection and his story makes the newspapers, he becomes known as “the Cinderella Man.” The whole country believes Braddock’s fundamental decency means he deserves a happy ending — but when a key fight pits him against a particularly brutal opponent, his wife, Mae, has every reason to worry that their life is no fairy tale. “Cinderella Man” is satisfying and grounded in its historical milieu.

  • Starring: Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti

  • Director: Ron Howard

  • Year: 2005

  • Runtime: 144 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

The Color of Money

In this distant sequel to “The Hustler,” it’s Fast Eddie Felson’s turn to step into a mentoring role. He’s not hustling pool anymore, but he can still recognize a born hustler, and he knows Vincent Lauria has the potential to be a great one, especially with his loyal girlfriend Carmen at his side. Eddie wants to shape Vincent into somebody who can make real money on the pool hall circuit, but Vincent’s need to show off keeps getting in the way of Eddie’s strategy. “The Color of Money” has a show-stealing sequence set to “Werewolves of London,” but even outside of that, it’s energetic and fun.

  • Starring: Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

  • Director: Martin Scorsese

  • Year: 1986

  • Runtime: 119 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

Cool Runnings

“Cool Runnings” is lighthearted fun with an irresistible premise: Jamaicans who’ve never even seen snow form an Olympic bobsledding team. The plot kicks off when sprinter Derice Bannock and his friends’ Olympic plans fall through due to a mishap during qualifications, so they rally in an unusual way — they enlist a former Olympic bobsledder to train them for the Winter Olympics instead. Their country won’t financially support them with a plan this ludicrous, so they have to scrape up the money themselves. Are they destined for success? Of course not. But the audience is destined to have a good time.

  • Starring: John Candy, Leon Robinson, Doug E. Doug

  • Director: Jon Turteltaub

  • Year: 1993

  • Runtime: 97 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%

Creed

In this fresh, lively late entry in the “Rocky” series, Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son, Adonis “Donnie” Johnson, takes center stage. Donnie leaves behind a more stable career to follow his dream of becoming a professional boxer, but after a rough early start, he seeks out his father’s old friend and best opponent, Rocky Balboa, to serve as his trainer. Under Rocky’s tutelage, Donnie starts to improve and build a life for himself — and he turns out to be crucial to Rocky too. “Creed” follows a classically satisfying pattern and is a great crowd-pleaser that benefits from electric work by Michael B. Jordan.

The Damned United

Brian Clough only spent 44 days as manager for Leeds United, and “The Damned United” — without too much commentary — shows exactly how one of the best British football managers and one of the best British football teams spectacularly failed to suit each other. Clough has no respect for his new players’ storied past, seeing them as little more than hooligans, and they can’t warm to him. It all leads to a spectacularly awful start to the season, with professional rivalries and personality clashes priming everything for disaster. Aided by Michael Sheen’s brilliant performance, the film lends its story an almost Shakespearean grandeur.

  • Starring: Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney

  • Director: Tom Hooper

  • Year: 2009

  • Runtime: 97 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Dodgeball

“Dodgeball” is primarily a comedy, but it doubles as a great underdog sports tale. Slacker Peter needs to scrape up enough money to save his gym, Average Joe’s, which is a sanctuary for a small handful of oddball regulars, and the only viable option seems to be somehow winning a major dodgeball tournament and collecting the prize money. (Their training regimen, put in place by crusty dodgeball expert Patches O’Houlihan, involves getting wrenches thrown at them.) Their biggest enemy? The vain, egotistical White Goodman, who owns a competing gym and will stop at nothing to bury Average Joe’s. “Dodgeball” is both an ode to misfits and a riff on everything from sports commentary to 1950s educational videos, and it never stops being uproariously funny.

  • Starring: Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Ben Stiller

  • Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

  • Year: 2004

  • Runtime: 92 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

Eight Men Out

The melancholy, well-cast “Eight Men Out” chronicles how unhappy, underpaid White Sox players agreed to throw the 1919 World Series. With a contentious relationship with the team’s owner — who’d broken payment promises and even ordered one of them to be temporarily benched — some of the White Sox were open to the idea of deliberately losing and collecting a big payout. Others, like Buck Weaver, resisted the pressure and wanted to play honestly, leading to a tense and even tragic series of games where the saboteurs and the honest players were both working against each other.

  • Starring: John Cusack, Clifton James, Michael Lerner

  • Director: John Sayles

  • Year: 1988

  • Runtime: 119 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

Field of Dreams

“If you build it, he will come.” That’s what a mysterious voice whispers to Ray Kinsella while he’s out in his cornfield, and it gives him a very unexpected way to reconnect with his dead father — turn his field into a baseball diamond. The field begins to draw the ghosts of famous baseball players, and along the way, Ray finds himself playing a role in healing the battered souls and lost dreams of a washed-up, reclusive writer and a baseball player who never made it to bat … but getting his own moment of reconciliation takes longer. This lovely fantasy film is both inspirational and a guaranteed tearjerker.

  • Starring: Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones

  • Director: Phil Alden Robinson

  • Year: 1989

  • Runtime: 106 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

The Fighter

Troubled family dynamics take center stage in the emotionally weighty sports drama “The Fighter.” Micky Ward is a struggling welterweight boxer whose career has always been hemmed in by his family. His trainer is Dicky, his crack-addicted half-brother and a former boxer in his own right, and his manager is his controlling and narcissistic mother. Both of them take chances with Micky’s life and career. Micky needs to break away from them to move forward — but really making the life he needs might mean reconciling with them as well. The supporting cast particularly shines here, making it no surprise that Melissa Leo and Christian Bale both took home Oscars for their performances.

  • Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams

  • Director: David O. Russell

  • Year: 2010

  • Runtime: 116 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

Fighting with My Family

Rick and Julia Knight are pro-wrestling royalty, but their kids, Zak and Saraya, prove to have some trouble breaking into the family business. Their trainer doesn’t see a future for Zak outside of the physically demanding, unglamorous work of professionally losing fights, so he sends him home. Saraya — now known by the stage name Paige — gets to train and start out in the WWE, but she struggles to fit in. “Fighting with My Family” is a funny, deeply enjoyable tribute to family love and a highly entertaining behind-the-scenes look at wrestling’s unique combination of sports and showbiz.

  • Starring: Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost

  • Director: Stephen Merchant

  • Year: 2019

  • Runtime: 107 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Ford v Ferrari

Corporate finagling leads to a major rivalry in “Ford v Ferrari.” After Ferrari leverages and then pointedly rejects Henry Ford II’s offer to buy out his business, Ford declares war. And it’s a war that will play out over the course of the 24-hour endurance race at Le Mans. Ford’s racing car division needs to step up its game if it’s going to beat Ferrari, so the company hires Carroll Shelby — a car manufacturer and former driver — and Ken Miles — a mechanic and driver — to get the job done. The film follows Shelby and Miles through all the subsequent ups and downs, giving equal attention to racing and backstage politics. This is an intensely engaging, well-rounded film that delivers memorable characters and plenty of adrenaline.

  • Starring: Matt Damn, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal

  • Director: James Mangold

  • Year: 2019

  • Runtime: 152 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Foxcatcher

An unsettling, outside-the-box performance from Steve Carell grounds this dark saga of toxic relationships and athletic dreams. Carell plays the wealthy John du Pont, who recruits one-time wrestling champion Mark Schultz to join his personally funded wrestling team. Mark has spent years struggling with feeling washed-up and stuck in his more charismatic brother’s shadow, so this seems like the opportunity of a lifetime … but drugs, du Pont’s unstable personality, and Mark’s own issues soon put everything on the rocks. It all builds with erratic, off-kilter energy to a shocking conclusion.

Friday Night Lights

The small town of Odessa, Texas, is obsessed with high school football, which puts a lot on the shoulders of the Permian Panthers and their coach, Gary Gaines. The players are struggling with their own problems on and off the field, and it’s hard to escape the constant pressure of the town’s hopes and dreams. “Friday Night Lights” — which was later re-adapted as a successful TV series — follows the Panthers over the course of a season, tracking their ups and down. The characterization, deep focus, and strong sense of place make this a football movie that’s not afraid to shrug off some of the genre’s clichés.

  • Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund

  • Director: Peter Berg

  • Year: 2004

  • Runtime: 117 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

Goon

For a movie that spends a lot of time on knocked-out teeth and savage beatdowns, “Goon” is often funny and unexpectedly sweet. When bouncer Doug gets into a brawl at a minor league hockey game, he attracts some unexpected attention — and suddenly, he has a job offer from the coach, who wants him to serve as the team’s hard-hitting “goon,” who’s mostly on the ice to viciously protect his team. It’s arguably less about skating and more about brute force, but Doug finally feels like he belongs somewhere, and he takes pride in his game. As he acquires a love interest and a professional rival, we root for Doug to get all the success, respect, and affection he deserves.

Hoosiers

“Hoosiers” centers on Norman Dale, who still has a blotch on his reputation from his days coaching college basketball. When an old friend from a small Indiana town hires him to coach the Huskers, a high school team, Dale has a second chance, but his approach rubs the town the wrong way, especially when he hires Shooter, a disreputable and alcoholic former player as his assistant coach. All eyes are on the Huskers as they progress toward the state championship. It’s a traditional underdog story, but Dale and Shooter — especially via Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper’s powerful performances — make it into a nuanced redemption tale as well.

The Hurricane

Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter was a shining star of a middleweight boxer, seemingly destined to rise to the top of the sport. All that changed when he was wrongfully convicted of a triple homicide and given three consecutive life sentences. Carter knows exactly what went wrong: The court saw a talented Black boxer with a history of civil rights activism and immediately read him as violent and disruptive. However, proving the racism behind his conviction will take years — and the surprising support of a young boy Carter has never even met. “The Hurricane” finds tremendous heart in the way the kindness of strangers comes through for Carter, making this inspirational despite its initial bleakness.

The Hustler

Eddie Felson is a mean pool player, but he discovers that while he’s more than good enough to make a living hustling in pool halls all across the country, he’s still not good enough to beat the legendary Minnesota Fats — partly because Eddie doesn’t know when to walk away from the game. As a result, he drifts around, falling into a relationship with Sarah, a troubled young woman, and under the tutelage of Bert, a ruthless gambler who promises to shape Eddie into something more than a “born loser.” Sooner or later, he’s going to get that rematch with Fats. Dark and psychologically complex, “The Hustler” feels like sports meets film noir, and its terrific cast — including Paul Newman as Eddie — helps it shine.

  • Starring: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie

  • Director: Robert Rossen

  • Year: 1961

  • Runtime: 135 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

I, Tonya

Figure skater Tonya Harding tells her own brash side of the story in this lively, often darkly comedic biopic. The film follows Tonya from her earliest days on the ice, where her ambitions were shaped by her harsh, demanding mother. Tonya quickly proves to have incredible athleticism — she’s the first female skater to do two triple Axels in a performance — but her aggressiveness, “tacky” homemade costumes, and “trashy” presentation means she never fits in with the graceful ice princesses the sport prefers. Tonya hones her image, but she can’t escape her life, which now includes an abusive husband. It all leads up to the famous plot to critically injure rival skater Nancy Kerrigan. Margot Robbie is a terrific Tonya — vivid, funny, heartbreaking, and compelling — and the supporting cast also shines.

Invictus

Apartheid has been dismantled, but that doesn’t mean that South Africa is now unified, and Nelson Mandela — president of this highly divided country — knows that better than anyone. He decides that as unlikely as it seems, the country will rally behind its rugby team, the Springboks, if he can get the key support of its captain, François Pienaar … if Pienaar can get them to the World Cup. As Pienaar, inspired by Mandela’s will and sense of peace, starts creating new bonds between the team and its fans, we follow the gradual unification of the country and the healing of some of its wounds. “Invictus” takes a solemn, thoughtful approach to its material that honors its subjects and makes their struggle resonate with audiences.

Jerry Maguire

High-powered sports agent Jerry Maguire has an early midlife crisis, taking stock of his business and finding it wanting. Where’s the personal connection? Is his agency really being ethical? He decides to break off and start his own smaller agency, but it’s an uphill battle. His only employee is Dorothy, and his only client is the egotistical and money-driven NFL star Rod Tidwell, and Jerry’s relationships with them form the backbone of the movie. As he works to get Rod the contract he wants, the two of them gradually develop a much closer connection. With Dorothy, it’s even more complicated, as they marry and have a bittersweet and somewhat bumpy love story. The two stories both benefit from the film’s realistic but sunny approach, making this a heartfelt movie that avoids feeling too simplistic.

  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renée Zellweger

  • Director: Cameron Crowe

  • Year: 1996

  • Runtime: 138 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

The Karate Kid

New kid Daniel LaRusso is getting pushed around by bully Johnny Lawrence and his friends from the Cobra Kai dojo, and then he gets some unexpected — and highly effective — protection from his apartment’s elderly handyman, the soft-spoken Mr. Miyagi. Miyagi eventually agrees to teach Daniel karate so he can prove himself at the upcoming championships. The move buys Daniel a little reprieve from Cobra Kai’s bullying, but Miyagi’s menial, chore-based lessons rankle him … until he realizes he’s learning more about karate (and life) from his mentor than he ever realized. “The Karate Kid” is a sweet, well-crafted family film with a heartwarming central relationship.

  • Starring: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue

  • Director: John G. Avildsen

  • Year: 1984

  • Runtime: 126 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

Lagaan

It’s 1893, and the occupying British are demanding a new land tax from the poor Indian village of Champaner. The villagers have only one option — play cricket (a game they barely know) against the British. If they win, they’ll get to go three years without paying the tax, but if they lose, they’ll have to pay three times the tax … which will ruin them. Spurred on by the likable, upstanding Bhuvan, the villagers start assembling a team for a match that will determine their future. Add in a poignant love triangle and a memorably awful villain, and you have plenty of high drama. “Lagaan” is a spectacle for the ages.

  • Starring: Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, Rachel Shelley

  • Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

  • Year: 2001

  • Runtime: 223 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

A League of Their Own

With a lot of baseball players overseas during World War II, somebody has to keep up America’s national pastime. Club owners decide to form a women’s league to keep up the country’s interest (and ticket sales). Sisters Dottie and Kit are both recruited, but as their rivalry builds, they wind up on opposite teams … on the road to competing against each other in the World Series. “A League of Their Own” is endearing and witty — there’s a reason Tom Hanks’ exasperated “no crying in baseball” line has become iconic — and it’s impossible to resist its charming cast.

The Longest Yard

“The Longest Yard” offers an original slant on the sports movie, one that will hook viewers immediately. When disgraced former NFL star Paul Crewe is sentenced to 18 months of hard time, he quickly attracts the attention of the football-loving prison warden. The result? A high-stakes game of prisoners against guards, with Crewe tasked with forming the prisoners’ team and serving as quarterback. The prisoners want to push back against years of bad treatment, the guards don’t want to risk losing face, and Crewe is caught in the middle. “The Longest Yard” balances genuine grittiness with strong action and plenty of humor.

  • Starring: Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter

  • Director: Robert Aldrich

  • Year: 1974

  • Runtime: 121 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

Love and Basketball

Monica and Quincy have known each other since they were both just basketball-obsessed kids with big dreams. Their passion brings them close together — taking them from childhood rivals to friends to lovers — but that same focus and intensity eventually drives them apart, when Monica can’t risk being benched to support Q through a difficult night and he can’t cool down enough to forgive her. The film follows their separate pro basketball careers, making for a slow-burn romantic drama that doubles as an in-depth tour of the industry. It’s also a complex coming-of-age story that looks at what it’s really like to achieve your childhood dreams.

  • Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, Alfre Woodard

  • Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

  • Year: 2000

  • Runtime: 124 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

Major League

Rachel Phelps wants to tank the Cleveland baseball team she’s just inherited. If she can torpedo the fans’ interest and loyalty so season attendance hits absolute rock bottom, she can move the team to the sunnier Miami. She sets about putting together a truly abysmal team, one filled to the brim with athletes past their prime and prone to personality clashes. Needless to say, her plan falls through, and this ragtag bunch starts to band together and play better than anyone could have anticipated. The movie’s pleasant light comedy may be marred by a few jokes that have aged badly, but overall, this is still a winning story of the triumphant teamwork of a bunch of misfits.

  • Starring: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen

  • Director: David S. Ward

  • Year: 1989

  • Runtime: 107 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

Million Dollar Baby

“Million Dollar Baby” centers on the relationship between one boxer, Maggie Fitzgerald, and her older, cranky trainer, Frankie Dunn. The two both have difficult relationships with their real families, and they eventually form a surrogate father-daughter relationship immensely important to both of them — even though Frankie sometimes does his best to deny it. Maggie’s star is on the rise, but things take a shocking turn when she finally gets to fight for a title. Soon, Frankie has to make an incredibly difficult choice about how to best support the young woman who’s become the center of his life. As strong as the sports-centric parts of “Million Dollar Baby” are, the turn to grim, heartbreaking drama is what really makes this film memorable.

  • Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman

  • Director: Clint Eastwood

  • Year: 2004

  • Runtime: 132 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

Miracle

There was no way for the U.S. men’s ice hockey team to beat the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics … but against all odds, they did it anyway. “Miracle” shows how they owed it all to one man, coach Herb Brooks, whose unconventional approach helped unify his team, getting them past their petty college rivalries and ceaselessly pushing them towards excellence. Full of classic sports movie moments and featuring enough heartwarming solidarity and underdog victories to move even the most cynical sports movie fan, “Miracle” tells an awe-inspiring story in a straightforward and lively fashion.

Moneyball

Once upon a time, Billy Beane looked like the perfect baseball player. He had all the right ingredients, but somehow his career quickly fizzled out. Now that he’s the general manager for the underfunded Oakland Athletics, he wants to use his limited money to buy players who fall through the cracks of the same recruiting plan that mistakenly embraced him. With the help of the statistics-obsessed Peter Brand, Billy puts together a misfit team who seem like they should be bad players but who slowly and inexorably start racking up wins. “Moneyball” is a smart, funny, and faintly melancholy look at a move that changed baseball for good.

The Natural

19-year-old Roy Hobbs believes he can be the best ballplayer of all time. Unfortunately for him, someone else believes it too — and she shoots him because of it. The injury sidelines Hobbs, derailing his career for 16 years and taking him from “wunderkind” to one of the world’s oldest rookies, playing for a failing team. Incredibly, he still has the powerful talent the team needs. He could revive its reputation … but that’s the last thing the Judge, one of the owners, wants. Behind-the-scenes power plays and on-the-field grit and excellence intersect to create an earnest, emotionally affecting classic.

  • Starring: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close

  • Director: Barry Levinson

  • Year: 1984

  • Runtime: 134 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

Offside

Most sports movies are about players, not fans, but “Offside” takes the road less traveled and finds funny, moving action that takes place entirely on the sidelines of a soccer game. In Iran, women are banned from attending the matches, but plenty of them are devoted sports fans who still try to find their way into the stadiums anyhow — a victory sometimes immediately followed by security locking them up. While they try to see and hear as much of the game as possible, we see all the ordinary human foibles and messiness surrounding guards being mandated to enforce rules they don’t really believe in or care about. “Offside” is lively, unconventional, and a valuable look at Iranian culture.

  • Starring: Shima Mobarak-Shahi, Safar Samandar, Shayesteh Irani

  • Director: Jafar Panahi

  • Year: 2006

  • Runtime: 92 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Personal Best

Chris and Tory are both vying for the Olympic track and field team. As the two women push each other to greater athletic prowess, their physicality and sharp understanding of each other easily blossoms into a romance. However, things get complicated when competition is involved and when their Olympic coach also has strong opinions about how this relationship might affect their performance. They may both have to go their separate ways. The tinge of bittersweet romance nicely complements the movie’s low-key, naturalistic approach, and its well-developed characters help make it memorable.

  • Starring: Mariel Hemingway, Scott Glenn, Patrice Donnelly

  • Director: Robert Towne

  • Year: 1982

  • Runtime: 124 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

The Phenom

Hopper Gibson has the yips, and that’s one of the worst fates that can befall a ballplayer. Seemingly for no reason, he’s lost control of his pitching, and he needs sports psychologist Dr. Mobley to help him unearth the root causes of his sudden inability to throw the way he needs to. Mobley unravels the tale of Hopper’s father, a failed player whose ruthlessness, grim disapproval and emotional abuse shaped Hopper’s early relationship with baseball. This is a movie buried in psychological examination, often of some very shadowy corners of trauma, making it a resonant, emotionally affecting slow burn.

The Pride of the Yankees

Part sports movie and part illuminating biopic, “The Pride of the Yankees” tells the story of Lou Gehrig, the Yankees first baseman whose athletic gifts and staunch goodness win over first his teammates and then the whole country. Lou has a sweet romance with the kindhearted Eleanor, deals with his mother’s disapproval of his chosen career, and forms a bond with a hospitalized young boy. It’s all a heartwarming, inspirational story — and then Lou starts going into a steep physical decline. His career and life will both be all too short. “The Pride of the Yankees” manages to find a sense of poignant triumph even in tragedy, however, especially due to the profound, grounded work of Gary Cooper.

  • Starring: Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, Babe Ruth

  • Director: Sam Wood

  • Year: 1942

  • Runtime: 127 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Raging Bull

“Raging Bull” tells the story of boxer Jake LaMotta, whose competence in the ring is gradually outweighed by his violence and self-destruction outside of it. His anger, jealousy, impulsiveness, and overheated, reckless sexual appetites all lead him into darkness, and no amount of success in the ring can bring him out of it again. At almost every turn, Jake makes the wrong decision — it’s not even that he agrees to throw a fight, it’s that he can’t even throw a fight right — and while it makes for a bleak life, it makes for a grimly great film and an energetic, ruthless, and unconventional biopic with astonishing direction by Martin Scorsese.

Rocky

“Rocky” helped define a genre. Rocky Balboa is a working class boxer who’s only ever seen small-time action, but an unexpected twist of fate gets him a high-profile bout with Apollo Creed, the heavyweight world champion. Not even Rocky believes he can win, but he still hopes to make a good showing for himself to keep his dignity and demonstrate his skill and resilience. His intense (and unconventional) training is offset by his tender romance with the sweet, shy Adrian. “Rocky” — like its lead character — stays humble and benefits from it, making it one of the most intrinsically satisfying sports movies around.

  • Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young

  • Director: John G. Avildsen

  • Year: 1976

  • Runtime: 119 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Rocky Balboa

Rocky Balboa’s retired, and his glory days are behind him. Still, the world hasn’t forgotten about him, especially when it’s talking about new champ Mason Dixon, who has an unbroken string of victories but has never shown audiences much heart or grit. He’s Rocky’s opposite, so of course ESPN can’t resist creating a computerized bout between Dixon now and Rocky in his prime. Seeing it makes Rocky choose to pick his gloves up once again. Soon enough, he has a real match with Dixon, and both of them have their pride on the line. “Rocky Balboa” has plenty of wistful, moving material about growing older and dealing with regrets, which makes this a very satisfying sequel.

  • Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Antonio Tarver

  • Director: Sylvester Stallone

  • Year: 2006

  • Runtime: 102 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%

Rollerball

In a dystopian world obsessed with a dangerous — and sometimes deadly — sport called rollerball, Jonathan E. is legendary, arguably the best player of all time. He’s at the top of his game … so why is the chairman of one of the world’s major governing corporations suddenly pushing him to retire? One of only a handful of science fiction sports movies, “Rollerball” floods its cutting social commentary with adrenaline and creativity, neatly blending pulse-pounding action sequences with timely messages about power, knowledge, and revolution.

  • Starring: James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams

  • Director: Norman Jewison

  • Year: 1975

  • Runtime: 128 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%

The Rookie

Jim Morris always wanted to be a baseball player, but life kept getting in the way. His family disapproved of his dream, and his high school didn’t even have a baseball team. When he was drafted and about to start his career, a shoulder injury nipped it in the bud. Years later, Jim has an ordinary life as a husband, father, and teacher, and his one real connection with his old passion is coaching the school’s lackluster team. But when it turns out that Jim still has a killer fastball, everything starts to turn around. An inspirational look at family healing, mentorship, and community, “The Rookie” shows the power and persistence of dreams.

  • Starring: Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths, Jay Hernandez

  • Director: John Lee Hancock

  • Year: 2002

  • Runtime: 127 minutes

  • Rating: G

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

Rudy

When it comes to underdog sports stories, it’s hard to top “Rudy.” The titular hero longs to play football for Notre Dame, but everything in life seems aligned against him. He doesn’t have a football player’s physique or natural athleticism. He can’t afford to attend Notre Dame, and even if he could, the academic competition is so stiff that it’s unlikely he’d even get in. The movie follows his struggle to achieve his dreams against all odds, with hurdle after hurdle in his way, right up until the last minute. “Rudy” is the quintessential earnest sports movie: good-natured, warm, and satisfying.

  • Starring: Sean Astin, Ned Beatty, Charles S. Dutton

  • Director: David Anspaugh

  • Year: 1993

  • Runtime: 113 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%

Rush

“Rush” centers on the rivalry — sometimes intense and testy, sometimes respectful and even affectionate — between two of the world’s best Formula One racers. James Hunt is reckless, impulsive, and outgoing; Niki Lauda is careful, precise, and brusquely hard to get along with. They keep each other on their toes, with their lives evolving in parallel, equal but opposite. Then a horrific accident upends everything. In its aftermath, their ongoing competition could be a lifeline, an opportunity, or a death sentence. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl turn in charismatic performances, making the complicated push and pull between Hunt and Lauda incredibly watchable.

  • Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde

  • Director: Ron Howard

  • Year: 2013

  • Runtime: 123 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

Seabiscuit

The championship racing horse Seabiscuit gets a kind of biopic via the three men who most shaped his life: owner Charles S. Howard, jockey Red Pollard, and trainer Tom Smith. All damaged and unconventional in different ways — Pollard has the probably the rockiest life, blind in one eye before he even meets Seabiscuit and eventually badly fracturing his leg — they help guide the stubborn, undersized horse to impressive victories. Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, and Chris Cooper provide a strong, emotionally nuanced center, making all the heartwarming moments feel genuine. The movie also features some jaw-dropping racing.

  • Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper

  • Director: Gary Ross

  • Year: 2003

  • Runtime: 140 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%

Slap Shot

Mass layoffs, sour moods, and falling ticket sales: The Charlestown Chiefs don’t have much to be happy about. This minor league hockey team is probably about to go under, and it’s unlikely anyone but the players will care; the crowd has never really been on their side. But with nothing left to lose, and knowing a lot of tensions are simmering just beneath the surface, player-coach Reggie Dunlop tells the team to go wild and leave some blood on the ice. Venting their frustrations through some in-game violence unexpectedly inspires the crowds, and the Chiefs’ popularity starts to climb. Brutal but funny — and sometimes wryly, darkly insightful — “Slap Shot” rewards our baser instincts with good humor.

  • Starring: Paul Newman, Strother Martin, Michael Ontkean

  • Director: George Roy Hill

  • Year: 1977

  • Runtime: 123 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Warrior

When Tommy Conlon reluctantly asks his estranged father to train him as an MMA fighter, he doesn’t realize that he’s opening up a dark closet full of family skeletons. Tommy has never forgiven his father for the alcoholism and violence that drove him and his mother away — and he’s never forgiven his brother, Brendan, for staying behind. Now Brendan is also an MMA fighter, one desperately trying to hold his family together. With a major, lucrative tournament in their near future, both brothers have different but strong reasons to crave the victory and the prize money that comes with it. “Warrior” is a serious, well-crafted fight movie full of agonizing conflicts.

The Way Back

Ben Affleck’s performance is the highlight of this story of high school basketball and tentative redemption. Affleck stars as Jack Cunningham, a blue-collar worker whose life is now shaped by solitude, grief, and alcohol. Once, Jack was a star basketball player, and when his old high school offers him a job coaching their now-dismal team, it’s an opportunity to turn his life around. Jack throws himself into the work and shows a real talent for it, but his problems are too serious to go away that easily. “The Way Back” gets you invested in Jack, making this a melancholy but stirring film.

  • Starring: Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Michaela Watkins

  • Director: Gavin O’Connor

  • Year: 2020

  • Runtime: 108 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

Whip It

Bliss Cavender doesn’t fit in with her small, conventional Texas town — and then she discovers the roller derby circuit in Austin, where aggression and a punk rock aesthetic reign supreme. Suddenly, her life is infused with color, and she has a whole new outlook and sense of personal power. She goes through love, heartbreak, and the ups and downs of friendship and family while she settles into her new sport. Her team, the Hurl Scouts, make for a great, unconventional female ensemble, and the movie as a whole is funny, empowering, and offbeat.

  • Starring: Elliot Page, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Wiig

  • Director: Drew Barrymore

  • Year: 2009

  • Runtime: 111 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

White Men Can’t Jump

“White Men Can’t Jump” centers on an unlikely but charismatic trio. Billy hustles basketball to make ends meet (and maybe someday pay off his sizable gambling debts), relying on people underestimating white players. Sidney is a skilled player, Billy’s one-time mark who eventually becomes a kind of antagonistic friend and partner. And Gloria is Billy’s girlfriend, who dreams of showing off her trivia knowledge on “Jeopardy!” Billy’s hustles bring the three of them together, but they also keep screwing everything up. This sharply witty comedy follows its characters’ attempts to make a little money and live as honestly as hustlers can.

Without Limits

Steve Prefontaine is a runner, and he only has one way to run — all-out, as fast and hard as he can, from start to finish. His coach, the famous-in-his-own-right Bill Bowerman, takes issue with that approach, trying to encourage the relentless Pre to try something new. “Without Limits” foregrounds the relationship between coach and player, making for an unexpectedly psychological and philosophical film. If you’re at all interested in the incredible force of personality that can drive athletes like Pre to unprecedented success, “Without Limits” is an indispensable biopic.

  • Starring: Billy Crudup, Donald Sutherland, Monica Potter

  • Director: Robert Towne

  • Year: 1998

  • Runtime: 117 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

The Wrestler

Once a successful pro wrestler, Randy is now a late-middle-aged man struggling to make ends meet with a dead-end job at a supermarket and occasional smaller wrestling gigs. A rematch with his old-time rival could rejuvenate his career, but a health scare puts a quick and possibly permanent end to all that, leaving Randy with no options for real glory. All he has left is the difficult task of reconnecting with his estranged daughter and living in the real world … and that can’t offer the same rush. The people in his life demand more from him than his fans do, and he feels like he has less to give them. It all adds up to a nuanced, emotionally complex look at an athlete past his prime, and Mickey Rourke’s performance as Randy earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

  • Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

  • Director: Darren Aronofsky

  • Year: 2008

  • Runtime: 110 minutes

  • Rating: R

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

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