The Greatest Sports Movies, Sport by Sport

Sports movies aren’t just made for sports fans. They’re also made for the average Joe and Jane looking for the next great film that’ll leave them with a lasting impact.

We’ve compiled a list of the best sports movies — by sport — and to help with that, you can brush up on your sports terminology with some key sports terms.

Note: We didn’t have any hard criteria for picking the movies. We simply went with what would be the most memorable and impactful while still representing the sport honestly. Here we go:

Basketball: Hoosiers (1986)

Hoosiers is one of the OG’s of sports underdog films and was even selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The film, an unrepentant slice of Americana, manages to authentically represent everything the country aspires for, shown through the small-town Indiana high school basketball team that goes big.

Football: Remember the Titans (2000)

Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army Chief of Staff, shakes hands with former T.C. Williams High School (Alexandria, Va.) football coach Herman Boone (“Remember the Titans”) (June 10, 2010). Photo by GoArmy is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

A sentimental pick, Remember the Titans goes beyond just the game of football and touches upon the civil rights battles rocking America, particularly Virginia in the 1970’s.

Remember the Titans remains one of the best feel-good true stories and perfectly captures the unifying spirit behind sport, not just football. It’s the reason we all love sports so much.

Baseball: Bull Durham (1988)

Few movies are as complete a baseball movie as Bull Durham. This was Jerry Maguire before Jerry Maguire, combining all the best elements of rom-com and sports, making it the perfect date movie.

It is loosely inspired by the minor league experiences of writer-director Ron Shelton and you can tell it’s a labor of love despite being a box office hit. Bull Durham is considered by many as the best sports film ever made.

Soccer:The Damned United (2009)

It’s nearly impossible to pick one in this genre but we’ll go with one that stands on its own. The Damned United is part sports drama, part commentary, part comedy.

Michael Sheen is magnetic as Brian Clough, Leeds United’s tragicomical manager in 1974. The film has received numerous awards and nominations and criticism. It’s fun, cringeworthy, and gripping all at the same time.

Mixed martial arts: Warrior (2011)

Warrior does what few movies about combat sports does: It stays true to the sport’s callous nature and still gives viewers a happy ending. While it can be dinged for falling for cliches, there is a powerful story here that can’t be dismissed.

This film could be the ultimate “bromance” film as it details with both the best and worst things about traditional masculine roles … but does so with sincerity.

Boxing: Rocky (1976)

This was the hardest sport to pick a title from with plenty of other films like Raging Bull and The Fighter also deserving praise. But Rocky outdoes them all by managing to walk the fine line between the unforgiving nature of the sport and a feel-good movie.

Rocky spawned numerous sequels including Creed, an amazing boxing movie in recent years. To this day this underdog tale still tugs at the heartstrings.

Motor racing: Rush (2013)

Ron Howard’s panoramic filmmaking — artful cinematography blended with scenic European locales — contrasts the infernal rivalry between Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth).

Rush tells a captivating story from start to finish, making viewers love either the cold calculated Lauda or the spontaneous playboy Hunt. Both Formula 1 fans and casual filmgoers will love this film.

Tennis: Borg vs McEnroe (2017)

This edges out Battle of the Sexes with its high octane storytelling apt for the fierce rivalry between tennis legends Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.

Sverir Gudnason and Shia Lebouf capture the pair’s contrasting personalities and maintains tension throughout the film. The cinematography is the cherry on top.

Horse racing: Phar Lap (1983)

The consensus best horse racing film ever made is a true underdog story that is an Australian treasure to this day. Phar Lap was foaled in New Zealand but went on to capture the hearts of everyone.

The iconic horse overcame a terrible start to its career and went on to dominate the Australian racing scene, giving hope and joy to a country during the Great Depression. The docudrama manages to tell a poignant story while staying true to the facts. A masterpiece.

eGaming: Free to Play (2014)

A documentary by renowned video game company, Valve, Free to Play follows professional Defense of the Ancients (DoTA) gamers Benedict “hyhy” Lim, Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, and “Clinton “Fear” Loomis on how gaming affects their lives.

Free to Play is one of the best-made sports documentaries and is easy to watch even for viewers with no prior knowledge of e-gaming. It is gripping and humanizes the players in ways most can relate.

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