Here are some of the best of the best.
Sports have been one of the hottest sources of entertainment for centuries. Be it gladiator fights in Ancient Greece or basketball, sports have always drawn a crowd. It was only a matter of time before Hollywood started to make movies centered around the topic. While they may not make as much in the box office as popular genres like superhero or sci-fi movies, some sports movies are true works of art. Today, I’ll be sharing my top ten sports movies.
Note that I said my top ten sports movies. You may not agree with some of my picks, and that’s okay. We may not agree, and I may not have seen some of your favorite movies. Some movies that are considered great (e.g. The Blind Side, any Rocky movies and Coach Carter) are movies I haven’t seen.
Also, keep in mind that not all of my picks are sports movies based on true events. They can be fictional stories centered around sports. At the very least, even if they’re not solely about them, sports will have a large presence in these movies.
Look, making a list like this is tough. There are a lot of movies that didn’t make the cut but potentially deserved to be in the top 10, and I want to shout them out. Props to movies like “Prefontaine,” “Million Dollar Arm,” “Soul Surfer,” “The Mighty Ducks” and “The Karate Kid” for being movies that either inspired me or were just flat out awesome. Unfortunately, they weren’t good enough to add to this list, but I would recommend them all.
10. “McFarland USA”
Kicking off our top 10 is a solid Disney movie with “McFarland USA.” This cross country movie is a sentimental pick for me, as it taught me everything I knew about cross country before I started running in high school. The movie also hits home a strong story of redemption, as Kevin Costner’s Jim White and his seven cross country athletes struggle against poverty, racial prejudice and lack of experience. When you finally get to the end of the movie, you can’t help but feel a mix of joy and satisfaction. McFarland is a great story of trials and triumphs, which is why it earns its spot at number 10.
9. “Space Jam”
Where do I even start? Part basketball movie, part whacky-cartoonish adventure, Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes team up to save the world. Full of humor, heart, appearances from top NBA players and some killer moves by Jordan, “Space Jam” has it all. Whether or not LeBron James’ Space Jam 2 will join the original in the top ten is yet to be determined, but its predecessor earns its spot for being a fun, action-packed film.
8. “4 Minute Mile”
Think of McFarland but focus even more on the hardships of our protagonists, and you get “4 Minute Mile.” A movie about searching deep inside of yourself against all odds, this track and field movie is more than just running the mile under four minutes. It’s about the conquering of fears and growth of protagonist Drew Jacobs. The story, admittedly, does start slow, but once it gets rolling you have something truly impactful and heavy. It’s definitely the darkest movie tone-wise on my list, but it’s an amazing true story that looks great on the big screen.
7. “Goal! The Dream Begins”
Up next is a movie that focuses on the hard work it takes to become a professional athlete. Protagonist Santiago Munez spends the film going from a Los Angeles cook to a big-time soccer player in England. Along the way, he’s exposed to the positive and negative aspects of being famous. But it’s the passion behind Munez and his determination to make something of himself that drives the movie, and when (spoiler alert) everything falls in place for him, you can’t help but be happy for him. The soccer superfan in me and the movie buff in me was beaming ear to ear by the time the credits rolled. Out of all the movies on this list, it made me feel the happiest.
6. “Love and Basketball”
I don’t watch movies to be happy, though. I watch movies to feel something, and “Love and Basketball” made me do just that. While it was first and foremost a love story, basketball was what brought the two leads together and drove them apart. The demanding aspects of being a college athlete and a professional athlete are heavily emphasized in this movie, making the tensions even higher when they need to be in this story. Not to mention the final basketball game at the end was one of the most touching endings to a movie I’ve seen in general. I’m a sucker for love, I’ll admit it, and perfectly mixing it with basketball makes it even better.
5. “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”
What? Really? He put the dodgeball movie in the top five? Yes, I did, and I won’t apologize for it. Dodgeball is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and the dodgeball action itself was hilarious. Despite wacky characters like Ben Stiller’s White Goodman and Alan Tudyk’s Steve the Pirate, you still feel the sense of competition and redemption as you watch grown men get hit in the face and groin. “Dodgeball” is truly an underdog story, both on the screen and on this list.
4. “A League of Their Own”
Coming in at number four is the movie about the origins of women in professional baseball. “A League of Their Own” focuses on sisters Dottie Hinson and Kit Keller as they become two baseball stars of the AAGPBL. With the looming plotlines of World War 2 threatening the lives of her husband and a competitive rivalry with her sister, Dottie emerges as the star of the league. The star of the movie, however, is none other than Tom Hanks, who plays Dottie’s coach and has hit rock bottom. The message is simple: iron sharpens iron, as every character learns something from one another. “A League of Their Own” isn’t just empowering for women, but empowering to anyone who feels backed into a corner, which earns it a spot in the top five.
This is where the list gets really difficult for me. The life of Jackie Robinson is recorded in the hit movie “42,” and boy is it a life. The late Chadwick Boseman knocks it out of the park (pun intended) as the baseball legend, bringing even more life to his fiery character. Beyond Boseman, however, the movie emphasized just how different Robinson was from the rest, be it in his work ethic or his temper. Regardless, “42” reminded me that being different, if channeled in the right way, can turn you into something truly special. The film pulled no punches in showing that message in its victories, losses and controversies, which is why it smashed its way into the top three.
2. “The Longest Yard” (2005)
I’ve seen both versions of this film, but the one that takes the cake for me is the 2005 version with Adam Sandler. Despite being a comedy, the movie is grounded in redemption for the members of the convict team. Sandler and co-stars Chris Rock and Nelly deliver a perfect balance of seriousness and silliness from beginning to end. It may come as a shock that this is second on my list, but, to me, this movie had it all. It has heart, passion, humor, strong character development and great football content. I was and still am a fan of the movie, but there’s one other football movie that tops it.
Those of you who have seen this movie might understand why it’s my top pick, and why wouldn’t it be? Sean Astin puts on my third favorite performance from him (“Lord of the Rings” and “The Goonies” take first and second, respectively). He brings determination, compassion and overall fight to his character Rudy Ruettiger.
The real strength of the movie, however, is in the writing. “Rudy” is the ultimate underdog story, proving persistence always overcomes obstacles. And when those obstacles are presented, you feel it. You feel crushed when Rudy is rejected yet again, and you cheer when he finally gets the opportunities he fights for. The ending made me shout for joy the first time I watched it. Never before did I cheer so loud when a quarterback got sacked. Not even during a Super Bowl. “Rudy” put me through the wringer in the best way possible, which is why I’m calling it the best sports movie I’ve ever watched.