25 Best Sports Movies of All Time
Great sports movies carry that rare potential to inspire us, boost our adrenaline and turn around any rainy day. So, if you’re ever in need of a feel-good moment, here are some of our all-time favorites — films we can watch over and over and still find ourselves cheering at the end.
- Rudy (1993) - Based on the life of Daniel Ruettiger, “Rudy” tells the story of the ultimate underdog who never gives up on his dream to play football for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Determined to overcome his challenges on the field, Ruettiger commits himself to hard work and determination — giving him the chance to finally suit up for the last game of his senior year. By the end of the movie when teammates raise Rudy on their shoulders and the crowd chants, “Rudy, Rudy,” it’s hard not to personally cheer for the well-fought hero.
- Hoosiers (1986) - Based on a true story, Gene Hackman plays the role of a new coach in a little town in Indiana with hopes of leading his high school basketball team to the state championship. Upon facing a bigger and better city roster, Coach Norman leads his group to a resounding victory. His passionate and motivating speeches continue to inspire movie viewers.
- Field of Dreams (1989) - “If you build it, they will come” — became a great motto in American pop culture for believing in your gut instincts. We later learn that the movie’s main message is more about second chances than baseball, but we still love Kevin Costner’s endearing role as a farmer in rural Iowa receiving messages to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield.
- Miracle (2004) - Kurt Russell as Coach Herb Brooks captures one of the greatest triumphs in American sports history — the 1980 against-all-odds Olympic victory of the U.S. hockey team against the favored Russian giants. Surrounded by political unrest and Cold War tensions, Russell’s passionate locker room speeches, along with the film’s portrayal of the heroic upset, could bring any viewer to his feet.
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- Rocky (1976) - At the very top for many sports fans, “Rocky” is undeniably one of the most iconic sports films ever. With a score that continues to symbolize strength and determination, this classic tale of a small-time Philadelphia boxer given the chance to fight for the heavyweight championship still inspires and challenges viewers today.
- The Natural (1984) - If you’re looking for a goosebumps-worthy moment, you’ve come to the right movie. The last scene of “The Natural” features one of the most iconic cinematic moments ever — Roy Hobbs, portrayed by Robert Redford, knocks the game-winning home run into the stadium lights and then proceeds to round the bases while electrical sparks poetically rain down on him. This inspiring story of an unknown player becoming a “natural” baseball talent is a joy to watch many times over.
- Remember the Titans (2000) - Considered by many as a modern sports classic, “Remember the Titans” portrays a newly hired coach struggling to integrate a Virginia high school football team in the early 1970s. The team faces fierce opposition and racial tension from other schools and even within its own roster. By the end, you’ll find yourself cheering for all their life lessons learned on and off the field.
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- Karate Kid (1984) - We’ve all stood in front of the mirror at some point and attempted to perfect that infamous crane kick. Made famous by the original 1984 classic, “Karate Kid” unravels the tale of a martial arts master teaching a bullied teenager the art and style of karate. In the wise words of Mr. Miyagi to his student Daniel-sun, “Wax on…Wax off…”
- The Blind Side (2009) - Sandra Bullock gives an Academy Award-winning performance in “The Blind Side,” demonstrating the power of a mother’s love. Based on the true story of Michael Oher, who goes on to become an offensive linesman in the NFL, Bullock plays Oher’s adoptive mother, whose strength helps him overcome daunting obstacles.
- Million Dollar Baby (2004) - Clint Eastwood stars in and directs this deeply moving portrayal of a determined young female boxer, played by Hillary Swank, with Eastwood as her older and wiser trainer. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this movie moves far beyond boxing as it pulls the viewer into the intense emotional bonds that form between the movie’s fascinating characters.
- Cool Runnings (1993) - For all those times we feel like throwing in the towel might be the better choice, “Cool Runnings” reminds us of the power of persistence. The movie tells the tale of the young men on Jamaica’s first bobsled team, describing their ingenuity in training without snow and their unlikely debut in the 1988 Winter Olympics.
- Chariots of Fire (1981) - Just say the title out loud, and you’ll probably find yourself belting out the notes of the triumphant score for the next week. Winning an Oscar in 1981, this true story describes the trials and tribulations of two seemingly opposite British track athletes in the 1924 Olympics. Among many iconic scenes, most memorable is that glorious moment when the Olympians run along the beach.
- A League of Their Own (1992) - Who can forget Tom Hank’s famous line, “There’s no crying in baseball.” This story of the first female professional baseball league also features all-star showings by Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell.
- Pride of the Yankees (1942) - Gary Cooper stars in this inspirational story of New York Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig and his tragic battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (later known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). When “Pride of the Yankees” was released in 1942, it had only been one year since the baseball legend’s death. The film’s most memorable scene comes when Cooper delivers Gehrig’s famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”
- Bull Durham (1988) - Perhaps best shown past children’s bedtime, “Bull Durham” hilariously highlights life in baseball’s minor league, with Susan Sarandon as the team groupie and seductress, Tim Robbins as the hotshot pitcher and Kevin Costner as the catcher. Their interesting love triangle takes many twists and turns in a story of sports, romance and comedy.
- Cinderella Man (2005) - In this inspirational boxing movie, Russell Crowe plays James Braddock, an Irish-American boxer forced to leave the ring after breaking his hand. Struggling to support his family during the Great Depression, Braddock returns to boxing and begins his fearless rise to champion status.
- Hoop Dreams (1994) - This 1994 documentary follows the lives of two inner city Chicago boys struggling to become college and professional basketball players. Though “Hoop Dreams” doesn’t provide the typical feel-good ending of its genre, it is an eye-opening outlook at what can happen on the road up.
- Breaking Away (1979) - Earning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and a Best Picture nomination, “Breaking Away” tells the story of a small-town dreamer pretending to be a champion Italian cyclist in order to impress a girl out of his league.
- Angels in the Outfield (1994) - Made famous by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s flying scene, “Angels in the Outfield” continues to be one of the best feel-good movies out there. The story follows a young boy, Roger, hoping to find a family — and for his California Angels to win the professional baseball championship. Roger’s dreams are inspiring enough and require the help of real angels to come true.
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- Seabiscuit (2003) - This heartwarming movie, based on a true story and best-selling novel, is set during the Great Depression and features an underdog horse, trainer and businessman who rise to become champions on the race track. One of its closing lines explains it best, “You know, everyone thinks that we found this broken down horse and fixed him, but we didn’t. He fixed us…and I guess in a way we kinda fixed each other, too.”
- Space Jam (1996) - Michael Jordan. Bill Murray. Danny DeVito. Can a cast really get any better? In the 1996 classic, Michael Jordan comes to the rescue for his Looney Tunes friends in a fierce basketball bet with evil aliens who steal the basketball abilities of NBA stars such as Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing.
- The Bad News Bears (1976) - In this comedy-packed family movie, Walter Matthau plays a grumpy, hard-drinking, has-been coach with the task of turning around an uncoordinated group of Little Leaguers. The team struggles in raw comedic fashion until Amanda, played by Tatum O’Neal, joins the team and changes its atmosphere.
- Bend It Like Beckham (2002) - Set in West London, this upbeat comedy centers around the soccer dreams of an 18-year-old daughter of strict, traditional Indian parents who deem sports improper. Without her parents’ knowledge, Jesminder manages to play for a semi-pro team after years of practicing in the park and devises creative excuses to hide her matches from her disapproving family.
- Friday Night Lights (2004) - Spotlighting a small town’s obsession with football, “Friday Night Lights” recounts the 1988 season of the Permian High School Panthers in Odessa, Texas. Charged with reviving an injury-ridden roster, Coach Gary Gaines, played by Billy Bob Thornton, encourages underutilized team members to fight for each other and to bring home a championship to a struggling, racially divided town.
- The Rookie (2002) - “The Rookie” tells a charming true story about a Texas high school chemistry teacher and baseball coach, played by Dennis Quaid, who agrees to try out for a professional baseball squad if his team wins the district title. He’s forced to make good on his promise, and what follows is an inspirational story that shows it’s never too late to reach for your dreams.
Pop some popcorn and gather the kids for a family movie night. These famous sports films have something to offer everyone.
Laura Jackson is a freelance writer based in Hilton Head, S.C. with her husband and two teenagers.