The Top Ten Sports Movies

Last night, the 2012 NFL season officially kicked off, and in conjunction, today brings my list of the Top Ten Sports Movies of all time.

This was a difficult list to compile. Mainly due to the difficulty of defining what a “Sports Movie” actually is. A number of great movies use sports as an element, but in reality may be about something else. Perhaps the movie is a drama (“Raging Bull”) or has a strong romantic element (“Bull Durham”). How does one compare those as “Sports Movies” against a movie such as, say… “Miracle”, which is purely focused on a sport?

Compounding the challenge is the fact that this category has an enormous number of movies up for consideration. It would have been easy to go top 20 or even 30 here… I had to cut a number of movies that I’m a big fan of. There are some really, really painful omissions out there.

But I pushed on and worked it out! Click through to check out my list of the Top Ten Sports Movies of all time!

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10) Slap Shot (1977)

“Slap Shot” is the story of minor league hockey franchise the Charlestown Chiefs, and player-coach Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman). In spite of rumors of an impending sale, Dunlop learns that the franchise is going to be disbanded at the end of the season. After that fact comes to light, it’s anything goes as Reg and his team try to fill the stands. “Slap Shot” is a hysterical look at both hockey and hockey players.

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9) Raging Bull (1980)

If our topic today were simply “Greatest Movies”, “Raging Bull” would obviously place much higher. But even though its central focus isn’t necessarily on the sport of boxing, boxing is integral to the film. An unflinching look at a man the sport hailed as a champion, Martin Scorsese makes the sweet science look more brutal than it ever has before.

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8) The Natural (1984)

Barry Levinson’s look at the game of baseball has “storybook” written all over it. It’s less of a baseball movie than it is a baseball fairy tale… Robert Redford’s Roy Hobbs is less the way baseball players are, and more the way we want them to be. Golden, good-looking idols with a touch of magic to them. It features a storybook ending that may just be too good to be believable. _____________________________________________________________________________

7) Major League (1989)

Baseball has never been funnier. Trying to activate an escape clause in their stadium lease, a greedy owner intentionally assembles the worst team possible, attempting to kill attendance. She doesn’t anticipate the team will form remarkable chemistry and start winning. Great cast that includes Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen and Dennis Haysbert.

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6) Miracle (2004)

“Miracle” is a 200 proof sports movie. Pure as they get. No side plots. No romances. No comedy. Just a dramatic re-enactment of one of the biggest upsets in sports history, the “Miracle On Ice” at the 1980 Winter Olympics. It delivers an unadulterated sports experience. Team building. Coaching, Training. And above all, the thrill of victory. Do I believe in miracles? YES!

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5) Field of Dreams (1989)

This movie isn’t so much about the sport of baseball as it is about the love of baseball. “If you build it they will come.” Kevin Costner’s Ray Kinsella is willing to follow his heart and listen to the mysterious voice he hears. The result is a magical event that will touch the heart of any baseball fan. Nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

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4) Caddyshack (1980)

“Caddyshack” unquestionably left its mark on the sport of golf in a way no other sports movie has. Millions of amateur golfers world-wide quote this movie like scripture. “It’s in the hole!”, “Be the ball…”, “Let’s go! While we’re young!”, almost every line from “Caddyshack” is quotable. Not just one of the greatest sports comedies ever, it’s one of the greatest comedies ever. CLASSIC.

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3) Bull Durham (1988)

Part sports flick, part chick flick, “Bull Durham” mixes sports, comedy and romance successfully to create a unique movie about the minor league experience. Baseball (and sports) wisdom abounds, as Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis schools Tim Robbins’ Nuke LaLoosh up about both baseball and life. “Bull Durham” deservedly has become a beloved sports movie.

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2) Rocky (1976)

This film has become synonymous with the term “underdog story”. It practically gave birth to the “Training Montage”. It’s based on the inspirational story of a boxer who… put up a good fight. Oscar Winner. AFI top 100. A great movie that is also a great sports movie, “Rocky” spawned 5 sequels over the course of 30 years and earned itself a prominent place in the pop culture consciousness.

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1) Hoosiers (1986)

Strong sports focus? Check. Great characters? Check. A sporting event you can follow? A Team you can root for? Check and check. Hoosiers is sports movie heaven. From the inspirational quotes (“I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners!”), to the drama (“I play, coach stays. He goes, I go.”), to the underdog story, “Hoosiers” is the total sports movie package.

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NOTES: “Brian’s Song” and “61*” are TV movies, Poker is questionable as a sport, so “Rounders” is excluded. I will openly mock suggestions that I should have included “Jerry Maguire”.

Well, that’s the scoreboard folks.

There were a LOT of great movies that didn’t make my list. And with such a disparate mix of comedies and dramas, plus the differing levels of sports content within each film… I’m sure there will be lots of discussion regarding the rankings!

So what do you think? Did I leave one off that you think deserves to be on the list? Have a problem with the order? Something needs to be higher or lower? Let me hear it! Tell us what you think!!

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110 thoughts on “The Top Ten Sports Movies

  1. Good list, Fogs. A lot of other great ones have been noted in the other comments. I’ll echo John’s comment about Eight Men Out, which is easily my favorite baseball movie. It digs into so much more than just the game. I also really love 61*. I understand you had to put restrictions on the list, though. It’s really tough to narrow sports movies down to 10!

    Also, I’m stunned that Rocky isn’t your #1! Hoosiers is a good movie, but it doesn’t have the eye of the tiger!

    • Ha!!! Yeah, it was tough not to have Rock at #1, but as Dylan was griping on the show, there IS a lot of non sports in there. Romance, character building. Hoosiers by split decision in terms of “Sports” movies, Dan! :D

  2. Awesome list. I don’t know why, but I’m into really cheesy sport movies like, “Necessary Roughness” or “Mr. Baseball”. In my defense, I’m a chick. There you go…blaming it on the ovaries.

    • NR that’s a funny one idk about top 10 though; funny. :-)

      Chuck Niederman: The Blake man pitches to Sarge, The Sargester bumps into his own man. It’s a fumble! FUMBLAYA! Sargie “Fumblina” Wilkerson fumbles the ball!

      • HAHA! Your right..it’s definitely not top 10, but I love it. After I wrote this post, I did think of another one…Remember the Titans. I would put that as my top 10. See, I’m such a girl when it comes to sport movies. LOL

  3. First off…No mention of the Cowboys awesome victory over the defending superbowl champs????? Whaaaaa?!

    ok. now that my questioning of your true fanhood is over (for the time being), on to the topic at hand! :D

    I am impressed and glad that you put Hoosiers as #1. A great choice. I’m not certain that my picks belong in the Top Ten…but here are a couple others that I enjoy:
    Remember the Titans, The Longest Yard, Senna, Warrior, The Fighter, and Rudy! :)

    Surprised that Bring It On isn’t on anyone’s list! ;)

    • I try not to “Muddy the waters”, you know? We’re here talking movies, you know? PLUS, no one can build false hope like the Tony Romo era Cowboys, so I refuse to do cartwheels just cause they won their opener, huh?

      Love all of those, but have to confess I haven’t checked out Senna yet, in spite of hearing LOTS of good things.

      LOL @ Bring it On! Thats funny stuff, man. Kirsten and Eliza team up together to become an unstoppable force! :D

  4. OK, This has to be said…Slap Shot is the Greatest SPORTS movie ever. Everything else is a romance, disguised as a sports movie , or an inspirational film using a sports motif. That said, I’m in:

    1. Slap Shot
    2. Rocky
    3. Warrior
    4. Bull Durham
    5. The Longest Yard (Burt not Adam)
    6. Miracle
    7. The Wrestler
    8. Kingpin
    9. Mystery, Alaska
    10. The Blind Side

    I have three hockey movies listed, and I hate hockey, but I love a good story.

    [Fogs here. Edited to embed :D I think youtube is the only site that works to embed directly...]


    Old-Time Hockey


    Slap Shot

    — MOVIECLIPS.com

    • I’ve seen all of those except Mystery, Alaska… which I should one of these days.

      The Wrestler is another awesome awesome movie that I considered including, but its kind of along the lines of Raging Bull. More of a character study… I already have Raging Bull representing the High Quality Film/tough look at the cost athletes pay type movie. :D

      Warrior got some serious consideration, too. That movie is really really good, I definitely like it.

      Meanwhile, it’s so great to have a Slap Shot festival here at FMR the past couple of days. I need to MTESS that movie! :D Here’s my favorite scene!

  5. No qualms from me about this list. LOVE Hoosiers as the #1. Basketball has always been my favorite sport so I’m also privy to White Men Can’t Jump and The Pistol. I’d put Jerry MaGuire, Longest Yard, and Rudy in the mix and also Tin Cup would be in my top ten.

    It’s fun that my least favorite sport to watch (Baseball) probably has the best movies overall. 4 in your top ten and I’d probably keep those in mine as well.

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  7. So, I think you’re aware I’m not the world’s biggest fan of sports movies. I haven’t seen most of the films on your list. Rocky and Caddyshack and I have vague memories of Major League but not enough to actually rate it. I couldn’t really think of a top 10 of my own, so I ran an IMDb query to see what I’d rated sported films that I remember seeing. It came back with 15… and the list got really questionable really quickly.

    I mean, the first two Karate Kid movies both make my top 10… and you’ve already said that even as a karate fan you have a bit of trouble including them as sports films. But if I take them out, Baseketball, of all things, ekes its way into the 10 spot. That ain’t right.

    So, I won’t put together a top 10 list, but just for the heck of it, I’ll name a few of the other movies that made my IMDb query that haven’t been mentioned yet. Just to run them past the judge. The Absent-Minded Professor. The Best of Times. White Men Can’t Jump. Wildcats. College (1927). The Mighty Ducks.

    And thanks for including Slap Shot on your list, and explaining a bit about it. A lot of people have recommended it to me, but they always go on about the Hanson brothers. Nobody mentioned Paul Newman being in it before.

    • But if I take them out, Baseketball, of all things, ekes its way into the 10 spot. That ain’t right.

      Indeed… that is a bad, bad sign. :D LOL.

      Oh wow, man, “The Best of Times”! I havent thought of that movie in YEARS CO! Robin Williams, Kurt Russell… totally remember that one now! White Men Cant Jump is funny, as is Wildcats, but if you had more quantity on their, I bet you’d bump em out of your top ten too.

      You know? I’m just as guilty as anybody about the Hanson Brothers overload. I’ve embedded half a dozen clips from that movie so far, and they’re all Hansons.

      Here’s one of Newman’s best moments from the movie. :D Enjoy!

  8. Hi, Fogs and company:

    Very good list!

    A good second string would include:

    ‘Eight Men Out’: John Salyles’ personal best Sports Flick and superb period piece.

    ‘The Greatest Game Ever Payed’: Bill Paxton’s directing debut that actually makes early 20th century golf suspenseful.

    ‘North Dallas Forty’: Great behind the scenes Football flick. With poolside Coke machines used as Tackling Dummies.

    ‘The Jericho Mile’: Michael Mann’s made for TV flick about a con who clocks near Olympic times for running while serving time at Folsom prison.

    ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distant Runner’: One of the first and best ‘Angry Young Man’ films from the UK.

    • I’ll have to confess to not having seen either of the two running movies, Jack. :( But “Eight Men Out” and “North Dallas Forty” are both excellent choices for that 11-20 range.

      The “Bench”, if you will. :D

      Paxton is actually a half decent director! Have you ever caught “Frailty”? If not, check that one out! It’s a good little flick! I like it quite a bit!

      He’s going to be at New York Comic Con next month, I hope he’ll be signing autographs! :D

      • Hi, Fogs!

        I’ve been a fan of Bill Paxton’s acting since his brief roles in ‘The Lords of Discipline’, ‘Terminator’ and ‘Commando’. Best roles were in ‘Near Dark’, ‘Tombstone’ and ‘Aliens’.

        Big fan of Paxton’s middle to no budget, ‘Frailty’. Definitely knows how to use shadows, darkness and light. Expect good things from him in the
        future.

        Your Comic~Con adventure sounds like grist for a post. And Paxton’s
        autograph would make a fine addition!

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    • I’ve never seen it.

      I know, I know.

      But I’ve never circled back to it, because I figured it must be dated by now. No? I dunno… maybe I should check it out. :D “Readers Recommendations” is going to launch sometime later this week, although you’ve already got a flick lined up for that. :D

      • I just saw it for the first time maybe a year ago, and it still holds up, man. The 90s fashion/etc may be dated, but the story itself is timeless.

        And hell yeah about the Readers Recommendations! I thought you scrapped that idea ;)

  10. Nice top 10 Fogs…great choices. I quite like some of the new American Football films such as Remember The Titans and Friday Night Lights. I think British sports movies such as Chariots of Fire, This Sporting Life and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner are worthy of a shout out. I might have to find a spot for the likes of Hoop Dreams, Murderball, and Breaking Away in my own list. I’d also have to include The World’s Fastest Indian and possibly The Damned United in my own top 10.

    • There’s a number in there that I haven’t seen… I havent caught This Sporting Life, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Hoop Dreams, Murderball, or The Damned United yet. So I’ll have to just register the positive sentiment for them and keep that in mind if they cross my path…

      Meanwhile though, I couldnt see putting “Chariots” or “World’s Fastest” in a top ten, I just dont see them having the “Ooomph”. :D

      But I will say that “Titans”, “Friday Night Lights” and “Breaking Away” are all great, great movies. It was tough not having room for them.

      Have you not done a top ten “Sports Films” Dan? That would surprise me, seeing as… well, thats your thing :D

  11. I have the worst taste in sport movies. Mighty Ducks kicks the ass off any of these in my opinion, especially Field of freaking Dreams!

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  13. My favorite sports movie is Rudy. A lot of my couches would compare me to him. I really enjoyed playing but I’m pretty clumsy.

  14. If you use firefox browser, you can upload a persona (header theme) from this post that I created for kicks. In Personas, FilmandTV category, Just created (9/10).
    ;-)

  15. You got it right once again when you chose “Hoosiers” as #1 in this category. I watch it over and over again and never tire of it. The rest of your list was good for me except for ‘Slap Shot” which I’d move to #4.

  16. I got lost in your archives! I have to confess i’ve only seen two of these, Raging Bull and Rocky. I’d have ‘Senna’ at number 1 (I’m a massive F1 geek and he was my childhood hero). Loved ‘Warrior’, ‘Hoop Dreams’ , ‘Chariots of Fire’ and ‘Moneyball’ as well. Although I don’t know anything about baseball!

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