The LA Times did a list of the best football movies right before the Super Bowl.

And that, combined with the Oscars, got me thinking about my favorite sports films. So, I thought I'd write a blog listing my 20 favorite movies that deal with sports.

I first want to talk about a few that aren't on the list.

Why does everyone like Rudy so much? Yes, the premise is great, but it's done in such a cornball way. When I ran into the real Rudy at a Make-A-Wish event, I almost wanted to tell him that. But he seemed so proud talking about the film.

No football movie made in the last 10 years, that deals with people laying out in the street, partying, or "over coming obstacles."

In no particular order, my Top 20 sports films:

Bull Durham. When this was released, I was so burned out on Kevin Costner; but he's perfect playing a veteran baseball player (and has played one in 3 other films). Sarandon was a bit annoying, but Tim Robbins was wonderful.

Raging Bull. Many critics consider this the best movie of the 80s. It made Joe Pesci a name. And Robert DeNiro a bigger name. And a bigger mid-section. This is the film he gained 60 pounds for (and helped Belushi quote some great lines for when he impersonated him). Nice choice by Scorsese filming in black and white.

The Great White Hope. I guess James Earl Jones will always be known as the voice of Darth Vader. But he was in two of the best sports movies ever. One was this, where he plays the best heavyweight fighter in history -- Jack Johnson, and became the second African-American to ever receive an Oscar nomination in the 60s (although, Halle Berry seems to think she broke down all these barriers a few years ago). If all you know about Jack Johnson is the guy that sings those crappy songs, Google the boxer, and read an amazing story on what he had to go thru in this country, being a black man that couldn't be beat by anyone (except the cops, for marrying a white woman).

Field of Dreams. It has the two previous mentioned actors, Costner and Jones. Some might think it was cheesy, but I liked it. I still can't figure out why Costner says to the ghost of his dad, "Let's go have a catch."

White Men Can't Jump. Written by Ron Shelton, who wrote Bull Durham and a few other sports films. I related to Woody Harrelsons character, as I've played ball in some gyms in the ghetto, and didn't get respect because of my color. And, well, I have shorts that don't hang down and show my underwear. The movie is well written, and one of the few performances by Rosie Perez where she doesn't get on your nerves.

Best of Times. The first sports film Shelton wrote, and very underrated. Kurt Russell works painting cars, and Robin Williams is a banker. They were on the same high school team, with Russell as the stud quarterback and Williams as a nerdy, third string receiver that drops a pass in the big game. A rematch happens, with similar results. One of the funniest scenes in sports movie history, is when the wives leave them because of their obsession with football. They agree to have a dinner date to work things out, and it's during Monday Night Football. They take turns going to the bathroom, walking into the living room, and turning the TV on for updates. Amazing stuff (and a young Kirk Cameron plays the son, before his huge success on TV, and now his...uh, weird career doing lame Christian films).

The Wrestler. I saw it a second time last weekend, and no...not just to see Marisa Tomei naked (that's just a nice plus). A fun, and sad, film. There's a scene where he's going to work at a deli, and they play the sounds of a crowd at a wrestling match. One of the best scenes in a movie this year.

Rocky. Stallone wrote the screenplay, and as a broke, struggling actor with no money, was offered just under $100,000 for it. They didn't want him in the lead role, so he turned down the money. What a wise decision. And what other person would do that, knowing it might be their only shot at getting the script sold? Sure, the underdog story had been done before, but probably not as well.

Requiem for a Heavyweight. I love boxing, so I probably have more boxing films on a sports list then I should. Although, I also love basketball...but movies like The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh or the Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island, just don't make the cut. Anyway, written by The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling, the version with Anthony Quinn as the heavyweight (who fights the real Ali, when he was still named Clay), Mickey Rooney, and Jackie Gleason as the two-faced manager. The Wrestler borrowed a bit from this film, so why not see the "original." One of the saddest endings in a movie. And it holds up really well. Put it on your Netflix list.

The Champ. Another boxing film (sort of). Another sad ending. This may be the saddest movie ever filmed. A friend of mine grew up the Phillipines, and said at a premiere, Kleenex did a promotion where they gave out boxes of tissues. Good idea. When Fayne Dunaway thinks she can waltz back into his life and take the kid she abandon, you want to slap her. He's naive enough to think she wants him. And also to think he's healthy enough to fight again. He needs the money, and wants to compete for his sons attention. Just typing that is making me well up with tears.

Tin Cup. I think this might be a Ron Shelton movie, but not positive. And, even more burned out on Costner when this came out, but hey...he had Cheech as a sidekick. And he was used so much better than Don Johnson ever could've. I'm not a golf fan, but this film was a blast.

Inside Moves. One of those movies that nobody remembers. I recently saw a contract The Eagles signed, for one of their songs being used in it (I Can't Tell You Why). I was going to buy it, but the seller wanted a lot (and it was only signed by three Eagles). This is about a guy that tries to commit suicide. I saw it on HBO when I was 13, and was blown away. The dude becomes a cripple, and hangs out with other handicap people that go to Golden State Warriors games and heckle the ball players. I can't explain more than that, but it goes down some very unexpected paths that are wonderful to witness.

The Longest Yard. The Burt Reynolds movie. He plays a football player as well as Costner plays baseball veterans. I heard the Adam Sandler version sucked. But, watching Richard Kiel (Jaws from the Bond films), break a guys neck, is the classic scene everyone was quoting for years.

All the Right Moves. Someone sent a letter to the LA Times when this wasn't on their football list. And they had a valid point. Watching a young Tom Cruise, in his third movie, and the late Chris Penn as a player that gets a girl pregnant, as well as Craig Nelson (Coach)...perfectly showed the craziness of prep football in the steel city. And it wasn't over the top, idiotic parties the way the more recent football movies (Varsity Blues, etc), had. These players just drank beer, flirted with women, and talked about which colleges they hoped to go to on scholarship.

Victory. This is a soccer movie, and I hadn't thought about it until I saw the Will Ferrell soccer movie Kicking and Screaming (is there a sport he hasn't covered?). I was 12 when this came out, and my neighbors loved soccer. The mom, a cute Asian woman that played soccer (and looked fabulous in her green uniform!), took us to see it. The cast might sound corny...Stallone, Pele, and Michael Caine...but when these POWs in Nazi Germany, win a game against the guards, it's a lot of fun. I haven't seen it since that time in the theatres, but I fear it might not hold up well.

North Dallas Forty. At the time, I remember reading critics that said this really captured how tough it was to play NFL football, and the pain the players put their bodies thru. I remember Nick Nolte limping into the Jacuzzi after a game, and other people with big 70s mustaches (singer Mac Davis), and great casting with Charles Durning and real pro player John Matuszak (who was also a lot of fun in Ringo's movie Caveman).

Brian's Song. I saw this on TV as a kid and cried my eyes out. The friendship between Hall of Fame running back Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccholo, who barely made the team. Brian ends up with cancer.

Something For Joey. Another football movie, that I believe was also made for TV. And it featured another running back -- college stud John Cappeletti (who played a year or two with the Chargers, but never had a good NFL season). He won the Heisman, and it's one of those stories where he promised a boy named Joey in the hospital ( that I think of it...that might've been his little brother), that he'd score three touchdowns in a game (maybe it was five, my facts are fuzzy). The kid made the request, and he was good enough to honor it. His speech at the end, when he dedicates his trophy to the boy, is heartwrenching.

Caddyshack. Do I really need to explain why? Easily the funniest sports film ever made.

The World According to Garp. Okay, this last one is cheating a bit. It's not a sports movie, per se. But writer John Irving loves wrestling, and this has Robin Williams yearning to wrestle as a youngster (his mom, Glenn Close, in her first movie role that nabbed her an Oscar nomination)...wants him to play basketball. When he ends his career as a writer, he takes over the wrestling team. But, all the wrestling scenes combined, probably only make up about 20 minutes of this 2 1/2 hour film. But since John Lithgow plays an ex-NFL tight end (that had a sex change and becomes a woman). think the movie sounds weird, the book is about 10 times weirder. But this is my all-time favorite film, so I want it on the list, even though it barely qualifies as a sports films.

That's my list. Up yours.

I mean, what's yours?

More like this:


cardig Feb. 25, 2009 @ 10:35 a.m.

I agree that "Requiem for a Heavyweight" was an EXCELLENT movie, sad ending is an understatement, and probably too true for many boxers back in the day.

A couple movies you left off that I would have included...

Bang The Drum Slowly with DeNiro..again a sad one. can you leave that one off???

Bad News Bears...if you put on CaddyShack for a comedy, you should put this one on too. I would include CS, but BNB is a must add IMHO.

Slapshot (Hockey) and The Hustler (Pool)both with Paul Newman...if Ledger can get the sympathy vote at the Oscars, why not Newman..he passed away this past year as well. I know The Hustler is a stretch as it is Pool, but hey, they show billiards on ESPN, so it must be a sport : )

The ones I would take out to put those 5 on would be....

Tin Cup and Field of Dreams, both overrated I think.

Bull Durham would be replaced by Bang the Drum Slowly...better baseball movie I think.

Garp, cause yes, it is cheating...not a "true" sports movie, just some sports in it.

The Wrestler...I have not seen it yet, so I can eliminate it from my list.

I agree Rudy is overrated. I am glad you didn't put on Chariots of Fire...I think that is always mentioned on these lists. It is a boring 3 hour long snooze fest!


SurfPuppy619 Feb. 25, 2009 @ 10:41 a.m.

Why does everyone like Rudy so much? Yes, the premise is great, but it's done in such a cornball way.

Shame on you, bite your tongue!

Rudy is without a doubt the BEST sports movie EVER made.


SurfPuppy619 Feb. 25, 2009 @ 10:42 a.m.

BTW-Rocky is not a sports movie, it is a love story- first and foremost.


towelheadedcameljockey Feb. 25, 2009 @ 1:35 p.m.

As a kid, I would put a quote right on top for one of my favories - "Wax on, wax off" - Karate Kid

Hell, if you're going with Garp, I'm putting Jet Li's "Fist Of Legend" right up at the top. This movie IS AMAZING.

Aren't "Field Of Dreams" and "Rudy" the same type of movie.


auntsandiegospeaks Feb. 25, 2009 @ 4:05 p.m.

Auntsandiegospeaks wrote a blog in response to Daily Crasher. It was just posted.

SurfPuppy, are you kidding. Rudy is a feel good movie, but far from the best sports movie ever. Rocky is a love story and an underdog who fights his heart out.

Towelheadedcameljockey, NO. Field of Dreams is about the love of baseball, the ultimate in fanship. Rudy is a feel good story about acceptance. No comment about a Jet Li movie.

Cardig, Bad News Bears is cute. I agree with you on Chariots of Fire, it's not on my list either.


Josh Board Feb. 25, 2009 @ 4:24 p.m.

Nice post, cardig. Chariots of Fire also had music that bugged me, too!

And, you say Paul Newman should get a sympathy Oscar because of Ledger. Well, I hate to admit Ledger did earn it. And, Newman DID get a sympathy Oscar, when he did the OTHER pool movie, The Color of Money. He so didn't deserve the gold statue for that overrated film. And, The Hustler is an amazing film, but pool isn't a sport (neither is bowling...although, King Pin was very funny).

Slapshot, speaking of Newman, never did much for me. But I was like 9 when I saw it on HBO, so...maybe I should give it another c hance.

Hoosiers was great. My senior year, our basketball coach told us if we beat Madison (the team ranked #3, right behind us), he would take us to see it instead of practice. That was a fun day.

Then a few days later, we beat Morse, the #1 ranked team. And, it was our great guard, Scott Cummings, who had a Hoosiers plate (he was from Indian), that scored the winning basket.

Bang the Drum Slowly was great. Nice work from DeNiro (as always), and Michael Moriarity.


Josh Board Feb. 25, 2009 @ 4:34 p.m.

Okay...I'm dropping Garp from my list, and adding Cinderella Man. Aunt mentioned it in her list, and I loved that movie so much. I'm also going to nix Tin Cup. It got close to the hole, but didn't fall in. I'm replacing that with arguably the best baseball movie ever made -- The Natural. Wilfred Brimley as a baseball coach, brilliant casting. When he's shaving, and Redford says he wants to play, and he looks up at him in the mirror...and you aren't sure if he'll let him play, he says, "In all my years of coaching, I ain't ever seen a player as good as you. Suit up!" Awesome! (I know, the music can get cheesy)


cardig Feb. 25, 2009 @ 5:05 p.m.

I was typing too fast. I meant Newman should get the sympathy vote for THIS LIST...not an Oscar. I agree the Oscar he got for The Color of Money was really a lifetime achievment. William Hurt should have won for Children of a Lesser God. But he won the year before for Kiss of the Spider Women, so going back to have to really wow the judges I would guess.

I may be the only person who thought the latest Batman movie wasnt very good. Did'nt like the shaky camera angles, gravely/monotone voiced C. Bale, and didnt think Ledger's performance was Oscar worthy. He did a good job, but an Oscar?? Just my opinion.


Bean08 Feb. 25, 2009 @ 5:22 p.m.

am I the only one who thinks INVINCIBLE should be on this list?! Absolutely loved Mark Walhberg in that one!!! "Field of Dreams" is my all time favorite .....the first ROCKY and only the first ROCKY ~ the second one was "OK". . .but they seriously went down hill from there!! I like RUDY and I really like "REMEMBER THE TITANS" (It was a sports movie that delivered a social-political message, but still, WOW!).


rickeysays Feb. 25, 2009 @ 8:58 p.m.

Nobody has mentioned "Vision Quest", maybe because nobody saw it. Great coming-of-age movie with Matthew Modine pursuing a wrestling championship (and Linda Fiorentino).


Josh Board Feb. 25, 2009 @ 9:21 p.m.

I thought Vision Quest was a tad corny. Yes, Linda was cute. And who could play Modine (the former Chula Vista resident), for sniffing her undies.

I never saw InVINCEable, but read a story in Sports Illustrated about how the movie made up facts (like that the kid DID play college football), and they sugar-coated things, like a domestic abuse charge. They wanted the character to be more likable.

Dang it...I forgot about Heaven Can Wait. The one with Beatty, not the one before (which was from the 30s, and had a boxer not a football QB), or the lame version with the overrated Chris Rock.

And speaking of overrated, Ledgers performance was big-time overrated in that Dark Knight, but it was Oscar worthy, so I have no problem with him winning the award.

I seriously need to see Remember the Titans. Everyone raves about it. And, I recently interviewed comedian Tom Dreesen, and that movie inspired him to write the book he has out (regarding his comedy duo with Tim Reid of WKRP fame).


antigeekess Feb. 25, 2009 @ 9:42 p.m.

Lots of great films here. But if you're going to mention King Pin, you might as well put in The Big Lebowski. :)

So, in Josh's world, are surfing and skateboarding sports? If they are, I nominate Step Into Liquid (doc), Riding Giants (doc), and Lords of Dogtown.

And I'll bet you've never seen this:

Murderball. About WHEELCHAIR rugby. Great doc. Check it out.

Did you even mention Hoop Dreams?

And what about The Natural to go along with the other baseball movies? Beautiful film.

Or Million Dollar Baby (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director) -- a GIRL boxer to go with all those boys. Clint Eastwood's finest hour.

And of course, Seabiscuit (Best Picture nominee).

Me wuv horsies. :)


cbrookman Feb. 25, 2009 @ 10:43 p.m.

Don't like golf, but loved Caddyshack. Best sports movie ever! Hate baseball (almost rather watch golf), but loved Bull Durham. Hate the Cowboys. Loved North Dallas Forty. Not a Notre Dame fan. Rudy was just OK. No one mentioned The Express. Really liked it, but maybe just 'cause I'm a closet Browns fan. Just kidding (kind of). Go Bolts! Loved Garp (the book, liked the movie), but more about writing than wrestling. Basketball Diaries should be included somewhere in the list. Should we not consider Endless Summer as one of the all time sports classics? While we're on the topic of "alternative sports," if you have ever ridden a snowboard, check out Critical Condition. Poineers of the sport ride to a great soundtrack. Extremely cheezy moments, but it really motivated me and many of my friends. If you like ANYTHING about soccer, watch Mean Machine. An infinitely better remake of the Longest Yard than Sandler's. (Happy Gilmore is in my top twenty, maybe top ten.)


cbrookman Feb. 25, 2009 @ 10:59 p.m.

Oh yeah... I agree: Best of Times is severly underrated and while there are not many good basketball movies we'll always have White Shadow reruns.


Josh Board Feb. 26, 2009 @ 9:58 a.m. rule! my girlfriend and I bought the box sets of White Shadow when one of the Blockbusters was going out of business. Her being 10 years younger than I, she didn't know the show. We laugh at the 70s pimp music, and the looks Ms. Buchanon always gives Ken Howard. Great show, though.

Happy Gilmore was cute, but not a great, or even very good, movie.

Big Lebowski is a lot of bowling, but more a kidnapping, crazy comedy, than sports film. It's in the Garp category, whereas King Pin dealt with them trying to sucker people for money, and then a big bowling championship.

Yes, surf and snowboarding, and skateboarding are sports to me. Anything fat guys can do as well as skinny guys, isn't a sport (not sure why ESPN is now showing poker...but if that qualifies as a sport than a game, my list could have about 7 great poker movies!)

I saw Murderball. Amazing documentary. That one guy was a hardcore pyscho!

Hoop Dreams was good, not great. Very overrated. Siskel & Ebert I remember, picked that as the best movie of the year, not just best documentary. One amazingly sad scene is when the young boy is re-connecting with his dad, who is out of prison and trying to do things right. And then we see him walk around the corner, while shooting hoops with his son, to meet up with his old dealer. It's heartbreaking. Maybe they liked it because it was filmed in Chicago, I dunno. I liked Spike Lee's HE GOT GAME better.

Million Dollar Baby was crap. It was entertaining, but very poorly written and directed. I know, I know...he got Oscars. But I can give you 10 flaws with that film.

Never saw Seabiscuit, but it sounds delicious.

I did see The Express, and was pleasantly surprised. I didn't like it as much as Dennis Quaids other sports/football movie "Everybodies All American". I saw a preview in Mission Valley. We were just walking by when they were letting people in for it, so we snuck in. Although, I didn't like the black dude behind me talking on his cell phone for 20 minutes, even after we all did the "shhhhhhh!" to him.

Basketball Diaries was good. The soundtrack was great! Leo can actually act.


Josh Board March 14, 2009 @ 3:23 a.m.

Update: I forgot about Heaven Can Wait. Not only should it be on a list of best sports movies, it's probably on my list of Top 50 movies of all-time, in any genre. Not the original movie, from the 30s. Or the crappy version with Chris Rock. The Warren Beatty version, with an amazing role by Jack Warden. Buck Henry was good, too. Oh hell, the entire cast (James Mason as head angel, Charles Grodin as the plotting killer, etc). Good music, too. The film holds up real well. Put it on your Netflix list.


RiskOne March 21, 2009 @ 8:16 p.m.

Hard to say if this is among the best Sports Films of all-time, but I just saw a sneak preview of an amazingly original one called BALL DON'T LIE -- I think it's coming out in June. It's completely unlike any other sports film I've seen and should be checked out simply for its authenticity and originality -- some of the best filmed basketball I've seen in a movie.


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!