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The 25 Best Sports Movies of All Time

These films will inspire any underdog to become a champion.

The best sporting events—the ones that really go down in history—have a narrative to go along with the feats of athleticism. Maybe it's the championship game between two rivals after a grueling season. Maybe it's a comeback story, or perhaps the breaking of a fabled world record. Whatever the case, sports are better when there's a narrative. So, naturally, they're a great subject for movies since movies are all about narrative. Whether they're dramatizing real events or are entirely fictional stories, sports movies have a knack for getting your blood pumping as though you were out there on the field yourself. Read on to learn more about 25 of the best sports movies ever made, including films about boxing, baseball, football, basketball, running, and more.

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The 25 Best Sports Movies in Film History

The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

Lou Gehrig died of ALS one year before the release of this 1942 biopic starring Gary Cooper, which is a celebration of the Yankees first baseman's exploits and character off the field as much as it's about his accomplishments in the ballpark. The Pride of the Yankees age shows, especially compared to modern sports movies, but it still deserves a place on this list—and not just for its historical importance.

Rocky (1976)

There are moments in Rocky that have transcended the 1976 Best Picture winner. The scene of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is so iconic that it's been immortalized with an actual statue on those very steps; everybody knows the "Hey Adrian!" quote; and the music is on every pump-up playlist ever made. And yet Rocky as a movie is so much more than the sum of those beloved parts. It's the ultimate rags-to-riches story of a low-level boxer who gets a chance to fight for the World Heavyweight Championship.

Raging Bull (1980)

Of course, Martin Scorsese would not just make a great sports movie, but one of the greatest films of all time. Robert De Niro stars as Jake LaMotta in this brutal (both in the ring and outside of it) biopic that documents the middleweight boxer's rise and fall.

Chariots of Fire (1981)

Truth be told, Chariots of Fire peaks during its famous opening sequence in which white-clad university students run across a beach while Vangelis' synth score blasts. It's a rousing, famous scene for good reason and it's hard to top—even if the rest of the film, which follows two British athletes of very different backgrounds as they train for the 1924 Olympics, is a good enough drama that it won Best Picture.

Hoosiers (1986)

Gene Hackman stars as a new coach who attempts to fill the big shoes of an Indiana high school's previous basketball coach in Hoosiers, a movie that's bound to come up early in any discussion of great sports films. Very loosely inspired by the true story of Milan High School's 1954 Indiana State Championship, Hoosiers is the type of movie that will make you understand why people can get so invested in high school sports.

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Bull Durham (1988)

Kevin Costner stars in this 1988 baseball flick, which is widely regarded as not just one of the best sports movies ever but also one of the better rom-coms. Inspired by actual experiences writer/director Ron Shelton had with the minor-league Durham Bulls, the movie follows Costner's veteran catcher as he attempts to teach Tim Robbins' rookie pitcher what he needs to know to succeed. The action isn't only on the diamond, though—another shape plays a major part as a love triangle emerges with the pair and Susan Sarandon's character.

Field of Dreams (1989)

For the second time in as many years, Kevin Costner stars in a baseball flick, this time playing a farmer who has a vision that he should build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield. A beloved sports fairy tale, Field of Dreams might be a little cloying for some, but if you can let your barriers down and embrace the movie's earnest emotions, it's a home run.

A League of Their Own (1992)

With most of the men off fighting in World War II, it didn't seem like there would be much baseball… until the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Penny Marshall's 1992 film tells a charming, fictionalized story about the real sports league, starring Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, and Rosie O'Donnell as players on the Rockford Peaches. This is the classic film that gave us the line "There's no crying in baseball!," courtesy of Tom Hanks' crotchety manager, Jimmy Dugan.

The Sandlot (1993)

Many of the great sports movies are about the big leagues—if not Olympic-level, then at least professional sports. The Sandlot, a 1993 movie that has become a bit of a cult classic for Millennials, is hardly about the Majors, but is still a major home run when it comes to capturing what sports are all about. The film focuses on a group of kids in the '60s who play baseball in their neighborhood, and the new kid, "Smalls," who comes out of his shell when he makes friends on the diamond.

Without Limits (1998)

Billy Crudup stars as Steve Prefontaine, the legendary American distance runner whose talent and drive to win broke multiple records and helped revolutionize athletics in the '70s. Movies about track and field are few and far between, but Without Limits, which co-stars Donald Sutherland as coach and future Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, aptly tells the story of one of running's greatest figures. (Prefontaine, a different film about him that came out a year earlier and starred Jared Leto, isn't bad but Without Limits is the better of the two.)

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Remember the Titans (2000)

Are some aspects of Remember the Titans a bit hokey and its parable of racial dynamics a little bit too rosy? Maybe, but that's almost part of the charm of this 2000 football movie, which tells the story of a real high school team being integrated during the Civil Rights era. Denzel Washington plays the coach in a feel-good sports biopic that's easy to love and hard not to like.

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Sports, comedy, and martial arts meet in this 2001 Chinese film about a Shaolin monk who decides to apply his kung fu skills to soccer, along with his five brothers. Shaolin Soccer is a gloriously absurd film. Would real sports be better if the players had superpowers? This movie suggests yes.

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley star in this absolutely charming 2002 comedy-drama about two young Englishwomen who want to become professional football players (that's soccer, to those of us in the States). Nagra's character is a British Indian Punjabi Sikh whose parents don't necessarily approve of this life choice, making Bend It Like Beckham a lovely coming-of-age movie, too.

Seabiscuit (2003)

The drama in this 2003 Best Picture nominee is a little mushy, but the racing sequences are exceptionally sharp and thrilling. Tobey Maguire stars as a jockey in this equine biopic about Seabiscuit, a racehorse whose underdog success in the '30s made him, his rider, trainer, and owner, all sensations.

Miracle (2004)

The United States hockey team's unlikely upset of the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics is one of the most well-known events in sports history. So perhaps the real "miracle" in this 2004 film is that you're still on the edge of your seat the entire runtime even as the outcome is famously pre-ordained. Kurt Russell stars as head coach Herb Brooks and a group of real hockey players were cast to play the members of the team, adding crucial verisimilitude to their exploits on the ice. (They ended up being pretty good at acting, too!)

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Speed Racer (2008)

Just because Speed Racer, the Wachowskis' adaptation of the old anime, is about a cartoonishly insane and vibrant type of wacky racing doesn't mean it's not a sports movie. It's actually the most sports movie of all time because of how extra everything is. Speed Racer is a triumph, featuring outlandish action and over-the-top effects that are all grounded by a plot that's earnestly emotional.

Moneyball (2011)

At two points in Moneyball, Brad Pitt's character, Oakland Athletics manager Billy Beane, asks "How can you not be romantic about baseball?" With a movie like Moneyball, it's impossible not to be. The film, which follows the As through their record-breaking 2002 season amid Beane's behind-the-scenes managing that helped reinvent the game, is an endlessly re-watchable success. It's a near-perfect sports movie despite being more focused on what happens off the field than on it.

Rush (2013)

Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl star as Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, respectively, in this 2013 film about the pair's rivalry. Hunt, a charismatic and confident British racer, is the polar opposite of the more reserved and calculating Lauda, an Austrian. The differences in their demeanors and their approach to the sport drive their rivalries and dictate the dangerous lengths they're willing to go to win.

Foxcatcher (2014)

A true crime movie as much as it's a sports movie, Foxcatcher dramatizes millionaire wrestling enthusiast John du Pont's attempt to start a world-class wrestling team. It ends in tragedy when egos, jealousy, and madness lead to murder. Steve Carell, in one of his first non-comedic roles after leaving The Office, got an Oscar nomination for his role as du Pont, as did Mark Ruffalo, who plays one of the two brothers du Pont recruited for his program. Channing Tatum rounded out the cast.

Creed (2015)

The Rocky sequels are fun and not without their charms, but they're not up to the standards of the original film, which has earnest drama and impressive filmmaking to go along with the exploits in the ring. Creed, which came out almost 40 years after Rocky and nearly a decade after the previous film in the franchise, lives up to the original's legacy. Directed by Ryan Coogler, it stars Michael B. Jordan as the son of Apollo Creed, who an aged, ailing Rocky takes under his wing. It's moving stuff, and it also happens to feature a couple of incredibly rousing boxing sequences.

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I, Tonya (2017)

Margot Robbie stars in this 2017 biopic about Tonya Harding, the figure skater whose power and talent on the ice were eclipsed by her personal life and the infamous assault of her rival, Nancy Kerrigan. Robbie, who was nominated for Best Actress for her role in the darkly comedic film, is exceptional in the part, making you sympathetic to and disappointed by Harding in equal measure.

King Richard (2021)

Unfortunately, King Richard's legacy will always be tarnished by the fact that Will Smith slapped Chris Rock in the face on live TV mnutes before accepting an Oscar for Best Actor for his leading role in this 2021 biopic. That really is a shame, as the actor is sincerely great as Richard Williams, the determined father and coach of Venus and Serena. It's a tricky role, because Williams was a complex character, but Smith makes you understand his eccentricities and believe in the love underlying the pressure Williams put on his daughters.

The First Slam Dunk (2022)

Animated sports movies are relatively scarce, but The First Slam Dunk, a 2022 anime adaptation of a '90s manga series, is a great recent example. The film follows a Japanese high school basketball team during a consequential game, with plenty of flashbacks that flesh out the various characters and reveal how they got to this point. The film was a hit, becoming the sixth-highest-grossing anime movie ever.

The Iron Claw (2023)

Surprisingly shut out at the Oscars, A24's The Iron Claw told the tragic tale of the Von Erich wrestling family. (Seriously—it's hard to emphasize just how tragic it gets.) Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, and Holt McCallany star. Efron, in particular, delivers an Oscar-caliber performance for this film about the dark side of sports.

Challengers (2024)

It's the relationship among Challengers' three main characters that's really the focus of Luca Guadagnino's buzzy 2024 movie, not tennis. The sport is just the way that the competitors played by Zendaya, Josh O'Connor, and Mike Faist express themselves, working out their love triangle on the court. The tennis sequences in Challengers—especially the final match—are so propulsive, buoyed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' amazing techno score, that the movie is one of the most exhilarating of the modern era.

James Grebey
James has been an entertainment journalist for more than a decade, writing and editing for outlets like Vulture, Inverse, Polygon, TIME, The Daily Beast, SPIN Magazine, Fatherly, and more. Read more
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