The best sports movies of all time

There’s nothing quite like a great sports movie; whether it’s the thrill and spectacle of a sporting event, the camaraderie playing out before us, or the sheer joy that accompanies a game well played, sports movies can inspire us like no other genre can. From movies about soccer and baseball, to those that document historical sporting events and personalities, the scope of sporting movies is a vast one, occupied by titles that are likely to appeal to film fans of every age and sporting ability. Watching such titles is a great way to indulge our passion for sports while distracting ourselves with compelling narratives and characters that couldn’t exist anywhere else. Sports movies are among the best form of escapism there is, and with so many films and kinds of sports covered, you’ll be able to distract yourself for hours on end. Which movie should you choose to watch first?

Ten of the best

Sports films have the power to move us and the ability to inspire us, convincing many of us that we can play anything, score any number of goals or points, and coach our teams to victory – regardless of how long it’s been since we last participated in a team or solo pursuit. If, after finishing this article, you feel motivated to relive your high school or college glory days, be sure to approach the notion safely and sensibly. Attending an organized activity, donning the right kind of clothing (such as compression gear from your favorite sports site), and easing into any physical activity will ensure that you enjoy, rather than injure, yourself.

In no particular order, here are just a few of the greatest sports movies of all time.

Chariots of Fire (1981)

Set during the lead up to the 1924 Olympic Games, Chariots of Fire stars Ben Cross and Ian Charleson as runners Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. Each has something to prove; while Liddell runs for the glory of God, Abrahams, an English Jew, races to overcome prejudice. The movie is visually stunning, and you’ll be humming the movie’s famous theme song for days to come.


Invictus (2009)

Gloriously shot, Invictus tells the extraordinary true story of two men’s fight to unite their country via the medium of sport. As the 1995 Rugby World Cup approaches, Nelson Mandela and team captain Francois Pienaar join forces to inspire their underdog team towards victory, uniting a country divided by apartheid. The movie was nominated for countless awards, and stands as one of the most inspiring sports movies to date.


Field of Dreams (1989)

A fantasy-drama sports movie, Field of Dreams tells the story of Ray Kinsella, a farmer who decides to build a baseball field upon hearing an utterance of the now-famous line, “If you build it, he will come.” What follows is a sentimental story that focuses on themes of family, childhood innocence, and redemption, played out in a way that will make us all query what really matters to us at the end of it all.


Cool Runnings (1993)

Another movie inspired by real events, though this time only loosely, Cool Runnings is one of those feel-good movies that will make you smile – while believing that you probably could head to the next winter Olympics if you just tried a little harder. The movie follows the formation, and rise, of Jamaica’s first bobsleigh team, which entered the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. The team’s quest to be treated as equals is a touching one.

Jerry Maguire (1996)

“Show me the money!” Another movie remembered for a single line, Jerry Maguire stars Tom Cruise in the titular role. One of the highest-grossing films of 1996, Jerry Maguire won quick acclaim, telling the story of a sporting agent disillusioned by the world in which he operates. What ensues is a tale of trust and belief, with a glimpse at the inner workings of the American football industry as Jerry attempts to go it alone and gather clients of his own.

The Karate Kid (1984)

The Karate Kid is one of the greatest examples of a sporting underdog story, documenting the martial arts training of teenager Daniel LaRusso as he attempts to overcome bullying at the hands of his new classmates. Boasting three sequels and a remake, The Karate Kid captured the imaginations of film fans, urging them to fight for what they truly believe in. The character of Mr. Miyagi is one of the silver screen’s most enduring – and endearing.

Rocky (1976)

No sporting movie list is complete without Rocky, the ultimate boxing movie – though Raging Bull is often considered on par. The movie stars Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, a down-and-out boxer caught up in the world of a loan shark. Suddenly given the chance to compete in the fight of his life, Rocky’s world is turned upside down. The movie was shot for a budget of just $1 million but would later gross in excess of $225 million. This success, coupled with the movie’s Oscar wins, has so far spawned seven sequels and spin-offs.

White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

White Men Can’t Jump is a sporting comedy charting the relationship between two basketball players – Billy, a college basketball player who makes his living challenging streetballers who assume he’s unable to play purely because he’s white, and Sidney, one such player who agrees to a partnership. What follows is a tale of friendship, chance, and basketball, which was recognized among the American Film Institute’s 2008 Top Ten Sporting Movies.


Senna (2010)

The only documentary on this list, Senna depicts the life and death of Brazilian Formula One racing champion Ayrton Senna, who was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994. Arriving on the racing scene in 1984, Senna’s career was particularly dramatic, overshadowed by a rivalry with his teammate Alain Prost and numerous disagreements with FISA head Jean-Marie Balestre. It’s a devastatingly beautiful tale, all the more haunting for its realism.

Any Given Sunday (1999)

Boasting an all-star cast that includes Al Pacino, LL Cool J, Dennis Quaid, Charlton Heston, and Jamie Foxx, Any Given Sunday follows the fortunes of the Miami Sharks, an American football team once ranked among the best. The movie has been praised for its onscreen action, and for its unflinching examination of the American football industry; the movie was based, in part, on a novel of the same name written by former NFL player Pat Toomay.

Honorable mentions should go to Blades of Glory (2007), Space Jam (1997), Ali (2001), The Longest Yard (1974), Raging Bull (1980), The Bad News Bears (1976), Million Dollar Baby (2004), and The Fighter (2010), as well as DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story (2004), Hoosiers (1986), Caddyshack (1980), A League of Their Own (1992), The Replacements (2000), and BASEketball (1998).

This list is by no means exhaustive; there are bound to be a few of your favorites missing, for which we apologize. However, perhaps this feature has inspired you to re-watch some of those golden sporting moments again, or to rediscover a long-forgotten passion for a pastime you once adored – we certainly hope so.