In our pick of the 10 best sports movies of all-time (not documentaries, deserving another separate list), we have one horse racing film, one hockey movie, one about American football, two about boxing, one about soccer, two about motor racing and two about baseball.
10th – Secretariat (Randall Wallace, 2010)
Why Secretariat? I wanted a horse racing film on this list, and beyond that, it’s a great story. He’s probably the greatest thoroughbred ever (unless you’re a Man o’ War fan) and it comes with an awesome story, a sympathetic and cheeky owner (played quite well by Diane Lane) who makes it in a male-dominated sport and it even has a villain which makes the whole winning the Triple Crown thing even better.
9th – Any Given Sunday (Oliver Stone, 1999)
There are a lot of things wrong with Any Given Sunday, an extremely over the top description of an NFL-like league. But the most important thing about this movie is that it’s fun, extremely fun to watch. And the NFL is fun. And violent, just like the film. The quick rise to fame from nothing, the quick fall and redemption. It mirrors life, and personally, as we learn more and more about how many bad things exist in the actual NFL universe, this film makes more and more sense.
8th – Goon (Michael Dowse, 2011)
Most hockey films are either about the 1980 Olympics and the ‘Miracle’ or about some small team playing against the odds and winning. Goon has some of the latter, but it’s mostly about a guy that loves the sport and likes beating up people. It’s an ode to the underappreciated role of the enforcer in hockey, making it even better. And I really like Sean Williams Scott.
7th – Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Adam McKay, 2006)
While the Will Ferrell brand of humor has gotten a little bit tired over the years, this is it and him at their in my opinion. It’s a movie that makes fun of the sport ti brings to the screen, and it got NASCAR to cooperate with them, and multi-million dollar corporations not taking themselves too seriously usually results in hilarity, and on-screen awesomeness. Great, idiotic one-liners combined with an awesome soundtrack, Southern hospitality and one Sacha Baron Cohen result in the best sports-comedy movie ever.
6th – Rush (Ron Howard, 2013)
The other, more serious side of racing. It’s also Formula one, which takes itself a lot more seriously than NASCAR. James Hunt and Niki Lauda, two people that are complete opposites clash on the circuit, and the high speed races along with the personal rivalry and animosity makes this movie such a fun experience, and overall one of the best films of the last few years.
5th – Field of Dreams (Phil Alden Robinson, 1989)
Not a lot happens in this movie. But it touches something inside you that reminds you of childhood, and of sweet and bittersweet memories from long ago, even if they have nothing to do with Baseball. And when it works; when Shoeless Joe Jackson comes to play, and then there’s a long line of cars waiting to buy a ticket, you can’t help but feel happy for Ray, and maybe kinda sad inside for some reason. It’s a movie that makes you feel, which is why it’s so great.
4th – Sugar (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, 2008)
Sugar, unlike most sports films shows that the answer to one’s problems, questions and personal growth isn’t always in sport, and doesn’t have to end with someone fulfilling himself through baseball or something similar. It’s a story about a Dominican kid trying to make it in the Big Leagues, but it tells the story of others from different nations but similar backgrounds, who see sports as the only way out of poverty, and sometimes miss the bigger picture.
3rd – The Damned United (Tom Hooper, 2009)
It does help to know a thing or two about the history of English football (or soccer) during the 1960’s and 1970’s to get a better grasp of what’s going on, but even without it, it’s an exciting tale of a man’s ego going out of control and leading to his downfall, in a film that details the rise and fall (and rise again?) of a manager who slightly forgets the people around him that helped make him great in the first place.
2nd – Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976)
In one word, it’s epic. Amateur boxer, and not a very good one, gets a shot to fight the world heavyweight champion. Classic cinderella story or a glorification of an underdog, pick your poison. It’s been almost 40 years, and it’s still special, maybe one of a kind.
1st – The Fighter (David O. Russell, 2010)
Micky Ward is a great character, but David O. Russell did a great job of bringing him and his story to life, although it helps that he had Christian Bale playing a soul sucking, damaging brother next to Mark Whalberg. There’s nothing new or too original about this story of a boxer who misses opportunity after opportunity to make it before he almost gives up, but the film is so well made and beautifully shot (not just the fighting scenes) I can’t help but mark it as my favorite sports film of all-time.