The 25 Best Sports Movies of All Time
Page 2 of 2
15. White Men Can’t Jump
Director: Ron Shelton
What this tale of an odd-couple street hoops duo (Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes) who hustle opponents to pay off gambling debts lacks in structure it makes up in charm. Trash-talking and “yo momma” jokes abound, and Rosie Perez appears on Jeopardy! to dominate the “Foods That Start With the Letter Q” category.
14. Million Dollar Baby
Director: Clint Eastwood
The best movies make us think, and in 2004, Million Dollar Baby sparked a debate over (spoiler alert if you’ve still got this one in your Netflix queue) euthanasia after Clint Eastwood’s Frankie Dunn decides to put down his paralyzed protoge, Maggie Fitzgerald. Regardless of how you feel about the coach’s decision, it made for a riveting movie, one that also earned Morgan Freeman his first Oscar for his supporting role as Scrap-Iron Dupris.
13. The Color of Money
Paul Newman won his only Academy Award for reviving his role as “Fast Eddie” Felsen, the title character of 1961’s The Hustler. Martin Scorsese directs this gritty drama that finds a middle-aged Eddie reluctantly returning to the hustle as a mentor to Tom Cruise’s young pool shark, like a matinee idol passing the torch to the next generation. Not one of Scorsese’s classics, The Color of Money nevertheless features plenty of seedy pool-hall texture, as well as the famous scene of Cruise showing off his cue-stick wizardry while singing along to “Werewolves of London.”—Curt Holman
12. Bull Durham
Director: Ron Shelton
I believe in ridiculous names like Crash Davis and Nuke LaLoosh. I believe in romantic comedies about giving up on a certain phase of your life where characters stand up and deliver cliched “I believe” speeches that, despite being borderline cheesy, somehow ring completely true. And yes, I too believe there should be a Constitutional Amendment banning Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in Bull Durham.
Director: David Anspaugh
Long before he was a hobbit, Sean Astin was Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, an unlikely football player with dreams of playing for Notre Dame. Rudy seems to lack everything he needs to achieve his dream—good grades, money, actual football ability—but if you think for one second that those minor details are going to get in the way of him achieving his goal, you’ve got another thing coming.
10. Field of Dreams
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Pop this one in next time you’re visiting the ‘rents if you want to watch Dad have a good cry. Field of Dreams isn’t just about father issues, though. It’s about that pesky American Dream, when it’s okay to chase it and when it’s time to hang it up. Sure, it’s hokey and totally Hollywood (see: dialogue like “Is there a heaven?” “Oh yeah. It’s the place dreams come true”), but you’ve got a heart of steel if you can’t suspend disbelief and get a little misty when Ray finally has a catch with his dad’s ghost. On paper, it’s hard to believe people would pay money to watch a movie involving an Iowa farmer who plows over his crops because he heard a voice that told him to, time travel and a magical baseball field that may or may not be purgatory, but oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.
9. The Pride of the Yankees
Director: Sam Wood
Gary Cooper stars as the legendary Lou Gehrig, whose stunning career was ultimately cut short by the nerve disease that would carry his name. But it’s impossible to view this film and this man’s life without feeling a bit optimistic, especially when Cooper recreates Gehrig’s humble farewell speech. When he utters that famous, powerful line to a packed Yankee Stadium, “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” you can’t help but be overwhelmed by goosebumps. It’s one of the saddest happy endings ever.—Joe Shearer
8. The Wrestler
Director: Darren Aronofsky
American filmmakers may have rediscovered emotional realism, but no conversion is more surprising than Darren Aronofsky’s. His unadorned portrait of a pro-wrestling has-been is built around a fantastic, physical performance by Mickey Rourke, captured with a documentary style that renders his dingy world all the more strange, funny and heartbreaking. In his own words, he’s “a broken-down piece of meat,” and Rourke, back from actor purgatory, brings ample baggage to the role—including his bulked-up, modified body, his sandpapered larynx and his craving for an unlikely comeback. Randy “The Ram” Robinson can’t keep doing pile drivers forever, especially as the game evolves into something even more brutal, but what else is there? He’s distant from his daughter, but he has a flirtatious, tentative relationship with an aging stripper (Marisa Tomei) who’s facing the same injustice of the ticking clock. The movie, with its dime-store romance, breezy dialogue and telegraphed emotion, feels a bit like a grungier Rocky, but at times the understated attitude, grime and destitution are closer to Raging Bull.—Robert Davis
Director: John G. Avildson
We all love a good underdog story, and Rocky is the ultimate, pitting poor, beef-punching Rocky Balboa against lean, mean, fighting machine Apollo Creed. The champ rolls into Philly to take on the amateur in what’s supposed to be an easy victory, but, when he’s not wooing Adrian, the Italian Stallion is training hard against the backdrop of one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time. It’s enough to inspire even the most sedentary of us to throw on a gray sweatsuit and sprint up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art—almost.
Director: Harold Ramis
Bill Murray’s turn in Caddyshack as Carl Spackler—the utterly hapless groundskeeper of Bushwood Country Club—is one of his most iconic roles. Maybe it’s his permanent-burnout demeanor, or maybe it’s his nonsensical tales of caddying for the Dalai Lama. Either way, his love of explosives and endlessly quotable one-liners (“In the immortal words of Jean-Paul Sartre: ‘Au revoir, gopher.’”) have enshrined him in the annals of ’80s B-comedies.—Josh Jackson
5. The Natural
Director: Barry Levinson
Baseball has inspired more movies than any other sport, but the greatest of them all is The Natural. Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) is a promising, young prospect with a bright career ahead of him in the 1930s when a troubled femme fatale guns him down at age 19. Sixteen years after the fact, he isn’t ready to let go of his love of the game, getting signed to a fictional scrub team called the New York Knights. It’s more than a story about baseball; it’s about a middle-aged man living his dream despite the naysayers. It’s a tale about a guy distracted by the glitzy glamorous babes all famous people gravitate towards, only to discover a happier life with his high-school sweetheart (Glenn Close). But when Hobbs hits the big two home runs—the one that breaks the clock, and the showstopper at the end that kills the lights, literally—and Randy Newman’s beautiful score triumphantly takes over, you know this is the ultimate take on the summer classic.—Joe Shearer
4. Chariots of Fire
Director: Hugh Hudson
Oftentimes, as we were reminded by TV commentators frequently these past few weeks, the Olympics are about far more than sport. In the case of this 1981 British classic, the Games are a lesson in religious tolerance and sheer determination. The film chronicles the experiences of two runners—Harold Abrahams, an English Jew, and Eric Liddell, a Scottish Christian—at the 1924 Olympics. Like many great sports flicks, it’s a tale of sacrifice and overcoming odds, and it’s got an iconic score to boot.
3. Hoop Dreams
Director: Steve James
Seldom has a film, narrative or documentary, so probingly explored the American Dream. In this case, the version of the dream that young William Gates and Arthur Agee have bought into is redemption (and fortune and fame) through athletic achievement. That the odds are stacked so heavily against those dreams ever coming true only makes their dearest hopes that much more poignant. Steve James famously spent nearly eight years making the film, and despite its nearly three-hour running time, it doesn’t feel long at all. Every frame feels essential.—Michael Dunaway
Director: David Anspaugh
The ultimate tribute to Indiana basketball is also a few other things: a morality play, a history, an honest reckoning of the pros and cons of small-town life. If you don’t get emotional while watching the pastoral opening credits, you’ve never lived there—and you’ve never lived.—Nick Marino
1. Raging Bull
Director: Martin Scorsese
Often regarded as Scorsese’s masterpiece, this biopic about boxer Jake LaMotta is a compelling character study, chronicling LaMotta’s violent outbursts inside and outside the ring. It’s beautifully shot in bleak black-and-white, and Robert De Niro (who won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance) plays the prizefighter like a clenched fist, lashing out at friends, family and anyone who looks at him the wrong way.