Seven of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time

Sports naturally lends itself to movies. There is an innate drama and organic storylines that should make the silver screen the best place to watch the action unfold. But it is not always the case. Usually it is the story that works, but the sports part that lets the side down. For some reason, capturing sports realistically on film is something that eludes all but the best directors.

But that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some excellent sports movies over the years. When a filmmaker gets it right, they really get it right. It is not always stories about the winners that shine though. The disappointment of sports can sometimes be the better story.

Here are the seven films that we think hit the jackpot. The reason why these films made it probably lies in the fact that they covered the sports that people love to watch. From boxing to wrestling and with football, soccer, and baseball in between these are the sports movies that captured both our imagination and the essence of sports. Today, more people love to bet on sports at and similar outlets than they love to watch sports-inspired movies, but these seven titles defy the odds.

1. Rocky (1976)

Rocky (1976)

Tell modern-day movie fans that Sylvester Stallone, the seemingly limited Hollywood action film star, wrote this classic underdog tale in just three days – and was nominated for an Academy Award – and they will hardly believe it. But Rocky became a box-office hit and launched an entire franchise that continues to this day.

Stallone was a struggling actor himself when he pitched his script about a small-time boxer who is given the chance to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. The story may seem a little cliché today but Rocky is one of the greatest films of all time, let alone of the best sports movies out there.

2. Escape to Victory (1981)

Escape to Victory (1981)

Can we include another Sylvester Stallone movie here? To be fair, his performance as a US GI pretending to be a soccer goalkeeper is not quite as convincing. But it is the sheer sporting and acting talent in the rest of the cast that sets Escape to Victory apart from other run-of-the-mill war films.

Top soccer players of the time, including Pelé and Bobby Moore, join elite actors, such as Michael Caine and Max von Sydow in a story about Allied POWs agreeing to play a soccer match against their German guards. A daring escape plan is hatched but the prize of winning the game becomes more important.

3. Any Given Sunday (1999)

Any Given Sunday (1999)

The glitz and glamor of football, mixed with the brutality and physical nature of the game, ensure that most movies about the sport can get the blood pumping. But in Any Given Sunday, the really rousing element is Al Pacino’s portrayal of the head coach – and, in particular, an inspiring locker room speech he gives to his players.

Pacino is never better than when he is testing out his full vocal range and he goes full Pacino here. The story is essentially about a veteran coach who goes against the wealthy owners to play things his way. It is easy to pick which side you are on as a viewer and the sports action only adds to the drama of the story.

4. Jerry Maguire (1996)

Jerry Maguire (1996)

This romantic comedy drama is really about the side of sports the fans never see. Tom Cruise, at the height of his powers, plays an unscrupulous agent who changes his ways after an epiphany inspired by love interest Renée Zellweger. For some, the film was the first glimpse of how sports stars really act away from the field and the TV cameras.

Jerry Maguire was a huge success when it was released and gave Cuba Gooding Jr. an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role as a football player who is all about the money that will set his family up for life. The honesty of sports doesn’t actually come away from this movie particularly well, but you will be repeating the “show me the money” quote for days after watching this.

5. Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball (2011)

Many of the best sports movies are either biopics or are stories heavily based on true events. It must be that we just love knowing that the events in the film we are watching actually happened. Moneyball fits into that category, but isn’t the story of an elite athlete, but rather one of a baseball general manager who discovers a new way of recognizing and utilizing talent that goes under the radar.

Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s who, with the help of a mathematician devises a way to put together a winning roster on a limited budget. The plot outline may not sound like an adrenaline-inducing movie in the style of Rocky, but the performances of Pitt – and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay – turned what could have been a drudge of a movie into an Oscar-nominated classic of the genre.

For an entirely different experience, check out the thrilling trailer for “The Lost City“, a highly anticipated action-adventure movie starring Brad Pitt and other talented actors. Immerse yourself in a world of mystery, danger, and excitement as you watch this epic trailer.

6. The Wrestler (2008)

The Wrestler (2008)

There will be quite a few people who would say that wrestling is not actually a sport. Even Vince McMahon of the WWE refers to it as sports entertainment. But when it comes to excellent movies, we’re going to include The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke as an ageing grappler attempting to carry on the only life he knows.

This harrowing drama takes place a world away from the cartoonish glamor of WWE as Rourke tries to keep going in the ring, while building a relationship with an estranged daughter. If we are being brutally honest, part of the brilliance of this movie is Darren Aronofsky recognizing that Rourke could pull off such an amazing performance in the first place.

7. Raging Bull (1980)

Raging Bull (1980)

It is not difficult to understand why boxing, more than any other sport, is perfect for film. The rags to riches, underdog stories are classic movie fodder and the fighting is a powerful metaphor for life itself. But Martin Scorsese managed to do something that other boxing film directors had largely been unable to with this classic.

Apparently Scorsese knew nothing about boxing before filming this biopic of Jake LaMotta. But he captures the brutal and dangerous side of the sport perfectly, as Robert De Niro plays the pugilist who rises through the ranks before falling just as fast. The drama is incredible but Scorsese and De Niro were also able to produce some of the most realistic filmed sports in the history of cinema.