Sport Movies: It’s weird that sports movies are classified as a genre when, in reality, they’re merely a setting. It’s the same as claiming “desert movies” or “ocean movies” are genres. The finest sports movies aren’t about the activity they’re about; they have universal tales that should appeal to everybody, regardless of whether or not they enjoy the sport. It does help, though, if you enjoy the sport.
That is to say, our best sports movies tend to eschew, or at least deconstruct, the typical “meet hero, see hero overcome hardship, see hero win big game” sports movie framework. The thing that fans of sports and movies enjoy about them, and the thing that they have in common, is that they are unpredictable.
Below is the best Top 10 Sport Movies to Watch Right Now
1. Hoop Dreams
Hoop Dreams is the first on our Sport Movies to watch right now. Hood Ambitions, a documentary that followed two Chicago-area teenagers, William Gates and Arthur Agee, through high school as they pursued their dreams of playing in the NBA, came before Boyhood. This three-hour film, directed by Steve James, isn’t only a significant coming-of-age narrative; it’s also as raw a portrayal of poverty, shattered families, a failed school system, and America’s entrenched racism as one could imagine.
Hoop Dreams features some tense sports sequences — has a free throw ever been more important? — but what makes the film so special is how it sheds a light on all the facets of athletics that most films overlook. We have the opportunity to meet the
Secondly, Foxcatcher is also one of the best Sport Movies for you right now. Many sports films are sad or moving, but few are as genuinely pitiful as Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, which continues to explore the significance of sports in people’s lives. However, in contrast to Moneyball’s typically upbeat tone, this fictionalized real story of the Schultz brothers and their eccentric wrestling instructor is almost relentlessly negative.
Steve Carell plays John E. du Pont, a wealthy and eccentric man who recruits Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave (Mark Ruffalo) Schultz for his team, believing they will win gold for the United States at the 1988 Olympics. Foxcatcher, a film about patriotism, manhood, and fraternity, is an emotional minefield in which these inarticulate, unsatisfied characters must navigate.
3. When We Were Kings
Many sports films feature underdogs, but When We Were Kings introduces us to probably the most captivating of all time: Muhammad Ali, a past-his-prime thug. It’s hard to believe now, but that’s how the renowned boxer appeared in 1974 when he agreed to face George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire. Nobody told Ali, though, that he was expected to lose.
Leon Gast’s documentary had a long journey to the screen: Gast videotaped the battle and then spent decades attempting to have his film funded. As a result, When We Were Kings is as concerned with the fight as it is with the political currents of the time: Everyone in the group
Murderball is what happens when you focus on the grit and heart of the subject matter instead of a slew of potential clichés — the natural drama of competition, a ready-made inspirational tale, the poignancy of concentrating the plot on paraplegics. While Murderball is moving and exhilarating, it’s also impressively honest about what life is like for these athletes.
Directors Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro made a documentary about the rival American and Canadian wheelchair rugby teams as they prepared for a collision course at the 2004 Paralympic Games. Rugby is therapeutic and life-affirming — two additional sports clichés that take on added importance in the context.
5. The Color of Money
Martin Scorsese’s sequel to The Hustler brings back Paul Newman’s Fast Eddie Felson, this time using him as a mentor, and potential hustler of, yet another Tom Cruise Young Superstar Talent Who Has Some Lessons to Learn. The movie isn’t one of Scorsese’s best — not even close, really — but it’s fun to watch him rattle around and jostle Newman and Cruise, a fascinating pairing. Plus, somehow, Scorsese can make a game of eight ball look as visceral and thrilling as a boxing match. (Available on Hulu)
The Rocky series had run out of gas several times by the time Ryan Coogler got together with his Fruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan to inject the whole franchise with adrenaline and soul … and even liven up old Rock himself in the process. The best scenes of Creed aren’t even about boxing at all, as we see young Adonis Creed struggle with his identity, his purpose in life, and the power of his feelings for a young, hearing-impaired musician (played wonderfully by Tessa Thompson).
Putting Rocky Balboa in the Paulie role is a brilliant idea, and the relationship between the young boxer and his trainer works … and even manages to transcend the whole 40-year-old enterprise. (Available to rent on Amazon)
7. The Bad News Bears
A kids’ sports movie for a particularly cynical age, this is ’70s underdog cinema at its finest, with Walter Matthau immortally rumpled as Morris Buttermaker, a drunk who hates kids and even, when the movie begins, hates baseball. The fun of The Bad News Bears is that while the team becomes a winner and pseudo-“inspirational,” they’re still ratty and gnarled and ornery all the way: They are, after all, sponsored by Chico’s Bail Bonds. A whole generation of kids wanted to be Kelly Leak, even if eventually he would turn into Rorschach and Freddy Krueger. (Available on CBS All Access)
A film that speaks to so much that’s fraught about baseball — how some of its most talented players come from conditions overseas that are intolerable, only to arrive on our shores and suffer culture shock — Sugar is a minor-key heartbreaker. This drama stars Algenis Perez Soto as Miguel, an aspiring pitcher in the Dominican Republic who gets his shot at the big leagues, only to discover how unlike a sports movie that journey will be.
Half Nelson filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck chart Miguel’s confusion with a country and an industry that treat him like a product, not a person. Baseball’s internal cultural tension — the phrase “playing the game the right way” is code for a racist intolerance for outsiders — is at the heart of Sugar. But the film’s also fairly damning about America’s hostile treatment of foreigners, a tendency that clearly has not improved much in subsequent years. (Available to buy Amazon)
One of the tenets of the sports movie is that you’re meant to root for somebody, whether it’s a team or an individual athlete.
Ron Howard’s mildly daring race-car movie suggests, “Well, what if both of our main characters are jerks?” Based on actual events, Rush follows the bitter rivalry between hunky, charming Formula One racer James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the aloof, unsmiling Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), and Howard makes it clear pretty early on that he has no desire to present us with a rooting interest. At the same time, though, Rush isn’t a sports movie where we’re meant to admire both men equally — these competitive, closed-off men both seem to be striving for something bigger than victory, and both seem incapable of finding it.
Whom you ultimately side with probably says more about you than them, and the thrill of Rush is its questioning of our need to position athletes in the roles of heroes and villains in the first place. (Available on Cinemax)
10. Tin Cup
Kevin Costner and filmmaker Ron Shelton worked together on a classic sports movie that doubles as an ace romantic comedy. That movie is coming up later in this list, but their second pairing, Tin Cup, is also pretty darn terrific, once again casting Costner as a coulda-been star who never quite made the big time. Roy (Costner) runs a driving range, nursing memories of once being an up-and-coming golfer, when he meets the charming Molly (Rene Russo).
And much like in Bull Durham, the main characters’ attraction is both physical and intellectual: In his prime, Shelton was a writer who understood that lovebirds are even more appealing when they’re smart. Tin Cup suggested that Shelton would make various versions of wonderfully grown-up, sexy sports movies for years to come. It’s a shame that didn’t happen. (Available on HBO Max)
A famously chaotic (and stoned) shoot produced a film that is a classic, despite not particularly holding up well as a film at all: It’s amazing, watching the film from start to finish today, how little of it you remember. (Honestly, who cares about Danny Noonan in this movie?) Fortunately, it has two weapons that it deploys liberally enough to make the movie legendary nearly 40 years later.
First, it has Bill Murray’s demented Carl Spackler, a riff on a Second City character that he had created back in Chicago, a Murray doodle so immortal that it has arguably loomed over his entire career since. And secondly, every time the movie starts to lag, Rodney Dangerfield appears and just blows everything up. Caddyshack is far from perfect, but it doesn’t have to be, not with those two … and, of course, that dastardly gopher. (Available to rent on Amazon)