13 Best Sports Movies of All Time: The Man Wants Guide
From the likes of Sylvester Stallone to Robert De Niro, get inspired by the 13 best sports movies of all time.
Watching a classic sports film is one of mans, quintessential past-times. It gives you time to reflect on your own masculinity, provides you with some unattainable aspirations, educates you on the struggles of our more athletic counter-parts and sends you on a journey of hard-work, endurance and compassion.
If you have not yet ventured on this rite of passage into matured masculinity or have been spending every Sunday since puberty watching sporting movies, I hope that my entrusted list of ‘13 of the best sports movies of all time’ will guide you on the hunt for the perfect sports movie to fire-up your spirit and nourish your soul…
Rocky (1976 – Present)
The Rocky franchise should be regarded as ‘The Godfather’ of the sporting film genre and most notably the greatest boxing movie of all time. With five films in the original franchise followed by ‘Rocky Balboa’ and ‘Creed’, the entire series is rich in narrative, heart and some real back to basics boxing, based in Philadelphia.
The most exciting thing about Rocky, is that Sylvester Stallone wrote the film, when he was inspired by the infamous Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner fight back in 1975. The film went onto cement Sylvester Stallone’s career and the popular franchise is set to continue its four decades long, success with the future release of ‘Creed II’, which is currently in production.
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Just the mention of Hugh Hudson’s 1981 classic, ‘Chariots of Fire’, sparks the iconic soundtrack ringing in your ears. This British sporting film, deals with prejudice, faith and family with touching sentiment that follows the sporting achievements of Olympic runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams.
The film centres around the Great British 1924 Summer Olympics and pays reference to many influential British athletes and personalities. Chariots Of Fire was awarded with a wealth of accolades and is still recognised as one of the best British sports movies ever made, according to the British Film Institute.
Karate Kid (1984)
Not only is the Karate Kid one of the best sports films of the 1980’s but it’s also every man’s first introduction to the sports film genre. It’s the perfect karma delivery, Ralph Maccio plays a teenage boy who falls victim to a gang of bullies in his new home in Southern California.
After, befriending repairman and all-round badass, Mr. Miyagi, he learns the art of Karate and in doing so, finds new confidence to confront his bullies. If you ever watched Karate Kid as a teen, you will have invested many an hour in perfecting the ‘wax on, wax off’ technique to warn off sworn enemies. Haii-yah!
Jerry Maguire (1996)
When Tom Cruise was cast as sports agent, Jerry Maguire back in 1996, I didn’t know what to think of it. Could this good-looking, starlet who rose to fame with his appearances in ‘Top Gun‘ and ‘Cocktail‘, really commit to a role in a sporting drama? However, Cruise delivered amongst the rest of the well-presented cast and won the Golden Globe for best actor that year.
Jerry Maguire combines everything we can enjoy about a romantic comedy with some witty dialogue and a narrative which is driven and engaging. It’s certainly a different take on the traditional conventions of the sporting movie, but its’s enjoyable and unforgettable at the same time.
Blades of Glory (2007)
Who said that all the best sports movies have to be serious? Will Ferrell and John Heder lead a brilliant cast in the hilarious ‘Blades of Glory’. It’s the classic come-back story, two athletes, who are involuntarily retired from their sport are forced to work down-and-out jobs before they join forces and return to form – they just happen to be flamboyant, figure skaters.
Even if you can’t appreciate the quirky humour, the choreography is definitely impressive.
Le Mans (1971)
I’m starting to think that the seventies was the decade of great sports movies. As far as I’m concerned ‘Le Mans’ is definitely an under-rated gem, often forgotten amongst bigger motor-racing movies with fancy cars and special effects.
Not only is Le Mans a gripping watch, it’s also a historically accurate representation of motorsport in the golden era. Steve McQueen does what Steve McQueen does best and races cars with every ounce of sophistication and charisma. McQueen‘s performance tied up with some classic cars and vintage automobiles make this motoring movie a ride to remember.
Raging Bull (1980)
Incredible cinematography, award winning performances and an enthralling storyline, adapted from Jake LaMotta’s personal memoirs. Influential American middleweight Boxer, Jake LaMotta was known for his aggressive ‘bully’ tendencies and unorthodox techniques in the ring. His ability to take a beating without going down, had him post as one of the best boxers of his generation.
Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of LaMotta in the 1981 biopic ‘Raging Bull’ is a must-see for every film enthusiast and a timeless example of Martin Scorsese at his best.
Cool Runnings (1993)
Who would have thought that a Walt Disney production would ever make a list of the best sports movies of all time. I am not ashamed to say that ‘Cool Runnings’ is one of the most uplifting and heart-warming sporting films ever made – who cares if it’s marketed as a family film?
Based on the unexpected success of Jamaica’s 1988 National Bobsleigh team, Cool Runnings originally set out as a serious sporting drama but when the cast couldn’t get to grips with the script, the comedic elements took a hold and the film became what it is respected for today – a funny sporting drama that lifts the spirit!
Featuring John Candy, Derice Bannock and Doug E. Doug, Cool Runnings is a must see sports movie with a cracking soundtrack.
The Blind Side (2009)
Based on the book ‘The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game’ by non-fiction author Michael Lewis, the 2009 film adaptation was an unexpected success which grossed over $300 million at the box office.
Awarded with a wealth of accolades, The Blind Side succeeds in presenting a ‘rag to riches’ story that focused on American Football and the social and economical changes in the sporting industry, which make it a real contemporary classic in terms of influential sporting movies.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
If you have ever seen Clint Eastwood’s ‘Million Dollar Baby’ I’m sure that you found it completely unforgettable and harrowing. On its release, Million Dollar Baby was a refreshing take on the classic, boxing movie. Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman form an unstoppable cast who dedicate every line to the emotive core of this sports film.
Run Fatboy Run (2007)
Now, if I was to feature in any sporting movie, I’d find myself most appropriate in David Schwimmer’s directorial hit ‘Run Fatboy Run’. Simon Pegg plays the ‘everyman’ who decides to enter a charity marathon to win back his ex-girlfriend and steal her from the arms of her suave new love interest.
This movie received some mixed reception but we pin it as one of the ‘best sports movies of all time’. Which other sporting film is this relatable?! It gives guys like me a little hope.
The Wrestler (2008)
I don’t think anyone expected Mickey Rourke to make such a triumphant come-back in a sporting film, quite like ‘The Wrestler’. This movie follows the return of wrestler, Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson in a narrative which ironically echoes Rourke’s own struggles. The Wrestler is dark, gritty and gripping with some interesting plot-points which really get your rooting for ‘The Ram’s’ rise to the top.
If one thing has to be said, I don’t think any other sports movie has an end sequence that makes you feel so many emotions all at once. I think I need a lie down.
The Waterboy (1998)
Okay, so Adam Sandler may have fallen from grace a little with his recent films but there’s no denying that the original, Sandler movies were awesome. Adam Sandler has always been a big sports fan and his films often pay reference to his sporting heroes and interest in football, basketball and baseball.
His 1998 feature ‘The Waterboy’ is a comedy film with the qualities of a real sporting movie. Although this film provides every nod to traditional slapstick comedies, it received commercial success and I don’t think it should be overlooked as a good example of when two film genres collide.
Centred on Adam Sandler’s character (Bobby Boucher) and his anger issues – The Waterboy sees Boucher channel his aggression into a game of Football, which eventually leads him to break away from his mundane home-life and find happiness – a favourite, that can be enjoyed time and time again.
So, I hope you enjoyed reading the Man Wants guide to ‘13 of the Best Sports Movies of all Time’. I’m sure that there’s some films that I have mentioned which you feel are deserving and some not so?