The 33 Best Sports Movies of all Time

It doesn’t matter whether we ourselves belong to the faction of disciplined weightlifters or would rather be found in the lexicon under the term “movement dyslexic”: As soon as we watch sports movies, the tiger is awakened in us. However, cinematic stories about individual athletes or teams have much more to offer in terms of content than the simple depiction of an athletic contest.

Here it is about friendship, advancement, and cohesion. At this point, we’ve pulled out what we think are the best 40 sports movies that have made their way into theaters in recent years. In this sense: Long live sports – if not in the gym, then at least at home in front of the T.V.!

1st place: Million Dollar Baby (2004)

For a long time, boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) tried to mold a successful competitor – so far in vain. When one day Maggie (Hilary Swank), a waitress from a difficult social background, appears on the sports teacher’s screen with a request for boxing lessons, the teacher is initially skeptical. As time goes on, however, it becomes clear that Maggie has exceptional talent in the ring. From then on, the boxing coach and his student do everything they can to work out the unpolished sports talent into his precious diamond.

The film works thanks to its dense, accessible atmosphere, which immediately captivates the viewer. The unforeseen twists and turns also make “Million Dollar Baby” one of those sports films that, at first glance, seem to stick to the tried-and-true formula of the genre but take their own unconventional paths. The qualities of the film become clear when you look at the list of its awards. In addition to four Oscars, including the trophy in the “Best Film” category, the production also won two Golden Globe Awards.

2nd place: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

As soon as the whistle blew in gym class for the next Game of dodgeball, the colorful crowd of students split into two camps. While one half hoped to get out of the action alive, the other party dug out their war paint. The fact that the sport, known in the USA as “Dodgeball,” can even save entire livelihoods, we learn in the comedy “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” from 2004. To save their own gym from ruin, the protagonists of the flick must win a lucrative prize-winning dodgeball tournament.

The platitude “sport is murder” does not apply at all to the film version, in which Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn slip into the leading roles. The physical activity on the matte screen here is one thing above all: fun. But beware: You may wake up the morning after the film with a nasty muscle ache in your diaphragm!

3rd place: Warrior (2011)

He who rises high can also fall low. Paddy (Nick Nolte) had to experience this pain in his own body. Once a celebrated boxer, the father of a family soon fell into alcohol, which subsequently destroyed not only the career of the martial artist but also his entire family. In an approaching competition, Tommy, the former boxer’s son who wants to participate, could now help father and son find each other again.

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The drama from 2011 knows how to convince with its intensity and exciting twists and turns. The film reveals how broad the scope of sports in general is: physical exercise moves – and not only in the literal sense.

4th place: Space Jam (1996)

Take one of the greatest basketball icons of all time, plus Bugs Bunny, and you get one of the most significant sports movies of the ’90s. The rendezvous between Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes is fun for the whole family. Basically, the former NBA pro has to tune the cartoon characters for an all-important match against a horde of overpowering aliens.

Whoever wants to get in touch with the colorful characters from Warner Bros. knows that a lot of things go wrong and that no eye stays dry. Above all, the mix of live-action film and cartoon elements has aged surprisingly well. It can still be enjoyed almost 25 years after the “Space Jam” premiere without any euphemistic nostalgia factor.

5th place: Blind Side – The Big Chance (2009)

Sometimes devastating strokes of fate are stronger than the talents that lie deep within us. In his teenage years, no one suspects Michael Oher has a distinct aptitude for American football, even in the later professional’s youthful phase. In fact, the African-American’s life is disrupted, his family is divided, and Michael himself ultimately ends up on the street. It is pure coincidence that the young protagonist meets Leigh Anne Tuohy, who is to change Michael’s life forever.

“Blind Side” is based on a real story and chronicles the career of American football player Michael “Big Mike” Oher. Especially the omnipresent racism, which is transported in the production from 2009, stimulates the viewer to think and empathize.

6th place: Rush: All for Victory (2013)

If you are interested in Formula 1, you can’t miss “Rush: All for the Win.” The German-British production takes us back to the 70s. An era in which the feud between racing aces Niki Lauda and James Hunt is just reaching its climax. Consequently, in “Rush,” you not only get to see cars driving in circles but, above all, the dogged competition of two men whose will to win cannot be broken even by the most devastating accidents.

The alternation of fast-paced racing scenes and the emotional strokes of fate is a well-functioning mixture that will also delight viewers outside of the motorsport cosmos.

7th place: Moneyball (2011)

It has been clear to every nostalgic romantic for quite some time that sport has long since ceased to be what it once was. The days of honest competition are over, and the big circus is about money. And money does sometimes win games. At least, this is the assumption of baseball coach Billy (Brad Pitt) and his assistant Peter (Jonah Hill). With the help of a complex simulation program, the sports teacher and his business analyst try to put together a competitive team against all financial constraints.

The story told within the film is based on the past of the “Moneyball Years,” who now play in the stadiums as the “Oakland Athletics.” Even if you have nothing to do with baseball, “Moneyball” is worth a look because of its rousing storyline.

8th place: The Fighter (2010)

Sometimes we forget that sporting icons often had to travel a tough, hardscrabble road before finally taking their place in the sun. If we look at the biopic “The Fighter” from 2010, we quickly realize that the later boxing legend Micky Ward (played in the film by Mark Wahlberg) had to fight his way through before the big commercial success finally materialized. Micky was coached by his brother Dicky (Christian Bale), who once ruined his own career by his drug addiction.

“The Fighter” is an emblematic battle of social classes and believably portrays the difficulties faced by a working class member who wants to leave his ancestral milieu.

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9th place: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

With “Ricky Bobby” from 2006, we return to the racetrack. Instead of Formula 1 cars, however, in the American film, we get into NASCAR vehicles, which are probably only known to die-hard motorsport fans in this country. The initial situation of the film reads similar to the plot of “Rush”: Two dogged racing drivers want to outdo each other at all costs.

While the movie presented at number 6 on our list is all about comprehensible realism, “Ricky Bobby” wants to entertain and tickle our funny bone. And the excellent cast around Will Ferrell succeeds in doing so at all times during the 110 minutes of the film.

10th place: Gegen Jede Regel (2000)

It may seem unbelievable nowadays, but if you turn back the clock a few decades ago, mixing African-American and white football players was still an offensive event. After two high school teams are merged, the players in the story of “Against Every Rule” now have to cope with this circumstance. It shows the viewer that in the USA in the 70s, a completely different zeitgeist was present than today. The racist arguments between the players were just as much a part of the normal agenda as the regular training sessions.

Once again, we realize the power of sport in breaking down mental barriers and turning hostile camps into inseparable friends.

11th place: Ali (2001)

In view of the enormous importance that Muhammad Ali had during his career, it is only logical that the filmmakers gave the boxing legend a cinematic monument in 2001. Will Smith put on the boxing gloves for the flick, but at the time of its release, he was better known for his silly comedies.

With his embodiment of the icon, who died in 2016, Will Smith ultimately proved two things, however: First, the American actor is quite capable of portraying a multi-layered, edgy character. And secondly, of course: If you believe in yourself and your goals in life, you can achieve them against all odds.

Rank 12: Karate Kid (1984)

For our 12th place, we travel back to the 1980s! To escape the taunts of some creeps, teenager Daniel (Ralph Macchio) seeks out the reclusive Mister Miyagi (Pat Morita) to teach him the art of karate from now on. This is the only way “Daniel-San” believes he can stand up to his martial arts-tested opponents. However, to his own astonishment, the protagonist soon finds out that his instructor is more into “apply and polish” instead of handsprings and battle cries during training.

“Karate Kid” is a gem of the 80s and today has an untouchable cult status. Instead of mere, clumsy beatings, the viewer is also served many instructive life lessons in the U.S. production.

Ranked #13: Fighting with My Family (2019)

The importance of the sport of wrestling in the United States is hard for outsiders to put into words. In the U.S., the exhibition fights become major events that repeatedly draw millions of fans to their screens. First and foremost is the WWE, which, in terms of popularity, is the dream of every young wrestler.

For siblings Paige (Florence Pugh) and Zak (Jack Lowden), wrestling has been a part of their everyday lives for their entire lives. Finally, the brother-sister duo comes from a long-established wrestling family. When the opportunity finally arises for the protagonists to participate in a WWE casting, the family bond is put to the test: Only one of the two is actually granted a place in the young talent program of the wrestling federation.

The American-British production is based on the life of wrestler Ricky Knight and his close family environment. The film is particularly appealing because of its warm-heartedness, and its style also appeals to viewers unfamiliar with wrestling.

Rank 14: I, Tonya (2017)

All those who are interested in figure skating should be familiar with the name Tonya Harding. The U.S. athlete was considered a luminary in her field during her active career. However, the figure skater’s career took a tragic turn when Tonya came under suspicion of having sneakily attacked her worst competitor. What followed was a media hunt that completely overshadowed the sporting events.

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For the 2018 flick, Margot Robbie stepped into the role of the protagonist. The territories the film touches on in terms of content go far beyond the borders of the ice field. Challenging topics such as the pressure to succeed in professional sports, the effects of the media’s agitation on an individual, and finding one’s own identity are illuminated in detail.

Rank 15: Hooligans (2005)

“Hooligans,” from 2005, is not one of those sports movies that seem to come from the drawing board. The British production portrays the darker side of English soccer. Therefore, the actual competitions in the strip are fought not on the green lawn but on the merciless asphalt.

The film, which for a change, doesn’t present us with Elijah Wood in a Hobbit costume, gives us a glimpse into a scene that is usually inaccessible to outsiders. The violence, as well as the brutal harshness with which the rival groups act against each other, are both frightening and fascinating at the same time.

16th place: Rocky (1976)

The formula served up to us in the course of the first “Rocky” to be imitated many more times in the years that followed. The story of a poor good-for-nothing who, through boxing, not only sends his opponent to the brink but also changes his own fate for the better may not seem particularly original at first glance. Nevertheless, a franchise was founded with the “Rocky” films, whose importance within film history is undisputed.

The machinations around the headstrong boxer, embodied by Sylvester Stallone, enjoy an unwavering fan base numbering in the millions. In total, the series, together with the “Creed” spin-offs, counts eight parts and guarantees movie fun for countless hours.

17th place: Real Steel – (2011)

The vast majority of sports films make it their business to bring the life stories of former icons to the screen. The fact that it doesn’t always have to be the sporting look backward is made clear to us in a coherent way in the American-Indian film “Real Steel” from 2011. The creators chose the approach of creating a future setting in which machines replace human athletes.

The robots then go for each other’s tinny throats in major media events. However, protagonist Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) does not want to be so easily sorted into the old iron and unswervingly holds on to his dream of becoming a world boxing champion.

The difference alone makes “Real Steel” a sports film that every viewer should have seen at least once. Moreover, the technological developments in sports can also be applied to movements in society as a whole and thus provoke reflection.

18th place: Kick It Like Beckham (2002)

Around the turn of the millennium, many amateur footballers had the fervent wish to be able to handle the playing equipment as artistically as superstar David Beckham. 17-year-old Jess (Parminder Nagra) is not excluded from this fantasy. Who likes nothing better than kicking the round leather with her foot in her free time? However, this behavior is a thorn in the side of their conservative Indian parents. Thus begins a battle of beliefs that is by no means confined to the soccer field.

The story about Jess and her friend Jules, who holds on to her big dream against all odds, knows how to touch in an emotional way without drifting into the realm of kitsch.

Rank 19: Unbroken (2014)

Granted, “Unbroken” is not a classic sports movie by any stretch of the imagination. However, the film manages to do something that the others on our list did not: It shows us the limits of the sport. In his homeland, American Olympian Louis Zamperini is a celebrated hero.

At the time of the Second World War, however, the protagonist’s sporting prowess was not much of an issue in hostile Japan. Unfortunately for Louis, he finds himself deep in enemy territory after a plane crash. Instead of the winner’s podium, a tough prisoner-of-war camp now awaits the main character.

Rank 20: Miracle (2004)

Finally, a recommendation for all ice hockey fans: “Miracle – The Miracle of Lake Placid” tells the story of the American Olympic team, which succeeded in 1980 in beating the overpowering players of the Soviet Union in the final of the tournament. A heavy dose of pathos and dynamics really round out this flick.

21st place: Jerry Maguire: Game of Life (1996)

22nd place: Creed II (2018)

23rd place: Raging Bull (1980)

24th place: Southpaw (2015)

25th place: Foxcatcher (2014)

26th place: Creed (2015)

27th place: McFarland (2015)

28th place: Rocky Balboa (2006)

Ranked 29: 42 – The True Story of a Sports Legend (2013)

Rank 30: Invictus – Unforced (2009)

31st place: Roller Girl (2009)

32nd place: Back in the Game (2012)

Rank 33: Dreamer – A dream come true (2005)

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