20 of the greatest sports movies
raging bull

There’s an awful lot of sport going on at the moment. The World Cup, Formula One, cricket, the build-up to Wimbledon and so on (check out our summer sports guide for more).

The natural drama of winning and losing has always made for great cinema.

If you’re looking for a good sports film to tuck into this weekend, then take your pick from one of Andy Revill‘s top 20, ranging from side-splitting comedies to dark dramas.

raging bull
[Robert DeNiro as the troubled boxer Jake La Motta in Raging Bull]

Remember The Titans (2000)

More often than not, good sporting movies are usually based on true stories, and Remember The Titans is one of the best true stories around. It still makes you want to run over a load of big blokes and score a touchdown.

Cool Runnings (1993)

Cool Runnings took the true story element and made it into an inspirational powerhouse. Like the best inspiring movies, it’s got the quotes to back it up. Like the following from the bald-headed Yul Brenner. Say that in the mirror before work and watch the promotions stack up.

The Wrestler (2008)

The Wrestler is just pure cinematic class. You don’t need to know anything about the “sport” of wrestling to enjoy the story of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a guy who feels most at home in the ring, entertaining people. The film marked a remarkable return to form for Mickey Rourke and confirmed Darren Aronofsky as one of Hollywood’s most imaginative directors.

Rush (2013)

Rush is a film that scares the pants off you because it makes you wonder how those rickety looking bathtubs can go so fast? It also makes you want to give everything up and start go-karting like crazy. The Ron Howard-directed story of the battle between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in 1976 is timeless in the sport: just look at Lewis Hamilton slugging it out with Niko Rosberg this year.

Tin Cup (1996)

Inspirational to the point of farce, the Kevin Costner vehicle Tin Cup makes you want to go for it, whatever it is, because you might just do something awesome.

Any Given Sunday (1999)

Any Given Sunday needs no explanation: just watch the speech by Al Pacino’s Tony D’Amato and you’ll understand why it’s in this list.

The Legend Of Bagger Vance (2000)

Sure, it’s twee and tends to lay it on a touch thick at times, but Bagger Vance is a pure sports movie – moving and inspiring.

Moneyball (2011)

The English Premiership is a prime example of big money bossing little teams around. Well, Moneyball is the true story of a small baseball team overcoming all the odds with their cunning use of a metric tonne of statistics. Enough to give anyone hope.

The Damned United (2009)

Michael Sheen has proven himself to be one of the most chameleon actors Britain has ever produced. As maverick manager Brian Clough, he is superb. He brings the arrogant Middlesbrough genius to life perfectly, and his team talks are worth the watch alone.

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait is not your average, run of the mill sports movie where the underdog overcomes all the odds and topples the big guns. It’s just hypnotic to watch one of the world’s greatest footballers for the full length of a football match – or most of it, but we won’t spoil the ending.

Caddyshack (1980)

Even if you’re not a fan of golf, Chevy Chase’s Ty Webb has got to be the greatest living sportsman on film. Zen philosophy, tequila slammers, a gopher and Bill Murray.

This Sporting Life (1963)

Richard Harris plays Frank Machin, a talented rugby league player, in a human drama masquerading as a sports film. Who knew Wakefield was such a hotbed of drama and lust?

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

This film put the humble game of dodgeball on the map. After it came out, schools all over the country started playing it, but not with the same aplomb as Average Joes Gym. It’s just brilliant comedy, despite the pre-fall Lance Armstrong cameo.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

You can’t get better than a film about boxing with Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, and Hilary Swank kicking ass. One of Eastwood’s best films by far, it swept the board at the Oscars, picking up Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Swank) and Best Supporting Actor (Freeman).

Rocky (1976)

If you haven’t seen Rocky, what have you been doing with your life? Most sports movies have that motivational thread that makes you want to leap over tall buildings in a single bound, but Rocky blows them out of the water. We’ll leave the debate about which in the series was the greatest up to you, but our money’s on Balboa’s first outing.

Field of Dreams (1989)

Field of Dreams spawned the famous quote, “if you build it, he will come”. Adapted from W. P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe, the film was nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture, and came out at a time when Kevin Costner was box office gold.

Ali (2001)

Obscenely good looking, quick witted, funny and an unbelievable boxer. Will Smith perfectly captures Cassius Clay turned Muhammed Ali, the greatest. With such a responsibility upon his shoulders, Smith spent about a year learning all aspects of Ali’s life, including boxing training for up to seven hours a day, Islamic studies and dialect work.

Chariots of Fire (1981)

The oft-parodied but never bettered opening scene is about the best thing to be put to film, ever. The tale of two athletes, Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, from vastly different backgrounds both training for the 1924 Olympics, amounts to so much more than just a sports film.

Invictus (2009)

The story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup win by South Africa is as inspiring as it is unbelievable. Learn about the  true story in another of Clint Eastwood’s directorial successes.

Raging Bull (1980)

Whenever Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Martin Scorcese get together, something great usually happens. Arguably Scorsese’s finest film, Raging Bull features DeNiro at the peak of his powers as the brutal, self-destructive Jake La Motta.

What’s your favourite sports movie? Vote in our Ranker list:

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