The Top 30 Sports Movies of All-Time

Buoyed by the controversy surrounding his All-Time Comedies List, the challenge was once again thrown down and guest blogger Nicky D was asked to commemorate his Top 30 Sports Movies of All-Time.  And by “All-Time” we naturally mean since 1970 – the magical year when the universe was created.

Which of these classics of the genre made it to the top?

Chariots of Fire?
Raging Bull?
The Greatest Sports Movie of All-Time is…
…you guessed it!
TEEN WOLF!!!!!!!!
It's a slam dunk, sucka!
Just kidding.
Now on to the actual list…
Top 30 Sports Movies All-Time (Since 1970)
  1. Raging Bull (1980)
    1. Director – Martin Scorsese
    2. Actors – Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty & Frank Vincent
    3. Commentary: This is not only my #1 sports movies of all-time, but this would definitely be on my top 10 overall movie list all-time. This might be, in my opinion, Robert De Niro’s best performance ever. Sorry to all of the Rocky fans, but that takes a backseat to this masterpiece of a movie.
  2. Hoosiers (1986)
    1. Director – David Anspaugh
    2. Actors – Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey & Dennis Hopper
    3. Quote: “You are in the Army. You’re in my Army. Everyday between three and five.”
  3. Rocky (1976)
    1. Director – John G. Avildsen
    2. Actors – Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young & Carl Weathers
    3. Commentary: Needless to say this is a Philadelphia underdog story. I do not know how people outside of this area view this movie, but I know I love it because I can relate to everything that is associated with this film from the ship yards, to Pat’s Steaks, to the row homes. The soundtrack to this movie is hands down the most motivational soundtrack out of any of the films on this list.
  4. The Natural (1984)
    1. Director – Barry Levinson
    2. Actors – Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Barbara Hershey & Kim Basinger
    3. Quote: “And then? And then when I walked down the street people would’ve looked and they would’ve said there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.”
  5. The Longest Yard (1974)
    1. Director – Robert Aldrich
    2. Actors – Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert & Ed Lauter
    3. Commentary: Burt Reynolds was amazing playing the character of a former all-pro quarterback named Paul Crewe. The character’s ego and confidence really plays into what I think a pro quarterback is all about. A great football movie and having it ranked 5th all time says a lot about this movie because I feel that football does not translate well onto the big screen. It is very difficult to make it look real due to the violent nature of the sport, but they proved it can work if you do it right.
  6. The Wrestler (2008)
    1. Director – Darren Aronofsky
    2. Actors – Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood & Mark Margolis
    3. Quote: Jokingly describing to Randy what the deli counter is like: “It’s an endless parade of horny housewives begging for your man meat.”
  7. Bull Durham (1988)
    1. Director – Ron Shelton
    2. Actors – Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, & Tim Robbins
    3. Commentary: Kevin Costner’s character of an old minor league veteran catcher and Tim Robbins’s character of a cocky young raw pitching prospect make for great interaction between the two of them. Susan Sarandon’s character of being a seductive sexy woman taking care of the young prospects absolutely works and her knowledge for baseball might make her that much more exotic to the male viewers. A great baseball movie and a must watch.
  8. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
    1. Director – Clint Eastwood
    2. Actors – Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank & Morgan Freeman
    3. Quote: “Okay, you did two things wrong, one is you asked a question and two is you asked another question.”
  9. Field of Dreams (1989)
    1. Director – Phil Alden Robinson
    2. Actors – Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta & Amy Madigan
    3. Commentary: “Build it and he will come” is one of the quotes that you will forever hear. This is a very divine movie about baseball. There is something about this movie that brings out the emotional aspect of a sport like baseball. I have to be honest the moment at the end of the movie when he has a catch with his father is very moving and yes I got a little teary eyed which I am willing to admit. There is an emotional attachment that some people have for certain sports, just like they portray Shoeless Joe Jackson’s attachment to baseball.
  10. Slap Shot (1977)
    1. Director – George Roy Hill
    2. Actors – Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean, Strother Martin & Jennifer Warren
    3. Quotes: “Reg, Reg, that reminds me. I was coachin’ in Omaha in 1948 and Eddie Shore sends me this guy who was a terrible masturbator, you know, couldn’t control himself. Why, he would get deliberate penalties so he could get over in the penalty box all by himself and damned if he wouldn’t… you know…”
  11. Major League (1989)
    1. Director – David S. Ward
    2. Actors – Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen & Margaret Whitton
    3. Commentary: One of my favorite baseball movies to watch. This is also in my Top 10 comedy list and a movie that I can watch every time it comes on. I was very impressed from Charlie Sheen, to Tom Berenger, and then you throw in Harry Doyle (played by Bob Uecker) as the broadcaster for the Cleveland Indians you have an amazing cast of characters. Thumb’s up and a must watch.
  12. The Boxer (1997)
    1. Director – Jim Sheridan
    2. Actors – Daniel Day-Lewis, Emily Watson, Daragh Donnelly, Frank Coughlan & Sean Kearns
    3. Commentary: Daniel Day-Lewis is my favorite actor to watch on the big screen. Here is another character that he just brings to life. I never would have thought that he could pull off being a legit boxer, but he does it with flying colors. This is a very underrated movie that if people give it a chance, they could see how good of an actor Daniel Day-Lewis is.
  13. Brian’s Song (1971)
    1. Director – Buzz Kulik
    2. Actors – James Caan, Billy Dee Williams, Jack Warden & Bernie Casey
    3. Commentary: A good, but not great football movie. This movie is all based on the friendship between Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo and how their friendship developed and how they became as close as brothers when they had many obstacles to overcome. This is what I like to call a man’s tearjerker even though you can’t admit it.
  14. Invictus (2009)
    1. Director – Clint Eastwood
    2. Actors – Morgan Freeman & Matt Damon
    3. Quote: “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”
  15. Seabiscuit (2003)
    1. Director – Gary Ross
    2. Actors – Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Elizabeth Banks & Chris Cooper
    3. Commentary: I love the whole idea of this movie portraying the undersized and under-achieving horse that achieves greatness. Everyone that is around this horse from the trainer to the jockey is without a doubt flirting on the edge of disaster. The final race is about as exciting a finish to a sports movie that is on this list.
  16. A League of Their Own (1992)
    1. Director – Penny Marshall
    2. Actors – Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty & Madonna
    3. Quote: “Yeah, I’m just going home, grab a shower and shave, give the wife a little pickle-tickle, and I’m on my way.”
  17. Rudy (1993)
    1. Director – David Anspaugh
    2. Actors – Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty & Greta Lind
    3. Commentary: There is not really much to say about this movie. This is a feel-good story that makes you feel that anything is possible if you put your mind to something, work hard, and never ever give up. Sometimes the rewards are worth everything that you put into it. The whole Notre Dame Football tradition is something you can easily get wrapped up in and start chanting RUDY-RUDY-RUDY!
  18. Chariots of Fire (1981)
    1. Director – Hugh Hudson
    2. Actors – Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nicholas Farrell & Nigel Havers
    3. Quote: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
  19. Mystery, Alaska (1999)
    1. Director – Jay Roach
    2. Actors – Russell Crowe, Burt Reynolds & Hank Azaria
    3. Quote: “I play hockey and I fornicate, ’cause those are the two most fun things to do in cold weather.”
  20. Finding Forrester (2000)
    1. Director – Gus Van Sant
    2. Actors – Sean Connery, Rob Brown, F. Murray Abraham & Anna Paquin
    3. Commentary: This movie is very difficult to explain. I think the friendship between the characters of Jamal and William Forrester is as odd as they come and something that you could not picture, but it works for this film with these actors. The one thing that I love about this movie is that it tells you no matter how intelligent you are you can always learn new things in life, but you have to be willing to keep your eyes and ears open.
  21. Caddyshack (1980)
    1. Director – Harold Ramis
    2. Actors – Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray & Ted Knight
    3. Quote: “You know, you should play with Dr. Beeper and myself. I mean, he’s been club champion for three years running and I’m no slouch myself. Don’t sell yourself short, Judge, you’re a tremendous slouch.”
  22. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
    1. Director – Robert Redford
    2. Actors – Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron & Bruce McGill
    3. Commentary: I love this movie probably more than most people and I wish I had a caddy as mysterious as Bagger Vance (played by Will Smith). Golf is a game where it is easy to lose your poise and confidence in a few bad shots. When everything looks lost for the character of Junuh (played by Matt Damon), Bagger Vance helps him dig down deep, relax, and concentrate on the game. It becomes very mythical and the way they show Matt Damon focusing in on the game of golf is something every golfer will love to be able to do on the golf course.
  23. Cinderella Man (2005)
    1. Director – Ron Howard
    2. Actors – Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Craig Bierko & Paul Giamatti
    3. Commentary: Great movie. They did a very good job of the visual aspect of the movie and portraying the 1930’s time period. The cast was put together well and I thought Max Baer (played by Craig Bierko) was a very intriguing character in the film. If you know the history, he was one of the few boxers who actually killed a man in the ring. Russell Crowe did a great job playing James J. Braddock and making him into a character you can really pull for. This is almost like the real life Rocky.
  24. The Fighter (2010)
    1. Director – David O. Russell
    2. Actors – Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams & Melissa Leo
    3. Quote: “I know, George, you think I don’t know anything, but I know people. And that Sal Lanano banana fucking thing, we don’t need that in our lives!”
  25. Blue Chips (1994)
    1. Director – William Friedkin
    2. Actors – Nick Nolte, Mary McDonnell, J.T. Walsh & Ed O’Neill
    3. Commentary – What can I say about this movie, one of my favorite guilty pleasure sports movie of all time. When you can get Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, and Nick Nolte in a movie you have a deadly combination. With no sarcasm what so ever, Shaq should have won an academy award for this role as Neon Bado. This is a fan favorite movie.
  26. Jerry Maguire (1996)
    1. Director – Cameron Crowe
    2. Actors – TomCruise, CubaGooding Jr. & Renée Zellweger
    3. Quote: “Show me the money!”
  27. The Hurricane (1999)
    1. Director – Norman Jewison
    2. Actors – Denzel Washington, Vicellous Reon Shannon & Deborah Kara Unger
    3. Quote: “I got your black fucking champion right between my legs, you short punk bitch.”
  28. Tin Cup (1996)
    1. Director – Ron Shelton
    2. Actors – Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson & Cheech Marin
    3. Commentary: This movie has it all. When you can get Cheech Marin as a caddy, you’ve got a great golf movie. The golf aspect of the movie was well done and with all the great pros that played a role in this movie, it really gave it a splash of authenticity. Don Johnson’s character is awesome and plays such a good full-of-himself pro. Thumbs up.
  29. The Sandlot (1993)
    1. Director – David M. Evans
    2. Actors – Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar & Patrick Renna
    3. Quote: “I don’t know. Some lady gave it to him. She even signed her name on it… Ruth. Baby Ruth.”
  30. Vision Quest (1985)
    1. Director – Harold Becker
    2. Actors – Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Schoeffling & Ronny Cox
    3. Commentary –There are only a few genuine wrestling (i.e. not WWF-style stuff but the real sport played in high school and colleges) movies ever made and this is the best one. It is not perfect, but it is good. Wrestling is not a sport that plays well in the movies, but if you build a story with everything that surrounds the sport you have something going on. Wrestling is a very demanding sport which plays a role in almost every part of your life, and they do a great job of detailing the life of a wrestler. I am a former wrestler and I watch this movie every time I see it on the television. If you are not a wrestler, you might not be able to relate to this movie. Just a note Michael Schoeffling is a local guy who wrestled at Cherokee High School in Marlton, NJ, so that will get you extra kudos from me.
List and commentary compiled by Nicky D.
Tell us your favorite sports movie in the comment form!


  1. Nick – I still contend that just because the kid plays basketball doesn’t mean Finding Forrester is a sports movie…but I won’t beat that dead horse.

    The inclusion of The Boxer and Chariots of Fire were nice surprises. The music to Chariots of Fire is unforgettable and very inspirational as well – though I agree, nothing motivates a person like the theme from Rocky.

    Though the inclusion of Blue Chips (and your statement about Shaq) befuddles me a great deal – I mostly agree with this list (many of the same films were featured in my Greatest Baseball Movies List) and everything you say about Raging Bull is true. It’s in a-whole-nother league from the rest of these films and is one of the top 5 films from the 1980’s and would possibly fit in the top 25 of all time.

  2. This list is absolutely Genious. The man who wrote this list must be the smartest man alive. And yes Shaq did deserve an Academy award I just didn’t say which one maybe the sports academy award lol.

  3. I have to agree with David on Finding Forrester, and I’m not sure that The Hurricane should count as a sport movie, but that’s just my opinion.

    I’d have to say that Remember The Titans belongs on this list along with Miracle, and, I’d even throw in Cool Runnings for good measure!

    Great list though. Glad you mentioned Hoosiers and the original The Longest Yard. Not a fan of Jerry McGuire?

  4. I guess it’s understandable that the British new wave classic This Sporting Life didn’t make your list, David, but there were a few rather surprising omissions.

    Ken Loach’s wonderful Finding Eric. ‘Soccer’ films are for the most part pretty poor, but this one doesn’t weight itself down with the problem of choreographing matches, and instead trades on the mythology and poetry of the beautiful game. In some ways, with its use central narrative device of a protagonist communicating with a sports hero from the ether, it’s a bit like field of dreams. But it weds this to a typically Loachian gritty working class scenario……. brilliant stuff.

    Definitely Slap Shot as well. This film never really seems to have been given fair credit. I know nothing about ice hockey, but this has never mattered, as the themes it explores are so universal as to mean it could have focused on any sport- unlike quite a few Hollywood sports movies- particularly baseball and American Football- that seem to require a working knowledge of the game’s rules.

    The Voight version of The Champ, a film whose ending traumatised my 8 year old self to the extent that I’ve always hesitated to watch it again as an adult.

    The Macchio version of the Karate Kid- still stands up for me, much more so than its older sibling, Rocky.

    Brief nods also to Wender’s The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty Kick…. and BMX Bandits, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo of course.

    • Andrew – hey, it wasn’t my list 🙂

      Although Slap Shot was on there.

      And funny you should mention BMX Bandits. Not sure Nick will want me to reveal this about him – but he LOVES that movie.

  5. This might be pushing the category of “sports” but what about enter the dragon? I think it was the first movie I ever saw in the movie theatre. My older male cousins took me with them. I was 5 years beyond needing a booster seat. Could barely see over the top of the seat in front of me.

  6. In this category my own top choice is Phil Alden Robinson’s FIELD OF DREAMS, though Lindsay Anderson’s THIS SPORTING LIFE would finish high. I would also most definitely have these among my top choices:

    The Lonelinesss of the Long-Distance Runner
    The Set-Up
    The Freshman (1925; Harold Lloyd)
    The Bad News Bears
    Bang the Drum Slowly
    The Pride of the Yankees
    Eight Men Out
    Heaven Can Wait
    Breaking Away
    The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick
    The Hustler
    Lagaan (India, 2001)
    Horse Feathers (Marx Brothers)
    Olympia (Riefenstahl)
    Fat City
    The Champ (1932)
    Bend It Like Beckham
    A River Runs Through It
    Damn Yankees
    Brian’s Song
    Hoop Dreams
    One Day in September
    Personal Best

    Great to see Raging Bull, Chariots of Fire, Slapshot, and several others on that list!

  7. I don’t think anyone has mentioned Bill Paxton’s “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. “A golf drama based on the true story of the 1913 US Open, where 20-year-old Francis Ouimet defeated his idol, 1900 US Open champion, Englishman, Harry Vardon.”
    Baseball being my favorite sport — I vote for “A League of Their Own” and “The Natural” as my favorites!

  8. Ha! I just made this list yesterday, Inspired by your 47 funniest movies, and someone posting about the most rewatchable films last week. Here is my list:Posted in News | Leave a Comment »
    Favorite sports films of all time.

    July 5, 2011 by orlandfreelibrary

    Lately on WordPress I have seen a lot of lists. Last week I read a post on the most “rewatchable” movies of all time, then just today someone made a list of their “47 funniest movies”. I believe you can find these lists on WordPress, if you want to have a look. So I thought why not make a list of my own. Today [July 5, 1921] is an anniversary of when the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, and became known as The Black Sox. This leads to my list..The Greatest Sports films ever made. How do I make such a list? It is exceedingly difficult, it has just one qualifier. I love ‘em!

    Eight Men Out-Baseball

    Rocky I and II – Boxing

    Field of Dreams -Baseball

    Hoosiers – Basketball

    The Pride of the Yankees – Baseball

    Rudy – Football

    Miracle – Ice Hockey

    Seabiscuit – Horse Racing

    Something for Joey – Football

    Brian’s Song – Football

    Jerry Maguire – Football

    Ice Castles – Ice Skating

    The Greatest Game Ever Played -Golf

    Remember the Titans – Football

    The Bad News Bears – Baseball

    The Stratton Story – Baseball

    The Natural – Baseball

    The Sandlot – Baseball

    Saint Ralph – Running

    The Express – Football

    Hoop Dreams – Basketball

    The Heart of the Game – Basketball

    Believe in Me – Basketball

    Invincible – Football

    This is a very subjective list and we do have many of these titles available to borrow at the Library. If I had to name a number one it would have to be Hoosiers. Please let me know what I may have left out, or even what your list would look like.

    Posted by Estel

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