Movie-makers don’t always manage to capture the energy and excitement of sports, but when they get it right they have produced some classic films. Our list of the 100 greatest sports movies ever made includes comedies, dramas and documentaries, and features some of the biggest names in cinema.
I gave myself the task of watching every movie on this list – and more that didn’t make the cut – before completing this article. You probably won’t agree with all of my choices, but I am sure you’ll find some fantastic films to enjoy in our list, including more than a few you’ve not seen before. And don’t worry: No Spoilers Ahead.
We’ve included suggestions of where you can stream, rent or buy each movie from the UK, as well as the aggregated critics’ score from Rotten Tomatoes.
You can scroll down through the full list, or click on one of the buttons below to find movies on the topic of your favourite sport:
100. Major League
The new owner of the Cleveland Indians baseball team wants her team to keep losing so that they will relocate to Miami. When the players get wind of this scheme they have other ideas, and start performing beyond expectations. This is a bright and breezy comedy which spawned a couple of (inferior) sequels.
|Released: 1989||Available: Prime||🍅RT = 83%|
There are quite a few climbing documentaries on this list, but this is the only fictional climbing movie to break into our top 100. An all-star cast makes this story of survival on the world’s highest mountain an enthralling watch. I saw this at an IMAX cinema, and you should watch this on the biggest screen with the highest picture quality to fully appreciate the cinematography.
|Released: 2015||Available: Prime||🍅RT = 72%|
98. Draft Day
This is the first time we’ll mention Kevin Costner in this list, but it certainly won’t be the last. Here he plays Sonny Weaver Jr, General Manager of the Cleveland Browns. Weaver juggles draft day machinations with his love life and a difficult boss, and the end result is a movie which is a whole lot better than you might expect.
|Released: 2014||Available: Prime||????RT = 60%|
Not as good as the book which inspired it, but Invictus is still a solid enough telling of how rugby became a means to change South African society. Matt Damon is the South African captain, while Morgan Freeman is great as Nelson Mandela.
|Released: 2009||Available: iTunes/Sky Store||????RT = 76%|
96. American Underdog
The story of quarterback is one which deserves the Hollywood treatment, and American Underdog does justice to his unlikely rise from grocery store clerk to the NFL. Although this movie follows the sports-bio template of many that have gone before, it is no less enjoyable for that.
|Released: 2021||Available: N/A||????RT = 74%|
Mike Tyson was rarely out of the headlines during his sensational boxing career, and this documentary does a good job of tracing the rise and fall of the former heavyweight champ. This is the life of Mike Tyson in the words of Mike Tyson, as the only other voices come from archive footage, so be prepared for a very subjective point of view.
|Released: 2008||Available: Prime||????RT = 85%|
94. Bend it Like Beckham
This coming-of-age comedy was released during the ‘Peak Beckham’ era, and it does feel a little dated in a way that much older movies here don’t, but (just about) gets away with this, and some clunky moments, thanks to the lively young cast. A young girl (Jess) defies cultural expectations to join a local football team, finding freedom and stirrings of love in the process. The main man pops up in a cameo appearance, while a teenage Keira Knightley makes her movie debut as Jess’ best friend.
|Released: 2002||Available: Prime/Disney+||????RT = 85%|
Jake Gylenhall got himself into jaw-dropping shape to play Billy Hope in this boxing flick, even if the movie itself is less spectacular. This is a standard boxing tale of redemption, but it is well played and features more realistically brutal fight scenes than your average boxing film.
|Released: 2015||Available: iTunes/Rakuten||????RT = 60%|
92. Pumping Iron
I had some trepidation ahead of watching this documentary from the ’70s, fearing that it may have aged badly. However, an opening scene featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger doing ballet quickly laid those fears to rest. The film follows the build-up to the 1975 Mr Olympia contest, where various big men (including the Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno) hope to wrest Arnie’s crown away from him.
|Released: 1977||Available: Chili/Google Play||????RT = 91%|
This baseball story focuses on a young player from the Dominican Republic who is trying to make it as a pro in the United States. Miguel is called Sugar because of his sweet nature, but that is no guarantee of success in the big leagues. This movie avoids a lot of the tropes found in others of its type, but be warned that if you don’t like subtitles you’d best practice your Spanish, as large chunks of the movie are not in English.
|Released: 2008||Available: Amazon/iTunes||????RT = 92%|
90. Whip It
Shy teenage girl finds freedom and an outlet for her dreams when she signs up with a roller derby team. This movie doesn’t do much out of the ordinary, but it’s passably good just the same. Juliette Lewis and Jimmy Fallon ham it up no end, but young Elliot Page is great in the lead role.
|Released: 2009||Available: Prime||????RT = 84%|
Jackie Robinson was the first baseball player to break the colour barrier, and he is played here by the sadly departed Chadwick Boseman. Boseman portrays Robinson as a man struggling to keep his cool under relentless pressure and blatant racism, while Harrison Ford is the growling team owner who backs him. This movie was virtually unseen outside America when it was released, but definitely deserves a bigger audience.
|Released: 2013||Available: Google Play||????RT = 81%|
88. A League of Their Own
An all-female pro baseball league is formed during WW2 because so many male players have left to fight the war. Jimmy Duggan (Tom Hanks) is the alcoholic manager drafted in to coach a rag-tag assortment of players from different walks of life.
|Released: 1992||Available: iTunes/Chili||????RT = 78%|
Will Smith had quite a challenge taking on the role of the greatest sportsman of all time. He didn’t succeed completely here, but Smith dedicated a year of his life to studying the great man in advance, and his efforts pay off with a fine telling of Clay/Ali’s life story. Any fictionalized account will have the impossible job of competing with the hours of electric footage of the man himself, but this still makes for a great tribute.
|Released: 2001||Available: iTunes/Rakuten||????RT = 61%|
86. Queen of Katwe
I had no expectations going into this one as I knew nothing about it, but it turned out to be a nice variation on a familiar sports movie trope. Madina Nalwanga is superb as Phiona, the young Ugandan girl who discovers she has an incredible gift for chess, which may offer her a way out of the extreme poverty she grew up with. This could have ended up as cookie-cutter Disney fare, but is a whole lot better than that.
|Released: 2016||Available: Disney+||????RT = 94%|
85. Fever Pitch
Nick Hornby’s classic book was the source for this ’97 film featuring Colin Firth in the lead role (rather than Jimmy Fallon in the inferior American remake). The movie can’t hold a candle to the book, and its low RT rating suggests that it’s not a darling of the critics, but it’s got enough of the likability factor to make it onto our list.
|Released: 1997||Available: iTunes||????RT = 50%|
84. Fighting With My Family
Comedian Stephen Merchant directs this amusing tale of a fighting family of wrestlers from the UK. Brother and sister Paige and Zak both have dreams of making it to the WWE, but life throws various obstacles in their way. There may not be anything hugely out of the ordinary about the plot of this movie, but a winning cast keeps us onside throughout.
|Released: 2019||Available: Prime||????RT = 93%|
83. The Armstrong Lie
When award-winning director Alex Gibney began this documentary, it was supposed to be about Lance Armstrong’s triumphant return to the sport of cycling. As revelations about the cyclist’s drug cheating came to light, however, the resulting film changed in tone completely.
|Released: 2013||Available: Amazon/Google Play||????RT = 82%|
Jimmy Chin is an unusual filmmaker in that he participates in the documentaries he records. Here he and two fellow-climbers attempt to be the first to scale the intimidating Mount Meru, carrying psychological as well as physical baggage with them.
|Released: 2015||Available: YouTube/Rakuten||????RT = 89%|
81. King Richard
The fact that this movie gives producer credits to Serena and Venus Williams may have given you pause, but in fact this biopic is not afraid to show the warts and all side of its principal character. Will Smith as Richard Williams has not been this good in quite a while, and although we know how the story plays out it makes for an extremely gripping movie.
|Released: 2021||Available: itunes (rent)||????RT = 91%|
80. McFarland USA
It’s that man Costner again, featuring in a late-career sporting movie which has no right to be as enjoyable as it turns out to be. Inspirational coach… kids from challenging backgrounds… you know the drill, but somehow it comes together to make a great family movie about an athletics coach and his young squad.
|Released: 2015||Available: Disney+||????RT = 80%|
79. No No: a Dockumentary
Dock Ellis was a baseball pitcher in the Major Leagues for the Pirates, Yankees and various other teams. He was also addicted to drugs and a man not afraid to forge his own path in life. This often humorous documentary takes us through his life and career, including the memorable occasion (if not for him) when he pitched a no-hitter whilst under the influence of LSD.
|Released: 2014||Available: Prime||????RT = 97%|
78. Red Army
We have heard about the famous ‘Miracle on Ice’ in the 1980 Olympics many times, but here we get to see the Soviet point of view for a change. This is about more than just that one game, it’s about the collapse of a way of life, as experienced by a quintet of the best ice-hockey players in the Soviet Union at that time. That may sound a little dry, but this is actually a funny, enjoyable and fascinating documentary.
|Released: 2014||Available: Rakuten/iTunes||????RT = 92%|
If this rollicking biopic is anything to go by, then not only was Ty Cobb the greatest baseball player ever, he was also a very nasty piece of work. Tommy Lee Jones plays the irascible former player, while Robert Wuhl is Al Stump, the journalist charged with writing Cobb’s biography. Hard to imagine you will ever see a biographical movie with less sympathy for its subject.
|Released: 1994||Available: Prime||????RT = 65%|
76. Athlete A
This is the sports movie equivalent of ‘eating your greens’. In no way could this be described as an ‘enjoyable’ watch, but it is a more important documentary than just about any other on this list. Young female gymnasts suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a Team USA doctor while the federation did nothing despite numerous complaints from athletes.
|Released:2020||Available: Netflix||????RT = 100%|
Okay, so it’s pretty cheesy and hardly a gritty re-enactment of life on the professional tennis circuit, but I have to admit some fondness for this film just the same. Paul Bettany is the lowly-ranked player who suddenly gets a shot at the Wimbledon tournament, and Kirsten Dunst the female player who attracts his attention. They make a likeable twosome and it’s a likeable movie.
|Released:2004||Available: BFI Player/Chili||????RT = 61%|
Some of the movies on this list are highbrow, intellectual pieces capable of provoking introspection and real emotion. Kingpin, on the other hand, is a crude comedy about a ten-pin bowler with a rubber prosthetic hand and a vendetta against an evil Bill Murray. What’s not to like?
|Released: 1996||Available: NowTV/Amazon||????RT = 50%|
73. Battle of the Sexes/The Battle of the Sexes
I have chosen to give a joint award here to both the dramatized movie (Battle of the Sexes, 2017) and the documentary (The Battle of the Sexes, 2013) which both centre around the Billie Jean King v Bobby Riggs tennis match. The former stars Steve Carrell and Emma Stone in the principal roles, while the latter arranges archive footage and talking head interviews to form a wonderful documentary.
|Released: 2017/2013||Available: Rakuten/iTunes/Chili||????RT = 85%/89%|
72. Team Foxcatcher
Personally I prefer the fictionalised version of this story which appears later on the list, but this documentary is also very good indeed. Multi-millionaire John E. du Pont funds a wrestling team, allowing them to train and live on his estate, but over time things begin to take a dark turn.
|Released: 2016||Available: Prime||????RT = 100%|
71. Hands of Stone
This movie about the life of Roberto Duran was part-financed by the Panamanian government and promoted by the man himself, so was hardly ever going to be too hard on its central protagonist. It remains a decent boxing movie, following Duran from poverty on the streets of Panama to world title fights in the States. Robert De Niro adds a bit of heft to the picture, appearing as Duran’s American trainer and mentor.
|Released: 2016||Available: Netflix||????RT = 45%|
What a brilliant documentary this is. Volunteer coach Bill Courtney shows up at Manassas High School and tries to break a culture of losing and failure. If you are not cheering for Coach Courtney and his players by the end of this doc then there’s something not right with you. This is one of four docs on this list to win the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, along with Icarus, Free Solo and When We Were Kings.
|Released: 2011||Available: YouTube/Rakuten||????RT = 96%|
Not exactly a light-hearted feel-good movie, like many of the pictures on this list, but stick with this one and you will be rewarded. Paddy Considine and Jodie Whittaker are in incredible form as the boxer recovering from head trauma and the wife who stands by him in the face of adversity.
|Released: 2017||Available: All4||????RT = 82%|
68. The Bad News Bears
Who better to play a bad-tempered grouch of a coach than Walter Matthau? He is in charge of a bunch of misfit teen baseball players, boosted by the talents of star pitcher Amanda Whurlitzer (Tatum O’Neil). The original of its type, and far better than the Mighty Ducks series that followed in its wake. Watching this almost 50 years after it was made really shows up the differences between what is considered a ‘kids movie’ then and now (seems that smoking and swearing were a lot more acceptable in the 70s!).
|Released: 1976||Available: YouTube/iTunes||????RT = 97%|
Sailor Tracy Edwards skippers the first all-female crew to take on the gruelling Whitbread Around the World Challenge. The crew faces scepticism before the race, and extremes of weather during it. Edwards describes herself at one point as having “horrendous flaws”, but that only goes towards making her a more interesting central character here.
|Released: 2018||Available: Sky Store||????RT = 98%|
66. Rocky Balboa
After the disappointment of Rocky V, and much like its central character, sequel number six in the series got off the canvas to deliver a powerful punch. It lacks the gritty charm of the unsurpassable original, but this is generally regarded as the best of the five Rocky sequels and a fine movie in its own right. You could certainly argue Rocky II and III also deserve a place on this list, but I will allow Balboa to represent the sequels.
|Released: 2006||Available: Prime||????RT = 77%|
A huge favourite with viewers Stateside, less well known on the other side of the pond. Gene Hackman is fantastic as the coach who has fallen from grace, and whose job training a high-school basketball team from the back of beyond is his last shot at redemption. Watching this, it feels like the movie hasn’t quite figured out the beats and rhythm we are used to from this type of film nowadays, but Hackman’s performance lifts it above the ordinary. (Although how Denis Hopper got an Oscar nom for his over-wrought performance is anyone’s guess).
|Released: 1986||Available:iTunes/YouTube||????RT = 89%|
64. Riding Giants
Filmmaker and former surfer takes us back to the beginnings of the sport in a thrill-ride of a documentary. We go back to the 1950s to pay homage to the pioneers of big wave surfing, and then check in with some of the contemporary wave riders following in their footsteps.
|Released: 2004||Available: Amazon/Google Play||????RT = 93%|
Based on a true story, Vince (Mark Wahlberg) is the 30-year-old who comes off the street to try and earn a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles. This film could easily have ended up in the bargain bin of ‘inspiring sport movies’, but a strong cast and a plot that gets its hooks into you makes it a winner.
|Released: 2006||Available: Disney +||????RT = 72%|
62. Andre the Giant
Professional wrestler Andre the Giant was one of the most famous figures in sport in his 1980s heyday. This hugely entertaining doc takes us from his upbringing in rural France right through the highs and lows of his career. Ric Flair, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan are among the talking-head contributors.
|Released: 2018||Available: Amazon/Sky Store||????RT = 96%|
61. Unforgivable Blackness
At a whopping 3 hours 40 minutes this film is often screened in two parts, but I am counting it as a single entity for the purposes of this list. It’s by legendary documentarian Ken Burns, who is responsible for some of the greatest docs of all time, so you know you are in good hands. Using archive footage and the voice of Samuel L. Jackson as Johnson, this is a brilliant documentary which passes far quicker than the running time would suggest.
|Released: 2005||Available: My5||????RT = 100%|
60. One Night in Miami
Too often, when a theatrical play is turned into a movie, the results can be stilted and speechifying. That’s not the case here, in an imagined account of what happened when Muhammad Ali/Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke, Malcolm X and Jim Brown get together in a hotel room after Ali/Clay claims the world title for the first time. Eli Goree as Clay along with Aldis Hodge (Brown), Leslie Odom Jr. (Cooke) and Kingsley Ben-Adir (Malcolm X) all hold their own and make those iconic figures breathe.
|Released: 2020||Available: Prime||????RT = 98%|
59. Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
This is the first of three skate/surf docs to show up on this list courtesy of director Stacy Peralta. Peralta was a top-class skater himself, and one of the founders of the All-Star Bones Brigade teams in the late 1970s, and here he and his skater buddies reminisce about those days. Lots of archive footage is available, and Peralta gets some great interviews out of his former charges, which included skate legend Tony Hawks.
|Released: 2012||Available: Prime||????RT = 77%|
A talented amateur cyclist decides to take performance-enhancing drugs and to document the results. He enlists the help of former head of a Russian drug-testing lab, a seemingly genial if amoral man named Grigory Rodchenkov. A personal story quickly goes global, and the serious subject of state-sponsored doping is tackled in this very watchable documentary.
|Released: 2017||Available: Netflix||????RT = 92%|
57. Dawn Wall
Another glimpse into the obsessive, terrifying world of extreme climbers this doc is packed with drama not just limited to the dizzying vertical climb undertaken. There is personal heartache, extreme peril and more, all forming the backdrop to Tommy Caldwell’s attempt to master the vertiginous Dawn Wall of the El Capitan. Unbelievable, in more ways than one.
|Released: 2017||Available: Netflix||????RT = 100%|
56. The Karate Kid
One of those movies that just has to be added to any list like this thanks to its iconic status. Obviously we’re talking about the original, not any of the sequels or remakes. You already know the story here, so if you were at all interested in watching this movie you’ve probably already done so.
|Released: 1984||Available: Netflix/Prime||????RT = 89%|
Kurt Russel is US hockey coach Herb Broooks in this flag-waving but hugely enjoyable slice of American Pie. Coach Herb missed out on his own chance for Olympic glory back in the ’60s, but now he has a chance to lead a rag-tag bunch of amateur players against the mighty Soviets in the 1980 Olympics. Sports fans will know already how this one plays out, but it is worth sticking with this well-done popcorn movie to enjoy the ride.
|Released: 2004||Available: Disney+||????RT = 81%|
54. The Longest Yard
The original version starring Burt Lancaster is far superior to the tepid Adam Sandler vehicle released in 2005, or the British ‘soccer’ version made with Vinnie Jones. While certainly a little dated, this still makes for an enjoyable watch, as Burt’s American Football player turned convict is enticed to join the prisoner’s team as they take on the guards for what will be an extremely bruising match.
|Released: 1974||Available: Amazon/Chili||????RT = 79%|
53. The Color of Money
While it may not reach the heights of The Hustler, its 1961 predecessor, The Color of Money is a fantastic movie in its own right. Fast Eddie (Paul Newman) takes on cocky pool-playing upstart Vincent (Tom Cruise) and attempts to teach him the tricks of the trade. Newman and Cruise are both on top form here, and just like the first in this two-part saga, this is a movie that has stood the test of time.
|Released: 1986||Available: Amazon/YouTube||????RT = 89%|
52. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
The popular playground game is amped up to the max in this very funny comedy starring Vince Vaughan and Ben Stiller. Vaughan is the slacker who has to save his local gym by entering a dodgeball competition, and neither he nor Stiller have been funnier on screen than they are here.
|Released: 2004||Available: Amazon/Chili||????RT = 71%|
51. The King of Kong
To those readers who would quibble as to whether playing Donkey Kong qualifies as a ‘sport’, we would point out that esports are one of the fastest growing sports in recent years. And besides, this doc is just too much fun to leave off of our list. Rival players from across the States compete to record a high-score on the venerable video game, so that they can call themselves ‘King of Kong’.
|Released: 2007||Available: Amazon/iTunes||????RT = 97%|
50. The Goon
To use the phrase ‘Seann William Scott has never been better…’ may sound like damning this movie with faint praise. However, not only is this true, but this knockabout and often foul-mouthed comedy is a definite hit. The Goon is the story of an ice-hockey ‘enforcer’ who gets a shot at the big time despite barely being able to skate, and features some genuinely funny set-pieces.
|Released: 2011||Available: Amazon/iTunes||????RT = 81%|
49. Coach Carter
We’ve all seen movies like this before – inspirational new coach elevates a team of no-hopers – but this is a particularly good example of the genre. Samuel L. Jackson is ‘Coach Carter’ and he is just as tough a coach as you might imagine. Just the right balance of humour, emotion and edge-of-the-seat action to make for a great sports movie.
|Released: 2005||Available: Netflix||????RT = 64%|
48. Borg vs McEnroe
Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe formed one of the greatest rivalries in the history of tennis, and this film captures how that rivalry evolved. The icy Swede and the volatile New Yorker would become friends in later years, but here we see the fierce competition between them as they rise to prominence in the game.
|Released: 2017||Available: Prime||????RT = 84%|
47. Tin Cup
Kevin Costner is the star (once again) of ‘Tin Cup’, a golfing comedy-drama with bucket loads of charm. The movie is played (mostly) for laughs, with Costner as the small-time golfer who gets a shot at the U.S. Open.
|Released: 1996||Available: iTunes/Chili||????RT = 71%|
46. The Blind Side
The movie version of the best-selling book removes the history of tactics in the game of American Football and instead focuses on the human-interest story. The tale of a homeless student taken in by a loving family may be a little schmaltzy for some tastes, and certainly it seemed to overplay Leigh Anne’s role in Michael’s achievements, but it still won me over despite my misgivings.
|Released: 2009||Available: Netflix||????RT = 66%|
45. Happy Gilmore
To say that Adam Sandler’s cinematic output has been ‘patchy’ may be something of an understatement, but he is in top form here. Sandler is the hockey player who discovers that he is blessed with a thunderous – if unorthodox – golf swing. The plot may be thin, but there are enough good gags to keep this one rolling along.
|Released: 1996||Available: YouTube||????RT = 61%|
44. Chariots of Fire
You are probably already humming the iconic theme tune as you read this, but this Oscar-winning movie holds up in its own right. Two young English athletes from very different backgrounds race in the 1924 Olympics in search of gold. On our list of 100 movies, only three took the Best Picture Academy Award, with Rocky and Million Dollar Baby being the other two.
|Released: 1981||Available: Youtube/Google Play||????RT = 82%|
43. The Hurricane
Boxer Reuben Carter is accused of murder and sent to prison, and this telling of the true story is a genuinely moving biopic. Denzel Washing rarely appears in a bad movie, or if he does he elevates it, and here he displays his craft to the fullest as he inhabits the role of the man known as ‘The Hurricane’.
|Released: 1999||Available: YouTube||????RT = 83%|
42. Remember the Titans
A movie with a very similar plot to the afore-mentioned Coach Carter, only this time Denzel Washington is the man charged with guiding his squad of young players. This American Football drama follows all the beats you would expect from a movie of this nature, but does it with tons of charm and characters you want to root for.
|Released: 2000||Available: Disney+||????RT = 73%|
41. The Damned United
While the book of the same name is darker and more intense, the film version is a much more light-hearted affair. Michael Sheen has played a number of real-life figures over the course of his career, and here he nails the accent and mannerisms of iconic football manager Brian Clough, ably supported by Timothy Spall as assistant Peter Taylor.
|Released: 2009||Available: YouTube/Google Play||????RT = 92%|
40. The Edge
The first documentary to appear on our list shows us exactly what it takes to become a first-class cricket international. Interviews with England players and coaches plus lots of previously unseen footage makes this a gripping watch, whether you are a fan of the game or not.
|Released: 2019||Available: Prime/Google Play||????RT = 100%|
39. Escape to Victory
While it’s fair to say that this war-time/sporting drama failed to trouble the Oscar voters upon its release, it remains a cherished favourite. The unlikely combination of Michael Caine, Pele and Sylvester Stallone are players on the Prisoner of War team that takes on their German captors in a high-stakes game of football. Don’t worry too much about the plot or some of the questionable acting and footballing on display, just sit back and enjoy the fun.
|Released: 1981||Available: Amazon/iTunes||????RT = 67%|
38. Next Goal Wins
The football team of American Samoa are one of the worst international teams in the world, but they hope that the arrival of a new coach from the Netherlands will lead to a change in fortunes. This documentary takes us inside the camp, revealing the back-stories of the players and their new trainer as they try to earn some positive results on the pitch.
|Released: 2014||Available: Amazon/Chili||????RT = 100%|
The excellent documentary Team Foxcatcher covers much of the same ground as this fictionalised version, but this drama makes for the better watch of the two. Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum star in the bizarre tale of the millionaire who funds a wrestling squad as a way to fulfil his own thwarted ambitions.
|Released: 2014||Available: Prime||????RT = 87%|
36. White Men Can’t Jump
Another iconic sports comedy from the ’90s, this time starring Woody Harrelson as a basketball hustler in Los Angeles. He teams up with one of his victims to form a winning duo, and this highly entertaining action-comedy follows their exploits on and off the court.
|Released: 1992||Available: Chili/Rakuten||????RT = 76%|
35. Cinderella Man
This is one of 25-30 movies I’d never seen before starting to make this list. Not sure how I’d missed it up until now, as this is a really great sports flick. Russel Crowe is perfectly cast as James J. Braddock, the Depression Era boxer who fought his way out of poverty to become the People’s Champ. Paul Giamatti is another standout, earning an Academy Award nomination for his role as Braddock’s manager.
|Released: 2005||Available: Amazon/Chili||????RT = 80%|
34. Diego Maradona
There are a number of documentaries about Diego Maradona, but none better than this one from Asif Kapadia. Here the focus is on the Argentine superstar’s time at Napoli, and the turmoil that followed him. Archive footage of Diego’s time in Italy – both on and off the pitch – make this a must-watch for fans of the little genius.
|Released: 2019||Available: Prime||????RT = 90%|
33. Field of Dreams
The next Costner vehicle on our list is something of a classic, one responsible the quote ‘If you build it, he will come’ entering into popular culture. That’s the line which inspires Iowa farmer Ray (Costner) to build a baseball diamond in his corn-field, in the face of his neighbours’ scorn. This is a sentimental drama with a touch of the supernatural, and one which has stood the test of time.
|Released: 1989||Available: Prime/Youtube||????RT = 87%|
32. Jerry Maguire
Another movie with some memorable lines (‘Show me the Money!’) stars Tom Cruise as sports agent Jerry Maguire. Leaving a soulless corporate agency to strike out on his own, Maguire finds himself with just one client, a temperamental wide receiver called Rod Tidwell. The pair strike up a close relationship, while romance bubbles up in the background between Jerry and a single mother played by Reneé Zellweger.
|Released: 1996||Available: SkyGo/NowTV||????RT = 83%|
31. The Natural
Robert Redford is a minor-league baseball player with a natural ability and a bat formed from a lightning-struck tree. When this mysterious middle-aged man joins a struggling team, they cannot stop winning. Okay, so we’ve got the hokey set-up: but while certainly not short on sentimentality, a great cast and gripping storyline will keep you watching ’til the end.
|Released: 1984||Available: YouTube||????RT = 82%|
If you’re a sucker for a sports story with a heart, then Rudy is one for your watchlist. Can a hobbit-sized Notre Dame obsessive achieve his life’s ambition and play for the football team? If you haven’t worked out how this movie plays out within 30 seconds then you’re not paying attention, but as they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination. And the ending? Excuse me, I think I got a piece of dust in my eye…
|Released: 1993||Available: Google Play/Chili||????RT = 78%|
29. Any Given Sunday
This is another movie on the list which is more beloved by viewers than critics. An aging quarterback (Dennis Quaid) gives his all for the team and becomes a mentor to the headstrong young buck (Jamie Foxx) hired to replace him. Meanwhile, turmoil reigns in the boardroom while veteran coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) tries to keep the the show on the road.
|Released: 1999||Available: iTunes/Chili||????RT = 52%|
Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling book, Seabiscuit tells the story of the race-horse who captured the heart of a nation. Starring Toby Maguire and Jeff Bridges, this is an uplifting and heart-warming tale which it is almost impossible to dislike. The book is brilliant, the movie not quite as good, but still well worth a watch.
|Released: 2003||Available: Amazon/Google Play||????RT = 77%|
27. The Battered Bastards of Baseball
You may be familiar with Kurt Russell the actor, but here we are introduced to Kurt the young baseball player, and more prominently his dad Bing. Russell Senior was a jobbing actor who decided to set up an independent baseball team once his career had wound down. This is the story of the bunch of misfits and reprobates he recruited to play for his Portland Mavericks team.
|Released: 2014||Available: Netflix||????RT = 100%|
Bill Murray is in rare form here as golf groundskeeper Carl Spackler in this zinger-laden comedy. Rodney Dangerfield and Chevy Chase add their own brands of humour to this manic, knockabout laugher which remains one of the funniest sports movies ever made.
|Released: 1980||Available: YouTube||????RT = 73%|
25. When We Were Kings
Muhammad Ali is one of the most compelling figures in sporting history, and When We Were Kings gives a true flavour of his magnetic appeal. The documentary takes place around the famous Rumble in the Jungle, when nobody gave Ali much of a chance against the fearsome champ, George Foreman.
|Released: 1996||Available: BBC iPlayer||????RT = 98%|
There has been no shortage of sequels to the iconic Rocky movie, and Creed is certainly the best of these to date. Here the focus is on Apollo Creed’s son Adonis, as he comes to terms with his father’s legacy and tries to create a boxing career for himself, with the help of the aging Italian Stallion. Creed II does not disappoint either, and is arguably superior to any of the many Rocky serials, perhaps with the exception of ‘Rocky Balboa’.
|Released: 2015||Available: YouTube||????RT = 95%|
23. Touching the Void
Most climbing documentaries are concerned with the ascent to the summit, but here the focus is on the treacherous descent and the disaster which ensues. This is a scarcely believable tale of survival against overwhelming odds, told using interviews with the main protagonists as well as expertly staged re-enactments.
|Released: 2003||Available: YouTube||????RT = 94%|
22. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos
This documentary takes us back to 1970s America, when soccer was enjoying somthing of a boom period. Top international players were attracted to play in the States, with the likes of Pelé and Giorgio Chinaglia turning out for the Cosmos. This is a crazy rollercoaster of a story, and one of the most entertaining football docs you will ever see.
|Released: 2006||Available: iTunes||????RT = 81%|
21. Blades of Glory
This is the first of two Will Ferrell sports movies to appear on this list – although neither Kicking and Screaming or Semi-Pro made the grade. Blades of Glory is a lot of fun from start to finish, as Chaz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) team up to form an unlikely ice-dancing pair. The chase scene on the streets where everybody is wearing ice-skates is a particular highlight for me.
|Released: 2007||Available: Netflix||????RT = 70%|
20. I, Tonya
Margot Robbie won an Oscar for her fantastic portrayal of disgraced ice-skater Tonya Harding in this comedic biopic. Harding is the rough-and-ready outsider who never quite fit in to the gentile world of figure-skating, and this is her story, told with a knowing wink to the viewer.
|Released: 2017||Available: Prime||????RT = 90%|
19. The Way Back
You may have missed this low-key release when it came out in 2020, but it is definitely one to look out for. Ben Affleck stars as the former high-school basketball star who mysteriously quit the game and now struggles with alcoholism. Affleck’s authentic performance lifts this film above others of its type and will have you rooting for his character to come good.
|Released: 2020||Available: Netflix||????RT = 84%|
Here we follow the US men’s quad rugby team in the lead up to the 2004 Paralympics. It turns out that quad rugby is a brutally fierce game, and these young men in their wheelchairs don’t hold back. We learn about the sport, the players involved and how some of them ended up in those chairs.
|Released: 2005||Available: Prime/Amazon||????RT = 98%|
17. The Hustler
Silver-screen icon Paul Newman gives a career-best performance as pool hustler Eddie Felson in this classic from 1961. This is a movie with style as well as substance, and one that still packs a powerful punch to this day. It was followed by a belated sequel in 1986 (The Color of Money) which is mentioned above and is also a very fine picture.
|Released: 1961||Available: YouTube||????RT = 98%|
16. Free Solo
Vertigo-sufferers may want to grip those armrests tight before settling down to watch this documentary film. Climber Alex Honnold attempts to scale the daunting El Capitan rock face, and to do it without ropes. It’s a gripping watch, and makes for a great companion-piece with the similarly exciting Dawn Wall on Netflix.
|Released: 2018||Available: Disney+||????RT = 97%|
15. The Fighter
Mark Wahlberg is struggling boxer Micky Ward, and Christian Bale won an Oscar for his portrayal of his talented but crack-addicted brother Dickie Eklund. Eklund is Micky’s trainer, and the movie follows the ups and downs of their relationship as Ward tries to make the most of his ability in the ring.
|Released: 2010||Available: Prime||????RT = 90%|
14. Bull Durham
Of the five(!) Kevin Costner movies appearing on this list, Rotten Tomatoes agrees with me that Bull Durham is the best. Here he plays Crash Davies, a veteran minor league baseball player, given the task of training erratic rookie Ebby LaLoosh (Tim Robbins). The romantic sub-plot may be a little forced, but this film has enough laughs, heart and sporting action to carry the day.
|Released: 1988||Available: Google Play/YouTube||????RT = 97%|
13. The Wrestler
Mickey Rourke gives a career-best performance as the aging wrestler who has been bruised and battered by life in and outside of the ring. Whether or not you are a pro-wrestling fan, this is one of the greatest sports dramas ever committed to celluloid, although it is a tough watch at times.
|Released: 2008||Available: SkyGo/NowTV||????RT = 98%|
Acclaimed director Ron Howard turned his attention to Formula 1 for this high-octane dramatization of the rivalry between Nikki Lauda and James Hunt. Hunt is the champagne-swilling bon vivant, while Lauda is the dour and methodical Austrian, but both are possessed of supreme talent. The action never lets up for the 2-hour duration of this pulsating drama.
|Released: 2013||Available: Prime||????RT = 88%|
11. Ford v Ferrari
Known as ‘Le Mans ’66’ in Europe, this movie takes us back to 1966 when the upstart Ford racing team attempted to take on the mighty Ferrari. The race was the famous Le Mans 24-Hour, and Christian Bale and Matt Damon head up a starry cast here.
|Released: 2019||Available: SkyGo/NowTV||????RT = 92%|
10. Cool Runnings
I defy anyone to dislike this hugely entertaining recounting of the Jamaican bobsleigh team’s Olympic debut. John Candy is perfectly cast as the coach, while the team’s often bumpy ride is told here with good humour and no little emotion.
|Released: 1993||Available: Disney+||????RT = 76%|
9. Dogtown and Z-Boys
A small band of surfers from California revolutionise skateboarding with their anarchic approach to the sport. Here we are introduced to the main protagonists, whose lives have followed dramatically different courses but whose love for skating remains as strong as ever. There are twists and turns, and for anyone who’s ever told you that ‘documentaries are boring’, point them to this one.
|Released: 2001||Available: iTunes||????RT = 92%|
8. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are at their hilarious best as none-too-bright NASCAR drivers in this 2006 comedy. The jokes keep coming from start to finish, with a lot more hits than misses, as we follow the travails of Ricky Bobby when a snooty French Formula 1 driver threatens to take his spot on the winner’s podium.
|Released: 2006||Available: SkyGo/Chili||????RT = 71%|
Another movie to arrive via a true story which became the subject of a book, Moneyball is the story of how a lateral-thinking coach turned around the fortunes of a baseball club. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill star, the latter earning an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of economics graduate Peter Brand.
|Released: 2011||Available: Netflix||????RT = 94%|
6. Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwood stars in and directs this inspirational movie about a female boxer from a tough background. Eastwood is trainer Frankie, and Hilary Swank plays Maggie, the young woman with big dreams and courage to match. The boxing scenes may not always ring true, and though that would normally annoy me more, the sheer quality of the story-telling and acting here makes it an easy choice for the top ten.
|Released: 2004||Available: YouTube||????RT = 90%|
A Brazilian sporting legend gets the Asif Kapadia treatment here, as he follows the career of F1 champion Ayrton Senna. Archive footage and talking heads give a fully-rounded profile of the superstar driver whose life was cut tragically short. As a general rule: if Asif Kapadia is the director, you should watch it, and this is probably his best to date.
|Released: 2010||Available: YouTube||????RT = 93%|
4. Friday Night Lights
Many readers will be more familiar with the long-running TV show than the movie, but this is where Buzz Bissinger’s book first transitioned to the screen. Starring Billy Bob Thornton as the inspirational coach of the Permian Panthers high-school football team, this is one of the best big-screen examples of the genre.
|Released: 2004||Available: iTunes||????RT = 82%|
3. Raging Bull
Iconic film-makers Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro team up to produce one of the greatest sports movies ever made. De Niro plays the complex and often brutal Jake La Motta as the middle-weight battles his demons outside of the ring and aims to become a champion inside the ropes. Hard to say anything that hasn’t already been said about this one.
|Released: 1980||Available: YouTube||????RT = 93%|
2. Hoop Dreams
My vote for the best sporting documentary ever made goes to Hoop Dreams, the story of two African-American teens hoping to make it to the NBA. Shot over the course of five years, this follows the struggles they face both on and off the court as they try to achieve their dreams. Countless other documentaries owe a debt to this one.
|Released: 1994||Available: iTunes/Curzon||????RT = 98%|
There could only be one choice for top position on my list, and that’s the underdog story of a down-at-heel boxer from Philadelphia who achieves the impossible. This movie has spawned a host of sequels – of varying quality – but you cannot beat the original. This is a classic movie which has become embedded in popular culture, won the Oscar for Best Picture and fully deserves its spot at the head of our list. If by some miracle you are reading this and haven’t watched this one yet, then congratulations, because you have a treat in store.
|Released: 1976||Available: Prime/YouTube||????RT = 94%|
Best of the Rest
There are plenty of sports-based movies which don’t make my list, and feel free to let us know if there were any glaring omissions by commenting below. I will mention a couple of big ones that didn’t get in: I found A Sporting Life almost unwatchable, very dated and with an overpowering score. RT gives it a score of 95%, but I don’t think 95% of a modern audience would enjoy this film. Much-loved Space Jam isn’t there either – I guess you could stick the kids in front of it but there are other, far better, animated movies out there if you ask me.
- Million Dollar Arm (2014): Disney baseball drama.
- All This Mayhem (2014): Raucous skateboard documentary.
By the way, sports documentary series’ are not included in this list, but you can find a selection of the best sports documentary series’ for streaming here.
Hopefully this list of the 100 greatest sports films has provided some suggestions that you hadn’t heard of and will enjoy. As always, feel free to add your comments or suggestions below.
*For more options on where to watch any of these movies, I recommend that you check out the JustWatch website for full details.
A great read. I think there’s quite a few that I’ve missed so I’m looking forward to catching up.