What Is Your Favorite Sports Movie?

Remember The Titans

David Chen: Remember The Titans

Sports movies are catnip to me, and Remember the Titans is a quintessential one. It has pretty much all the main ingredients you could possibly want in an underdog sports film. Incredibly charismatic coach figure played by an awesome actor (Denzel)? Check. Highly dysfunctional team that must overcome differences to work together? Check. The team’s struggle somehow represents some broader societal issue (racism)? Check. A beautiful, soaring score (by Trevor Rabin)? Check. An excellent ensemble cast who have easily visually identifiable characteristics? Check.

To this day, the music from the film still inspires me, and I can’t think of “left side, strong side” without getting something in my eye.

Rocky Stairs Scene

Jacob Hall: Rocky

I don’t watch sports to see which team can score more points and I don’t watch sports because I’m interested in a particular league or team (unless they’re the San Antonio Spurs). I watch sports because they are drama incarnate – this is what happens when the forces of humanity and nature collide. The results rarely have the structure of a screenplay. They contain twists writers would deem implausible. Miracles can happen. Dreams can be shattered. It’s all so thrilling because it’s a little messy.

Rocky isn’t a great movie because it paints an exceptionally accurate portrait of what it’s like to be a boxer. I wouldn’t know. It’s a great movie because it paints an exacting portrait of what it’s like to be a sweet, dim-witted loser living in Philadelphia and looking on the bright side of a lousy economy because you have a new girl in your life and the chance to simply share the stage with the best of the best. This is what the sequels and the imitators lost: Rocky isn’t a sports movie first and foremost, but a sweet and warm character study about a guy whose passion just-so-happens to involve the capacity to take a couple of dozen jabs to the skull and not hit the mat.

And that’s why there’s so little actual boxing in Rocky, the greatest of all boxing movies. Two men trading blows in the ring is interesting if you like statistics or have money riding on the outcome. But two men with hopes and dreams and backgrounds and complex motivations trading blows in the ring because the results can change their destiny forever? That’s drama. That’s why I watch sports. Rocky gets that. And that’s why Rocky Balboa manages to lose that big fight with Apollo Creed and have a happy ending. And that’s why Rocky is the best of the best.

Shaolin Soccer

Devindra Hardawar: Shaolin Soccer

I’ve enjoyed lots of sports films, but there have been few I’ve loved as much as Stephen Chow‘s Shaolin Soccer. It’s not just a sports movie — it’s a slapstick comedy, it’s a special effects extravaganza, and it has some great action cinematography. It covers the typical underdog arc you expect, but most importantly, it does it in a way that’s truly unique. Shaolin Soccer is one of those rare films that has something for everyone. It’s the perfect gateway for Stephen Chow’s mad genius.

White Men Can't Jump Remake

Christopher Stipp: White Men Can’t Jump

Writer/director Ron Shelton has made some great sports films. Starting with 1988’s Bull Durham, he showed the great prowess of understanding how to balance showing the actual sport being depicted, connecting emotionally with why people compete like they do, while weaving in fascinating characters at the center of it all. He would later give your parents a solid outing with 1996’s Tin Cup but, for me, his zenith would come in 1992.

I would classify White Men Can’t Jump as one of the best sports films in my own personal canon. The chemistry alone between Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes is unmistakable as they share great comedic moments and moments of intensity. The story (excusing the whole gangster sub-plot) was far more interesting than other sports films that focus on “the big game” or the “main event” as the entire movie feels like an exploration on drive and the heartbreaking things self-destructive people can do to those around them. The film showed that Woody Harrelson was more than the goofy bartender from Cheers and that Wesley Snipes possessed an unmistakable charm that he can turn off and on at will. I never tire watching these guys play off one another.

the wrestler

Peter Sciretta: The Wrestler

For the most part, I hate sports. Attending games in person can be a fun time, but watching them play out on live television is torture for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love sports movies and TV series. Among my favorites are Hoop Dreams, Any Given Sunday and the television series Friday Night Lights. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Darren Aronofsky‘s 2008 film The Wrestler. In the late 1990’s I was a huge wrestling fan and I even ran one of the first pro wrestling news websites called WrestleNet. The attitude era was a great time to be following sports entertainment, everything somehow felt more real and interesting.

It has been a long time since I’ve watched wrestling on a regular basis but I still find the behind the scenes of that world to be insanely fascinating. I don’t think there has been a film that captures the world of wrestling more perfectly than The Wrestler, which is a more intimate look at what happens to an aging wrestler who is no longer in the spotlight. I’d also recommend the documentaries Beyond The Mat and Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows, the former features a segment on Jake The Snake Roberts which feels like inspiration for Aronofsky’s film, and the latter shows the behind the scenes of one of the biggest shoots in pro wrestling history.

favorite sports movies

What Is Your Favorite Sports Movie?

What do you think of our picks? What is your favorite sports movie? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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