Top 15 Sports Movies of All Time

There was a fairly spirited discussion a few weeks ago about a Top-Ten-Sports-Movies-of-All-Time list making its way around the internet. A lot of folks had an opinion of what should, and should not have been, on that list. I was one of many left scratching his head, so I thought I’d come up with a list of my own…..but first, a small bit of discussion.
Even the biggest of movie snobs has to admit there have been some great sports flicks made over the years. Sports is every bit of our culture as anything else…..and there are some outstanding sports movies.
This was extremely difficult to pare down into a Top 10 list, so I expanded to a Top 15. I also created an Honorable Mention category. The “No-Way-In-Hell” category is made up of movies that have appeared on many of other “Top” lists, but I flat-out disagree with the ranking.
Here goes:

No Way in Hell
White Man Can’t Jump: For sure I’m going to catch a lot of static for criticizing this flick. It’s a shame because I think this movie deserves to be on somebody’s list. However, the actual basketball scenes are not believable to me. It’s obvious that in many of the dunk scenes the rim is lower than 10 feet high, and the footage is choppy. A lot of credibility is lost here. Could have been great. I actually enjoy the story lines, trash talking, etc – but the actual basketball scenes are bad.

Rounders: It’s actually an entertaining movie. However, playing cards is not a sport. It’s a game. Sitting on your ass playing Texas Hold’em is somethin’, to be sure…..but it’s not a sport. Otherwise, it’s a fine movie….just not a sports movie.

The Karate Kid: It’s a’ight. But that’s all it is…just a’ight. No way it deserves to be on anybody’s Top 10 list. Classic 80’s movie? No doubt. All time sports movie? No way — Now go sand the damn floor.

Space Jam: ‘Cuz…..just ‘cuz.

The “I don’t know where they rank” category
I did not see any of the following three movies on a single list…..they were even omitted from top 100 lists. However, before I even started scouring the web to come up with my own list, these three were in the back of mind. I’m not saying they deserve to be on a Top 10, or Top 20 list. But a Top 100 list? Absolutely. They deserve some mention:
Fast Break: A post Welcome Back Kotter Gabe Kaplan accepts a coaching job at a no-name college and recruits a bunch of kids from the hood to join him. It’s quickly transformed into a winning program. Bernard King is one of the players. Big Hair. The 70’s. And even a very young Laurence Fishburne sighting. Pretty good basketball movie.
Body and Soul: One of many good boxing flicks made over the years. Worth a watch.
Inside Moves: I never hear anybody talk about this one, but I thought it was very well acted and well done. “Jerry!!!” “Roary!!!”

Honorable Mention
So many should be on this list. Raging Bull. Any Given Sunday. Miracle. Heck, I have to say I believe King Pin is underrated as both a comedy and a sports movie. But, I have to narrow it down to a list. Here are my honorable mentions:
A League of Their Own: I think this is one of Tom Hanks’ best performances (“There’s no crying in baseball”) and what can we say about the women? Great story, and how awesome was Geena Davis?
Major League: Another selection in which people are going to raise a stink. Absolutely a classic. No doubt. But the truth is there are a ton of baseball movies, and I did not want to crowd my Top 15 with too many.
The Rocket: A great hockey movie. Before Wayne Gretzky and before Gordy Howe there was The Rocket….basically the Babe Ruth of hockey.
Remember the Titans: Great story. Had to be told.
Million Dollar Baby: How many people think Clint Eastwood is making better movies from behind the camera than he ever did from in front? Hillary Swank prepared well for this role. I also loved Trouble with the Curve.
The Legend of Ricky Bobby: I could care less for NASCAR but this movie kept me laughing from start to finish.
Invincible: Marky Mark has carved out a pretty impressive acting career for himself. This is a great story and he plays the part well.
42: Another great baseball flick. I admit to the fact that because it’s fairly new is the only reason it’s not on my Top 15 list. Many barriers have been broken in other sports, but baseball is America’s game and this one is probably the most significant. It’s also a milestone in American history. When is a big budget/epic movie going to be made about Satchel Paige/Kansas City Monarch’s?
Sugar: Am I being presumptuous to assume that most sports fans would not watch a sports film that requires viewers to read subtitles? For all the great Latin players making it in MLB, there are many who don’t. Sugar tells the story of some of those who never made the cut. Also, notice my first use of the word “film” here. Because this movie is foreign, I get to call it a “film” rather than a movie…it’s a rule.
Back to the subject at hand….there are hundreds and hundreds of sports movies in existence. These happen to be my top 15. Let the arguing begin.
15) Caddy Shack: How can this not be on anybody’s list. Love the movie. So many classic one liners to boot.

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14) Slap Shot: I admit I ranked the comedies towards the bottom, but this one could easily be jumped to top five all-time. Paul Newman? 1970’s political incorrectness? And, of course, the Hansen brothers. One of the best ever.

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13) Ali: Will Smith did a phenomenal job preparing for this role. Some say he simply imitated Ali. Well, imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right? And Ali was the greatest! Boxing could use a few men like Muhammad Ali right about now. Loved this movie.

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12) Pumping Iron: Not the biggest Arnold fan (Exception: first Terminator), but this movie has a lot more depth to it than most folks probably give it credit. Arnold shows a ton of passion for his sport here not only in his determination to be the best, but in the scenes where he is tutoring the aspiring body builders to be confident, and inspiring them to be better. Also, just my opinion, but these men had great bodies compared to today’s body builders. They just looked better. They had symmetry and shape.

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11) Mystery Alaska: Great hockey scenes made even better because they occurred outdoors, on a pond, where so much hockey was played. Not too sure many of today’s kids play outside, but we sure did back in the day. This movie earned extra points because of the Mike Myers’ scenes.

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10) Vision Quest: I can’t believe how many lists from which this movie is omitted. First of all, how many mix tapes made in mid-80’s didn’t contain at least one song from this sound track? And even now, when I watch this flick, I can bounce out my front door and run at least two miles. Getting energized just thinking about this movie!

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9) Victory: I like to say I’m not a Stallone fan but, in retrospect, he has actually done some decent work. I really enjoyed this film. Yes, there are so many Europeans in this movie that it qualifies as a film. Some of the soccer scenes are amazing, and Pele’s passion for the game is inspirational here. Great story. Great film.

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8) Rocky: Yep. Two Stallone movies on the same list. I have to give the man credit. There is no way anybody can compile a sports movie list without Rocky. The franchise got a little out of control with the last movie (the whole Tommy Morrison thing – have they made another??), but the others are entertaining. Apollo Creed, Mr. T and Ivan Drago memorable characters, all…..but none of the installments can top the first.

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7) The Natural: As I mentioned before, so many baseball movies to choose from. This happens to be one of my favorites. I read an article a few years ago that basically said Robert Redford was America’ last great movie star. Well, he was great in this movie.

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6) Eight Men Out: Now you see the reason the other baseball movies didn’t make the cut. This is my all-time favorite baseball flick. Well told and well-acted story….better because it really happened, leaving a mark on the game. A must see for any sports fan.

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5) The Damned United: Another “film” makes my list. A soccer film, at that, focusing on the power house Leeds United teams of the mid-70’s. Fans of the Detroit Pistons Bad Boys era will love this film.

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4) Rudy: Of course this movie makes the list. Do we need any further explanation?
3) Hoosiers: Could easily be #1 as on most lists, but it’s my list. Great basketball movie & great sports movie! Number three ain’t too shabby.

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2) Girl Fight: Love this film! It was an Indie, so I get to label it a “film.” A young Michele Rodriquez was awesome here, and I loved her coach. Truly entertaining. Actually, I haven’t seen this in a few years…..next rainy day, for sure.

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1) Breaking Away: I love everything about this film (Lots of Italian spoken). The casting was absolutely spot on from the lead, all the way to the supporting roles. This film has everything: coming of age, romance, the nemesis, drama, victory…you name it. It’s as American as apple pie 😉 Anybody who knew me in the 80’s knows how much I rode my bike around….tons and tons of miles. This film was part of the reason. I’m actually surprised how many people I’ve met who haven’t seen nor even heard of this film. Watch it ASAP! My favorite sports film of all time.

 

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