Best Sports Movies

WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley ranks the best sports movies of all time in the gallery below.

Not seeing your favorite movie? It’s probably in a different genre! Check out the full list here.

30. ‘The Karate Kid’ (1984) – John G. Avildsen

“Wax on, wax off.” Mr. Miyagi trained bullied teenager Ralph Macchio into a karate champion in this gem by the director of “Rocky.”

29. ‘Cinderella Man’ (2005) – Ron Howard

Paul Giamatti shines as the trainer of Russell Crowe’s Jim Braddock, who scores an upset over Max Baer to become boxing’s heavyweight champ.

28. ‘Miracle’ (2004) – Gavin O’Connor

“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” Kurt Russell was inspiring as Herb Brooks coaching the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory over the seemingly invincible Soviet Union.

27. ‘I, Tonya’ (2017) – Craig Gillespie

Margot Robbie shined as infamous figure skater Tonya Harding, while Allison Janney won an Oscar as her controlling, chain-smoking, backstabbing mother.

26. ‘Ford v. Ferrari’ (2019) – James Mangold

Christian Bale and Matt Damon starred in this high-octane racing flick about Ford’s quest to defeat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966.

25. ‘Chariots of Fire’ (1981) – Hugh Hudson

This slow-mo spiritual sprinting flick should have never beaten “Raiders of the Lost Ark” for Best Picture, but its Vangelis score remains the definition of iconic.

24. ‘Breaking Away’ (1979) – Peter Yates

An Oscar-winning script fuels this tale of an eccentric teen obsessed with the Italian cycling team who forms his own team “The Cutters.”

23. ‘The Blind Side’ (2009) – John Lee Hancock

Sandra Bullock won the Best Actress Oscar as the tough-love adoptive mother of shy offensive lineman Michael Oher.

22. ‘Friday Night Lights’ (2004) – Peter Berg

Billy Bob Thornton’s state title locker-room speech gave us so many goosebumps that the film inspired its own hit TV show.

21. ‘North Dallas Forty’ (1979) – Ted Kotcheff

Loosely based on the 1970s Dallas Cowboys, Nick Nolte’s football flick is the gritty equivalent of hockey’s “Slap Shot” and baseball’s “Bull Durham.”

20. ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ (1992) – Ron Shelton

In a decade of Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird, Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson turned pick-up basketball into a comedic tale of racial healing.

19. ‘Million Dollar Baby’ (2004) – Clint Eastwood

Hillary Swank won her second Oscar as a hungry boxer trained by Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman in this grim Best Picture winner.

18. ‘The Pride of the Yankees’ (1942) – Sam Wood

Gary Cooper gave a face to ALS, looking exactly like Lou Gehrig to say, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

17. ‘The Bad News Bears’ (1976) – Michael Ritchie

Grumpy old man Walter Matthau coaches a rag-tag little league team with ace pitcher Tatum O’Neal in the original kids sports flick.

16. ‘The Mighty Ducks’ (1992) – Stephen Herek

Emilio Estevez’s Gordon Bombay coached his pee-wee hockey team using the “The Flying V” and “The Triple Deke,” inspiring the name of an actual pro hockey team.

15. ‘The Sandlot’ (1993) – David Mickey Evans

“You’re killing me, Smalls!” The best children’s sports flick is this nostalgic tale of Bennie The Jet, Squints and the gang retrieving a baseball signed by Babe Ruth from the jaws of The Beast.

14. ‘The Natural’ (1984) – Barry Levinson

Robert Redford’s Roy Hobbs carves his mythical wooden bat Wonderboy from a lightning-struck tree, sending sparks flying in a home-run climax set to Thomas Newman’s unforgettable score.

13. ‘Slap Shot’ (1977) – George Roy Hill

Paul Newman carries this outrageous tale of a struggling hockey team that recruits the Hanson bash brothers as their enforcer goons.

12. ‘Major League’ (1989) – David S. Ward

“Just a bit outside!” Bob Uecker broadcasts this R-rated baseball comedy with Wesley Snipes’ Willie Mays Hayes, Charlie Sheen’s Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn and Tom Berenger’s Jake Taylor romancing Rene Russo.

11. ‘Moneyball’ (2011) – Bennett Miller

Aaron Sorkin & Steve Zaillian adapt this number-crunching gem starring Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who builds a winner using Jonah Hill’s revolutionary analytics.

10. ‘The Wrestler’ (2008) – Darren Aronofsky

Mickey Rourke should have won the Oscar for his vulnerable portrayal of a broken down professional wrestler, while Darren Aronofsky directs to perfection, cutting from a chanting crowd at a wrestling ring curtain to the entrance of a meat-slicing deli.

9. ‘The Hustler’ (1961) – Robert Rossen

Paul Newman’s pool shark “Fast” Eddie Felson battles Jackie Gleeson’s Minnesota Fats with added drama by Piper Laurie and George C. Scott in a film so iconic that Newman reprised the role to win an Oscar in the sequel “The Color of Money.”

8. ‘Rudy’ (1993) – David Anspaugh

“Rudy! Rudy!” Sean Astin was utterly inspirational as a “5-foot-nothing” underdog fulfilling his dream of playing football for Notre Dame.

7. ‘A League of Their Own’ (1992) – Penny Marshall

“There’s no crying in baseball!” Penny Marshall became the first female director to gross $100 million twice with this charming tale of a women’s baseball league during World War II, starring Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Hanks.

6. ‘Bull Durham’ (1988) – Ron Shelton

This Oscar-nominated sex comedy about the church of minor-league baseball saw memorable turns by Kevin Costner as veteran catcher Crash Davis, Tim Robbins as hot pitching prospect Nuke LaLoosh and Susan Sarandon as the stat-spitting fan wooing them both.

5. ‘Hoosiers’ (1986) – David Anspaugh

Gene Hackman coached a rural Indiana high school basketball team to the state championship with the help of Dennis Hopper’s small-town drunk and Barbara Hershey’s open-minded schoolteacher.

4. ‘Remember the Titans’ (2000) – Boaz Yakin

Denzel Washington paved the way for his subsequent Oscar win by playing the unforgettable football coach Herman Boone, who coached T.C. Williams High School to the state championship and healed America’s racial wounds in the process.

3. ‘Field of Dreams’ (1989) – Phil Alden Robinson

“If you build it, he will come.” More than just a nostalgic ode to America’s national pastime, it’s a ghostly father-son tale that makes us cry every time.

2. ‘Raging Bull’ (1980) – Martin Scorsese

Robert DeNiro delivered his career performance as boxer Jake LaMotta, from chiseled champ to fat failure, while Martin Scorsese directs the most artful in-ring action ever put on film.

1. ‘Rocky’ (1976) – John G. Avildsen

Stallone’s underdog boxing flick won both the box office and the Oscar for Best Picture with its pioneering training montages, “Gonna Fly Now” music, quotable dialogue and Rocky & Adrian romance, making this the sports movie by which all others are judged.

Check out the other genres below!

Action | Adventure | Animation | Biopic | Comedy | Coming of Age | Courtroom | Crime | Documentary | Drama | Epic | Family Comedy | Family Drama | Fantasy | Film Noir | Gangster | Horror | Musical | Mystery | Politics & Media | Prison | Romance | Romantic Comedy | Science Fiction | Showbiz | Silent | Sports | Thriller | War | Western

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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