It’s finally here. 25 years after the release of “Space Jam,” its sequel -- “Space Jam: A New Legacy” -- has arrived.
NBA stars like LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson teamed up with some of Hollywood’s biggest names like Jim Carrey, Michael B. Jordan and Zendaya to bring the Looney Tunes characters back to the big screen. The new hit movie will premiere on HBO Max and in theaters on July 16.
It got us thinking: What are the best sports movies of all time? Is there even a best sports movie of all time? What even constitutes a good sports movie? Do they have to be inspirational? Does the team have to win in the end?
Here is a roundup of 25 of our top sports movies (in no particular order, so please don’t send me hate mail).
Space Jam (1996)
With the sequel making its long-awaited debut, you know I had to include “Space Jam” on the list. The original live-action/animated sports movie follows the Looney Tunes characters as they enlist the help of NBA legend Michael Jordan to win a basketball game against a mean group of aliens. It’s a fun idea, and MJ can actually act, so I have no complaints.
Will “Space Jam: A New Legacy” prove the “sequel is never good as the original” principle to be true? I guess we’ll have to see.
“Space Jam” is available to stream.
With the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics finally here and the 2022 Beijing Games around the corner, I highly suggest making time to watch “Miracle” to get fired up before the Opening Ceremony.
The story of the United States men’s ice hockey team that took home the gold medal from the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics is an inspirational one, and this movie gives me goosebumps without fail every watch.
“Miracle” is available to stream.
The Sandlot (1993)
“The Sandlot” is an enjoyable, nostalgic film that can be appreciated at almost any age. Though the movie is less about the sport of baseball, and focuses more on a group of kids just trying to navigate their way through life and retrieve an autographed Babe Ruth baseball, I love it all the same.
Unlike other youth sports movies, there is no “big game” to root for. But, though subtle and lighthearted, “The Sandlot” touches on a lot of life lessons, encourages facing your fears and captures the pure joy of growing up and playing sports in a small-town neighborhood. And for that, it makes my list of favorites.
“The Sandlot” is available to stream.
The “Rocky” franchise is a classic in the category of sports movies. It’s so easy to fall in love with the rags-to-riches story that is told in “Rocky” and beyond.
If you live under a rock and are unaware, the series follows Rocky Balboa, a boxer with a big heart, portrayed by Sylvester Stallone. The movie is more about boxing, though -- it’s a love story, and an underdog tale, and there’s no lack of intensity and drama. Through it all, it’s hard not to root for Balboa as he works to prove himself both in and out of the ring. I highly recommend having tissues around.
“Rocky” is available to stream.
Remember the Titans (2000)
“Remember the Titans” tells an important story of a newly integrated high school football team in the 1970s. Based on a true story, it navigates the tension between Black and white players as they learn to play on the same field for the first time under their newly-appointed Black head coach.
This movie touches the surface of racial issues, and gives the audience a lot to root for as the team comes together to push for a state championship.
“Remember the Titans” is available to stream.
“Rudy” is a beautiful, classic underdog story. Based on a true story, the title character is determined to live out his dream of joining the University of Notre Dame football team, despite being told he was too small to play.
It’s motivating, it’s hopeful, it’s heartbreaking, it’s humorous -- “Rudy” really has it all. By the end of the movie, you realize the “never give up on your dreams” message goes beyond just sports.
“Rudy” is available to stream.
We Are Marshall (2006)
Every sports movie that has ever made me cry is on this list, but “We Are Marshall” probably takes the cake for the most tears.
It depicts the true story of the aftermath of a plane crash that claimed the lives of 37 Marshall University’s football players, five coaches, two athletic trainers, the athletic director, 25 boosters and the crew of five. The movie follows the team's new coach and Marshall’s surviving players as they try to keep the football program going.
Both tragic and touching, “We Are Marshall” is an emotional comeback story that transcends sports.
“We Are Marshall” is available to stream.
Apparently a lot of favorites are based on true stories, and “Moneyball” is no different. "Moneyball" tells a common bad-team-becomes-good story of the Oakland A's 2002 season, and general manager Billy Beane's quest to put together a team that will be competitive.
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are a top-notch duo in this movie that shows baseball through a fascinating lens. It takes viewers behind the scenes and shows how Beane interacts with owners, fans, players and his family -- you don’t have to be a mega baseball fan to find it interesting.
“Moneyball” is available to stream.
Fever Pitch (2005)
Romantic comedy, plus sports, plus Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore? Sign me up.
This one might be a cheat, as it is more of a story about love than a story about baseball. Sue me. “Fever Pitch” tells the story of a woman who finds herself stuck in the middle of her boyfriend’s (obsessive) relationship with … the Boston Red Sox. It’s a charming film with funny moments, and even though I’m a New York Yankees fan, it’s one of my favorites.
“Fever Pitch” is available to stream.
Friday Night Lights (2004)
I am aware of the amount of movies about high school football on this list, and I’m OK with it. Something about a small town that lives, eats and breathes football clearly tugs on my heartstrings, and “Friday Night Lights” is no exception.
In this movie based on real life, the small town of Odessa, Texas has high expectations for their football program, and the obsession just creates pressure for both coaches and players to perform well. It’s dramatic, and shows that football becomes much more than a game in places like Odessa, where an entire town’s happiness can hinge on the success of a sports team. You’ll be feeling the same way, trust me.
“Friday Night Lights” is available to stream.
The Blind Side (2009)
“The Blind Side” is the perfect mix of soulful characters, light drama, conflict and heartwarming inspiration. Based on the real life of Michael Lewis, it recounts the story of a boy who overcame an impoverished upbringing to become a star football player and first-round NFL draft pick after being offered guidance and support from a caring woman and her family.
You’ll laugh and you’ll cry, and then you’ll realize why “The Blind Side” is one of those movies you can watch over and over without getting tired of it.
“The Blind Side'' is available to stream.
Field of Dreams (1989)
“If you build it, he will come” might be one of the most iconic movie quotes of all time. And it came from an iconic movie: “Field of Dreams.” This fictional baseball movie tells the story of an Iowa farmer, played by Kevin Costner, who hears a mysterious voice urging him to build a baseball field for “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and other members of the 1919 White Sox.
MLB was even inspired enough by this movie to build a stadium in rural Iowa and host a themed game this summer between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. Like I said, iconic.
“Field of Dreams'' is available to stream on Peacock.
A League of Their Own (1992)
Categorized as a sports comedy-drama, “A League of Their Own” certainly lives up to the title. During World War II, with many young American men enlisted, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was formed. “A League of Their Own” gives a fictionalized account of that real-life league, as it follows two competitive sisters and their teammates as they blaze the trail for generations to come of women in sports.
With stars like Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell and Lori Petty, the cast hits it out of the park (ha!). And even though "there's no crying in baseball," I absolutely needed a tissue or two -- some even from laughing so hard.
“A League of Their Own'' is available to stream.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
“Million Dollar Baby” follows the story of an amateur boxer who is pushing towards her dream of becoming a professional. At first, her trainer refuses to work with her because he thinks she is “too old” and doesn’t typically train women. After reluctantly agreeing to train her, the underdog boxer and veteran coach form an unexpectedly close bond as they work towards her professional career.
Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman come together to make “Million Dollar Baby'' one of the most emotional, inspiring and touching movies on this list.
“Million Dollar Baby'' is available to stream.
“Caddyshack” is definitely the funniest movie on this list, if not the funniest sports movie of all time. It tells the story of a caddy at an exclusive country club, the wealthy members who play there, and a groundskeeper who has declared war on a destructive gopher.
Bill Murray is hilarious as always, and Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight and Michael O'Keefe round out the star cast. Its crude humor has stood the test of time, making “Caddyshack” a must-see.
“Caddyshack” is available to stream.
I, Tonya (2017)
Based on the story of figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on her rival and Olympic teammate, Nancy Kerrigan, “I, Tonya” is a riveting biographical sports movie worth watching. The film, full of dark comedy, takes you through a range of emotions -- you’ll be entertained, you’ll get angry, you’ll laugh and you’ll be confused.
Maybe I’m just a huge Margot Robbie fan, but the cast of “I, Tonya” makes the movie all the more riveting. Robbie stars as Harding, depicting the disgraced athlete’s rise to and fall from fame wonderfully. Allison Janney, who plays Harding's mother LaVona Golden, won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
“I, Tonya” is available to stream.
Air Bud (1997)
Whoever thought that the general public would be entertained by the idea that a dog could play basketball, or any sport in general, is a genius. Right up there with sliced bread.
“Air Bud” tells the story of a high school kid just trying to figure out his new school and basketball team, when a stray dog -- who is incredibly athletic -- shows up to brighten his life. I don’t care that it’s silly, it’s an adorable story and I enjoy watching it now in adulthood as much as I did as a kid. It was obviously a popular premise, because they went on to make about a dozen more sequels and spin-offs.
“Air Bud” is available to rent.
The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)
“The Greatest Game Ever Played” is based on the early life of golf champion Francis Ouimet, the first amateur to win the U.S. Open. The movie is a David vs. Goliath story, times ten. Shia LaBeouf plays Ouimet, and the film does a terrific job of portraying drive and skill while teaching the audience an important lesson about staying true to yourself and your upbringing.
You don’t even have to like golf (it’s certainly not my favorite) to appreciate the gripping story that “The Greatest Game Ever Played” tells.
The Greatest Game Ever Played is available to stream.
Chadwick Boseman stars as baseball player Jackie Robinson in “42,” a biographical sports movie that tells the story of the first Black athlete to play in Major League Baseball during the modern era.
Inspirational and eye-opening, “42” follows Robinson as he signs with the Brooklyn Dodgers under manager Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford. Both Boseman and Ford are fantastic in the moving film that highlights the ups and downs Robinson faced as he broke through MLB’s racial barrier.
“42” is available to stream.
The Mighty Ducks (1992)
“The Mighty Ducks” is a feel-good sports movie that I loved as a kid, and therefore, will always love. The flick follows a self-centered lawyer who is sentenced to community service coaching the worst youth hockey team in the league.
The plot is pretty predictable as the team that constantly loses tries to turn things around, and sometimes I like it that way. If you’re looking for something light, fun and family-friendly, “The Mighty Ducks” is for you.
“The Mighty Ducks” is available to stream.
Any Given Sunday (1999)
“Any Given Sunday” is a dramatic and entertaining movie about a fictional professional American football team. The Miami Sharks were once the best in the league, and are now struggling with consecutive losses, sliding fan attendance and aging star players.
And can we talk about the ensemble cast? A movie that stars Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, Matthew Modine, Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, Aaron Eckhart, John C. McGinley and NFL players Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor has to be worth the watch.
“Any Given Sunday” is available to stream.
Blue Crush (2002)
After watching “Blue Crush” for the first time, I literally tried to convince my parents to move our life from New Jersey all the way to Hawaii so I could become a professional surfer. Had I ever surfed in my life before? No … but Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez totally convinced me that I could pick it up.
“Blue Crush” has it all: love, fights, grit, determination -- everything that makes a sports movie a good one.
Long story short, we did not move and I did not become a pro surfer. I did, however, wear Billabong surf shirts exclusively for years to come.
“Blue Crush'' is available to stream.
Cinderella Man (2005)
Following the story of a supposedly washed-up boxer who attempts to compete for the heavyweight championship of the world, “Cinderella Man” is, for lack of a better word, a knockout.
Inspired by James J. Braddock’s life story, “Cinderella Man” is full of grit, drama, love and action. The acting performances from Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger and Paul Giamatti just make it all the more entertaining.
“Cinderella Man” is available to stream.
Little Giants (1994)
A classic underdog story, “Little Giants” follows two brothers coaching rival peewee football teams, one that is elite and the other full of misfits.
“Little Giants” is a nostalgic childhood favorite full of important lessons about teamwork, spirit and not letting anybody knock you down. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to watch a girl kick butt in a male-dominated sport.
“Little Giants” is available to stream.
Free Solo (2018)
Talk about intense. “Free Solo” is a documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold. It details his quest to perform a free solo climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in 2017.
Not only does this documentary showcase just how insane of an athlete Honnold and other rock climbers are, I guarantee you’ll be holding your breath through a majority of the tense scenes. It’s a must-watch… unless, maybe, you’re terrified of heights.
“Free Solo” is available to stream.