Considering they’re perhaps the toughest theme to get right, sports movies have always had an enduring appeal amongst moviegoers. While the authenticity of the sporting action might be questionable at times, some have managed to do an amazing job, and even if they didn’t, there was plenty more about them to keep us entertained.
Picking the best sporting movies of all time is incredibly hard, as there’s a surprisingly strong list of potential candidates to choose from. Nevertheless, these are the three that we believe are the greatest and most iconic.
We could just as easily choose Raging Bull (1980) as the definitive boxing movie, which landed Robert De Niro his only Best Actor Oscar in the role of Jake LaMotta. That said, for sports purists and boxing fans, nothing before or since has shown the reach, punching power, and endurance of Rocky.
It’s the classic underdog story, with Sylvester Stallone perfectly suited as the walking punchbag, the kind-hearted but not too bright brawler from Philly, who gets his shot at the big-time.
With more than 40 years on the clock, people still love watching that fictional fight between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. Nobody could have predicted just how successful Rocky would be, although as a sporting flick, it hit all the right notes.
Five sequels and two spin-offs later, Stallone still has more Rocky movies in the pipeline. He already has another story prepared for one more Rocky installment, while there’ll also be a third Creed movie, possibly featuring real-life champ Deontay Wilder as Clubber Lang’s son. How cool is that!
Jerry Maguire (1996)
When the producers had the box office appeal of Tom Cruise, plus Cuba Gooding Jr. in a role that would earn him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, all the ingredients were there for instant success. Make it about an agent and his NFL client, this was always going to be big.
More than two decades later, “Show me the money!” remains one of the most popular scenes from any movie, ever. It’s funny and it’s just how we might imagine NFL players interacting with their agents, during contract or trade negotiations.
The film was loved as you could see the relationships behind the scenes, not something we had much visibility of back in the 1990s. Since the movie was released much has evolved around the sporting scene. Given the rise of the internet and smartphones, fans can now live and breathe sports. With sites such as the sports portal WSN.com, its possible stay-up-to-date with NFL developments as well as the latest betting opportunities. Generally, it’s easier now to see the inner-workings of the US’s biggest sport than it was in the 90s.
Jerry Maguire was a huge success at the time it was released, largely thanks to excellent acting and writing, although given it was also heavily focused on American football, that undoubtedly helped too.
Escape to Victory (1981)
When the producers came up with the concept for Escape to Victory, they put all the right ingredients in place. They took the most popular sport in the world, soccer, then placed it in a WWII setting, which was always going to give it a “Goodies” vs “Baddies” vibe.
Then, they assembled some of the best soccer players of the era to play cameo roles, including none other than arguably the greatest of all time, Pele. Alongside the sporting authenticity, there was also some damn fine acting talent.
Sylvester Stallone was the token American player and goalkeeper, Michael Caine was the British captain of the Allies, while Max von Sydow led the Germans. Even habitual war movie icon Anton Diffring featured as the match commentator, so what more could you ask for?
Of course, the Allied POW’s were always going to emerge as the moral victors, regardless of the score against the cheating German team, while hatching their ingenious plans to escape from the Nazis.
Are there any better sports movies?
Of course, it’s always going to be a matter of opinion. We all have our favorites and there will be movies that resonate more with our own sporting interests. Although it’s hard to beat the three we’ve chosen, let us know which sports movies score goals or hit home runs for you.