If you’re not an avid watcher of sports, then it’s definitely natural to be skeptical of sports movies. Immersing yourself in a narrative that you’re fundamentally unfamiliar with isn’t the most soothing way to spend a Saturday night.
But don’t cheat yourself out of a good time — sports movies excel in using the actual football or baseball or whatever it might be as simply a vessel to tell a larger story, and usually, they’re ones everyone can empathize with. If you watched the TV show Friday Night Lights, you know what we mean. Here are some sports movies that you definitely won’t want to miss, and that might even end up becoming some of your favorites.
15. Field Of Dreams
Here, again, we have another Kevin Costner movie in which he can get it. Bull Durham features Costner as “Crash,” an adorably nicknamed veteran ball player who, to his chagrin, is brought in to the minor league Durham Bulls to help coach a younger player as they prep for the majors. It’s cute, it’s sassy, it’s a little crude, but that’s part of the charm. Susan Sarandon is a major babe in it, and of course, there is romance. After you’ve seen both Bull Durham and Field Of Dreams, you’ll be wondering when Kevin Costner is going to make his belated but totally realistic run at Major League Baseball.
You’ve definitely heard people chanting, “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!,” perhaps when an underdog of some kind is making their way toward a seemingly impossible goal. Well, here’s why. Rudy is the story of a kid who wants, more than anything, to play football for Notre Dame University. The thing is, he’s a little guy, and not exactly the kind of player the team is dying to add to the ranks. But he doesn’t give up — he walks on knowing he might never see playing time. He studies his ass off, he eventually gains the respect of the other players around him, and the whole film culminates in a particularly emotional scene in the coach’s office. Once again, there will be tears.
13. We Are Marshall
If you don’t weep uncontrollably at some point during We Are Marshall, then we need to have a talk about your emotional availability. The true story focuses on Marshall University’s football team, particularly the group of men living in the aftermath of the infamous 1970 plane crash that killed 37 players and countless other coaches, boosters, and other people associated with the team. It highlights the team’s struggle to continue when left with only young, inexperienced players, and the town of Huntington, West Virginia’s resilience and willingness to rebuild what was lost. Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Fox star as the coaches trying to bring it all together, and boy, do they.
Another true story, Miracle depicts the events of the 1980 United States men’s hockey team that takes home the gold after defeating the Soviets. The hockey game itself is frequently referred to as the “Miracle on Ice,” and the film does an amazing job showing what the players went through to bring home the victory for their country. Kurt Russell plays coach Herb Brooks, who delivers no shortage of motivational speeches, and the supporting cast of players really brings it home. Even if you’re not necessarily into hockey, you absolutely feel the sense of desperation and urgency that plagued the players during this historic series.
11. Friday Night Lights
Really, what is more dramatic than high school football and the teenage decisions that influence how the game plays out? You may already be familiar with the show — long live Coach Taylor and Tami — but the movie was the first time the book of the same name appeared onscreen in any capacity. It stars Billy Bob Thorton in a similar role to that Kyle Chandler played in the NBC show, and Connie Britton even appears in this version, too! The struggle to get to the championships — and to win them — is just as real in the film as the TV show, and it’ll add a whole other level of appreciation next time you catch the show on Netflix.
10. Jerry Maguire
Jerry Maguire might be one of the most quotable movies of all time. Any time someone says “You had me at hello,” shouts “Show me the money!” or badly sings along to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin,’” Jerry Maguire will ring through your mind. Tom Cruise plays a sports agent desperately trying to make a name for himself after he dramatically leaves his company, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. is his main concern. Renee Zellweger is Jerry’s assistant, and if you’re wondering, yes, they totally fall in love. The movie is full of laughs and poignant moments, and is more about the personal life of this bumbling sports agent than it is about football itself.
Dodgeball is a sports classic and WILL BE RESPECTED AS SUCH. This silly, silly movie features an all-star cast of Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Rip Torn, Stephen Root and Justin Long, and man, does it make use of all of them. Vaughn plays the owner of Average Joe’s Gym, but due to financial struggle, he loses the property to the big business of Globo Gym, and his arch-rival, played by Stiller. In order to raise the money necessary to save Average Joe’s, Vaughn and his team of misfits enter into a dodgeball competition, competing against the world’s best, including Stiller and his cronies. The rest is sports movie history.
8. Bend It Like Beckham
Badass ladies playing soccer? An undying story of female friendship? Keira Knightley? Sign me the hell up. Bend It Like Beckham follows Parminder Nagra as she plays “Jess” Bhamra, a teenage girl who desperately wants to play soccer like the rest of the boys. But due to her family’s conservative values, they majorly frown upon that wish. Knightley plays Jess’s best friend, and together, they chase their dreams, even if they have to do so without the support of Jess’s family. The whole movie is a feel-good time even as Jess tries to figure out how her family will react to her goals (no pun intended).
If you automatically assume a movie about golf has to be boring, I respect your totally fair judgment. But, in the case of Caddyshack, you would be wrong. This comedy classic exists everywhere on lists of films you absolutely need to watch. It features a ridiculously impressive cast — Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Bill Murray, among others, all make up the fabric of one golf club, and the big personalities definitely stir up some hijinks. The film’s main conflict is a dramatic golf-off, and it’s one of the few times you’ll ever be able to say that golf was truly exciting.
6. Million Dollar Baby
Bring tissues when you watch Million Dollar Baby. Thousands and thousands of tissues. This insane story, anchored down by Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, stars Swank as a waitress who wants to train as a boxer. Eastwood is her reluctant coach, who at first thinks she’s way too old to begin a career as a boxer, but eventually, he sees her true potential. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Achievement in Directing, and Best Acting awards for both Swank and Freeman. Eastwood also produced, scored, and directed the film, helping it achieve its gritty and harsh vibe.
If ever a movie proved that Steve Carell is so much more than Michael Scott, it is this one. In Foxcatcher, Carell takes on a role so sinister, so unsettling, and so outrageous that he completely disappears into it, along with the help of a few handy prosthetics. Also starring Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher focuses on the true story of John du Pont’s wrestling training grounds as the real-life millionaire attempted to train two wrestlers for the Olympic Games. Without giving away any spoilers to those who might be unfamiliar with the true story, things go devastatingly awry.
Jackie Robinson is an incredibly important figure in history, regardless of if you care about baseball or not. He was the first black ballplayer to ever make it to Major League Baseball, during a time that was still overtly rife with racism. Chadwick Boseman, who recently skyrocketed to an even higher level of fame after Black Panther, plays Robinson in the film, and Harrison Ford plays a supporting role in the film as well. It immortalizes Robinson’s struggle to play the sport he so loves in the late 1940s, an age when a black baseball player was completely unheard of.
3. Eddie The Eagle
This is a very weird one, but also a very very good one. Eddie The Eagle stars Taron Egerton, of Kingsman fame, alongside Hugh Jackman, and features the real-life story of Eddie Edwards, a ski jumper who competed at the 1988 Olympics. Eddie was an underdog, to say the least, and the film documents his charming journey to achieving his unorthodox goals. Egerton is cute as a button, as always. The film is quirky and funny but still a dramatic story of athletic achievement. Plus, there’s tons of Hugh Jackman, and that basically makes pretty much any movie worth watching, no?
2. Remember The Titans
Denzel Washington rocks it in this 2000 high school football film, which is fraught with racial tension as he becomes a newly integrated school’s first black head football coach. The film takes place in the early 1970s and isn’t just an emotional tale of a group of football players trying to win games, but also one of how the team’s camaraderie helps the players understand each other, even in a racially charged environment that isn’t necessarily accepting of their situation. It’s a tear-jerker that also stars Will Patton, Donald Faison and Ryan Gosling, and will leave you thinking about it long after the film is over.
1. A League Of Their Own
A League Of Their Own has everything — Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, Geena Davis and Lori Petty. There’s even a grumpy ass Tom Hanks to boot! The film follows the real-life tale of how women took up the game of baseball during World War II while the men are away at war, and their struggle to be taken seriously by both fans and their coach. It’s a super feminist tale — one that’s funny and heartwarming and emphasizes the importance of sisterhood, both biological and that forged between friends. By the end, it won’t be surprising if you’re running outside to practice your baseball skills.