My 30 Favorite Sports Movies Of All Time

Originally Posted
2011-05-27

Will Air Bud Crack The Top 5?

So last night I was at work doing sportsflashes for the Planet Mikey show, filling in for John Ryder, and there is a small TV in the booth where I do my research and prepare my updates.  Typically I’ll have some kind of sporting event on, but before the Bulls and Heat game, which didn’t start until 8:30 (I was in at 5:30), the option was college softball on ESPN.  Sorry ladies…not interested.

The volume is always on mute since I’m listening to the radio show, but I started flipping channels and I came across a hockey movie on Versus that I didn’t know existed.  It was a 1986 movie starring Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayzee about a hockey prospect who resisted fighting and it was called, “Youngblood”.  I’ll spare you the details, but one of the scenes I caught had Swayzee and a bunch of teammates hold down Lowe, or “Youngblood” in an apparent hazing incident and shave his pubic region with one of those old school barber shop razors…again I had the movie on mute, but it looked…just…awful.

So I thought about my list of my top 30 sports movies of all time.  Why the hell not?  Let’s make a list.  This is a tough thing to do, because there are different genres of sports movies…you have your sports comedies…Caddyshack, Major League, Bull Durham…you have your touching underdog stories…Rudy, Hoosiers, Miracle…you even have your sports romances…For Love Of The Game, Love and Basketball, Jerry Maguire.  I’m trying to combine them all into one top 30 list

Keep in mind, I’m not going to include movies I have not seen based on reputation.  After looking at some lists online to see if there were any I forgot, I realized that there are some classics I have not seen.  Apologies to Raging Bull, Eight Men Out, The Natural, Brian’s Song, Ali, Chariots of Fire, Million Dollar Baby and several others…I know…shame on me.  I need to see them all.

Also, keep in mind that I was born in 1984…some of this is a reflection of when I grew up.  If you were born before 1982, you’re probably not even going to consider Little Big League or Rookie of the Year…I haven’t even completed my top 30 yet.  I have 50 movies that I have seen on a piece of paper in front of me, and I’m going to slowly work this out.

This is going to be a long one…man I hate my “real” job.  Ok…let’s begin

#30 – Celtic Pride (1996) – Dan Akroyd, Daniel Stern…sorry I can’t do this with a straight face.  Even Tommy Heinsohn is not that much of a homer to put this in the top 100…seriously though, did you guys see this?  If anything, it’s hilariously bad

#30 – Little Big League (1994) – Had to do it.  I actually saw this movie AGAIN about a year or two ago and thought to myself…I’m probably going to hate this now that I’m not a kid anymore…but I still really enjoyed it!  Bowers, the wacky reliever still made me laugh.  I love the cameos by Ken Griffey Jr, Randy Johnson and Carlos Baerga among others and I love the song “Runaround Sue”.  It’s a fun movie and I stand by it.  I probably should have started the list with something a little “safer” to build some credibility, but I’m coming right out of the gates with a 12 year old owning and managing a Major League Baseball team.

#29 – Green Street Hooligans (2005) – I expect a lot of you have never heard of this movie.  Now you have, you’re welcome.  It’s got Elijah Wood and a lot of people you’ve never heard of and its about soccer…sorry football hooligans in England.  I don’t want to spoil the plot, because there’s a good chance you haven’t seen it.  Trust me…it’s worth two hours of your time

#28 – Above The Rim (1994) – This was #66 on the Bleacher Report’s top 100 list that came out last October.  I remember watching this movie as a kid and saying to myself, I’m never playing pick up basketball in New York City as long as I live.  Last summer I faced my fear when I went to visit my buddy in Manhattan.  Nobody got punched in the face, but there was a guy with a megaphone screaming out nicknames.  No joke.  Great soundtrack by the way…”Regulate”, “Anything” by SWV…and you can’t go wrong with Tupac.  By the way how old is Wood Harris?  He’s the guy that plays Pac’s right hand man in this…and then plays Julius Campbell in remember the Titans like 8 years later.  He must have been 30 in RTT.

#27 – Talledega Nights:  The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) – Most of Will Ferrell’s sports movies have been misses, but this one was pretty terrific.  I know it doesn’t measure up with his classics, like Old School, Anchorman, etc, but this is classic Ferrell…and I hate NASCAR

#26 – The Legend of Baggar Vance (2000) – Big Will Smith fan…guilty (I really don’t know why I haven’t seen Ali).  It’s a cool feel good story…still can’t figure out how it gets so dark so fast on the last hole or why Baggar Vance just leaves…but I’m ok with it.

#25 – Rocky IV (1985) – I used to swear this was the best Rocky movie, but you can’t replace the original.  Still this one is a close second in my eyes.  I think it probably has the best musical montages of the entire Rocky series with “No Easy Way Out” as he drives around in his expensive sports car thinking about his fallen buddy Apollo.  The training montage is right up there too, but in the end…you just can’t do better than the original

#24 – Happy Gilmore (1996) – “Happy Gilmore over Rocky IV???”  Again, mixing comedy and drama together…it happens.  This is partially a product of me growing up in the 90s in New Hampshire where Adam Sandler is a legend.  I couldn’t justify the Waterboy, but this one is classic for my generation.  I’ll be reciting one liners from this movie for the next 70 years if God allows me to hang around that long.

#23 – Jerry Maguire (1996) – The athlete cameos are great.  Everything Drew Bledsoe touches is gold in my eyes.  Is there a name that screams “sports agent” like Bob Sugar?  This by the way is the only movie that I was ever remotely attracted to Renee Zellweger

#22 – Mighty Ducks (1992) – Ok admit it…if you watched this for the first time when you were under the age of 10, you wondered…”why don’t NHL teams use the flying V?  It’s impenetrable!”  Of course the Iceland Junior National Team taught us in the sequel that this is not the case.  Still, this is one of the great kids sports movies of all time.  The sequel was actually really good too, but with so many good movies here I couldn’t justify two Mighty Ducks movies in the top 30

#21 – Coach Carter (2005) – I feel like I probably have this ranked higher than a lot of others would, but I really enjoyed this movie.  The basketball scenes were great, there was humor and drama all rolled into one, and I respect a movie that doesn’t end with the win and the happy ending.  “Based on a true story” movies get bonus points in my book too…by the way, similar to the Wood Harris point I made on Above The Rim…the guy who plays Worm in Coach Carter was in Sunset Park like 10 years earlier…amazing how these guys are supposed to pass for college students.  My one big problem with this movie was Ashanti.  Was she really the best they could do in casting?  This movie takes place in California and the New York accent is so frustratingly prevalent.  Your music sucks and your acting is worse. (I hate this ranked 17 before I got started on Ashanti.)

#20 – A League Of Their Own (1992) – Who would have thought a movie about girls playing baseball would be so damn good?  I don’t know who the hell the actress was, but there was a blond in this movie that looked like Heidi Watney…absolutely gorgeous.  Seriously though, good flick.  Tom Hanks was awesome and Marla Hooch can flat out hit

#19 – Any Given Sunday (1999) – This was a good movie, but even if it was completely mediocre, it makes the top 30 solely on Al Pacino’s goosebump inducing pre game speech.  When I was a sophomore in high school, I was in an English class that had us do a project.  The guidelines were to simply present “what is the meaning of life to you.”  Brian May memorized the speech and delivered it flawlessly with an Al Pacino voice and everything…that also marks the first time I heard a student drop f-bombs in front of a teacher with no repercussions.

::quick tangent:: damn, the 90s were sort of a golden age for great sports movies, huh?  Is it just me?

#18 – The Karate Kid (1984) – This movie is timeless.  How great is the over the top evil Cobra Kai sensei trying to get these kids to be merciless missionaries?  Can you imagine having a high school or little league coach that was so bloody thirsty?  Anybody who plays on Tibbs co-ed team may be able to relate

#17 – Friday Night Lights (2004) – This was an awesome movie to a kid who grew up in New Hampshire.  Londonderry High School was a football factory in the late 90s early 2000s.  I get the feeling they would have gotten pummeled by the Permian freshman team.  Gotta love this movie.  One of the all time under rated football flicks.

#16 – The Sandlot (1993) – Another classic from my younger days, and another movie I can still watch over again in age 27.  When I was nine I couldn’t really appreciate James Earl Jones and Dennis Leary being in this movie, but looking back, its one more reason so like it.

#15 The Fighter (2010) – If I do this again in five years it might be higher, but it hasn’t really stood the test of time and watching it over and over on network TV test yet.  Still I saw this in December and LOVED it.  Sure, maybe I got sucked in to the local boy true story thing, but this movie was awesome.  Christian Bale stole the show, the fight scenes were great, the use of the Beta Cams that HBO shot boxing matches on in the late 90s added a great effect.  I probably COULD have put this higher…but there are 14 classics still to come.

#14 – Field of Dreams (1989) – I feel like a lot of people will have a problem with me ranking this so low and I can live with that.  It’s a classic, don’t get me wrong…but when you look at the top 13 sports movies OF ALL TIME, I think they are all justifiable.  Sorry Kevin Costner…you still have a couple more movies to come on this list.

#13 – Tin Cup (1996) – …and here’s one of them!  The end of this movie is so phenomenal, so unpredictable.  Great cameos by Phil Mickelson and Craig Stadler among others.  I feel like I should have this higher on the list.  Golf movies are almost always great…am I the only one noticing this?

#12 – He Got Game (1998) – It took me so much longer to see this than it should have, because my mom wouldn’t let me when it came out.  I was 14 and my folks were overprotecting.  Go ahead, laugh.  Denzel Washington is my favorite actor of all time, and it is inexcusable that I haven’t see The Hurricane.  Love the one on one game between him and Ray Allen at the end.  Spike Lee has a very unique style but this was a masterpiece

Note – this is getting tough.  I’m looking at these last 11 and if you asked me in casual conversation where any of these 11 movies rank among sports movies, I’d probably without thinking say top 5…not realizing that there are 11 of them.  There are a couple you might shake your head at…bear with me.

#11 – Major League 2 (1994) – Similar to Rocky IV, I used to swear that this is better than the original…mainly because I love Rube Baker so much…but voodoo Cerrano is so much better than Buddhist Cerrano, Wesley Snipes Willie Mays Hayes is so much better than Omar Epps Willie Mays Hayes, Dorn the player is so much better than Dorn the owner, and the more I think of it, I kind of miss Harris.  Still Major League 2 is wildly underrated in my opinion.  Rube Baker would EASILY make my top 10, probably top 5 sports movie characters of all time.

#10 – Hoosiers (1986) – This is the one I’m going to get a LOT of shit for.  Many have called this the greatest sports movie of all time.  It might be…it’s just not my favorite.  If I go home today and these 10 movies all start on different channels simultaneously, I’ll flip to the other 10 before Hoosiers…and I LOVE Hoosiers.  I just love 9 others a little more.

#9 – Slapshot (1977) – This is another one I may need to defend for having too low.  Honestly, the difference between my 11th favorite sports movie and my favorite sports movie is VERY small.  Chalk it up to that.  The Bruins could use an Ogie Oglethrope tonight.  They’ve been playing like pansies

#8 – Miracle (2004) – Outside of Kurt Russell (who NAILED the role of Herb Brooks), the acting isn’t anything special, but this gets points for being based on the greatest moment there ever has and ever will be in American sports.  Seriously with everything going on in 1980 with the cold war and the fact that professional athletes couldn’t compete in the Olympics, this was the greatest moment that will ever happen.  No Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins or CAC string of championships will ever compare to what happened in Lake Place in February of 1980.  A bunch of underdogs became heroes when our country badly needed it.  Unless China becomes a world basketball juggernaut and our relationship with them goes South in a hurry (I’m not into politics, but the latter isn’t incredibly farfetched, is it?), nothing will top it.

#7 – Caddyshack (1980) – As I eliminate these classics, I’m feeling more and more self conscious about the fact that people probably not liking my top 6…oh well.  Amazing cast, one liners that are still hilarious three decades later and gophers.  The Bill Murray/Chevy Chase late night adlibbed scene is one of the greatest sports movie scenes of all tiem

…six movies left, three dramas, three comedies

#6 – Rocky (1976) – I don’t think I need to defend this one.  I think Rocky II and Rocky III are probably top 30 material, but there are so many great movies.  Had to pick my two favorites.  Anybody else bummed the boxing becomes less and less relevant every year?  With the booming popularity of MMA, if it’s not Pacquiao or Mayweather nobody cares…and they won’t fight each other, so what the hell?  I’d love to see boxing make a comeback.

#5 – Bull Durham (1988) – I suppose a lot of people would go with drama over comedy for the top spot, but this movie is simply the best.  Kevin Costner does sports movies very well, but this is his finest one of all.  Having worked in the minor leagues and traveled 9,000 on a bus in a summer I guess I can appreciate the lifestyle.  Tim Robbins and Kevin Costner were perfect counterparts.  Even the character names are perfect…Nuke Laloosh and Crash Davis…this is as Minor League Baseball as you can get.

#4 – White Men Can’t Jump (1992) – I’m ready to field all your criticism for this one, but I can’t help it…I absolutely love this movie.  The reason?  The dialogue.  The exchanges are perfect.  The trash talk in the opening scene and it the two on two tournament is, as Kap would say, Legendary.  The Bleacher Report top 100 had this at #35…frankly I thought they’d have it lower.  I don’t care.  This is my favorite basketball movie and my second favorire sports comedy of all time

#3 – Rudy (1993) – If you’re in your mid to late 20s, how many kids did you know growing up that were Notre Dame fans simply because of this movie?  It’s a shame that they haven’t been relevant as far as a BCS title goes in years, but this is one of the all time great underdog stories.  Not to mention, this has one of the all time greatest instrumental soundtracks in any movie…right up there with Last of the Mohicans.

#2 – Remember the Titans (2000) – I know a lot of people are going to say this is far too high, but Denzel Washington is amazing in this movie.  Lots of movies have tried to pull of the black vs white segregation story from the 50s 60s and 70s…there was Glory Road, The Express, several others, but none of them nailed it like this one.  As you know by now I love to mention soundtracks and this movie has a GREAT one…it doesn’t even have the best song from the movie (Fire and Rain – James Taylor) on the album!  I’ve seen it roughly 75 times…only a slight exaggeration…and I still can’t get enough

#1 – Major League (1989) – Everything about this movie is perfect, all the way down to superfan Randy Quaid and the Asian guys that work on the ground crew.  The mix of characters is perfect…aside from all that, I can sum up why I love this movie in one epic quote…“Hell of a situation we got here. Two on, two out, your team down by one in the ninth. You got a chance to be a hero on national television… if you don’t blow it. By the way, saw your wife last night, hell of a dancer, you must be very, very proud. I mean that guy she was with, I’m sure he’s a close personal friend and all. But tell me, what was he doing wearing her panties on his head.”  ::swing and a pop up::  “Uh-oh, Rexy…I don’t think this one’s got the distance.”

I may have gone too comedy heavy towards the top, but there it is…MY top 30 sports movies of all time.  There are lots that I still need to see.  I need to rewatch Hoop Dreams, because the only time I saw it I was very young and couldn’t fully appreciate it at the time.  I also really would like to see another unheralded sports movie: Rebound, the Earl Manigault Story.  Then the classics, that I mentioned earlier of course like Raging Bull, Brian’s Song, etc.

This has to be my longest blog yet.  If you’re still with me I want to finish with some honorable mentions and guilty pleasures

HONORABLE MENTION – Just missed the top 30

– Varsity Blues, For Love Of The Game, The Express, Blue Chips, Bloodsport, Invincible, The Blind Side, Love & Basketball

GUILTY PLEASURES – Not “great” sports movies, but fun to watch if you’re channel surfing and catch it in the middle

-Eddie, BASEketball, Space Jam, Fever Pitch, The Rookie, Semipro, Blades of Glory

Hope you enjoyed the list.  Feel free to hit me up with feedback, criticism both constructive and bordering on harassment.  I’d love to hear some other top 30s or 20s or whatever you’ve got.

roryduyon@gmail.com