A good sports movie has the ability to pull even the least interested people out of their seats and get them throwing both hands in the air, cheering for a big win. The films aren’t only about sports; they’re about an internal drive in all of us to overcome obstacles standing in the way of success.
While many movies in Hollywood are purely fictional, there are plenty of sports films rooted in fact. Whether you like football, baseball, or even bobsledding, you’ll be pleased to know there’s truth to the sports films you love, even if the stories seem too epic not to be scripted by the professionals.
1. The Blind Side: 16-year-old Michael Oher overcame a life of parental substance abuse and poverty to become a professional football player. This movie tells the story of Oher and the Tuohy family who took him in, nurturing his skill that eventually led him into the NFL.
2. Ali: Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all time, and this biographical film proves it. Will Smith plays Cassius Clay during several critical aspects of the boxer’s life, including his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War and his knockout of fellow boxer Sonny Liston.
3. Coach Carter: When Ken Carter, a hard-nosed coach begins to train a Richmond, Virginia, high school basketball team, he benches his undefeated players due to sub-par grades. Samuel L. Jackson plays the actual coach.
4. Seabiscuit: Set during the Great Depression, this film tells the story of Red Pollard, the jockey who trained the underdog horse. Tobey Maguire plays the jockey who helped raise the spirits of the whole nation.
5. Cool Runnings: John Candy plays a coach who leads a team of Jamaicans, none of which have ever seen snow before. In actuality, not much of the Disney movie happened in real life. There was a 1988 bobsled team from Jamaica, but most of the details were made up.
6. Miracle: During the 1980 Olympics, a group of young United States hockey players beat the extremely skilled Soviet Union for the gold medal during a time of serious political tension. Kurt Russell plays the coach who leads the team to ultimate victory in this true story.
7. Rudy: Notre Dame is the backdrop for this inspirational film about a real college student named Daniel Eugene “Rudy” Ruettiger who dreamt of playing for the Notre Dame football team. His persistence in the face of doubt eventually pays off at the heartwarming end.
8. We Are Marshall: After plane crash took the lives of West Virginia’s Marshall University football students, the country fell into a state of shock. This film captures the real emotional journey of coach Jack Lengyel, played by Matthew McConaughey, trying to rebuild the team.
9. A League of Their Own: During World War II, an all-girls baseball league was formed to fill the gap caused by the men going off to battle. The film focuses on the real-life team, the Rockford Peaches, and the success they found on the baseball diamond.
10. The Fighter: Real-life Irishman Mickey Ward makes his way through the brutal world of boxing in this film. Mark Wahlberg plays the main character who has to deal with some serious family issues.
11. Hoosiers: There’s a debate as to how much of this basketball film is actually true, but it’s still a great cheer-for-the-underdog film. Gene Hackman plays a coach who leads a group of misfit high school basketball players to epic victory.
12. Moneyball: Oakland A’s Billy Beane developed the method of analyzing sabermetrics, or advanced statistics, to determine a baseball player’s potential and value. Brad Pitt plays the man who totally transcended the scouting game.
13. Battle of the Sexes: An epic 1974 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs was the highlight of this 2017 dramedy starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell. Parts of the movie were embellished, but the tennis match actually happened.
14. The Rookie: After a slew of arm surgeries, Jim Morris, a man who dreamt of playing in the MLB his whole life, realizes he can throw 98-mile per hour fastballs. Dennis Quaid plays the real man who used his new pitch to inspire his players.
15. *61: Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris went head-to-head in an attempt to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1961, and the film, directed by Billy Crystal, tells the exciting story.
16. Foxcatcher: This film focuses on Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz and the coach who became obsessed with him. The coach’s obsession leads both of them down a very dark path, and Steve Carell’s portrayal earned him an Oscar nomination.
17. Cinderella Man: During the Great Depression, a boxer named James J. Braddock was on his way to win the title but broke his hand before the chance came. Russell Crowe plays Braddock as he stages a comeback in the movie inspired by his life story.
18. I, Tonya: This film’s about the horrific attack Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan suffered thanks to opponent Tonya Harding in 1994. Some people felt it portrayed Harding (played by Margot Robbie) as a victim of circumstance, but the world may never know the truth behind her actions.
19. Glory Road: This tale of the Texas Western Miners basketball team during the 1960s and their coach Dan Haskins deals with racism in the NCAA. Although the Miners were a team, much of the intense racism they encounter during the movie was added for dramatic purposes.
20. Concussion: The National Football League is the focus of this film about real-life forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu who realizes, because of in-game collisions, many players are facing permanent brain damage. Will Smith plays the doctor that the league tried to silence.