The excitement engendered by sports and sporting events provides an ample amount of inspiration for films. Even if you don’t enjoy sports yourself, there’s a good chance you’ve seen at least one sports-inspired cinema, and, if you haven’t, here are some of the best sports films of all time for you to choose from.
If you ever thought that sports films were all schmaltzy, excessively sentimental, pictures based around slow cuts of coaches nodding proudly in slow motion, then Raging Bull will disabuse you from this notion.
The film is a biopic of American professional boxer Giacobbe “Jake” LaMotta, a former world middleweight champion, and his slow slide into self-destruction. Headed by Robert De Niro, Raging Bull is a moody black and white character study that has become rightly famous for more than being a ‘boxing film.’ It also helped to put actors Cathy Moriarty and Joe Pesci in the spotlight.
Now putting a James Bond film in a list of great sporting films is always going to be controversial but hear me out. When anyone mentions Casino Royal, they inevitably talk about the poker scenes. The game is the central pivot of the film and saying Casino Royal is just an action film is like saying Rounders is a film about debt management.
Now, Bond purists will point out that the famous spy played baccarat in the book, but the director wisely switched to poker, a much more recognizable game, so the audience didn’t have to look up an online baccarat guide just to understand what was happening.
Might like the poker game that forms its center, Casino Royal is a tense, exciting movie with a nail-biting climax and is easily the best of the Daniel Craig Bond films.
The Mighty Ducks
If we’re going to have any genuinely feel-good films on this list, it might as well be Emilio Estevez leading a lock Pee-Wee ice-hockey team to victory as part of his community service. This flick, also known as “D1: The Mighty Ducks” is utterly predictable, but that doesn’t take away from its enjoyment.
The cast has apparent chemistry, the sporting scenes are excellently filmed, the pacing is fantastic, and, overall, it’s a great sports-comedy-drama that is still well worth a watch. At the time of its release, the film was such a success that Disney actually founded the Anaheim Mighty Ducks team in the NHL.
50 to 1
While it might not be as well known as films like Secretariat or Seabiscuit, 50 to 1 is an excellent horse racing film that accurately captures the emotions and excitement of competitive racing and horse rearing.
Based on the true story of Mine That Bird, a true underdog that pulled off an unexpected upset victory at the 2009 Kentucky Derby, the film follows the misfit group of cowboys that reared and owned the horse on the run-up to the race.
Taking on the idea that golf is a sport for the elite, Caddyshack turned a basic us vs. them story into something entirely special because of its cast’s strength. With amazing comedic actors like Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Rodney Dangerfield in the cast and Harold Ramis at the helm, this story of plucky caddies taking on the country club social elite is still a laugh a minute.
The film itself is based on the real-life caddying experiences of writer and co-star Brian Doyle-Murray and his brother Bill and John. Many of the cast of characters were based on people they had met during their time working together at a local golf club.
Rocky was responsible for both launching the career of Sylvester Stallone and won the Best Picture award at the Oscars. The titular character rises from being a small-time debt collector to getting a shot at the current world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed, played by Carl Weathers.
The film was so successful that it ended up getting seven sequels, with later films seeing Rocky transition from the one in the ring to the one taking up Burgess Meredith’s coaching role in Creed and Creed II, supporting young boxer Adonis “Donnie” Johnson, played by Michael B. Jordan.