Sports have long been one of the great subjects for movies. There is excitement and drama naturally built into sporting events, so they have natural plot points. They provide the perfect backdrop for dramas and comedies. They can range from the emotionally painful, such as Million Dollar Baby (2004), to inspiring for small children, such as The Big Green (1995) or The Mighty Ducks (1992).
Sports movies often lean too heavily into the saccharine emotions of devastating losses or awe-inspiring wins. We’ve decided to steer clear of maudlin classics such as Field of Dreams (1989) and Remember the Titans (2000) in favor of sports movies that have a bit more bite to them.
King Richard (2021)
Everyone knows who Venus and Serena Williams are. The two sisters have forever changed the game of tennis with their powerhouse style of play and sheer athleticism. They’ve also made the sport feel more accessible, breaking down barriers and challenging the establishment.
King Richard is about the man who helped to shape their talent. Will Smith plays the titular character, the father of Venus and Serena. While there is some discomfort in a movie that shifts the focus from talented young women to the man behind them, it tells the story in an inspiring way and sheds light on the struggles involved for the entire family.
Don’t worry about having to search for this one, King Richard is currently streaming online and is also available to rent through multiple platforms.
Moneyball is the movie for the sports fan who can never get enough stats. It tells the true story of how the Oakland Athletics’ manager used a statistical method know an sabermetrics to build an elite level baseball team on an impossibly small budget. Brad Pitt stars as General Manager Billy Beane and does a very convincing job of showing the power of conviction that carried him and his players through the season.
The film is based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis. This is one case where a theory reshaped a sport and has had a decades long impact. It is an interesting film to watch in light of the current discussion surrounding whether or not AI will replace the sabermetric method.
Uncut Gems (2019)
Uncut Gems isn’t technically a sports movie but betting on basketball is the main driver of the plot. Plus, it stars Kevin Garnett, a legendary NBA player who sealed a championship win with the Boston Celtics. The movie follows a jeweler, played by Adam Sandler, whose life spirals out of control as he gets deeper into debt to his mafia-connected bookie.
Despite all the risks and pressures that he’s under, Sandler’s character craves the excitement of sports betting. Now that sports betting is legal in most states, those risks are thankfully greatly reduced. Legitimate sportsbooks such as FanDuel help fans get involved in the action and American sports fans now have a wide range of top sportsbooks to choose from. These sportsbooks are much safer than any of their unregulated equivalents.
I, Tonya (2017)
Ice skating is one of the most elegant and glamorous sports of all time. I, Tonya takes our rosy image of the skating world and brings it into reality. Starring Margot Robbie, the film is based on the life of Tonya Harding and her involvement in the infamous attack on her skating rival Nancy Kerrigan.
The film is darkly comic while also presenting an unflinching view of the pressures that are placed on young athletes. From the pressure to perform at an elite level and to constantly improve to the financial pressures on amateur athletes who need to balance training and working to survive, it’s no surprise that someone snaps on occasion.
Seabiscuit is one of the great horse racing movies. Inspired by the real-life story of Seabiscuit, a horse who was often overlooked because he was small and temperamental who went on to be one of the greatest racehorses of the era.
The film is one of the few movies to deal with the struggles faced by jockeys. In the movie, Seabiscuit’s jockey, played by Tobey Maguire, has a difficult time maintaining the low weight required and turns to anorexia. It’s one of the less glamorous sides of the horse racing industry that really should be brought to light more often.
Besides telling an inspiring story, Seabiscuit is also beautifully shot. It is a gorgeous film that manages to capture the breathtaking intensity of horses speeding down the track.
We had to end this list on a high note, and the sports comedy Dodgeball does just that. The movie tells the story of how the owner of a small neighborhood gym bands together with his regulars to save the property from being turned into a corporate gym with no character and no room for the little guys. What better way to do that than through a dodgeball tournament!
Sure, Ben Stiller’s lycra-clad gym owner villain might give you nightmares, but this movie has a spot in the hearts of anyone who ever got through a gym class by following the five rules: dodge, duck, dive, dip and dodge.