What are the best sports movies of all time?

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Ray Liotta, who played Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, died Thursday at 67. In honor of Liotta, we looked the all-time best sports movies during Friday’s PFT Live.

We did it in the form of a draft, with Peter King and yours truly going back and forth through three rounds.

There have been many great sports movies over the years. (There have been a few that haven’t been so great, too.) And we all have a great memory associated with seeing one of them, don’t we?

Although I went with Rocky II over the original Rocky as my pick in the best-ever sports movie category (the moment Adrian came out of the coma and told Rocky to “WIN!” is my favorite movie moment ever), one of the greatest memories of my childhood comes from seeing Rocky with my dad. I knew nothing about it; my dad came home from his bar one night (he was a bookie) and wanted to go see it. But it was a school night. Things like that never happened on a school night.

My mother surprisingly didn’t object. So off we went. And it was awesome. Everything about it. And then, to cap things off, we crossed the street from the Coronet Theater in my hometown of Wheeling, West Virginia to a new pizza place. I can’t remember the name of it. I don’t think it stayed open for very long. But I still remember the how that pizza looked, how it smelled, how it tasted. Even now, 46 years later.

Maybe the original Rocky should have been my first choice, after all. Some of my best memories of growing up include going to the movies with my dad. And the best of those memories happened the night we saw Rocky Balboa fight Apollo Creed in a fight far more as compelling than any real fight I’d ever watch.

142 responses to “What are the best sports movies of all time?

  1. Football may indeed be the real national pastime, but baseball has produced far more good movies, maybe more than any other sport. Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, Major League I and II, Eight Men Out, A League Of Their Own, the list goes on and on. Football? The Longest Yard (the Burt Reynolds-Eddie Albert original, not the remake),Friday Night Lights, Remember the Titans – the list gets awfully thin after these.

  2. In regards to the best football movies, North Dallas 40 is easily the best and most realistic.

  3. The program or blue chips were my favorite fictional films.
    Brian’s song and invincible are my favorite true stories.

  4. Chariots of Fire, Breaking Away, Brian’s Song, Downhill Racer, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, A League of Their Own (there’s no crying in baseball).

  5. tough to go with one…
    Raging Bull
    Remember the Titans

  6. Rocky, Rocky II, Field of Dreams, Slapshot, Bull Durham, The Natural, Rudy, The Longest Yard, Major League, Jerry Maguire, Goon, Friday Night Lights, Cool Runnings, Rocky III, Eight Men Out, Remember the Titans, Invictus, Tin Cup. It’s hard to beat boxing for drama, as it’s mano a mano, and boxers invest more time and training into a title bout than any other athlete does for a single game. That said, I agree with Mike. Rocky wins in a knockout, and Rocky II’s not far behind.

  7. The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon starring the incomparable Tony Danza.

  8. Cinderella Man, Rocky & For the love of the Game are a few of my favorites.

  9. Field of Dreams. Major League. North Dallas Forty. Rocky’s in the top ten but cmon, Kevin Costner finally having a game of catch with his long-past father played by Ray Liotta? AND James Earl Jones is in it? That was the best sports movie 5 and 10 years ago way before we lost Ray. RIP to a legend.

  10. Brian’s Song. The cinematography is dated, but the cast is strong (Billy Dee Williams, James Caan) and the true story is so compelling.

  11. Best baseball movie has to be BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY with Robert DeNiro & Michael Moriarty. A close second/third would be FOR LOVE OF THE GAME with Kevin Costner and THE NATURAL with Robert Redford.

  12. The Program is one of the most underrated sports movies ever. Great football movie.

  13. Rudy was a good one. I loved the sandlot a lot though. I was in little league at the time and played a lot of ball with friends. We’d play home run derby any time we had a chance.

  14. Let’s face it the best sports movies are golf movies. Caddyshack, Tin Cup, the legend of bagger Vance.

  15. The Replacements, Rocky, The Bad News Bears, The Sandlot, Caddyshack, Little Giants, Blades of Glory, Dodgeball. Major League, White Men Can’t Jump

  16. The first Rocky movie is straight up one of the best movies ever made. Stallone’s acting is just so good. His career may have gone in the direction of blockbuster action movies that don’t require the level of subtlety or talent than you need from an elite actor playing a complex role, but Rocky makes you think that he could have gone that way and succeeded.

  17. Baseball: Eight Men Out and Bull Durham (tie)
    Basketball: Glory Road
    Hockey: Goon
    Football: The Replacements
    NFL: The Untouchables

  18. I can’t believe I actually agree with you, Florio. Rocky I and II were epic, and IV could possibly be lumped in there as well for best sports films of all time. Every thing else is a distant 2nd.

  19. Most entertaining Slap Shot.
    Football drama Brian’s Song, most entertaining North Dallas 40.
    Baseball to many to list.
    I throw the soccer one out, Victory with Stallone and Michael Caine.

  20. Basketball, Happy Gilmore, rookie of the year, the replacements, Talladega nights(for weirdos that consider racing a sport), waterboy, Kingpin, sandlot. Didn’t think I saw them on here already so just going with different, some not the greatest but enjoyed them all.

  21. I also saw the first Rocky movie in a theater with my dad, who is now 1600 miles away from where I live battling lung cancer. Thank you for writing this piece. And although I’m sure the moderators will snip me and you’ll never see this, you should write like this more often. It is far more exemplary of your abilities and talent than some of the clickbait nonsense that gets published under your name.

  22. Game films from when I was young. Everone was on edge knowing what would happen. Hollywood can’t duplicate the emotion and passion of making or missing a play.

  23. Anyone saying Moneyball must not be a fan of Art Howe (as a player or manager). What they did to him in the movie was criminal. Also, the fact that Oakland had the best pitching staff in baseball was way more a factor than “Moneyball” in there limited success. I’m saying this as a SABR guy, BTW…….

  24. Burt Lancaster’s soliloquy as Moonlight Graham is just jaw-dropping sports-themed movie magic. Celluloid gold. His moment there, and James Earl Jones, make Field of Dreams the brilliant option that it is.

    That said, I vote The Sandlot. “You’re killing me, Smalls.”

  25. There are a lot of great sports movies. And I think almost everyone will agree the Air Bud franchise are the best of them all. While Air Bud: Golden Retriever has that heart wrenching scene where air bud is taken out on a stretcher after getting laid out by Ray Lewis. I have to go with Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch as the best sports movie of all time.

  26. Peter Gent’s book, North Dallas Forty I read as a kid. The movie was the greatest sports movie ever. The subject matter of what football players in the NFL had to do to continue playing was eye opening. And that was in the 1970’s. Great sports movie, the best ever.

  27. Bang the Drum Slowly (1956 version, with Paul Newman)
    Somebody Up There Likes Me (also 1956, also Paul Newman)
    The Hustler (also Paul Newman)
    The Big Lebowski (no Paul Newman)
    Brian’s Song
    North Dallas Forty

  28. baseball, The National, 42

    football, North Dallas Forty, Paper Lion, Invicible

    boxing, Raging Bull, The Harder They Fall, Million Dollar Baby, Once We Were Kings

    hockey, Miracle

    track and field, Chariots of Fire

    Olympic skiing, The Eagle

    auto racing, Rush, Grand Prix, Genevieve, The Brass Ring, This Time Tomorrow

    horse racing, The Black Stallion

    fishing, Jaws, Moby Dick (Gregory Peck)

    hunting, The Lost World—Jurassic Park, Gator Bait

  29. Miricle, Rudy, Marshall, Remember the Titans, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Secretariat, Bobby Jones Stroke of Genius, Brians Song, Field of Dreams, A League of Thier Own.

  30. This won’t be a popular agreement at all, but I grew up in the 80’s. In no way am I implying it’s a “great” sports movie at all, but personally, at that time, I loved Wildcats, with Goldie Hawn and Woody Harrelson. It was completely of the era, with the exception that the head coach, was a woman. Still enjoy it, to this day.

  31. Bull Durham
    Field of Dreams
    Moneyball [how can you not be romantic about baseball]
    Tin Cup

  32. Hoosiers since I grew up in Indiana and lived like 15 min from the gym they used

  33. Baseball: 61* (a must see)
    Football: Draft Day
    Hockey: Mystery, Alaska
    Basketball: One on One
    Soccer: Victory

  34. BB: The Life and Times of the Greatest Football Coach Ever. It’s a future movie based on his life through my binoculars. And I’m going to direct it!

  35. Tough question, comes down to Rudy and Rocky 4 for me but ill give it to Rudy. My all time favorite is The Sandlot but thats more of a kids film so not including it

  36. #1 Rollerball. (The original, not the remake).
    #2 Million Dollar Baby.
    #3 Slapshot.

  37. BASEketball or The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon (for a very obvious reason!!!! Lol

  38. Rocky
    Blind Side
    Lmao at guy who posted cool runnings

  39. Raging Bull
    Chariots of Fire
    Heaven Can Wait
    Here Comes Mr. Jordan
    Bull Durham
    Field of Dreams
    The Bad News Bears
    Bang the Drum Slowly
    North Dallas Forty
    Eight Men Out
    A League of Their Own
    Major League
    Million Dollar Baby
    Breaking Away
    Blades of Glory (but need to watch The Cutting Edge first to fully appreciate the humor and satire)

  40. In no particular order:

    Field of Dreams
    Rocky I
    Rocky II
    The Natural
    Million Dollar Baby
    Raging Bull
    Remember the Titans
    The Big Lebowski

  41. For a young guy, have to be Brian’s Song. No better movie to watch with your girl friend, especially if she enjoys “comforting” after watching an emotional, tear jerker film. I may be an old guy now, but I do have fond memories from 35 to 40 years ago, wonderful movie with a wonderful lady that I later married.

  42. Happy Gilmore was moronic as are most Adam Sandler movies with the exception of the recent Uncut Gems which was excellent.

  43. Gold: “Bull Durham”; Silver: “Field of Dreams”; Bronze: “Bang the Drum Slowly”.

  44. I always loved “Hoosiers” but “We are Marshall” is a wonderful film on many levels.

  45. Hoosiers, Rocky movies were hokey. They’d stop those fights long before they’re bleeding everywhere.

  46. While not technically a sports movie, the baseball scenes in The Naked Gun were classic and should be honored.

  47. Major League
    A league of their own
    Friday night lights

  48. Obviously Raging Bull. The Big Lebowski is a close second, if you want to count that. Moneyball was one of the better more recent ones.

  49. Tough to pick a “best” one. Sports has so many options for a great movie from teamwork to struggles to drama. My vote is the Natural but I liked Lucas as a kid. Don’t throw it to Lucas!

  50. Going to single out a few hidden gems that are personal favorites of mine. Anyone remember the great hockey movie Youngblood? Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, the great Ed Lauter as the coach, and the lovely Cynthia Gibb. How about the great bike racing drama American Flyers with Kevin Costner? How about the funny and entertaining horse racing/betting flick Let It Ride with Richard Dreyfus? I like thinking outside the box and will defend these 3 movies til the end of time. Anyone with me? LOL I’m sure I’m alone with these picks and I don’t care.

  51. Never saw any of Mike & Peter’s picks so I’m sure no cares what I think,

    Draft Day
    The Big Lebowski
    Grand Prix
    Le Mans

  52. This past week, I saw “Rudy” for the first time. Good movie, but in reading a little more about it, I was disappointed in how much of it was embellished or just made up. One movie I haven’t seen mentioned above is “The Fighter” about Mickey Ward.

  53. Gus. The movie about the field goal kicking mule from 1976. Watch it. You will never be the same.

  54. The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke as someone mentioned above.

    Also AEW > WWE

  55. While not the greatest, one of the best lesser known movies was Mystery, Alaska. Quality movie I recommend for everyone!

  56. Remember the Titans
    Bull Durham
    Major League

  57. Lots of good mentions. For sports comedies hard to go wrong with Happy Gilmore and Caddyshack. Hoosiers is my favorite sports drama. Rocky 4 and Any Given Sunday are great ones too. A racing movie no one has mentioned that is good is Rush with Chris Hemsworth.

  58. Not a movie, but Eastbound & Down was a pretty good baseball tv show!
    You’ve reached the end of Cassette Number 3.

  59. There can be only one:

    The Fish who saved Pittsburgh

    Starring Julius Erving, Jonathan Winters, and Meadowlark Lemon.

  60. No love for The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh? j/k Bull Durham is my favorite sports movie, followed closely by the original Bad News Bears, Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, A League of Their Own, and Miracle.

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