“If you’ve seen one sports movie, you’ve seen them all,” said some idiot, probably. The truth of the matter is that each major sport has at least three or four can’t-miss flicks centered around it. But for the sake of the lamebrain mentioned in my first sentence, here are the statistical “best” of each according to the average Rotten Tomatoes (critics, not audience) and IMDb score combined. That way, if you can only stand to watch one sports film your whole life, you can at least make it one worth your while. Who’s feeling athletic?
Note: We excluded documentaries, otherwise it would likely all be documentaries.
The Best Movie About Every Major Sport
Hoosiers (1986) – 82 percent
What you’ll notice almost instantly when browsing this list is that just because you assume most people find one particular sports movie to be better than the rest, that doesn’t necessarily translate to taking the top spot. That’s because critics and audiences don’t always agree, which is clearly the case for Hoosiers, the docudrama redemption story of coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) and his struggles to take a small Indiana town’s high school basketball team to victory.
Runners-up: “Love & Basketball” (2000) – 77 percent, “He Got Game” (1998) – 74.5 percent
TIE: Moneyball (2011) and The Pride of the Yankees (1942) – 85 percent
A tie already? That didn’t take long. But how do you really choose between a troubled film that eventually got itself together and went on to be nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar, and a biographical drama chronicling the life of Lou Gehrig which co-starred the likes of Babe Ruth himself. The answer, fortunately, is that you don’t have to.
Runners-up: “The Bad News Bears” (1976) – 84.5 percent, “Bull Durham” (1988) – 84 percent
Horse Feathers (1932) – 86.5 percent
Nobody saw this one coming, but if you aren’t familiar with the work of the Marx Brothers, prepare to be stunned at how funny they still are after all these years. While this may not be the best film by the comedy siblings, that’s apparently still better than any football films that have been created since the early ’70s, especially if our runners-up are any indication.
Runners-up: “The Freshman” (1925) – 84 percent, “Brian’s Song” (1971) – 83.5 percent
TIE: Miracle (2004) and Slap Shot (1977) – 77.5 percent
We swear this is the last tie on this list (minus a runner-up or two). But honestly, could there be two better hockey flicks slugging it out out for first place? One’s a straight-up classic, while the other is perhaps one of the greatest underdog stories ever conceived (except, you know, it’s based on a real event). In any case, we’re glad it tied, because the last thing we would want to do is rile up a bunch of hockey fans.
Runners-up: “Goon” (2011) – 75 percent, “The Rocket: Maurice Richard” (2006) – 66.5 percent
The Damned United (2009) – 84.5 percent
Look, I hate soccer as much as the next American guy, which is probably why even the runners-up on this list are likely unfamiliar to most. But one thing no one can argue is the sheer talent of Michael Sheen. Hell, he made Frost/Nixon tolerable, if not one of the best political dramas you’ll ever see. Surely he can make the story of Brian Clough’s 44 day run as manager of the Leeds United Football Club entertaining, right? If not, he’s still the best chance you’ve got. The numbers don’t lie.
Runners-up: “Shaolin Soccer” (2001) and “Gregory’s Girl” (1981) – 82 percent, “Looking for Eric” (2009) – 78.5 percent
Caddyshack (1980) – 74.5 percent
We were actually going to put 1952’s Pat and Mike starring Katharine Hepburn in the number one spot here considering it boasts an 80 percent approval rating average, but come on. We can’t dog Caddyshack like that, even if it is technically cheating. But just so you know, it’s not technically the highest rated golf film. Then again, Pat and Mike is also about tennis, so if you want to start arguing semantics…actually, please don’t. Really, who’d take you seriously if you said this movie isn’t the best golf outing of all time on film?
Runners-up: “The Caddy” (1953) – 72 percent, “The Greatest Game Ever Played” (2005) – 69 percent
7 Days in Hell (2015) – 75.5 percent
There aren’t many tennis films out there, and the ones that do exist pretty much suck. Thanks god for this late entry, as the faux documentary about the longest tennis match in history only aired last year on HBO. Again, not that it had much competition, but it blew it away. We’d nominate this hysterical, albeit short, flick for the funniest movie on this list, and that’s a pretty ballsy stance considering both the previous and next entries.
Runners-up: “Wimbledon” (2004) – 61.5 percent, “Tennis, Anyone…?” (2005) – 51 percent
The Big Lebowski (1998) – 81.5 percent
There are really only two dogs in this fight, as there aren’t many mainstream bowling movies out there. We don’t think we could pick a favorite even with a gun to our heads, but as luck would have it, critics generally hate a good comedy outside of a Coen Brothers’ film, so the decision was made for us relatively easily.
Runner-up: “Kingpin” (1996) – 59.5 percent
BASEketball (1998) – 54 percent
Since it didn’t technically fit into the category of baseball or basketball, we figured it was fine to devote an entire section to just the sport of BASEketball for the final spot on this list. But all cards on the table, this movie is just so funny and still somehow underrated after nearly 20 years that we wanted to get the word out by any means possible, even if it meant obviously shoehorning it in at the very last second for a laugh. I think we pulled it off.