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The Box Set: 50 Greatest Sports Films of All Time

We love sport here at SD, there’s no shying away from that fact, but what we love equally as much as actually doing sport is watching sporting films! Everybody adores a good a movie, especially on those dark evenings where you probably should go the gym but you just can’t muster the energy. Luckily for you we’ve spent strenuous hours trawling our DVD catalogue in order to find our Top 50 sporting films that’ll provide you with that elusive “get up and go" inspiration. Enjoy!

50. Bend it like Beckham

A teenage girl plays football for a women's team, despite her parents forbidding her to do so. She must keep her passion for football a secret, despite her clear talent. The film won Best Comedy Film at The British Comedy Awards was even nominated for a Golden Globe. Bend it Like Beckham  is arguably the film that got actress Keira Nightley recognised and propelled her to stardom.

49. Eight Men Out
Eight baseball players are approached by gamblers to play badly for money and they agree because their previous success was not rewarded by their owner. Eight Men Out is based on the true events that happened in 1919 during the Black Sox Scandal and during the film’s conception, producers had to put on entertainment to entice the local Indianapolis residents into being extras.

48. A League of Their Own
An alcoholic former baseball player takes charge of a women's team during the second world war, when most of the men are away fighting. The film is based on a true story of All Girls Baseball Teams in 1943 and their role in the sport. Due to its cultural and historical messages, A League of Their Own was selected for preservation into the United States National Film Registry.

47. Invictus
South African President, Nelson Mandela, tries to use the National Rugby Team to inspire a nation that is crippled by apartheid. The film is based on the book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation and lead actor, Matt Damon, was taught to play rugby (for his role) by one of the original 1995 South African team who suffered in the apartheid.

46. Coach Carter

A basketball coach tries to teach a group of reckless kids how to improve in the game as well as making sure they don't neglect their education. The film is based on real-life coach, Ken Carter, who decided not to play his star players unless their academic results improved. People were outraged by this but all of Carter’s team graduated under his guidance, clearly showing his decision to be correct.

45. Fast Girls
Two women look to earn places in the British 4x100 relay team and then compete in the World Championships. During the production, the female sprinters had to train for six-weeks under the guidance of professionals and their programme included 1000 sit-ups a day for six days a week. One of the actresses, Lenora Crichlow, injured her ankles on the first day of shooting so doubles were used during shots of her running.

44. Any Given Sunday
An American Football team are helped and hindered by their star player, Willie Beamen. Four NFL Players, all in the hall of fame, played small roles as opposing coaches in the film; they are Bob St.Clair, Dick Butkus, Warren Moon, and Johnny Unitas. The film’s director, Oliver Stone, is a stadium announcer in the film and his face appears in portraits behind a bar in some scenes.

43. The Fighter

A boxer and his step-brother suffer from lapses in confidence, the media pressure and drugs. Can they overcome these factors to rise again? It was the first film to win Best supporting Actor and Actress since the 1986 film, Hannah and Her Sisters. Actor Mark Wahlberg is real-life friends with boxer Micky Ward, the character he plays in The Fighter.

42. Happy Gilmore
An Ice Hockey player discovers a knack for playing golf and is encouraged to compete. He gains acclaim and sponsorship deals, but his erratic nature needs to be harnessed. Sandler based the story on a real life event; his childhood friend turned to golf and was successful, despite wanting to be an ice-hockey player. 

41. Chariots of Fire
Two athletes are running in the 1924 Olympics, but are doing so for different reasons. The film won 4/7 Academy Awards and the theme by Vangelis is recognised worldwide. All of the actors who are seen running had to train for three months with running coach Tom McNab, but they formed a good group bond during this time, which rings true in the film.

40. She's The Man
A girl pretends to be her brother in order to participate on the school's soccer team. The film is inspired and loosely based on William Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night.

39. Nacho Libre
An orphanage worker wrestles in order to win prize money and provide better provisions for the children, despite this going against the monastery's policies. This is loosely based on a true story of a Mexican Priest who competed in wrestling for over 20 years.

38. Mean Machine

A former England footballer is in prison and offered the chance to coach the guard's team. He declines and forms his own team, made up of inmates, with the intention play against the guards. The film is based on the 1974 film The Longest Yard, but the plot replaces the American Football aspect with Association Football.

37. Field of Dreams
A farmer takes the advice of spiritual voices to turn his corn field into a baseball pitch, during a financial slump. The film is based on a novel, titled Shoeless Joe, written by W.P. Kinsella and the field used in the film was sold in 2011 for $5.4M.

36. BASEketball
Two young guys create a game and see it flourish nationally. They must overcome many struggles and conflicts to succeed in their team. All of the teams in the movie are named after stereotypes to the area they represent.

35. Space Jam
Michael Jordan is needed to save the Looney Tunes from a group of evil aliens. A game of basketball will decide their fate. Space Jam is a fictional telling of Michael Jordan’s first retirement from the National Basketball Association and the film is the highest grossing basketball movie of all time.

34. Friday Night Lights
A football team from Texas have to bear the weight of the expectant Odessa townspeople. They are expected to win their championships, but can they live up to the demands? Friday Night Lights is based on the book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream and it won Best Sports Movie at the ESPY Awards.

33. Wimbledon

Two professional tennis players have to choose between their on-court success and relationship with each other, as they don't go hand-in-hand. The film was inspired by Croatian tennis player, Goran Ivanišević, who is the only man to win Wimbledon, having entered as a wildcard. Also, shots of London Zoo was used to depict the film’s portrayal of Wimbledon’s entrance.

32. The Hurricane
A former champion boxer has spent 20 years in prison and his battle against this conviction is recounted. The Hurricane is based on two novels: The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender To #45472; and Lazarus and the Hurricane: The Freeing of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Although the film was well received, it has been criticised for being factually inaccurate. 

31. National Velvet
A young girl wins a horse in a raffle and decides to rain it to compete in the Grand national Steeplechase. The film, based on a novel of the same name, is viewed as being so culturally significant that it was preserved in the United States National Film Registry. 

30. BMX Bandits
Three kids, who are keen on BMX riding, get caught up with the police and a criminal gang. Nicole Kidman’s stunt double in the film was an 18 year-old man who wore a wig and despite the film being Australian, the director was British.

29. There's Only One Jimmy Grimble
A young football fanatic feels his luck is down but he is given a pair of football boots that may change his fortunes. The film was set in Oldham and bares similarities to a 1960s comic strip called Billy’s Boots.

28. Warrior

Two brothers, who have not been in contact for many years, must get past their differences as they both compete in a Mixed Martial Arts tournament. Nick Nolte won an Academy Award for best supporting actor and Tom Hardy gained 28 pounds of muscle for his role in the film.

27. Seabiscuit
Three men collaborate to train a horse towards success during The Great Depression. The film is based on the book Seabiscuit: An American Legend and tells a loose story of a real-life horse of the same name who became a popular sporting figure.

26. Moneyball
A baseball team manager must assemble a winning team on a tight budget and find new ways to scout talented players. The film is based on a novel of the same name (by Michael Lewis) and the script was rewritten twice due to difficulties in production. 

25. Remember The Titans
A school football coach, with the help of a former coach, has to overcome the racial conflict in his team to gain success on the pitch. The film made over $100,000 profit and was produced by four film companies. 

24. Varsity Blues
A high-school football team's players must overcome the pressures of growing up and playing for their demanding team. The film made a healthy profit, despite mixed reviews, and opened at number 1 in the box office on its debut weekend.

23. Lords of Dogtown

Three young skateboarders become famous and have to deal with their faltering relationships as success gets to them. The film is based on the Z-Boys, who were a group of pioneering skateboarders in California and Heath Ledger gained critical acclaim for his portrayal of lead character, Skip Engblom.

22. Hoosiers
A controversial coach must win over Hickory's townspeople, who believe he is not right to coach their school's renowned basketball team. The film is loosely based on the Milan High School Basketball Team that won the state championship in 1954 and despite its $6M budget, it made $28M at the box office and was nominated for two Oscars.

21. Mr 3000
A baseball player retires when he reaches a personal milestone of 3000 hits and leaves his team mates stranded. Years later, to save his reputation, he makes a comeback when he is revealed to have only hit 2997. The film made a loss at the box office and the film was questioned over its continuity because, in reality, there is no interleague play in a regular season, like there is in the film.

20. Mike Bassett: England Manager
A Division 1 manager is given the unlikely chance to manage the England National Football Team and has the task of qualifying for the World Cup. Mike Bassett: England Manager is loosely based on real events and a  TV Series followed, which showed the unsuccessful career of the fictional manager.

19. Run Fatboy Run
A lazy security guard attempts to run the London marathon in order to win the affections of his wife, who he previously left at the alter. The film was directed by David Schwimmer and it made a profit of over $20M at the box office.

18. The Mighty Ducks

A lawyer, who is haunted by his past, is arrested for drunk driving and ordered to coach a hopeless hockey team. A real-life ice hockey team called The Mighty Ducks began playing after the movie was released and it was owned by Disney.

17. Blue Crush
A surfer must balance the commitment to her surfing career and a fledgling relationship with an American Football player. The film was shot without blue screens or CGI and the actors had to learn how to surf, but real-life surfers are also present in the movie.

16. Billy Elliot
A young boy discovers a passion for ballet, but his male-dominated family do not respect this decision. He secretly attends lessons and has a clear talent. The movie made nearly £70,000,000 profit at the box office and was adapted into a stage production in 2005 with the help of singer-songwriter, Elton John.

15. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
An owner of a small gym enters a Dodgeball Tournament in order to raise money and stop his business being bought-out by a rival gym. There was controversy over the script and two writers felt their work had been copied, but the issue was settled out of court. There are plans in place for a sequel in the not-so-distant future.

14. The Damned United

The films tells the story on Brian Clough's struggle at England's biggest team (at the time), Leeds United. Clough enjoyed much success before but me moved into the Leeds job without his loyal assistant, Peter Taylor. Chesterfield Football Club’s ground was used to shoot scenes at Wembley, Norwich and Blackpool because of it’s retro-look and exterior shots of Scarborough were digitally enhanced to look like Brighton.

13. The Karate Kid
A young boy is bullied and turns to karate to help defend himself. He must learn how to fight for good, not bad. A novel was published after the film’s release and there have been two sequels and two remakes of the film, since the original’s release.

12. Bull Durham
A baseball team's supporter makes it her mission to get involved with a new player every season, but a love-triangle forms. The film grossed over $40M and lead Kevin Costner was cast because of his athleticism; he even hit two home runs during filming.

11. Caddyshack
A comedy about a young caddy who has aspirations to go to college and the battle between a millionaire and a gold club owner. Most of Bill Murray’s lines were improvised and Cindy Morgan had to be carefully guided up a diving board ladder because she couldn’t wear her contact lenses by the pool and was therefore, blind.

10. Invincible
A thirty year-old substitute teacher tries out for an American football team during a time where job security is insecure. The film was a commercial success and is based on the real story of Vince Papale, an NFL player who played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976 to 1978.

9.  Rocky

A debt collector-turned-amateur boxer gets the fight of his life and falls in love with a shy girl. With barely any promotion and budget, the film was a major success and grossed over $200M. It also launched the career of Sylvester Stallone as a writer and lead actor.

8. Escape to Victory
Allied prisoners in a German P.O.W Camp play in a football match against the German National Team. The match is an opportunity for the prisoners to escape. The film is based on a Hungarian film called  Két félidő a pokolban (which translates to Two half-times in Hell) and around fifteen professional footballers – including Pele and Bobby Moore - appeared in the film, seven of whom played for Ipswich Town. 

7. When Saturday Comes
An arrogant, drunken man with bags of potential to become a professional footballer is given the opportunity of a lifetime. Can he clean up his act and grab his chance at glory? Lead actor, Sean Bean, is from Sheffield (the film’s location) and he is a big supporter of the focal club in the film, Sheffield United.

6. Ali
The film is a biopic on Muhammed Ali, arguably the greatest boxer of all time. His life story (religious, personal and political factors) is told and his infamous 'Rumble in the Jungle' fight is a major factor in the film. Lead actor, Will Smith, spent a year learning about Mohammed Ali and his mannerisms whilst also learning how to box. Despite good critical acclaim, the film made a hefty loss at the box office.

5. The Longest Yard (1974)
Prison inmates play against their guards in a game of American Football. One on the inmates is a former professional and has the motivation to train his fellow inmates in an attempt to win. The Longest Yard won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture and inspired a 2005 remake of the same name and soccer movie, Mean Machine, was based on the film.

4. The Blindside

A troubled youth, taken in by a family, is given the chance to learn and become a football player. Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for Best Motion Picture and the film made a staggering profit to make it the highest grossing football movie of all time.

3. Million Dollar Baby
A veteran boxing trainer, who doesn't feel his career is noteworthy, is given the task of training a 31-year-old woman who has the desire to succeed. The film won four Academy Awards, grossed over $200M and this was after director Clint Eastwood struggled to get it produced by leading film companies.

2. Cool Runnings
A Jamaican sprinter doesn't make the Olympics team, so he forms a Bobsled Team to compete in the Winter Olympics. Jamaica isn't renowned for it's snow, so an American coach is tasked with helping them out. The film inspired a Jamaican bobsled team to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics and they even described themselves as a second generation of Cool Runnings.

1. Raging Bull

A middleweight boxing champion's career is disrupted by personal issues and he seeks redemption. Director Martin Scorsese agreed to direct the film after he almost died of a drug overdose, viewing it as a way to please Robert De Niro and rebuild his own life. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards – it won two – and made a small profit; the violence was viewed as a factor that put audiences off watching it. However, it has gone down in history as one of the greats.

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