With sports leagues of all kinds closed for the foreseeable future because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many sports fans are at a loss as to where to turn for entertainment. Fortunately, there is an alternative: sports movies. From hockey to football to horse racing, there are countless films about the thrill of competition and the bonds of teamwork.
If you have access to a streaming service, you already have everything you need. Grab some popcorn, throw on your favorite jersey and settle in for the best sports movies of all time.
A League of Their Own (1992)
Whether you were a fan of women’s baseball before the pandemic or not, A League of Their Own is a classic baseball movie that also chronicles women’s struggle to be taken seriously as baseball players during World War II. It’s sure to give you a new appreciation for the hard work women baseball players put into the game.
The film is inspired by a true story, but it also has its share of humor and baseball drama. With a cast including Lori Petty, Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Rosie O’Donnell and even Madonna, it’s a truly iconic baseball movie.
The Olympic Committee has already postponed the Summer 2020 Olympics until Summer 2021, but you don’t have to wait until then to get a taste of the unique mix of patriotism, determination and cooperation that the games represent.
Miracle is the true story of Herb Brooks, the U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey Team and their surprising win over the USSR in the 1980 Olympic Games. It will give you a newfound appreciation for the challenges Olympic athletes face alongside a harrowing tale to keep you entertained.
If you’re feeling like you can’t get where you want to be in life, either because of the pandemic or something else, consider watching the classic film Rudy. It’s the perfect film for people who find life inspiration through sports.
Protagonist Rudy’s only goal was to make the Notre Dame football team. While he wasn’t the best player, through sheer determination, he won the respect of his teammates and achieved his dream.
Raging Bull (1980)
The first Martin Scorcese film featuring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci was the classic Raging Bull. The movie received little critical acclaim upon its initial release, but it has since been placed on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Films list. This biographical drama follows the true story of Jake LaMotta, a self-destructive boxer who struggled with his rage.
The film pairs the suspense of boxing with the profoundly human story of one man struggling with his own ego. Where will LaMotta’s career and anger take him? Watch and find out.
Hoop Dreams (1994)
The pandemic has many people examining societal values, sports fans included. If you’re one such person and also enjoy baseball, Hoop Dreams could be right up your alley. This thoughtful documentary follows two African-American teenagers as they seek fame and opportunity through basketball.
The film won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary, Hoop Dreams. Critics praised it for its insightful take on questions of class, race, education and other social issues. If you want to see the challenges prospective players face behind the scenes, this documentary is for you.
Any Given Sunday (1999)
If you miss watching live football games even more than televised ones, Any Given Sunday might be what you’re looking for. While the film is also a drama and thoughtful meditation on the sports industry as a whole, it excels most at capturing the gritty action on the field itself in extreme detail.
Director Oliver Stone put together a phenomenal cast for the movie, from Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx to Charlton Heston and Elizabeth Berkeley. Several generations of famed actors make appearances in the film , and there are also plenty of cameos from professional football players.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby (2006)
Like more conventional sports, NASCAR has also suspended its events in the wake of the pandemic. While virtual racing events played through computers might be satisfying for some fans, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
Another alternative is the classic racing comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Whether you saw it in theaters or have yet to witness Will Ferrel’s raceway shenanigans, it’s a good time for NASCAR fans.
The Natural (1984)
The Natural is a 1984 film based on Bernard Malamud’s novel of the same. Like Field of Dreams, it’s a moving tale of supernatural events and a love of the game. After Roy Hobbs’ father dies of a heart attack, a baseball bat made from a lightning-struck tree propels him on a heartfelt baseball journey.
Robert Reford, Glenn Close and Robert Duvall make up just some of the stars in the cast. The film was later nominated for four Academy Awards, and Kim Basinger won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.
Happy Gilmore (1996)
Golf may seem like a tame sport to those who don’t know it well, but there’s nothing tame at all in Happy Gilmore, an Adam Sandler movie about a former hockey player with rage issues who turns to golf.
The titular protagonist, played by Sander, ends up trying to save his grandmother’s house by winning a golf tournament, and shenanigans (including fisticuffs with Bob Barker) ensue. This is another classic movie that even non-sports fans can enjoy.
Field of Dreams (1989)
Many sports movies have their share of emotion, but Field of Dreams takes things to a whole new level. It’s a story about the joy of baseball first and foremost, but even people who aren’t interested in the game can connect to the protagonist’s longing to better know his father.
Field Of Dreams was nominated for three academy awards and was even selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry and was based on a novel by W.P. Kinsella called Shoeless Joe. Once the pandemic ends, you can even visit the field where it was filmed in Dyersville, Iowa.
The Program (1983)
If you’re missing college football in particular, The Program can meet your needs and then some. While the heart of the action is on the field, it also touches on the dark side of college sports, such as alcohol and drug use.
The movie features incredible performances by a young Halle Berry, Omar Epps and Kristy Swanson. While the ESU Timberwolves the film follows are fictitious, they face off against many real teams, including the Iowa Hawkeyes and Michigan Wolverines.
A lot of the thrill of sports is seeing the hard work of dedicated athletes pay off in real time. Movies might not have the benefit of being real, but that doesn’t mean they can’t tell a compelling story. And what sports movie has a protagonist and tale so compelling that it was extended with five sequels and two spinoffs? Rocky, of course.
This boxing movie won three out of its 10 Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture. Sylvester Stallone captures everything that makes boxing great, from hard work and grit to determination and love of the sport.
The Sandlot (1976)
Adults aren’t the only ones who have to give up sports during the pandemic; many kids are also unable to play in Little League teams across the country. If you’re looking for cinematic sports experience that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, consider The Sandlot.
This generation-defining film is about a group of neighborhood friends and their love for baseball. In addition to the young cast, Karen Allen, Dennis Leary and James Earl Jones make appearances.
Dodgeball isn’t exactly a regularly televised sport, and few people play it outside of high school gym classes. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for nonsensical fun that captures thrill of sticking it to the other guy and coming together as a team, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story could be your movie.
With Vince Vaughn as the protagonist, Alan Tudyk as a pirate (because obviously) and Ben Stiller as the villain, the movie is a crazy ride. This is another sports movie that can also appeal to non-sports fans.
Cool Runnings (1993)
Historically, Jamaica has been famed for its sprinters and other runners in the Olympics. However, in 1988, the Caribbean island country also introduced its first bobsled team, paving the way for this sports classic.
Cool Runnings was released five years after the premier of the real Jamaican bobsled team. The movie has a feel-good island soundtrack with plenty of laughs from Leon Robinson, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba and the late John Candy.
The Replacements (2000)
In addition to sports, two Keanu Reeves movies — the fourth installments of The Matrix and John Wick alike — have been postponed by the pandemic. Fortunately, there’s an excellent way to pass the time while waiting for more sports and Reeves alike.
The Replacements, starring Gene Hackman and Jon Favreau in addition to star Reeves, is about a fictional professional football league that recruits washed up, rookie and retired players to keep the game going. It’s football and Reeves at their best.
Space Jam (1996)
Sometimes, you want gritty realism in sports movies: actors who trained for months for the part, believable games and maybe even appearances by real players. But other times, you want something else. Sometimes, you want Space Jam.
Granted, Michael Jordan does star in this cult classic basketball movie. However, it quickly goes wild when he teams up with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and a whole cartoon team. Oh, and they’re playing against aliens, and Bill Murray makes an appearance. It’s not for everyone, but if that sounds amazing to you, you’ll probably find that it is.
Necessary Roughness (1991)
Scandals are an inevitable part of football and sports in general, and a scandal is exactly how 1991 comedy Necessary Roughness begins. After a series of NCAA violations result in most of a previously ascendant football being banned from the game, replacements are brought in, and they’re not exactly regulars. Hilarity ensues.
This movie features stars including Scott Bakula, Kathy Ireland, Sinbad, Jason Bateman, Rob Schneider and more. It’s a classic comedy and underdog mashup perfect for a Friday movie night.
Slap Shot (1977)
While hockey comedy Slapshot was only a moderate success upon its movie theater release, it slowly gained popularity over the years. Considering Paul Newman stars, it’s not surprising that the movie is now a classic.
Slap Shot tells the tale of a hockey team in a postindustrial town that’s seen better days that resorts to violence to win games. Some of the movie is actually based on the experiences of writer Nancy Dowd’s brother in several minor league hockey teams.
Bad News Bears (1976)
Before The Sandlot, there was another young team of baseball misfits that captured the hearts of baseball movie lovers everywhere. Before The Mighty Ducks, another alcoholic coach volunteered in a kid’s league for legal reasons. The original team of terrible tykes is The Bad News Bears.
Coach Morris Buttermaker, played by the incomparable Walter Matthau, turned a hopeless group of hopeless kids into a team of contenders, and in the process, an entire subgenre of sports films was launched.
The Wrestler (2008)
Without professional wrestling organizations like the WWE in operation, wrestling fans everywhere have found themselves out of luck. However, one fictional wrestling movie is guaranteed to get the blood pumping.
The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, is an incredible story about a professional wrestler who’s seen better days. His time is almost up, and he has to come to terms with retirement or become the champion he once was. Can he pull it off?
White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
Maybe rather than watching sports, you miss being able to play them yourself. From trash talking to friendships, a neighborhood game of basketball has a lot to it that watching players on a screen just can’t offer.
Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes offer a mix of both in the 1992 comedy White Men Can’t Jump. The former plays Billy, a man on the run from the mob who hustles streetballers by using his appearance to make them underestimate him. After pulling one over on Snipes’ character, they become unlikely friends and rivals. Strangely enough, this film was also one of Stanley Kubrick’s favorite movies.
The Longest Yard (1974, 2005)
The Longest Yard tells the tale of a former football star, Paul Crewe, whose bad decisions send him to prison. Unbeknown to him, the warden of the prison lobbied for Crewe to be assigned to his facility specifically so that he could force him to play in a game of inmates versus prison guards.
The Longest Yard was originally a 1974 film starring Burt Reynolds. However, it was popular enough to earn a 2005 remake with Adam Sandler as the lead and Burt Reynolds reappearing as the coach. Both versions have plenty of football action and comedy, so you’ll be in for a good time either way.
The Karate Kid (1984)
Martial arts may not be televised as much as football or even golf, but many people nevertheless miss the opportunity to practice them personally. While The Karate Kid is undoubtedly more dramatic than most people’s experiences of learning the martial arts, that’s probably not a bad thing in a movie.
Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio’s performances went on to inspire multiple sequels and a remake with Jackie Chan (although the latter was admittedly poorly received). The movie left a profound impact on pop culture and sports films, so it’s worth taking the time to see.
Ford v Ferrari (2019)
Whether you’re a fan of racing or just really, really nice cars, Ford v Ferrari is worth a look. It’s based on the real-life competition between underdog American car company Ford and Italian competitor Ferrari, the latter of which dominated the racetrack in the 1960s.
This James Mangold action thriller stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale and was nominated for and won a number of Academy Awards and other accolades. If staying at home has itching for speed, it could be right for you.
If Groundhog Day and its plot of every day being maddeningly the same feels too real while social distancing, Caddyshack offers its own share of Bill Murray humor with a side of golf shenanigans, including an extended hunt of a clearly stuffed gopher. It’s a good time all around.
With appearances by Chevy Chase, Ted Knight, Michael O’Keefe and Rodney Dangerfield as well as Murray himself, the cast is truly top-notch. It’s also been honored several times by the American Film Institute.
Remember the Titans (2000)
Remember the Titans is the sort of sports movie that if you haven’t seen it, you’ve still definitely heard of it. Based on the true story of desegregation in 1970s Virginia, the movie follows two football teams, one from a formerly white school and the other from a formerly African-American one, that must come together to form a team
Denzel Washington plays the head coach, who is given the position over the previous head coach of the formerly white school. Both the coaches and the team itself must come together to heal the wounds of segregation and achieve victory on the field.
If you miss the brawls and violence of hockey most of all, then you might enjoy Goon. This largely Canadian sports comedy follows a bouncer-turned-hockey player, and it includes no shortage of showdowns on the ice.
While it’s definitely a violent movie, protagonist Doug Glatt (played by Seann William Scott) isn’t a cruel or sadistic person. Instead, he has a friendly innocence to him even as he smacks down players and clubgoers, and the story is as much about his attempts to find a place where he belongs as it is about hockey.
Bull Durham (1988)
Bull Durham belongs to the lesser-seen sports romance comedy subgenre, and it offers a bit of something for everyone. With performances by Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, it’s an enjoyable film from start to finish.
Minor League star “Crash” Davis, played by Costner, is brought in to mentor younger player Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh (Robbins). They soon meet baseball fan Annie Savoy (Sarandon), and a love triangle soon ensues. The script was nominated for an Academy Award, and Sarandon was nominated for a Golden Globe.