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Top 8 Sports Movies

The weekly lockdown ritual begins this evening of asking friends, ‘have you watched anything good?’, in the vain search for a boxset or movie recommendation to entertain you for a couple of hours over the weekend.

Last week on my school friends WhatsApp group, a fairly innocent question, kickstarted a debate about the best sports movies of all time, a summary of which I am sharing below. I should try and shoehorn in a business related link, so shall we just file this one under ‘building resilience/helping to overcome the odds’ and run with it, as it’s Friday?

The Mercenary

This is a great story about a young guy who leaves the South Pacific Island of New Caledonia for France, in part to play professional rugby but mainly to escape island life and his abusive father.  It is a drama about being an outsider and a portrait of life as a journeyman pro. Well worth a watch and it’s a foreign language film which, as you know, will enhance any good movie list but primarily serves to present the author as a cultured intellectual.

Field of Dreams

“If you build it, they will come”. You know it, but when was the last time you watched it? A brilliant movie from the King of Sports Movies, Kevin Costner.  If you are a man and the final scene with him playing catch with his dad doesn’t get you every time, I suggest a visit to the therapist.

Eddie the Eagle

This story about the hapless ski jumper at the 88 Winter Olympics, just edges out Cool Runnings in the winter sports section of the draw. Starring Wolverine and the guy who played Elton John, it is a super sweet movie about the ultimate underdog. An interesting side note that I picked up recently whilst reading Bob Iger’s autobiography (tenuous business link!) is that one of the reasons he became a star is because the weather in Calgary during the Olympics was so bad that the bulk of the schedule was disrupted or cancelled so the TV companies had to find unusual stories to fill the gaps in their schedules, hence the focus on Eddie.


OK. I like all the Rocky movies, even Balboa.  If you don’t like a training montage, do you even like sport? If you haven’t run up the top of a set of steps and jumped up and down with your hands in the air, quite frankly I would wonder if you even dream at night. Whilst the sequels play to the crowd, the first movie is excellent by any measure. The latter efforts may have diluted your memory of how good the original is, so it is worth a revisit.

The Replacements

Admittedly, this is the worst movie on the list and is included at the expense of other likely more worthy contenders. However, it is also one of my favourites. An American football comedy about a team of misfits drafted in to fulfill fixtures during a player’s strike.  It is for all those people who have a story about how they could’ve, would’ve, or should’ve made it but life and circumstance contrived against them. It is a movie about redemption and overcoming all the odds. It’s also rather stupid but stars Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman, so what is not to like?

Escape to Victory

Hands down the best cast of any sports movie. Michael Caine, Max von Sydow – Ming the Merciless to those of a certain vintage – and then actual footballers Ossie Ardiles, Bobby Moore, flippin Pele himself, and then the most left field casting in all of sports movie history, Sylvestor Stallone as a goalkeeper. Unbelievable from start to finish, but uplifting, engrossing and the final match at the end with the thronging French crowd is fantastic.

Any Given Sunday

Another American football movie, but this one is directed by Oliver Stone. It is a good movie, however its inclusion is down to the ‘Inches’ speech by Al Pacino.  Anyone who has ever stood in a changing room in those final moments just before a big game, when it is just you and your team and you are trying to find the right words, not just to inspire and motivate but to actually whip your team up into a frenzy will all have wanted to summon the spirit of Al Pacino.

The Wrestler

I know. I know. But this beats out Dodgeball and Seabiscuit in the ‘sports that aren’t actually sports’ bracket. This is a relentless movie where you get immersed in the ugly reality of the life of Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, a washed up old has been who is full of bitterness and resentment, but the life that has treated him so badly, is the only one that he knows. Possibly the best movie on this list and is included because when I was 10 – Hulk Hogan facing the Ultimate Warrior was every bit as real to me as Willie Anderson facing the Haka.

I’m no Barry Norman, but hopefully this might help you put in a couple of hours at the weekend. Back to jobs and CV chat as normal next week.

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Top 8 Sports Movies
Top 8 Sports Movies
Top 8 Sports Movies