**NOTE: Be sure to check out part 2 of this article on our site!
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent cancellation of sports, it has been difficult for me to find a way to fill this sports void while being stuck at home.
I have found that the best way to deal with this sudden loss of sports is by watching my favorite sports movies. Although there are many sports films that I love to watch, I compiled a list of my fifteen favorites to help you and your fellow fans with these next few weeks.
I separated the films into four tiers: the Role Players, the Starters, the All Stars, and the Hall of Famers. As in any professional sport, the films in the Role Players and Starters tiers are solid, but lack the “it” factor to make them great. Similarly, the All Stars and Hall Famers tiers contain the best of the best and are my favorite sports movies of all time.
This is part one of my two part series and contains the Role Players and Starters as well as my honorable mentions. I did my best to avoid spoilers, but am adding a precautionary SPOILER WARNING just in case.
Honorable Mentions: Space Jam, Coach Carter, Jerry Maguire, Days of Thunder, BASEketball, The Replacements, Remember the Titans
Tier 1: The Role Players
15. Friday Night Lights (2004)
Rating: PG-13, Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Britton, Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke,
Review: Although it is not as popular as the television show of the same name, Friday Night Lights is a terrific look into the emotional, high-stakes, and sometimes toxic world of high school football. Based on a true story, the film focuses on the 1988 Permian High Panthers and head coach Gary Gaines (Thornton). The Panthers are revered as gods in their small town of Odessa, Texas and residents expect nothing less than a championship. When the Panthers begin to struggle, the players and coach face scrutiny from their families and neighbors. They then have to find a way to rally together against all odds. Thornton is terrific as the scrutinized head coach, while Luke, Black, and Hedlund thrive as the star players of the team. The movie also accurately depicts how toxic high school sports can be as well as the amount of pressure teenage athletes are under. A strong soundtrack and an amazing final 30 minutes help this movie be one of my favorite football films. However, the film feels very long due to there being many side plots throughout. It also fails to develop any of the other characters aside from the main stars and I was not as emotionally attached to the main characters as in other sports films.
14. Like Mike (2002)
Rating: PG, Runtime: 1 hour 39 minutes
Starring: Lil Bow Wow, Morris Chestnut, Jonathan Lipnicki, Crispin Glover
Review: After finding a pair of Michael Jordan’s old sneakers, fourteen year-old orphan Calvin Cambridge (Bow Wow) gains MJ’s basketball powers whenever he puts on the shoes. He soon grabs the attention of the struggling Los Angeles Knights of the NBA and they make him their starting point guard. Calvin must then deal with his big secret, playing in the NBA, and the evil guardian of his orphanage, Stan Bittleman (Glover). Like Mike was one of my favorite movies as a kid and is one of the reasons why I became such a big fan of the NBA. The relationship between Calvin and his disgruntled superstar teammate Tracy Reynolds (Chestnut) is what drives this movie. There are also cameos from the biggest NBA stars of the late-90s and early-2000s, which should entice any sports fan. The movie lacks sizable drama and is fairly predictable, but is a great family movie that will leave you smiling.
13. Semi-Pro (2008)
Rating: R, Runtime: 1 hour 39 minutes
Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Andre 3000
Review: Taking place in 1976, Semi-Pro tells the story of one-hit wonder Jackie Moon (Ferrell), who used the profits of his hit single to buy the Flint Tropics of the ABA. The Tropics are the worst team in the league and seem poised to fold after the season due to the ABA merging with the NBA. Determined to not lose their team, Moon, NBA cast-off Monix (Harrelson), and young star Clarence (Andre 3000) attempt to turn the Tropics’ season around and save their team. This movie may be the funniest of any movie on the list. Ferrell and Harrelson are two of my favorite actors and are both hilarious in this movie. There are an endless amount of clips and quotes from Semi-Pro that are still relevant today although the movie was released over 12 years ago. Similar to Like Mike, the film is predictable and lacks any real stakes, but is quite enjoyable and will definitely make you laugh.
Tier 2: The Starters
12. Hoosiers (1986)
Rating: PG, Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes
Starring: Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, Maris Valainis, Dennis Hopper
Review: Hoosiers is one of the first iconic sports movies ever made and is one of my favorites. Loosely based on a true story, the film focuses on failed college coach Norman Dale (Hackman), who comes to Hickory High School to take over as their head basketball. Hickory is a very small school and seems to be longshots for the state championship. To make matters worse, Dale is scrutinized by the town for his checkered past and his new coaching tactics. After former star Jimmy Chitwood (Valainis) returns to play, the team buys into Dale’s philosophy and attempts to shock the world. This film laid the groundwork for every great sports movie that followed it. It contains great speeches and a great performance by Hackman. Dale’s pre-game speech near the end of the movie and the final sequence are two of the most iconic scenes ever in a sports film. This movie could be higher, but the forced relationship between Dale and Myra Fleener (Hershey) as well as the lack of development for certain players moves it down my list. Still, this film is fantastic and a must for any sports fan.
11. Goon (2011)
Rating: R, Runtime: 1 hour 32 minutes
Starring: Seann William Scott, Liev Schreiber, Alison Pill, Jay Baruchel
Review: Goon tells the story of Doug Glatt (William Scott), a small-minded yet kind-hearted bouncer looking for his place in the world. After beating up a player at a hockey game, Glatt finds his calling as an enforcer for the Halifax Highlanders, a semi-pro hockey team. Glatt soon becomes a fighting force in the league and seems poised for a climatic battle against retiring enforcer Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Schreiber). There is so much to love about this film. The hockey and fighting scenes are great to watch as well as the camaraderie amongst the players in the locker room. The chemistry between William Scott and Schreiber carries the movie and both were perfectly cast as their respective characters. Baruchel, who plays Glatt’s potty-mouthed best friend Pat, is hilarious in his limited screen time. All of the Highlanders alongside Glatt are terrific and each given an opportunity to shine. I nearly put this movie in my top ten and it is tough for me to keep it out.
10. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
Rating: PG-13, Runtime: 1 hour 48 minutes
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Leslie Bibb
Review: By far my favorite NASCAR movie, Talladega Nights stars Ferrell as Ricky Bobby, a star NASCAR driver whose sole purpose in life is to go fast and finish first. Bobby soon reaches the pinnacle of the sport and lets the fame get to his head. He is self-absorbed and treats his best friend and teammate Cal Naughton Jr. (Reilly) terribly. However, after French sensation Jean Girard (Baron Cohen) emerges onto the NASCAR scene, Bobby hits rock bottom. He then goes on a journey of self-discovery to find what he really values in life and to settle his problems with his estranged father (Gary Cole). Similar to Ferrell’s work in Semi-Pro, Talladega Nights is an hilarious movie that is filled with laughter from start to finish. Bobby’s quotes throughout the film as well as the many hilarious sequences throughout make this movie one of the most memorable sports films ever. The intense racing scenes and cameos by various NASCAR stars make the movie even better. Due to it running a little too long, this film just missed my All Stars tier, but it is still a must watch.