As winter approaches, you might find yourself with some free time at home during the holidays, or maybe even with a few snow days on campus. Instead of playing the same video games over and over all day long, or scrolling on social media, make the most of your downtime and stream some of the greatest inspirational sports films ever made.
A Guide To The Most Inspirational Sports Movies
Since there are a lot of sports movies out there that you can watch, you might be wondering, what exactly is it that separates the great sports movies from the ones that are just okay?
Usually, the great sports stories have a few things in common. For starters, the team (or athlete) featured in the film is usually an underdog. All of us watching at home think right from the get-go that there’s no way that this team will ever become champions, or that the hero or heroine is talented enough to achieve his or her goals.
Then the team (or the athlete) sets out to prove everyone wrong. As the team (or athlete) does this, we watch as they face adversity, needing to overcome obstacle after obstacle up until the point where the team or athlete is ready to pack it in and give up.
But instead, the team (or athlete) digs deeper in order to find themselves (and their game). Usually, at this point, the team (or athlete) has also decided that they’re going to leave it all out there on the field or court, or in the ring. And while the team (or athlete) may want a certain result, they know that the only thing that they truly can control is their own performance.
Great sports movies usually have an epic villain (a team or an opponent) that the audience is rooting against throughout the movie, as well. This way, when the underdog is able to overcome all odds and beat the team (or opponent) at the end of the film, the audience will feel like they’ve been through everything that the hero or heroine went through during the movie, which makes that final victory that much sweeter for everyone involved.
At the end of great sports movies, you’ll feel like your life has just been changed for the better after witnessing what you just watched. And as the final credits roll, you’ll be inspired to truly become the best version of yourself and will do everything and anything that it takes to make your dreams come true.
So, for those of you who eat, sleep, and breathe sports, here are 10 inspirational sports films that will make you want to run through a wall after watching them.
10 Of The Most Inspiring Sports Movies Of All Time (In No Particular Order)
Rocky is one of the most inspirational sports movies of all time. Released in 1976, Rocky is the ultimate underdog story. The film follows Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer who seems to be going nowhere in life.
Portrayed on the screen by Sylvester Stallone (who also wrote the film), Rocky fights in clubs for little pay and has to work as a collector for a loan shark in order to pay his bills. Rocky is also overlooked by everyone, and is often mocked and told that he’s nothing but a “bum.”
Out of sheer luck, Rocky is given an opportunity of a lifetime when Apollo Creed (a champion fighter) selects him as his opponent in a title fight. Instead of letting the opportunity pass him by, Rocky fights for self-respect.
In the end, Rocky shows the world that he’s capable of going the distance with the champ. This movie was such a big hit with audiences that there are now six Rocky movies (five sequels) and two Creed spin-off movies, with a third on the way (Creed III will be coming out in 2022). Critics loved Rocky, as well. In fact, the filmwon the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1976.
2. A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
Directed by Penny Marshall, A League of Their Own tells a fictionalized account of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL).
While this classic sports film about the first female professional baseball league perfectly captures the essence of baseball, at the heart of the film is the relationship between two of the ball players – sisters Dorothy “Dottie” Henson (portrayed by Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (portrayed by Lori Petty).
There are also a number of memorable lines throughout this movie such as: “See, how it works is, the train moves, not the station.” And, of course, Manager Jimmy Dugan’s (portrayed by Tom Hanks) famous line, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
Miracle is a movie about one of the greatest sports moments in American history. Considered one of the most accurate depictions of real-life stories, Miracle depicts the journey of the U.S. Men’s Olympic ice hockey team as they fight their way to the 1980 gold medal.
Leading up to the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Soviet Union, which had won the gold medal in five of the six previous Winter Olympics, were favorites to win the gold medal in Lake Placid once again. The Soviet team was made up of mostly professional hockey players, while the American team, led by legendary Head Coach Herb Brooks (portrayed by Kurt Russell), was composed of mainly amateur hockey players.
While the outcome of this game is well-known since America’s victory over the Soviet team was dubbed “Miracle on Ice,” you’ll still be glued to your seat (or couch) as you watch this magical sports film that won the Best Sports Movie ESPY Award for 2004.
Written by Angelo Pizzo, Rudy is a biographical sports film about the life of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger who always dreamed of playing football at the University of Notre Dame despite significant obstacles.
This sports story is the tale of every untalented kid who had a dream and refused to give up. That’s because the big victory in Rudy isn’t about winning the championship. Instead, it’s about just getting a chance to play.
Rudy was the first film that the Notre Dame administration allowed to be shot on campus since Knute Rockne, All American in 1940.
Another classic sports film written by Angelo Pizzo, Hoosiers tells the story of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that enters the state championship. The movie is loosely based on the story of the Milan High School team that participated in the 1954 state championship.
In this film, Gene Hackman gives a terrific performance as Coach Norman Dale, a coach with a spotty past. The community tries to drive Coach Dale out of town, but a player speaks up on his behalf at a town meeting, allowing him to stay. Then the team finds itself, and eventually makes it to the state finals, pulling out an against all odds victory in the championship game.
And if you want to watch Gene Hackman coach another team after this movie, make sure to check out The Replacements, which was inspired by the true story of the 1987 NFL strike. In this football film, Hackman plays Coach Jimmy McGinty.
Muhammad Ali is considered one of the most iconic athletes in the history of sports. In fact, many people simply refer to Ali as, ‘The Greatest.’ And for that reason, lots of people wondered why Michael Mann was making a biopic of Muhammad Ali, especially since the Academy Award-winning documentary When We Were Kings had already encapsulated his legacy.
The movie Ali (starring Will Smith) is about race and politics as much as it’s about Ali. The film focuses on 10 years in Ali’s life from 1964 to 1974, featuring his capture of the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, his conversion to Islam, criticism of the Vietnam War, and banishment from boxing. Then the film shows Ali’s return fight against Joe Frazier in 1971, as well as him reclaiming the title from George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle fight of 1974. Both Will Smith and Jon Voight received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.
If you want to watch Will Smith in some other phenomenal sports movies, make sure to check out King Richard, The Legend of Bagger Vance, and Concussion.
7. REMEMBER THE TITANS
One of the best football movies of all time, Remember the Titans is based on the true story of Coach Herman Boone (portrayed by Denzel Washington) and his attempt to integrate the T.C. Williams High School football team in the early 1970s.
After leading his football team to 15 winning seasons, beloved football coach Bill Yoast is demoted and replaced by Coach Boone, a tough and opinionated coach. Coach Boone and Coach Yoast get off to a rocky start, but eventually they overcome their differences and turn a group of frustrated and hostile young men into champions.
8. BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM
An inspirational soccer movie for a generation, Bend It Like Beckham is the story of two women who just want to play soccer, but keep being prevented by their families, as well as a culture that tries to stand in their way.
From the very beginning of this film, Jess (portrayed by Parminder Nagra) is forced to choose between her dream of playing soccer and her British-Indian parents’ dream of seeing her settle down and get married.
Jess has to overcome gender and racial issues, as well as resistance from her family, in order to be able to reunite with her team on the day of the championship match.
9. COOL RUNNINGS
Cool Runnings is loosely based on the first Jamaican bobsled team and their underdog journey to the 1988 Winter Olympics.
When Jamaican sprinter Derice Bannock (portrayed by Leon Robinson) is disqualified from the Olympic Games, he enlists the help of a disgraced and downtrodden former bobsled champion, Irving “Irv” Blitzer (portrayed by John Candy).
Initially harassed and embarrassed when confronting international competition, the team proves their courage and ability on the bobsled track, earning respect among their Olympic peers. An epilogue explains that the team would return home as heroes, and then return to the 1992 Winter Olympics to participate as equals.
10. THE KARATE KID
Directed by John G. Avildsen (who also directed Rocky), The Karate Kid is a martial arts drama film starring Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue, and William Zabka.
The Karate Kid follows Daniel LaRusso (portrayed by Macchio) as he moves cross country with his single mother to a new high school in the Los Angeles area. As the new kid, LaRusso quickly becomes a victim of bullying, and he’s also targeted for his affection for a popular girl.
LaRusso ends up developing a bond with his neighbor Mr. Miyagi (portrayed by Morita) who teaches him karate to defend himself, and also to compete in a tournament against his bullies.
In the end, LaRusso beats the movie’s villain (played by Zabka) in a karate tournament despite unethical tactics encouraged by the bully’s mentor.