Continuing my list of top 50 sports films, here are the final 10, 41-50. Again, everyone may have his or her own list of all-time favorites, and all of these (1-50) films I have picked are based on movies I've seen. There may be others that probably could be on this list, but there are many films available for the choosing.
This list was, of course, not an exhaustive list. And, again, it was not a ranking necessarily, but just a list of 50 of my picks for best sports movie of all-time based on what I've seen.
1. Bend It Like Beckham (2003)
An inspirational and delightful movie, Bend It Like Beckham stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.
Jesminder Bjamra (Nagra) is an Indian girl whose one dream is to play soccer for England. She has a poster above her bed of soccer star David Beckham. Juliette (Knightley) plays for a women's soccer team, and while Jess plays in the park with other boys, she joins the England team, which is coached by Joe (Rhys-Meyers).
It contains a classic coming-of-age story, which involves teenagers, romance, and soccer. But this film does it a little better than some other teenage stories like this. The film has characters who show tenderness, common sense and emotion, and are purely likable.
2. Breaking Away (1979)
This is a genuine coming-of-age story about four high school friends who grapple with life after high school, by using cycling as a means to bond and cope with the circumstances of their lives.
It made the eighth spot on the American Film Institute's Top 10 sports films.
Peter Yates directed the film by Steve Tesich, who creates a wonderful world and even more amazing characters. The characters are full of life – and even brought more to life by Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earle Haley – going through the same circumstances most every young person experiences coming out of high school and venturing into college and the “real world.”
Yates does well here and gives us a film with honesty, heart, and realism.
3. Caddyshack (1980)
On this list of my top picks for the best sports films, I couldn't go without putting one of the classic comedic films about golf that had an all-star cast. It was picked by AFI as No. 7 (just above the previous entry on my list).
Comedic legends Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Ted Knight, and others lend their talents to the film and was directed by Harold Ramis. Just with those names, I think this film deserves a spot as one of the best films.
It almost seems that Ramis just lets the characters loose on the screen and let the actors do what they want, while entertaining some sort of plot or structure. But even so, I can't complain as the film is so enjoyable just to see what happens next to the characters, especially Dangerfield, and with Murray as he battles a crafty gopher.
4. Chariots of Fire (1981)
This film captured four Academy Awards in 1982 – Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Costume Design and Best Original Score.
I believe this film has a classification as being a moving, sentimental journey the characters take. Everything is brought to us on the screen by the incredible performances of the actors.
And really, not just the actors, the amazing cinematography and direction is fresh and inspiring. It is a wonder why this film didn't make the top 10 in AFI's list. It is definitely a top film on my list.
5. He Got Game (1988)
There is something about Spike Lee's films that resonate with an audience. The writing, the style, the realism? It may all culminate into a captivating film.
His films such as Do the Right Thing, Malcom X, and Jungle Fever bring something to the screen. This film is no exception.
I think the story, in which Lee wrote the screenplay as well, is more about a father and son relationship. Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen) is a promising young basketball talent, who has dreams of playing professional hoops. His father, Jake (Denzel Washington), is in prison for killing his wife. The governor offers to reduce Jake's sentence if he can get his son to sign with a big university.
The film is moving and presents a picture that may be summed up in a scene with Jesus and his girlfriend, played by Rosario Dawson, where she basically tells Jesus it will not last forever so take care of yourself and do all that you can to get by. It (being in the sports spotlight) can't last forever.
6. National Velvet (1945)
The film came in at No. 9 on AFI's list. It also won two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Anne Revere) and Best Film Editing (Robert Kern) in 1946.
The film released in December 1944 in New York, but didn't have its widespread release until Jan. 26, 1945.
The film also starred Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp, a young Elizabeth Taylor, and Angela Lansbury.
National Velvet is based on the novel by Edin Bagnold, where a young girl (Taylor), with the help of her trainer (Rooney), trains her horse for England's Grand National Sweepstakes.
There is pleasure and much enjoyment in watching this film. It's a remarkably entertaining film with beautiful cinematography and performances that give it beauty, style and a certain appeal.
7. The Big Lebowski (1998)
This story involves a lot of bowling sequences. However, the Coen brothers – Joel and Ethan – put together another masterful piece of film in which not many others could do quite like this.
There seems to be a lot going on in this film. It is the Coen brothers' use of dialogue and character development that drive the film, especially with The Dude (Jeff Bridges). Several known actors helped bring these characters to life in addition to Bridges. There are John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tara Reid and others. It is even narrated by The Stranger (Sam Elliot).
The film has an essence of some Raymond Chandler novels as the story and plot progress with the characters. And it is the Coen brothers' attention to style and detail that assist with telling a remarkable and entertaining story.
One thing's for sure, The Dude abides. And if you don't think so, well, that's like your opinion, man.
8. The Karate Kid (1984)
John G. Avildsen takes another turn in an underdog sports movie.
Eight years after Rocky, Avildsen takes a script from Robert Mark Kamen and delivers a lovable, inspiring film about a New Jersey kid Daniel (Ralph Macchio), who relocates to Southern California with his mother Lucille (Randee Heller). Daniel tries to adjust to his new school and life, but is bullied by some local kids who happen to know karate.
Daniel then befriends a handyman, Mr. Miyagi (the great Noriyuki “Pat” Morita), who also just happens to know karate.
The film also includes some romance between Daniel and a girl, Ali (Elisabeth Shue), which is sort of the reason Daniel gets picked on. However, the film demonstrates another classic hero over villain story. The weaker kid (hero) gets bullied. He learns over time (through montages and such) to be better and stronger. The weaker kid then confronts the bully again. The weaker kid shows he is the better man. The hero gets the win and the girl.
It is a well-written film that lifts the spirit in a fashion that is needed as much today as it did 36 years ago.
9. The Way Back (2020)
In The Way Back, Ben Affleck plays Jack – a former high school basketball star – who returns to coach his old high school's basketball team.
Those sequences are well done and orchestrated with seemingly flawless finesse that the viewer feels right there in the action. But again, the sports backdrop here is merely that – a backdrop. Some background noise to give the film some meat and purpose. And again, all of it is done with absolute honesty and integrity.
The journey of the film belongs to Jack. Another outstanding performance by Affleck gives the character meaning and purpose, on his way to some sort of redeeming value for his life.
The film displays something here that to get better and succeed in life, you have to put in the work.
10. White Men Can't Jump (1992)
One more film that centers around basketball action. Sometimes a phrase or simple idea is all it takes to a film to evolve.
Director Ron Shelton directed another film earlier on this list, Bull Durham.
In an interview in 2017 – on the 25th anniversary of White Men Can't Jump – Shelton said, “I had the title before I had written a word.” From that, developed a classic comedy that is smart, funny, and a deeper story about loyalty and betrayal.
The film stars Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson as basketball hustlers in Los Angeles. Tyra Ferrell and Rosie Perez start as Snipes' and Harrelson's significant others, respectively. They do all they can to remain faithful, honest and supportive of their female companions.
The characters draw you in with the actors' performances, while the game sequences add excitement and humor.
White Men Can't Jump involves you with it's quiet charm and humor and makes a notch on my list.