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100 Greatest Sports Movies

By History Net staff 
Originally published on Published Online: December 03, 2010 
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The thud of boxing gloves on flesh in Raging Bull or Rocky; the crack of the bat in Pride of the Yankees or The Natural; the thunder of hooves in Seabiscuit: movies about sporting events and athletes make our hearts pound, lead us to sympathize with broken dreams or to cheer when the underdog triumphs. We vicariously live the athletic dream as the drama unfolds on the screen. That's why the sports movie, in one form or another, has enjoyed enduring popularity, whether we're talking about 1940's Knute Rockne, All American starring Ronald Reagan, or 2009's Invictus, Clint Eastwood's film about a South African rugby team.

Some have relied on sappy sentimentality, others on universal emotions, still others on creative cinematography to keep our eyes glued to the screen. Leni Riefenstahl's 1938 Olympia was intended as a Nazi propaganda tool, but its enduring legacy is that her use of multiple cameras and unique viewing angles redefined how sporting events would be filmed thereafter.

Not all movies about sports are serious. Caddyshack's golf-and-gopher gags cracked up audiences in 1980, same as The Freshman did in 1925 with its satire of college football or Slapshot's send-up of hockey in 1977—and they still keep us laughing today.

Robert De Niro as boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. Courtesy United Artists/Photofest.
Robert De Niro as boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. Courtesy United Artists/Photofest.
Weider History Group assembled a team of 13 judges, including film critics and former sportswriters, to select the top 100 films about sports and athletes for 100 Greatest Sports Movies. Their selections, rated 1–100, include vivid descriptions, accompanied by the rationale behind each choice, and are augmented by 70 you-are-there photos and nearly 200 info boxes with fascinating historical and movie facts. (Example: The 193-acre farm featured in Field of Dreams went on the market in 2010. Asking price, including the baseball diamond and farmhouse, $5.4 million.)

This jam-packed special 100 Greatest Sports Movies is currently available on newsstands or through online purchase.

Here's the ranked list of the critics' choices.

Click these links to give us your opinions:

What movies "coulda been a contender" but are missing from this list?

Throw the bum out! Which movies don't belong on this list?

Fair or foul? Which are the most historically accurate (or inaccurate) films?


100 Greatest Sports Movies
1. Raging Bull (1980) 26. Horse Feathers (1932) 51. Friday Night Lights (2004) 76. The Express (2008)
2. The Hustler (1961) 27. Eight Men Out (1988) 52. For the Love of the Game (1999) 77. Personal Best (1982)
3. Chariots of Fire (1981) 28. Rocky (1976) 53. Glory Road (2006) 78. Cool Runnings (1993)
4. The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 29. Brian's Song (1972) 54. Without Limits (1998) 79. Enter the Dragon (1973)
5. Slapshot (1977) 30. The Last American Hero (1973) 55. Invictus (2009) 80. The Scout (1994)
6. Bull Durham (1988) 31. The Natural (1984) 56. Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) 81. Junior Bonner (1972)
7. Breaking Away (1979) 32. Hoosiers (1986) 57. The Lusty Men (1952) 82. Mr. Baseball (1992)
8. North Dallas Forty (1979) 33. Miracle (2004) 58. The Great White Hope (1970) 83. Damn Yankees! (1958)
9. Olympia (1938) 34. Pat and Mike (1952) 59. The Big Lebowski (1998) 84. The Harlem Globetrotters (1951)
10. Pumping Iron (1977) 35. The Color of Money (1986) 60. Angels in the Outfield (1951) 85. Gladiator (2000)
11. The Set-Up (1949) 36. The Rookie (2002) 61. Remember the Titans (2000) 86. Hoop Dreams (1994)
12. Major League (1989) 37. Knute Rockne All American (1940) 62. National Velvet (1944) 87. The Great American Cowboy (1973)
13. When We Were Kings (1996) 38. Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) 63. The Pride of St. Louis (1952) 88. Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
14. A League of Their Own (1992) 39. Downhill Racer (1969) 64. The Mighty Ducks (1992) 89. The Wrestler (2008)
15. The Longest Yard (1974) 40. Grand Prix (1966) 65. Ali (2001) 90. Woman of the Year (1942)
16. Caddyshack (1980) 41. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976) 66. Bite the Bullet (1975) 91. It Happens Every Spring (1949)
17. Field of Dreams (1989) 42. The Blind Side (2009) 67. Jim Thorpe, All-American (1951) 92. Fist of Fury (1972)
18. Body and Soul (1947) 43. The Babe (1992), the Babe Ruth Story (1948) 68. Victory (1981) 93. Night and the City (1950)
19. The Bad News Bears (1976) 44. The Freshman (1925) 69. A Lady Takes a Chance (1943) 94. 8 Seconds (1994)
20. Rollerball (1975) 45. The Jackie Robinson Story (1950) 70. The Stratton Story (1949) 95. Heaven Can Wait (1978)
21. Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) 46. Fear Strikes Out (1957) 71. The Champ (1931) 96. Le Mans (1971)
22. Jerry Maguire (1996) 47. White Men Can't Jump (1992) 72. Touching the Void (2003) 97. Sugar (2008)
23. This Sporting Life (1963) 48. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) 73. Gentleman Jim (1942) 98. He Got Game (1998)
24. Seabiscuit (2003) 49. On Any Sunday (1971) 74. Step Into Liquid (2003) 99. Rudy (1993)
25. The Harder They Fall (1956) 50. Million Dollar Baby (2004) 75. That Championship Season (1982) 100. 61* (2001)


4 Responses to “100 Greatest Sports Movies”

  1. 1
    Dan Daley says:

    "Prefontaine" about college/olympic runner Steve Prefontaine.

    "Heart Like a Wheel" about drag racer Shirley Muldowney.

  2. 2
    Jim Gilrain says:

    Many inspired choices but none better than the mostly forgetten classic "Rollerball" My personal list has "Brian's Song" at #1 but "Raging Bull" is right behind it. Most glaring ommission is "All The Right Moves" and I'd also have included "Searching For Bobby Fisher" — it doesn't really matter if chess is a sport or not, because the movie is about parents who push their kids too hard and take the fun of it. Personally, I don't know why people like "The Bad News Bears" and "Breaking Away"

    Overall, though, this was a good list.

  3. 3
    John says:

    Prefontaine belongs on the list as does on the waterfront

  4. 4
    Jim says:

    HOOSIERS is only #32??? you have to be kidding….

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