Whether you’re rooting for the Patriots or the Falcons in this year’s Super Bowl, we have 20 iconic scenes from sports movie history that fans everywhere can enjoy.
In honor of the upcoming Super Bowl, we’re running down our all-time favorite moments in sports movie history.
We’ve got them all covered, from the tennis courts to the football stadiums, from the boxing matches to the dodgeball showdowns.
Whether you love sports for the rich history and heart-warming narratives, or you’re just in it for the funny commercials and free guac, we’re sure there’s something here you’ll like.
20. Jerry Maguire
The Scene: With a little help from Jerry Maguire, NFL star Rod Tidwell goes from a football player all about showing him the money to one who plays with his heart. And his climactic end zone dance is all heart. You had us at “touchdown,” Rod.
19. Happy Gilmore
The Scene: No matter how much training an athlete has, often their performance comes down to one simple factor: motivation. And motivations don’t get much stronger than trying to raise enough money to get your sweet old grandmother out from the clutches of a sadistic handyman secretly running a sweatshop in his nursing home.
The Scene: The gold standard in pre-game motivational speeches, Coach Dale’s locker room monologue in Hoosiers (1986) serves as a model for coaches everywhere.
The Scene: Everyone’s favorite tear-jerker underdog story, Rudy (1993) has a heart-warming finale that’ll make you well up a little no matter how may times you’ve watched it.
16. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
The Scene: An unfortunate truth about the sports industry is that injuries happen. From concussions in football to paralyzing crashes in Nascar, life-threatening injuries are a real threat that athletes bravely face every day. Never is this fact more astutely and dramatically investigated than in 2006’s Talladega Nights during this riveting sequence where driver Ricky Bobby faces the reality of his recent injuries.
The Scene: Moneyball (2011) eschews the traditional subject of most sports movies – you know, the sport – and instead peeks behind the scenes at the management. Specifically, the budget that management is working with to put their team together. In this stand-out sequence, Brad Pitt lays out why the game of baseball is rigged before the season even starts.
14. The Big Lebowski
The Scene: Of the many hilarious bowling scenes in The Big Lebowski (1998), our favorite has to be the slow-mo introduction of The Jesus, set to a Spanish cover of Hotel California. Say what you will about Jesus Quintana, but that creep can roll. But that’s just, like, our opinion, man.
The Scene: Every sport from baseball to basketball is only as good as its commentators, and sports commentators don’t come any better than Cotton McKnight and Pepper Brooks on ESPN 8 “The Ocho.” Don’t even try watching dodgeball without them.
The Scene: A breathtaking gift straight from the cinematic gods, this 5-minute boxing match from Creed (2015) filmed in one unbroken take is everything we could ever want in a movie. With the camera fluidly whooshing from Adonis jabbing and blocking to Rocky on the sidelines coaching him and back again, this kinetic shot highlights the relationship between student and mentor, and lets the audience experience the exhausting physical toll these fighters go through in real time.
11. Field of Dreams
The Scene: It may be the corniest scene in film history (and we don’t just mean the fields), but the gooey sentimentality of Field of Dreams (1989) still manages to hit all the right notes. Having one last game of catch with the ghost of your deceased father? That’s what baseball is all about.
10. Shaolin Soccer
The Scene: Shaolin Soccer (2001) is a gonzo work of endless cartoonish antics, our favorite of which is the Puma Team’s showdown with Team Evil’s unstoppable goalie. The only thing more impressive than his blocking skills are his majestic, flowing locks.
9. Raging Bull
The Scene: These two epic shots come back to back in a masterful one-two punch by director Martin Scorsese. The first: a perspective-shifting Vertigo-shot of Sugar Ray ready to unleash all sorts of fury down on La Motta. In the second shot, La Motta looks back defiantly, steam rising behind him like he’s some otherworldly creature who fears no person and no pain. No matter how hard Ray hits, he’ll never go down. Never.
8. 7 Days in Hell
The Scene: When you’re in the middle of a stressful, exhausting week-long tennis match, sometimes you need to use…alternative methods to keep your energy up. Just try not to get caught (or move to England where they are too polite to care). *cough Deflategate, Russian Olympic Athletes, Lance Armstrong, Pete Rose, O.J. Simpson, cough*
7. A Knight’s Tale
The Scene: A Knight’s Tale (2001) is such a perfect movie it is difficult to pick just one sequence. With a gleefully historically inaccurate soundtrack featuring rock bands from Queen to AC/DC (plus a little David Bowie for good measure), it can be tempting to get sidetracked by all the awesome music. But this movie’s heart lies in the intense, highly cinematic jousting sequences, and the best of the bunch is William’s final dual where he rides into battle without any armor to protect him. He also shouts his own name “William” as his battle cry, which is admittedly a little weird…but apparently effective, so we’ll let him have it.
6. White Men Can’t Jump
The Scene: White Men Can’t Jump (1992) is a fantastic ode to 90’s fashion and smack talk, so for the chosen scene we had to go with Billy’s initial hustle of Sidney. Come for the hats and sneakers, stay for the immortal line “You said we were going to Sizzlers!”
The Scene: Gophers narrowly escaping death. Earth-shaking, fiery explosions. Victories that break at least 3 official rules. What more could you want?
4. Rocky IV
The Scene: Often in sports movies, the training montages end up being more entertaining and motivational than the athletic showdowns themselves. This is never more true than in the Rocky franchise. Rocky’s training techniques have always been unorthodox (punching slabs of meat, for example), but they are never more satisfying than when they are crosscut with the borderline inhuman tactics of Russian boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV (1985). It’s hard not to get swept up in the glorious patriotism of Rocky’s woodsy, scrappy training style beating Ivan’s high-tech methods on his own Mother Russian turf. Nobody beats USA when it comes to the art of montage. Not even Russia.
3. Remember the Titans
The Scene: A great sports movie needs a great motivational speech, but even more important than the speech itself is the coach who delivers it. Personally, we’ll take Denzel Washington as our coach any day (in football and in life). Remember the Titans (2000) has a lot of powerful, memorable moments, but Coach Boone using his (exaggerated) tragic backstory to motivate his quarterback into greatness tops them all.
2. Major League
The Scene: Two words: Wild Thing. Because nothing beats Charlie Sheen in skull-adorned glasses throwing a 3-for-3 strikeout.
1. Speed Racer
The Scene: Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s misunderstood adaptation of the classic Japanese animated show Speed Racer (2008) may seem like an odd pick for the top slot. But hey, the best sports narratives are always about the underdogs. We promise, when you watch the beautiful, touching, thrilling final race you’ll understand why it deserves the Gold Medal. A perfectly edited summation of everything sports can and should be, this climactic Grand Prix shows Speed Racer triumphing over cynical corporate interests by reconnecting with the personal drive and deep familial bonds that got him into racing in the first place. Visually overloaded yet emotionally earnest, it’s impossible not to get swept up in the glory of his hard-fought victory.