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Decider Essentials

The Best Sports Movies On Streaming For Every Sport

We’re into the second week of Wimbledon, and while the on-court product is top-notch, tennis season always brings to mind its one glaring weakness when it comes to being a culturally relevant sport in America: there is no great tennis movie. There’s hope on the horizon, perhaps. HBO premieres 7 Days in Hell this Saturday night (as well as on HBO Go and HBO Now), starring Andy Samberg and Kit Harrington as Wimbledon finalists engaged in an epic, endless seven-day match. Still, even if 7 Days in Hell is great, it’s not really a movie — it’s just a 45-minute comedy sketch. Which is great! But we’ll still be in search of Hollywood’s great tennis movie on Sunday morning.

How is this possible? There are great baseball movies and football movies and golf movies and distance-running movies. Two boxing movies have won the Oscar for Best Picture! We can’t get one tennis movie that anyone wants to watch on purpose?  I’m sorry, you may well have enjoyed the Paul Bettany/Kirsten Dunst movie Wimbledon when you saw two-thirds of it on cable that one Sunday, but you almost certainly stumbled onto it by accident. That’s the one, isn’t it? With no great movie to boast, the solid B-minus Wimbledon holds the tennis-movie crown for the moment. But tennis needs to do better if it wants to compete with the best movies from all the other sports.

But what are the best movies from all the other sports? Why I thought you’d never ask!

1

Best Baseball Movie: 'A League of Their Own'

a-league-of-their-own
Photo: Columbia Pictures; Courtesy Everett Collection

No disrespect intended to The Natural or The Pride of the Yankees or basically the entire Kevin Costner filmography (especially Field of Dreams), but there is no baseball movie that better matches the pleasant, familiar charms of watching an actual baseball game than Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own. I’ve lost countless Saturday afternoons to this movie, and I’m sure I’ll lose many more. The story is genuinely moving, sentimental but brassy, and the casting is perfect — with Geena Davis, Madonna, and Tom Hanks all doing career-best work. Yes, this is Tom Hanks’ best film performance, I will fight you on this. [Where to stream A League of Their Own]

2

Best Football Movie: 'Heaven Can Wait'

heaven-can-wait-1978
Photo: Paramount Pictures; Courtesy Everett Collection

The pedigree on this one is pretty stellar, particularly if you’re into the American cinematic revolution of the 1970s. Screenplay by Warren Beatty, Elaine May, and Robert Towne. Directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry. Starring Beatty and Julie Christie (their third onscreen pairing), along with James Mason. The film itself was a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, and while the sport was changed from boxing to football, the story remains the same: star athlete “dies,” only he wasn’t meant to, so he’s returned to another body until the almighty can get its ducks in a row. Beatty was nominated four times at the Oscars for acting, writing, directing, and producing. He lost all of them, but that’s the win-some, lose-some nature of sports (and the Academy Awards) for you! [Where to stream Heaven Can Wait]

3

Best Basketball Movie: 'Hoop Dreams'

Hoop Dreams
Photo: Everett Collection

By and large, sports documentaries tend to be better than sports narratives, if only because there is no better way to recreate the verité and drama of a sporting event than by showing the sporting event itself. This list is trying hard to present the best narrative films in each genre, and yet it’s pretty much impossible to deny that Hoop Dreams deserves this slot. This story of two black teenagers recruited to a wealthy prep school to play basketball in suburban Chicago is an incredibly powerful and challenging film on issues of race, class, and family, not to mention the way they addressed the way the sports ecosystem treats disadvantaged kids. The film was good enough that it’s snubbing by the Oscars led to a complete overhaul of voting rules. [Where to stream Hoop Dreams]

4

Best Hockey Film: 'Goon'

goon
Photo: Magnet Releasing; Courtesy Everett Collection

Writers Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg surprised everyone with this very well-received hockey comedy, starring Seann William Scott as a hockey brawler with a good heart but not much in the way of good sense. It’s a film that gets the repulsive charm of hockey players (some of them anyway), and it lets the underrated Scott (seriously!) do some really good work. [Where to stream Goon]

5

Best Boxing Movie: 'Rocky'

Rocky
Everett Collection

Boxing is by far the most cinematic of sports, with a disproportionately long list of great films and filmmakers lining up to make their boxing picture, from Scorsese’s Raging Bull to Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby to David O. Russell’s The Fighter. All those are great films, but there’s something about Rocky that feels more tapped in to the sports fan experience, with its fairy-tale aspect of the underdog making good. As our own Tyler Coates explained, “Underneath that brawny exterior is a lot of heart, although there’s probably not a lot of brains under that thick skull and those sleepy eyes.” He’s talking about the character, but you could say the same about the movie. [Where to stream Rocky]

6

Best Golf Movie: 'Happy Gilmore'

Happy Gilmore Adam Sandler
Photo: Universal Pictures; Courtesy Everett Collection

Sorry, Tin Cup. A Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox of a Kevin Costner sports movie isn’t going to cut it when stacked up against the massively dickish charms of Christopher McDonald as Shooter McGavin. Sure, yes, Adam Sandler is there as the title character as well (honestly, it’s the best of his dumb comedies, so he deserves credit). But the entire reason the movie is as good as it is rests on McGavin’s cocky shoulders. [Where to stream Happy Gilmore]

7

Best Soccer Movie: 'Bend It Like Beckham'

bend-it-like-beckham
Photo: 20th Century Fox; Courtesy Everett Collection

The cast on this one is sneakily amazing, boasting the not-yet-breakthrough talents of Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra, plus Archie Panjabi before her maybe-possibly feud with Julianna Margulies was even a blip on her horizon. And that’s not even getting into the part where Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is the hot soccer coach of your dreams and mine. [Where to stream Bend It Like Beckham]

8

Best Kickboxing Movie: 'Kickboxer'

kickboxer
Photo: Cannon Films; Courtesy Everett Collection

This one’s fairly self-explanatory, isn’t it? It’s got Jean-Clause Van Damme at his Van Damme-iest. [Where to stream Kickboxer]

9

Best Agenting Movie: 'Jerry Maguire'

Jerry Maguire
Photo: Everett Collection

This isn’t even close to being my favorite Cameron Crowe movie (Almost Famous, you feel like you happened two million years ago), but it remains one of the definitive texts on Tom Cruise: Superstar Actor, and while the whole never quite matches the sum of its parts, those parts are actually really great. The tiger-wife aggression of Regina King. Renee Zellweger giving what might have been her best performance as the idealistic-but-not-stupid Dorothy. Bonnie Hunt being even better as her get-real sister. Even Cuba Gooding Jr.’s epic showboating is there for a purpose. I still don’t think it’s the romantic triumph that it thinks it is, but I’d watch it 100 times before I see Aloha. [Where to stream Jerry Maguire]

 

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