There’s something about a good sports movie that just makes you feel inspired and ready to take on the world. That’s how it is for me, anyway. Sports have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was one of those kids who always had to be involved in a sport of some kind, be it baseball, football, basketball, water polo, or swimming. I’m grateful I got involved in sports at an early age and had the chance to experiment with different ones to ultimately find my true passion of swimming. I started swimming competitively in high school and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Competing on a team taught me how to work with others, and also how to better respect myself and practice self-discipline. Being on a sports team is as much about working with others as it is about managing yourself, learning to connect your mind with your body. I can honestly say I’ve become a better person thanks to sports.
Watching a movie about sports takes on a new meaning when you can empathize with the characters because you’ve been where they are: out on the field, in the pool, in the gym, wherever it may be, putting your blood, sweat, and tears into the sport.
It’s almost too difficult for me to choose just ten influential sports movies because so many have resonated with me in some way, but here (in no particular order) are ten you should definitely check out. Don’t even ask me to put them in order though!
- Remember the Titans (2000): I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this one on the list! This movie, which takes place in 1971, is based on the true story of coach Herman Boone, played by Denzel Washington, and chronicles his first year as the coach of a newly racially-integrated high school football team. This movie has all the feels and teaches the lessons of teamwork and trust, as seen through the teammates as they learn to overcome racial barriers and work together.
- The Bad News Bears (1976): This classic baseball flick tells the story of a misfit little league baseball team, the Bears, in Southern California, coached by an aging, down-on-his-luck former minor leaguer. Against all odds, the Bears prepare to take on their rival, the Yankees. This movie is classic comedy gold and also serves as a reminder that sports are about more than physical prowess; even the lowliest bunch can achieve success when combining their strengths as a team.
- Miracle (2004): This movie, also based on a true story, follows coach Herb Brooks, played by Kurt Russell, as he leads the U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey team to victory against the legendary Russian team. This movie is not so much about winning, however, as it is about overcoming differences and transcending world events to focus on the beauty of the sport. The story unfolds in the year 1980, when America was engaged in a cold war with the Soviet Union.
- Rocky (1976): How could I not include Rocky? Even people who have never seen the film are familiar with the classic scene where Rocky runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum and raises his arms over his head in triumph. This film, about small-time boxer Rocky Balboa facing off against heavy-weight champion Apollo Creed, is all about going the distance (putting in the time and effort) to overcome the odds and come out victorious and with a new sense of self-respect.
- Raging Bull (1980): This is another classic boxing movie, but worthy of mention as well. The movie tells the story of boxing champion, Jake LaMotta, chronicling his downward spiral into self-destruction as he takes his violence and aggression outside the boxing ring and projects it onto friends and family. There is an important lesson here; as important as it is to bring all of your energy into whatever sport you play, sports should never come between your friends and family. Done right, sports should make you into a better person.
- Bend it Like Beckham (2002): Guys, there are other reasons to watch this movie than checking out a young Keira Knightley! As a fan of FIFA, and the Chelsea Football Club in particular, I’m a big fan of this movie, set in London, that tells the story of a teenage daughter of traditional Indian parents and her friend as they strive to join a professional football (soccer in America) team.
- Brian’s Song (1971): Get out the tissues, because this one’s a tearjerker! This classic football movie tells the story of the interracial friendship of two Chicago Bears players, over-achieving running back Brian Piccolo who is white and Gale Sayers, who is black and competing for the same spot on the team. Despite the color of their skin and the competition between them, they form a fierce friendship, which is tested when Piccolo is diagnosed with cancer.
- Hoop Dreams (1994): Unlike the other movies on this list, Hoop Dreams is a documentary. It follows two inner-city Chicago teens through four years of high school on their journey to become college basketball players and ultimately go professional with the NBA.
- Chariots of Fire (1981): Okay, you know that classic slow-motion running song? The one they play in pretty much every movie with a slow motion running scene where someone is running towards something or two people are running to each other? Well, it actually comes from this movie, about two British track stars, one a devout Jew and the other a devout Christian, competing in the 1924 Olympics. This is another movie that’s as much about overcoming differences as it is about pure sports.
- The Blind Side (2009): Finally, The Blind Side is the most recent movie on this list and one of my personal favorites. It stars Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy, a caring suburban mother of two who takes in a homeless African American teen, Michael Oher, and enrolls him in football when he takes an interest in the sport. This movie is also based on a true story. The real-life Michael Oher, as depicted in the movie, goes from being homeless and alone to becoming the first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL draft, with the help of a loving family.
Hopefully, this list demonstrates that sports are about so much more than the competition and the pure aggression and physicality associated with them. Sports are important to people for a variety of reasons, but it all comes down to teamwork, dedication, and achieving goals.