The ’90s were a good time.
They gave us baggy clothes, incredible sports heroes and some damn good sports movies that have stuck with us for a long time. Whether it was Rudy, The Mighty Ducks trilogy or Happy Gilmore, most of us can recite nearly every line to those flicks without hesitation.
But what about the movies since 2000? How do those sports films stack up? To answer that, I’m giving you the top sports movies since the new millennium. Let us know if your favourite one made the cut.
Sure, the lead role is played by Keanu Reeves—who often never gets praise for his acting skills—but the movie as a whole is pretty damn good.
Based on the book Hardball: A Season in the Projects, the movie follows a little league team in Chicago’s projects that is led by a gambler who is trying to repay his debts. It’s sort of like The Mighty Ducks, but with youngsters playing baseball—and a little more serious.
The Blind Side (2009)
Telling the story of current Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Michael Oher’s football journey, The Blind Side was recognized as a great film when it was released in 2009. Going from home to home through his middle and high school years, Oher was finally adopted by a family in Memphis, Tennessee to help stabilize his life and help him get on track for great things in the future.
Cinderella Man (2005)
Going from rags to riches following an injury and working on the docks during the Great Depression, boxer James Braddock—played by Russell Crowe—earns himself a heavyweight championship bout against favorite Max Baer.
Since I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, I suggest you go watch Cinderella Man and see why it’ll make you think you can accomplish anything.
Anyone who read Moneyball by Michael Lewis probably wasn’t too disappointed with how the film turned out. While other books get watered down and “Hollywooded” up, Moneyball sticks to the story of the Oakland Athletics and how the team used deep analytics to put together a consistent playoff contender.
Nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt) and Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), Moneyball re-enacts one of the most influential baseball teams in history superbly.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Anytime a sports movie gets mentioned as the Best Picture at the Academy Awards, it’s a good film.
In the case of Million Dollar Baby, it didn’t just earn a nomination but actually won the Oscar back in 2004 for its superb performances and plot.
With Clint Eastwood winning for Best Director, Hilary Swank for Best Actress and Morgan Freeman for Best Supporting Actor, Million Dollar Baby is a knockout whether you’re a fan of boxing or not. It tells a great story about a female boxer overcoming the odds toward becoming a professional.
The Wrestler (2008)
Focusing on the life of long-time wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson, actor Mickey Rourke had to be at his best—and he was, as he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the 2009 Academy Awards.
It’s dramatic in every way, with The Ram trying to hang onto the glory of being a wrestler while also trying to resurrect a strained relationship with his daughter.
The Fighter (2010)
Made from a similar mould as Rocky, The Fighter uses many of the same elements to make the movie great.
With Mark Wahlberg playing the lead role as Micky Ward—a Boston-born, junior welterweight champ—and Christian Bale alongside him as his loyal half-brother and trainer Dicky, the two put together great performances in a film that proves dedication and hard work can reap rewards.
For their performances in the movie, both Bale and Melissa Leo won Academy Awards, showing just how greatly executed the plot was.
Remember the Titans (2000)
Remember the Titans is one of the best sports movies ever created. Sure, it was made by Disney to re-enact the true story about the 1971 T.C. Williams high school football squad in Alexandria, Va., but that doesn’t mean it qualifies as cheesy.
With Denzel Washington playing head coach Herman Boone and a cast of fairly young, unknown actors filling in as the players, Remember the Titans doesn’t disappoint when it comes to dramatic scenes—and will probably have some dudes tear up a few times.
Based on the true story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), 42 recounts the baseball player’s rise to the MLB as the first black baseball player in the modern era and his fight to stay in a league that hated the colour of his skin.
Jackie Robinson’s story was unknown to the general public, and showcasing how important he was not only to the MLB but to sports in general. 42 provided a platform to showcase the late, great Chadwick Boseman’s immense talent while creating a thoughtful and respectful biopic of one of the greatest athletes.
A sequel and spin-off to the Rocky movies, Creed follows the son of Apollo Creed, Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), as he starts training with Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and tries to accept his family name and the legacy that comes with it. What Creed did for the Rocky franchise was monumental, not only modernizing it for an audience that probably had never seen it before but also settling it in the modern era – something that other sequels and spin-offs have failed to do.
Ryan Coogler proved that modernizing a film isn’t complicated when you have something to say and do it right without feeling like a cash grab. There’s something pure about Creed: how the film handles the new generation and the one before it. It pays homage to the original series while also making sure to stand apart; no need to have seen the original Rocky franchise to understand Creed. It stands on its own, which is why it works so well.
Eddie The Eagle (2016)
Based on the story of Michael Edwards (Taron Egerton), Eddie The Eagle recounts his journey to the 1988 Winter Olympics in ski jumping, the first man to do so for Great Britain since 1928. Probably the title with the least exposure on the list, Eddie The Eagle brought a heart-warming, mostly forgotten story of the underdog succeeding against all odds. It is as by the books as it can be and relies heavily upon the chemistry of Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton, but when it works, it is terrific.
Underdog stories are the bread and water of sports films, but that doesn’t mean that from time to time, one can’t come along and make it work to its advantage. Eddie The Eagle knows it has this heart-warming message and that it is cheesy, but it doesn’t matter because it does what it needs to in order to do justice to Edwards’ story.
King Richard (2021)
Oscar night shenanigans aside, there is no denying that Will Smith knocks it out off the park in this movie.
King Richard recounts the journey that Richard Williams (Will Smith) took to ensure that his daughters, Venus and Serena Williams (Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton), would become the best tennis players in the world and his struggle to get the two girls there on account of them being Black.
The latest in the long line of sports movies, it is surprising that it took this long to get a film about the Williams sisters and their journey to becoming two of the best athletes in the world. What makes it even more interesting is the choice to focus on their father, a choice that the sisters themselves wanted. While not perfect, King Richard showcases the best and the worst aspects of his story and explains how the Williams sisters became the great players they are today.