There’s nothing quite like an uplifting sports movie. Whatever be the game, it is indeed an extremely satisfying experience watching our likeable underdog protagonist defy all expectations and rise against the toughest of circumstances to succeed in the most important of stages. They tend to be inspiring and always have us cheering for their victory. Sportspeople, like life itself, have their own share of ups and downs. However, it is their unending belief in themselves, brutal perseverance, and an unapologetic will to succeed that sets them apart as winners.
Whether you’ve had a tough day in the office, or maybe you’re looking for just the right piece of inspiration to get your own ball rolling; sports films are always there to give you the timely reminder to never give up, and to keep on trying. It’ll all pay off sooner or later.
If you’re on the looking for that perfect film to provide you with the impetus required, you’re in luck for we’ve just plucked the best ten sports films streaming on Netflix right now.
Ten best sports films on Netflix:
10. Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari – 2006)
The Aamir Khan-starred Dangal is loosely based on the Phogat family, with Aamir Khan donning the role of Mahavir Singh Phogat, an amateur wrestler who trains his daughters Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari to become India’s first world-class female wrestlers.
Upon its release, Dangal was particularly lauded for its honest depiction of a real-life story and Khan’s performance. The film was a record-breaking commercial success, becoming the highest-grossing Indian film ever, the fifth highest-grossing non-English film, and the highest-grossing sports film worldwide.
Making sure to include all the classical tropes required to make one rousing sports drama, Dangal packs an extremely engrossing finale, where it juxtaposes nationalistic sentiments with the celebration of inevitable celebration of girl-power to great effect.
9. The Karate Kid (John G. Avildsen – 1984)
There is still something immensely satisfying about cheering the run-down underdogs coached by Mister Miyagi beat the shit out of their notorious opponents.
In the first instalment of the Karate Kid franchise, the plot follows Daniel LaRusso (Macchio), a teenager taught Gōjū-ryū karate by Mr Miyagi (Morita) to help defend himself and compete in a tournament against his bullies, one of which is the ex-boyfriend of his love interest Ali Mills (Shue).
With old-school rock music, teenage romance and likeable characters (Mister Miyagi, we love you!): The Karate Kid is one nostalgic time-capsule that will take you back to those glorious growing-up days.
8. The Fighter (David O. Russell – 2010)
This ensemble sports-drama centres on the lives of professional boxer Micky Ward and his older half-brother Dicky Eklund. Inspired by the 1995 documentary that features the Eklund-Ward family, titled High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell, the film stars an ensemble cast led by moving performances from Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo.
Wahlberg specially focused on the fighting department for years, saying: “I’ve seen every boxing movie ever made. I’m also a huge fight fan. I fought a little bit when I was younger. Nobody in my opinion and some of the greatest movies ever made – you talk Raging Bull and Rocky I saw 30 times – but the fighting just wasn’t as realistic as what we hope to achieve and accomplish in this movie.”
Even with its all-star cast, Christian Bale was seemingly praised more for his performance than his fellow co-stars, with comments about his weight, accent, and mannerisms while Melissa Leo was also particularly praised for her performance as Wahlberg’s mother. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, winning the awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
7. Coach Carter (Thomas Carter – 2005)
Coach Carter is based on the true story of Richmond High School basketball coach Ken Carter (played by Samuel L. Jackson), who made headlines in 1999 for suspending his undefeated high school basketball team due to poor academic results.
The ensemble cast features Rob Brown, Channing Tatum, Debbi Morgan, Robert Ri’chard and singer Ashanti. While it is obviously not a perfect film, it packs enough just punch making it an all-time inspiring watch, especially with Samuel L. Jackson at the top of his game.
6. Moneyball (Bennett Miller – 2011)
In this biographical sports-drama starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, Beane (Brad Pitt) and assistant GM Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), faced with the franchise’s limited budget for players, build a team of undervalued talent by taking a sophisticated sabermetric approach to scout and analyzing player, in the process turning a nonperforming team to a well-oiled firing unit.
Based on Michael Lewis’s 2003 nonfiction book of the same name, an account of the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s 2002 season and their general manager Billy Beane’s attempts to assemble a competitive team.
Moneyball was released to box office success and critical acclaim, particularly for its acting and screenplay. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Pitt and Best Supporting Actor for Hill.
5. Ali (Michael Mann – 2001)
Directed by Michael Mann, Ali focuses on ten years in the life of the boxer Muhammad Ali, played by Will Smith, from 1964 to 1974, featuring his capture of the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, his conversion to Islam, criticism of the Vietnam War, and banishment from boxing, his return to fighting Joe Frazier in 1971, and, finally, his reclaiming the title from George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle fight of 1974.
It also touches on the great social and political upheaval in the United States following the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. The film was well-received by critics but was a box-office bomb. Smith and Jon Voight received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.
4. Lagaan (Ashutosh Gowarikar – 2001)
Another sports-drama epic juxtaposed with nationalism, Lagaan is set in the early 1890s, during the late Victorian period of India’s colonial British Raj. The story revolves around a small village in Central India, whose inhabitants, burdened by high taxes, and several years of drought, find themselves in an extraordinary situation as an arrogant British army officer challenges them to a game of cricket, as a wager to avoid paying the taxes they owe.
The narrative spins around this situation as the villagers face the arduous task of learning a game that is alien to them and playing for a result that will change their village’s destiny.
Lagaan received widespread critical acclaim and awards at international film festivals, as well as many Indian film awards. It became the third Indian film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film after Mother India and Salaam Bombay!
3. Rush (Ron Howard – 2013)
One of the finest sport-dramas of the recent times, Ron Howard’s Rush centred on the Hunt–Lauda rivalry between two Formula One drivers, the British James Hunt and the Austrian Niki Lauda, during the 1976 Formula 1 motor-racing season. It was written by Peter Morgan, directed by Ron Howard and starred Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Lauda.
You don’t really need to be an F1 racing fan or even be aware of what actually goes on in that sport to truly appreciate this film because what it depicts in its two hours of run-time isn’t something that’s exclusive to that particular arena. This story is about how our rivals sometimes bring out the best in us when we’ve got something to defend or overcome.
2. Southpaw (Antoine Fuqua – 2015)
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams, Southpaw follows a boxer who sets out to get his life back on track after losing his wife in an accident and his young daughter to protective services.
Southpaw, directed by Antoine Faqua, is a universal story. Success, tragedy, hopelessness, quests for redemption; It’s all here and in pristine focus. Gyllenhaal did the research for his role by doing “tons of reading on boxers, orphan boxers, the spirit of gyms all over America, children who start early, [and] the history of foster care in America” while also spending five months training as a boxer.
1. Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood – 2004)
Immensely powerful and profoundly affecting, Clint Eastwood’s not-so-underdog tale of Million Dollar Baby is an example of cinema that is so unforgivably brutal and cathartic that it transports every single of its viewer in an inquiringly depressing trance, making us want to stand up and pursue our dreams with intensity and commitment that matches that of Maggie’s pursuit of her own undaunted vision.
Starring the holy trinity of Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman in leading roles, Million Dollar Baby most deservedly warrant a position among the greatest sport-drama’s of all-time. It follows the life of the troubled trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) who reluctantly agrees to train up amateur boxer aspiring to go professional Maggie Fitzgerald (played by Hillary Swank).
The film, which was remarkably in developmental limbo for several years, garnered seven nominations at the 77th Academy Awards; winning four of them: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor.