Tears and cheers, wins and losses, hard lessons and sweet triumphs — sports movies run the gamut of emotions and can be as emotionally taxing on audiences as they are physically exhausting on the actors. The subgenre is home to some of the most effective tear-jerkers around. An underdog pushing themselves to achieve the ultimate dream is inherently moving, and this wish-fulfillment is an integral part of the sports movie formula. Seeing someone realize a dream is an inspiring feeling and a reminder of what’s possible. It feels good watching someone else achieve their purpose, especially if they work as hard as athletes do to earn it.
Not all the movies listed below are feel-good movies—many of them are far from it. But these are the films that have audiences moving in their seats like spectators at a real game, because they believe in the MVP performances on-screen, delivering visceral and exhilarating experiences. It’s why most of these titles have stood the test of time.
Typically, in the best of sports movies, the characters are as enchanting off the playing field. Many of these classics share that in common: the heroes entertain as much as the sport they play. It’s the characters that make most of these movies the classics we remember.
Note: This list of the 25 best sports movies doesn’t include documentaries, hence no Hoop Dreams and Murderball.