Remember sports? Sure you do! If it weren’t for the damn coronavirus, you’d be cursing your March Madness bracket right about now. Well, the NCAA may have canceled this year’s tournament, and the NBA and NHL may have suspended their seasons, but sports live on thanks to the magic of movies. I was watching Varsity Blues just yesterday while wondering what other movies I could watch later this week to get my sporting fix. You may have wondered the same thing. Well, wonder no longer, folks, because I have put together a list of sports movies you can watch right now on the four major streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. I’m not getting too deep into the weeds here, but if I can introduce to just one new movie, I will feel like I have done my job.
There are dozens of other sports movies streaming out there, so feel free to poke around on your own, but if you’re in need of a quick-and-easy guide, then look no further. And if you’re looking for a broader list of recommendations, check out our list of the best movies on Netflix right now.
Goon – Proving he’s more than just Stifler from the American Pie movies, Seann William Scott plays Doug Glatt, a bouncer who becomes an enforcer for a semi-pro hockey team. Jay Baruchel plays Doug’s supportive best friend, while Liev Schreiber plays Doug’s mustachioed rival. This movie will tickle your funny bone — if you don’t break it first.
Any Given Sunday – The greatest football movie ever made, period. Oliver Stone‘s epic comes the closest to capturing the intensity and the insanity of pro football. The entire cast is excellent, from Oscar winners Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx all the way to LL Cool J and Bill Bellamy, but the MVP is Lawrence Taylor as Luther ‘Shark’ Lavay, who leaves it all on the field.
Kingpin – An absolutely hilarious movie from the Farrelly Brothers that arrived in between their comedy classics Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. Woody Harrelson plays a legendary bowler who takes an Amish bowling prodigy (Randy Quaid) under his rubber wing. Bill Murray bowls a perfect game as Harrelson’s nemesis Big Ern McCracken.
Space Jam – This movie came out in 1996 and is just now getting a sequel, so what better time to brush up on the original? Michael Jordan helps Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes take on the Monstars in this zany basketball comedy that co-stars Bill Murray and Seinfeld‘s Wayne Knight. Plus, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing and many more play themselves, though some are better than others in front of the camera.
Ali – Will Smith stars in this epic Muhammad Ali biopic from director Michael Mann, who wisely narrows his focus from 1964 to 1974. Smith delivers one of his very best performances, and I love Jon Voight‘s turn as Howard Cosell. Yeah, Raging Bull is streaming on Netflix as well, but that movie may be a little too dark for these challenging times. Unlike Jake LaMotta, Ali is an inspiration. You’ve gotta stay strong out there!
Cool Runnings – The late, great John Candy plays the coach of the first Jamaican bobsled team as they compete for Olympic glory. The chemistry between stars Leon, Doug E. Doug, Malik Yoba and Rawle D. Lewis is palpable, so as tough as things seem right now, I have a feeling this feel-good film will sneak up on you and put a smile on your face.
Free Solo – Directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi do a fantastic job chronicling Alex Honnold‘s attempt to become the first person to ever free solo climb El Capitan. This gripping documentary won an Oscar for a reason — you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen, knowing that one wrong step could be fatal. Your palms are going to sweat watching this film, so remember to wash ’em after!
Secretariat – Sure, the Tobey Maguire movie Seabiscuit has a higher profile, but I really enjoyed this 2010 film from director Randall Wallace. The ageless Diane Lane stars as Penny Chenery Tweedy, who backs the right horse as they chase the Triple Crown together in 1973. A great supporting cast goes a long way here, including memorable turns from several character actors, including John Malkovich and Margo Martindale.
Miracle – Kurt Russell scores as Herb Brooks, who coached the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory over a seemingly invincible Soviet squad. Disney adheres to a tried-and-true formula, but it really works here, and it helps if you think of the Russian team like the coronavirus — not going down without a fight, but certainly capable of beating beaten.
Invincible – This is just a great true story. Mark Wahlberg plays Vince Papale, a Philadelphia bartender who beat the odds to play for his hometown Eagles in 1976. Wahlberg makes for a charming everyman, and lives out a dream that millions of men and women share across the country. It’s inspirational and motivational — something we could all use right now as we self-quarantine.
61* – This may have originated as a TV movie, but these days, everything is a TV movie! Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane star as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, two of the greatest baseball players of all time, and the film follows their race to break Babe Ruth‘s single-season home run record. Baseball fan Billy Crystal directs this absorbing sports drama, which is worth catching up with if you’ve never seen it before.
Cinderella Man – Russell Crowe delivers one of his best performances as James J. Braddock, who fought his way back to become a boxing champion in the 1930s. Paul Giamatti rises to the occasion as Braddock’s cornerman Joe Gould, and I’ve always enjoyed Craig Bierko‘s turn as Max Baer.
For Love of the Game – This is an underrated baseball movie from director Sam Raimi, working well outside of his comfort zone. Fortunately, his leading man is Kevin Costner, who knows a thing or two about baseball movies. Costner plays Billy Chapel, a veteran pitcher who can’t stop thinking about Kelly Preston in the midst of a perfect game. Watch out for John C. Reilly‘s turn as the catcher who tries to keep Billy’s eye on the prize.
Happy Gilmore – One of the funniest sports movies ever made. Adam Sandler plays a down-on-his-luck hockey player who funnels his aggression into the gentlemanly game of golf. He may not know how to hold a putter, but he can throw down with the best of them, and that includes The Price Is Right host Bob Barker. As sports comedies go, this is a hole-in-one.
Moneyball – Before Brad Pitt won his first acting Oscar, he delivered one of his very best performances as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who favors math over instinct in assembling a winning team. Jonah Hill is excellent as his right hand man who’s great with numbers, and look out for a young Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteberg. Philip Seymour Hoffman is also a standout as A’s manager Art Howe.
Amazon Prime Video
Hoosiers – One of the finest sports films ever made, period. Gene Hackman plays a basketball coach with a checkered past who turns an Indiana high school team into a contender for the state championship with the help of a local drunk, played by Dennis Hopper. One of the Holy Trilogy of basketball movies along with Hoop Dreams and White Men Can’t Jump — all due respect to He Got Game.
Blue Chips – This basketball movie may not rank among the Holy Trilogy, but there’s a lot to like here. It’s sort of like the Any Given Sunday of college basketball. Nick Nolte plays a coach who gets in way over his head as his program falls victim to all sorts of scandals. Shaquille O’Neal makes his presence felt long before Kazaam.
Creed 2 – It wasn’t quite as good as the first Creed without Ryan Coogler at the helm, but this is a worthy sequel from director Steven Caple Jr., who brings back Dolph Lundgren‘s Ivan Drago. Michael B. Jordan builds the legend of Adonis Creed, and muscle-bound newcomer Florian Munteanu is no joke inside the ring. A solid entry in the larger Rocky franchise, that’s for sure.
The Bad News Bears – No, it’s not the original starring Walter Matthau, but there’s still a lot to like about Richard Linklater‘s remake. Billy Bob Thornton takes over the role of Morris Buttermaker, the grizzled baseball coach who tries to turn his team of misfits into little league champs. If you’d prefer to rent the original, you should be able to find it on the iTunes store, but as we prepare to enter a recession, you may have to settle for this 2005 reboot, which still has its charms.
The Legend of Bagger Vance – Talk about star power! Matt Damon plays a down-and-out golfer who attempts to recover his game and his life with help from a mystical caddy, played by Will Smith. This film isn’t as entertaining as Happy Gilmore or, say, Tin Cup, but it’s a well-made period drama from Robert Redford featuring two movie stars (three if you include Charlize Theron) doing what they do best. And if you’ve seen it before, this is one legend worth repeating.