The best sports movies to stream during your self-isolation
So, uhh, yeah. I don't know about you, but we here at The Loop are missing sports. It not only affects our livelihoods, but apparently, it's more difficult to write about sports when there are no sports. We don't know what to do without them. What do we do with our hands? What's the point of sitting on a couch if there isn't a game on? Are we still allowed to drink and just stare at a blank screen?
Well, there's a solution for that. Sports movies! The next best thing we have right now. There are fictional films fabricated from whole cloth, biopics, documentaries. There's something for everyone. Just because there are no live sports doesn't mean you have to not watch sports. So let's go streaming service by streaming service, hokey motivational speech by hokey motivational speech, and see what we'll be watching.
The tags for this movie on the Netflix algorithm are "gritty" and "inspiring," which is just how Mark Wahlberg picks his movies. If it doesn't have one of those descriptors, you're damn sure not getting Marky Mark to join your project. With Hall of Fame performances from Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, both Oscar winners for this movie, this film based on the life of an up-and-coming boxer has some incredible fighting scenes and family drama in-between.
Another high-and-mighty Oscar-nominated sports drama—this time about baseball— that Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and company somehow turned into both an analytical deep-dive and a fine piece of cinema. There are so many good scenes in Moneyball, but the one I always fall back on is this one in which he vehemently disagrees with how his scouts do their job. Playing the Oakland A's GM Billy Beane, this is one of Pitt's best performances and it's frankly ludicrous that he lost Best Actor to Jean Dujardin in The Artist. Also, while we're here, no one is better at eating in movies than Pitt. He's just constantly chowing down and if that's not a heroic act, I don't know what is.
Let's move away from biopics for a second and discuss Iverson, a stellar documentary on the exploits of Allen Iverson, one of the more compelling basketball players of all time. If we're putting all of our cards on the table, I feel compelled to say that I got into basketball because of AI and even bought Reebok sneakers, which shows just how invested I was. If I could pull off dreadlocks, I would have tried it. Thankfully, I cannot.
Card counting? Las Vegas? We're in. 21 is a bit outlandish in its design, but it's a ridiculously fun blackjack movie that is essentially a feature film reminiscent to Alan in The Hangover playing cards. It has a deep bench of scene-chewing performances and a bit of action thrown in for good measure.
I actually think it would be illegal for Golf Digest to not recommend Happy Gilmore, the story of a hockey player turned golfer who electrifies the golf circuit starring Adam Sandler and an alligator. It's remarkably silly and features a Ben Stiller cameo for the ages. What's not to love? There's Shooter McGavin, a pantheon sports villain, and a golf swing that every knucklehead has tried at least once when at the range. It's a classic. You should watch it.
This movie went under the radar when it was released, but is quietly one of the most beloved sports films from the 21st century. Directed by Gavin O'Connor, who just put out the Ben Affleck vehicle The Way Back, Warrior stars Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as estranged brothers who face off in a mixed martial arts tournament. It's got all of the punching and sibling rivalries you need to make it through this time, in case you need to let off some steam in a healthy way after being quarantined with your family.
Yes, this one's quite recent and so so good. Minding the Gap is an Oscar and Emmy-nominated documentary, which compiles 12 years of skateboarding footage in Rockford, IL and turns it into a treatise on the American way. The movie is centered around the lives of three adolescents as they come of age and is a beautiful portrait of the midwest. Unlike some of these other choices, it's a difficult watch at times, so I figured I'd let you know that going in.
Yo dawg, I heard you like football movies starring The Rock and Xzibit, so I found a football movie for you starring The Rock and Xzibit. Gridiron Gang has one of those sports movie titles in which you know exactly what you're in for and Dwayne Johnson trying to teach teenage delinquents how to be better people while also winning football games is an automatic must-watch.
A solid sports biopic that didn't get its due, Borg vs McEnroe stars Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LaBeouf as the titular tennis stars and dives into their history as budding rivals. It all focuses on the 1980 Wimbledon Championships and culminates on a gorgeously-shot match between the two. It's a relatively straightforward film but has a great performance in the center from LaBeouf as John McEnroe and features all of the antics that we know and (sometimes) love.
Perhaps the most anxious I've ever been watching a movie, this story centered on the true story of Alex Honnold's attempt to scale the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope is both motivating and terrifying. The documentary is more than just the attempt, however, as it's also an in-depth look at his psyche and the relationships that come when one party is always one wrong move away from death. It's fun for the whole family as long as the entire family loves heights and freaking out.
I'm just going to leave the Wikipedia description here. "The film centers on a group of young Jewish basketball players during the Hanukkah season who search for a coach to help them out of a slump." I remember watching this when I was eight years old still believing that I would one day play in the NBA. Unfortunately, that goal is looking extremely bleak, but at least we have this movie. It's all I've got now.
What? You thought I wouldn't include Cool Runnings? As if I wasn't going to include the first Jamaican bobsledding team movie. I'm cultured.
There's a lot to love about the Michelle Trachtenberg-led film Ice Princess, but nothing (and I mean nothing) is better than its tagline, "From small town mathlete, to big time athlete." It rhymes and tells you the entire plot in just a few words. It's perfect. The movie itself is really fun, albeit predictable. A high school bookworm immediately becomes the belle of the ball. It's as if John Hughes made a sports movie.
Mediocre Pixar is still better than almost any other animated movie. Cars doesn't reach the emotional depths and comedic notes of Toy Story, Up or Coco, but it's still an entertaining movie for the family and can give you nightmares centered around the idea of what would happen if your car became sentient. Quality flick.
It's The Sandlot. You should've seen this movie already and now you have the time to watch it again. I'm going to steal from our chief, Coleman, for a second since he once wrote that "The Sandlot taught kids everywhere that if they work hard and keep their noses clean, they can also one day be a star for the Los Angeles Dodgers." No better way to sell you on Disney's magnum opus.
There's a lot to say about Dodgeball, but there's no better place to start than with Ben Stiller's White Goodman, the megalomaniac owner of Globo Gym. It's the performance of a lifetime and the funniest part of a perfect comedy. This movie's been meme'd to death since its release, but there's a reason for that. It's so goddamn good. You're missing out if you don't watch it over the next few weeks. Just for the Lance Armstrong cameo alone...
Known as one of the best sports documentaries, Hoop Dreams is a catalyst of sorts for everything in the field we see today, from 30 For 30 to HBO's sports docs. Shot over five years, this film documents the lives of basketball players from inner-city Chicago enrolled in a predominately white suburban school. It's a fish out of water story and also a sports dream story. One of the best docs we have.
A pitch-perfect parody of the sports documentary, this film anchored by Andy Samberg and Kit Harington is the perfect antidote to all of the true sports docs you're certainly watching. It's silly and knows that through and through. It's also chockful of cameos from tennis stars and celebrities of all sorts.
At a crisp 49 minutes, this feels more like a funny YouTube compilation than a movie, but whatever, we're counting it. This documentary centers around Will Ferrell's stunt with the MLB to play all nine positions for ten different teams in a single day during Spring Training. It's Will Ferrell, so you know what you're in for, very dumb comedy that makes you (or at least me) laugh.
The Muhammad Ali and George Foreman documentary we all need right now. Ali's "past his prime" and Foreman's the heavyweight champion of the world. I think that's all I need to tell you.
After you take an entire week to watch The Irishman, make sure to follow that up with Raging Bull, one of the best sports movies of all time. The Martin Scorsese picture starring Robert DeNiro as boxer Jake LaMotta is a critical film in the genre and has some of the best acting to boot. It's violent and dramatic in all of the best ways.
Maybe the exact opposite of Raging Bull, Hot Rod is as silly and random as movies can get. It's also perfect and an insanely quick 90 minutes. This Andy Samberg as an amateur stuntman film didn't do well when it was in theaters but as time has gone on, it's become more and more beloved. It's a cult classic for good reason.
Although it didn't race into awards season like some initially projected, this small gorgeous movie about a 15-year-old and an aging racehorse is a beautiful journey through the American frontier. A24 has never steered us wrong.
Maybe not the pick-me-up one needs at this time in the world, this documentary on the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre is a tremendous watch and powerful historical document. Michael Douglas narrates this in-depth look.
This is quite the stretch, but I really just wanted to be able to write about Midsommar for The Loop and this might be the only chance I have. This horror film from last year is one of my favorites and is tremendously screwed-up and bonkers. There's a dancing scene around a maypole with a miraculous Florence Pugh performance midway through and dancing's a sport, so I'm counting this as a sports movie. Unlike most of the other movies recommended, please do not watch this with your family. In fact, please don't watch this with anyone else. It's insane and probably should never have been made.