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The 50 Greatest Sports Movies Of All Time!
August 04, 2003
Ever since part-time boxer Elmo Lincoln became the screen's first Tarzan, in 1918, the movies have been linked with sports, reaching the heights of Olympia and the depths of Space Jam. But which are the best? Our process was democratic and unscientific. We solicited nominations from our staff, then lateraled them back and forth in meetings, in e-mails and around the Goobers dispenser until reaching consensus—which, naturally, provoked more debate. Before you scold us for excluding your favorite, consider this: There's no accounting for taste. One man's Rudy is another's...Rudy.
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August 04, 2003

The 50 Greatest Sports Movies Of All Time!

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20 Requiem for a Heavyweight
ANTHONY QUINN, JACKIE GLEASON (1962)
This melancholy mood piece features Quinn as a tender, mumbling giant who plods down lonely streets as if the ground were tapioca. Highlights include Mickey Rooney's wary, sympathetic cutman and the shadowy, darkly glamorous cinematography.

21 Pumping Iron
DOCUMENTARY (1977)
Adulatory, voyeuristic and engaging, this irony-pumped work dissects the grotesque subculture of men's bodybuilding. The film focuses on Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose main rival, Lou Ferrigno, is incredibly bulky but not yet Incredibly Hulky.

22 The Set-Up
ROBERT RYAN, GEORGE TOBIAS (1949)
In the most brutal indictment of boxing ever filmed, Ryan is unforgettable as the shabby, shambling tomato can who still believes he can be a contender. Based on a prose poem and shot in real time, it still packs the power of a Joe Louis uppercut.

23 The Hustler
PAUL NEWMAN, JACKIE GLEASON (1961)
This Hemingwayesque tale of circling pool sharks is crammed with atmosphere and incisive acting. As the disenchanted drifter who tests what's inside himself, Newman is upstaged by George C. Scott as the wicked manager who rejects him as a born loser.

24 Searching for Bobby Fischer
MAX POMERANC, BEN KINGSLEY (1993)
A budding grandmaster learns that the force is with him in a chessboard version of Star Wars. Battling for his mind and game are a street hustler (Laurence Fishburne) preaching tactics and attitude, and a somber scholar (Kingsley) demanding discipline.

25 Horse Feathers
THE MARX BROTHERS (1932)
This college-football caper has Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, passwords, stolen playbooks and madcap dialogue that generations have heard once and recalled forever: "Baravelli, you've got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I bet he was glad to get rid of it."

26 The Bad News Bears
WALTER MATTHAU, TATUM O'NEAL (1976)
Bibulous manager Matthau bitches, precocious O'Neal pitches, and a hilariously foulmouthed gang of Little Leaguers scores big laughs. Having seen the two sequels and the formula copied by the Mighty Ducks movies, dare we label Bears seminal?

27 National Velvet
ELIZABETH TAYLOR, MICKEY ROONEY (1944)
This lively and immensely likable film involves an English butcher's daughter (rapturously played by 12-year-old Taylor) who practically wills her sorrel gelding to win the Grand National. The climactic race was filmed on a Pasadena golf course.

28 Eight Men Out
JOHN CUSACK, DAVID STRATHAIRN (1988)
Auteur John Sayles tackles the 1919 Black Sox scandal, telling the complex story completely. He gets brilliant, understated performances out of Strathairn (as game-fixing pitcher Eddie Cicotte) and Cusack (as apparently innocent third baseman Buck Weaver).

29 Rollerball
JAMES CAAN, JOHN HOUSEMAN (1975)
In 2018 a corporate world-state channels the bloodlust of society through a sport that weds hockey, football and Roller Derby. Ruling execs try to off the champ (Caan) by making the game a fight to the death. A defiant Caan keeps the allegory from seeming too high-handed.

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