Ranking the best sports movies of all-time

Strangely, while thinking about the very real possibility of no football in the fall, all I can think about is “Wildcats.”

Yes, I can’t stop thinking and laughing about the 1986 high school football movie starring Goldie Hawn as the head coach of a bunch of inner-city misfits, among them a young Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes and the dude who played Bubba in “Forrest Gump.”

You see, before filling the weekend chair up here in The Gazette sports department, I was a season-ticket holder at Kinnick Stadium, pretty much from my freshman year at Iowa in the fall of 1992 through the 2014 season, sharing seats with my buddy, Matt, for the last eight years or so of that run.

I find myself getting misty about our cozy (re: cramped) seats in Section 130 Row 50. And while standing up for every touchdown and turnover, without fail, by the end of the game, we’d always end up amusing ourselves by tying every play in the game back to a quote from that movie, most of which sadly can’t be reprinted here.

Or maybe it’d be “Varsity Blues,” which is basically a second-rate “Friday Night Lights” before there even WAS a “Friday Night Lights” movie (and clearly before the vastly superior “Friday Night Lights” TV show … Texas Forever!).

What I really miss, though, are the very few select people in the section that eventually ended joining Matt and me in quoting the movie, making sure the two of us weren’t the only ones annoying the crap out of everyone around us.

OK, it was probably just us, but hey, a couple of them ended up becoming our friends because of a dumb ’80s sports movie — a dumb ’80s sports movie that has me reminiscing about better days at Kinnick Stadium.


And yep, let’s face it: right now, sports movies are pretty much all we got. So let’s have some fun with them.

The Gazette sports staff has compiled its lists of their top 15 favorite sports movies. You can find our composite top 25 and everyone’s lists below. Some of them are classics, watched and rewatched time and time again. But for a few them, maybe we’ll be able to convince some of you to check it out for the very first time.

We’re living in a world where sports documentaries are being covered and treated like live events (looking at you, 10-part ESPN Michael Jordan doc). You know what? One day we’ll have the actual Friday night lights — not “Friday Night Lights” — to cheer about. “It’s the sport of kings, better than diamond rings ...”

But for right now, let’s let our favorite sports movies fill the COVID-19 void, with the hope and laughter we’re normally accustomed to.

Our Top 25 sports movies

First-place votes in parentheses


1. Major League 180 (1)

2. Hoosiers 141 (2)

3. Bull Durham 121 (3)

4. Field of Dreams 118 (2)

5. Miracle 118 (2)

6. Remember The Titans 109 (2)

7. Caddyshack 102

8. The Sandlot 98

9. Moneyball 97

10. A League of Their Own 93

11. Rocky 75

12. Slap Shot 56 (2)

13. Friday Night Lights 54

T-14. The Bad News Bears 53 (1)

T-14. White Men Can’t Jump 53

16. Happy Gilmore 50

17. The Blind Side 46

18. Space Jam 43

T-19. Brian’s Song 38

T-19. Rocky IV 38

T-21. The Longest Yard 37

T-21. Tin Cup 37

23. Rudy 36 (1)

T-24. Coach Carter 32 (1)

T-24. Cool Runnings 32 (1)

Sam Paxton

1. The Bad News Bears; 2. The Color of Money; 3. Hoosiers; 4. The Karate Kid; 5. Miracle; 6. Rounders; 7. Eight Men Out; 8. Jerry Maguire; 9. Teen Wolf; 10. Major League; 11. Youngblood; 12. The Best of Times; 13. Varsity Blues; 14. Wildcats; 15. Bring It On


It’s entirely appropriate, as a guy who curses way too much in front of my sisters’ and friends’ kids, that the No. 1 sports movie on my list is actually no longer considered appropriate in today’s woke culture.


Yes, “The Bad News Bears” is horribly dated ... but only if your gut instinct upon hearing any trigger word in 2020 uttered in a movie from 1976 is to jump on Twitter and immediately try to cancel its entire existence.

Read more: It’s OK to say it - ‘The Bad News Bears’ rules

Mike Hlas

1. Horse Feathers; 2. The Hustler; 3. Slap Shot; 4. Friday Night Lights; 5. White Men Can’t Jump; 6. A League of Their Own; 7. Rocky; 8. Bull Durham; 9. Breaking Away; 10. The Wrestler; 11. Raging Bull; 12. The Bad News Bears; 13. North Dallas Forty; 14. Tin Cup; 15. The Hunger Games


You don’t turn valuable Iowa farmland into a ballpark, especially for ghosts. Is “Field of Dreams” heaven? No, it’s Iowa, and my vision of this state doesn’t include ballplayers or anyone else emerging from the afterlife to play catch.

I like a little realism in my movies, so my No. 1 sports film is about college football and its systematic corruption, a hard look at its dubious “amateur” status.

I refer, of course, to the Marx Brothers’ “Horse Feathers” of 1932.

Haven’t heard of the Marx Brothers’ “Horse Feathers” of 1932.? Get woke!

It’s a wonder college football wasn’t shut down on the spot once this expose was released. Curiously, most people just had a good laugh after seeing it and went about their lives instead of calling sports talk radio shows or parking themselves at Internet message-board sites.


Read more: College football managed to survive ‘Horse Feathers’ takedown

Nathan Ford

1. Goal! The Dream Begins; 2. The Sandlot; 3. Hoosiers; 4. Glory Road; 5. Cool Runnings; 6. 42; 7. Miracle; 8. I, Tonya; 9. Moneyball; 10. A League Of Their Own; 11. McFarland, USA; 12. Talladega Nights; 13. Happy Gilmore; 14. Remember The Titans; 15. High School Musical


It was a “togetherness” gathering with my high school soccer team the night before a game where I first saw “Goal! The Dream Begins” and fully registered what this particular American dream looks like.

That is, to become a professional in a country across an ocean from this one.

Read more: ‘Goal! The Dream Begins’ presents a modern American dream

K.J. Pilcher

1. Bull Durham; 2. Remember The Titans; 3. 61*; 4. Caddyshack; 5. Rocky; 6. Brian’s Song; 7. All-Stars; 8. Major League; 9. The Sandlot; 10. Raging Bull; 11. A League of Their Own; 12. Pride of the Yankees; 13. Vision Quest; 14. Eight Men Out; 15. Rudy


“Bull Durham” remains my all-time favorite sports film, but a movie everyone should see is “All-Stars.” The movie was released in 2014 and follows a 10U girls’ fast-pitch softball team.


For me, I stumbled across this movie after my daughter. When we watched it, each time a new character was introduced, we’d stare at each other, smile and go, “That’s (redacted to protect the innocent)!” It was dead-on.

Read more: ‘All-Stars’ resonates with anyone involved in youth sports

Marc Morehouse

1. Slap Shot; 2. Raging Bull; 3. Rocky; 4. Breaking Away; 5. Heaven Can Wait; 6. Bad News Bears; 7. The Longest Yard; 8. Eight Men Out; 9. North Dallas Forty; 10. Miracle; 11. Rounders; 12. Kingpin; 13. Caddyshack; 14. Hoop Dreams; 15. Murderball


A last-place team is folding in a burned out city that itself is being abandoned because “10,000 millworkers have just been placed on waivers.”

Reg Dunlop — Paul Newman, playing the hero, an aging, spent reject of a player-coach — feels the pinch. Knowing the Charlestown Chiefs are doomed once the mill closes, Dunlop crosses the hockey line, going from straight up, honest and gentlemanly to goon show.

Dunlop massages the gate and the Chiefs’ prospects when he uncorks the Hanson Brothers, three violent brutes from the hockey wilds of Canada — aka the Iron League. Sure, the Hanson Brothers’ first shift is cartoonish violence, but it’s damn funny. (Leaning over the goal and slashing across the face ... they just don’t highstick like that anymore.)

Read more: ‘Slap Shot’ is true to the sport of hockey

Jeff Johnson


1. Slap Shot; 2. Caddyshack; 3. Hoosiers; 4. Major League; 5. Hoop Dreams; 6. The Longest Yard; 7. Talladega Nights; 8. Mystery, Alaska; 9. Field Of Dreams; 10. Rocky; 11. Ice Guardians; 12. The Natural; 13. White Men Can’t Jump; 14. A League Of Their Own; 15. North Dallas Forty


I made my wife watch it for a little while, but she lost interest in a hurry. Perhaps it was because I’m one of those guys that can recite virtually every line in it, and loves to do so.

“Caddyshack” is just one of those movies for me. The 1980 comedy was a mega-hit starring guys like Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase and Ted Knight.

An exclusive golf club, a loudmouth intruder, a bunch of ne’er do well caddies, an eccentric groundskeeper who keeps trying to hunt down a trouble-making gopher, the Baby Ruth pool scene … what’s not to love?

Read more: ‘Caddyshack’ is a part of our vocabulary

Cole Bair

1. Cool Runnings; 2. A League of Their Own; 3. Brian’s Song; 4. Days of Thunder; 5. Major League; 6. Prefontaine; 7. Varsity Blues; 8. The Sandlot; 9. White Men Can’t Jump; 10. Glory Road; 11. Friday Night Lights; 12. 61*; 13. Moneyball; 14. Tin Cup; 15. D2: The Mighty Ducks



Quick-witted Jamaican sprinters transitioning to a sport on ice with John Candy playing the role of ‘Coach Irving Blitzer’ — how could anyone not want to watch this masterpiece?

This 1993 sports comedy directed by Jon Turteltaub is loosely based on the true story of the Jamaican national bobsled team’s 1988 Olympic debut in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and the premise itself is more than enough for gut-busting laughter throughout.

Read more: ‘Cool Runnings’ will leave you feeling very Olympic

Ryan Suchomel

1. Field of Dreams; 2. Bull Durham; 3. Major League; 4. Moneyball; 5. Tin Cup; 6. For Love of the Game; 7. Teen Wolf; 8. The Natural; 9. The Cutting Edge; 10. A League of Their Own; 11. Draft Day; 12. The Sandlot; 13. Cool Runnings; 14. The Rookie; 15. Goon


The next time I am able to watch the last five minutes of “Field of Dreams” without crying my eyes out will be the first time.

And my dad is alive. I can’t imagine how hard this movie hits for those who have lost their father.

That’s at the heart of “Field of Dreams,” but you don’t realize it until the end of the movie. In the meantime, it has taken you on a wonderful, magical journey.


Read more: Just as baseball is America, ‘Field of Dreams’ has become Iowa

Jeff Linder

1. Hoosiers; 2. Miracle; 3. A League Of Their Own; 4. Remember The Titans; 5. Rocky; 6. For Love Of The Game; 7. Field Of Dreams; 8. McFarland USA; 9. Tin Cup; 10. Vision Quest; 11. Major League; 12. Bull Durham; 13. The Natural; 14. Rocky IV; 15. Caddyshack


A birthday ago, maybe two, I received a book in the mail from my college roommate:

“The Making of Hoosiers.”

We were freshmen at Drake in February 1987 and spent a rainy Friday night at a Des Moines movie theater. We were there when Norman Dale drove into town — and was nearly driven out by the impatient townies of fictional Hickory, Ind.

Read more: ‘Hoosiers’ remains a must-see classic

J.R. Ogden

1. Brian’s Song; 2. Hoosiers; 3. Rocky; 4. The Legend of Bagger Vance; 5. Bad News Bears; 6. Without Limits; 7. Caddyshack; 8. A League of Their Own; 9. Major League; 10. Field of Dreams; 11. North Dallas Forty; 12. The Blind Side; 13. The Longest Yard (original); 14. Remember the Titans; 15. Foxcatcher


How could it not be “Brian’s Song?”

A Chicago Bears fan for as long as I can remember, this movie still chokes me up today. I watched the movie speech — given by Billy Dee Williams as Gale Sayers — again this week and, well, I felt like a 11-year-old watching it for the first time.


Read more: ‘Brian’s Song’ is about more than football - it’s about friendship

Jim Slosiarek

1. Rudy; 2. Senna (documentary); 3. Caddyshack; 4. Victory; 5. Bloodsport; 6. Necessary Roughness; 7. The Longest Yard; 8. Major League; 9. Slap Shot; 10. Rocky IV; 11. A League of Their Own; 12. Breaking Away; 13. Prefontaine; 14. Murderball (documentary); 15. Goon

It was a tough choice for the top slot but “Rudy” gets my vote. Who doesn’t love a story of determination when odds are stacked against the protagonist?

With Sean Astin, as Notre Dame football player Rudy Ruettiger, doing his Knute Rockne Gipper speech and quotes like: “I’ve been ready for this my whole life,” and “You’re 5 feet nothin’, 100 and nothin’, and you got hardly a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in with the best college football team in the land for two years,” as well as chats of “Rudy, Rudy Rudy” that just get me right in the feels.

Read more: 'Rudy' still has an inspiring message

Ben Visser

1. Coach Carter; 2. Space Jam; 3. Talladega Nights; 4. Miracle; 5. Happy Gilmore; 6. The Blind Side; 7. Moneyball; 8. The Longest Yard (remake); 9. Dodgeball; 10. Bad News Bears (remake); 11. The Benchwarmers; 12. Holes; 13. Caddyshack; 14. Angels in the Outfield; 15. Major League

Brendan Miller

1. Remember The Titans; 2. White Men Can’t Jump; 3. Space Jam; 4. Uncle Drew; 5. The Sandlot; 6. Field of Dreams; 7. Moneyball; 8. Friday Night Lights; 9. Coach Carter; 10. Glory Road; 11. Love & Basketball; 12. Miracle; 13. The Blind Side; 14. Major League; 15. Hoosiers

Corey Haars

1. Field of Dreams; 2. Hoosiers; 3. The Bad News Bears; 4. Rocky IV; 5. Major League; 6. Miracle; 7. The Natural; 8. Hoop Dreams; 9. Caddyshack; 10. Bull Durham; 11. Remember the Titans; 12. The Sandlot; 13. The Blind Side; 14. Wildcats; 15. The Longest Yard (original)

Dennis Bockenstedt


1. Major League; 2. Miracle; 3. Invictus; 4. Rocky / Rocky II (tie); 5. Jerry Maguire; 6. Happy Gilmore; 7. Field of Dreams; 8. The Blind Side; 9. Moneyball; 10. Bull Durham; 11. The Longest Yard (original); 12. The Legend of Bagger Vance; 13. Remember the Titans; 14. We Are Marshall; 15. A League of Their Own

Dennis Knock

1. Hoosiers; 2. Rudy; 3. Major League; 4. Remember the Titans; 5. Field of Dreams; 6. All The Right Moves; 7. Days of Thunder; 8. We Are Marshall; 9. Breaking Away; 10. Vision Quest; 11. Moneyball; 12. Secretariat; 13. Tin Cup; 14. A League of Their Own; 15. The Program

Derick Schroeder

1. Miracle; 2. Bull Durham; 3. Major League; 4. Remember The Titans; 5. A League of Their Own; 6. Field of Dreams; 7. Rocky IV; 8. Tin Cup; 9. Coach Carter; 10. Moneyball; 11. Days of Thunder; 12. He Got Game; 13. Cool Runnings; 14. Caddyshack; 15. The Sandlot

Jared Alderdyce

1. Miracle; 2. The Sandlot; 3. Remember the Titans; 4. The Blind Side; 5. Friday Night Lights; 6. Happy Gilmore; 7. Hoosiers; 8. Major League; 9. We Are Marshall; 10. Rocky III; 11. Moneyball; 12. The Longest Yard (remake); 13. Glory Road; 14. Space Jam; 15. Brink!

John Kerth

1. Bull Durham; 2. Major League; 3. The Big Lebowski; 4. White Men Can’t Jump; 5. Moneyball; 6. Rounders; 7. Above the Rim; 8. Miracle; 9. Friday Night Lights; 10. Slap Shot; 11. Field of Dreams; 12. Remember the Titans; 13. Hoop Dreams; 14. Happy Gilmore; 15. The Natural

Jon Keller

1. Remember the Titans; 2. Space Jam; 3. The Sandlot; 4. Moneyball; 5. Hoosiers; 6. A League of Their Own; 7. Happy Gilmore; 8. Major League; 9. Bull Durham; 10. White Men Can’t Jump; 11. Rookie of the Year; 12. Little Big League; 13. Coach Carter; 14. Hardball; 15. The Blind Side

Justin Webster

1. Bull Durham; 2. Caddyshack; 3. Field of Dreams; 4. Major League; 5. Moneyball; 6. Rookie of the Year; 7. Hoosiers; 8. Necessary Roughness; 9. The Sandlot; 10. The Mighty Ducks; 11. The Blind Side; 12. We Are Marshall; 13. Rudy; 14. The Waterboy; 15. Varsity Blues

Phil Kramer

1. The Sandlot; 2. Hoosiers; 3. Major League; 4. Caddyshack; 5. Friday Night Lights; 6. Bull Durham; 7. Rocky IV; 8. Field of Dreams; 9. Warrior; 10. The Natural; 11. Happy Gilmore; 12. Tin Cup; 13. Rudy; 14. Hoop Dreams; 15. The Fighter

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