There are plenty of dull sports movies out there (I’m looking at you, Rudy), and if you already find sports boring, watching one of these might just make your brain permanently shut down. Luckily, there are also some really great, entertaining films that happen to revolve around the world of sports. Here are 6 of them!
- The Natural (1984)
I hesitated to include The Natural on this list, because it is a little more sportsy and dull than I would usually recommend. But, when it comes right down to it, Robert Redford is a total dish, and Glenn Close shines along with her signature hairstyle from the ‘80s (read: fluffy and permed). The movie has a pretty solid cast including Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, Barbara Hershey, and Michael Madsen (who knew?). The mob is involved, so it’s not just a baseball movie, although you will have to see some of that—sorry!
- Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
This is a really sweet movie about a girl who wants to play soccer against the wishes of her parents who believe a proper Indian girl should focus on her school instead of sports. Parminder Nagra (she would later play Dr. Neela Rasgotra on ER) stars alongside a very young Keira Knightley. Director Gurinder Chadha has spoken about the film being autobiographical in some ways, and you can just feel that connection with the material. Sure, it’s a soccer movie but at its heart the film is about someone who loves her family, but also knows the value of finding her own path toward her passion. The bonus here is that Archie Panjabi (Kalinda!) stars as the main character’s materialistic older sister. We’ll take any excuse for more Panjabi in our lives.
- Fever Pitch (2005)
This 2005 movie about the Boston Red Sox attempting to win a World Series is an excellent example of a sports movie for non-sporting people. The movie is based on an autobiographical book of the same name by English writer Nick Hornby (other books of his that have been adapted into film include High Fidelity and About a Boy). Hornby’s book focuses on his relationship with the Arsenal soccer team, but the Farrelly brothers Americanized the material to fit with the Boston Red Sox (there is also a UK film adaptation). Fever Pitch is really the story of a guy sorting through his obsession with a sports team that is constantly letting him down. Jimmy Fallon is charming as the lead, and Drew Barrymore is equally charming as his girlfriend. Barrymore’s production company, Flower Films, was a part of the team that made the film, which is always cool to see. It’s not a perfect movie, but it is a good place to start understanding what it is that makes sports people so crazy about the teams they love.
- The Blind Side (2009)
Sandra Bullock won a freaking Oscar for this movie. Ok, maybe it’s not exactly Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire or even a Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry, but I stand by the fact that Bullock deserved the award for this film. Still not convinced? The Blind Side is based on a true story about a young black man named Michael Oher who was taken in and later adopted by a wealthy white family. He was/is a gifted athlete, and the movie follows his journey from homelessness to becoming a part of this adopted family, and finally finding his talent on the football field. Sandra Bullock shines as a tough (but manicured) Texas mom (I have a particular soft spot for those), and the story of the family her character creates makes for an endlessly watchable film. Part fish out of water tale, part white lady saviour story (not its strongest selling point, admittedly), The Blind Side navigates through the clichés it leans on to become a really enjoyable movie.
- Moneyball (2011)
A movie about baseball, as told through statistics, written by Aaron Sorkin? I know what you are thinking—hard pass on that! Just give me a paragraph here to change your mind. This movie shouldn’t be good. Baseball is easily among the least three interesting sports we have, statistics are literally the worst, and Aaron Sorkin is talented, but he also writes misogynistic characters and paternalistic worldviews (blech). It just shouldn’t be a good movie, but it really is. This one is tried and tested by my own lovely sister who does not care one lick about sports, but will readily admit that this is a good movie. It works because it tells an underdog story about the Oakland Athletics, a baseball team that doesn’t have the same access to top players as other teams because they are a relatively poor team—they aren’t able to offer big-time salaries to star players the way the Yankees do. The manager of the team, Billy Beane (as played by an always-eating Brad Pitt), finds a kid just out of school who has some ideas about how they can start winning games that goes against the traditional knowledge of the sport. The film is informative and entertaining, and it also stars a pre-House of Cards Robin Wright, and a mean old codger owner played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Win, win, win.
- A League of Their Own (1992)
Geena Davis. Rosie O’Donnell. Lori Petty. Madonna. Jon Lovitz. David Strathairn. Tom Hanks. These are just seven of the many reasons this is the best sports movie for people who don’t care about sports. Another “based on a true story” feature; A League of Their Own is about a group of women who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League when major league baseball was forced to shut down during World War II. The women represented are emblematic of a generation of women who challenged their traditional roles out of necessity, and watching them find a life and a passion outside of pre-defined roles is basically my favourite thing. Directed by Penny Marshall, A League of Their Own is just the right mix of nostalgic history, coming of age story, Tom Hanks comedy showcase, and sister-centred drama. It is an absolute must-watch, must-own, and must-share with nieces.