Like you, we have all missed watching live sporting events. And like you, we have spent many of our free nights during the coronavirus pandemic sprawled out on a couch with Netflix and a remote, catching up on our favorite sports movies.

It’s not like the real thing, but it beats rewatching “Tiger King.”

After polling all 10 members of the Austin American-Statesman’s sports staff, two members of our digital staff and contributing soccer writer Chris Bils, we’ve come up with the Statesman’s all-time top 10 for sports films. Selections were based on how many votes received for a particular film as well as a film’s ranking by each individual.

It’s a diverse list of films, but we have a diverse set of interests, and debating sports films is almost as fun as debating sports themselves. Almost.

So get your popcorn and enjoy.

Thomas Jones


1. Hoosiers (1986): What coach that takes his underdog team to a state championship in a big city hasn’t followed Gene Hackman’s lead and measured a gym’s dimensions, just to show his awe-struck players that the game remains the same regardless of circumstances? It’s one of many memorable scenes in perhaps the genre’s best underdog story, which is set against the backdrop of Indiana high school hoops ― as fabled as Texas high school football in some parts. The brilliant performance of Hackman and the Hollywood comeback of Dennis Hopper ― which earned him an Oscar nomination ― add depth and a tinge of darkness to the feel-good story.


2. Remember the Titans (2000): To its credit, this seminal football film tackles the issues of institutional racism with grace, the right touch of humor and stellar acting. Denzel Washington shines in his biographical role as a black head coach that leads a Virginia high school’s first integrated football team in 1971. ‘Titans’ reminds us that sports can bring all of us together, even if that camaraderie comes with a few eye-rolls.


3. Bull Durham (1988): What is it with Kevin Costner and baseball films? One of Hollywood’s leading men in the 1980s and 1990s, he could capture the nuances and timelessness of the sport like no other. And no other baseball film tops ‘Bull Durham’ and its almost-melancholic mix of ambition, love and life in the minor leagues.


4. Hoop Dreams (1994): This ground-breaking documentary follows a pair of inner-city basketball hopefuls over a period of five years, from youth camps to college opportunities. Along the way, it exposes the often-ugly underbelly of youth basketball as well as the grinding poverty that serves as an impetus for ambition. Oh, and it has some of the most dramatic moments in a game ever captured on film.


5. Rocky (1976): What else can be said about the fictional heavyweight from the streets of Philadelphia? He’s as part of American culture as the Liberty Bell and a cheese-steak sandwich. Better yet, Rocky reflects a true underdog story in Sylvester Stallone, the unknown actor who wrote the screenplay and went on to Hollywood stardom. And the fact that ― do I really need to warn about a spoiler here? ― Rocky doesn’t win the title fight only confirms that eternal sports trope: It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.


6. The Sandlot (1993): Never underestimate the power of nostalgia, especially when delivered by 12-year-old kids still enthralled more by baseball than the opposite sex. Sweet without too much saccharine, the film doles out life lessons along with a generation’s worth of memorable lines. After all these years, you’re still killin’ us, Smalls.


7. Raging Bull (1980): For some, sports is an escape from the real world. For 1940s middleweight champ Jake LaMotta, boxing was his real world of pain, blood and a domineering approach to life that never just stayed in the ring. It’s not easy to watch, but director Martin Scorsese’s biographical masterpiece earned Robert De Niro his only Oscar as best actor and re-defined the sports film genre.


8. A League of Their Own (1992): Is that Tom Hanks as the manager? Madonna plays center field? Rosie O’Donnell starts at third base? An eclectic cast makes some magic in a heart-warming story set in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which fielded teams from 1943-1954 and laid the groundwork for future women’s professional sports leagues in the U.S.


9. Caddyshack (1980): The legend of Bill Murray took full form with his character of Carl Spackler, the bucket-hat-wearing, gopher-hunting, grass-from-the-fairway smoking groundskeeper at what has to be the coolest golf course in the country. A leading role from Chevy Chase and a star-making turn by Rodney Dangerfield turns this raucous comedy into a classic.


10. Major League (1989): From a stint on the injured list because of sneezing to a sausage race between encased mascots, baseball offers a reliable stream of absurdity. And nothing captures that better than a film that spends more time in the locker room than on the field. Approval from Major League Baseball ― is it a surprise that the Cleveland Indians are the misfit heroes? ― as well as scene thefts from the great Bob Uecker take it over the top, in a good way.


Thomas Jones


Chris Bils, contributing soccer reporter

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1. The Two Escobars

My list trends toward documentaries and soccer, and for me the standard in both of those categories is “The Two Escobars,” one of the original ESPN 30 for 30 films. Directors Jeff and Michael Zimbalist artfully stitched together two different but tragically intertwined stories about famous Colombians with the same surname — drug lord Pablo Escobar and footballer Andrés Escobar. The footage is breathtaking (but not appropriate for young children) and the interviews add perspective to a time and place that are so often portrayed by Hollywood (think “Narcos” and “Blow”). The best films are always ones that teach you something. In this case, “The Two Escobars” not only educates but serves as a necessary reminder that where money is involved, sports and politics can never be untangled.

2. Hoosiers

3. Hillsborough

4. Green Street Hooligans

5. Hoop Dreams

6. Jump Shot

7. Bend It Like Beckham

8. Icarus

9. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos

10. Senna

Kirk Bohls, columnist

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1. Hoosiers

By far. This has been my favorite sports movie since it came out in 1986. Gene Hackman was always my favorite actor, and he brought this flawed, cocksure, magnificent character to life as did Dennis Hopper his part. Loved the wonderful cinematography, the piercing soundtrack, the true storyline. If it comes on TV, I have to stop whatever I’m doing and watch it for the 100th time. “Field of Dreams” is a strong second party because I love baseball and partly because I went to the site in the middle of Iowa during a trip to Minnesota for my middle son’s wedding with him, another son and their best friend. It was magical.

2. Field of Dreams

3. Bull Durham

4. 61*

5. The Sandlot

6. Rocky

7. Tin Cup

8. Moneyball

9. Caddyshack

10. Eight Men Out

Rick Cantu, high school reporter

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1. Hoosiers

Call it the classic sports movie of David beating Goliath. I’m giving “Hoosiers” extra credit for being a true story about the 1954 Indiana state basketball championships. Gene Hackman was the perfect choice to be the small-town coach who had to learn the nuances of his team and community to succeed. Still remember the tape measure scene to show his players the rim was exactly 10 feet off the ground, just like home. Special tribute to Dennis Hopper, the lovable town drunk and part-time coach for his memorable performance.

2. Rocky

3. The Longest Yard (original)

4. Remember the Titans

5. Glory Road

6. Miracle

7. The Karate Kid

8. A League of their Own

9. Race

10. The Bad News Bears (original)

Mike Craven, recruiting reporter

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1. Caddyshack

Chevy Chase in his prime. Rodney Dangerfield playing himself. Bill Murray finds his voice. I'm not sure I need anymore reasons to vote for "Caddyshack“ as the ultimate sports movie. We love underdogs, and "Caddyshack“ made the underdogs flawed, relatable and charming. Ty Webb (Chase) plays the role of a rich, wandering soul who doesn't care about much, including his golf score. Yet, he's morally obligated to mentor to young caddy, Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe) to save young Danny from following in the footsteps of the type of rich person us peasants can't stand in Judge Elihu Smails, played by the great Ted Knight. The best sports movies are rarely about sports. We relate because sports reveal our character, good and bad. "Caddyshack“ teaches us a valuable lesson: Care less about the dumb stuff, even if it is something we love like golf. It's a message that's especially relevant amid COVID-19.

2. The Big Lebowski

3. Bull Durham

4. Remember the Titans

5. A League of Their Own

6. Raging Bull

7. The Sandlot

8. BASEketball

9. White Men Can't Jump

10. The Longest Yard (original)

Brian Davis, Texas beat reporter

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1. Bull Durham

First off, “Top Gun” should qualify for this list using the volleyball exception. It’s the best movie ever. “The Program” misses the cut, sadly: “Starting defense, place at the table!” To form my list, I thought about all the sports movies I love and then listed them in the order I would watch them on some week-long binge session. There are standout moments that we’ve quoted for years: “Have to wake up bat!” Or what about, “Now, boys, don’t get caught watching the paint dry.” And of course, I still hate Drago. “If he dies, he dies.” But Bull Durham gets the top slot because of its humor, sports and life lessons, like breathing through your eyelids. “Look at that, he hit the (bleeping) bull!” Oh, and the rose goes in the front, big guy.

2. Caddyshack

3. Major League

4. The Color of Money

5. Hoosiers

6. The Natural

7. Days of Thunder

8. Rudy

9. Rocky IV

10. Ali

Danny Davis, Texas beat reporter

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1. Remember the Titans

My picks are heavily influenced by Denzel, the fact that I grew up in the 1990s and my dislike of the real Rudy. “Remember the Titans,” though, has been my go-to sports movie since it was first popped into our bus' DVD player on a long football road trip (which in Montana was every road trip). Yes, the accuracy of the script has been questioned. Yes, the language in the script is a little too PG. And yes, I agree that a 75-yard reverse with the quarterback serving as the lead blocker to win the state title was somehow not the most-absurd football scene. But who cares? The cast is great, the lines are memorable, the soundtrack still slaps and the message resonates.

2. The Sandlot

3. Hoop Dreams

4. D2: The Mighty Ducks

5. He Got Game

6. The Hurricane

7. Friday Night Lights

8. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

9. Cool Runnings

10. Every sports movies that isn't Rudy

Cedric Golden, columnist

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1. Remember the Titans

This 2000 classic barely beat out hoops cult classic “White Men Can’t Jump.” “Titans” was based on the life of football coach Herman Boone, who famously brought together a group of kids from different sides of the racial spectrum coach at newly integrated T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Denzel Washington capably pulls off the Boone role with an able assist from Will Patton, who played the assistant coach who lost his job when Boone came aboard. One story that comes to mind when discussing this movie involves me covering the 2005 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. California prep speedster DeSean Jackson had already caught a 67-yard TD pass from Mark Sanchez earlier in the day and was heading to the end zone with a second score but decided to somersault into the end zone. Problem was, he fumbled mid-flip, costing his team a touchdown. Across the way in the sideline, I saw Jackson getting a mouthful from an older gentleman for his showboating antics. The old guy yelling at him was none other than the real life Herman Boone. Good times.

2. White Men Can’t Jump

3. The Karate Kid

4. Rocky III

5. Hoop Dreams

6. Bull Durham

7. The Bad News Bears

8. The Longest Yard (original)

9. When We Were Kings

10. Major League

Johanna Gretschel, online content producer

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1. Friday Night Lights

I feel like I’m going against form by picking a football movie — my colleagues probably expect me to choose “Chariots of Fire” or another little-seen ode to track and field — but there’s no other sports film that’s wedged itself in my head as firmly as “Friday Night Lights.” Based on Buzz Bissinger’s incredible nonfiction book of the same name, “FNL” is raw, gritty and free of the cheesy faux-inspirational tropes and happy endings that prevent most movies in this genre from being truly impactful. The book and film spawned a five-season TV series with a loyal cult following for a reason. Odessa, Texas, is like countless small towns or cities in the U.S. where, for better or worse (hint: it’s for worse), football is God. As the team’s new head coach, a steely Billy Bob Thornton does his best to steer his flock to salvation — and ignore the signs in his front yard calling for his dismissal after an early-season loss.

2. Remember the Titans

3. Hoop Dreams

4. A League of Their Own

5. The Sandlot

6. Bend It Like Beckham

7. Raging Bull

8. I, Tonya

9. Breaking Away

10. 61*

Joe Harrington, online content producer

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1. Rocky

It doesn't have to be No. 1 for everyone, but not having “Rocky” on your top 10 list is like not having Tom Brady on your top 10 quarterback list, or excluding Babe Ruth from your greatest-baseball-player-ever list. It's the movie that created the cliché sports movie trope and turned a struggling actor into one of the biggest movie stars ever. That said, “Major League“ is my personal favorite sports movie. I still laugh when I watch it, which would be the millionth time. If not for my undying love for the Reds, I'd have bought the Jake Taylor Indians jersey years ago.

2. Major League

3. Happy Gilmore

4. Pumping Iron

5. Rocky IV

6. Remember the Titans

7. The Mighty Ducks

8. Any Given Sunday

9. Rookie of the Year

10. Days of Thunder

Jason Jarrett, sports editor

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1. Breaking Away

I saw “Breaking Away” as a 9-year-old and immediately wanted to trade in my Huffy Thunder Road for a Roadmaster road bike. But the late 70s coming-of-age movie is more than just a story about a bike race. It’s a look at the dichotomy of university-town Bloomington, Ind. ― the locals and the co-eds who go to school there. It’s about high school graduates figuring out what the next step is for their lives. Dave Stoller’s passion oddly is all things Italian, but most importantly cycling. Stoller and his three misfit buddies are in life limbo and none of them seem destined for college life. The foursome are “cutters” ― the derisive nickname given to the townies in the college town. I love the banter among the friends (and Dave’s parents) as the foursome set out to win the annual “Little 500“ ― a bike race put on by the Indiana University fraternities, to stick it to the college boys and feel some sense of achievement amidst the uncertainty of their futures. Toss in Dave’s wooing of the main frat guy’s girlfriend, his idiosyncratic relationship with his parents and the cycling training/racing scenes, this underdog story never disappoints.

2. Bull Durham

3. Victory

4. A Sunday in Hell

5. Dogtown and Z-Boys

6. Moneyball

7. The Bad News Bears (original)

8. Rocky III

9. Any Given Sunday

10. Vision Quest

Thomas Jones, community sports editor

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1. The Wrestler:

I admit without shame that I’ve always been a pro wrestling fan. As a child, I cried tears of joy when Kerry Von Erich beat Ric Flair for the heavyweight championship. As an adult, I marvel at the oh-so-physical vaudeville routines that wrestlers put themselves through night and night, year after year. Mickey Rourke’s stunning performance as an aging wrestler in this 2008 film could center around any sport, where fading athletes try and hang onto their career as well as their identity. But chasing that dream into the twilight takes a toll, and the price it exacts must be paid long after the lights have dimmed and the crowds are gone. “The Wrestler” isn’t easy to watch, but it’s impossible for me to look away.

2. Hoop Dreams

3. Raging Bull

4. Hoosiers

5. Kingpin

6. Undefeated

7. Rocky

8. Friday Night Lights

9. Shaolin Soccer

10. Dogtown and Z-Boys

Rick Tijerina, deputy sports editor

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1. Hoosiers

I've always found "Hoosiers" and "The Natural" special. As sports movies go, you can't do much better. All the pistons are firing. The stories, endings, characters, cast, performances, cinematography, music and game-action sequences in those two are just perfect. Two images stand out: The exploding stadium lights that looked like fireworks in the reflection of Pop Fisher's glasses, and, in the hysteria of Jimmy Chitwood's bucket, that quick cut to Shooter jumping for joy on his hospital bed ― which, on occasion, will still make me tear up.

2. The Natural

3. Field of Dreams

4. Remember the Titans

5. Bull Durham

6. Rocky III

7. Tin Cup

8. Raging Bull

9. Rocky II

10. A League of Their Own

Cat Vasquez, bridge editor

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1. Johnny Be Good

There are classics like “Hoosiers.” There’s “Rocky IV” and its deluge of workout montages and a speech by Rocky Balboa that virtually ends the Cold War. Nothing about the 1980s movie feels authentic, but who cares? It’s Sly versus a huge Russian. You’ve got “The Karate Kid,” which has one of the best sports movie songs in Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best Around.” The film is the gold standard in the student-teacher genre. The most recent film on my list is “Molly’s Game,” which counts since it’s about a former moguls skier who builds a multi-million dollar poker game legally, for the most part. It’s got Kevin Costner in it, so it’s gotta be a sports movie, right? Despite those strong contenders, I had to go with “Johnny Be Good” as my favorite. I had to pick the send-up that lampoons the whole college football recruiting process. It’s a fun romp that doesn’t take itself, or recruiting for that matter, at all seriously.

2. Hoosiers

3. Rocky IV

4. Karate Kid

5. Molly's Game

6. Vision Quest

7. Bring It On

8. The Cutting Edge

9. Bend it Like Beckham

10. Without Limits