Popular Classic Sports Movies

Posted on 25 Nov 00:00


One thing that really stands out when it comes to classic movies and hard to find DVD’s produced in Hollywood, is that you would always find one that suits your taste. Depending on your preferred category of classic films, you’ll find rare movies ranging from action, comedy, sci-fi, romance, romantic-comedy, to horror films. the choices are indeed vast. Since no two classic movies are produced to be the same, we have cherry-picked some of the most renowned classic sports movies of all time, for serious movie buffs who fancy the thrill and excitement of classic sports movies. Here are some of the best classic sports movies of all time.

  1. Hoosiers (1986)

Hoosiers is a classic sport movie, directed by David Anspaugh, and is now archived in the US National Film Registry for its cultural, aesthetic, and historical significance.  It is about a failed college coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) who gets a chance at redemption when he is hired to direct the basketball program at a high school in a tiny Indiana town. After a teacher Myra Fleener (Barbara Hershey) persuades the star player Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valainis) to quit and focus on his long-neglected studies, Dale struggles to develop a winning team in the face of community criticism for his temper and his unconventional choice of assistant coach: Shooter (Dennis Hopper), a notorious alcoholic. Trivia:  While shooting this movie, David Anspaugh, the movie director, couldn’t secure extras for the head to head between the Huskers and South Bend Central bears, so they invited two local high schools in the area to fill the stands.

  1. Knute Rockne, All American (1940).

This movie portrays the real-life story of Knute Rockne (Pat O'Brien), the Norte Dame football coach, who led the fighting Irish team to countless victories.  The film is about the young Norwegian immigrant Knute Rockne who enrolls at Notre Dame University and becomes the first star of its  undistinguished football team, inventing the forward pass among other innovations. Coaching the team after his playing days are through, Rockne turns the school into a football powerhouse thanks in part to freshman halfback George Gipp (Ronald Reagan), whose sudden illness provides the team with its motivation to fight against a bigger, stronger opponent. This film is also responsible for the famous quote "win one for the Gipper".  Other prominent cast member inlcude Gale Page (Bonnie Skiles Rockne), Ronald Reagan (George Gipp), and Donald Crisp (father, John Cavanaugh). Although Rockne later lost his life in a plane crash in 1931, he lives on as a Norte Dame immortal as well as the history books.

  1. Pride of the Yankees (1942)

This moving biographical drama follows the life of revered baseball player Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper). Championed by sportswriter Sam Blake (Walter Brennan), Gehrig eventually gets recruited by the New York Yankees, joining a team of heavy hitters that includes the legendary Babe Ruth. When Gehrig marries his spirited sweetheart, Eleanor (Teresa Wright), things look up for him, but he is soon sidelined by a terrible illness that he bravely tries to battle.

Trivia: Samuel Goldwyn initially turned down the proposal to direct this movie. He only agreed to shoot the movie after Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man” speech made him cry. Babe Ruth’s declining health also posed a problem during the production of this movie. In fact, they had to control his meals throughout the filming period, to achieve a 'fit to be seen' Babe Ruth for the audience.

  1. Body and Soul (1947)

This is an iconic sports film shot in the Film Noir style.  When amateur boxer Charley Davis (John Garfield) wins his first big match, he attracts the interest of small-time promoter Quinn (William Conrad). After Davis' father (Art Smith) is accidentally killed, Davis throws himself into his new career despite the protests of his mother (Anne Revere). A natural, Davis quickly climbs the boxing ladder where he eventually meets opportunistic promoter Roberts (Lloyd Gough), who introduces him to some unsavory elements.

To achieve the fight sequence in this movie, James Wong Howe, a famous Chinese American cinematographer,  who worked on over 130 films. During the 1930s and 1940s, and was one of the most sought after cinematographers in Hollywood due to his innovative filming techniques, had to go around the ring on roller-skates while shooting with a hand-held camera.

  1. The Harder They Fall (1956)

Broke and without work, newspaper reporter Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart) agrees to work for the corrupt boxing promoter Nick Benko (Rod Steiger) to help hype his new boxer, Toro Moreno (Mike Lane). While Toro is beastly in appearance, he has no actual boxing talent, and all his fights are fixed. When Toro gets a shot at the title against the brutal Buddy Brannen (Max Baer), Willis is faced with the tough decision of whether or not to tell Toro that his entire career is a sham. Humphrey Bogart was diagnosed with esophageal cancer before filming commenced, and died the following year.

  1. The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)

After a successful baseball career in college and as a coach in the military, Jackie Robinson (playing himself) attracts the attention of Major League Baseball's Branch Rickey (Minor Watson). Rickey wants Robinson to play in the minor leagues, believing he can become the first player to break the color barrier and play in the majors. The only catch is that:  He is forbidden from defending himself against racial bigotry. Supported by his wife (Ruby Dee), Robinson is steadfast in his determination to win. The entire movie was shot during Robinson’s off-season with the Dodgers, and it starred Ruby Dee (Rae Robison), Minor Watson (Branch Rickey), and Louise Beavers (Jackie’s mother).

  1. Jim Thorpe – All American (1951)

In this stirring biographical drama, young Native American Jim Thorpe (Burt Lancaster) pursues his dreams of athletic stardom. Mentored by a devoted coach, Glen S. 'Pop' Warner (Charles Bickford), Thorpe succeeds at track before becoming a renowned football hero and a gold medal winning Olympic athlete. While remarkably accomplished on the field, Thorpe faces obstacles in his pursuit of becoming a professional coach, and also finds challenges in his love life, with its disappointments and heartaches that he must struggle to overcome.  As depicted in the movie, Jim Thorpe was stripped of Olympics medals in real life (possible due to racism). However, they were reinstated in 1983, 30 years after his death, and 32 years after the movie was produced.


Well, here you have it! These are the most renowned Classic Sports movies of all time. Even though Hollywood has a plethora of classic and modern sports movies to its credit, these classic films stand out among the bunch. They have shown us the wealth of work and commitment that goes into becoming a renowned star player in the sports industry. If you are a sports movie lover, you might want to add any of these movies to your movie collection.


1)  Rocky (1976)

2)  Raging Bull (1980)

3)  The Hustler (1961)

4)  Champion (1949)

5)  The Champ (1931/32)

6)  Chariots of Fire (1981)

7)  Many, many more…

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