21 Best Sports Dramas Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors
In 2008, legendary and controversial director Darren Aronofsky delivered yet another unforgettable allegory, starring Mickey Rourke as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, an aging professional wrestler long past his prime, who is struggling to retain a sense of identity, purpose, and dignity later in life. Rourke, who worked as a professional boxer in his 90s and, like his protagonist, almost hung his hat at the time the movie was shot, delivers a once-in-a-lifetime performance that rightly earned him a Golden Globe. Everybody talked about this movie when it came out! Marisa Tomei's performance, who plays the mid-40s stripper The Ram pursues a serious relationship with, was also deemed iconic by some critics. Shot on 16mm film, The Wrestler's cinematography, like its acting, feels incredibly raw, intimate, and realistic. It is essentially about bouncing back, making amends, and growing old and features acting performances that will be remembered for a long time. One for the books!

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Abraham Aronofsky, Ajay Naidu, Alex Whybrow, Alyssa Bresnahan, Andrea Langi, Armin Amiri, Ben Van Bergen, Bernadette Penotti, Bill Walters, Brandon DiCamillo, Brian Heffron, Charlotte Aronofsky, Claudio Castagnoli, Cobian, Daniel Healy Solwold Jr., Daniel Solwold Jr., Darnell Kittrell, Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Douglas Crosby, Dustin Howard, Dylan Keith Summers, Dylan Summers, E.J. Carroll, Emmanuel Yarborough, Eric Santamaria, Erika Smith, Ernest Miller, Evan Rachel Wood, Felice Choi, Giovanni Roselli, Gregg Bello, Jamar Shipman, Jeff Chena, Jen Cohn, Jess Liaudin, John Corson, John D'Leo, John Zandig, Jon Trosky, Judah Friedlander, Lloyd Anoa'i, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Marisa Tomei, Mark Margolis, Matt Cannon, Michael Drayer, Mickey Rourke, Mike Miller, Nate Hatred, Nicholas K. Berk, Nick Papagerio, Olivia Baseman, Paul E. Normous, Paul Thornton, Peter Conboy, Rebecca Darke, Rob Strauss, Robert D. Siegel, Robert Oppel, Ron Killings, Ryan Lynn, Ryan Tygh, Sakinah Bingham, Scott Franklin, Steven Haworth, Sylvia Kauders, Todd Barry, Tommy Farra, Vernon Campbell, Wass Stevens

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Rating: R

The story of the Von Erich family is excruciatingly sad, but Iron Claw doesn’t dive right into the tragedy. Instead, it takes care to paint a picture of a close-knit family that’s filled with just as much warmth, jealousy, affection, and resentment as the next bunch. Durkin masterfully draws you into their circle so that everything that happens next is sure to cut deep. The choreography, chemistry, color—everything is carefully and beautifully set up, but the casting is what stands out the most. This wouldn’t have worked as well if it weren’t for the inspired move to pair Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, and Stanley Simons as brothers and partners. On the internet, people have been dubbing The Iron Claw as “Little Women and The Virgin Suicides for men” and it’s not hard to see why. Apart from the sibling bond over glory and growing pains, all these films are also powerful explorations of gender. Iron Claw is a vicious takedown of toxic masculinity, while also being a searing family drama and an incredible showcase for Efron and company.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Aaron Dean Eisenberg, Brian Hite, Cazzey Louis Cereghino, Chad Governale, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Chelsea Edmundson, Christina Michelle Williams, Garrett Hammond, Harris Dickinson, Holt McCallany, Jeremy Allen White, Jim Gleason, Jullian Dulce Vida, Kevin Anton, Kristina Kingston, Lily James, Maura Tierney, Maxwell Friedman, Michael Harney, Michael Papajohn, Mike Dell, Ryan Nemeth, Scott Innes, Stanley Simons, Zac Efron

Director: Sean Durkin

Rating: R

Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton) was a man with big glasses and even bigger dreams. As a physically disabled child-turned-oddly determined young adult, he tried his hands at all kinds of sports to earn himself a place in United Kingdom’s Team, only to be shunned and rejected more times than one can count. While his coming home a hero can easily be attributed to Great Britain’s lack of a ski jumper representative to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, the world has Eddie’s perseverance and never-say-die attitude to thank. A story about conquering greater heights and just taking flight, Eddie the Eagle shows the world how winning doesn’t always mean taking home the crown.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Ania Sowinski, Aria DeMaris, Christopher Walken, Daniel Ings, Daniel Westwood, Daz Black, Dexter Fletcher, Dickon Tolson, Edvin Endre, Graham Fletcher-Cook, Hugh Jackman, Iris Berben, Jessica Allain, Jim Broadbent, Jo Hartley, Joachim Raaf, Jozef Aoki, Keith Allen, Mads Sjogard Pettersen, Marc Benjamin, Mark Benton, Matt Rippy, Rune Temte, Taron Egerton, Tim McInnerny, Tom Costello

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Rating: PG-13

There’s a vein of reality running through He Got Game that gives this Spike Lee joint a sense of pulsating immediacy. For one, the young basketball prodigy at its center is played by real-life pro Ray Allen, who shot the movie during the sport’s off-season period in 1997. The film also draws on a host of other ballers and ancillary figures — including coaches and commentators — to fully convince us of the hype around Jesus Shuttlesworth (Allen), a Coney Island high-schooler who’s been crowned America’s top college draft pick.

Lee takes this premise to much more interesting places than sports movies usually go. The plot is a melodrama of sorts, in which Jesus’ incarcerated father Jake (a top-tier Denzel Washington) must convince his son to declare for the governor’s alma mater in exchange for a reduced sentence. The pair are estranged — Jake is in prison for the death of Jesus’ mother — making this as much a tense examination of family and forgiveness as it is a sports movie. And what a sports movie it is: Lee makes his love of basketball not just abundantly clear but also infectious, opening the film on soaring, balletic images of the sport that suggest it’s no mere game, but something unifying, artistic, and ultimately salvatory.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Al Palagonia, Arthur J. Nascarella, Bill Nunn, Bill Walton, Charles Barkley, Chasey Lain, Denzel Washington, Dick Vitale, George Karl, Hill Harper, Jennifer Esposito, Jill Kelly, Jim Boeheim, Jim Brown, John Turturro, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Kim Director, Leonard Roberts, Lonette McKee, Michael Jordan, Milla Jovovich, Ned Beatty, Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Rick Fox, Robin Roberts, Roger Guenveur Smith, Ron Cephas Jones, Rosario Dawson, Roy Williams, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Zelda Harris

Director: Spike Lee

Rating: R

From the director of Moneyball, Foxcatcher is a true-story-based thriller centered around Olympic wrestlers and brothers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) and multimillionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell). When the latter invites both brothers to move to his estate and train there, with seemingly patriotic motives, only Mark accepts. As training for the 1988 Olympic Games starts, and Du Pont's motives become clearer, tragedy hits. This film is a slow-burning celebration of the exceptional talent it features, both Ruffalo and Carell received Oscar nominations for their roles.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alan Oppenheimer, Anthony Michael Hall, Brett Rice, Brian Baumgartner, Channing Tatum, Daniel Hilt, Guy Boyd, Jackson Frazer, Jake Herbert, Jane Mowder, Joe Fishel, Lee Perkins, Mark Ruffalo, Mark Schultz, Richard E. Chapla Jr., Roger Callard, Samara Lee, Sienna Miller, Steve Carell, Tiffany Sander McKenzie, Vanessa Redgrave

Director: Bennett Miller

Rating: R

This is the type of movie I completely fell in love with but cannot articulate exactly why. Maybe it's the mixture of beauty and pain portrayed, maybe it's the intricate sounds and beautiful imagery, maybe it's the story, maybe it's all of the above. A woman is hit with sudden disability after an accident and calls on an unlikely companion, a night club bouncer by the name of Ali. Together they explore her new predicament and its implications, while forming a special bond. This is a movie that will call upon your internal strength, while portraying how us humans can become strong together. Most of all it provides an immensely powerful, ultimately simple story that is both touching and will stay with you for a very long time. Directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet).

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Armand Verdure, Bouli Lanners, Celine Sallette, Corinne Masiero, Fabien Baïardi, Françoise Michaud, Irina Coito, Jean-Michel Correia, Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Mourad Frarema, Yannick Choirat

Director: Jacques Audiard

Rating: 15, R

Shia Laboeuf and Stellan Skarsgård star in this true story about one of the greatest tennis matches in history: the 1980 Wimbledon final. The movie dissects what drives both competitors (one played by Laboeuf and the other by Sverrir Gudnason). Their personalities, considered opposites, are studied through their paths and how they got into tennis. All this leads to that one match, in this beautiful story of dealing with competition and fear of failure. Don’t stop watching when the credits roll, read what they say!

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anders Berg, Ben Bradshaw, Bjorn Granath, Bob Boudreaux, Colin Stinton, Dag Malmberg, David Bamber, Ian Blackman, Iva Šindelková, Jackson Gann, James Sobol Kelly, Jamie Marshall, Jane Perry, Janis Ahern, Leo Borg, Marcus Mossberg, Mats Blomgren, Robert Emms, Roy McCrerey, Scott Arthur, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Sverrir Gudnason, Thomas Hedengran, Tuva Novotny, Wille Glyt, Zuzana Geislerová

Director: Janus Metz, Janus Metz Pedersen

Rating: R

, 2023

After winning Oscars for their documentary work, filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin make their narrative feature debut with Nyad. The move to narrative fiction isn’t a monumental jump for the director duo, whose cinematic documentaries (among them Free Solo and The Rescue) play like nerve-shredding action thrillers and intense human dramas. Nor does Nyad’s subject — another extreme feat of human daring and endurance — make this feel a million miles away from their most famous works.

The most obvious departures from the directors’ documentary strengths — Nyad’s flashbacks and hallucination scenes, for example — do sometimes highlight their newness to narrative filmmaking, however. These scenes feel shallow and therefore disconnected from the movie’s otherwise deeper treatment of its subject, just as the performances dip into outsized cliches at times. Mostly, though, Nyad manages to float above the trap of trying too hard to be an inspirational sports drama thanks to its confrontation of Diana’s prickly personality. This flips the film’s perspective onto that of Diana’s team (including her coach and former girlfriend, played by Jodie Foster), who ultimately suffer the consequences of her stubbornness. That refusal to submit to hagiographic impulses gives the film a documentary-like edge of truth, making the rousing moments here feel genuinely earned.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anna Harriette Pittman, Annette Bening, Carolyn McCormick, Diana Nyad, Eric T. Miller, Erica Cho, Ethan Jones Romero, Garland Scott, Jeena Yi, Jodie Foster, Johnny Solo, Karly Rothenberg, Katherine Klosterman, Luke Cosgrove, Marcus Young, Melissa R. Stubbs, Nadia Lorencz, Rhys Ifans, Stephen Schnetzer, Tisola Logan

Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

Rating: PG-13

, 1993

Based on the true story of Daniel “Rudy” Rettinger, this biographical movie follows young Rudy as he pursues his childhood dream of playing football for Notre Dame, despite significant obstacles and copious discouragement from those around him. The movie works not by hitching the action to any major sequences of ball play, but rather to the most remarkable feature of the story: the sheer determination of the title protagonist. The film’s success also largely comes down to a fantastically consistent and earnest performance by Sean Astin, who outshines a very talented supporting cast to the legendary, crowd-stirring end.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Amy Pietz, Charles S. Dutton, Chelcie Ross, Christopher Erwin, Christopher Reed, David Anspaugh, Deborah Wittenberg, Forest Whitaker, Gerry Becker, Greta Lind, Jason Miller, Jim Broadbent, John Beasley, Jon Favreau, Kevin Duda, Lauren Katz, Lili Taylor, Luke Massery, Mary Ann Thebus, Miranda Richardson, Mitch Rouse, Ned Beatty, Ralph Brown, Robert J. Steinmiller Jr., Robert Prosky, Ron Dean, Scott Benjaminson, Sean Astin, Stephen Rea, Vince Vaughn

Director: David Anspaugh, Neil Jordan

Rating: PG

Though it paints in overly broad strokes and takes a while to get going, this tale of broken people finding each other eventually reaches an irresistibly feel-good conclusion. Like many good sports movies, Seabiscuit isn't really dependent on the final outcome of a matchup between underdog and high-profile contender. What becomes important, then, is the perseverance of a handful of individuals in doing something just to prove they can beat the odds. And while there aren't actually as many racing sequences in Seabiscuit as you might be led to believe, they're well worth the wait—punctuating the drama with sharp editing and beautiful, period-specific production design.

Genre: Drama, Family, History

Actor: Annie Corley, Cameron Bowen, Camillia Sanes, Carl M. Craig, Chris Cooper, Dan Daily, Danny Strong, David Doty, David McCullough, Dyllan Christopher, Ed Lauter, Eddie Jones, Elizabeth Banks, Gary L. Stevens, Gary McGurk, Gary Ross, Gary Stevens, Gianni Russo, Hans Howes, James Keane, Jeff Bridges, John Walcutt, Ken Magee, Kevin Mangold, Kingston DuCoeur, Mariah Bess, Matt Miller, Michael Angarano, Michael B. Silver, Michael Ensign, Michael O'Neill, Michelle Arthur, Noah Luke, Pat Skipper, Paul Vincent O'Connor, Peter Jason, Richard Reeves, Robin Bissell, Royce D. Applegate, Sam Bottoms, Shay Duffin, Tobey Maguire, Valerie Mahaffey, William H. Macy

Director: Gary Ross

Rating: PG-13

A funny, feel-good French movie about a man who joins a synchronized swim team to get over his depression. Comprised only of other middle-aged men, they decide they want to compete for the world championship. Sounds like an unlikely story? It's actually based on a real-life documentary from Sweden called Men Who Swim. If you get French humor, this will make you laugh (a lot), and if not, you'll surely enjoy the easygoing tone of Sink or Swim.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alban Ivanov, Alexandre Courtes, Anderz Eide, Audrey Quoturi, Benoît Poelvoorde, Benoît Poelvoorde, Caroline Grant, Charlotte Levy, Christian Gazio, Claire Nadeau, Élodie Hesme, Erika Sainte, Félix Moati, Felix Moati, Fiorella Campanella, Guillaume Canet, Guillaume Cloud-Roussel, Ibrahim Koma, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Jonathan Zaccaï, Karim Adda, Leïla Bekhti, Leila Bekhti, Marina Foïs, Marina Fois, Mathieu Amalric, Mathieu Torloting, Maximilien Poullein, Mélanie Doutey, Michèle Clément, Noée Abita, Philippe Katerine, Pierre Pirol, Sam Chemoul, Stéphane Rouabah, Vincent Darmuzey, Virgile Bramly, Virginie Efira, Xavier Alcan

Director: Gilles Lellouche

Rating: N/A

Shooting Stars may be based on LeBron James’ account of his teenage years, but this adaption by Chris Robinson is more than just a vanity project. In fact, James is hardly the lead here—every one of his friends gets a chance to shine in this coming-of-age story about brotherhood and friendship. It’s closer to films like Boyz N the Hood and Stand By Me in that way, but that’s not to say it’s a letdown in the sports department. The games are choreographed beautifully; the actors display wonderful athleticism and the filmmakers employ various camera techniques that never fail to surprise. There are times, though, that these techniques distract more than excite, and there is a sense that the film could’ve benefited from a more pared-down style. But this ultimately doesn’t take away from the film’s tender and thrilling story.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Algee Smith, Caleb McLaughlin, Chad L. Coleman, Dermot Mulroney, Joe Fishel, Katlyn Nichol, Khalil Everage, Mookie Cook, Natalie Paul, Scoot Henderson, Wood Harris

Director: Chris Robinson

Rating: PG-13

A light and simple feel-good movie with great performances from an impressive cast. Ewan McGregor plays the country's best fisheries expert who is approached by a consultant (Emily Blunt) to help bring the sport of fly-fishing to a desert in the Middle-East, a place at the peak of tensions. The Prime Minister's office, with the help of the media, try to then bring this story to the public as a show of something good happening in the region. It's a quirky movie with a beautiful love story and a few interesting ideas on the current state of journalism. Both leads are absolutely charming together.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Amr Waked, Catherine Steadman, Conleth Hill, Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Hugh Simon, Jill Baker, Kristin Scott Thomas, Peter Wight, Rachael Stirling, Tom Beard, Tom Mison

Director: Lasse Hallström

Rating: PG-13