It's easy to dismiss sports movies as being the same story told over and over again - basically, an underdog story.
It's true, a disproportionate amount of movies where sports plays a part tells this story, but it's the same with horrors and it's the same with action. There's a blueprint that's not only expected, but naturally lends itself to the genre and sports is no different.
Here's our choice of the ten best sports movies out there.
As sequels go, 'Creed' could have easily picked up from 'Rocky IV' and ignored 'Rocky V' and 'Rocky Balboa'. There are so few movies that adopt and embrace the legacy of their original and then fold it into a new understanding of it. That's what 'Creed' did, and arguably did even better than 'The Force Awakens' or 'Blade Runner 2049'. It had a reason to stand on its own, and a reason for the audience to care about it. Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone both brought a humanity and a convincing dynamic between them, but it was Ryan Coogler's singular vision and skillful direction that made it all soar.
9. 'ESCAPE TO VICTORY' (1981)
It's hard to separate 'Escape To Victory' from the wealth of sports talent and acting talent onscreen from the legacy it has. Setting in World War II, the prisoners of a Nazi POW camp are forced to play a football game against the German national team. Amidst all this, however, is an escape attempt. British Army Captain and former West Ham footballer Michael Caine manages the team whilst trying to contend with hotshot American Sylvester Stallone. The film's a cult classic and features of football's finest talent, including Pele and Bobby Moore. Not only that, the film was one of John Huston's final directorial efforts.
8. 'COOL RUNNINGS' (1993)
For some weird reason, everyone who grew up in Ireland in the '90s saw this film and can quote from it. Regardless, 'Cool Runnings' did more for the Winter Olympics than any other film or is likely to do. The story of a Jamaican bobsled team and their attempts to enter the Winter Olympics in Alberta, Canada is one that has some basis in fact. The film's emotional core comes from John Candy, which would be one of his final films. I SEE PRIDE! I SEE POWAH!
7. 'SLAP SHOT' (1977)
Although when you think of films about ice-hockey, your mind will automatically go to 'Mighty Ducks' (it's down further), 'Slap Shot' deserves a mention. Paul Newman plays the captain of a down-and-out ice-hockey team with a terrible record. However, when the team's future is under the threat, Newman comes up with an ingenious way of scoring points in games - he starts verbally abusing the goalies. It's bawdy, raucous and Newman demonstrates what a capable, comedic actor he was. If you saw 'Goon' with Sean William Scott, you saw a lesser version of this.
6. 'MILLION DOLLAR BABY' (2004)
Although boxing movies are often eclipsed by a certain Italian-American, they've consistently been shown to make for entertaining and exciting films. Movies like Michael Mann's 'Ali' or Norman Jewison's 'The Hurricane' have shown the physicality and the intensity that boxing demands but all of them are from a distinctly male perspective. 'Million Dollar Baby' turns it on its head. Hilary Swank plays a young woman whose utter determination to become a professional boxer is tempered by a lived-in trainer in the form of Clint Eastwood. Both are down on their luck and desperate for meaning in their life. Unsurprisingly, Swank's performance won her another Oscar and the film itself swept the boards at the Oscars, winning Best Picture and Best Director for Clint Eastwood.
5. 'MIGHTY DUCKS' (1992)
Who didn't watch this film and immediately want to get ice-skates and to do the flying V thing? 'Mighty Ducks' is one of those great childhood films that still immediately resonates with people of our generation. Emilio Estevez plays Gordon Bombay, a hot-shot lawyer who's arrested for drunk driving. As punishment, he's ordered to coach a youth hockey team. Straightforward enough, you'd think. The team - a group of inner-city misfits - are soon transformed into a winning team thanks to Estevez' leadership. Look out for a baby-faced Joshua Jackson as the star player for the Ducks.
4. 'RAGING BULL' (1980)
It's often been speculated that 'Raging Bull' was a direct response to 'Rocky'. The two films were released two years apart and the subject matter - boxing - joins them. That, however, is where the similarity ends. Where 'Rocky' had heart, 'Raging Bull' has none. It is the portrait of a man driven to excess and rage by the very sport he practises. Few movies have ever really captured the sheer animal instincts that are harnessed in competitive sports. Even fewer have looked at the price of it. DeNiro's performance as Jake LaMotta is nothing short of legendary. He went through massive physical changes in order to portray the boxer convincingly and it shows. It's a tough watch, but it's a rewarding experience.
3. 'ANY GIVEN SUNDAY' (1999)
A film like 'Any Given Sunday' shows that you can have absolutely no knowledge of the sport in question - in this case, American football - and still get what they're talking about and what's involved. Oliver Stone made this movie as a love-letter to the sport, clearly brushing over the perceived lack of finesse involved and instead portraying it as a gladiatorial event. Jamie Foxx plays a young and corruptible player who's drawn into the heady world of the NFL, replacing worn-out Dennis Quaid. Stone's dizzying camerawork and ability to get the best out of actors is apparent. Al Pacino's final speech is rousing and, for our money, the last, best thing he's done to date.
2. 'HE GOT GAME' (1998)
If a filmmaker is truly in love with the subject material, it immediately shines through and can be seen in every shot and every frame. With 'He Got Game', you can see that Spike Lee is in love with basketball. The script praises the sport and its restorative properties, how it can empower people and more. Denzel Washington plays the aggressive father of a talented high-schooler who's on his way to becoming a professional basketball player. Paroled from prison to convince his son to play for a specific college, Washington soon learns that the game has changed completely. It's emotional and heartbreaking and is a highly underrated drama.
1. 'ROCKY' (1978)
Boxing movies make up a large percentage of this list, and indeed, most successful sports movies focus on the sport. 'Rocky' is often branded as a fairytale and that it's utter schmaltz. Yet, it has dark overtones - Rocky's hopelessness, the realities of poverty and the physical toll it takes on people are all addressed in clear, uncertain terms. Sylvester Stallone wrote and starred in the movie and would later go on to write / direct the numerous sequels that followed. However, the first is the best because it somehow felt the most authentic and the most iconic. Watching 'Creed', you can see that Ryan Coogler was tapping into that same sense of optimism and vitality that the original had. It makes sense, then, why the two are so intrinsically linked.