For over a century, filmmakers have combined two of America’s great pastimes: watching sports and watching movies. Athletic competitions provide a unique lens to view the development of a character or a team, showing how they overcome the odds to become champions.
The sports movie, which is often considered a genre of its own, can take on any tone, from heart-wrenching underdog tales like “Remember the Titans” to oddball comedies like “Slap Shot.” Among these films, a handful of sports movies stand out above the rest as can’t-miss classics.
To determine the best movie about sports, 24/7 Tempo developed an index based on several measures from the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes.
While the most beloved sports movies are often big, crowd-pleasing favorites, sometimes they can get serious Oscar consideration. From Robert De Niro’s legendary performance in “Raging Bull” to “Rocky” winning best picture, sports movies are sometimes the best films of the year.
“The Hustler,” released in 1961, is the greatest sports movie of all time. It starred Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason and Piper Lauri, and it was directed by Robert Rossen. The film’s IMDb rating is 8 out of 10.
The Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus describes “The Hustler” as a “dark, morally complex tale of redemption.” Paul Newman plays “Fast” Eddie Felson, an up-and-coming pool player who aims to unseat legendary Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) as the world’s best. The iconic film received positive reviews from 98% of critics and 93% of viewers, per Rotten Tomatoes.
“The Hustler” was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won two, for best art direction-set decoration and best cinematography. Newman would later go on to win a best actor Oscar for portraying Fast Eddie in the 1986 follow-up film “The Color of Money,” in which he teaches a young player (portrayed by Tom Cruise) the ropes. It was Newman’s first win and eighth nomination.
Our methodology: To determine the best movie about sports, 24/7 Tempo developed an index based on several measures from the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes. The index is a composite of each movie’s IMDb rating, Rotten Tomatoes audience score and Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score. The IMDb rating and Rotten Tomatoes audience score were each weighted at 45%, while the Tomatometer score was weighted at 10%. Data was collected in April 2021.