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The top 20 sports movies of all time

Published: Thursday, April 11 2013 7:35 p.m. MDT

"42" is opening in theaters this weekend.

Based on the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in the history of Major League Baseball, debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. His cultural impact was tremendous as Robinson's major league accomplishments contributed significantly to the civil rights movement.

Robinson was the 1947 Rookie of the Year, the first Rookie of the Year award ever given. He played in six World Series, aiding the Dodgers to the 1955 World Championship. He was selected for six baseball All-Star games, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. Major League Baseball universally retired Robinson's number, 42, in 1997. Save for the occasional "Jackie Robinson Day" in which everyone wears his number, no one will wear number 42 again on an American professional diamond.

The debut of this weekend's movie got the sports staff at the Deseret News debating which sports movies are the greatest of all time and where this new film will fit in with the rest. What follows is our assessment of what are, prior to this weekend's release, the greatest 20 sports movies out there.

Feel free to tell us where we messed up by tweeting at @desnewssports with the hashtag #42.

The synopses herein contained are provided courtesy of OK.com

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Brave Sir Robin
San Diego, CA

A more appropriate title for this article would be "Top 20 PG-rated sports movies of all time." Any list without Caddyshack in the top 5 has zero credibility. Also, The Natural is nowhere to be found, but Space Jam is on there? Please.

Dixie Dan
Saint George, UT

Space Jam over "Jim Thorpe, All American", "Raging Bull", "Running Brave", and "The Pride of the Yankees"?

bikeboy
Boise, ID

What Brave Sir Robin said!

In all honesty, I had expected "The Natural" to be near the top, but hadn't even considered "Caddyshack." Is golf a "sport"?? If so, "Caddyshack" - a "Cinderella story" if ever there was one - should also be on the list! (I never watch golf on TV and pity those who do. But sometimes when I see the ads for the Masters, I get out my Caddyshack DVD for a spin.)

joseywales
Park City, UT

Worst list ever! Jerry Maguire really isn't a sports movie. It happens to be about a sports agent, but not so much about sport. Dumb. 8 men out, the Natural. Two of the best for sure. Raging bull not here? Horrible list. I demand a recount!

eastcoastcoug
Danbury, CT

Agree with above comments and also would nominate Invictus. Sports as the power to change a country...

UbU@TheU
American Fork, UT

I agree with others. The Natural is a must for a list like this. Bull Durham has to be top 5. I would take Major League over Space Jam. It is fun to read a article like this, thanks for putting it together. I cannot wait to see 42 this weekend. I'm showing my baseball bias. I wish we had better baseball in Utah.

Jill24NJ
SUSSEX, NJ

The Natural has to be on the list as does Brian's Song. Not so much Space Jam and some of the others listed. And Cadddyshack . . kind of important as well.

TheOfficalCall
Spanish Fork, UT

How about: Finding Forester better than Space Jam, or maybe even For The Love of the Game, Brian's Song, We are Marshal to name a few more.

There are ton of great sports movies, but when Hoosiers is on, I stop flipping channels and start watching, and I own the DVD.

cowboy99
South Jordan, UT

You left off "The Replacements"!

Nojp8279
Orem, UT

Where is 8 men out? Shoot, The Rookie fits the PG mold and is way better than half the movies on the list. Million Dollar Baby? The Fighter? Raging Bull? Even Cinderella Man? Rocky isn't the only great boxing movie. If the author wanted to be unique in this list, he should have included Warrior, which is in my opinion the best sports movie to come out in ten years. Maybe the author didn't see it because of its stupid ad campaign, but that movie blew me away.

Space Jam? Really? That was a two star movie at best. Is that because Shawn Bradley was in it? Listen, go rent Warrior tonight, cry like a baby, marvel in its perfect ending, don't tell anyone what happened, then adjust your list appropriately.

From Montana
Billings, MT

I just cannot believe that the Deseret News did not include "Forever Strong"

LetsDebate
PLEASANT GROVE, UT

Agree with all comments. Should have consulted with the Sports Staff instead of the Relief Society President. Major League is definitely better than Sports Jam, and Major League isn't a top 50 sports movie. Good grief - Chariots of Fire won the Academy Award for Best Picture!!! Angels in the Outfield - really?

prelax
Murray, UT

the natural
Brians song?

Claudio
Springville, Ut

Field of Dreams is easily in the top 5, and certainly shouldn't be behind Angels in the Outfield. Good grief. No mention of Moneyball? Clearly we've avoided any of those nasty R movies.

PGVikingDad
Pleasant Grove, UT

Amen to The Natural, Brian's Song, and Caddyshack. I would also add (yes, it's MMA) Warrior. Nick Nolte's performance in that film was unbelievable. Certainly better than an animated "Mon-Star."

Spider Rico
Greeley, CO

Only a handful of these movies deserved to make the list. #1 is Rocky.

DSB
Cedar Hills, UT

I normally don't complain about these lists, because after all, they're only opinion, and usually the list has credible entries. But this is a horrible list by just about any standard. Obvious omissions aside, as duly noted above, I can't tell the source of the bias. I highly doubt the Relief Society approved of Jerry Maguire with its explicit sex and forced child obscenity. But as mentioned, that's not even a sports movie anyway.

So, it's not a PG list, or one that required even mediocre acting (Space Jam?). It sounds a random person on the street was asked to name the first 20 sports movies he could think of in 45 seconds.

Peck34
Enterprise, UT

I can't see how Space Jam can make the top 20 of any category of movies. Except maybe movies starring Michael Jordan. Although, I can think of a few Nike and Hanes commercials that would be higher on the list.

Go Utes
Salt Lake City, UT

Note to self: Deseret News sports staff has terrible judgment with respect to sports movies.

Guys, I am beating a dead horse here from what I see in the above comments, but how can you have "Space Jam" on this list and leave out the Natural, Chariots of Fire (won best picture), etc? Are you kidding me? Man, Happy Gillmore deserves a spot above a lot of what you have mentioned. You have compiled a list with some fine movies, no doubt, but call it "20 movies we recommend" if you are going to leave off iconic movies like the above-mentioned. Obviously, any such list is subjective, but come on. The title "the top 20 sports movies of all time" is just killing your credibility.

cros
La Crosse, WI

Ummm...no Chariots of Fire? No The Natural?

eagle
Provo, UT

I take my comment back, this is absolutely the LAMEST list of sports movies I've ever seen with a couple of exceptions. First every sports movie begins and ends with Rocky. So we have Space Jam on this list and no Pride of the Yankees or Breaking Away or Bull Durham. Heck, let's get Caddy Shack on the list, we'll talk about that movie forever, who talks about Space Jam. One of the other great boxing movies is Raging Bull, not sure how that got left off the list in favor of Space Jam, really?

We need to get somebody that does these lists to have some historical perspective.

As a fan of wrestling I was hoping Vision Quest might get some consideration--great soundtrack. But again, if Rocky isn't on top, or close thereabouts not sure any list is legit. Yes, the sequels generally stank but the first one was a classic.

Lonster
Sandy, UT

The Natural, Eight Men Out, Pride of the Yankees, Brian's Song. And while not a movie, Clifton Jolley's half-hour TV documentary of years ago, "I Remember Gorgeous George" (wherein Clifton investigates the myth that wrestling is fake...).

Strider303
Salt Lake City, UT

While I am not a frequent movie goer, I am in agreement that the choices are a little weak, OK, a whole lot weak. Brian's Song, The Natural, Pride of the Yankees, Bull Durham, and Chariots of Fire are notable by their exclusion. Some of the others I have not seen so can't comment. Try publishing the criteria for the choices. The list makes me think this was chosen by the sports department sitting around a pizza trying to come up with something as the deadline approached. One good thing, I have some good suggestions for DVD viewing for the next few weeks. Oh, I loved Hoosiers, that was a great movie!

Rational
Salt Lake City, UT

Jerry McQuire is NOT a sports movie. No Happy Gillmore? Best golf movie ever. No Water Boy?

No Brian's Song, the Natural, Pride of the Yankees, the Stratton Story, Chariots of Fire, Breaking Away, Cinderella Man, We Are Marshall, Running Brave, Paper Lion?

CougarScott
Orem, UT

I would add near the top these two great movies: "Breaking Away" and "Heaven Can Wait" (the football version. How can these to movies not be in the top 20?

Rob of NV
Las Vegas, NV

I echo some of the same sentiments as others. I was surprised most by the exclusion of The Natural, Chariots of Fire, and Pride of the Yankees. One movie that has not been mentioned is "Secretariat." I never have been an avid fan of horse racing, but this was a great movie. While maybe not top 20 movies (but Space Jam was on the list, so I say why not), I have enjoyed the car racing movies "Six Pack" and "Thunder Alley". For a stretch, what about the Kieth Merrill wrestling movie "Take Down" filmed in UT valley, or the roller derby movie "Kansas City Bomber" with Raquel Welch. Now I am getting as crazy as some of those that put this list together! Hard to argue with Hoosiers as No. 1, but I recognize these lists are for fun and just someone else's opinion. My opiniont just might be different from others.

93Coog
Orem, UT

Sounds like a list that the staff put together while killing time at the Trax station. How do you define "top" movie?
The Rookie (Dennis Quaid)-- clearly better than Space Jam? (come on)..lets try this one again and let the readers vote...

Field of Dreams would have been better without Amy Madigan -- what a train wreck.

BYU Joe
MISSION VIEJO, CA

Seriously who made up this lame list - a 12 year old kid. Here is a more realistic view of the world - because Space Jam, The Sandlot and The Mighty Ducks make the Nickelodeon list.

20. Major League

19. Remember the Titans

18. Jerry Mcguire

17. The Hustler (Yeah Pool qualifies as a sport for the purpose of this list)

16. Heaven Can Wait

15. Tin Cup

14. Breaking Away

13. Miracle

12. Rudy

11. Field of Dreams

10. Seabiscuit

9. The Natural

8. Chariots of Fire

7. CaddyShack

6. Million Dollar Baby

5. A League of Their Own

4. Ragging Bull

3. Rocky

2. Bull Durham

1. Hoosiers

(Honorable mention - Mystery Alaska, Endless Summer, On Any Sunday, Rollerball (so not the future), Big Wednesday, Bad News Bears, Longest Yard, Karate Kid, Slap Shot, Brian Song)

BYU Joe
MISSION VIEJO, CA

Best scen on why we love sports - Vision Quest.

Louden Swain: Its not that big a deal, Elmo. I mean, its six lousy
minutes on the mat, if that.

Elmo: I was in the room here one
day... watchin the Mexican channel on TV. I dont know nothin
about Pele. Im watchin what this guy can do with a ball and his
feet. Next thing I know, he jumps in the air and flips into a
somersault and kicks the ball in - upside down and backwards... the
goalie never knew what hit him. Pele gets excited
and rips off his jersey and starts running around the stadium
waving it around. Everybodys screaming in Spanish. Im
here, sitting alone in my room, and I start crying. Thats
right, I start crying. Because another human being, a species that
I happen to belong to, could kick a ball, and lift himself, and the
rest of us sad human beings, up to a better place to be, if
only for a minute... let me tell ya, kid - it was pretty
glorious.

Elmo: It aint the six minutes... its what happens in that six minutes.

That my friends says it all.

SoCalTrueBlue
San Diego, CA

Number one: Rocky. Most glaring miss from this list: Chariots of Fire.

COUGARNATE
Lyman, WY

This is not a very good list. Come on Space Jam......Really?

rph
Arlington, VA

Ugh, the Blind Side was awful. So was Remember the Titans.

JBQ
Saint Louis, MO

@BYU Joe: I would say that you "hit the target". "Heaven Can Wait" is my favorite with "The Natural" close behind. Actually, there was an earlier "Heaven" which featured a boxer. This should have won the academy award but in our society, you know the drill.

Clifton Holt Jolley
Copper Canyon, TX

As I was Googling for an essay I'd published, I came upon a Deseret News listing of the "Top 20 Sports Movies of All Time" which mentions my documentary "I Remember Gorgeous George." Where, I wondered, do I rank? Perhaps somewhere between "Rocky" and "Pride of the Yankees." Certainly, above "The Mighty Ducks"! Nope. Not even on the list. (But Google says so!) Reading the comments (which are more interesting and accurate than the list!) I discovered the error: my documentary is mentioned not in the list but in the comments about the list. Sports flick aficionado "Lonster" recommends it be added! Thank you Lonster. And I shall. Because while I do not agree with "eagle" that "this is absolutely the LAMEST list of sports movies I've ever seen," I do agree it needs correcting. So, in the future when mentioning my documentary (which I do whenever increasingly rare opportunity permits), I shall say, "Did you know my documentary was listed 12th in the Top 20 Sports Documentaries of All Time?" Then, suitably under my breath, I'll insert the note: "...in the comments, if you read from the bottom up." Thank you, Lonster. We're right.

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