Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

by Alan Rapp on September 4, 2017

in Top Tens & Lists

Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

Anybody can throw together a list of sports movies like Rocky, Field of Dreams, and Hoosiers, but such a list overlooks several sports movies not centered around the bigger marquee sports. Here’s what you won’t see on this list: football, baseball, basketball, boxing, golf, tennis, hockey, soccer, or auto-racing. What does that leave, you ask? A pretty darn good top ten of alternative sports movies.

10. Bring It On

Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

The 2000 parody/celebration of cheerleading is everything the Pitch Perfect franchise desperately wants to be. Kirsten Dunst stars as the head of a championship squad who, with the help of new recruit Eliza Dushku, learns her school’s championships are all built on lies. After a few missteps, the team comes back together and puts on a hell of a performance to compete at nationals. Read the full review

9. The Karate Kid

Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

Struggling to fit in after moving to a new city, and run-ins with a local bully (William Zabka), Daniel Russo’s (Ralph Macchio) friendship with his apartment’s handyman (Pat Morita) will change both their lives. Memorable moments and quotes abound from Mr. Miyagi’s unorthodox teaching methods to the brutality of Cobra Kai to Daniel’s moment of triumph.

8. Air Guitar Nation

Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

Air guitar seems an odd subject for a documentary, and a world championship centered around the subject even more so. Air Guitar Nation‘s unique look at the competitors and their journey to become the world champion of air guitar is as amazing as it is unexpected. Read the full review

7. Stick It

Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

Director/writer Jessica Bendinger earns a second film on the list (she also wrote Bring It On) with this engaging look at gymnastics shown through the eyes of a talented but reluctant star (Missy Peregrym) who mirrors the film’s love/hate relationship with the sport. Jeff Bridges and Vanessa Lengies are supporting stand-outs, and the film’s beautiful cinematography of the the routines is a joy to behold. Given its strengths and message, I’ll even forgive its final act which strains credibility nearly to the breaking point. Read the full review

6. Let it Ride

Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

Even the sun shines on a dog’s ass some days. Richard Dreyfuss has had bigger roles, but his turn as cabbie and degenerate gambler Jay Trotter is one of my favorites. Given one day of good luck, Trotter’s day at the track becomes a magical experience thanks in part to the host of interesting characters including David Johansen, Teri Garr, Jennifer Tilly, and Harry Potter’s Robbie Coltrane.

5. The Color of Money

Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

We’ll get to the film which inspired this one soon enough, for now let’s just acknowledge Martin Scorsese and the brilliance which led the director to allow Paul Newman to return to one of the actor’s most famous roles. Brought out of decades of retirement by a cocky new pool player (Tom Cruise) and his girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), Fast Eddie takes on the role of mentor bringing him back to the glory days of his youth. Read the full review

4. Rounders

Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

Matt Damon stars as a struggling law student pulled back into the world of poker and underground gambling by an old friend (Edward Norton). Texas hold’em has never been more interesting than in this underrated gem from director John Dahl. John Malkovich, John Turturro, Martin Landau, Famke Janssen, and Gretchen Mol round out the cast (so to speak). Read the full review

3. Searching for Bobby Fischer

Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

Based on a true story, young Max Pomeranc stars as chess prodigy whose sudden interest and talent in the game is a struggle for his parents (Joe Mantegna and Joan Allen) and an odd couple of coaches (Ben Kingsley and Laurence Fishburne). Steven Zaillian‘s (Moneyball, Schindler’s List, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) script touches on themes of growing up and the pressures of competition on both children and their parents, while celebrating chess as something much more than just a board game.

2. The Hustler

Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

The 1961 film introduced the world to hot-shot pool hustler Fast Eddie Felson (Newman) and his obsession with beating the best player around: Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). Newman is terrific here in the role of a loser who finds a way to win, only to lose what he cares most about. Not dissimilar to Newman’s role in the sequel, George C. Scott puts in a strong supporting performance as Felson’s new partner and bankroll.

1. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Top 10 Alternative Sports Movies

Sometimes reality is better than fiction. The top entry on our list is about a video game? Seth Gordon‘s 2007 documentary about chasing the world record score for Donkey Kong is a joy to behold. Set to 80s music (including a tune best known for its appearance in a movie on this list) is a winner and earns its spot at the top of this list. Read the full review

Sarah September 8, 2017 at 2:41 am

I don’t completely agree with your order but I love this list. There are some great movies here!

Jack September 19, 2017 at 8:25 am

Terrific list!

champ September 22, 2017 at 6:51 am

This is a fun list. What about movies like Cutting Edge or Blue Crush?

Alan Rapp September 29, 2017 at 8:22 am

Both were considered, but they were beaten out by what I think are better movies.

stan September 28, 2017 at 3:48 pm

I like this list a lot

danielsan October 7, 2017 at 4:54 am

Karate Kid should be much higher, but I like this list. Stick It is really good and underrated. I have never seen Let it Ride or King of Kong but since I like all the other movies on this list I may check them out.

pam October 9, 2017 at 5:27 am

Love every movie on this list that I’ve seen. I will definitely try and check out the others.

Corrie December 18, 2018 at 6:26 pm

I want to say that this post is amazing. Great list of movies!

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