The sweet taste of victory, the agony of defeat. But the best sports movies aren’t just about the MATCHES and the battles. Halls and rings, stadiums and pitches – all fertile ground for filmmakers to showcase human performance and perseverance. We’ve selected some of the best sports-themed films of the last 10 years.
Creed, now a trilogy, rejuvenated the iconic Rocky franchise in 2015. The film follows Adonis Creed, son of Apollo Creed, as he strives to forge his own legacy in the boxing world while also dealing with the shadows of his father’s past. Sylvester Stallone returns with an Oscar-nominated performance as the legendary Rocky Balboa, this time as a mentor who guides Adonis through the pitfalls of the ring.
2016’s Eddie the Eagle is a heartwarming true story about ski jumper Eddie Edwards, who defied the odds to represent Great Britain at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman’s pairing and uplifting message of perseverance undoubtedly made the film one of the great crowd favourites of the ’10s.
The Battle of the Sexes (2017) tells the story of the iconic 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Beyond the sport, the film delves deep into the gender dynamics and struggles for equality that raged in the 1970s, highlighting King’s struggle for equal pay and respect in a world dominated by men.
Also in 2017, we saw the film I, Tonya, a dark comedy about the controversial life of figure skater Tonya Harding. The film explores the infamous 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan and the complicated dynamics of Harding’s private life. Academy Award nominee Margot Robbie plays Harding with both empathy and power, illuminating the often-overlooked nuances of her story.
Oscar winners Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in Ford v. Ferrari, based on a true story. Together, visionary car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and daredevil British-born racing driver Ken Miles (Bale) battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and, of course, their own demons. And the goal is to build a revolutionary racing car for the Ford Motor Company to beat Enzo Ferrari’s racing team at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.
The Way Back (2020) offers a poignant exploration of addiction and redemption through the lens of basketball. Ben Affleck delivers a riveting performance as Jack Cunningham, a former high school basketball star turned alcoholic who gets a chance to start over when he is asked to coach his former team. The film brilliantly interweaves themes of personal struggle with the stresses and joys of sports.
King Richard focuses on the father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, and the dedication and determination it takes to raise champions. Will Smith, who won an Academy Award for his performance as Richard Williams, this time portrays the man behind the star athlete rather than the competitor.
Ben Affleck does not disappoint in Air (2023), where he not only stars in the production that tells the inside story of the creation of the Nike Air Jordan collection, but also directs the film set in the 1980s. At a time when Adidas was still cool and Nike was just a runner’s shoe, Affleck, as Nike’s founder, signed a shoe deal with Michael Jordan that redefined the entire industry.
Nyad (2023), a biographical sports drama about Diana Nyad, stars Annette Bening as her attempt to swim the Florida Straits and Jodie Foster as her best friend and coach. Both actresses are in the running for this year’s Oscars. Jodie Foster was first nominated for an award in 1977, at the age of 14, for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. This year, after a long hiatus of 28 years, she returns with a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Also late last year, we saw the release of the biopic Iron Claw, written and directed by Sean Durkin, about the Von Erich family, a Texas wrestling dynasty that enjoyed huge success in the 1980s. The film traces the unexpected tragedies and deaths that resulted from the “curse” of the close-knit family as they tried to make a name for themselves in the wrestling world and become heavyweight champions. “The Von Erich brothers were the biggest rock stars in wrestling to ever come out of Texas,” said lead actor Zac Efron, “They were like gods. They were like comic book heroes.”