There have been some great debates over time. Who’s the best athlete ever? What city has the best pizza? Who has been the greatest president? Where can a bettor find the best NFL odds? What’s the best movie or tv show ever created?
And you can filter down from there too, especially that last one. What’s the best comedy, drama, biography, horror, sci-fi, rom-com, thriller, documentary, or even sports movie? And the trickle-down effect continues for cinematic debaters as you could argue over the best movie from any major sport including football, baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey, racing, skating, etc etc.
Here are the top-five grossing sports movies of all-time and then we’ll look at what many believe are the best football movies ever made.
The Karate Kid – $359 Million
It’s been argued for 30 years whether the original franchise should be categorized as a sports film, but we’re including it. But perhaps the more surprising tidbit is that the movie that tops this list does not star Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso or Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi. It’s the remake of the classic starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith that topped the box office.
Never Say Die – $334 Million
A “Freaky Friday” premise where a male fighter and female journalist switched bodies because of a strike of lightning, developed by a Chinese comedy troupe. That’s big cash.
The Blind Side – $309 Million
Our first football movie cracks the list! Sandra Bullock received critical acclaim for her role as Leigh Anne Touhy, a Mississippi woman who, along with her husband (played by Tim McGraw), adopted Michael Oher.
Oher, of course, would go on to earn a scholarship at Ole Miss and eventually play a significant career in the NFL after his life began as a foster child.
Dangal – $303 Million
This Bollywood sports biopic chronicled the early life and career of India’s famous wrestling sisters, Geeta Phogat and Babita Phogat. It was released in late 2016 and received immediate success, including in China where Indian films do not typically rate well.
Rocky IV – $300 Million
The Rocky franchise has produced many masterpieces and has now spawned a spinoff series with Creed, and soon, Drago. It’s the fourth installment that rounds out the top five highest-grossing sports movies of all time, the clash between Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago as the conflict between the United States and Russia provided a key backdrop.
Other Football Films
We listed those top five as a way to cut through the debate tape, but the rest of this piece should spark plenty for those interested in these types of conversations. Highest-grossing doesn’t necessarily translate into quality but here are some of the greatest football movies made, according to critical acclaim.
We’ll let you decide what order they belong.
- The Longest Yard
- North Dallas Forty
- Friday Night Lights
- Remember the Titans
- We Are Marshall
- Varsity Blues
- Brian’s Song
- Any Given Sunday
- Jerry Maguire (sixth-highest grossing sports movie)
- The Program
What did we miss? What shouldn’t be there? Does The Waterboy belong on a listicle like this or is it too zany and cheesy? How about Necessary Roughness, Little Giants or Leatherheads? One man’s movie trash is another man’s treasure and these explorations often spark side-debates about what’s underrated or overrated.
The Rock was a Division I football player at the University of Miami, but did it translate into box office success with The Game Plan? He’d probably prefer to highlight Gridiron Gang more.
There are several sports movies planned for a 2023 release, including the trilogy in the Creed franchise, Heart of a Lion (a biopic about George Foreman) and Next Goal Wins. There’s also another football installment called The Underdoggs which stars Snoop Dogg. Snoop is a former NFL star who agrees to coach a youth football team in order to avoid jail time after a run-in with authorities. Where will it rank when all is said and done?