Thanks to Netflix, there’s no need to leave your couch to hunt down some great sports movies this July.
Documentaries excluded, these excellent titles are sure to warm your heart, move you with their dramatic weight and even make you laugh a little along the way. Even films that have bittersweet or somewhat unresolved endings can provide a fresh sort of viewing catharsis.
If you haven’t seen these movies already, grab the remote and queue them up when you have a little free time away from the sunshine. And don’t worry, we won’t wade too far into spoiler territory.
Seann William Scott is best known for movies like American Pie, but his nuanced performance in Goon as Doug Glatt is a far cry from the Steve Stifler.
Doug is a strapping lad who serves as a bouncer at a bar in Massachusetts. Struggling to find his purpose in life, a watershed moment ultimately drives him to the ice, where he serves as a goon for the Halifax Highlanders.
Another hockey tough guy, Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schrieber), develops a rivalry of sorts with Doug. The chemistry between Scott and Schrieber lends to some heavy moments, both physical and emotional.
Marc-André Grondin is brilliant as Xavier Laflamme, the Highlanders’ temperamental star player who serves as a great foil to Scott’s character.
Adam Sandler stars in the titular role as Bobby Boucher, who for years has been bullied as a water boy for football teams and decides to finally do something about his bottled-up male aggression.
That translates well to the gridiron, where Bobby shines as a defensive superstar for the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs. Bobby revitalizes the career of the down-and-out Coach Klein (Henry Winkler) and finds love with a childhood crush named Vicki Vallencourt.
Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates gives a hilariously committed performance as Bobby’s overprotective mother Helen, who stops at nothing to protect him from the allegedly Satanic outside world.
Is the plot full of clichés? Yes. Is this movie a high-minded critical darling? Not so much. But you can’t question the entertainment value, and Sandler’s films certainly have pull when it comes to celebrity cameos. Find out which of your favorite sports media personalities grace the screen in this moving underdog tale.
The “Miracle on Ice” true story of how the United States defeated the Soviet Union for the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics as tensions hung in the balance over the Cold War. Talk about high-stakes drama for a sports flick.
Kurt Russell is the central character as USA head coach Herb Brooks. His fiery intensity commands the screen as he tries to motivate the seemingly overmatched American team with post-game workouts, locker room speeches and everything in between.
Brooks is tasked with assembling a 20-man roster worthy of competing with the powerhouse USSR, and early on in the movie the U.S. gets manhandled in an exhibition matchup with the Russians. That sets the stage for one of the most incredible sports stories of all-time.
Miracle director Gavin O’Connor deploys an immersive style of filmmaking that adds dramatic tension to the atmosphere and puts the audience in the heat of the action, between the competitiveness of the games and the character beats that make viewers invest so much in the USA’s triumph.
Friday Night Lights
There’s a popular TV show by the same name, but this film is exceptional in its own right. Billy Bob Thornton stars as head football coach Gary Gaines, whose Permian High School football team are poised for a state championship run if they can band together.
There are many standout performances from the ensemble cast, but a few in particular shine through. Derek Luke plays the swagger-dripping running back “Boobie” Miles, earner of numerous scholarship offers and the driving force behind Permian’s success. Country music star Tim McGraw plays the alcoholic father to Garrett Hedlund’s character, fullback Don Billingsley.
This movie has to take the cake as the darkest on the list, and it’s difficult to say why without going into spoilers. Just buckle up for an intense experience if you opt to throw this one on, yet be prepared to be surprised by this overlooked gem that ranks as one of the better football movies in recent memory.
Trouble with the Curve
Clint Eastwood takes the lead as an aging baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves named Gus Lobel, whose vision is failing him and puts the only job he’s known for decades in jeopardy.
Gus has a complicated relationship with his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), who grew up loving baseball but makes her living as a lawyer. Mickey has an exceptional scout’s eye in her own right and opts to help her father on the road, but tensions reach a boiling point when they discuss their dynamic during her childhood.
John Goodman and Matthew Lillard play excellent supporting roles as Braves officials, and pop superstar Justin Timberlake flexes his thespian chops as a Boston Red Sox scout and former prospect Gus once evaluated. JT’s character meets up with Gus and Mickey on the road as they get an in-person look at a highly touted prospect Bo Gentry. How Gus assesses Gentry will ultimately decide whether his career continues.
Another Adam Sandler classic stars the man himself in the eponymous part as a failed, hotheaded hockey player whose wild slap shot transfers to the golf course to the tune of 400-yard drives.
The constant internal struggle Happy grapples with is frequently projected onto other people to disastrous consequences, but his unprecedented antics and distance off the tee make him a big hit on the pro tour. A former star, Chubbs Peterson, witnesses Happy’s big drives in person and offers to mentor him as he hopes to earn a living in golf to prevent his grandmother’s from being repossessed by the IRS.
Christopher McDonald plays Happy’s the villainous Shooter McGavin, widely regarded in this fictitious world as the best golfer in the world. Shooter is threatened by Happy and will stop at nothing to halt his meteoric rise to stardom.
No need to say anything more. If you’ve never seen Happy Gilmore, even if you don’t take to the game of golf, do yourself a favor and turn it on. Sandler’s reputation has declined in recent years, but this is among his best, irreverent work.
Chadwick Boseman is a household name now thanks to his role as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but before then he starred in the James Brown biopic Get on Up and in 42 as Jackie Robinson.
Written and directed by L.A. Confidential and Mystic River scribe Brian Helgland, 42 tells the story of Robinson’s rise to Major League Baseball, as he became the first man to break the sport’s color barrier.
Acting legend Harrison Ford co-stars as Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, whose decision it ultimately was to acquire Robinson. The film depicts the adversity Robinson endured with the Dodgers—and some of the moments where he received support and acceptance from fellow ballplayers and fans throughout his courageous journey.
Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, consulted with the creators of the film during production to ensure its authenticity and was pleased with the end result. Talk about a strong endorsement—and as good a reason as any to give 42 a shot.