Sports are on hold indefinitely, and while some sports channels are airing old games to fill the void, watching a football game from 2012 just doesn’t feel the same as tuning in to see your favorite team compete live.
There’s no way to replace live sports. I’m sorry, you have to accept that. But perhaps the next best thing if you have a hankering for the thrill of it all is to watch some great sports movies, shows, and documentaries.
At the moment, there are plenty of them to watch across a wide range of streaming services and channels, from ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series to Air Bud. You can search and pick for one of your favorites, but if you’re looking for something new or a suggestion, we have you covered with plenty of options and where to find them.
A League of Their Own
For sports comedies, it doesn’t get much better than A League of Their Own. This classic tells a fictionalized account of the beginning of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which ran in the ‘40s and ‘50s as women were replacing men in many occupations during and after World War II. A League of Their Own follows the beginnings of the league and the newly forming team, the Rockford Peaches, on their journey to the league’s first World Series.
The movie is both heartwarming and hilarious with great performances by legendary actors including Geena Davis, Madonna, and Tom Hanks.
Bend it like Beckham
Part romantic comedy and part sports movie, Bend it Like Beckham is a heartwarming story about a British Indian girl named Jess who plays soccer against her conservative parents’ wishes. Jess, who is very talented, gets noticed by a local women’s team and has to juggle her own love of soccer with her parents’ wishes for her, all the while falling for her new coach Joe. It’s just a classic feel-good sports movie.
Bring It On
Hear us roar: The classic 2000 high school cheerleading movie starring Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union remains a ton of fun. You’ve got killer one liners (“it’s not a democracy, it’s a cheerocracy!”), amazing early-2000s style, and tons of stellar cheer choreography. The film is sure to make your inner teen smile, but it’s also, happily, got something a little more serious to say about who gets what opportunities. You can go ahead and skip the many direct-to-DVD sequels and spinoffs, but the original is worth your time. Jazz hands for all! -Erin Strecker, Entertainment Editor
Roller skating is everything to Andy Brinker and his best friends. Not just skating — soul skating. They don’t do it for money or merch from cool sponsorship deals, they do it because they love it. That doesn’t change when Brink joins a paid professional skating team to help support his family, but he feels like a sellout and hides the team from his friends while dreading their inevitable competition. -Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter
Heartfelt yet addicting, Netflix’s Cheer is the latest project from Last Chance U documentarian Greg Whiteley. Yes, we know you’ve already had it recommended to you by a dozen people —
but we’re more than happy to back up those suggestions if it’ll finally get you watching. This six-part docuseries follows Texas’s Navarro Community College cheerleading team on the road to the National Cheerleading Association’s Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida. It’s a moving portrait of a community that manages to walk the line between impactful and entertaining with remarkable finesse. Cheer gets you invested and then ramps up the tension moment to moment. By the end of the series, the gravity-defying stunts won’t be the only thing making you hold your breath. -Ali Foreman, Entertainment Reporter
Dangal is the true story of Indian pro wrestlers Geeta and Babita Phogat, daughters of the once-pro Mahavir Singh Phogat, who never won a national championship. Mahavir doesn’t let having four daughters get in the way of the dream that his child will carry on his wrestling legacy and win even bigger; he trains Geeta and Babita often relentlessly and enters them in competitions where judges laugh at the notion of girls wrestling. He coaches them into adulthood, to the national level, and struggles to loosen his grip as father and trainer particularly as Geeta’s career excels. As much as it’s about perseverance and wrestling, Dangal is the stirring story of a family and complex father-daughter relationships. -Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter
Friday Night Lights
The premiere of Friday Night Lights is one of the greatest episodes of television of all time, setting up a fantastic first season built on the back of high school football in the state of Texas, which loves its football more than any other state in the country. The games themselves are so well shot and entertaining, it feels like watching a real game amped up with added emotion. And all the high school and family drama happening around the football is addicting.
Despite its three Emmy wins (twice for stunt coordination and once for production design), GLOW remains one of Netflix’s most underrated original series. It features a diverse and charismatic group of women who star on an all-female wrestling show in the 1980s and follows them as their personal dramas come to a head in and out of the ring. There aren’t many half-hour comedies where a woman confronts her husband’s mistress by suplexing her straight into the dirt, but that’s exactly the kind of action GLOW delivers every single season. -Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter
You don’t have to be a hockey fan to love the heck out of Goon — you just need to have a soft spot for lovable underdogs. Well, that and a tolerance for vulgar humor and bloody violence.
Seann William Scott plays Doug, a dim but sweet bouncer who stumbles into a spot on a minor league hockey team. Never mind that he can barely skate, let alone play hockey; he’s been hired as the on-ice enforcer getting into scraps with the other team. Will he triumph over adversity? Will he bring the team together? Will he get the girl? The formula may be predictable, but Scott and his co-stars — including Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, and Liev Schreiber — give Goon a beating heart almost as big and fierce as Doug’s own. -Angie Han, Deputy Entertainment Editor
Gotta Kick It Up
The Disney Channel movie best identified by enthusiastic chants of “¡Sí se suede!” is an underrated gem of a sports movie. A group of middle schoolers convince their new teacher to coach the dance team, but quickly find themselves butting heads with her leadership and artistic vision. Tension are only magnified by Ms. Bartlett’s privileged white upbringing and dance training and how she and her Latina students perceive each other. The girls can’t compete without a teacher, but Ms. Bartlett has a lot to learn from them too. -Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter
Tonya Harding is an interesting figure in sports. As a figure skater, she didn’t exactly fit the bill that the sport tries to promote, and on top of that, there’s the heartbreaking incident involving her rival Nancy Kerrigan who was attacked before the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. That incident was put in motion by Harding and her abusive husband at the time, Jeff Gillooly.
I, Tonya views this real-life story through a sort-of fictionalized lens that feels like a documentary but is clearly based on the colorful, unreliable narrators who perpetrated the attack as portrayed by the fantastic cast of Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, and Paul Walter Hauser.
Icarus begins as a documentary about doping in amateur cycling, where documentary filmmaker Bryan Fogel takes steroids to examine the effects they have on him and his cycling. And then he meets Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of Russia’s anti-doping lab. At first Rodchenkov is just a source of information for Fogel but as the two continue to talk, Rodchenkov reveals he’s been at the center of a coverup for Russian athletes, providing them with steroid cocktails and clean urine so they could pass drug tests.
The turn that Icarus takes is absolutely fascinating and shows how athletes like Lance Armstrong, who famously admitted to using steroids in 2013, could get away with it for so many years. As Rodchenkov’s story goes public, the documentary also shows what he’s doing to protect himself from the Russian government.
When his family has to move from Hawaii to Maine, teen surfer Johnny Kapahala is crushed. But he doesn’t stay down for long; He trades the waves for the slopes and takes up snowboarding — only to learn that the mountain he lives by has strict rules about who skis and who boards…and they hate each other. He keeps snowboarding a secret while trying to fit in at his preppy New England school and win the affections of a new classmate, but every surfer knows these things have a way of crashing back down. -Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter
Lagaan might be the most famous Indian film ever, a blockbuster and crowd pleaser that happens to be one of two Indian films to ever make it to the Oscars. Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) leads a team of villagers in the 19th century to learn cricket so they can defeat the local officers of the British Raj and win three years without debilitating land taxes. It’s not only a poignant sports movie but a lesson in history (not a true story, but like, colonialism), a love story, a period film, and a musical. -Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter
Last Chance U
The Netflix docuseries Last Chance U is an intimate look at a small, unique part of the world of sports: junior college football. The series follows student athletes at the East Mississippi Community College, all of whom previously attended and competed for Division I colleges but had run into trouble for either academic or legal reasons. At EMCC, football players not only have to prove themselves on the field, but they have to prove themselves in the classroom and in life in order to make it back to DI football.
One of the greatest moments in American sports history was the Miracle on Ice, a hockey game between the United States and the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympic Games. The Soviets took gold in the previous four Olympics and the American team was little more than a ragtag group of amateur players, so the Soviets were heavily favored in the medal-round match at the Lake Placid, New York rink. Miracle tells the story of the lead up to that game and the game itself in fantastic, inspiring fashion with one of the best speeches ever delivered by coach Herb Brooks as played by Kurt Russell.
Starring Robert Redford, The Natural is undoubtedly one of the best baseball movies of all time, not only a delightful tale of baseball in the first half of the 20th century, but a classic tale of redemption and tenacity as Redford’s character Roy Hobbs vows to compete in the major leagues.
The movie oozes Americana from start to finish, and with Wilford Brimley, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, and Kim Basinger rounding out the cast, it’s an undeniable classic.
Watch it on: Netflix
Remember the Titans
Remember the Titans is one of the best sports movies of all time. It is based on the real-life story of coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) and his attempt to integrate the football team of Virginia’s T.C. Williams High School in 1971. Not only is this a great sports movie with exciting games and grueling training sessions, it’s also a heartwarming (and heartbreaking) story about a group of kids who overcome their differences to become a successful team. Between the great acting, the sense of camaraderie, and the amazing soundtrack, it’s hard to find a more inspiring and emotion-filled movie.
The Rocky series is just incredible. The first film from 1976 is a beautiful movie about love, class struggle, tenacity, and the reality that underdogs don’t usually end up victorious — an inspiration for the more difficult times of life. The following three movies, Rocky II through IV, are a bit more glitzy and over-the-top but they make up for the lack of grit with an overwhelming sense of raw energy. It’s hard not to watch these movies and immediately want to try going for a run or hitting the floor for some body-weight exercises just to get a sweat going.
While I won’t suggest watching Rocky V or Rocky Balboa, the spin-offs Creed and Creed II stand up right next to the first four Rocky movies as fountains of feel-good inspiration.
Shaolin Soccer is a soccer movie with a twist: The team it follows is made up of shaolin monks who use their skills in kung fu to dominate on the field. While Shaolin Soccer doesn’t exactly nail the more realistic aspects of soccer, it manages to capture that competitive sports feeling while still being an over-the-top comedy.
Michael Jordan, Looney Tunes characters, and invading aliens. Space Jam is a delightful romp that blends the real world with the Looney Tunes world a-la Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as basketball legend Michael Jordan gets sucked into the cartoon world to help Bugs Bunny and company defeat a basketball team made out of juiced up aliens who want to enslave the Loony Tunes characters as an attraction at their amusement park in space. Featuring Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues, this is peak ‘90s basketball blended with the slapstick goofiness of the Looney Tunes, just a great movie for the whole family.
This one is a bit of a curveball because Uncut Gems isn’t really about sports but at the same time it is all about sports. Adam Sandler’s character Howard Ratner is a jeweler in New York City who has a gambling problem that threatens to ruin his life almost constantly. He likes to bet on basketball games, putting up his loans to try and turn them into more money even as threats hang over his head.
The culmination of the movie hinges upon a single basketball game between co-star Kevin Garnett’s team the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers. As you watch Howard watch the game, it’s impossible not to get tied up in the emotions of the game, perfectly capturing the feeling of watching an actual game.
Who among us has not yearned for the thrill of putting on a glitzy costume, picking a punny name, and decking some girl from the next county over? In Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, Ellen Page stars as a misfit teen from a small Texas town yearning for a place to fit in. When she and her best friend, played by Alia Shawkat, discover the world of roller derby, she decides to strap on her skates and assume the name Babe Ruthless. Supporting performances by Kristen Wiig, Marcia Gay Harden, Jimmy Fallon, Eve, and more make this coming-of-age story into an ensemble indie for the ages. Plus, it’s got some killer one liners and a Peaches-laden soundtrack that just won’t quit. The boys wanna be her, the girls wanna be her…
Yuri!! On Ice
One of the single best seasons of anime of all time is the first season of Yuri!!! On Ice, which follows Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki as he trains to compete again and make it to a Grand Prix, the apex of competitive figure skating, after some time off. Yuri!!! On Ice examines the anxiety involved with competitive sports as well as the relationships competitors have between each other and with their coaches.
The figure skating in the show was choreographed by former competitive skater Kenji Miyamoto, making it for an impressively detailed look at the world of figure skating. The show is also propelled by the relationship between Yuri and his coach, former champion Viktor Nikiforov, which blooms into something very sweet and romantic.