From Raging Bull To Rudy, Ten Of The Greatest Sports Biopics Of All-Time

After the trailer for 'King Richard' dropped this week, we've taken a look back at ten of our favourite sports biopics
12:29, 29 Jul 2021

This week saw the trailer drop for King Richard, a brand new biopic of Richard Williams, father of tennis supremos Serena and Venus, starring Will Smith as the main man himself. Early impressions have been great and the film has already been touted as a potential Oscar darling when it releases in November. 

That should come as no surprise though, as some of the greatest films ever have taken their inspiration from the exploits of the real life characters within the world of sport and ‘King Richard’ will likely be no different. Below we take a look at ten of our personal favourite sports biopics.

Raging Bull

The best boxing film ever made? Martin Scorsese’s Robert De Niro-starring 1980 biopic about the life of the tortured pugilist Jake LaMotta destroying everything inside and outside of the ring remains one of the most influential movies ever made. 

There’s beauty in barbarity sometimes and never is that more clear than in Raging Bull. This is quite simply Scorsese’s Magnum Opus.

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The Damned United

Brian Clough’s career was tailor-made for the big screen and the story of his ill-fated 44-day tenure at Leeds United is considered one of the greatest football films of all-time. 

Directed by The King’s Speech Oscar-winner Tom Hooper and with a screenplay adapted by Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen), The Damned United was released to widespread critical acclaim despite a few historical inaccuracies. Michael Sheen as Clough and Colm Meaney as his arch-nemesis, Don Revie, put in a pair of spectacular performances.

Moneyball

A sports film about algorithms!? Fear not if you haven't seen this baseball biopic of Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane and his quest to build a team of undervalued talent by taking a sophisticated sabermetric approach to scouting, as it is far more compelling than it sounds. 

This is more of a cerebral sports biopic than others on this list, thanks in part to Aaron Sorkin’s (The West Wing, The Social Network) dynamite script adapted from the 2003 novel of the same name. The film garnered six Academy Award nominations in total.

Foxcatcher

Like Moneyball, this one comes from director Bennett Miller although the source subject of this biopic is much, much darker. Following John E. du Pont’s unsettling relationship with wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz, the film shows The Office’s Steve Carrell as he’s never been seen before. With a prosthetic nose and demeanour that would have Michael Scott bolting from Scranton in seconds, du Pont is the most terrifying portrayal on this list. 

The film earned plenty of nominations at the Oscars and Golden Globes but perhaps its biggest triumph was picking up the Best Director award for Miller at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. 

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Rudy

Hands down the most inspirational film on this list. Rudy is the story of Eugene ‘Rudy’ Ruetigger, played by the Lord of the Rings’ Sean Astin, a steel mill worker who dreams of playing college football despite lacking the grades and money to attend or the height and stature to play. 

Rudy is peak-Hollywood cheesiness, but it’s great and teaches us all a valuable lesson - nothing is impossible if you work hard. 

The Fighter

David O’Russell directed this biopic on Micky Ward, a boxer who competed between 1985 and 2003. The film was a passion project of Mark Wahlberg’s, and given Ward was “a local sports hero” to the Boston native, there were few people more fitting to step into Ward’s shoes than the Boogie Nights actor. 

Though ostensibly a film about Ward, The Fighter is at its best when focusing on his half-brother and former boxer Dicky Ecklund played by Christian Bale. Bale, alongside Melissa Leo, both won Oscars for their performances in the film.

Chariots Of Fire

One of the most famously spoofed films of all-time, Chariots Of Fire is a bona fide classic when it comes to sporting biopics. From director Hugh Hudson, Chariots centers on British Olympians Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, two runners from very different backgrounds who go on to win gold medals at the 1924 Games.

It’s an incredible film, and won four Academy Awards. Unsurprisingly, Vangelis’ iconic synth theme tune won for Best Original Score. It is ranked 19th in the British Film Institute’s greatest British films of all-time. 

Remember The Titans 

Based on the true story of Herman Boone, portrayed by Denzel Washington, and the coach’s attempt to integrate the T.C Williams High School football team in Virginia in 1971. Remember The Titans is one of the most beloved and financially successful American football films ever. 

The message of the film is a little on the nose sometimes, thanks to Hollywood’s tendency for cliched sentimentality, but its heart is in the right place and sport films don’t get more inspiring than this. Oh, and Denzel knocks it out of the park once again. 

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Seabiscuit

People aren’t the only sports stars that have thrived at the movies - take this heroic horsie for instance. This film focuses on the life and career of Seabiscuit, an undersized and overlooked Thoroughbred, whose underdog successes made him a media sensation across  the United States throughout the Great Depression.

Like some of the films on this list, Seabiscuit does get a little too sickly at times but it is nonetheless an epic portrayal of one of the most inspiring figures in sports history. 

The Blind Side

The story of Michael Oher, who overcame an impoverished upbringing to star in the NFL, is as heart-warming as they come. 

When The Blind Side was released in 2009 it was an immediate hit, transforming its $29m budget into a whopping $309m and earned a Best Actress Academy Award for Sandra Bullock, who put in a career-best performance.

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