The Five Best Movies Based On Real-Life Sporting Underdogs

Some of Hollywood's greatest moments come in documenting sporting achievement
10:01, 06 Oct 2019

We all love an underdog - and never more so than in a movie.

There have been hundreds of movies made about sporting underdogs - Rocky, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and The Mighty Ducks to name but a few - but what many of them have in common is that they aren't based on real-life characters.

Here we run you through the best five movies that were based on actual, bona fide sporting underdogs.




Rudy is a 1993 biographical drama movie directed by David Anspaugh.

It's an account of the life of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger who, in the late 1960s, had dreams of playing American football at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, despite there being a number of significant obstacles in his way - including dyslexia, poor grades and a lack of funds.

Sean Astin (of The Goonies, Lord of the Rings and Stranger Things) portrays Ruettiger, as the Illinois native overcame the odds to achieve his dreams, and the movie co-stars Ned Beatty (Network), Charles S. Dutton (Alien 3) and Lili Taylor (Mystic Pizza).

It was the first movie that the Notre Dame administration had allowed to be shot on campus since Knute Rockne, All American in 1940 - and it has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 78%.




Friday Night Lights is a 2004 drama movie directed by Peter Berg.

It is based on the 1990 book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H. G. Bissinger which, in turn, was built around the story of the 1988 Permian High School Panthers American football team, as they made an unlikely run towards the state championship.

It stars Billy Bob Thornton (of Sling Blade, Monster's Ball and Bad Santa fame) as the team's coach, Gary Gaines, and it co-stars Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher), Jay Hernandez (Hostel) and Lucas Black (American Gothic).

The Panthers ultimately failed to win the championship, but the movie earns an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes regardless.




Dexter Fletcher directed Eddie the Eagle, a 2015 biographical comedy-drama.

It tells the story of Michael "Eddie the Eagle" Edwards - a British man who, in 1988, became the first competitor in 60 years to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping.

It stars Taron Egerton (of Kingsman, Legend and Rocketman) in the titular role, with the likes of Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter) and Jim Broadbent (Iris) supporting.

Eddie the Eagle came in last place at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada - rather emphatically, in fact - but the movie gets 80% from Rotten Tomatoes.




The Fighter is a 2010 biographical drama directed by David O. Russell.

It features the life of professional boxer Micky Ward as he goes from being a ‘stepping stone’ for other boxers to defeat on their way to the top, to winning the welterweight title. He is coached by his older half-brother Dicky Eklund - a former boxer who, at the peak of his career, went the distance with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978.

It stars Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights, Planet of the Apes and Ted) as Ward and Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Trilogy) as Eklund, with Amy Adams (American Hustle) and Melissa Leo (Frozen River) in supporting roles.

It was nominated for seven Academy Awards - winning two of them - and has a rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.




Cool Runnings is a 1993 comedy movie directed by Jon Turteltaub.

It is based - albeit loosely - on the true story of the Jamaica national bobsleigh team's debut in competition during the 1988 Winter Olympics.

It stars the late John Candy (Spaceballs, Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains and Automobiles) as the team's coach in his last movie to be released before his death,with Leon (The Temptations), Doug E. Doug (Cosby), Rawle D. Lewis (Spy Hard) and Malik Yoba (New York Undercover) playing the parts of the team's members.

The quartet performed admirably - even looking like medal contenders at one point - but they didn't officially finish their final run. They were lauded as heroes anyway  - and the movie gets a Rotten Tomatoes score of 77%.