10 Sports Movies That Defied The Odds

1. “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942)

The Pride Of The Yankees

This movie about Major League Baseball star Lou Gehrig was released one year after Gehrig died at the age of 38 due to Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which has since Gehrig got sick has also been known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The movie earned 11 Academy Awards nominations, which is one of the most in movie history.

The movie’s only win was for film editing, but the movie itself received a Best Picture nomination and stars Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright received best actor and best actress nominations for their portrayals of Lou Gehrig and his wife Eleanor.

2. “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (1956)

Somebody Up There Likes Me

Paul Newman became known to the general public in this movie, the third of his career, because of his portrayal of boxer Rocky Graziano.

Newman won awards for his performance, although he was not nominated for an Oscar.

The movie won two Oscars for best cinematography and best art direction and also received a nomination for best film editing.

3. “The Hustler” (1961)

The Hustler

Paul Newman losing the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of billiards player Eddie Felson to Maximilian Schell, who had a relatively minor part in “Judgment at Nuremberg,” is one of Oscar history’s greatest injustices.

“The Hustler” won two Oscars — for best cinematography and best direction — and received seven other nominations, including one for Newman, one for best picture, and one each for supporting actors and actresses Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, and George C. Scott.

4. “Bang the Drum Slowly” (1973)

Bang the Drum Slowly

Robert De Niro became known to the general public because of his performance as a dying baseball catcher.

De Niro wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, but the actor who played his manager, Vincent Gardenia, received a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

5. “Rocky” (1976)


People tend to forget how good “Rocky” was because some of the latter movies in the series were substandard.

“Rocky” won the Best Picture Oscar for Best Picture and also won Oscars for best director (John Avildsen) and best film editing.

In addition, the movie about the underdog boxer was nominated for seven other Oscars.

Star Sylvester Stallone was nominated in the best actor and writing categories, Talia Shire was nominated as best actress, and Burgess Meredith and Burt Young received best supporting actor nominations.

6. “Raging Bull” (1980)

Raging Bull

Film historians rank “Raging Bull” as one of the best movies ever, although “Ordinary People,” which is not ranked nearly as highly, won the Best Picture Oscar.

Robert De Niro won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of boxer Jake LaMotte (he’s alive today at age 92) and the movie also won for best film editing.

The movie itself, director Martin Scorsese, supporting actor Joe Pesci, and supporting actress Cathy Moriarty also received nominations.

7. “Chariots of Fire” (1981)


The music is unforgettable and so is this movie about British track stars Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, who won the 100- and 400-meter runs respectively in the 1924 Olympics.

“Chariots” won four Oscars — best picture, best writing, best costume design, and, of course, best music. The movie also received three other nominations, including best director (Hugh Hudson).

8. “Hoosiers” (1986)


This movie about a 1950s high school boys basketball team in rural Indiana is ranked as the best sports movie of all time by both ESPN writers and ESPN readers .

It got far less respect from the Academy Awards, but Dennis Hopper was nominated for best supporting actor for his portrayal of a town drunk and the film received a best music nomination.

9. “Field of Dreams” (1989)

Field of Dreams

This movie about a farmer played by Kevin Costner who builds a baseball diamond is ranked as the third best sports movie of all time by ESPN writers and ESPN readers.

It also received three Oscar nominations for best picture, best writing, and best music. By the way, “Bull Durham” (1988), which also starred Costner, received one nomination, for best writing.

10. “Hoop Dreams” (1994)


This documentary about two high school basketball players in the Chicago area was so good that its failure to be nominated in the Best Documentary category spurred the Academy to launch an investigation and revise the nomination process.

“Hoop Dreams” did receive a best film editing Oscar nomination, was named the best movie by the Chicago Film Critics Association, the best non-fiction movie by the New York Film Critics Circle, and the best documentary by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.