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The 10 Greatest Sports Movies Of All Time, According To The American Film Institute

Sports movies have an undeniable charm to them, and they have remained a popular genre of film for decades. The great thing about sports movies is that they come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are feel good, inspirational flicks with a charismatic underdog lead, and some are inherent tragedies that depict a lost dream.

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Some don't even focus on the sport itself, but merely use it as a vessel to explore deeper themes that are played out by complex characters. Sure, have been many bad sports movies made throughout the years, but there are many legitimately great ones as well, whose legacies endure to this day.

10 Jerry Maguire (1996)

A touching mix between sports and romance, Jerry Maguire is one of Tom Cruise's biggest movies outside of the Mission: Impossible franchise. In the film, he plays an ostracized sports agent who falls in love with a young single mother.

The movie proved a huge commercial success while also earning critical acclaim for its acting and realism in regards to the sports agent business. "You complete me" is one of the most popular quotes in recent movie history, and the movie earned five Oscar nominations, with Cuba Gooding Jr. winning for Best Supporting Actor.

9 National Velvet (1944)

Released back in 1944, National Velvet stars Mickey Rooney as a former jockey named Mi who helps a 12-year-old English girl train her gelding for the Grand National. The young girl, Velvet Brown, is notably portrayed by a pre-teen Elizabeth Taylor.

The American Film Institute has deemed it the ninth greatest sports movie ever made, and it earned acclaim upon release for its performances and visuals. It was nominated for five Academy Awards and won two - Best Film Editing and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Anne Revere, playing Velvet's mother.

8 Breaking Away (1979)

A coming-of-age sports film, Breaking Away stars Dennis Christopher as Dave Stohler, a working class student from Indiana who recently graduated high school. Dave has an obsession with Italian culture, loves Italian bicycle racers, and eventually poses as an Italian exchange student in order to woo college girl Katherine.

Breaking Away has since placed on two AFI lists - eighth best sports movie of all time, and the eighth most inspiring. Writer Steve Tesich also earned the Academy Award for Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen for his tender and honest glimpse into post-high school life.

7 Caddyshack (1980)

Caddyshack has long been regarded as one of the funniest movies ever made. One of Chevy Chase's best movies, Caddyshack contains a legendary "who's who" cast of comedy legends, including Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray. It also proved the directorial debut of Harold Ramis, who instantly proved himself a capable and talented director.

While a critical disappointment upon release, Caddyshack is now regarded as a classic owing to its quotable dialogue and fantastic cast. The AFI has named it the 7th greatest sports movie ever made and the 71st funniest.

6 The Hustler (1961)

Perhaps the greatest movie ever made about pool, The Hustler stars Paul Newman as Eddie Felson, a small-time hustler who wishes to play a famous pool player named Minnesota Fats.

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The film is anchored by the fantastic performances from Newman and Jackie Gleason, but it also earned acclaim (and award nominations) for its cinematography, writing, and art direction. It also helped revitalize interest in the game of pool, and to this day it remains the most popular film based around the sport.

5 Bull Durham (1988)

One of the most realistic baseball movies ever made, Bull Durham stars Kevin Costner as Crash Davis, a minor league veteran who is hired to train a hotshot rookie pitcher (Tim Robbins). During training, the two enter into a love triangle with a baseball groupie played by Susan Sarandon.

The story was reportedly based on writer-director Ron Shelton's real experiences in minor league baseball - a fact that lent the movie an air of intimate realism. Shelton earned an Oscar nomination for his hilarious screenplay, and Bull Durham has since been named the fifth greatest sports movie and 97th funniest by the American Film Institute.

4 Hoosiers (1986)

Also known as Best Shot, Hoosiers is a period sports film loosely based on the story of the 1954 Milan High School basketball team. The story follows a rural high school basketball team and its combative head coach, Norman Dale, who is tantalizingly shrouded in a spotty and mysterious past.

Norman proves to be one of Gene Hackman's best movie roles, and Hoosiers has been named the fourth greatest sports movie and 13th most inspirational from the American Film Institute. It's a great movie about redemption, second chances, and ultimately, life in mid-century America.

3 The Pride Of The Yankees (1942)

A touching and largely inspirational movie about the life of Lou Gehrig, The Pride of the Yankees stars Gary Cooper as the legendary baseball player. The movie is a must-watch for any baseball fan or historian, not only for its emphasis on Gehrig, but for the inclusion of Babe Ruth (playing himself) and sportscaster Bill Stern.

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Of course, the story is ultimately a tragic one (due to Gehrig's diagnosis of ALS), and few people will walk away without tears in their eyes. It represents everything that a great sports movie has to deliver - inspiration, a larger-than-life character, and a larger-than-life story.

2 Rocky (1976)

Arguably the best boxing movie of all time, Rocky served as Sylvester Stallone's breakthrough into the mainstream. He plays Rocky Balboa, a small-time Philadelphia boxer who is given the chance to fight the heavyweight champion. Refreshingly, The movie is less about boxing than it is about the personal growth and development of Rocky himself.

Stallone's script is beautiful and tender, and he gives one of his all-time greatest performances playing the titular character. Rocky has placed on numerous AFI lists, including 100 Movies (#78), Thrills (#52), Heroes (Rocky, #7), Songs (Gonna Fly Now, #58), Quotes ("Adrian!", #80), and Cheers (#4). In short, it's regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made.

1 Raging Bull (1980)

Director Martin Scorsese intended Raging Bull to be his final major movie, and if that turned out to be the case, then he couldn't have picked a better swan song. Often regarded as his masterpiece, Raging Bull is a deeply troubling story about the life of self-destructive boxer Jake LaMotta.

De Niro is excellent as always, and Joe Pesci makes a fantastic acting debut as Jake's brother, Joey. The movie is rich in thematic meaning, and it wonderfully mixes personal drama with well-filmed and inventive boxing sequences. According to the AFI, it's the greatest sports movie ever made.

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