Great sports movies take their audiences on a rollercoaster from the high thrills of victory to the low points of defeat and (usually) back again.
In fact, some of the best feel-good stories in film center on sports conquests because these movies usually focus on overcoming adversity — both personal and professional.
That’s some universal stuff right there.
Even though only three sports films to date have ever taken home the Academy Award for Best Picture (Rocky (1976), Chariots of Fire (1981), and Million Dollar Baby (2004)), there are still a heck of a lot more great sports movies out there, ranging from documentaries to biopics to outright goofy flicks.
Many of these sports movies are on Hulu right now, too.
The Top 20 Sports Movies Currently Streaming on Hulu
Hulu currently offers a large variety of over 70 sports movies for fans of all ages.
But I’ve saved you some time and whittled that list down to 20 of the best options available to view right now.
My list includes:
- 4 films about baseball
- 4 films about basketball
- 2 films about boxing
- 2 football
- 2 MMA fighting
And then there’s 1 film for each of the following sports:
- Figure skating
- Formula 1 Racing
There’s even one about playing video games.
While I have my personal favorites on this list, I’ve added each film’s scores from three popular movie-ranking sites to make your choice a bit easier. Then, I averaged them to give you a final score.
Of course, if you think I missed any or disagree with the critics, sound off in the comment section and I might update this post with your recommendations.
20. Radio (2003)
Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Average Score: 47.33
Radio is another feel-good story inspired by the true events that unfolded in the 1970s in the racially divided town of Anderson, South Carolina.
Inspired by a 1996 Sports Illustrated article highlighting the relationship between coach Jones (Ed Harris) and a mentally disabled African-American student called “Radio” (Cuba Gooding Jr.) who frequently stops by football practices to watch the team, Radio is a true testament to the value of every human life.
Coach Jones chooses Radio as his loyal assistant, and school officials and the community embrace Radio in his new role, boosting his self-confidence.
However, that community support wanes when some members question if Coach Jones’ focus on Radio distracts him from the team’s bid for a championship.
Still, Coach Jones persists, and Radio became (and continued as) a beacon of hope and change in the community.
The beloved real-life Radio (James Hana) passed away at the end of 2019, but the film has preserved his legacy in ways that serve to remind our culture that patience, kindness, compassion, and justice matter.
19. Rookie of the Year (1993)
Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Average Score: 49.66
If you’re a 90s kid, then you will immediately recognize Daniel Stern as one half of the “Wet Bandits” who tried robbing Kevin McCallister’s house over Christmas in the all-time classic, Home Alone.
BUT you might be surprised to learn that in 1993, Daniel Stern went on to make his first (and only) film directorial debut with Rookie of the Year. (He actually makes a cameo as the goofy pitching coach who never seems to catch a break).
In this movie, 12-year-old Henry Rowengartner (Thomas Ian Nicholas) suffers a freak accident that turns his arm into a pitching machine that can throw at the major league level.
Naturally, the Chicago Cubs sign the pre-teen to a contract and he’s allowed to play with adults (why not?).
Overwhelmed by the grand stage, Henry is taken under the wings of veteran pitcher Chet Steadman (Gary Busey), who teaches him about life in the MLB and serves as father figure guiding him through an exciting, confusing journey through baseball and these formative years.
In the end, the film sends a loud and clear message: “everyone would have a lot more fun if they played — and lived — like a kid again.”
18. Hardball (2011)
Rotten Tomatoes: 41%
Average Score: 50
Don’t be ashamed if you have to grab a box of tissues for this one.
There’s no shame in crying about baseball.
Based on a Daniel Coyle book about a magazine editor who coaches a youth team in the Chicago projects, Hardball centers on Conor O’Neil (Keanu Reeves), a gambler and ticket scalper in Chicago who needs help paying off his gambling woes.
Cornered into a coaching gig to cover his debts, Conor assumes the role of coach as he takes a group of boys from some of the toughest parts of Chicago and reluctantly teaches them the basics of baseball.
In return, these boys teach him about responsibility, forgiveness, and loyalty — both to each other and to himself.
By the end of a movie that will hit every emotion, Reeves’ “rousing eulogy about the triumph of the human spirit” highlights just how far the greedy-gambler-turned-good-hearted-man has come.
17. The Miracle Season (2018)
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Average Score: 53.33
Volleyball is a game of digs, spikes, and attacks.
But The Miracle Season, based on an inspiring true story about Iowa City West High School girls’ volleyball team, serves up nothing short of a promising, uplifting tear jerker that “never misses a chance to lunge for your tear ducts.”
Director Sean McNamara brought this inspirational tale to life on the big screen, recounting the story of how the team came together after the sudden death of Caroline Found (Danika Yarosh), the team’s heart and leader.
Coach Kathy Bresnahan (Helen Hunt) must pick up the pieces and rally her team on their quest for a repeat state championship
After Caroline’s death, the school, the surrounding community, and even parts from all over Iowa adopted Neil Diamond’s classic hit “Sweet Caroline” as the rallying cry that has continued to preserve Caroline’s memory.
Ultimately, the story “reminds us that dwelling on the ifs in life is no way to live it.”
Or, more simply, we should never hesitate to “Live Like Line.”
16. Happy Gilmore (1996)
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Average Score: 54
What do you get when you cross funnyman Adam Sandler and retired The Price is Right host Bob Barker duking it out on a golf course?
You get a “formulaic but occasionally funny” fish-out-of-water comedy that features the journey of hockey-player-turned-golf-phenom, Happy Gilmore (Sandler).
Happy struggles to find success in hockey, so he picks up a golf club, channels all of his angst and frustration, and swings his way to victory after victory, rattling the decorum that the golf world has come to pride itself on.
As he battles his own inner demons, he must also deal with his golf foe Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), who resents Happy’s unconventional, loud, and downright aggressive style of play.
In the end, motivated by earning enough money to prevent his grandmother from having to move out of her home, Happy finds that true “happy”ness can only come from taking a step back, taking a deep breath, and, most importantly, taking a chance on love with Virginia (Julie Bowen).
15. Leatherheads (2014)
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
Average Score: 56.33
In the 1920s, football needed a boost in popularity.
Loosely based on the Duluth Eskimos (a Minnesota team that withdrew from the NFL in 1927), Leatherheads tells the story of an aging team captain Dodge Connolly (George Clooney) who needs to add some bark to his pro team, the Bulldogs.
To pack the stands, Dodge recruits handsome war hero/Princeton superstar Carter “The Bullet” Rutherford (John Krasinski).
Standing in the way of this Bulldog boon, though, is newswoman Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger), who tries to dig up some dirt on the Bulldog’s Boy Wonder.
Unbeknownst to each other, both Dodge and Carter are both trying to score with Lexie off the field, turning this sports-centric film into “a screwball/football romantic comedy.”
The movie’s soundtrack is a lot of fun, too. Toy Story’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” singer Randy Newman got the nod to compose the movie’s soundtrack, foregoing his infamous vocals and instead scoring swinging jazz 1920s music.
Clooney, who also directed this film, has admitted that he will never, by design, direct a film that he plays the lead in ever again, calling it a “dumb move” and “a little too much to take on.”
But Clooney and fellow cast members shine in the timepiece, highlighting an important (albeit not well known) moment in the history of football.
14. The Sandlot (1993)
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Average Score: 65.33
The Sandlot is perhaps the quintessential movie that captures the heart of America’s first pastime: baseball.
Set in the summer of 1962, The Sandlot features a shy new boy in town named Smalls (Tom Guiry) who befriends seven neighborhood boys who hang out, play baseball, and generally grow up — all on a sandlot.
As the boys go on a series of funny (and sometimes scary) adventures (like faking a drowning to kiss a lifeguard and throwing barbs at each other - “You play ball like a girl!”), they learn the value of each boy’s gifts.
(“You play ball like a girl” ranks #9 as one of the best sports film quotes of all time. Pretty cool.)
The true test of the boys’ courage — and friendship — is when they must work together and concoct the ultimate plan to retrieve a lost Babe Ruth baseball that Smalls takes from his stepfather after it ends up on the other side of the sandlot’s fence. There, it’s in the clutches of an urban legend known as “The Beast.”
But the true challenge is coming to terms with the end of the summer — and the end of boyhood altogether — and knowing that the sandlot taught them more about life than they could have ever anticipated.
Ultimately, the film “isn’t about winning and losing - it’s about growing up and facing your fears.”
13. Ali (2001)
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Average Score: 67
Will Smith has admitted that he worked for nearly two years to transform his body to play the role of Muhammed Ali.
That’s a lot of dedication to portray the self-proclaimed “Greatest of All Time” boxer.
One of many movies on this list that are based on true stories, Ali follows a decade in the life of Muhammed Ali from 1964-1974 as he battles against the greats like Foreman and Frazier - and, more importantly, his own inner conflicts.
Notorious for “floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee” in the boxing ring, Ali is also famous for shedding his birth name of Cassius Clay, which he deemed his “slave name,” and for his refusal to go to Vietnam and fight a war he condemned.
Throughout the film, famed sports announcer Howard Cossell (John Voight) interviews the champ and highlights some of his most intimate thoughts, showcasing his inner grace and, at times, stirring his defiant rage.
Roger Ebert points out how Smith and Voight show perfectly how Ali, “surrounded by boot-lickers and yes-men...turned to Cosell almost in relief at being able to hear the truth, plainly spoken.”
Both Smith and Jon Voight were nominated for Academy Awards, each delivering a knockout punch to preserve the legacy of their timeless characters.
12. More Than a Game (2009)
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Average Score: 68.67
More Than a Game is a documentary that follows future NBA superstar LeBron James and four of his talented high school teammates as they soar from humble beginnings to national fame.
At St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, James and gang were a powerhouse force that obliterated their competition. National media and scouts quickly took note of the “Lebron Phenomenon.”
However, filmmaker Kristopher Belman’s goal was to create a film that wasn’t known as a documentary. Instead, he just wanted people to focus on this story and how each athlete and his family coped with adversity.
Even though James’s ever-increasing celebrity status almost ripped apart the high school senior’s dreams of a championship ring, the boys rose to the occasion when it mattered most.
The film shines in highlighting the importance of teammates coming together and fighting for a common goal.
While the focus of LeBron James certainly brings in more appeal, ultimately, what unfolds in this documentary “happens every year, in every state, in every county, and that is what makes basketball great.”
11. Creed II (2018)
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Average Score: 69
Years after Sylvester Stallone hung up his gloves as famed boxer Rocky Balboa, he and director Ryan Coogler turned to the typewriter to keep the spirit of the franchise alive.
Stallone is credited with writing every scene and all the dialogue for his legendary character, Rock Balboa, “every word, every period, every comma.”
Creed II is a continuation of the Rocky saga, following Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), who is the son of Apollo Creed, Rocky Balboa’s one-time rival.
With his back against the wall and the hero’s curse of choosing between personal obligations and training and winning the big fight, Creed foregoes the meat locker training sessions with Rocky and ventures to the middle of the desert - “go[ing] to hell and back to triumph,” as Owen Gleiberman notes in Variety.
You’re in luck if you enjoy this series (but far from alone) as Michael B. Jordan is set to direct Creed III.
10. Borg vs. McEnroe (2017)
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Average Score: 72
The lone tennis film on this list of Hulu sports movies, Borg vs. McEnroe showcases two drastically different tennis players who battled it out at the 1980 Wimbledon Championships.
Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) was the top player in the world during the summer of 1980. He was renowned for being one of the most dominant, disciplined players the sport had ever seen. At the beginning of the film, he’s in pursuit of his record-breaking fifth Wimbledon Championship.
Waaaay across the pond in America is the young, ferocious John McEnroe (Shia LeBeouf), whose “isolation, vulnerability, and adolescent petulance” make him a perfect counter to Borg’s “stewing inner turmoil.”
McEnroe’s infamous “You cannot be serious!” rants come to life and are a stark contrast to Borg’s stoic style.
While both men appear to be total opposites on paper, in the end, it’s their competitive spirits that bring them together and help cement their legacies in one of the most hardfought, back-and-forth tennis matches of all time.
9. Major League (1989)
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Average Score: 72.33
In 1966, The Troggs covered the classic song “Wild Thing.”
Over 20 years later, Major League revitalized the hit as Rick Vaughan (Charlie Sheen) assumes the nickname “Wild Thing” for his erratic behavior — both on the pitcher’s mound and in his everyday life.
After a new owner of the Cleveland Indians tries to recruit an array of incompetent players in the hopes of sabotaging the team so she can move it to Miami, Vaughan and gang get to work.
Veteran Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) takes the “Wild Thing” under his belt and helps orchestrate a complete 180, raising a last-place team from the dead and helping foster a can-do team spirit that captures the energy of all of Cleveland.
And it’s precisely the team members’ struggles — on the field, in the locker room, and in their personal lives — that make this comedy such a relatable, enduring classic. As Michael Roffman points out, “The struggle is real in Major League, but that’s why so many of us can sit back and laugh.”
8. Love & Basketball (2000)
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Average Score: 73
“20% about basketball and 80% about love,” Love and Basketball is a tale as old as time about two people vying to reach their personal dreams while also trying to make a relationship work.
Monica (Sanaa Lathan) is childhood-friends-turned-lovers with Quincy (Omar Epps).
Monica’s ferocity and competitive nature is handicapped by her emotional outbursts on the court.
Turns out, maybe some of those emotional spasms weren’t acting. Lathan explained 20 years after the film that “there was a lot of crying [for her] behind the scenes,” as original film casters wanted a real basketball player — and she was anything but.
Just as quickly as Monica and Quincy fall for each other, they fall from each other as they pursue their own dreams of becoming professional athletes.
While some critics have claimed that Love and Basketball is one of those “predictable feel-good movies that falls far short of the challenging film it aspires to be,” both Lathan and Epps show in scene after scene how hard work and heartbreak can go hand-in-hand — a lesson for all of us to remember.
7. The Cage Fighter (2017)
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Average Score: 74.66
Only 80 minutes long, The Cage Fighter delivers a potent punch about fighting one’s inner demons.
In his feature-length directorial debut, Jeff Unay shot The Cage Fighter over the course of three years, spotlighting the life of Joe Carman, who has just turned 40 and has vowed to his family that he would give up MMA.
However, with a chronically ill wife, a custody battle for his kids, and a sweltering job in a boiler room, Joe realizes that MMA gives him purpose.
His behind-the-scenes, clandestine training in hopes of keeping up with the young, up-and-coming competitors comes at a cost, though.
After years of fighting and a number of health scares, Joe must reconcile for himself what’s more important.
Proving himself in the ring?
Staying true to his family and marriage?
Simply staying alive?
The Cage Fighter is a “fascinating psychological dissection” of what it means to risk everything to keep fighting and pushing himself to the limits.
In the end, Joe Carman epitomizes a true-life tale of resilience.
6. Warrior (2011)
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Average Score: 78.67
While MMA fighters are notorious for their grit and overall inhumane tolerance of pain, Warrior offers more than just brutal fight scenes (though, it does have a lot of those and they are awesome).
The movie also tugs on the heartstrings and portrays the kinds of battles most of us are far more familiar with, those of lost love, addiction, regret, and familial turmoil.
One of two MMA films on this list, Warrior tells the story of Tommy (Tom Hardy), an ex-Marine with a tragic past, who is in need of a coach and trainer for the upcoming largest MMA tournament ever held: “Sparta.”
He returns home to enlist the help of his alcoholic father (Nick Nolte) to train and coach him.
But Tommy’s estranged older brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton) also claws his way into the tournament, forcing them to confront each other in the cage and on an emotional level.
Battling against not just punches but also poignant reminders about the forces that pulled the family apart in the first place, each man must come to terms with his own traumatic past.
In the end, pursuing redemption in the ring may seem a bit cliche, but Warrior is truly an incredible film, that “rare fight movie in which we don’t want to see either fighter lose.”
5. Hoosiers (1986)
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Average Score: 80
The state of Indiana is nicknamed the Hoosier State, which is largely credited to John Finley’s 1830s poem “The Hoosier’s Nest.”
So, it’s no surprise that a film about a small-town high school basketball team bears the state’s moniker.
In Hoosiers, failed college coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) takes over at one of the state’s many tiny high schools.
With a temper and unconventional coaching style, Coach Dale strives to revitalize an entire community by winning at the small-town school. He even goes as far as bringing in notorious town drunk Shooter (Dennis Hopper) as an assistant.
Critic Roger Ebert calls Hoosiers “a movie that is all heart,” as it “combines sports with human nature.”
And in the end, Coach Dale wins over the hearts of his players and the town, nourishing the boys on the court, his assistant coach, and, ultimately, his desire for personal success.
4. I, Tonya (2017)
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Average Score: 80.33
As bizarre as the events that unfold on the ice in this film appear, they are 100% based on true events.
But as Helen O’Hara of Empire explains, this “compelling and corrective account of a misunderstood figure” adds many important details that many people miss when they think of the Tonya Harding saga. Ultimately, it guarantees “one of the more darkly funny biopics you’ll ever see.”
In this almost mockumentary-style comedy, American figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) cements her legacy by pulling off one of the most scandalous, revengeful feats in sports history in her quest to take out competitor Nancy Kerrigan.
Allison Janey, who plays the crazed, abusive mother of Tonya won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Interestingly enough, Janey used to have dreams of being an Olympic figure skater herself. Nonetheless, this movie proves that acting certainly wasn’t the wrong choice.
3. Rush (2013)
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Average Score: 81
In this 2013 biopic, director Ron Howard sheds light on the James Hunt-Niki Lauda rivalry from the 1970s Formula One racing world.
Howard’s focus on two men who “exhibited rigorous honesty, [who never] denied who they were, and [who] were their own mavericks,” makes Rush a movie that features no good vs. evil or David vs. Goliath.
Instead, both Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Lauda (Daniel Brühl) push each other — and themselves — on the tracks to the brinks of their mental and physical endurance, both heroes and champions of their own destinies.
It’s their intense rivalry and competition that brings Formula One racing to the forefront of the public’s sphere, and anyone who watches is privy to a slew of racing scenes and, ultimately, both men’s “fear, regrets, insecurities, and vulnerability.”
2. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Average Score: 85
Okay. So technically, King of Kong is a movie about video games and not sports.
But don’t let that fool you.
This documentary showcases the spirit of competition in all its glory (well, as much glory as there can be given the subject matter).
In King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, filmmaker Seth Gordon presents a dog-eat-dog tale of two grown men vying for the record-high score in the classic arcade video game Donkey Kong.
Billy Mitchell, who was crowned “Video Game Player of the Century'' in 1999, had long been worshiped as an idol by the many competitive players who obsess over classic videogames. For decades, his abilities were considered untouchable.
However, in 2003, recently jobless Steve Wiebe took note of Mitchell’s Donkey Kong record and vowed to keep practicing until he beat it - much to the chagrin of his wife.
This mission will set two very different men in very different stages of their life on a fascinating - and hilarious - collision course.
Gordon’s documentary, which paints a portrait of a very serious fanatical subculture, highlights the intense gaming battle that ensues as both men travel crosscountry to be named the true King of Kong in the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records.
Neither man is presented as a misfit or social pariah. Instead, Gordon focuses on their “high hopes, perseverance, and triumph over adversity.”
Are you noticing a theme yet?
1. Hoop Dreams (1994)
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Average Score: 93
Hoop Dreams didn’t just come in at the very top of my list, it was the best-rated sports movie on Hulu according to all three metrics I used, too.
As Roger Ebert proclaimed, “A film like Hoop Dreams is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and makes us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.”
Spanning five years, the film follows two young African- American teenagers (William Gates and Arthur Agee), who travel over an hour and a half every school day from their inner-city Chicago homes to a predominately all-white suburban school.
A raw portrayal of boys who dream of NBA stardom, of familial support, and of the physical and social obstacles that threaten to thwart their dreams, Hoop Dreams is an absolute slam dunk.