The highest-grossing sports movies of all time
Everyone loves a classic sports movie, right? Well, not so much, but like it, love it, or hate it, sports movies are here to stay. Some of them flop while others become box office bangers.
Here are the 30 highest-grossing sports movies.
Caddyshack (1980): $39,846,344
Released in 1980, Caddyshack has garnered a massive cult following and was even dubbed by ESPN as “the funniest sports movie ever made.” The movie was a major success in the United States and helped boost the careers of Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray.
The directorial debut of Harold Ramis, Caddyshack was produced for only $6 million and was initially met with subpar reviews, as critics were quick to note how the film felt too lackadaisical. Turns out, it was that freedom and improvisation incorporated into the film that lent itself to some of the film’s greatest moments and dialogue.
Chariots of Fire (1981): $59,303,359
A historical drama based on two British athletes that competed at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, Chariots of Fire was an immediate success both in Britain and the United States. The story chronicles Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, two British runners with very different backgrounds running for very different reasons.
Liddell runs for the glory of God, while Abrahams, a Jew, runs to overcome prejudice. The film was impressively nominated for seven Academy Awards and took home four little statues, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The film’s theme song, composed by Greek composer Vangelis, has become an iconic sound that is oft-used in slow-motion scenes in everything from blockbuster films to amateur productions.
The Rookie (2002): $80,693,537
Starring Dennis Quaid, The Rookie is a classic sports drama film based on a true story. Jim Morris, played by Quaid, is a father of three and a high school baseball coach in small-town Texas. He once dreamed of making it to the big leagues, but that dream ended with a torn shoulder.
However, the kids on his baseball team soon discover that Jim still has a cannon for an arm and, through a series of agreements, coax him into taking a tryout with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. After consistently throwing in the high 90s, Morris is offered a minor-league deal and slowly, despite the pressure from family to return to teaching, climbs the ranks, eventually making it to the Devil Rays — at 35 years old! — where he pitched for two seasons.
Field of Dreams (1989): $84,431,625
“If you build it, he will come.” That iconic line has been duplicated and replicated in so many ways, with most people unable to even tell you where it came from. It came from Field of Dreams, a film that was nominated for three Academy Awards in three major categories: Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture.
In 2017, the Library of Congress selected Field of Dreams for preservation in the United States National Film Registry because it is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The film revolves around Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, attempting to understand the meaning of strange voices that emanate from his cornfields. The voices tell Ray to build a baseball field in the middle of nowhere, assuring him that if he builds the field, people, notably Ray’s deceased father who Ray had a fractured relationship with, will come.
Rocky II (1979): $85,182,160
The first of many in the Rocky series on this list, Rocky II follows the comeback story of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), who gained international fame for his losing performance in a title fight against the world’s most dangerous man, Apollo Creed. Rocky’s loss to Creed happened in the original Rocky, but Rocky, being a fighter, decides he needs to take another stab at beating Creed, despite his doctor’s wishes.
Initially not fully sold on a rematch, Rocky becomes fully enthralled with it during Creed’s nasty smear campaign aimed at coaxing Rocky into the fight. Creed, after all, needs to prove to his fans that he is still far superior to Rocky. In dramatic fashion, a bruised and battered Rocky knocks out Creed to win the heavyweight championship.
White Men Can’t Jump (1992): $90,753,806
Out to disprove the myth that white men can’t jump, Woody Harrelson, starring as Billy Hoyle, begins hustling opponents in streetball. Most people size Billy up as an unathletic dweeb with no style. Wesley Snipes, known as Sidney Deane in the film, falls into that camp, until Hoyle’s sweet moves dispel the myth.
The two band together as streetball hustlers, stymieing the competition that thinks they’d be an easy W. In the end, Hoyle loses the love of his life because of his nasty streetball gambling addiction and being duped one too many times. However, the film ends on a positive note, with Hoyle and Deane, once sworn enemies, fully reconciling their relationship.
The Karate Kid (1984): $91,077,276
You can thank Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita) and his disciple, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), for popularizing karate en masse in the United States. Karate Kid was filmed for only $8 million and was a total box office success, racking up over $91 million. The film tells a classic tale about high school bullying and the need to learn to defend oneself.
Naturally, there are romantic elements involved that only thicken the plot. Entertainment Weekly placed The Karate Kid at No. 31 on its list of Best High School Movies. Remember, wax on, wax off. The film has spawned numerous sequels, which we’ll get to later in the story.
Any Given Sunday (1999): $100,230,832
Featuring an ensemble cast of stars like Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, and more, Any Given Sunday is a sports drama that highlights the challenges of coaching and managing in professional sports. While most people wouldn’t classify the film as a classic, it holds its place among memorable sports films, thanks in no small part to the cast.
However, from a financial standpoint, the film was a total success, racking up over $100 million compared to the $55 million budget. Notable film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, complimenting director Oliver Stone’s infusion of drama while also noting the film could have been much shorter.
The Karate Kid Part II (1986): $115,103,979
Following the massive success of the first installment of The Karate Kid, the franchise decided that a second movie, with essentially the same exact plot — just in a different location — was necessary. Enter The Karate Kid Part II, starring the same two main characters from the first movie. But rather than Mr. Miyagi saving a young Daniel from bullying, it’s Daniel who is saving Mr. Miyagi from torment in Miyagi’s home country of Japan.
Other than the change of location, the film’s story line is virtually the same, except the fight scenes are even more blown out and potentially unbelievable. Overall, the film crushed it at the box office and was produced for a very reasonable $13 million. On Rotten Tomatoes, The Karate Kid Part II has a 51% score based on 122,000 user reviews.
Rocky (1976): $117,235,147
Considered to be one of the greatest sports movies ever made, Rocky was made on the slimmest of budgets and was produced for just over $1 million. Then it went on to become the highest-grossing film of 1976 and grossed over $117 million in theaters. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and took home three, including Best Picture, the night’s premier award.
The movie, focused on a journeyman fighter who works as a loan shark before being given a chance to fight for the heavyweight title, launched Stallone’s career into stardom and solidified him as one of the great American actors of his generation.
Rocky V (1990): $119,946,358
Considered a total bust of a movie, Rocky V centers around Rocky training his protégé, Tommy Gunn. After Rocky’s Ivan Drago super fight, Rocky returned stateside to discover his money was all gone and his brain was damaged. The brain damage forced Rocky to give up his fighting career, but it couldn’t keep him out of the boxing life.
However, as the movie develops, Rocky discovers the boxing promoter has betrayed him as well as Tommy Gunn. In the end, the movie is a messy attempt at closing out the Rocky series and was severely lampooned by critics and die-hard Rocky fans alike.
Rocky III (1982): $125,049,125
Back for another round and back for another blockbuster, Rocky III was a wild success at the box office despite less-than-favorable reviews from critics, who labeled the movie more of the same. But for fans, this Rocky stood out because it featured a different antagonist and the song “Eye of the Tiger,” which was the film’s theme song.
In fact, the song became so wildly popular that it was nominated for the 1982 Academy Award for Best Original Song, eventually losing to “Up Where We Belong.” The song was also nominated for the 1983 Grammy Award for Song of the Year, losing that too. In the movie, which featured Mr. T, Rocky split his championship duels, going 1-1 with a dramatic final victory.
A League of Their Own (1992): $132,440,069
A fictionalized account of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, A League of Their Own was directed by Penny Marshall, and stars Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and, among others, Madonna. The film tells the tale of the aforementioned All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a league that was formed during World War II when the male talent pool was off fighting in Europe and the Pacific.
Due to the sharp decrease in players, Major League Baseball almost ceased to operate, which prompted baseball enthusiasts to start the women’s league, in an effort to keep baseball in the public eye. In 2012, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Remember the Titans (2000): $136,706,683
Based on a true story and starring Denzel Washington, Remember the Titans cost only (yeah, only) $30 million to make before becoming one of the biggest hits of the year 2000. The story revolves around a newly racially integrated school in Virginia in 1971, and its new football coach, Herman Boone.
As the school is harassed and subjected to double standards, Coach Boone guides them to a perfect season and eventual state championship. The inspirational story is further remembered by the original soundtrack and the memorable song “Titan Spirit,” which has been used by professional sports teams in a variety of manners.
Blades of Glory (2007): $145,708,642
Will Ferrell has a knack for starring in sports movies, and his 2007 smash hit Blades of Glory is no exception. Ferrell and his costar, Jon Heder, star as two of the world’s greatest figure skaters. The two heated rivals are banned from figure skating after a podium disaster sparked by a brawl and fire.
However, the two realize there is a loophole in the sport that will allow them to compete again, only this time they must skate side by side, together as teammates. Blades of Glory perfectly captures the cringeworthy angles found in nearly every sports drama, while giving fans some quintessential mid-2000s Ferrell.
Seabiscuit (2003): $148,336,445
You’re seeing double. That’s Spider-Man, and that’s a horse jockey. No, wait, it’s Tobey Maguire. Based on a book by the same name, which was based on the real-life horse from the Great Depression, Seabiscuit tells the story of an unlikely American champion and symbol of hope.
Seabiscuit, the horse, was small, overlooked, and had a poor track record in races. But then the tides turned and the horse began winning at an unprecedented rate, while capturing the hearts of an otherwise depressed American people. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards but did not win any, unlike the horse himself.
Cool Runnings (1993): $154,856,263
Loosely based on the triumphant story of the Jamaican bobsled team, Cool Runnings depicts the journey of four Jamaican sprinters and their quest for Olympic glory. The sprinters were attempting to qualify for the 1988 Olympics, but tragically came up short when one of the runners tripped and wiped out those behind him. Determined to get to the Olympics, the Jamaicans began training in the bobsled, a sport that could utilize their sprinting skills.
However, being from Jamaica, snow, ice, and bobsledding were completely foreign. Thankfully, on the island was a former U.S. bobsled Olympian, who was eventually coaxed to train the Jamaicans. In the end, the squad qualifies and competes at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It was also John Candy’s last film that was released during his lifetime.
Rocky Balboa (2006): $155,721,132
Another one? You bet. And one of the film’s most memorable lines is, “Yo Adrian, we did it. We did it.” What exactly did Rocky, now an old widower living a solitary life in Philadelphia, do? He got back in the ring, trained hard, and shocked the world by taking Mason Dixon — the much younger and current heavyweight champion of the world — the distance.
Although (spoiler alert) Rocky doesn’t win the fight, he cements his legacy as a tough fighter who can take a punch or two. The film served as a redemption for the character Rocky and also for Stallone, who was disappointed with Rocky V. Thus, this film, Rocky Balboa, gave Stallone a chance to end the series and write off the character with the respect both of them deserved.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006): $162,966,177
“Shake, and bake.” The classic line from one of Will Ferrell’s most memorable movies encapsulates who Ferrell portrayed in the movie — the passionate, Bible Belt-living, racecar-loving Ricky Bobby. Ricky Bobby is NASCAR’s biggest star, only to be supplanted by his new teammate, Formula-One-driving-Frenchman Jean Girard.
The two teammates have nothing in common and become rivals, which causes Bobby’s life to spiral out of control. At rock bottom, Bobby begins a new life out of the sport before making a miraculous comeback. In the final race of the movie, Bobby and Girard crash and finish the race on foot. Rather than throwing fists, the two embrace with a big French kiss, signifying Bobby’s complete transformation as a man and driver.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004): $167,722,310
“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” Yes, that may be a quote from the Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller classic, but it is practical life advice, too. The film tells the tale using the classic underdog clichés us sports fans have come to know and love.
A downtrodden group of misfits assembles a team, barely gets into a major tournament where there is money on the line to help keep a dying business afloat, and goes to the championship match against a powerful squad full of killers (not literally). That, in essence, is Dodgeball. The film was made for roughly $20 million and almost immediately exceeded its financial projections, thanks to some great lines and a memorable cast.
Creed (2015): $173,567,581
The sequel to Rocky Balboa, Creed stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson Creed, the son of Apollo Creed, one of Rocky’s greatest foes. Rather than fighting, this time Rocky takes his role strictly from the sidelines, where he coaches a young Creed. Meanwhile, Rocky is suffering from cancer and is unwilling to undergo chemotherapy, realizing that the treatment wasn’t enough to save the love of his life, Adrian, from cancer.
The film was widely regarded as one of the year’s top films, and undoubtedly revitalized the rapidly decaying Rocky franchise by injecting new life and new characters into it. Although the plot is eerily similar to previous films, Jordan and Stallone’s excellent performances did enough to keep fans and critics entertained throughout.
The Waterboy (1998): $185,991,646
What happened to Adam Sandler? For a while, he was one of America’s most lovable actors, starring in memorable film after memorable film. Then he aged and dad jokes and predictable humor took over, crippling the once-lovable Sandler. Bobby Boucher was a water boy dutifully serving a university in Louisiana when he was abruptly fired.
So Bobby takes his talents to another school, the miserable South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs, where he becomes the team’s water boy and later the team’s unsung hero. In the movie’s most memorable scene, Boucher leads the Mud Dogs down from 27-0 in the Bourbon Bowl to a stunning 30-27 victory. Vintage Sandler.
The Longest Yard (2005): $190,320,568
A remake of the 1974 film of the same name, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, and a slew of other big names star in this prison football movie. Centered around a prison-guard-versus-inmate football game, The Longest Yard is far from a serious film and feels like a movie made specifically for Sandler during his heyday: It’s full of one-liners, predictable outcomes, and some absurd plot elements.
That being said, the film obliterated expectations at the box office and had a healthy amount of favorable reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, a movie rating aggregation site, The Longest Yard has a 31% approval rating based on 166 reviews. Touchdown.
Creed II (2018): $214,115,889
Yep, this plot was too predictable. It was, to be specific, 33-years-in-the-making predictable. Creed II is the sequel to Creed, which was the sequel to a bajillion Rocky movies that spanned from the 1970s all the way to the mid-2000s. Anyhow, Creed II is about Adonis Creed fighting Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Mr. Drago, he is the Soviet boxer who killed Adonis Creed’s father, Apollo Creed, in the ring. Naturally, Adonis had a lot riding on this super fight, and the film did not disappoint. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film scored a highly positive 84% based on 272 reviews.
Million Dollar Baby (2004): $216,763,646
Is it another boxing film? Why yes, it is. Million Dollar Baby stars Clint Eastwood as a boxing trainer trying to make amends for prior mistakes in the ring and in his own career, and Hilary Swank as an up-and-coming boxer determined to prove herself. The film was met with widespread acclaim and was considered a fresh take on the relatively stale boxing movie genre.
After all, the movie ends with no chance for a sequel (the main character dies) and stars a female boxer. At the Academy Awards, Million Dollar Baby was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning four, including Best Picture and Best Actress.
Space Jam (1996): $230,418,342
At the time of its release, Space Jam was the highest-grossing basketball film of all time. It was, from a financial standpoint, a slam dunk. The reviews, however, suggest mixed feelings, with some critics panning the over-the-top story and effects while other critics applauded Jordan and the unique role he played in one of Hollywood’s more unique films.
The soundtrack of the film also blew up and went platinum, with R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” becoming a Grammy winner. Space Jam merchandise was also a massive hit, with everything from posters to apparel being sold in large quantities throughout the 1990s and even to this day.
Jerry Maguire (1996): $273,552,592
“Show me the money!” You don’t want to mess with Tom Cruise as a sports agent. He will do whatever it takes to satisfy his client. Jerry Maguire was one of the top films of 1996 and was nominated for an impressive five Academy Awards. In the end, Cuba Gooding Jr., who starred as Jerry Maguire’s client, brought home an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Aside from being a film loaded with memorable one-liners, Jerry Maguire also marked the breakout role for Renée Zellweger, while solidifying Cruise’s ability to anchor virtually any role in Hollywood. The film was produced on a slim $50 million budget.
Rocky IV (1985): $300,473,716
One more time! Encore! Rocky! Rocky! This series is a dynasty in every sense of the word. Chart-toppers year after year, decade after decade. Everyone going into a Rocky film knows what is up and how it will end. But does that stop them from buying that ticket and sitting down to watch Rocky slug it out for the next few hours? Nope.
Rocky IV, the series’ most successful film, tells the story of Rocky avenging the death of his rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed, who was killed in the ring by Soviet boxer Ivan Drago. Surprise, surprise, and incoming spoiler alert: Rocky does, in fact, avenge his friend’s death by beating Drago on Drago’s home turf.
The Blind Side (2009): $309,208,309
Based on the 2006 book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis, the film The Blind Side is a biographical story about Michael Oher, a future first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens. Oher grew up with a troubled background and was on the wrong path until the Tuohy family intervened and adopted Oher, taking him under their collective wing.
The film follows Oher’s journey from high school through his college days at Ole Miss, and to the NFL draft, where his dreams became reality. Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy, Oher’s adoptive mother. Although the film differed from reality, it did a great job of capturing Oher’s incredible story.
The Karate Kid (2010): $359,126,022
No more Mr. Miyagi in this remake of the ’80s classic. Instead, this film stars Jackie Chan as Mr. Han and Jaden Smith as Dre Parker. The plot focuses on Dre’s journey from Detroit to Beijing, the city he and his mother move to. While in Beijing, Dre finds himself surrounded by the wrong crowd.
Thankfully, Dre, who is being bullied to no end, meets a maintenance worker, Mr. Han, who is willing to teach Dre kung fu. The film vastly differs from the original because it takes place in China rather than the States or Japan and uses kung fu as the martial art, rather than karate (hence the name). However, despite its differences, 2010’s version of The Karate Kid was a financial masterpiece.