26th Jul2023

6 Most Popular Sports Films in the UK

by James Smith

It’s easy to find sport-specific lists of movies online. From Bodog’s list of the top 5 legendary basketball films — which puts the gritty and ageless White Men Can’t Jump at its #1 spot, and we couldn’t possibly agree more—To others that also cover films, it’s not rare to get a lowdown on the best or the most popular films in a particular sport.

Then there are also perennial lists for sports on film review websites, like Rotten Tomatoes’ list of 30 essential football films, and overall sports lists like IMDB’s all-time highest-rated sports films that can also include films not primarily sports-based. But what is generally lacking is the list of the best films in a select few sports, ones that are the most popular in the UK. Today, we’re going to make that list for you!

For this purpose, we’re going to limit our list to films that are primarily sports-based and fall under one of these categories: football, boxing, basketball and racing…

Rocky (1976)

We’re obsessed with boxing, and Rocky remains to be one of the best boxing films ever made, right there with Ali (2002), Fat City (1972), and Creed (2015). Sylvester Stallone had Rocky’s script that he wrote in three days but initially no takers. He would only sell the script if he was allowed to play the lead. And that was a particularly challenging prospect aggravated further by his not having a lot of films under his belt. His only major credit at that point was The Lords of Flatbush—An indie historical drama starring Henry Winkler. Rocky’s budget was a small one, but that didn’t stop the film from becoming the highest-grossing one in 1976.

Coach Carter (2005)

Coach Carter was Channing Tatum’s debut and was heavily inspired by teen entertainment of the time. The film is energetic and offers the perfect mix of excitement and drama for younger audiences. Add to that the action-packed basketball sequences and Samuel L. Jackson’s captivating performance, and you have one of the best sports films of all time.

Raging Bull (1980)

This is the film that got Robert De Niro his first and only Oscar for Best Actor (the other being for Best Supporting Actor in Godfather II). Also, did you know that Martin Scorsese had no clue about boxing? He signed on to direct the life story of the legendary Jake LaMotta anyway, and his brilliant filmmaking brought out the pain and guilt in LaMotta’s life like beautiful art. As the name suggests, Raging Bull is all about rage and brutality. It paints the dirty and bloody world of boxing accurately. The avant-garde approach to the fight scenes makes anyone truly understand the physicality of boxing and the risks involved.

Rush (2013)

There’s a dearth of good Formula 1 films. Rush is one of the most popular cinematic stories, presenting the charged rivalry between iconic racers James Hunt and Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda in the 70s. The F1 rivalry between the British and the Austrian racers is legendary, and the film captures the essence quite well. That aside, there’s a background score that’s one of the best works of Hans Zimmer (and so, one of the best background scores in the history of cinema) as well as a Chris Hemsworth performance we’re a fan of.

Air (2023)

Not a “sports” film per se. Ben Affleck’s Air is the latest instance of him joining Matt Damon to work on a film together. The film is based on Nike’s early years and how the deal with Michael Jordan, a then-rookie, changed the way we think about Nike or basketball forever. A film that comments on a cultural event like this has big shoes to fill. Affleck’s direction and Damon’s acting both don’t disappoint. In fact, it’s one of our recommendations for the best sports films to watch in 2023, regardless of whether you like basketball or not.

Escape to Victory (1981)

The synopsis of the film reads, “During World War II, a group of Allied prisoners of war agrees to play a football match against the Nazi team only to use it as a method to escape captivity.” What’s not to like! Stallone plays a goalkeeper, and the film also casts Pelé as Corporal Luis Fernandez, among other footballers, to make the football action more authentic.


So, that was our list of the best films based on sports that are popular in the UK! Please keep in mind that these are not films on the same sport or from the same time period or genre, and the list is not in chronological order. Plus, what will be YOUR favourite depends on a variety of factors. So let us know your favourite(s) in the comments below!


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