The Edit

THE BEST SPORTS SCENES IN MOVIES

top-5-sports-scenes

 

Love sports movies? Of course you do! Just like the best sports ads, they’ve got everything: heartache, triumph, the thrill of the last-minute turnaround, and, of course, montage sequences. Not to mention some fantastic soundtracks, raising every emotion from triumphant joy to the tears of defeat.

But we’re not here to talk about sports movies. Oh, no. We’re here to take a look at the best sports scenes in movies. The difference? Well, any type of film – from coming-of-age dramas to superhero blockbusters – can feature a sports scene or two. 

Below, you will find our list of podium-toppers – featuring classic movies such as Rocky and Field of Dreams and recently-released hits including King Richard and Shang Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings.

The Best Sports Scenes in Movies

  • King Richard – ‘The Final Match’
  • Bruised – ‘Opening Scene’
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy – ‘Team Practise’
  • Skater Girl – ‘Skateboarding Championship’
  • Shang Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings – ‘Shang Chi’s Parents Meet’
  • Chariots of Fire – ‘The Final Race’
  • Invictus – ‘The Final’
  • Rocky – ‘Adriaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan’
  • Million Dollar Baby – ‘Final Fight’
  • Raging Bull – ‘You Never Got Me Down’
  • Moneyball – ‘Hatteberg Homerun’
  • Field of Dreams – ‘People Will Come’
  • The Wrestler - ‘The Final Fight’
  • Wedding Crashers – ‘Touch Football’
  • Talladega Nights – ‘Finishing the Race on Foot’
  • The Social Network ‘The Henley Royal Regatta’
  • Cool Runnings – ‘Pride’
  • Friday Night Lights – ‘Being Perfect’
  • Rush – ‘Niki Lauda’s Comeback’
  • I, Tonya – ‘Skating Scene’
  • Fighting With My Family – ‘Title Fight’
  • Lagaan – ‘Chale Chalo’
  • The Champ – ‘Death Scene’
  • The Fighter – ‘Workout’

King Richard – ‘The Final Match’

It could just be that it’s because it’s still relatively fresh in our minds – or, the fact that Will Smith just won a BAFTA for his performance in the film – but King Richard is, at this moment in time, our favourite sports film ever. In case you’re yet to see the film, it tells the story of Venus and Serena Williams’ childhood via their greatest role model, their father, Richard Williams. 

In this scene, Richard approaches a young Serena as she prepares to watch her sister play in the ultimate match of her debut tournament against lionised player Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. Of course, she’s happy and excited for her sister, but through the young actress’ Demi Singleton’s award-worthy performance, it's clear that young Serena is envious that her sister gets her chance to play tennis professionally. 

The pivotal moment within the scene comes when Richard says to his daughter, ‘Your sister is going to be number one in the whole world. No doubt about it. But you, you going to be the best that ever was. You going to be the greatest of all time’. As Serena takes her father’s words on board, an emotional piano-led track plays to encourage audience members to put themselves in the shoes of the aspirational sports player. 

Bruised – ‘Opening Scene’

In November 2021, Netflix released sports drama film Bruised on their streaming service. From the get-go, the film was shrouded by hype as not only did it star Academy Award-winner Halle Berry, but it also marked her directorial debut. Of course, she takes on the role of the fictional main protagonist Jackie Justice (aka Pretty Bull). Don't judge her. You know full well that you'd do the same.

Fundamentally, the film is about a former UFC fighter who is reunited with her son – whom she hasn’t seen since he was an infant – before making a career comeback. At the very beginning of the film, a compilation scene of women fighting professionally – complete with fast-paced, sporty music – seamlessly shifts into a point of view scene that eventually transforms into the title screen. All of this is very expected; viewers knew full well they'd signed up to invest in the story of a female fighter. But then, post-title shot, we see Halle’s character scrubbing a home in cleaning uniform. From here on out, viewers are intrigued to see how one side of the title screen correlates with the other.

Space Jam: A New Legacy – ‘Team Practice’

Sure, it’s universally accepted that Space Jam: A New Legacy doesn’t quite live up to the, well, legacy of the OG 1996 flick, but it’s still a blast to watch. Led by Ohio-born basketball luminary LeBron James, the film takes viewers on a trip across the Warner Bros universe. Along the way, they’ll be able to spot hundreds – yes, hundreds – of familiar faces, from the worlds of Rick and Morty, DC Comics, Game of Thrones and more. And whilst there is fun to be had in finding all of the characters and references, the film is at its best when it focuses on LeBron, the Looney Tunes and basketball. 

In this scene midway through the film, LeBron James – now toonified, if that’s a word – has discovered that the only way he will reclaim his son from the hands of villain AI-G (played by Don Cheadle) is if he wins a basketball game with the help of the Looney Tunes. And although Lebron is considered to be one of the greatest athletes to ever shoot hoops, he quickly comes to realise that he’s got a hard task ahead of him trying to train his newly-founded cartoon team. Each member finds it hard to play the game properly. To a lighthearted pop song (namely ‘Mercy’ by the Jonas Brothers), they show LeBron their unruly take on the game, which involves guns, ramps and explosions. Thankfully, there is one teammate he can rely on: Lola Bunny. 

Skater Girl – ‘Skateboarding Championship’

You may not have heard of Netflix’s 2021 film Skater Girl, but we're confident that the under-the-radar flick is worthy of your attention. We LOVED it. 

 The coming-of-age story is set in a remote village in Rajasthan, India, and follows a young girl Prerna (played by Rachel Sanchita Gupta) who lives a sheltered life informed by tradition. But when a London-based executive named Jessica, accompanied by her old friend Erick, visits the town on a mission to learn more about her father’s childhood, Prerna is fixated by Erick’s skateboard, and so are the other kids in town. 

Towards the end of the film (spoilers ahead: you have been warned), Prerna decides to challenge expectations and follow her own path by partaking in the skateboarding championship. She is the final girl in the Senior Girls category and the only participant to represent her village in the competition. As she’s about to take her turn, her father almost steps in to stop her, but he is stopped by his wife, Prerna's mother, Shanti. 

Prerna navigates the skatepark like a pro – she elegantly showcases her innate knack for the sport by moving across the space like a swan on water. As she carries out her choreography, uplifting, inspiring music plays that’s characterised by stately horns, animated strings and South Asian instruments. It really is quite the moment. 

Shang Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings – ‘Shang Chi’s Parents Meet’

In 2021, MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) fans were treated to four brand-new feature films, the two standouts being Spider-Man: No Way Home and Shang Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings. The latter explores Chinese culture through the lens of a superhero blockbuster movie. One of the ways director Destin Daniel Cretton pays homage to China is by incorporating various types of martial arts into the story. 

In one of the most memorable scenes in the film – the moment where Shang Chi’s parents meet for the first time – the two characters clash, each practising a different martial arts style. According to ScreenRant, Xu Wenwu opts for Hung Ga (a style that originates from Southern China), and Ying Li uses Baguazhang (a style thought to originate from Northern China). Mystical powers and alien technology aside, the prime focus of this scene is to exhibit the natural chemistry between the two characters. The fight ends up resembling a dance, and the connection between Xu and Ying is emphasised by the romantic Oriental music that plays. 

Suddenly, martial arts seems like the most beautiful sport one could possibly take up. (*Proceeds to Google nearby martial arts classes*)

Chariots of Fire – ‘The Final Race’

Chariots of Fire is the true story of Olympic sprinters Eric Liddell – a devout Scottish Christian running for the glory of God – and Harold Abrahams – an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice – at the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

While boarding the boat to France for the Olympics, Liddell discovers the heats for his 100-metre race will be on a Sunday. His Christian convictions prevent him from running on the Sabbath, so he refuses to take part, despite strong pressure from the British Olympic Committee.

Liddell’s teammate Lindsay suggests a solution: having already won a silver medal in the 400 metres hurdles, he offers to give his place in the 400-metre race on the following Thursday to Liddell; his religious convictions in the face of national athletic pride make headlines around the world. In the race scene, an American coach tells his runners that Liddell has no chance, as he won’t stay the 400-metre distance.

However, one of them, Jackson Scholz, who obviously appreciates Liddell’s integrity and faith, hands him a note of support.

The race, with Liddell’s voiceover, celebrates commitment, determination and overcoming all obstacles. Plus, of course, there’s the groundbreaking and Oscar-winning electronic score by Vangelis, powering Liddell to victory.

Invictus – ‘The Final’

You want epic slo-mo? You’ve got it with this dramatic drop goal from Springboks fly-half Joel Stransky to beat the All Blacks in extra time at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

It’s also got amazing sound design, heroic strings, and reaction shots from both inside and outside the stadium, showing how Nelson Mandela’s ambitious plan of using the team to bring together the Black and white population of post-apartheid South Africa had succeeded. As the Hollywood Reporter said, ‘For once a sports victory is something more than just another win.’

Rocky – ‘Adriaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan’

Empire magazine claims it’s ‘the second greatest boxing movie of all time’ (after Raging Bull, which is fair enough), and the 1976 original kick-started a franchise that now runs to seven sequels, including the two Creed outings.

By the end of the climactic fight between underdog Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, who also penned the script) and reigning champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), promoter George Jergens is hailing it as, ‘the greatest exhibition of guts and stamina in the history of the ring’.

This triumphant show of grit, determination and going the distance – soundtracked by a powerful cinematic composition – is eclipsed by the fact that Rocky doesn’t care whether or not he’s won (it turns out, by virtue of a split decision, that he actually hasn’t), only that he can have Adrian at his side. Love really does conquer all.

Million Dollar Baby – ‘Final Fight’

Oof, did not see this coming. Throughout Million Dollar Baby, viewers would’ve been forgiven for thinking it was business as usual: girl has a dream; girl trains really hard, making good on her talent; girl takes over the world. But this boxing movie, which earned lead actor Hilary Swank her second Oscar, had different ideas.

In a $1 million Vegas match, our heroine Maggie is put up against the WBA women’s welterweight champion, who has a reputation as a dirty fighter. One illegal sucker punch later, a crunching fall leaves Maggie a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic. Just at this moment, a beautifully sad orchestral track tugs at the viewer's heartstrings.

This turning point leads to an increasingly bleak view of Maggie and her trainer/father figure Frankie’s relationship that remains one of the most devastating ‘third acts’ of a sports movie.

Raging Bull – ‘You Never Got Me Down’

Director Martin Scorsese first teamed up with editor Thelma Schoonmaker on Raging Bull, and her skill in putting together the visceral fight scenes earned her the first of her three Oscars.

The stark black and white photography gives a documentary feel, whilst the fact that there’s a period of total silence whilst LaMotta waits for the next barrage of blows somehow increases the tension. Sweat and blood is flying (even over the audience). The music is dramatic, oddly reminiscent of a spaghetti western soundtrack

Robert DeNiro’s Jake LaMotta is literally on the ropes throughout, being relentlessly pummelled by Sugar Ray Robinson (Johnny Barnes), but remains upright, and when the fight is finally called to a halt can still say, ‘You never got me down, Ray’.

Moneyball – ‘Hatteberg Homerun’

Based on Michael Lewis’s book of the same name, and written by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, this is the true story of the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s record-breaking 2002 season under general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt).

With a limited budget for players, Beane and assistant general manager Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) build a team of undervalued talent, turning a losing streak into a blockbusting winning one against the odds.

The film was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Brad Pitt) and Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill). Throughout the film, actual footage of the games is expertly spliced in, enhancing the drama.

For the final match, Beane, who superstitiously refuses to watch the matches, has been persuaded by his daughter to attend. The action splits between the pitch, the roar of the crowd gradually giving way to tension-building strings and piano, and Beane anxiously watching on a screen.

Following the triumphant home run, there are huge celebrations, followed by a cut to Beane, on his own, silently walking away: job done.

Field of Dreams – ‘People Will Come’

Part fairytale, part uplifting example of family togetherness, all held together by the ghostly legends of baseball.

Yes, Field of Dreams is sentimental, but if you don’t have a tear in your eye by the end of James Earl Jones’s stirring speech about the importance of the sport in America’s history (‘Baseball has marked the time… it reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again’) – not to mention the triumph of hope over experience, as Kevin Costner’s Ray Kinsella decides to risk everything by not selling his farm – you’ve got a heart of stone.

This is the ultimate love letter to the power of sport, its ability to help us to dream and to bring people together is unmatched – and so is its spirit-lifting soundtrack.

The Wrestler - ‘The Final Fight’

The Wrestler showcases a barnstorming, Oscar-nominated performance from Mickey Rourke as Randy, a washed-up former pro-wrestling superstar. The type to walk out to American rock hit ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. 

He’s been warned by his doctor that going back into the ring could cause his heart to give out, but as he tells his friend Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), ‘This is where I belong. I gotta go’. So, it’s the classic ‘one last time’ match, against his oldest rival.

The final shot, when Randy is about to perform his signature move, a jump from the top of the ropes, is taken from down on the mat – he leaps over us and… cut to black. Does the fight kill Randy? It’s left up to you. 

Wedding Crashers – ‘Touch Football’

Proving that not all of the great sports scenes in movies take place in movies about sport, we have Wedding Crashers’ brilliant touch football sequence that comes complete with a chirpy piano-led track.

Did it take anyone else ages not to view Bradley Cooper as a malicious posho in his subsequent films, after his portrayal of Zachary ‘Sack’ Lodge subjecting Vince Vaughn’s Jeremy to a barrage of crunching take-downs and tackles?

It’s a perfect depiction of ‘old money’ snobbery and how sometimes, ‘being good at sport’ can just serve as a cover for being a deeply horrible person.

Talladega Nights – ‘Finishing the Race on Foot’

For a while between 2005 and 2008, Will Ferrell was the unofficial king of sports movies, taking on everything from football (Kicking and Screaming), to basketball (Semi-Pro), and figure skating (Blades of Glory). Talladega Nights saw him paired with Sacha Baron Cohen as rival NASCAR drivers Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) and Jean Girard (Baron Cohen).

The final race results in a humdinger of a crash involving the two that is so long the commentator throws to an ad break midway through it. Cars flying through the air, explosions, flames all over the place, it’s really got it all.

Ricky and Jean miraculously climb out of the cars unscathed, and proceed to finish the race by pegging it round the track on foot, complete with a dramatic dive over the line that finally decides the podium placement. All soundtracked by the fabulous, crashing drama of Pat Benatar’s pop rock hit ‘We Belong’, because, well, why not?

The Social Network – ‘The Henley Royal Regatta’

If ever there was a neat metaphor for the split-second difference between winning and losing and the world of (ultimately) big business, it’s the Harvard team and Winklevoss twins’ narrow defeat in the Henley Regatta rowing race.

The scene is given added tension and a sense of threat not only by the dark clouds and increasingly frantic editing, but also by a pumped-up version of Grieg’s classical ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’, which builds to a striking climax.

Cool Runnings – ‘Pride’

Some of the best scenes in sports movies are the inspirational pep talks. Cool Runnings, a classic comedy of a team of sporting underdogs in the form of a Jamaican bobsled team dreaming of Olympic glory, features a great one.

Showing the power of positive affirmations, Yul Brenner (Malik Yoba) encourages Junior Bevil (Rawle D. Lewis) to have courage and pride in himself. Then the exciting music kicks in. 

Friday Night Lights – ‘Being Perfect’

What does being perfect mean, in terms of sport? Turns out, it’s not strictly about winning, according to Billy Bob Thornton’s inspirational and moving locker-room speech to his team in American football drama Friday Night Lights, which features some particularly stirring music to ramp up the emotion.

In the struggling town of Odessa, football is the one thing that brings everyone together. Coach Gaines (Thornton) is working to build a winning High School team – in a town where victory is prized above all else – but the teens are inevitably struggling through their own emotional trials.

Gaines points out that, although most of the team have been playing for ten years, ‘You got two more quarters and after that, most of you will never play this game again as long as you live.’ It’s a farewell to a life that they’ve known (complete with a thoughtful composition), and a preparation for sending them out into the wider world, which has more to it than a scoreboard.

Rush – ‘Niki Lauda’s Comeback’

Rush is the true story of how F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda defined each other – as well as an era of racing that was both glamorous and often deadly.

The racing scenes in Ron Howard’s biopic are breathtaking, but it’s the rivalry between louche, charming, anarchic posh British playboy Hunt (played by Thor’s Chris Hemsworth) and the brusque, determined Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) that provides much of the drama.

At the German Grand Prix in 1976, Lauda urged the F1 committee to cancel the race due to heavy rain on the notoriously dangerous track. The drivers, however, voted to race; Lauda’s car crashed, resulting in third-degree burns to his head and face, and internal burns to his lungs.

After only six weeks, Lauda decided to return to racing, taking part in the Italian Grand Prix. Is he fit to drive? Can he win? It’s a thrilling sequence complemented by a majestic orchestral song, often seen from a wheel’s eye view.

I, Tonya – ‘Skating scene’

For a fascinating insight into how a key sequence in a sports movie has been filmed, look no further than director Craig Gillespie talking The New York Times through this scene from I, Tonya.

It combines Margot Robbie as figure skater Tonya Harding intercut with professional skaters, all filmed on a handheld Steadicam by a cameraman who happens to be a very good skater.

It’s the first scene in the movie where we see Tonya skating, and it’s to the rhythm of ZZ Top’s rock anthem ‘Sleeping Bag’. Impressively, Robbie trained for five months in order to nail as many of the moves as possible. 

Fighting With My Family – ‘Title fight’

Based on a true story, Fighting With My Family is another classic underdog story, as ‘freak, oddball, outsider’ Paige from Norwich (Florence Pugh), takes on the world of women’s WWE at a training camp in Florida – a kind of female version of Billy Elliot.

After a number of false starts, at the end of the film, Paige is thrown into WrestleMania XXX against WWE Divas champion AJ Lee. The fight starts off badly for Paige – can she find both her feet and her fight to take home the title belt?

The huge stadium is contrasted with the overstuffed family living room back home, as you will cheer on through every crunching smackdown to a tearful victory. Enter the appropriately optimistic music

Lagaan – ‘Chale Chalo’

Months of hard labour compressed into a few minutes of all-out transformation? It’s montage time! Who cares if it’s become a bit of a narrative cliché, the montage lies at the heart of every great sports movie.

For something a bit different, however, dive into Lagaan – it’s a cricket montage featuring a 19th century drought-stricken village who all come together to demonstrate teamwork, wisdom and feeling (not to mention woodworking skills as they make their own cricket bats.)

The story revolves around a small village in Central India during the British Raj, who find themselves having to learn cricket when a British army officer challenges them to a game, as a wager to avoid paying the taxes they owe. The brilliant Indian-infused soundtrack (‘Chale Chalo’) is by legendary composer A.R. Rahman.

The Champ – ‘Death Scene’

‘Champ, wake up, Champ! Don’t go to sleep now. We got to go home.’ You want a sports movie that’ll leave you an utterly bereft, weepy mess? The Champ (1979) will do it.

John Voight plays Billy, a washed-up boxer (‘washed-up boxer’ movies are practically their own genre, right?) attempting to support his son (Ricky Schroder) and make up with his ex-wife (Faye Dunaway) by fighting again. Despite warnings that the fight could be fatal, Billy goes ahead – he wins, but has taken so many blows to the head that he then collapses and dies. Cue the emotional heartbreak as his son begs him to wake up.

The Champ had terrible reviews, but nine-year-old Schroder was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for ‘Best New Male Star of the Year in a Motion Picture’ and Voight was nominated for Best Actor (losing out to Dustin Hoffman in the similarly tear-drenched Kramer vs Kramer. Big year for tears, 1979.) Plus, Dave Grusin’s score was nominated for an Oscar.

Fun fact: this scene is deemed so reliably tear-jerking that it’s been used in psychological experiments to see if depressed people are more likely to cry than non-depressed people (they aren’t); whether people are more likely to spend money when they’re sad (they are) and if sadness affected what kind of music people listened to (after watching The Champ scene, the psychologists found that it didn’t affect whether people listened to sad or neutral music, but it did, unsurprisingly, make them avoid happy music – the disconnect is just too strong.)

The Fighter – ‘Workout’

One last montage sequence to close out our list of best sports movie scenes? Why not? Based on a true story, The Fighter was a particular passion project for Mark Wahlberg, who stars as boxer Micky Ward. He built a boxing ring in his home, and trained for eight to 10 hours a day, for four years, despite not knowing if the film was going to get made, as directors and co-stars came and went.

This montage shows underdog Micky starting over, stripped of his oppressive family. Jogging on an empty street in a grey hoodie? Check. Fancy skipping? Absolutely. A tonne of crunches and pull-ups? Naturally. However, it includes cutaways to his half-brother (Christian Bale), who is also a boxer, but whose physique has been wracked by drug addiction – it’s a stark contrast of the highs and lows of life as an athlete.

The choice of track also makes this scene stand apart from the usual boxing training montage – it’s not the kind of pumped-up, high bpm banger that most would choose to drive it along. Instead, music supervisors Happy Walters and Season Kent went for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ ‘Strip My Mind’.

So, you’ve cheered, you’ve been on the edge of your seat, you’ve shed a tear and you’re now set to do a three-month shred challenge. Or at least attempt a Couch to 5k. Looking for more expertise and inspiration on the film and TV front?

We have everything from the best sports ads to the world’s toughest film shoot. And if you need sports music for a project, then our catalogue has everything you could want. From sports anthems to tension-building countdowns, pounding taiko drums to epic hip hop, and plenty of energetic tracks, check out our dedicated playlists.

Need Music for Your Project?

At Audio Network we create original music, of the highest quality, for broadcasters, brands, creators, agencies and music fans everywhere. Through clear and simple licensing, we can offer you a huge variety of the best quality music across every conceivable mood and genre. Find out how we can connect you with the perfect collaborator today by clicking the button below!


RUSSIAN DOLL SOUNDTRACK & REVIEW

Russian Doll’s season two time-travelling plotline has a soundtrack to match. From Pink Floyd to Bizet, it expertly brings the plot and characters to life.


ASICS’ LATEST AD BREAKDOWN

'When we don’t move, our minds race’ – ASICS set out to prove the effects of exercise on mental health. Their Mind Race campaign is full of surprising stats.


MOOD SOUNDTRACK & REVIEW

Mood is BBC Three’s groundbreaking new drama. It’s a bold look at class, sex work, social media and the music industry – with a terrific soundtrack.


Updating... one moment please