All sports movies are a lot of fun, but you can find my favorite kind in the underdog category — a lovable protagonist or team defying all odds to bag an incredible win. The beauty of underdog sports movies is that they tell stories of regular people with extraordinary resilience, and it’s impossible to remain unstirred. Even if you aren’t an athlete, these characters and their lives can remind you to believe in yourself. And we all need that reminder from time to time.
So, in the spirit of self-confidence, here’s a list of underdog sports movies that make me feel like I can take on the world. In my opinion, these are the classics that never get old.
Bend it Like Beckham
Jess and Jules bring the fire (source: screendaily.com)
We begin with a 2002 slumber party staple. It has friendship, romance, and a fantastic underdog storyline for feel-good movie sessions at 1 AM. Make a bowl of popcorn and meet Jess Bhamra, an 18-year-old Indian living in suburban London. Jess is a huge David Beckham fan and has a passion for football, but her conservative family disapproves of her playing. Over the course of the movie, she secretly joins the local women’s football team, explores her own identity and talents, and builds the courage to follow a seemingly impossible dream. Bend it Like Beckham is all sorts of inspiring, and not just for sports enthusiasts.
Million Dollar Baby
Frankie has Maggie’s back (source: altfg.com)
This 2004 movie follows Maggie Fitzgerald’s journey with boxing. The protagonist arrives at a run-down LA gym ready to be a boxer, much to the surprise and slight annoyance of trainer, Frankie Dunn. Eventually, out of respect for her determination, he starts training Maggie, and together they reach impressive heights. If you haven’t seen the movie, fair warning — this is when you get the tissues. Million Dollar Baby ends on a poignant note, after a stunning portrayal of finding family, love, and success in the most unexpected places. It reminds us that dreams cannot wait for tomorrow.
The Longest Yard
The Crewe Crew come together (source: empireonline.com)
The Longest Yard is about Paul Crewe — a washed-up quarterback, in prison for an incident involving a high-speed car chase and a nasty crash. While serving time, Paul gets dragged into a political battle when a candidate pits his team of prison guards against the inmates on the football field. Paul is coerced into standing as captain of the inmates and later, into throwing the game for the candidate’s political gain. On match day though, he comes through for his teammates and leads them to an honest win, even at great personal risk. This movie manages to be heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time.
Ford v Ferrari
Carroll Shelby stands by Ken Miles (source: franceinter.fr)
You don’t need to be an F1 fan to enjoy this iconic 2019 movie. Based on a true story, the plot takes off with a cold war between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari — one that travels all the way to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. Ford partners with automobile giant, Carroll Shelby, who puts British racer Ken Miles in the driver’s seat. The events that ensue lead to underdog Ken breaking records at Le Mans, defeating the Ferrari frontrunner, and giving Ford their historic three-car finish — months before the hero’s untimely death. Ford v Ferrari is not just a must-watch, it’s a must-watch-again-and-again.
Now that I’ve shared my list with you, it’s time to grab snacks and have an underdog sports movie marathon. These stories are sure to get you moving on the dreams you have hidden away in notebooks and folders — or in my case, post-it notes inside a cupboard. So, what’s stopping you? Go ahead and hit play.