What Are The Best Sports Films Since 1985?

What Are The Best Sports Films Since 1985?

Earlier this month, Michael B. Jordan's "Creed III" posted the biggest-ever box office debut for a sports movie with a smooth $58.7 million domestically, proving that not only is the appetite for the "Rocky" franchise alive and well, but so is the market for sports films in general. 

At EmpireStakes.com, where we get most of our reps related to New York sports betting, we decided to take a look at the best sports films released since 1985. 

Why the '85 cutoff? Films released prior to that year were excluded since box office figures could not be adjusted for inflation, so apologies to "Chariots of Fire," "Slap Shot," "Caddyshack" and other classics. You won't find them here. 

While the list is certain to drive debate, do understand how we came up with our system. We took the sports films with the 40 highest grossing opening weekends since 1985 (with the exception of battle royale and e-sports films) and created a points system based on Box Office performance, Rotten Tomatoes ratings and Oscars recognition, and ranked them accordingly. 

So with our sincerest condolences to "Bull Durham," "Rudy," "Any Given Sunday" and "Hoosiers," below are the best sports films since 1985.

Remember, it's not just sports films here at EmpireStakes. We're also home to the best NY sportsbook promos.

Best Sports Films Since 1985

RankFilmYearSportScore w/o Oscar BonusTotal
1Gladiator2000Gladiatorial combat93178
2Casino Royale2006Poker116116
5Seabiscuit2003Horse Raciing69104
6Jerry Maguire1996American Football72102
7Cinderella Man2005Boxing7994
8The Blind Side2009American Football7792
10Remember the Titans2000American Football8383
11Friday Night Lights2004American Football8282
12Miracle2004Ice Hockey7979
13Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby2006Racing7878
14Real Steel2011Boxing7176
15Cars 32017Racing7474

Are You Not Entertained?

Surprised to see "Gladiator" come in at No. 1? Frankly, we were too, until we remembered what a juggernaut Ridley Scott's 2000 film was at the Academy Awards. The film not only took home Best Picture, but got Russell Crowe his first Best Actor award. The film also won for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, and Best Costume Design. 

Have an issue with this ranking? Well, if you don't consider gladiators as athletes, we'd like to see you take on a tiger in the arena like Maximus Meridius.

Shaken, Not Stirred

In at No. 2 is the 2006 James Bond film "Casino Royale," credited not only for rebooting the 007 franchise with a young Daniel Craig but also for depicting one of the wildest (and longest) poker games on film. 

Craig's 007 about halfway through the film takes on Mads Mikkelsen's villian Le Chiffre at a Texas hold 'em tournament in Montenegro. Bond's CIA pal Felix Leiter also gets in on the action, and several killings and a poisoned martini follow.

While the poker sequence lets audiences get a peek at Bond's competitive nature, it was far from the first time we saw 007 enter a state of play. He famously took on Auric Goldfinger in a golf match back in 1964. 

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Rounding Out The Top 5

At No. 3 is the first "Creed" film from 2015, which introduced Michael B. Jordan's popular character but also brought back the one and only Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. We're still not over Stallone losing Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars to Alan Arkin for ... "Little Miss Sunshine." 

No. 4 was Pixar's 2006 film "Cars," which grossed $462 million at the box office. Even if this racing film wasn't for you, it's clear why they went ahead with two sequels. 

No. 5 also made a serious sprint to the Academy Awards, but came up a little short compared to "Gladiator." That would be 2003's "Seabiscuit," the inspiring tale of the overlooked Thoroughbred race horse based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand. The film received 7 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. If only it hadn't run into "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King."

Best of the Rest

The rest of the top 15 hits to all bases if you will. 

There's Russell Crowe popping up again at No. 7 for the boxing drama "Cinderella Man," but no love for his early hockey comedy "Mystery, Alaska." 

Football clearly connects with American audiences (shocker), with "The Blind Side," "Jerry Maguire," "Remember The Titans" and "Friday Night Lights" all represented. 

2013's "42" is the only baseball film on the list, a shocking upset over 2011's "Moneyball." ... Not so much over 2012's "Trouble With The Curve." 

Hockey cracked the top 15 with the well-regarded "Miracle" from 2004, in which Kurt Russell garnered some of the best reviews of his career as Herb Brooks. 

And finally, Will Ferrell made the list not for the 2008 cult classic "Semi Pro," but rather the racing comedy "Talladega Nights." But as Ricky Bobby says, if you ain't first, you're last.

We hope you enjoyed this list, even if your personal favorite was left out. Keep it here at EmpireStakes for more content like this, plus everything related to NY betting apps.

Must be 21+ to participate & present in NY. Gambling problem? Call (877-8-HOPENY) or text HOPENY (467369). Visit BetMGM.com for Terms & Conditions. US promotional offers not available in NY, NV, or Puerto Rico.


Thomas Leary is a news editor and writer for EmpireStakes.com. He previously worked at Sports Business Journal for over 6 years, where he helped identify emerging sectors across sports business, such as legalized gambling, and helped launch the publicationā€™s digital newsletter division.

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