The List: Ranking heartwarming, based-on-a-true-story sports movies

Joel Oliphint

In honor of the Blue Jackets' season getting underway, we thought we'd rank heartwarming sports movies (from worst to best) that took their scripts from real-life events. We're going for feel-good Disney or Disney-esque titles here, and it has to be at least based on a true story (sorry, “Rocky” fans).

“Cool Runnings”

This one is supposed to be based on the 1988 Olympic debut of the Jamaican bobsled team, but the creative liberties taken are so far off from reality that this one really should have been labeled a work of fiction. Extra demerits for the cringe-worthy stereotypes of Jamaican culture.

“The Blind Side”

Sandra Bullock is great, but there's more than a hint of a white savior narrative in this story about future NFL first-round draft pick Michael Oher.

“Friday Night Lights”

The TV series is better (as long as we pretend the second season never happened), but the film version is based on an actual season of high school football in Odessa, Texas. It's a good movie, albeit more heartbreaking than heartwarming.

“Remember the Titans”

The story of integration on this Virginia high school football team in 1971 is certainly inspiring, but on a recent re-watch, the player caricatures and on-the-nose resolutions for racism (dancing and singing soul music together is maybe not a magic salve) fall flat. Still, Denzel delivers, as he always does.

“The Rookie”

No, not “Rookie of the Year.” This one stars Dennis Quaid as Jimmy Morris, who promises the high school baseball team he coaches that if they win the championship, he'll go to a major league tryout. I won't give more away, but it's on this list, so...


The story of a 30-year-old bartender (Mark Wahlberg as Vince Papale) from South Philly making it onto the Eagles is just irresistible.

“We are Marshall”

Unspeakable tragedy — the death of 75 Marshall University football players and staff — leads to an inspiring uphill battle to field a new Marshall football team.

“Glory Road”

This one is underrated and overlooked, probably because it lacks star power. Josh Lucas plays Texas Western College Coach Don Haskins, who led the NCAA's first all-black starting lineup to the national championship in 1966.

“Chariots of Fire”

Who would have thought a couple of British runners would make for such compelling cinema?


This is probably the least Disney-esque on this list, but Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson is a must-see.


The real-life connection is looser than most, but there really was a Milan High School basketball team that won the 1954 state championship in Indiana. Plus, Gene Hackman.


For some reason I really relate to this undersized kid who doesn't like to lose. (“Ru-dy! Ru-dy! Ru-dy!”)


It's hockey season, after all, and has a 1980 U.S.-Russia Olympic matchup ever felt more relevant?