Sports Movies on Netflix: What to Watch After King Richard
We all love a great sports movie. Even moviegoers that don’t perchance “love” sports (who even are these people?!) can get down with a good sports movie.
This year’s sports movie hit, King Richard, was released in November, documenting not only Serena and Venus Williams’ long roads to stardom — but primarily the role their father, Richard Williams, played in getting them to the pros.
If you’ve already seen (and loved) King Richard, we’ve got a few sports movies on Netflix that will keep that inspirational fire lit inside you like an eternal flame.
Who is King Richard?
Partially based on the 2013 memoir, Black and White: The Way I See It, King Richard is the story of Richard Williams, father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams — and how he built his daughters’ careers, taking them from the tennis courts in Compton to the junior tournament circuit.
Along the way, he comes up against gang leaders that threaten his daughters, nosy neighbors threatening to call child protective services, and prioritizing his daughters’ education over tennis.
The movie is full of motivational catch-phrases, real-life drama, and a tear-jerking performance by Will Smith. In short, it’s everything a great sports movie should be.
King Richard is in theaters and available to stream on HBOMax.
What makes a great sports movie?
There are so many great sports movies out there in every genre, it’s almost easier to reframe the question, what makes a “bad” sports movie? But we’re not here to label any movie in the sports genre “bad”.
Since King Richard is a feel-good dramatic movie about triumph against all odds, we decided to focus our list on movies that do the same.
We also included movies that aren’t necessarily “feel-good” (Athlete A is definitely not a light-hearted movie, but this movie does enlighten us to just how brave and strong the U.S. Gymnastics Team truly is).
Ultimately, a great sports movie is one that touches something within us, even those of us — or perhaps especially those of us — who are not athletes.
It asks for us to do better in our own lives and reminds us that while physical strength is important, 80% of stamina and strength in sports lies within the recesses of our minds.
And possibly, most importantly, it asks us to reframe our preconceived notions on what strength truly is. Is strength an unbending force of will to compete at the highest levels imaginable? Or is it looking down the barrel of competition, feeling the fear, and choosing to explore those emotions rather than stuff them aside?
Sports Movies on Netflix
King Richard is only the latest sports movie to win over the hearts of Americans with its uplifting slogans, underdog plotline, and emotional scenes.
Or course, there are plenty of other sports movies out there that rival King Richard in both heart and grit. Now that streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and more have launched onto the scene, it seems as if there’s no shortage of inspiring sports movies and limited series to keep us occupied.
While many of these movies are feature-length films, we’ve also included several documentaries and limited series that are sure to inspire you.
Last Dance has been lauded as a sports movie that even non-sports enthusiasts will love.
Not only is it a movie about possibly the greatest basketball player of all time, but it’s a story about what it takes to become the “greatest” of anything. (Spoiler: it sometimes takes pure insanity and a complete lack of interest in anything other than that thing you’re striving to achieve.)
This approximately 10-hour binge fest (the limited series documentary is 10 episodes long, and the runtime of each episode is approximately 50 minutes) trails Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls' 1997-98 season.
There’s a lot of dunking, plenty of celebrity commentary, and fodder for potential memes.
This 2016 sports movie focuses on real-life American football player Brandon Burlsworth, who died in a car crash only 11 days after he was drafted by the NFL.
While Brandon became a national inspiration, his road to the NFL didn’t come easy. After losing out on a scholarship from the University of Arkansas, he hopes to join the team as a walk-on lineman.
The coach and other players all believe Brandon is too small to play offense and disregard him. After much training, hard work, and perseverance, Brandon makes the team.
This Netflix documentary focuses on the life of NBA player Stephon Marbury.
Marbury went from plucky Coney Island player to rising star to American professional basketball coach. He was also the subject of Spike Lee’s He Got Game.
But Marbury wasn’t America’s basketball golden boy for the entirety of his career. His NBA career ended with the press labeling him as not being a team player, and the pressure and stress led to personal problems for Marbury.
It wasn’t until Marbury went to Beijing that he finally got the positive press and adoration he deserved from fans.
Another documentary, Athlete A is the story of the gymnasts who survived sexual abuse at the hands of the U.S. USA Gymnastics team physician, Larry Nassar.
From the crimes committed by Nassar to the Indianapolis Star investigative journalists who broke the story to the official investigation and eventually to Nassar’s trial, Athlete A documents the scandal that exposed the level of abuse in women’s professional sports.
Like many of the best sports movies of the 21st century, High Flying Bird isn’t as much about sports as it is about the human relationships behind the sport itself.
This Steven Soderberg film was shot on an iPhone and documents the events of a player lockout. This fictional movie follows down-on-his-luck sports agent Ray Burke whose livelihood is threatened by the lockout. He concocts a crazy plan that could possibly save his rookie client, his firm, and his future.
Undefeated is a 2011 documentary about an underdog high school football team that is turned around by their coach and attempts a winning season.
It’s like Ted Lasso. If Ted Lasso took place in the South. And it was about football instead of soccer, it’s football. And the team had never won a playoff before… OK, it’s really not like Ted Lasso at all.
Million Dollar Baby is an oldie (ish) but a goodie.
This 2004 Clint Eastwood drama follows Maggie Fitzgerald, an underdog boxer, who is trained by Frankie Dunn (played by Eastwood) and makes her way up the ranks of women’s amateur boxing.
This film is really more about the relationship between Maggie and her trainer and the family they forge in each other.
While we won’t go into too much detail (in case you haven’t seen it or heard the ending yet), but this one is a real tear-jerker. You’ve been warned.
Sports Movies on Other Platforms
Yes, sometimes it feels as though Netflix is the only streaming platform out there.
What was life even like before Netflix jettisoned into our living rooms with the promise of (first) unlimited DVD rentals and ultimately unlimited streaming?
If you love sports movies and want to take a break from your regularly scheduled Netflix-and-binge programming, don’t forget about these other cult favorite sports movies.
While Rocky isn’t available on Netflix, it’s most certainly one of the best sports movies of all time.
There are currently nine Rocky movies in total, but the original is still simply the best. Not only has the film franchise inspired millions, but the music and setting are so tightly knit with the films, they’re now considered part of the fabric of the Rocky franchise.
There’s no way to listen to the song “Eye of the Tiger” without thinking about Rocky Balboa. Who runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art without pretending they’re Rocky?
Everyone loves to learn about heroes — but we also love getting in the mind of the quote-un-quote bad guys, too. It’s why we loved Breaking Bad, Joker, Dexter, and more.
The question, “What makes us do the unthinkable?” lies on the opposite side of the same coin that asks the question, “What makes us succeed against all odd?”
I, Tonya is the (mostly) true story of Tonya Harding and her descent into becoming the antagonist of an attack against her skating rival (and America’s sweetheart) Nancy Kerrigan.
While Harding’s previous claim to fame was becoming the first American woman to complete a triple axel during a competition, her victory was overshadowed by her involvement in the attack against Kerrigan.
Blades of Glory, Baseketball, Dodgeball, Talladega Nights, and More
We really couldn’t create a list of the best sports movies and forget to include some of the sports movie spoofs or comedies out there, too.
While these movies make us laugh more than they inspire us, they’re still feel-good movies that remind us why we love sports in the first place.
They make us ask important questions like, “Why is Will Farell so flippin’ funny?” Or, “Why are bromances so dang heartwarming?”
What are your favorite sports movies on Netflix?