Few things are quite as inspiring as sports. Perhaps it's due to the emphasis that we as a culture put on sports, or perhaps because of their fleeting, finite nature based on winning and losing, or possibly because of something we can't define, but sports have always captured our attention.
Sports can be so dramatic and inspiring that it often seems that what’s playing out in real life is actually a scene from a movie.
Therefore, it should not come as much of a surprise that some of the most inspirational moments in the film come from movies based on sports. We all have our favorites, but there are a few that appeal to pretty much everyone, even those who don't care all that much about sports.
To help you get the most out of sports movies, and also to bring some inspiration into your life, here are some of the most inspiring moments from sports movies and TV shows.
Released in 2009 and based on the book of the same name by author Michael Lewis, The Blind Side is a story of a young man who grows up in poverty and who finds his escape through football.
However, while the story is about football, it’s also a major homage to the role of the family in our lives.
The main character, Michael Oher, played by Quinton Aaron, is adopted by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. After his school and many of the other people in his life had given up on him, his adoptive parents encourage him to continue to pursue his passion for football, and through the sport, Oher can find his path and eventually break free from the difficult circumstances of his upbringing.
The entire film, which deals with many complicated themes including poverty and adoption, is rather inspirational. But the crowning moment comes when Oher is forced to make choices between football and family. His adoptive mother, Leeann, played by Sandra Bullock, reminds him of what's most important, and his realization not only brings him back to his family but motivates him to continue working towards his football goals.
Eventually, Oher makes it to the pros. But in doing so, he never forgets his roots. It's a story of both personal triumphs and also a reminder of how we can never drift too far from where we came from.
Another football movie, Any Given Sunday, which was first released in 1999 and stars Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Fox, James Woods, and LL Cool J, among others, is a classic amongst all sports movies.
The movie centers around the fictional professional American football team the Miami Sharks, a once successful franchise that is struggling to make the playoffs in the year 2001.
The main character, Anthony D'Amato, played by Pacino, is the longtime head coach of the Sharks, and although he had been successful throughout much of his career, his team is no longer what it once was
The inspirational moment of this film comes towards the end when the Sharks while losing at halftime, need a pep talk from their coach.
Pacino delivers what is now known as the "game of inches" speech. He makes the point that football, like life, is a game of inches. It is won not by the big things that we achieve or accomplish but rather by the small efforts that we put in over time.
This message ultimately has its effect on the players and the team goes on to make the playoffs, although they do not win the championship. But the speech, which has been repeated over and over again in numerous different settings, has gone down as one of the most inspirational moments in all of film, let alone sports films.
For those who have never seen the movie Miracle, it is based on the 1980 US men's ice hockey team. At the time, this squad, which was made up of amateur hockey players (the Olympics did not allow professionals at the time), went up against the mighty Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
This situation alone makes for some good drama and inspiration. But the fact that the team was able to rally against all odds to defeat the Soviet Union, at a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were politically at odds with one another, makes for even more drama.
It's difficult to choose the most inspirational moment from this film, but the two that stand out are the speech the coach Herb Brooks, played by Kurt Russell, gives to his team before the semifinal match against the Soviet Union.
Another contender is in the final moments of the film when the American team emerges victorious. The film cuts to the original footage from 1980, and it invokes not only the joy of victory in sports but also a sense of nationalism and pride, which is enough to bring even the most casual viewer to tears.
Considering the premise of this film, which is based on the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people from Marshall University, including most of their football team, it's hard to see it as inspirational.
However, the plot, which focuses on head coach Jack Lengyel, played by Matthew McConaughey, as he tries to rally his team and his school to continue with their season after such tragedy is enough to stir any heart.
The pinnacle inspirational moment of this film comes towards the beginning. In one of the first scenes after the tragedy, McConnaughhey gathers his new football team at the cemetery where members of the old football team, those who had died in the crash, are buried.
In his speech, he makes it clear to his team that what happens on the field during the season does not matter. In the end, he says, they cannot be beaten, for the true challenge is overcoming this tremendous tragedy and learning to play with heart and honor it's a poignant reminder of that. There are more ways to win in sports than finishing the game with more points than the other team.
Originally a book, and then also later a television show, Friday Night Lights was first released in 2004 and was headlined by Billy Bob Thorton. He plays the head coach of the Permian High School football team, Gary Gaines, which is located in the town of Odessa, Texas.
Throughout the film, Permian is the best team in the league, as they historically are. They are on their way to an undefeated season, and many of their best players are destined for college and perhaps the pros. However, early in the season, their best player, Boobie Miles, tears his ACL and puts the entire season in jeopardy.
It then becomes the coach's job to keep the rest of his team focused, while also protecting his star player from going down a path that far too many injured athletes have followed: depression, anger, loss of focus, reckless behavior, and so on.
Eventually, Gaines manages to convince his team that perfection can be achieved in ways other than winning every football game that season. His speech leading into the playoffs makes this clear to his players and also asked the audience to check their own values.
Friday Night Lights is unique, however, in that both the movie and the television show are full of inspirational moments. However, since the TV show lasted so long (it went on for nearly five seasons), it's impossible to choose just one inspirational moment. Instead, the entire show is inspirational and is worth checking out if you enjoyed the movie and/or the book.
Known as perhaps one of the best sports movies of all time, Hoosiers, which stars Jean Hackman as Norman Dale, the head coach of Milan High School in rural Indiana, Hoosiers is a classic underdog story. But it’s also a good reminder of why it's always important to work as a team.
The plot of the movie is driven by the tension between Dale's coaching tactics and the desires of the town. As an avid basketball town, people want to win. And before Dale became the coach, they did this by riding the individual talents of a few players. However, Dale takes a different approach and promotes teamwork above everything else.
In the beginning, he faces lots of pushback for this approach. But once the team starts winning, people become more accepting. But despite his success, his team remains an underdog throughout their entire season and going into the 1952 state tournament.
The most inspirational moment comes before this game, and then later at halftime when Dale reminds his players of everything that they had managed to do up until that point, and also points out to them that there are more things to life than winning.
Of course, Milan goes on to win the 1952 state championship on a last-second shot made by their star player. But even if they hadn't one, the speech is enough to get you thinking and to stir up your emotions.
Another quintessential underdog story, Rocky, which stars Sylvester Stallone and was first released in 1976, has plenty of inspiration behind it.
First off, Rocky is never supposed to win. He's given a chance to fight the best boxer at the time, Apollo Creed, but only so that gangsters and other unsavory characters can benefit by betting on him to lose.
However, despite facing serious consequences for trying to win, Rocky takes it upon himself to train and prepare himself for victory. In the fight, he does not win but instead "goes the distance." He takes the fight to 13 rounds, which no one expected him to do, and although the decision was given to Creed, Rocky’s fight was a victory for all.
This climactic moment is inspirational in its own right, but perhaps the most inspirational moment from this film comes from Rocky's classic training scene. This involves him running to the streets of Philadelphia and climbing the stairs of the city’s iconic art museum. Once there, he triumphantly raises his arms over the city and enshrines himself in sports movie history forever.
Did you know that Jamaica has a bobsled team? If you’ve seen the movie Cool Runnings, then perhaps you did. But if you haven't, it's normal to be surprised that an island nation in the Caribbean can compete in bobsled, a sport practiced in cold-weather climates.
This premise alone is inspiring: the team that, on the surface, has no business being in the winter Olympics, not only makes it but gives itself a chance to win a medal.
The big moment comes toward the end when various members of the bobsled team are doubting whether or not they have what it takes to compete. After hearing the critics say that they could never succeed, some members of the bobsled team lose faith. But others do not and managed to rally their teammates to "have courage."
Although the bobsled team ultimately doesn't win the gold medal, their drive and perseverance are inspiring and reminds us all that we must always keep moving forward and challenging ourselves, no matter how hard it seems to be.
Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!
This chant, which comes from the movie Rudy, is yelled whenever someone is looking for a little motivation. It should come as no shocker then that this film makes it onto this list of the most inspiring moments in sports film and television.
For those who don't know, Rudy is the story of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, an Indiana native who always dreamed of playing for Notre Dame football, but who never really had the chance.
However, after his friend is killed in an explosion, Rudy realizes that life is short and that he must follow his dreams. So, he works to make himself academically eligible for Notre Dame University, and then practices and practices and practices until he is invited to join the football team. However, throughout most of his career as a player on the team, Rudy does not play. He doesn’t even “suit up,” meaning he’s not active on game day and has no chance of playing.
However, he convinces his coach to let him suit up for one game in his senior year. But even though Rudy dresses for the game, the coach still doesn't intend to play him, even when he puts all of the seniors in towards the end of a game they are leading 17 – 3.
People in the stands notice this and begin chanting: "Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!"
The coach succumbs to this pressure and puts Rudy in and he goes on to sack the quarterback. The stadium goes crazy. A boy's childhood dream has come true. The entire story is inspirational from beginning to end, but when Rudy makes it onto the field, it's hard not to break out in tears.
For anyone who used to play baseball with their friends in the park or anywhere else, Sandlot is a truly wonderful film. Not only is it hilarious, making use of jokes that kids around the country have loved for decades, but it's also a story of doing the right thing and also not judging a book by its cover.
The movie focuses on Scott Smalls, who moves to Los Angeles with his parents in the summer of 1962 and struggles to make friends. Eventually, he meets a group of boys who get together to play baseball at the "sandlot" every day.
Trying to fit in, he donates one of his stepfather's baseballs when the boys run out of balls to use in their game. Unbeknownst to him, that ball was signed by Babe Ruth and many other famous Yankees.
When one of the boys eventually hits this ball out of the sandlot, it seems that all hope is lost. But the boys, who initially dismissed Smalls as "not cool" rally behind him and help him recover the ball.
When Smalls' new best friend, Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez manages to retrieve the ball, it's not only a moment of triumph but also friendship, for Benny had to risk a great deal to return this ball, and he would only do such a thing for a friend.
For a fun, heartwarming, and inspirational film about playing baseball as a kid, look no further than The Sandlot.
An often-overlooked film when discussing the best sports movies of all time, The Rookie, which was released in 2002 and stars Dennis Quaid, is full of inspiration.
Based on the true story of Jim Morris, who entered major league baseball as a 35-year-old, The Rookie reminds us that we should never give up on our dreams.
Morris, who is coaching high school when he all of a sudden discovers that an injury that had prevented him from pitching for most of his life has healed and now allows him to throw like he once did, decides to quit his teaching job and see if you can make in the pros.
Of course, at his age, no one gives him a chance. But his son, as well as his wife, encourages him to keep trying, and he eventually is given his chance to pitch in the major leagues. His entire team, and many other people from his town, travel to see him play, and when he takes the mound, he breaks into tears. At this point, if you are not crying too, then we're not sure what to say.
Another film where inspirational moments can be found, Remember the Titans possesses some of the most memorable moments in all of sports movies.
Originally released in 2000 and starring Denzel Washington, the movie follows the story of coach Herman Boone and the Alexandria City High School football team based out of Alexandria, Virginia. He takes the helm the same year that the school has decided to integrate Black and white students.
Since Virginia had been racially segregated since the Civil War, this was a major upheaval to "the way things were." Many white players refused to play with black players, and vice versa. But Boone must find a way to get the players to look past their racial differences and come together as one.
He does this by bringing them to Gettysburg College for summer training camp. There, he forces Black and white players to interact with one another and get to know each other. Later, he awakens the team before dawn and leads them on a run to a cemetery where soldiers who died at the Battle of Gettysburg were buried. He then gives a speech that reminds players that if they do not find a way to come together then they too will be destroyed.
Eventually, the team does come together and has a near-perfect season. However, while the team may have managed to resolve its racial differences, the town in which they play continues to struggle. Yet the football team remains a beacon of hope and inspiration, and it also serves as a poignant reminder about the importance of coming together as one and respecting and loving our common humanity.
The last movie to make it onto this list is Field of Dreams, which stars Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones and was released in 1989.
The plot of this film centers around Costner's character, Ray Kinsella, who owns a corn farm in Iowa. The farm is not doing well and the family is struggling to make mortgage payments. But Kinsella hears a voice while walking through his cornfield that says "if you build it, he will come," and this completely changes his life.
The "he" in this sentence, we find out later, is Kinsella's father, though he does not know this at the time. Throughout the film, Kinsella pursues this vision despite resistance from his friends and family (they all think he’s crazy). He is eventually redeemed when the baseball field he builds in his cornfield attracts the ghosts of old baseball players as well as his father.
However, perhaps the most inspirational moment comes at the end, when the camera zooms out and shows a long line of cars driving up to the Kinsella farm ready to pay an admission fee to watch these all baseball players. This effectively solves the financial problems the family had been facing. So, while this is a good baseball story, it’s also a reminder that believing in our dreams is never too crazy, and that if we stay true to them, only good things can come.
As you can see, when it comes to sports films and television shows, there is no shortage of inspiration.
Whether it's football, baseball, boxing, or bobsledding, there's always an inspiring story to be found, and Hollywood will always find a way to tell it.
So, if you're feeling a bit down, put on one of these films sink into the story, and when the crowning inspirational moment comes, soak it up for all its glory and use it to propel you forward in life.