Top 10 Best Teen Sports Movies
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Top 10 Best Teen Sports Movies

VOICE OVER: Emily - WatchMojo WRITTEN BY: Timothy MacAusland
Teen sports movies make adolescent athletics look so professional. For this list, we'll be looking at the best sports films that feature teen athletes, be it a sports movie with a teen angle or vice versa. Our countdown includes “Bend It Like Beckham,” “Bring It On,” “Remember the Titans,” and more!
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Adolescent sports have never looked so professional. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Teen Sports Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the best sports films that feature teen athletes, be it a sports movie with a teen angle or vice versa. We won’t be splitting hairs too much with the ages of the teens in question, but the closer to high school age the better. However, flicks that clearly aren’t directed at teens or explicitly about college age or older people, like “Rudy,” will be excluded.

#10: “Stick It” (2006)


Come to think of it, there aren’t too many gymnastics movies out there, but if there were ever an argument for their production, it’s 2006’s “Stick It.” Following a former gymnastics superstar-turned-delinquent-turned-gymnastics hopeful, this sports comedy has all the spunk and attitude it needs to match its teenaged protagonist. It has a super charismatic ensemble, from its lead Missy Peregrym to grounded veteran actor Jeff Bridges, all of whom make the proceedings fun and endearing. Not only that, but it’s also bookended by some surprisingly profound themes, ones that state that true worth comes not from a group of strangers with scorecards, but from one’s self.

#9: “Whip It” (2009)


Following her Oscar-nominated turn in 2007’s “Juno,” Ellen Page was a hot commodity in terms of giving comedies a wryly quirky edge. Two years later, we were graced with her performance in “Whip It,” a coming-of-age film about a teenage misfit who balks at her mother pestering her to be a beauty queen and does ostensibly the exact opposite: roller derby. In addition to Page, the film boasts a magnetic supporting cast that includes Kristen Wiig, Juliette Lewis, Alia Shawkat, Ari Graynor, Marcia Gay Harden and Drew Barrymore, the latter of whom also made her directorial debut with the project. While Barrymore’s yet to follow up the feature, so long as her next is as funny and endearing as this one, we have no qualms.

#8: “Varsity Blues” (1999)


This isn’t going to be our last high school football movie - or even second-to-last - but “Varsity Blues” still has plenty to offer. It deals with the emotional turmoil of a team with a tyrannical coach who will do whatever it takes to win, even at the expense of the players’ health. This is a heavier watch than most on our list, as it delves into the vulnerable nature of pressured youth and the heedless community that seeks to exploit them. Predictable? Maybe, but it charges into its impactful themes with earnestness and a serious chip on its shoulder, leading to more than one memorable moment.

#7: “The Basketball Diaries” (1995)


Okay, now this has to be the heaviest sports movie, if not the heaviest teen movie. Based on a memoir of the same name, “The Basketball Diaries” follows a young Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jim Carroll, a talented high school basketball player whose dealings with his delinquent friends leads him to a life of crime and a heroin addiction. Needless to say, it’s not for the faint of heart, but it does serve as a potent cautionary tale against juvenile self-destruction and wasted potential. Alongside a captivating DiCaprio is Mark Wahlberg in one of his earliest roles, with the two exuding the kind of screen presence that would later define their careers.

#6: “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002)


Another film about a teenager who follows her athletic passions despite disapproving parents, “Bend It Like Beckham” was the surprise coming-of-age sensation back in 2002. It follows Jess, a British Indian Sikh who’s prohibited from playing football by her traditional family. Unbeknownst to them, she joins a local women’s club anyway and excels alongside her new friend Jules, played by Keira Knightley. Clever, witty and charming, the film perhaps most importantly finds a respectful bridge between familial traditions and individuality. Writer-director Gurinder Chadha was critically lauded for the project, which would earn a much deserved Golden Globe nomination for Best Film - Musical or Comedy.

#5: “Bring It On” (2000)


First we stuck it, then we whipped it, then we bended it, now we’re gonna bring it… on. Sorry, couldn’t help ourselves. Anyway, this teen comedy centers on Torrance, the newly appointed captain of a successful cheerleading squad who learns that all of their routines were plagiarized. Now tasked with tapping into their creativity, the team must carve out a new identity if they’re to compete. Starring Kirsten Dunst in a fan-favorite role, “Bring It On” has all the appropriate levels of spirit to make it an eminently rewatchable cult classic, one whose success was profound enough to spawn an equally enjoyable direct-to-video franchise.

#4: “Hoosiers” (1986)


“Hoosiers” is essentially the teen sports movie against which all others are checked. Loosely based on a true story, it centers on the small town of Hickory, Indiana, whose 1951 high school basketball season is thrown into upheaval upon the hiring of a strict new coach, played to perfection by Gene Hackman. Nowadays, the story is fairly formulaic, chronicling a David versus Goliath showdown that sees the Hickory Huskers make a run at the state championship. However, the end result is so believable and exciting that it makes you realize why the clichés worked to begin with, and how big small-town dreams can really be.

#3: “Remember the Titans” (2000)


It might seem out of character for Disney to produce a racially-charged biographical football drama starring Denzel Washington, but that is exactly what happened in 2000 with “Remember the Titans.” Set in 1971, the film follows the factual Herman Boone who is hired to coach a newly integrated football team in Alexandria, Virginia. Tensions are high, and prejudices must be overcome in order to form a bona fide team and community. The approach is familiar, but the formula has rarely been put to such good use as it is here. Not once does the film come off as false, and it manages to hit the right emotional beats scene after scene. Remember the Titans? As if we could forget.

#2: “The Karate Kid” (1984)


An argument could be made that karate is more of a martial art than a sport per se, but seeing as 1984’s “The Karate Kid” culminates in a competitive tournament, we’re giving it the go-ahead for inclusion. Its enduring legacy means more likely than not, you’re already familiar with the story, but there’s something about the interpersonal relationship between bullied teen Daniel LaRusso and his aged karate master Mr. Miyagi that resonates every time we see it. Sure, its zero-to-hero arc is predictable, but that doesn’t stop the training montages and subsequent fight choreography from being thoroughly compelling. Between this and 1976’s “Rocky,” director John G. Avildsen really put his stamp on the sports genre as a whole.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Breaking Away” (1973)
Oscar-winning feel good flick

“Love & Basketball” (2000)
Inspiring Story of Professional & Personal Fulfillment

“He Got Game” (1998)
Strong Performances & Honest Human Connection

“Finding Forrester” (2000)
Realistic & Good Cast Chemistry

“Blue Crush” (2002)
Exciting Surfing Action

#1: “Friday Night Lights” (2004)


Based on a true story vis-a-vis a non-fiction book of the same name, “Friday Night Lights” depicts the football-obsessed milieu known as Odessa, Texas, and the high school varsity team upon which its hopes ride. Starring Billy Bob Thornton and a superb younger cast, the film shines a harsh yet respectful light on the kind of strains and pressures that are placed upon the team. The film is directed by Peter Berg, who’d later be known for similarly taut factual dramas, and the same filmmaking prowess is exercised here. While not a commercial sensation, it was critically acclaimed and served as the inspiration for a “Friday Night Lights” TV show that spanned five seasons.
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