The Oscars hasn't typically been kind to movies centered around sports unless a major societal trend is somehow wrapped up in it. However, every now and again, a sports movie can overcome the highbrow palettes and stiff upper lips of the critic community and end up as one of the most decorated films of the year it was released in.
Here are the 10 best sports films that have been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
10. The Blind Side (2009)
With "The Hurt Locker", "Avatar", and "District 9" all coming out this year, Michael Oher's life story didn't stand much of a chance at the Oscars. Still it's nice that the movie got nominated. Sandra Bullock portrayed Leigh Anne Tuohy, Oher's adoptive mother, as the pair work to help Oher earn a college scholarship through football and improving his grades. While several college coaches made cameos in this movie, we actually got to see Ed Orgeron acting AS HIMSELF recruiting on behalf of Ole Miss, and that's worth a Golden Globe at least.
9. Moneyball (2011)
The film adaptation had to stretch the truth a little bit as compared to the book and what happened in real life, but Billy Beane's cutting edge way in which he built the Oakland A's into a winner was still captured excellently by Brad Pitt. Moneyball lost to the Oscar-bait drama "The Artist," but even the non-sports fan would argue watching Scott Hatteberg crush dingers was much more entertaining than whatever was going on in The Artist.
8. Field of Dreams (1989)
This is an all-time classic. Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster were all too talented to combine their talents and produce anything less than a legendary film. Part moving midwestern melodrama and part requiem for the 1919 "Black Sox" Chicago White Sox team, "Field of Dreams" is as American a film as you could hope for, and the three Oscar nominations speak to the fact even critics couldn't deny how moving it was.
7. The Fighter (2010)
The life story of "Irish" Micky Ward, known for his three extremely entertaining fights with Arturo Gatti, might have lost out to "The King's Speech" in the best picture race, but Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale can take solace in the fact that they managed to pack an underdog sports story and a rags-to-riches tale into the same movie and had both plots move and touch us all. Whatever David O. Russell got paid for this, it wasn't enough.
6. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
It's hard to come up with a "best part" of Million Dollar Baby. Was it Hilary Swank's transformation over the course of the movie? Morgan Freeman dominating the screen whenever he's present? Clint Eastwood cooking up a directing masterclass? All of those could make this movie worth watching, but the combination of the three made for Oscars gold. To this day, the film's four Oscar wins are the most by any single sports film in history. Not a bad leap into an unfamiliar field for Eastwood.
5. Chariots of Fire (1981)
Or as many of you know it, the movie where that famous song comes from. The Best Picture winner in 1981, the film tells the story of a a devout Scottish Christian who runs in the name of God, a Jewish runner who has to overcome prejudice at every turn, and the relationship between the two. If you didn't get a warbly voice when watching this, you're lying, as this was one of the most moving pictures of the decade.
4. The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
If you can forgive how old this movie is, Gary Cooper's performance as Lou Gehrig is sure to tug at your heartstrings some 80 years later. With the legendary Babe Ruth himself making a cameo, "The Pride of the Yankees" is in that middle ground of not being strictly Yankees fan service without trying to get you to cry for two hours over Gehrig's passing. From top to bottom, this set the standard on how sports movies were to be made.
3. Rocky (1976)
This spawned many sequels to varying degrees of success (looking at you, Rocky V and the non-Mr. T parts of Rocky III), but the original is what made Sylvester Stallone a star. With Rocky personifying the tough everyman from Philadelphia who hangs with the best in the world, this was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon that's still being quoted ad nauseam by a devoted fanbase to this day.
2. The Hustler (1961)
Often imitates, never duplicated. Paul Newman's tale of a pool hall champ who travels across the country to take on the best in the world in a winner-take-all match was nominated for a whopping nine Oscars, winning two. While the hallmark of cinema that was "West Side Story" swept in and took a Best Picture win (among other categories) away from this film, this classic is certainly worth re-watching if you want to see some truly great cinema.
1. Raging Bull (1980)
The story of Jake LaMotta is full of so many twists and turns that it would take someone really incompetent to screw it up, but that gold mine of dramatic potential handed to Robert De Niro and Martin Scorcese at the very top of their games is a recipe for a movie that will stand the test of time. One of the most striking and memorable films of the decade, this is probably the greatest sports movie ever made from a critical perspective.