From the mind of Oscar winner Taika Waititi comes the next crowd-pleasing sports film, Next Goal Wins. Directed by Waititi from a screenplay he co-wrote with Iain Morris, Next Goal Wins stars The Killer‘s Michael Fassbender as Thomas Rongen, a hapless Dutch-American soccer coach hired to coach the American Samoa National team ahead of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Considered the worst team in the world, American Samoa had never come close to qualifying for the World Cup. With Rongen at the helm, American Samoa rises from the ashes to become a respectable team.
Next Goal Wins follows the proven sports movie formula: an underdog’s rise to greatness. No one wants to root for the runaway winner. It’s more fun to watch players go from zeroes to heroes. With that in mind, consider watching these five sports movies like Next Goal Wins.
The ultimate underdog story is told through the eyes of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa in Rocky. Written by Stallone in three and a half days, Rocky follows Stallone’s Rocky, a small-time working-class boxer in Philadelphia who works as a collector for a loan shark. Rocky is given the chance of a lifetime when he’s selected to fight the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), on New Year’s Day.
After some convincing, Rocky agrees to fight Apollo and picks the hard-nosed Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith) as his trainer. From punching beef bags to chasing chickens, Rocky’s unorthodox training methods pay huge dividends against Creed, who is used to fighting someone professionally trained. The best Rocky movie is the first one, and its inspiring message and motivational story catapulted the film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. Plus, it created the modern sports movie template that countless films would copy in the years following its release.
Watch Rocky on Max.
Like the athletes in Next Goal Wins, the hockey players in The Mighty Ducks lacked discipline, motivation, and proper training. The Ducks needed a coach to whip them into shape and turn their losing woes around. Enter Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez), a former Pee-Wee hockey star in the 1970s working as a hotshot lawyer in Minneapolis. After being arrested for drunk driving, Bombay is sentenced to hundreds of hours of community service by coaching the District 5 Pee-Wee hockey team.
To say District 5 was bad would be an understatement. The team lacks the skills and proper equipment to compete with the best teams in the league. At first, Bombay wants nothing to do with the team. As he spends more time with the kids, Bombay falls in love with hockey again and builds a championship team with a new name, the Ducks. You’ll be quacking with Bombay at Mr. Ducksworth in no time.
Watch The Mighty Ducks on Disney+.
Nobody was born to play a cocky quarterback more than Burt Reynolds. The legendary actor, who died in 2018 at age 82, was at the beginning of his run of becoming the biggest movie star in the world when he starred in The Longest Yard as Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, a disgraced star quarterback sentenced to 18 months in prison after he attacked two police officers. While incarcerated, Crewe is approached by the prison’s warden, Rudolph Hazen (Eddie Albert), to captain a football team of inmates against his semi-pro team consisting of the prison’s guards.
Crewe reluctantly agrees and forms the “Mean Machine.” During the game, the inmates and the guards use the game to hurt and punish each other. The guards are not even Crewe’s biggest problem, as he faces an offer from the warden that could change his life. The Longest Yard was remade in 2005, and it’s solid. However, nothing beats the original, so watch the 1974 version first.
Basketball is played throughout the United States, but in the state of Indiana, the game is a lifestyle. In the tiny town of Hickory, Indiana, basketball is the most important thing. Set in 1951, Hoosiers stars Gene Hackman as Norman Dale, a former college basketball coach who flamed out at his previous job. Dale is hired to coach Hickory High School’s basketball team, which consists of seven players.
Dale is a relentless coach who preaches passing, teamwork, and defense. What he says is the law. Disagree and you won’t play. The townspeople hate Dale’s style, but he eventually wins them over after the town’s best player, Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valainis), joins the team. Inspired by a true story, Hoosiers is considered by many to be the greatest sports movie ever made.
Watch Hoosiers on Paramount+ with Showtime.
The Big Green combines the soccer of Next Goal Wins with the ragtag group of players from The Mighty Ducks to create a sports comedy. Anna Montgomery (Olivia d’Abo), a teacher from the U.K., is sent to teach in a small Texas town as part of a foreign exchange program. Many of the students are uninspired and unmotivated because they live in a dead-end town.
To lift their spirits and build camaraderie, Anna forms a soccer team. The only problem is the kids have no idea how to play the sport. With the help of her assistant coach, Sheriff Tom (Steve Guttenberg), Anna gives the kids something to strive toward and believe in, and slowly but surely, they start to win games. The Big Green is the perfect movie to watch with the entire family.
Watch The Big Green on Disney+.