150 Best Sports Movies of All Time

In the arena of the sports movie, every story can be told. The impossible underdog team that survives a brutal season into the final game. The kid who’s just starting out and the veteran being pulled back into the game, who both share the same odds: Against. Stories of the power of coming together as a selfless team, and myths of individual strength when you remove all the limits. Sports movies make us cheer, laugh, cry, and scream. They even make us think about renewing that gym membership.

We’re going all the way to the end zone with our list of the 150 Best Sports Movies of All Time, sorted by Adjusted Tomatometer from at least 20 reviews each. (The Adjusted Tomatometer is our special formula which takes into account, among other factors, the movie’s year of release and its number of reviews.) Just about every sport ever played is here: football (Rudy), baseball (Bull Durham), hockey (Miracle), soccer (Bend It Like Beckham), boxing (Rocky), ice skating (I, Tonya). There’s racing: by foot (Without Limits), by car (Talladega Nights), by horse (Seabiscuit). We got fictional sports (Rollerball) and sports we made up through sheer tyranny of will (Murderball). If it’s in the spirit of competition, it’s in this list.

Because this is a movie list, there are no TV movies (we pour one out for Brian’s Song), and nothing rated Rotten — even fan favorites like Any Given Sunday. Please deal with your rage accordingly before continuing.

And with our most recent updates, we welcome in new popular hits like Ben Affleck’s The Way Back, Best Picture nominee Ford v Ferrari, wrestling family drama Fighting With My Family, the vertigo-inducing Free Solo, and Maiden, about the first all-woman crew in a global yacht race.

Ready? For the leisure, life, and love of the game, here are the 150 Best Sports Movies of All Time!

#150

Blue Crush (2002)
62%

#150
Adjusted Score: 65422%
Critics Consensus: The surfing sequences are exhilarating, but the plot is pretty forgettable and trite.
Synopsis: Nothing gets between Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) and her board. Living in a beach shack with three roommates including her... [More]
Directed By: John Stockwell

#149
Adjusted Score: 66004%
Critics Consensus: Despite all the underdog sports movie conventions, the likable cast and lush production values make The Greatest Game Ever Played a solid and uplifting tale.
Synopsis: Blue-collar Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf) fights class prejudice while mastering golf, a game guarded by the upper crust. Employed as... [More]
Directed By: Bill Paxton

#148

The Express (2008)
62%

#148
Adjusted Score: 65425%
Critics Consensus: The Express crosses the goal line as an inspirational sports drama, although fans of the genre will recognize many -- if not most -- of its clichés.
Synopsis: Born into poverty, Ernie Davis (Rob Brown) overcomes many obstacles to get into Syracuse University's football program. Under the guidance... [More]
Directed By: Gary Fleder

#147

Rocky III (1982)

#147
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Having become the world heavyweight champion, former working-class boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is rich and famous beyond his wildest... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#146

Cobb (1994)
65%

#146
Adjusted Score: 66800%
Critics Consensus: Tommy Lee Jones's searing performance helps to elevate Cobb above your typical sports biopic; he's so effective, in fact, that some may find the film unpleasant.
Synopsis: Baseball legend Ty Cobb (Tommy Lee Jones) pressures biographer Al Stump (Robert Wuhl) to whitewash the sordid details of his... [More]
Directed By: Ron Shelton

#145

Bring It On (2000)

#145
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Toro cheerleading squad from Rancho Carne High School in San Diego has got spirit, spunk, sass and a killer... [More]
Directed By: Peyton Reed

#144
Adjusted Score: 68229%
Critics Consensus: Though formulaic, this horse story's saving grace is its strong performances.
Synopsis: Ben Crane (Kurt Russell) is a horse trainer who is struggling to connect with his precocious daughter, Cale (Dakota Fanning).... [More]
Directed By: John Gatins

#143

Secretariat (2010)
64%

#143
Adjusted Score: 68704%
Critics Consensus: Rousing, heartwarming, and squarely traditional, Secretariat offers exactly what you'd expect from an inspirational Disney drama -- no more, and no less.
Synopsis: Despite her lack of experience, housewife and mother Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) agrees to take over management of the family... [More]
Directed By: Randall Wallace

#142

The Sandlot (1993)
64%

#142
Adjusted Score: 68717%
Critics Consensus: It may be shamelessly derivative and overly nostalgic, but The Sandlot is nevertheless a genuinely sweet and funny coming-of-age adventure.
Synopsis: When Scottie Smalls (Thomas Guiry) moves to a new neighborhood, he manages to make friends with a group of kids... [More]
Directed By: David Mickey Evans

#141

Race (2016)
63%

#141
Adjusted Score: 71771%
Critics Consensus: Race is nowhere near as thrillingly fleet or agile as its subject, but the story -- and a winning central performance from Stephan James -- are enough to carry it over the finish line.
Synopsis: Young Jesse Owens (Stephan James) becomes a track and field sensation while attending the Ohio State University in the early... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Hopkins

#140

Coach Carter (2005)

#140
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In 1999, Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) returns to his old high school in Richmond, California, to get the basketball... [More]
Directed By: Thomas Carter

#139

Rollerball (1975)
68%

#139
Adjusted Score: 69682%
Critics Consensus: In Rollerball, social commentary collides with high-speed action -- and the audience is the winner.
Synopsis: The year is 2018 in a futuristic society where corporations have replaced countries. A violent futuristic game known as Rollerball... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#138
#138
Adjusted Score: 70004%
Critics Consensus: Pleasant to a fault, Million Dollar Arm is a middle-of-the-plate pitch that coasts on Jon Hamm's considerable charm without adding any truly original curves to Disney's inspirational sports formula.
Synopsis: In a last-ditch effort to save his career, sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) plans to find baseball's next star... [More]
Directed By: Craig Gillespie

#137

More Than a Game (2008)
71%

#137
Adjusted Score: 71321%
Critics Consensus: Though the film may not delve as deep as some would prefer, More Than a Game is an inspiring documentary featuring likable youngsters, a positive message, and some exciting in-game footage.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Kristopher Belman chronicles the early career of basketball superstar LeBron James. James and four other talented teammates were a... [More]
Directed By: Kristopher Belman

#136

Fever Pitch (2005)
65%

#136
Adjusted Score: 71760%
Critics Consensus: While not a home run, Fever Pitch has enough charm and on-screen chemistry between the two leads to make it a solid hit.
Synopsis: When Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon), a young teacher, begins dating pretty businesswoman Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore), the two don't seem... [More]

#135

Olympic Dreams (2019)
70%

#135
Adjusted Score: 72489%
Critics Consensus: Even if it's mainly distinguished by its unique setting, Olympic Dreams remains a romcom with a heartfelt story and likable leads.
Synopsis: A young cross-country skier bonds with a volunteer doctor in the Olympic athletes village.... [More]
Directed By: Jeremy Teicher

#134

Rocky II (1979)
71%

#134
Adjusted Score: 72156%
Critics Consensus: Rocky II is a movie that dares you to root again for the ultimate underdog -- and succeeds due to an infectiously powerful climax.
Synopsis: Although working-class Philadelphia boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) lost his high-profile bout with the cocky world champion Apollo Creed (Carl... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#133

Ali (2001)
68%

#133
Adjusted Score: 72998%
Critics Consensus: Though perhaps no film could fully do justice to the fascinating life and personality of Muhammad Ali, Mann's direction and Smith's performance combine to pack a solid punch.
Synopsis: With wit and athletic genius, with defiant rage and inner grace, Muhammad Ali forever changed the American landscape. Fighting all... [More]
Directed By: Michael Mann

#132
#132
Adjusted Score: 72928%
Critics Consensus: Beastie Boy Adam Yauch proves his worth as a director with Gunnin' for That #1 Spot, a fun-filled chronicle of the top high school hoopsters of 2006.
Synopsis: Rucker Park in New York City's Harlem has been host to many legends, such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.... [More]
Directed By: Adam Yauch

#131
#131
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a homeless black teen, has drifted in and out of the school system for years. Then... [More]
Directed By: John Lee Hancock

#130

The Karate Kid (2010)
66%

#130
Adjusted Score: 73953%
Critics Consensus: It may not be as powerful as the 1984 edition, but the 2010 Karate Kid delivers a surprisingly satisfying update on the original.
Synopsis: When his mother's career results in a move to China, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) finds that he is a... [More]
Directed By: Harald Zwart

#129

Tin Cup (1996)
72%

#129
Adjusted Score: 73794%
Critics Consensus: Breezy and predictable, Tin Cup is a likeable sports comedy that benefits greatly from Kevin Costner's amiable lead performance.
Synopsis: Roy McAvoy (Kevin Costner) was a golf pro with a bright future, but his rebellious nature and bad attitude cost... [More]
Directed By: Ron Shelton

#128
Adjusted Score: 75035%
Critics Consensus: Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is far more risk-averse than its thrill-seeking subject, but still provides a reasonably inspiring introduction to her story.
Synopsis: One of the most accomplished athletes of her generation, Bethany Hamilton, became a surfing wunderkind when she returned to the... [More]
Starring: Bethany Hamilton
Directed By: Aaron Lieber

#127
#127
Adjusted Score: 74781%
Critics Consensus: Taking full advantage of the large IMAX screen, Ultimate X is a thrill ride for extreme sports junkies and novices alike.
Synopsis: Bruce Hendricks highlights events of the 2001 Summer X Games, including skateboarding, BMX biking and the street luge.... [More]
Directed By: Bruce Hendricks

#126
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Average Joe's Gym and its owner, Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn), are both down on their luck. A fancy competing... [More]

#125

Personal Best (1982)
73%

#125
Adjusted Score: 74346%
Critics Consensus: Mariel Hemingway has a career-making star turn in this highly physical drama about two Olympic athletes who find each other during competitive training.
Synopsis: Young sprinter Chris Cahill (Mariel Hemingway) is having difficulty reaching her potential as an athlete, until she meets established track... [More]
Directed By: Robert Towne

#124

Jungleland (2019)
73%

#124
Adjusted Score: 76159%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to muscular work from director/co-writer Max Winkler and his stars, Jungleland punches above its weight in a crowded genre.
Synopsis: When a devastating loss in the ring leaves Lion and his manager/brother Stan in debt to a local crime boss,... [More]
Directed By: Max Winkler

#123

Invincible (2006)
72%

#123
Adjusted Score: 77481%
Critics Consensus: As simple and authentic as the gritty South Philly invirons in which it's set in, Invincible sends a uplifting and heartfelt message packed with an athletic enthusiasm that shouldn't be missed.
Synopsis: Lifelong football fan Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) sees his wildest dreams come true when he becomes a member of the... [More]
Directed By: Ericson Core

#122

Blades of Glory (2007)
70%

#122
Adjusted Score: 77995%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to the spirited performances of a talented cast - particularly Will Ferrell and Jon Heder as rivals-turned-teammates -- Blades of Glory successfully spoofs inspirational sports dramas with inspired abandon.
Synopsis: Figure skaters Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) take their intense rivalry too far during the... [More]
Directed By: Will Speck, Josh Gordon

#121
#121
Adjusted Score: 76982%
Critics Consensus: An inspirational crowd-pleaser with a healthy dose of social commentary, Remember the Titans may be predictable, but it's also well-crafted and features terrific performances.
Synopsis: In Virginia, high school football is a way of life, an institution revered, each game celebrated more lavishly than Christmas,... [More]
Directed By: Boaz Yakin

#120
Adjusted Score: 78911%
Critics Consensus: Though it occasionally stalls, Talladega Nights' mix of satire, clever gags, and excellent ensemble performances put it squarely in the winner's circle.
Synopsis: NASCAR superstar Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is at the top of his game; adored by fans, a trophy wife by... [More]
Directed By: Adam McKay

#119

Caddyshack (1980)
73%

#119
Adjusted Score: 77308%
Critics Consensus: Though unabashedly crude and juvenile, Caddyshack nevertheless scores with its classic slapstick, unforgettable characters, and endlessly quotable dialogue.
Synopsis: Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe), a teen down on his luck, works as a caddy at the snob-infested Bushwood Country Club... [More]
Directed By: Harold Ramis

#118

The Phenom (2016)
79%

#118
Adjusted Score: 80125%
Critics Consensus: Powerfully acted and emotionally affecting, The Phenom proves a baseball movie can step away from the mound and still deliver a heater down the middle.
Synopsis: A sports therapist (Paul Giamatti) tries to help a troubled rookie pitcher (Johnny Simmons) who grew up with an abusive... [More]
Directed By: Noah Buschel

#117

Cool Runnings (1993)
76%

#117
Adjusted Score: 79070%
Critics Consensus: Cool Runnings rises above its formulaic sports-movie themes with charming performances, light humor, and uplifting tone.
Synopsis: Four Jamaican bobsledders dream of competing in the Winter Olympics, despite never having seen snow. With the help of a... [More]
Directed By: Jon Turteltaub

#116

The Hammer (2007)
80%

#116
Adjusted Score: 80931%
Critics Consensus: The Hammer perseveres as both an above-average sports comedy and a perfect starring vehicle for Carolla.
Synopsis: On his 40th birthday, chronic underachiever Jerry Ferro (Adam Carolla) loses his carpentry job and his girlfriend. However, all is... [More]

#115
Adjusted Score: 80845%
Critics Consensus: The harder they come, the harder they fall -- this film shows, in raw, gripping detail, that even skater dudes can't resist the life of the rich and famous. It's more poignant than hard-core, and gives us a portrait of a life run over by the whims of the entertainment industry.
Synopsis: This documentary film explores the life of former skateboarding pro Mark "Gator" Rogowski, who, in 1991, was sentenced to 31... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Helen Stickler

#114

Without Limits (1998)
79%

#114
Adjusted Score: 80522%
Critics Consensus: This drama about American track star and hero Steve Prefontaine intelligently looks at the character of this oft mythologized athlete and features a fantastic performance by Donald Sutherland as Prefontaine's trainer.
Synopsis: Before Steve Prefontaine (Billy Crudup) makes it to the 1972 Olympics in Munich, he is an unlikely track star at... [More]
Directed By: Robert Towne

#113
#113
Adjusted Score: 80424%
Critics Consensus: White Men Can't Jump provides a fresh take on the sports comedy genre, with a clever script and a charismatic trio of leads.
Synopsis: Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) is a white basketball hustler who banks on black players underestimating his skills on the court.... [More]
Directed By: Ron Shelton

#112

Safety (2020)
80%

#112
Adjusted Score: 82042%
Critics Consensus: Fans of uplifting sports dramas will find Safety in this skillfully told fact-based story about an athlete overcoming adversity.
Synopsis: “Safety” is a drama inspired by the empowering story of former Clemson University football safety Ray McElrathbey (Jay Reeves), a... [More]
Directed By: Reginald Hudlin

#111

Breath (2017)
80%

#111
Adjusted Score: 82277%
Critics Consensus: A coming of age drama with a surfing twist, Breath navigates seemingly familiar waters -- but has surprising depth below the surface.
Synopsis: In the 1970s, in a remote corner of the Western Australian coast, two teenage boys, Pikelet and Loonie, are hungry... [More]
Directed By: Simon Baker

#110

Rudy (1993)
78%

#110
Adjusted Score: 81458%
Critics Consensus: Though undeniably sentimental and predictable, Rudy succeeds with an uplifting spirit and determination.
Synopsis: Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) wants to play football at the University of Notre Dame, but has neither the money for... [More]
Directed By: David Anspaugh

#109

The Short Game (2013)
84%

#109
Adjusted Score: 74898%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The world's best 7-year-old golfers travel to Pinehurst, N.C., to compete in the World Championships of Junior Golf.... [More]
Directed By: Josh Greenbaum

#108
Adjusted Score: 82811%
Critics Consensus: You don't have to be a soccer fan to enjoy this stylish, breezy slice of 1970s sports history.
Synopsis: This documentary looks back on a time when soccer briefly captured America's attention. The film profiles the North American Soccer... [More]
Starring: Matt Dillon
Directed By: Paul Crowder, John Dower

#107

The Longest Yard (1974)
79%

#107
Adjusted Score: 81964%
Critics Consensus: Equal parts tough and funny, and led by a perfectly cast Burt Reynolds, The Longest Yard has an interesting political subtext and an excellent climax -- even if it takes too long to get there.
Synopsis: An ex-football star doing time is forced by the warden to organize a team of inmates to play against his... [More]
Directed By: Robert Aldrich

#106

Step Into Liquid (2003)
81%

#106
Adjusted Score: 83141%
Critics Consensus: A perfect companion piece to The Endless Summer.
Synopsis: In a documentary shot in waters all over the globe, director Dana Brown takes on tall waves and surfers who... [More]
Starring: Dana Brown
Directed By: Dana Brown

#105

He Got Game (1998)
81%

#105
Adjusted Score: 83074%
Critics Consensus: Though not without its flaws, He Got Game finds Spike Lee near the top of his game, combining trenchant commentary with his signature visuals and a strong performance from Denzel Washington.
Synopsis: Jake Shuttleworth (Denzel Washington) has spent the last six years in prison after accidentally killing his wife during a violent... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#104

Seabiscuit (2003)
77%

#104
Adjusted Score: 84131%
Critics Consensus: A life-affirming, if saccharine, epic treatment of a spirit-lifting figure in sports history.
Synopsis: In the midst of the Great Depression, a businessman (Jeff Bridges) coping with the tragic death of his son, a... [More]
Directed By: Gary Ross

#103

Rocky Balboa (2006)
77%

#103
Adjusted Score: 84720%
Critics Consensus: Implausible but entertaining and poignant, Rocky Balboa finds the champ in fighting form for the first time in years.
Synopsis: Now long-retired, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) runs a Philadelphia eatery and mourns the loss of his beloved wife, Adrian. Yearning to... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#102

The Boxer (1997)
80%

#102
Adjusted Score: 84308%
Critics Consensus: The Boxer is a standard drama that packs a true emotional wallop thanks to the highly tuned central performances.
Synopsis: Rising teen boxer and Belfast native Danny Flynn (Daniel Day-Lewis) was imprisoned for 14 years after getting involved with the... [More]
Directed By: Jim Sheridan

#101

Beyond the Mat (1999)
82%

#101
Adjusted Score: 84445%
Critics Consensus: Even if you aren't a fan, Beyond the Mat provides a riveting, perceptive look into the world of professional wrestling by taking a closer look at the people beneath the personas.
Synopsis: "Beyond the Mat," Barry Blaustein's honest, intimate, revealing, highly entertaining, and critically acclaimed behind-the-scenes look at wrestling, takes viewers beyond... [More]
Directed By: Barry W. Blaustein

#100

Miracle (2004)
81%

#100
Adjusted Score: 85821%
Critics Consensus: Kurt Russell's performance guides this cliche-ridden tale into the realm of inspirational, nostalgic goodness.
Synopsis: When college coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) is hired to helm the 1980 U.S. men's Olympic hockey team, he brings... [More]
Directed By: Gavin O'Connor

#99

Invictus (2009)
76%

#99
Adjusted Score: 85438%
Critics Consensus: Delivered with typically stately precision by director Clint Eastwood, Invictus may not be rousing enough for some viewers, but Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman inhabit their real-life characters with admirable conviction.
Synopsis: Following the fall of apartheid, newly elected President Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) faces a South Africa that is racially and... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#98

Major League (1989)
83%

#98
Adjusted Score: 84879%
Critics Consensus: Major League may be predictable and formulaic, but buoyed by the script's light, silly humor -- not to mention the well-built sports action sequences and funny performances.
Synopsis: The new owner of the Cleveland Indians, former showgirl Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton), has a sweetheart deal to move the... [More]
Directed By: David S. Ward

#97

Goon (2011)
81%

#97
Adjusted Score: 84988%
Critics Consensus: Goon is a crude slapstick comedy with well-formed characters and a surprising amount of heart.
Synopsis: Though a misfit among his brainy family members, Massachusetts bouncer Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) has a knockout punch that... [More]
Directed By: Michael Dowse

#96

Pelotero (2011)
86%

#96
Adjusted Score: 85318%
Critics Consensus: Gripping and surprisingly nuanced, Ballplayer: Pelotero is a frank exploration of the nature of corruption in baseball recruitment.
Synopsis: Two Dominican baseball players face challenges as they try to make it to the Major Leagues.... [More]

#95

McFarland, USA (2015)
80%

#95
Adjusted Score: 84962%
Critics Consensus: Disney's inspirational sports drama formula might be old hat, but McFarland, USA proves it still works -- especially with a talented director and eminently likable star in the mix.
Synopsis: Track coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) is a newcomer to a predominantly Latino high-school in California's Central Valley. Coach White... [More]
Directed By: Niki Caro

#94
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: As America's stock of athletic young men is depleted during World War II, a professional all-female baseball league springs up... [More]
Directed By: Penny Marshall

#93
#93
Adjusted Score: 85545%
Critics Consensus: Muddled overall, but perceptive and brutally realistic, North Dallas Forty also benefits from strong performances by Nick Nolte and Charles Durning. Football fans will likely find it fascinating.
Synopsis: A brutal satire of American professional football in which a veteran pass-catcher's individuality and refusal to become part of the... [More]
Directed By: Ted Kotcheff

#92

The Natural (1984)
82%

#92
Adjusted Score: 85275%
Critics Consensus: Though heavy with sentiment, The Natural is an irresistible classic, and a sincere testament to America's national pastime.
Synopsis: On the way to a tryout with the Chicago Cubs, young baseball phenom Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) is shot by... [More]
Directed By: Barry Levinson

#91
Adjusted Score: 86436%
Critics Consensus: Overcomes its formulaic storyline thanks to Anthony Hopkins' warm and endearing portrayal of an age-defying thrill seeker.
Synopsis: New Zealander Burt Munro spent years perfecting his classic Indian motorcycle. The year is 1967, and Burt takes his machine... [More]
Directed By: Roger Donaldson

#90
#90
Adjusted Score: 85734%
Critics Consensus: Smartly constructed and scathingly sharp, The Armstrong Lie presents an effective indictment of its unscrupulous subject -- as well as the sports culture that spawned him.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Alex Gibney chronicles Lance Armstrong's attempt to return to cycling, his admission of doping and subsequent fall from grace.... [More]
Directed By: Alex Gibney

#89
#89
Adjusted Score: 87152%
Critics Consensus: An acute survey of the football-obsessed heartland that succeeds as both a stirring drama and a rousing sports movie.
Synopsis: A small, turbulent town in Texas obsesses over their high school football team to an unhealthy degree. When the star... [More]
Directed By: Peter Berg

#88
#88
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) are two childhood friends who both aspire to be professional basketball players. Quincy,... [More]
Directed By: Gina Prince

#87

Cinderella Man (2005)
80%

#87
Adjusted Score: 87609%
Critics Consensus: With grittiness and an evocative sense of time and place, Cinderella Man is a powerful underdog story. And Ron Howard and Russell Crowe prove to be a solid combination.
Synopsis: During the Great Depression, ex-boxer James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) works as a day laborer until his former manager Joe... [More]
Directed By: Ron Howard

#86
#86
Adjusted Score: 87507%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The story of Lithuania's 1992 Olympic basketball team whose athletes won the bronze medal.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Marius A. Markevicius

#85

Looking for Eric (2009)
85%

#85
Adjusted Score: 88245%
Critics Consensus: Ken Loach's latest is an uplifting, entertaining and amusing socio-drama featuring a match-winning performance from Eric Cantona.
Synopsis: Ever since his wife (Stephanie Bishop) left him, Eric Bishop's (Steve Evets) life has fallen apart. His two teen sons... [More]
Directed By: Ken Loach

#84

The Rookie (2002)
84%

#84
Adjusted Score: 87877%
Critics Consensus: A heart-warming sports flick, The Rookie greatly benefits from understated direction and the emotional honesty Dennis Quaid brings to the role of Jim Morris.
Synopsis: A true story about a coach who discovers that it's never too late for dreams to come true. Jim Morris... [More]
Directed By: John Lee Hancock

#83

Slap Shot (1977)
83%

#83
Adjusted Score: 84904%
Critics Consensus: Raunchy, violent, and very funny, Slap Shot is ultimately set apart by a wonderful comic performance by Paul Newman.
Synopsis: In the small New England town of Charlestown, the local mill is about to lay off 10,000 workers. The town's... [More]
Directed By: George Roy Hill

#82

Downhill Racer (1969)
85%

#82
Adjusted Score: 85229%
Critics Consensus: Downhill Racer plunges the viewer thrillingly into the action of the sport -- and continues to hold the attention as a thoughtful drama.
Synopsis: A smug and overly self-assured downhill skier, David Chappellet (Robert Redford), joins the American ski team and quickly makes waves... [More]
Directed By: Michael Ritchie

#81

The Hurricane (1999)
83%

#81
Adjusted Score: 87861%
Critics Consensus: Thanks in large part to one of Denzel Washington's most powerful on-screen performances, The Hurricane is a moving, inspirational sports drama, even if it takes few risks in telling its story.
Synopsis: Denzel Washington is Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a man whose dreams of winning the middleweight boxing title were destroyed when he... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#80

Big Fan (2009)
86%

#80
Adjusted Score: 88740%
Critics Consensus: Featuring Patton Oswalt's sympathetic portrayal, Big Fan humorously and effectively captures the dark and lonely world of a sports fanatic.
Synopsis: Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt), a parking-garage employee, is a huge fan of the New York Giants. He lives at home... [More]
Directed By: Robert D. Siegel

#79

Happy Valley (2014)
89%

#79
Adjusted Score: 88569%
Critics Consensus: Sober, even-handed, and quietly devastating, Happy Valley illuminates the wreckage of a tragedy while leaving viewers room to draw their own conclusions.
Synopsis: In 2011, longtime Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with multiple counts of child sex abuse, rocking... [More]
Starring: Joe Posnanski
Directed By: Amir Bar-Lev

#78

Jerry Maguire (1996)
84%

#78
Adjusted Score: 89299%
Critics Consensus: Anchored by dazzling performances from Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Renée Zellweger, as well as Cameron Crowe's tender direction, Jerry Maguire meshes romance and sports with panache.
Synopsis: When slick sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) has a crisis of conscience, he pens a heartfelt company-wide memo that... [More]
Directed By: Cameron Crowe

#77

Early Man (2018)
80%

#77
Adjusted Score: 90372%
Critics Consensus: Early Man isn't quite as evolved as Aardman's best work, but still retains the unique visuals and sweet humor that have made the studio a favorite among animation enthusiasts.
Synopsis: A plucky cave man named Dug, his sidekick Hognob and the rest of their tribe face a grave threat to... [More]
Directed By: Nick Park

#76

42 (2013)
81%

#76
Adjusted Score: 87765%
Critics Consensus: 42 is an earnest, inspirational, and respectfully told biography of an influential American sports icon, though it might be a little too safe and old-fashioned for some.
Synopsis: In 1946, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), legendary manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, defies major league baseball's notorious color barrier by... [More]
Directed By: Brian Helgeland

#75

Fire in Babylon (2010)
91%

#75
Adjusted Score: 90169%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Capt. Clive Lloyd transforms his 1970s-era West Indies cricket team into champions who dominate the sport for many years afterward.... [More]
Directed By: Stevan Riley

#74
#74
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In the class-obsessed and religiously divided United Kingdom of the early 1920s, two determined young runners train for the 1924... [More]
Directed By: Hugh Hudson

#73

Tyson (2008)
85%

#73
Adjusted Score: 90680%
Critics Consensus: A fascinating, emotional, and frank confessional from Iron Mike that sheds a sympathetic light on one of boxing's most controversial icons.
Synopsis: Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson reflects on his tumultuous life both in and out of the ring. Filmmaker James... [More]
Starring: Mike Tyson
Directed By: James Toback

#72
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra), the daughter of a strict Indian couple (Anupam Kher, Shaheen Khan) in London, is not permitted... [More]
Directed By: Gurinder Chadha

#71
#71
Adjusted Score: 90765%
Critics Consensus: This group of high school girls and their eccentric basketball coach easily win your heart with their unusual humanity and dynamism.
Synopsis: Filmed over a period of seven years, director Ward Serrill profiles Bill Resler, a university professor who coaches a basketball... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Ward Serrill

#70

Warrior (2011)
83%

#70
Adjusted Score: 90314%
Critics Consensus: Warrior relies on many of the clichés that critics of the genre love to mock -- and it transcends them with gripping action, powerful acting, and heart.
Synopsis: An estranged family finds redemption in the unlikeliest of places: the MMA ring. Tommy (Tom Hardy), an ex-Marine with a... [More]
Directed By: Gavin O'Connor

#69
#69
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Chicago White Sox, who are set to play the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series of 1919, are at... [More]
Directed By: John Sayles

#68

Eddie the Eagle (2016)
81%

#68
Adjusted Score: 93630%
Critics Consensus: Eddie the Eagle's amiable sweetness can't disguise its story's many inspirational clichés -- but for many viewers, it will be more than enough to make up for them.
Synopsis: Cut from the Olympic ski team, British athlete Michael "Eddie" Edwards travels to Germany to test his skills at ski... [More]
Directed By: Dexter Fletcher

#67

Whip It (2009)
84%

#67
Adjusted Score: 91770%
Critics Consensus: While made from overly familiar ingredients, Drew Barrymore's directorial debut has enough charm, energy, and good-natured humor to transcend its many cliches.
Synopsis: Bliss Cavendar lives in small-town Texas and yearns to break free of her mother's world of beauty pageants and conformity.... [More]
Directed By: Drew Barrymore

#66

Meru (2015)
88%

#66
Adjusted Score: 90452%
Critics Consensus: Gripping visually as well as narratively, Meru is the rare documentary that proves thought-provoking while offering thrilling wide-screen vistas.
Synopsis: Three elite climbers fight through obsession and loss as they struggle to climb Mount Meru.... [More]

#65
Adjusted Score: 92277%
Critics Consensus: John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection offers a compelling analysis of what made its subject special - and gives audiences a courtside seat to a pivotal match.
Synopsis: Archival footage showcases top-ranked tennis player John McEnroe competing in the 1984 French Open at Roland Garros Stadium in France.... [More]
Directed By: Julien Faraut

#64

The Karate Kid (1984)
89%

#64
Adjusted Score: 91180%
Critics Consensus: Utterly predictable and wholly of its time, but warm, sincere, and difficult to resist, due in large part to Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio's relaxed chemistry.
Synopsis: Daniel (Ralph Macchio) moves to Southern California with his mother, Lucille (Randee Heller), but quickly finds himself the target of... [More]
Directed By: John G. Avildsen

#63

Up for Grabs (2004)
92%

#63
Adjusted Score: 92144%
Critics Consensus: You don't have to be a baseball fan to be entertained by the absurdities, obsessions, and greed on display in this documentary.
Synopsis: During the final leg of Major League Baseball's 2001 season, Giants batter Barry Bonds scores a historic 73rd home run... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Michael Wranovics

#62

Girlfight (2000)

#62
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Newcomer Michelle Rodriguez in an astounding performance alongside Jaime Tirelli, Paul Calderon and Santiago Douglas. Nothing comes easy for Diana... [More]
Directed By: Karyn Kusama

#61

Shaolin Soccer (2001)
90%

#61
Adjusted Score: 93172%
Critics Consensus: The plot is utterly ridiculous, and the soccer in the movie is unlike any ever played anywhere on Earth, but watching Shaolin Soccer, you will probably find it impossible to care.
Synopsis: All his life, an ordinary young man (Stephen Chow) has been treated like dirt. Still, he's never given up believing... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Chow, Lik-Chi Lee

#60
#60
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When Iowa farmer Ray (Kevin Costner) hears a mysterious voice one night in his cornfield saying "If you build it,... [More]
Directed By: Phil Alden Robinson

#59
#59
Adjusted Score: 92704%
Critics Consensus: Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is compelling viewing even though it spoils the score of the titular college football matchup - and even if you aren't a fan of the sport.
Synopsis: In November 1968, undefeated Ivy League football teams from Harvard and Yale square off in a historic game in which... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Kevin Rafferty

#58
#58
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams, is killed in an auto accident. In the afterlife, Joe... [More]
Directed By: Warren Beatty, Buck Henry

#57

Diego Maradona (2019)
90%

#57
Adjusted Score: 94317%
Critics Consensus: Diego Maradona traces the arc of a standard sports documentary, but illuminates its subject with uncommon clarity and depth.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Asif Kapadia

#56

The Way Back (2020)
84%

#56
Adjusted Score: 97960%
Critics Consensus: The Way Back's occasionally frustrating treatment of a formulaic story is often outweighed by Ben Affleck's outstanding work in the central role.
Synopsis: Jack Cunningham was a high school basketball superstar who suddenly walked away from the game for unknown reasons. Years later,... [More]
Directed By: Gavin O'Connor

#55

The Way Back (2020)
84%

#55
Adjusted Score: 97960%
Critics Consensus: The Way Back's occasionally frustrating treatment of a formulaic story is often outweighed by Ben Affleck's outstanding work in the central role.
Synopsis: Jack Cunningham was a high school basketball superstar who suddenly walked away from the game for unknown reasons. Years later,... [More]
Directed By: Gavin O'Connor

#54

Dream Horse (2020)
88%

#54
Adjusted Score: 94494%
Critics Consensus: Spurred on by an excellent Toni Collette, Dream Horse has a comfortably crowd-pleasing gait that makes the most of the story's familiar formula.
Synopsis: The film tells the inspiring true story of Dream Alliance, an unlikely race horse bred by small town bartender, Jan... [More]
Directed By: Euros Lyn

#53
#53
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Former pool hustler "Fast Eddie" Felson (Paul Newman) decides he wants to return to the game by taking a pupil.... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#52
#52
Adjusted Score: 93715%
Critics Consensus: Dogtown and Z-Boys is a colorful, exhilarating look at the skateboarding subculture.
Synopsis: "Dogtown and Z-Boys," directed and co-written by skateboard legend-turned-filmmaker Stacy Peralta, is the story of a group of accidental revolutionaries,... [More]
Directed By: Stacy Peralta

#51

Riding Giants (2004)
93%

#51
Adjusted Score: 94969%
Critics Consensus: A great addition to the existing surfing documentaries.
Synopsis: Part sports history, part thrill ride, skateboarder Stacy Peralta's documentary pays homage to the brave, foolish surfers who dare ride... [More]
Directed By: Stacy Peralta

#50
#50
Adjusted Score: 95112%
Critics Consensus: A Prayer Before Dawn is far from an easy watch, but this harrowing prison odyssey delivers rich rewards -- led by an outstanding central performance from Joe Cole.
Synopsis: The amazing true story of Billy Moore, an English boxer incarcerated in Thailand's most notorious prison. Thrown into a world... [More]

#49

Pumping Iron (1977)
91%

#49
Adjusted Score: 93904%
Critics Consensus: In addition to offering an enlightening early look into the world of future star/politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pumping Iron provides a witty and insightful overview of competitive bodybuilding.
Synopsis: This partly real and partly scripted film documents what many consider to be the golden age of bodybuilding that occurred... [More]

#48

Hoosiers (1986)
91%

#48
Adjusted Score: 94988%
Critics Consensus: It may adhere to the sports underdog formula, but Hoosiers has been made with such loving craft, and features such excellent performances, that it's hard to resist.
Synopsis: Failed college coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) gets a chance at redemption when he is hired to direct the basketball... [More]
Directed By: David Anspaugh

#47
#47
Adjusted Score: 95212%
Critics Consensus: Bang the Drum Slowly is a touching melodrama that explores the inner workings of a baseball club and its players' personalities with remarkable depth.
Synopsis: When hotshot pitcher Henry Wiggen (Michael Moriarty) is signed to the New York Mammoths, his confident ways quickly win over... [More]
Directed By: John D. Hancock

#46

Red Army (2014)
92%

#46
Adjusted Score: 95528%
Critics Consensus: Fun and fascinating, Red Army delivers absorbing documentary drama for hockey fans and sports novices alike.
Synopsis: Hockey captain Slava Fetisov and four other players form a nearly unbeatable unit known as the "Russian Five," but their... [More]
Directed By: Gabe Polsky

#45

Senna (2010)
93%

#45
Adjusted Score: 96746%
Critics Consensus: Even for filmgoers who aren't racing fans, Senna offers heart-pounding thrills -- and heartbreaking emotion.
Synopsis: Ayrton Senna becomes a three-time Formula One racing champion and Brazil's national hero before his untimely death at age 34.... [More]
Directed By: Asif Kapadia

#44

The Crash Reel (2013)
96%

#44
Adjusted Score: 96160%
Critics Consensus: Smart, compassionate, and moving, The Crash Reel uses the familiar sport-doc formula to subvert expectations and ask challenging questions about ambition and achievement.
Synopsis: Snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffers a traumatic brain injury while training for the 2010 Winter Olympics. His family stands by his... [More]
Directed By: Lucy Walker

#43
#43
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The story of Brian Clough's 44 day stint as manager of Leeds United Football Club takes place in 1974 England.... [More]
Directed By: Tom Hooper

#42

Offside (2006)
94%

#42
Adjusted Score: 97019%
Critics Consensus: A spirited film that explores gender politics with comedy, intelligence, and a variety of interesting characters.
Synopsis: Since women are banned from soccer matches, Iranian females masquerade as males so they can slip into Tehran's stadium to... [More]
Directed By: Jafar Panahi

#41
#41
Adjusted Score: 96434%
Critics Consensus: While taking full advantage of its subject's colorful baseball career, No No: A Dockumentary also imparts broader, thought-provoking messages that should resonate with viewers who aren't sports fans.
Synopsis: Baseball pitcher Dock Ellis had a controversial life and career, once pitching a no-hitter while high on LSD.... [More]
Directed By: Jeff Radice

#40
Adjusted Score: 96313%
Critics Consensus: Lagaan is lavish, rousing entertainment in the old-fashioned tradition of Hollywood musicals.
Synopsis: The year is 1893 and India is under British occupation. In a small village, the tyrannical Captain Russell (Paul Blackthorne)... [More]
Directed By: Ashutosh Gowariker

#39
#39
Adjusted Score: 96374%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: "One Day in September" is a new kind of thriller - one where real lives are at stake and every... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Macdonald

#38
#38
Adjusted Score: 97497%
Critics Consensus: Gripping even though the outcome is known.
Synopsis: In 1985, two young climbers, Joe Simpson (Brendan Mackey) and Simon Yates (Nicholas Aaron), set out to be the first... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Macdonald

#37

Deep Water (2006)
96%

#37
Adjusted Score: 97632%
Critics Consensus: Equal parts mystery and biography, Deep Water is both an engrossing documentary and an affecting treatise on human folly and obsession.
Synopsis: In 1968, Donald Crowhurst, an inexperienced British sailor, puts up his home as collateral, gains financial backing and enters the... [More]
Starring: Tilda Swinton

#36

Sugar (2008)
92%

#36
Adjusted Score: 97648%
Critics Consensus: Sugar is an exceptionally-crafted film -- part sports flick, part immigrant tale -- with touching and poignant drama highlighted by splendid performances.
Synopsis: Like many young men in the Dominican Republic, 19-year-old Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) dreams of winning a slot... [More]
Directed By: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

#35
#35
Adjusted Score: 96296%
Critics Consensus: The equally tragic and heroic story of Yankee's first baseman Lou Gehrig is eloquently told here with an iconic star turn by Gary Cooper.
Synopsis: This moving biographical drama follows the life of revered baseball player Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper). Championed by sportswriter Sam Blake... [More]
Directed By: Sam Wood

#34
Adjusted Score: 98342%
Critics Consensus: The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg is an affectionate, often very funny portrait of a baseball pioneer.
Synopsis: "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" is a humorous and nostalgic documentary about an extraordinary baseball player who transcended... [More]
Directed By: Aviva Kempner

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 98408%
Critics Consensus: Bigger, Stronger, Faster* is a fascinating, informative, entertaining and especially introspective account of the American 'enhancement' culture.
Synopsis: This documentary presents the pervasive use of steroids in sports as an indication of the American obsession with winning at... [More]
Starring: Christopher Bell
Directed By: Christopher Bell

#32
#32
Adjusted Score: 100203%
Critics Consensus: Clint Eastwood's assured direction - combined with knockout performances from Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman - help Million Dollar Baby to transcend its clichés, and the result is deeply heartfelt and moving.
Synopsis: Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran Los Angeles boxing trainer who keeps almost everyone at arm's length, except his... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#31

Breaking Away (1979)
95%

#31
Adjusted Score: 98173%
Critics Consensus: At once a touching, funny coming-of-age story and a compelling sports film, Breaking Away is a delightful treat.
Synopsis: Dave (Dennis Christopher) and his working-class friends Cyril (Daniel Stern), Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) and Mike (Dennis Quaid) spend their... [More]
Directed By: Peter Yates

#30

Rush (2013)
89%

#30
Adjusted Score: 97509%
Critics Consensus: A sleek, slick, well-oiled machine, Rush is a finely crafted sports drama with exhilarating race sequences and strong performances from Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl.
Synopsis: In the mid-1970s, charismatic English playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian perfectionist Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) share an intense... [More]
Directed By: Ron Howard

#29

The Fighter (2010)
91%

#29
Adjusted Score: 99782%
Critics Consensus: Led by a trio of captivating performances from Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams, The Fighter is a solidly entertaining, albeit predictable, entry in the boxing drama genre.
Synopsis: For Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), boxing is a family affair. His tough-as-nails mother is his manager. His half-brother, Dicky (Christian... [More]
Directed By: David O. Russell

#28

Foxcatcher (2014)
87%

#28
Adjusted Score: 97120%
Critics Consensus: A chilling true crime drama, Foxcatcher offers Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum a chance to shine -- and all three of them rise to the challenge.
Synopsis: When wealthy John du Pont (Steve Carell) invites Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to move to his estate and... [More]
Directed By: Bennett Miller

#27

Creed II (2018)
83%

#27
Adjusted Score: 101856%
Critics Consensus: Creed II's adherence to franchise formula adds up to a sequel with few true surprises, but its time-tested generational themes still pack a solid punch.
Synopsis: In 1985, Russian boxer Ivan Drago killed former U.S. champion Apollo Creed in a tragic match that stunned the world.... [More]
Directed By: Steven Caple Jr.

#26
#26
Adjusted Score: 98696%
Critics Consensus: The Bad News Bears is rude, profane, and cynical, but shot through with honest, unforced humor, and held together by a deft, understated performance from Walter Matthau.
Synopsis: Hard-drinking, ex-minor-league hopeful Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) grumpily agrees to coach a Little League team at the behest of lawyer-councilman... [More]
Directed By: Michael Ritchie

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 99493%
Critics Consensus: An engrossing documentary that's as much about a time and a place as it is about a fight.
Synopsis: On October 30, 1974, perhaps the most famous heavyweight championship boxing match of all time took place in Kinshasa, Zaire:... [More]
Directed By: Leon Gast

#24
Adjusted Score: 101475%
Critics Consensus: The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki sidesteps sports biopic clichés with a beautifully filmed, well-acted look at the balance between career fulfillment and personal happiness.
Synopsis: Olli Mäki loses a fight for the world championship in the second round by knockout in front of a packed... [More]
Directed By: Juho Kuosmanen

#23

Racing Dreams (2009)
100%

#23
Adjusted Score: 100146%
Critics Consensus: Racing Dreams offers an absorbing peek at the lives of young NASCAR hopefuls that should resonate with racing enthusiasts as well as viewers with no connection to the sport.
Synopsis: Marshall Curry goes behind the scenes of the World Karting Association, a youth racing league that often serves as a... [More]
Starring: Annabeth Barnes
Directed By: Marshall Curry

#22

The Hustler (1961)
96%

#22
Adjusted Score: 99386%
Critics Consensus: Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason give iconic performances in this dark, morally complex tale of redemption.
Synopsis: Story Fast Eddie Felsen (Paul Newman) and his adventures in the world of professional pool. Fast Eddie is a young... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rossen

#21

Undefeated (2011)

#21
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Since its founding in 1899, Manassas High School in North Memphis has never had a football team win a playoff... [More]
Starring: Bill Courtney
Directed By: Dan Lindsay, T.J. Martin

#20
Adjusted Score: 100573%
Critics Consensus: The King of Kong is funny and compelling with more than a few poignant insights into human behavior. Director Seth Gordon presents the dueling King Kong players in all their obsessive complexity and with perfectly al dente observations.
Synopsis: Named "Video Game Player of the Century" in 1999, Billy Mitchell sets a record score in "Donkey Kong" that many... [More]
Directed By: Seth Gordon

#19

Win Win (2011)

#19
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a struggling, though not overly ambitious, lawyer. As the court-appointed attorney of Leo Poplar (Burt... [More]
Directed By: Tom McCarthy

#18

Next Goal Wins (2014)
100%

#18
Adjusted Score: 100410%
Critics Consensus: Finding beauty in sports beyond the mere satisfaction of winning, Next Goal Wins is a moving documentary filled with a lovable array of underdogs.
Synopsis: Dutch coach Thomas Rongen attempts the nearly impossible task of turning the American Samoa soccer team from perennial losers into... [More]
Directed By: Mike Brett, Steve Jamison

#17

Rocky (1976)

#17
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a small-time boxer from working-class Philadelphia, is arbitrarily chosen to take on the reigning world heavyweight... [More]
Directed By: John G. Avildsen

#16

Horse Feathers (1932)
97%

#16
Adjusted Score: 99863%
Critics Consensus: Horse Feathers finds the Marx Brothers in fine madcap form, taking aim at an array of timely targets while serving up classic set pieces.
Synopsis: The Marx Brothers take on higher education and football in this riotous comedy. The newly minted president of Huxley University,... [More]
Directed By: Norman Z. McLeod

#15

Changing the Game (2019)
100%

#15
Adjusted Score: 101420%
Critics Consensus: Urgent and empathetic, Changing the Game takes an affecting and admirably nuanced look at young transgender athletes.
Synopsis: This intimate story takes us into the lives of three high school athletes from across the US -- all at... [More]
Directed By: Michael Barnett

#14

Murderball (2005)
98%

#14
Adjusted Score: 102302%
Critics Consensus: An entertaining and gripping documentary that shows being confined to a wheelchair doesn't mean the fun has to end.
Synopsis: This documentary introduces the U.S. quad rugby team -- a team composed entirely of young paraplegic men. Using special wheelchairs... [More]
Starring:

#13

Raging Bull (1980)
94%

#13
Adjusted Score: 100240%
Critics Consensus: Arguably Martin Scorsese's and Robert De Niro's finest film, Raging Bull is often painful to watch, but it's a searing, powerful work about an unsympathetic hero.
Synopsis: The story of a middleweight boxer as he rises through ranks to earn his first shot at the middleweight crown.... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#12

Hoop Dreams (1994)
98%

#12
Adjusted Score: 101750%
Critics Consensus: One of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of all time, Hoop Dreams is a rich, complex, heartbreaking, and ultimately deeply rewarding film that uses high school hoops as a jumping-off point to explore issues of race, class, and education in modern America.
Synopsis: Every school day, African-American teenagers William Gates and Arthur Agee travel 90 minutes each way from inner-city Chicago to St.... [More]
Directed By: Steve James

#11

The Endless Summer (1966)
100%

#11
Adjusted Score: 102249%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Documentary filmmaker Bruce Brown, himself a competition-level surfer, follows surfers Michael Hynson and Robert August on an around-the-world surfing adventure.... [More]
Starring: Bruce Brown
Directed By: Bruce Brown

#10

Bull Durham (1988)
97%

#10
Adjusted Score: 102352%
Critics Consensus: Kevin Costner is at his funniest and most charismatic in Bull Durham, a film that's as wise about relationships as it is about minor league baseball.
Synopsis: In Durham, N.C., the Bulls minor league baseball team has one asset no other can claim: a poetry-loving groupie named... [More]
Directed By: Ron Shelton

#9

Maiden (2018)
98%

#9
Adjusted Score: 104738%
Critics Consensus: Enthralling viewing even for audiences with little to no knowledge of or interest in sailing, Maiden pays powerful tribute to a true pioneer.
Synopsis: In 1989 Tracy Edwards leads the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race, a grueling yachting competition... [More]
Directed By: Alex Holmes

#8

National Velvet (1944)
100%

#8
Adjusted Score: 103403%
Critics Consensus: National Velvet makes the most of a breakout performance from Elizabeth Taylor, delivering a timeless family-friendly tearjerker that avoids straying into the sentimental.
Synopsis: When Velvet Brown (Elizabeth Taylor), an equine-loving 12-year-old living in rural Sussex, becomes the owner of a rambunctious horse, she... [More]
Directed By: Clarence Brown

#7

Moneyball (2011)
94%

#7
Adjusted Score: 104502%
Critics Consensus: Director Bennett Miller, along with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, take a niche subject and turn it into a sharp, funny, and touching portrait worthy of baseball lore.
Synopsis: Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), general manager of the Oakland A's, one day has an epiphany: Baseball's conventional wisdom is all... [More]
Directed By: Bennett Miller

#6

Free Solo (2018)
97%

#6
Adjusted Score: 106087%
Critics Consensus: Free Solo depicts athletic feats that many viewers will find beyond reason - and grounds the attempts in passions that are all but universal.
Synopsis: Alex Honnold completes the first free solo climb of famed El Capitan's 3,000-foot vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park.... [More]

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 106886%
Critics Consensus: Much like the sport it celebrates, Fighting with My Family muscles past clichés with a potent blend of energy and committed acting that should leave audiences cheering.
Synopsis: Born into a tight-knit wrestling family, Paige and her brother Zak are ecstatic when they get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Merchant

#4

The Wrestler (2008)

#4
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Aging wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is long past his prime but still ready and rarin' to go... [More]
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky

#3

I, Tonya (2017)
90%

#3
Adjusted Score: 118222%
Critics Consensus: Led by strong work from Margot Robbie and Alison Janney, I, Tonya finds the humor in its real-life story without losing sight of its more tragic -- and emotionally resonant -- elements.
Synopsis: In 1991, talented figure skater Tonya Harding becomes the first American woman to complete a triple axel during a competition.... [More]
Directed By: Craig Gillespie

#2

Creed (2015)
95%

#2
Adjusted Score: 106968%
Critics Consensus: Creed brings the Rocky franchise off the mat for a surprisingly effective seventh round that extends the boxer's saga in interesting new directions while staying true to its classic predecessors' roots.
Synopsis: Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) never knew his famous father, boxing champion Apollo Creed, who died before Adonis was born.... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

#1

Ford v Ferrari (2019)
92%

#1
Adjusted Score: 114307%
Critics Consensus: Ford v Ferrari delivers all the polished auto action audiences will expect -- and balances it with enough gripping human drama to satisfy non-racing enthusiasts.
Synopsis: American automotive designer Carroll Shelby and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics... [More]
Directed By: James Mangold

30 Essential Football Movies

The best football movies capture the grit, the drama, the glory, and even the absurd comedic potential of the sport. To that tight end, we’ve huddled together the 30 Essential Football Movies, as fine a lineup of critics’ choices and fan favorites as you’ll ever see.

Filling the roster are classics synonymous with football flicks (Remember the Titans, Rudy), comedies to tackle the funny bone (The Waterboy, The Replacements), industry insiders (Jerry Maguire, Draft Day), and the inspirational tearjerkers (Brian’s Song). And it’s an-all ages club, from elementary (Little Giants), to high school (Varsity Blues), to college (We Are Marshall), and, of course, the winding road to the pros (Invincible). Whether they’re set on field, in the locker room, or in the halls, these movies capture the spirit of football in its complex glory. These movies are not ranked by Tomatometer scores, but by their stature and impact inside the arena of sports cinema. So even if some critics gave these movies a hard time, the fact that they’ve been accepted by audiences and fans as film ambassadors to the football life was the true weighing factor.

So welcome to Rotten Tomatoes’ 30 Essential Football Movies. No need to review the play on this one: We guarantee you’re seeing a big dogpile of the gridiron movie greats.

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 16191%
Critics Consensus: The tropes of both football and evangelical movies are gracelessly on parade in this banal, insipid drama.
Synopsis: Grant Taylor, a Christian high-school football coach (Alex Kendrick), gets some very bad news. Besides his and his wife's (Shannen... [More]
Directed By: Alex Kendrick

#29

Lucas (1986)
73%

#29
Adjusted Score: 73386%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Lucas (Corey Haim) is an unusually bright teenager whose nerdy looks and meek demeanor make him a favorite target for... [More]
Directed By: David Seltzer

#28

Go Tigers! (2001)
85%

#28
Adjusted Score: 85794%
Critics Consensus: Go Tigers! is an absorbing and evenhanded documentary that takes a perceptive look at the world of high school sports and its impact on a community.
Synopsis: "Go Tigers!" is a rare behind-the-scenes chronicling of a remarkable season for the Massillon Tiger's high school football team, played... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Kenneth A. Carlson

#27
#27
Adjusted Score: 92704%
Critics Consensus: Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is compelling viewing even though it spoils the score of the titular college football matchup - and even if you aren't a fan of the sport.
Synopsis: In November 1968, undefeated Ivy League football teams from Harvard and Yale square off in a historic game in which... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Kevin Rafferty

#26

The Longshots (2008)
41%

#26
Adjusted Score: 42181%
Critics Consensus: The Longshots means well, but it's a largely formulaic affair, rarely deviating from the inspirational sports movie playbook.
Synopsis: Curtis Plummer (Ice Cube), a down-on-his-luck former football player, becomes the new coach of the Minden, Illinois, Pop Warner football... [More]
Directed By: Fred Durst

#25

Little Giants (1994)
36%

#25
Adjusted Score: 31803%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Ever since childhood, nerdy Danny O'Shea (Rick Moranis) has felt inferior to his brother, Kevin (Ed O'Neill), a former college... [More]
Directed By: Duwayne Dunham

#24

The Replacements (2000)
41%

#24
Adjusted Score: 43785%
Critics Consensus: The cliched characters and obvious outcome make all the fun and excitement amount to nothing.
Synopsis: It's late in the season; the playoffs are fast approaching; and the Washington Sentinels have just gone on strike. Scrambling... [More]
Directed By: Howard Deutch

#23

The Longest Yard (2005)
31%

#23
Adjusted Score: 37597%
Critics Consensus: This Yard has some laughs but missing from this remake is the edginess of the original.
Synopsis: Disgraced pro football quarterback Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler) lands in jail, where manipulative Warden Hazen (James Cromwell) recruits him to... [More]
Directed By: Peter Segal

#22
#22
Adjusted Score: 47313%
Critics Consensus: The Last Boy Scout is as explosive, silly, and fun as it does represent the decline of the buddy-cop genre.
Synopsis: Once a first-rate Secret Service agent, Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) is now a gruff private investigator whose latest gig is... [More]
Directed By: Tony Scott

#21

School Ties (1992)
60%

#21
Adjusted Score: 62876%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When David Greene (Brendan Fraser) receives a football scholarship to a prestigious prep school in the 1950s, he feels pressure... [More]
Directed By: Robert Mandel

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams, is killed in an auto accident. In the afterlife, Joe... [More]
Directed By: Warren Beatty, Buck Henry

#19

The Freshman (1925)
94%

#19
Adjusted Score: 96233%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In hopes of making some friends, Harold Lamb (Harold Lloyd) attends college at Tate University. But when the students notice... [More]
Directed By: Sam Taylor, Fred Newmeyer

#18

Draft Day (2014)
60%

#18
Adjusted Score: 65656%
Critics Consensus: It's perfectly pleasant for sports buffs and Costner fans, but overall, Draft Day lives down to its title by relying too heavily on the sort of by-the-numbers storytelling that only a statistician could love.
Synopsis: Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. One of pro football's most important days,... [More]
Directed By: Ivan Reitman

#17

Semi-Tough (1977)
82%

#17
Adjusted Score: 81227%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Billy Clyde Puckett (Burt Reynolds) and Marvin "Shake" Tiller (Kris Kristofferson) are professional football players who share a lush Miami... [More]
Directed By: Michael Ritchie

#16

Invincible (2006)
72%

#16
Adjusted Score: 77481%
Critics Consensus: As simple and authentic as the gritty South Philly invirons in which it's set in, Invincible sends a uplifting and heartfelt message packed with an athletic enthusiasm that shouldn't be missed.
Synopsis: Lifelong football fan Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) sees his wildest dreams come true when he becomes a member of the... [More]
Directed By: Ericson Core

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 85545%
Critics Consensus: Muddled overall, but perceptive and brutally realistic, North Dallas Forty also benefits from strong performances by Nick Nolte and Charles Durning. Football fans will likely find it fascinating.
Synopsis: A brutal satire of American professional football in which a veteran pass-catcher's individuality and refusal to become part of the... [More]
Directed By: Ted Kotcheff

#14

The Waterboy (1998)
34%

#14
Adjusted Score: 37915%
Critics Consensus: This is an insult to its genre with low humor and cheap gags.
Synopsis: Raised by his overprotective mother, Helen (Kathy Bates), Bobby Boucher Jr. (Adam Sandler) is the water boy for a successful... [More]
Directed By: Frank Coraci

#13

The Express (2008)
62%

#13
Adjusted Score: 65425%
Critics Consensus: The Express crosses the goal line as an inspirational sports drama, although fans of the genre will recognize many -- if not most -- of its clichés.
Synopsis: Born into poverty, Ernie Davis (Rob Brown) overcomes many obstacles to get into Syracuse University's football program. Under the guidance... [More]
Directed By: Gary Fleder

#12

Gridiron Gang (2006)
42%

#12
Adjusted Score: 45861%
Critics Consensus: The role of probation officer Sean Porter fits Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson like a glove; however, the execution is so cliched, the youths' stories (based on real events), fail to inspire.
Synopsis: A counselor (The Rock) at a juvenile detention facility decides to turn the young inmates in his charge into a... [More]
Directed By: Phil Joanou

#11

Undefeated (2011)

#11
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Since its founding in 1899, Manassas High School in North Memphis has never had a football team win a playoff... [More]
Starring: Bill Courtney
Directed By: Dan Lindsay, T.J. Martin

#10

The Longest Yard (1974)
79%

#10
Adjusted Score: 81964%
Critics Consensus: Equal parts tough and funny, and led by a perfectly cast Burt Reynolds, The Longest Yard has an interesting political subtext and an excellent climax -- even if it takes too long to get there.
Synopsis: An ex-football star doing time is forced by the warden to organize a team of inmates to play against his... [More]
Directed By: Robert Aldrich

#9

Varsity Blues (1999)
43%

#9
Adjusted Score: 43879%
Critics Consensus: This is a predictable football movie that lacks intensity.
Synopsis: In West Canaan, Texas, high school football reigns supreme. When starting quarterback Lance Harbor (Paul Walker) turns up injured, the... [More]
Directed By: Brian Robbins

#8

Any Given Sunday (1999)
52%

#8
Adjusted Score: 57375%
Critics Consensus: Sometimes entertaining, but overall Any Given Sunday is a disappointment coming from Oliver Stone.
Synopsis: Four years ago, DAmato's (Al Pacino) Miami Sharks were at the top. Now, his team is struggling with three consecutive... [More]
Directed By: Oliver Stone

#7

We Are Marshall (2006)
48%

#7
Adjusted Score: 53004%
Critics Consensus: Matthew McConaughey almost runs We Are Marshall to the end zone, but can't stop it from taking the easy, feel-good route in memorializing this historic event in American sports.
Synopsis: In 1970, Marshall University and the small town of Huntington, W.Va., reel when a plane crash claims the lives of... [More]
Directed By: McG

#6

Jerry Maguire (1996)
84%

#6
Adjusted Score: 89299%
Critics Consensus: Anchored by dazzling performances from Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Renée Zellweger, as well as Cameron Crowe's tender direction, Jerry Maguire meshes romance and sports with panache.
Synopsis: When slick sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) has a crisis of conscience, he pens a heartfelt company-wide memo that... [More]
Directed By: Cameron Crowe

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a homeless black teen, has drifted in and out of the school system for years. Then... [More]
Directed By: John Lee Hancock

#4

Brian's Song (1971)
92%

#4
Adjusted Score: 92567%
Critics Consensus: Buoyed by standout performances from James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, Brian's Song is a touching tale of friendship whose central relationship transcends its standard sports movie moments.
Synopsis: Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) are teammates on the mid-1960s Chicago Bears. At a time... [More]
Directed By: Buzz Kulik

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 87152%
Critics Consensus: An acute survey of the football-obsessed heartland that succeeds as both a stirring drama and a rousing sports movie.
Synopsis: A small, turbulent town in Texas obsesses over their high school football team to an unhealthy degree. When the star... [More]
Directed By: Peter Berg

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 76982%
Critics Consensus: An inspirational crowd-pleaser with a healthy dose of social commentary, Remember the Titans may be predictable, but it's also well-crafted and features terrific performances.
Synopsis: In Virginia, high school football is a way of life, an institution revered, each game celebrated more lavishly than Christmas,... [More]
Directed By: Boaz Yakin

#1

Rudy (1993)
78%

#1
Adjusted Score: 81458%
Critics Consensus: Though undeniably sentimental and predictable, Rudy succeeds with an uplifting spirit and determination.
Synopsis: Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) wants to play football at the University of Notre Dame, but has neither the money for... [More]
Directed By: David Anspaugh

Poster for TNT's Snowpiercer

(Photo by TNT)

On May 17, Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer will become a TNT television series starring Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs. It’s not the first property to jump from the big screen to the small one (it was technically a French graphic novel first), and it certainly won’t be the last. For decades now, television producers have been going to the movies and asking themselves if they could make what they’re watching work in an episodic format. Who needs writers to come up with ideas when the movies can do it for you?

The resulting series have been all over the map critically, from projects that were canceled early to ones that ran for years, nearly obliterating the original film from viewers’ minds. It got us thinking about the variety of approaches that creative voices have taken when they try to sing a cinematic song on TV. The jury is still out on whether or not the futuristic vision of Snowpiercer will translate into a multi-season hit, but here are the eight approaches that have worked in the past with an example from the top tier of the film-to-TV canon for each.


Make It Your Own: Fargo

Ewan McGregor in Season 3 of Fargo

(Photo by ©FX)

When Noah Hawley entered the world of Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1995 masterpiece, he knew a literal approach wouldn’t work (and not just because it had already been attempted in 2003 with Edie Falco as Marge Gunderson in a failed TV pilot). He decided to use the atmosphere and language of the Coen-verse to tell his own stories, and the result became an award-winning critical darling. The best singers don’t just cover a song, they make it their own, reworking it in a way that redefines it. Fargo wouldn’t exist without the work of the Coen brothers, but no one would argue that it’s a direct interpretation of their creativity either. As much as Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal stands alongside both the Thomas Harris books and films, these shows use their cinematic sources as inspirations instead of a template waiting to be copied.


Make It a Prequel: Bates Motel

Freddie Highmore in Season 5 of Bates Motel

(Photo by Sergei Bachlakov/©A&E)

Sometimes the best way to adapt a cinematic property is to go back to the beginning. On paper, a young adult version of Norman Bates in contemporary times sounded like a horrible idea; it could have ended up just another teen drama like Gossip Girl, but with a little more murder. But the creators of Bates Motel deftly balanced nods to the Robert Bloch book and influential Alfred Hitchcock film throughout, culminating in a stellar final season that really tied it all together in unexpectedly moving ways. By going the prequel route, the creators had the freedom to tell a new story, even if it ultimately led to a familiar set of stairs.


Make It a Corrective: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

(Photo by © 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

It may have a cult following now, but writer Joss Whedon notoriously disliked the way his 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer was altered from his original intention. And so he convinced a fledgling network called The WB to give him a second shot at the character in weekly form, and the rest is TV history. It’s funny to watch the film now and see echoes of it in the series, which is darker, denser and more nuanced in ways that Whedon wasn’t allowed to be on the big screen. It’s a case in which the film probably should have been a TV series from the very beginning.


Make It Fun: Ash vs. Evil Dead

Lucy Lawless, Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, and Ray Santiago in Ash vs. Evil Dead

(Photo by Matt Klitscher/©Starz)

Twenty-three years after Army of Darkness, no one expected to return to the world of Ash and the Deadites, but along came Starz’s gloriously gory Ash vs. Evil Dead, which carries in every frame an air of “can you believe we’re doing this?” Much like the Netflix reboot of Wet Hot American Summer, this show recognizes the fact that most people involved never thought they’d get the chance to make it, and so they’re going to have as much fun as possible while they can. And that fun can be infectious. Not everything needs to be “Prestige TV;” sometimes fans of a film just want to rekindle that fun sensibility that made movies like Evil Dead 2 and Wet Hot into cult hits in the first place.


Make It Feel New: Westworld

Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld

(Photo by John P. Johnson/HBO)

One wonders how many people trying to decipher the current season of Westworld have any idea it’s even based on a movie. While some adaptations exist to call back to their cinematic fan bases (see previous entry), others barely acknowledge the existence of the original property. The back story of a show like Teen Wolf doesn’t depend on knowing the Michael J. Fox original, and you don’t need to have seen the 1973 Yul Brynner film (or its truly dire 1976 sequel, Futureworld) to be invested in the saga of Dolores Abernathy and the Man in Black. And that’s just the way HBO likes it.


Make It Unexpected: The Girlfriend Experience

Riley Keough in The Girlfriend Experience

(Photo by Kerry Hayes/©Starz)

Sometimes the best shows are developed from films that no one involved ever thought would become a TV show (Snowpiercer might fall into this category). Steven Soderbergh’s drama about a high-priced escort didn’t exactly scream weekly drama, but the Starz adaptation found new stories to tell within this concept. Sometimes TV shows can even build on their source in ways that make them feel more creatively accomplished, such as Netflix’s Dear White People, which unexpectedly turned a good film into a great series. Going the blockbuster-to-show route can often lead to mediocre product, but shows like The Girlfriend Experience prove that there’s no specific “type” of movie that will succeed as a series.


Make It the Same: What We Do in the Shadows

The cast of What We Do in the Shadows

(Photo by )

The most common creative tenet of film-to-TV adaptations seems to be “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” After all, if people liked it on the big screen, they’re bound to like it on the small screen, right? While this often produces faded carbon copies of creative ideas, it also just works sometimes. The dynamic between Oscar and Felix in The Odd Couple that went from stage to screen to TV didn’t need to change. The movie Fame practically played like a pilot for the show. And the Taika Waititi hit that blended reality TV filmmaking with vampire lore was a perfect fit for the series, now on FX, without much alteration to the formula other than dividing the storytelling into bloody chunks and a change in location from New Zealand to Staten Island.


Make It Emotional: Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights

(Photo by ©NBC)

The main thing the best TV adaptations do is provide a recurring emotional connection that usually naturally dissipates after the credits have rolled on a film. Millions of people spent years with the families on shows like Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, two programs that are arguably on the Mt. Rushmore of film-to-TV because they treated the source material as something not just to copy but to emotionally enrich. The format allowed the creators of these shows to go deeper and make these characters a part of viewers’ families for multiple seasons. People may have first checked out FNL because of the movie, but they hung around because of their emotional connection to the show. If only more film-to-TV adaptations were this good.

April is shaping up to be a pretty good month for movies, leading into the proper summer movie season. But if you’re afraid of big crowds, or you just feel like lounging at home all month in your unicorn snuggie (and who doesn’t?), then Netflix has a pretty good lineup waiting for you. As usual, the month is heavily frontloaded, with most of the interesting titles coming out on April 1, but see below for the full list.


L.A. Confidential (1997) 99%


Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, and Kim Basinger star in Curtis Hanson’s period noir about the criminal underworld of 1950s Los Angeles and the police of dubious morals who are called upon to investigate a multiple homicide with possible mob connections.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


The Iron Giant (1999) 96%

Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston, and Harry Connick Jr. lend their voices to Brad Bird’s animated feature debut, about a large sentient robot who finds himself lost in a small Maine town in 1958 and befriends a young boy.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


6 Balloons (2018) 86%

Dave Franco and Abbi Jacobson star in Marja-Lewis Ryan’s drama following a woman over the course of a night as she drives her heroin-addicted brother through LA, looking for a detox center.

Available 4/6 on: Netflix


Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2016) 93%

This documentary centers on the Chinese immigrant family who owned and operated the Abacus Federal Savings bank in New York, the only bank to face criminal charges in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Heat (1995) 87%

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro headline Michael Mann’s celebrated heist movie that centers on the cat-and-mouse game between a career criminal on his last job and the detective determined to catch him.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Scarface (1983) 82%

Al Pacino offers an unforgettable performance in Brian DePalma’s iconic drama about drug kingpin Tony Montana’s rise to power and eventual downfall.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Friday Night Lights (2004) 82%

Billy Bob Thornton stars in Peter Berg’s drama based on true events about a Texas high school football team’s struggles to win the state championship.

Available 3/1 on: Netflix


Seven (1995) 82%

Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman star in David Fincher’s thriller about a retiring detective who takes on a green partner in order to solve a series of grisly murders based on the Seven Deadly Sins.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Life Is Beautiful (1997) 80%

Roberto Benigni and Nicoletta Braschi star in Benigni’s dramatic comedy about a Jewish father who concocts elaborate stories to prevent his young son from learning the truth when his family is imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale: Season 1 (2018) 83%

Joel McHale hosts this weekly series from Netflix that looks at news and pop culture from around the world, much in the same way that McHale previously did on Talk Soup.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Kodachrome (2017) 71%

Jason Sudeikis, Ed Harris, and Elizabeth Olsen star in this drama about a man who agrees to drive his dying father across the country in order to develop four rolls of Kodachrome film.

Available 4/20 on: Netflix


Sin City (2005)

Robert Rodriguez’s Certified Fresh adaptation of the Frank Miller comic is a dark, grisly collection of interconnected pulp fiction starring Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, and Mickey Rourke, and shot with a unique visual flair.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Una (2016) 76%

Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn star in this drama about a young woman who seeks out an older man with whom she shared a relationship 15 years before that got him arrested and put in jail.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


The Lost Boys (1987) 77%

Coreys Haim and Feldman, Jason Patric, and Keifer Sutherland star in this Joel Schumacher cult classic about a pair of brothers who become entangled in the world of local vampires after they move to a new town.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Sunshine Cleaning (2008) 74%

Amy Adams and Emily Blunt star in this comedy about a down-on-her-luck single mother who starts up a crime scene cleaning business with her sister.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Boys on the Side (1995) 74%

Drew Barrymore, Whoopi Goldberg, and Mary-Louise Parker star in this drama about three women who set out on a road trip from New York to California together.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Cold Mountain (2003) 70%

Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, and Renée Zellweger star in Anthony Minghella’s period drama that follows an American Civil War soldier as he travels home through Confederate territory to his beloved, a preacher’s daughter struggling to keep her family farm alive.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Fracture (2007)

Ryan Gosling and Anthony Hopkins star in this psychological thriller about a hot-shot attorney who engages in a war of wits with the wealthy engineer he’s been tasked with defending in court for the murder of the engineer’s wife.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

The third chapter of the Terminator saga, set 10 years after T2, follows John Connor (Nick Stahl) as he attempts to evade another assassin sent from the future, this time in the form of a woman (Kristanna Loken), again with the help of a T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Cabin Fever (2002) 62%

Eli Roth’s cult favorite horror film centers on a group of college friends vacationing in the wilderness who begin to turn on each other when one of them becomes infected with a terrible, fast-acting sickness.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Kill the Irishman (2011) 62%

Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken, and Vincent D’Onofrio star in this period crime drama based on the true story of Cleveland mobster Danny Greene, who battled the Italian mafia for control of the city during the 1970s.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix


Cube (1997) 64%

Vincenzo Natali’s high-concept sci-fi horror film follows six strangers who wake up to find themselves trapped in a system of cubes rigged with deadly mechanisms and must work together to find an escape. A prequel, Cube Zero, is also available to stream.

Available 4/1 on: Cube, Cube Zero


The Duchess (2008) 62%

Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes star in this biographical look at the Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana Spencer, who captured the public’s heart and helped enact sweeping changes as a political leader.

Available 4/1 on: Netflix

The big movie this week is the PG-13-rated haunted house flick Winchester, but it wasn’t screened for critics, so Christy offers an opinion on a smaller animated film that isn’t really for young children. And if you don’t care much for the Super Bowl this Sunday — or the teams in it — Christy also has three great suggestions for football movies you can watch with kids of different ages. Read on for the full list.


THE MOVIE

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero (2015) 59%

Rating: PG-13, for violence/warfare and some thematic elements.

It’s an animated film with an inspiring story, but be warned: Bilal: A New Breed of Hero really isn’t for younger viewers. In telling the tale of a real-life slave who found his voice, followed his faith, and ultimately declared his independence, director and co-writer Khurram H. Alavi includes several battle scenes – some intimate, some massive, but all quite intense. Horses thunder across a dark, foreboding landscape, and a massive monster made of sand and fire with glowing red eyes swirls and hovers ominously. From the very start, our hero, Bilal – a 7th century slave in Hejaz, currently western Saudi Arabia – is in danger. Marauders strip his mother away in front of him and his sister. Later (when he’s voiced as a teen by Jacob Latimore and as an adult by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), he’s chained, beaten, and whipped for thinking for himself and following his own God at a time when others worshipped idols. The ultimate message is worthwhile, but the story is a bit of a slog, and it may be hard for young people to follow. Plus, the character design in the animation has a creepy, expressionless quality reminiscent of early performance-capture films like The Polar Express. Bilal means well, and it provides a cultural perspective we rarely see in animated movies, but it’s probably only suitable for tweens and older.


THE RECOMMENDATIONS

This weekend, it’s also the Super Bowl. If you want to get psyched up for the big game – or you’d rather watch anything else besides the New England Patriots playing the Philadelphia Eagles – here are some football-themed movies you can enjoy with the family.

Brian's Song (1971) 92%

Rating: G

This was originally a made-for-TV movie, so you really, truly could have sat in front of the television with your family and watched this heartwarming story – back when there were only a handful of channels and you had to get up from your recliner to turn the knob. But its themes of kindness and racial harmony are just as relevant today as they were decades ago. Based on a true story, Brian’s Song follows the friendship between Chicago Bears teammates Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams). Despite having different personalities and backgrounds, they become close, and even end up being the NFL’s first interracial roommates. When Piccolo is diagnosed with cancer and begins to deteriorate physically, Sayers is his biggest supporter and champion. It’s a weepy, but it’s surprisingly understated, and it earns the emotion it seeks. Very young children might find the sadness and/or uplift too difficult to process, but for slightly older viewers, there are a lot of worthwhile themes here. A good choice for kids around 8 and older.


Rudy (1993) 78%

Rating: PG, for mild language.

It may seem super cheesy in retrospect, but it’s a classic and it’s worth sharing with your kids if they haven’t already seen it. The film from David Anspaugh (who also directed Hoosiers) is based on a true story, too: that of “Rudy” Ruettinger (Sean Astin). His lifelong dream was to play football for the University of Notre Dame despite being small at 5 foot 6 and not terribly athletic. He was also dyslexic, which made his classes at Notre Dame even more challenging. But through hard work, perseverance, and just plain heart, he makes the team and becomes a cherished figure. Rudy takes some tough hits on the field; off the field, he endures the harsh words of various people who don’t believe in him. There’s language scattered throughout, a scene of drinking, and a dramatic death. Yes, it’s a formulaic, feel-good sports movie, but it also offers valuable messages for young people about the importance of being focused and dedicated. Fine for viewers around 10 and older.


Friday Night Lights (2004) 82%

Rating: PG-13, for thematic issues, sexual content, language, some teen drinking and rough sports action.

Before there was Friday Night Lights, the popular TV series, there was Friday Night Lights, the feature film, based on H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger’s eloquent and evocative non-fiction book of the same name. All three vividly capture the sensation that football is life in Texas – especially high school football, and especially in West Texas.  But rather than overdramatize the Permian High School football team, director and co-writer Peter Berg goes in the opposite direction, depicting this world in stripped-down, bleached-out fashion. There is an awful lot of action, though. The football scenes, under the guidance of Billy Bob Thornton’s Coach Gaines, have a bone-jarring realism to them. Berg also explores the racial and socio-economic rifts that existed both within Odessa in the late 1980s and between Odessa and rival Midland, a wealthier, whiter town 20 miles east. We see the toll that alcoholism takes on the family of a party-boy tailback (Garrett Hedlund) and his abusive father (a chilling Tim McGraw). There’s also language, some frank sexual talk, and one passionate make-out scene. But Friday Night Lights is well cast and strongly acted, and high school students will likely respond to its authenticity. Fine for viewers around 13 and older.

It’s taken them awhile to get here, with plenty of twists, turns, fits, and starts along the way. But this weekend, the DCEU finally brings its first Justice League team-up to theaters — and in honor of this momentous occasion, we’ve dedicated this feature to a look at some of the less well-known critical favorites from this star-studded ensemble’s assembled filmography. Unfortunately, not all League members have enough Fresh films to their credit to merit inclusion — get you next time, Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher — but even with those omissions, we think you’ll find the results suitably super. It’s time for Total Recall!


Gal GadotDate Night (2010) 66%

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

Ms. Gadot hasn’t made a ton of movies — before being handed the keys to Wonder Woman’s invisible jet, she was best known for playing a recurring supporting character in the Fast and Furious movies — so it’s a bit of a stretch to argue that her filmography has much in the way of “hidden gems.” But fans looking for a peek of the future Amazonian in her pre-stardom days can catch her brief appearance in Date Night, the 2010 Steve Carell/Tina Fey comedy about a workaday married couple whose plans for a night on the town go hilariously (and dangerously) awry. Popping up as the new girlfriend of the couple’s pal Brad (Mark Wahlberg), Gadot gets one of the movie’s more memorable (albeit cheapest) laughs with the heavily accented line, “You two make sex with us?”


Ben Affleck – Changing Lanes (2002) 77%

(Photo by Paramount Pictures)

It’s a little difficult to argue for anything truly being “hidden” in Ben Affleck’s filmography at this point, but if you’re looking for an acclaimed film that audiences failed to turn up for, you could  do worse than 2002’s Changing Lanes, a tension-filled drama about the war of attrition that erupts after a car accident involving a beleaguered insurance salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) and a lawyer (Affleck). Examining uncommonly thorny themes of race and privilege, wrapped up in good old-fashioned high-octane Hollywood thrills, Lanes wasn’t quite the box office smash it seemed poised to become, but in the fallow period that followed, it offered a reminder of Affleck’s gifts — and looking back, it also served as a prelude to some of the more thoughtful stuff he’d deliver in years to come.


Henry CavillI Capture the Castle (2003) 79%

(Photo by Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Cavill was a surprise choice when Warner Bros. picked him as the new face of the Superman franchise, but there’s no denying he looks the part — and as evidenced by his supporting role in this acclaimed adaptation of the 1948 Dodie Smith novel I Capture the Castle, that’s been the case long before he donned the cape and tights. As the good-hearted Stephen Colley, Cavill doesn’t have a ton to do other than moon over lead character Cassandra Mortmain (Romola Garai), but as an early look at his screen career, it’s interesting — and solid filmmaking besides, especially if your tastes run to period romance.


Amy AdamsJunebug (2005) 86%

(Photo by Sony Pictures Classics)

By 2005, Amy Adams had scored roles in a number of mainstream productions, including Serving Sara and The Wedding Date — but it wasn’t until she starred in a tiny $1 million indie film that people really understood what she could do. As the pregnant chatterbox Ashley Johnsten, Adams took what was technically a supporting part and walked away with Junebug, earning an Academy Award nomination in the process — and jumpstarting a career that she was close to walking away from prior to finally enjoying her breakout success.

Ezra MillerThe Stanford Prison Experiment (2015) 84%

(Photo by IFC Films / courtesy Everett Collection)

Miller’s only been making movies for a decade, but he’s already put together a résumé full of under-the-radar winners, including We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. If we have to pick just one hidden gem, however, we’re going with 2015’s Stanford Prison Experiment, in which Miller joined Billy Crudup and Michael Angalono as the leads in a harrowing dramatization of the titular psychology experiment, in which students were divided into “prisoners” and “guards” in an effort to see how quickly and thoroughly their social mores would break down. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t pretty.) He’s clearly got the chops for big-budget fantasy and adventure, but if the roles in tights ever dry up, he’s clearly got nothing to worry about.


Amber HeardFriday Night Lights (2004) 82%

(Photo by Universal)

Before it was an acclaimed cult favorite on the TV dial, Friday Night Lights was a Buzz Bissinger non-fiction book about life on the Texas high school gridiron — and then it was a Peter Berg drama starring Billy Bob Thornton as a football coach with the weight of a small town’s hopes and dreams on his program’s shoulders. In hindsight, it seems awfully easy to say Lights was always destined to play out more powerfully on the small screen, but the film stands up pretty well on its own — and if you’re looking for an early glimpse of the DCEU’s future Mera, this version boasts the added bonus of having Amber Heard, making her film debut in a supporting role as Maria.


Jeremy IronsMargin Call (2011) 87%

(Photo by Walter Thomson/Roadside Attractions courtesy Everett Collection)

Margin Call, writer/director J.C. Chandor’s dramatized take on the financial crisis of 2007-08, managed to turn banking shenanigans into legitimately pulse-pounding drama. Mortgage securities and toxic assets might sound like awfully dry stuff for a movie, but in Chandor’s hands — and brought to life by a cast that included Irons as well as Paul Bettany, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci — it proved not just strikingly timely, but powerfully resonant. Plus, as discerning film fans are well aware, if your movie’s cast of characters includes an unscrupulous CEO and you cast Jeremy Irons in the role, you’ve already won half the battle.


Diane LaneTrumbo (2015) 75%

(Photo by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Bleecker Street Media courtesy Everett Collection)

A rare leading film role for Bryan Cranston, 2015’s Trumbo found the veteran character actor (and Breaking Bad star) playing the legendary screenwriter during and after his politically motivated fall from professional grace. Although certainly a star vehicle for its leading man, Trumbo wasn’t all about the writer’s professional travails; the story also focused on the impact of the scandal — and Trumbo’s reaction to it — on his relationship with his family, including his wife Cleo (Lane). Over the last several decades, Lane has more than proven her depth and range; with a gripping fact-based story and solid support from her co-star, Trumbo offered a compelling reminder.


Connie NielsenBrothers (2004)

Subsequently remade for American audiences as a Jim Sheridan drama starring Natalie Portman as a woman torn between Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire, the 2004 Danish thriller Brødre didn’t make much of an impact in U.S. theaters during its arthouse run. It marked a turning point in Connie Nielsen’s career, however, earning her the equivalent of a Danish Best Actress Oscar and proving the accolades she’d earned for her appearance in Gladiator were far from a fluke. While she’s continued to work steadily in the years since, Brødre remains a consistently thrilling example of what she’s capable of when she’s asked to carry a movie — not to mention a sobering reminder that even if it looks like your spouse has been killed in battle, you may not want to take up with their sibling.


J.K. SimmonsThe Ref (1994)

(Photo by Buena Vista)

Everyone’s favorite gruff uncle, J.K. Simmons honed his craft for years in a series of “that guy” roles before landing the part of J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies. He’s since become a dependable member of the Coen brothers’ stable of actors — and, of course, won a Best Supporting Oscar for his unforgettable performance in Whiplash — but all that really just scratches the surface of Simmons’ film career. In fact, for this feature, we’re going all the way back to his big-screen debut in 1994’s The Ref. His screen time, spent as a military commander being blackmailed by an unscrupulous student, only takes up a few minutes of one subplot in Denis Leary’s first film showcase, but it’s good for some laughs — and it proves the Simmons we love today has always been just as capable of commanding the camera.

Ciarán HindsMiss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008) 78%

(Photo by Focus Features courtesy Everett Collection)

This 2008 rom-com from director Bharat Nalluri (working from a David Magee/Simon Beaufoy screenplay adapted from Winifred Watson’s 1938 novel) follows the gently scandalous misadventures of a dowdy London governess (Frances McDormand) who copes with her sudden unemployment by stealing a former co-worker’s assignment to manage the social affairs of an American starlet (Justice League co-star Amy Adams). Every period romance needs a dashing gentleman, and Miss Pettigrew filled its quotient with Hinds’ Joe Blomfield, a lingerie designer who falls for our heroine after their paths cross at a high society fashion show.

70 Best High School Movies of All Time

For some, high school is the peak of their life: You’ve got prom and pep rallies, and homecoming and hormones. For others, it’s the pits because you’ve got…well, prom and pep rallies, and homecoming and hormones. And there to capture every awesome/awful moment are these high school movies which earned high grades from film critics.

Some of these beloved movies (like The Last Picture Show or American Graffiti) take a look back on high school with the clarity of time gone by. Others (like Superbad or Booksmart) make you feel like the high school experience is unfolding in real-time right before your eyes.

The best high school movies reflect discovering one’s self (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), questioning authority (Dead Poets Society), taking wild risks (Better Luck Tomorrow), and working for a better future (Hoop Dreams). And some ask the big questions. Like, what if I was in high school and I was also, you know, a superhero? What if one day I’m driving to school and then I time-travel back to 1955? And what if I had a better idea of what to do with that pie than just eating it?

As the jump-gate into adulthood and beyond, high school can be wild and wondrous and heart-breaking and hilarious. (And usually all at once.) The same can be said for these Fresh and Certified Fresh films (each with at least 20 critics reviews), representing the best high school movies ever, all ranked by Tomatometer!

#70

American Pie (1999)
61%

#70
Adjusted Score: 66633%
Critics Consensus: So embarrassing it's believable, American Pie succeeds in bringing back the teen movie genre.
Synopsis: A riotous and raunchy exploration of the most eagerly anticipated -- and most humiliating -- rite of adulthood, known as... [More]
Directed By: Paul Weitz

#69

Bring It On (2000)

#69
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Toro cheerleading squad from Rancho Carne High School in San Diego has got spirit, spunk, sass and a killer... [More]
Directed By: Peyton Reed

#68
Adjusted Score: 67873%
Critics Consensus: It won't win many converts, but High School Musical 3 is bright, energetic, and well-crafted.
Synopsis: Amid preparations for a basketball championship, prom, and graduation, sweethearts Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) vow... [More]
Directed By: Kenny Ortega

#67

O (2001)

#67
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Moving the classic tale of "Othello" onto the basketball courts of a high school, the story focuses on a young... [More]
Directed By: Tim Blake Nelson

#66
Adjusted Score: 72062%
Critics Consensus: Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger add strong performances to an unexpectedly clever script, elevating 10 Things (slightly) above typical teen fare.
Synopsis: Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) is beautiful, smart and quite abrasive to most of her fellow teens, meaning that she doesn't... [More]
Directed By: Gil Junger

#65

Palo Alto (2013)
68%

#65
Adjusted Score: 73086%
Critics Consensus: A promising debut for director Gia Coppola, Palo Alto compensates for its drifting plot with solid performances and beautiful cinematography.
Synopsis: A lack of parental guidance encourages teens in an affluent California town to rebel with substance abuse and casual sex.... [More]
Directed By: Gia Coppola

#64

Freedom Writers (2007)
70%

#64
Adjusted Score: 74029%
Critics Consensus: Freedom Writers is a frank, formulaic entry in the inspirational inner-city teacher genre, with an energetic Hilary Swank leading the appealing cast of unknowns.
Synopsis: A dedicated teacher (Hilary Swank) in a racially divided Los Angeles school has a class of at-risk teenagers deemed incapable... [More]
Directed By: Richard LaGravenese

#63
#63
Adjusted Score: 78234%
Critics Consensus: A charming, quirky, and often funny comedy.
Synopsis: In small-town Preston, Idaho, awkward teen Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) has trouble fitting in. After his grandmother is injured in... [More]
Directed By: Jared Hess

#62

The DUFF (2015)
73%

#62
Adjusted Score: 76425%
Critics Consensus: The DUFF doesn't achieve teen-movie greatness, but offers enough of a postmodern twist on the genre to recommend -- and boasts typically great work from star Mae Whitman.
Synopsis: Frumpy high-school senior Bianca (Mae Whitman) has a rude awakening when she learns that her classmates secretly know her as... [More]
Directed By: Ari Sandel

#61

Elephant (2003)
73%

#61
Adjusted Score: 78324%
Critics Consensus: The movie's spare and unconventional style will divide viewers.
Synopsis: A variety of adolescents at a suburban high school drift through a seemingly uneventful day, until two students arrive with... [More]
Directed By: Gus Van Sant

#60

Pretty in Pink (1986)
73%

#60
Adjusted Score: 78072%
Critics Consensus: Molly Ringwald gives an outstanding performance in this sweet, intelligent teen comedy that takes an ancient premise and injects it with insight and wit.
Synopsis: Andie (Molly Ringwald) is an outcast at her Chicago high school, hanging out either with her older boss (Annie Potts),... [More]
Directed By: Howard Deutch

#59
#59
Adjusted Score: 75996%
Critics Consensus: A feel-good story brought to life by a terrific ensemble cast, Mr. Holland's Opus plucks the heartstrings without shame -- and with undeniable skill.
Synopsis: Composer Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) believes that he'll eventually write a transcendent piece of music, but in the meantime he's... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Herek

#58

Grease (1978)
76%

#58
Adjusted Score: 83674%
Critics Consensus: Grease is a pleasing, energetic musical with infectiously catchy songs and an ode to young love that never gets old.
Synopsis: Experience the friendships, romances and adventures of a group of high school kids in the 1950s. Welcome to the singing... [More]
Directed By: Randal Kleiser

#57
#57
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: World War II veteran Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) takes a teaching position at a rough New York City school for... [More]
Directed By: Richard Brooks

#56
#56
Adjusted Score: 78225%
Critics Consensus: Some Kind of Wonderful is above-average '80s teen fare for people who need as much John Hughes in their lives as possible.
Synopsis: Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz), an artsy high school outcast, tries to land a date with popular girl Amanda Jones (Lea... [More]
Directed By: Howard Deutch

#55

Better Off Dead (1985)
76%

#55
Adjusted Score: 77437%
Critics Consensus: Better Off Dead is an anarchic mix of black humor and surreal comedy, anchored by John Cusack's winsome, charming performance.
Synopsis: Lane Meyer (John Cusack) is a teen with a peculiar family and a bizarre fixation with his girlfriend, Beth (Amanda... [More]
Directed By: Savage Steve Holland

#54
#54
Adjusted Score: 81248%
Critics Consensus: The Virgin Suicides drifts with a dreamlike melancholy that may strike some audiences as tedious, but Sofia Coppola's feature debut is a mature meditation on disaffected youth.
Synopsis: In an ordinary suburban house, on a lovely tree-lined street, in the middle of 1970s America, lived the five beautiful,... [More]
Directed By: Sofia Coppola

#53
Adjusted Score: 82577%
Critics Consensus: While Fast Times at Ridgemont High features Sean Penn's legendary performance, the film endures because it accurately captured the small details of school, work, and teenage life.
Synopsis: Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a pretty, but inexperienced, teen interested in dating. Given advice by her uninhibited friend,... [More]
Directed By: Amy Heckerling

#52

Scream (1996)
79%

#52
Adjusted Score: 83845%
Critics Consensus: Horror icon Wes Craven's subversive deconstruction of the genre is sly, witty, and surprisingly effective as a slasher film itself, even if it's a little too cheeky for some.
Synopsis: The sleepy little town of Woodsboro just woke up screaming. There's a killer in their midst who's seen a few... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#51

Brick (2005)
80%

#51
Adjusted Score: 84391%
Critics Consensus: This entertaining homage to noirs past has been slickly and compellingly updated to a contemporary high school setting.
Synopsis: After receiving a frantic phone call from his ex-girlfriend, teenage loner Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) learns that her dead body... [More]
Directed By: Rian Johnson

#50
#50
Adjusted Score: 86807%
Critics Consensus: Matthew Broderick charms in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, a light and irrepressibly fun movie about being young and having fun.
Synopsis: Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) has an uncanny skill at cutting classes and getting away with it. Intending to make one... [More]
Directed By: John Hughes

#49
Adjusted Score: 85237%
Critics Consensus: Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are just charming, goofy, and silly enough to make this fluffy time-travel Adventure work.
Synopsis: Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are high school buddies starting a band. However, they are about to fail... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Herek

#48
#48
Adjusted Score: 82748%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A teenager (P.J. Soles) and her friends get even with their principal to music by the Ramones.... [More]

#47
#47
Adjusted Score: 84241%
Critics Consensus: A promising work by Lin, the energetic Better Luck Tomorrow is disturbing and thought-provoking.
Synopsis: An accomplished high school student, Ben (Parry Shen) seems to excel at almost everything except winning over his dream girl,... [More]
Directed By: Justin Lin

#46

Clueless (1995)

#46
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Shallow, rich and socially successful Cher (Alicia Silverstone) is at the top of her Beverly Hills high school's pecking scale.... [More]
Directed By: Amy Heckerling

#45
Adjusted Score: 89503%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully scripted and perfectly cast, Me & Earl & the Dying Girl is a coming-of-age movie with uncommon charm and insight.
Synopsis: An awkward high-school senior (Thomas Mann) and a gravely ill classmate (Olivia Cooke) surprise themselves by becoming inseparable friends.... [More]
Directed By: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

#44
#44
Adjusted Score: 87152%
Critics Consensus: An acute survey of the football-obsessed heartland that succeeds as both a stirring drama and a rousing sports movie.
Synopsis: A small, turbulent town in Texas obsesses over their high school football team to an unhealthy degree. When the star... [More]
Directed By: Peter Berg

#43
#43
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) are two childhood friends who both aspire to be professional basketball players. Quincy,... [More]
Directed By: Gina Prince

#42

Fame (1980)
81%

#42
Adjusted Score: 83422%
Critics Consensus: Just because Fame is a well-acted musical doesn't mean it flinches against its surprisingly heavy topics.
Synopsis: Young men and women audition for coveted spots at the New York High School of Performing Arts. Those who make... [More]
Directed By: Alan Parker

#41

Rocket Science (2007)
84%

#41
Adjusted Score: 87022%
Critics Consensus: Though Rocket Science appears to be a typically quirky indie, the well-rounded performances and director Jeffrey Blitz's clear affection for his characters gives the film its proper human spark.
Synopsis: High-school student Hal Hefner's (Reece Daniel Thompson) life is falling down around him. His parents have split, his brother picks... [More]
Directed By: Jeffrey Blitz

#40

My Bodyguard (1980)
81%

#40
Adjusted Score: 83421%
Critics Consensus: T. Bill debuts as an affectionate director, keenly aware of growing pains.
Synopsis: Clifford Peache (Chris Makepeace) is a sensitive, well-to-do teen who becomes the target of bully Melvin Moody (Matt Dillon) after... [More]
Directed By: Tony Bill

#39

Sixteen Candles (1984)
84%

#39
Adjusted Score: 86085%
Critics Consensus: Significantly more mature than the teen raunch comedies that defined the era, Sixteen Candles is shot with compassion and clear respect for its characters and their hang-ups.
Synopsis: With the occasion all but overshadowed by her sister's upcoming wedding, angst-ridden Samantha (Molly Ringwald) faces her 16th birthday with... [More]
Directed By: John Hughes

#38

Mean Girls (2004)
84%

#38
Adjusted Score: 90854%
Critics Consensus: Elevated by a brilliant screenplay and outstanding ensemble cast, Mean Girls finds fresh, female-fronted humor in the high school experience.
Synopsis: Teenage Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) was educated in Africa by her scientist parents. When her family moves to the suburbs... [More]
Directed By: Mark Waters

#37
#37
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), is introduced to an all-boys preparatory school that is known for its... [More]
Directed By: Peter Weir

#36

Blockers (2018)
84%

#36
Adjusted Score: 96713%
Critics Consensus: Blockers puts a gender-swapped spin on the teen sex comedy -- one elevated by strong performances, a smartly funny script, and a surprisingly enlightened perspective.
Synopsis: Julie, Kayla and Sam are three high school seniors who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night.... [More]
Directed By: Kay Cannon

#35
Adjusted Score: 88658%
Critics Consensus: My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea's attention-getting visual style matches debuting writer-director Dash Shaw's distinctive narrative approach -- and signals a bright future for a promising talent.
Synopsis: High school sophomores Dash and Assaf are best friends and the only writers for the school newspaper. When the editor... [More]
Directed By: Dash Shaw

#34

Bully (2011)
85%

#34
Adjusted Score: 90686%
Critics Consensus: Hard-hitting and gracefully filmed, Bully powerfully delivers an essential message to an audience that may not be able to see it.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Lee Hirsch examines five cases of youths who endure vicious persecution at the hands of their peers. Ja'meye, 14,... [More]
Directed By: Lee Hirsch

#33

Easy A (2010)

#33
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Prompted by her popular best friend to spill details of her boring weekend, Olive (Emma Stone), a clean-cut teen, decides... [More]
Directed By: Will Gluck

#32

Chronicle (2012)
85%

#32
Adjusted Score: 92756%
Critics Consensus: Chronicle transcends its found-footage gimmick with a smart script, fast-paced direction, and engaging performances from the young cast.
Synopsis: Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a socially awkward, introverted teen whose main form of escape and expression is a video camera.... [More]
Directed By: Josh Trank

#31
Adjusted Score: 92345%
Critics Consensus: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a heartfelt and sincere adaptation that's bolstered by strong lead performances.
Synopsis: Socially awkward teen Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a wallflower, always watching life from the sidelines, until two charismatic students become... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Chbosky

#30

21 Jump Street (2012)
85%

#30
Adjusted Score: 93642%
Critics Consensus: A smart, affectionate satire of '80s nostalgia and teen movie tropes, 21 Jump Street offers rowdy mainstream comedy with a surprisingly satisfying bite.
Synopsis: When cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) join the secret Jump Street unit, they use their youthful appearances... [More]

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 88145%
Critics Consensus: Peggy Sue Got Married may seem just another in a line of '80s boomer nostalgia films, but none of the others have Kathleen Turner keen lead performance.
Synopsis: Peggy Sue Bodell (Kathleen Turner) attends her 25-year high school reunion after separating from her cheating husband, Charlie (Nicolas Cage).... [More]
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

#28

Donnie Darko (2001)

#28
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In a funny, moving and distinctly mind-bending journey through suburban America, one extraordinary but disenchanted teenager is about to take... [More]
Directed By: Richard Kelly

#27

River's Edge (1987)
88%

#27
Adjusted Score: 87795%
Critics Consensus: A harrowing tale of aimless youth, River's Edge generates considerable tension and urgency thanks to strong performances from a stellar cast that includes Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves, and Ione Skye.
Synopsis: Teenage burnout Samson (Daniel Roebuck) has murdered his girlfriend and left her naked body lying on the bank of a... [More]
Directed By: Tim Hunter

#26

Dope (2015)
88%

#26
Adjusted Score: 94208%
Critics Consensus: Featuring a starmaking performance from Shameik Moore and a refreshingly original point of view from writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, Dope is smart, insightful entertainment.
Synopsis: High-school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) bond over '90s hip-hop culture,... [More]
Directed By: Rick Famuyiwa

#25

Superbad (2007)
88%

#25
Adjusted Score: 96000%
Critics Consensus: Deftly balancing vulgarity and sincerity while placing its protagonists in excessive situations, Superbad is an authentic take on friendship and the overarching awkwardness of the high school experience.
Synopsis: High-school seniors Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) have high hopes for a graduation party: The co-dependent teens plan... [More]
Directed By: Greg Mottola

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Five high school students from different walks of life endure a Saturday detention under a power-hungry principal (Paul Gleason). The... [More]
Directed By: John Hughes

#23

Rushmore (1998)
90%

#23
Adjusted Score: 94790%
Critics Consensus: This cult favorite is a quirky coming of age story, with fine, off-kilter performances from Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray.
Synopsis: When a beautiful first-grade teacher (Olivia Williams) arrives at a prep school, she soon attracts the attention of an ambitious... [More]
Directed By: Wes Anderson

#22

Hoosiers (1986)
91%

#22
Adjusted Score: 94988%
Critics Consensus: It may adhere to the sports underdog formula, but Hoosiers has been made with such loving craft, and features such excellent performances, that it's hard to resist.
Synopsis: Failed college coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) gets a chance at redemption when he is hired to direct the basketball... [More]
Directed By: David Anspaugh

#21

Hairspray (2007)
91%

#21
Adjusted Score: 100574%
Critics Consensus: Hairspray is an energetic, wholly entertaining musical romp; a fun Summer movie with plenty of heart. Its contagious songs will make you want to get up and start dancing.
Synopsis: In 1960s Baltimore, dance-loving teen Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) auditions for a spot on "The Corny Collins Show" and wins.... [More]
Directed By: Adam Shankman

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 98013%
Critics Consensus: The Spectacular Now is an adroit, sensitive film that avoids typical coming-of-age story trappings.
Synopsis: An innocent, bookish teenager (Shailene Woodley) begins dating the charming, freewheeling high-school senior (Miles Teller) who awoke on her lawn... [More]
Directed By: James Ponsoldt

#19

Election (1999)
92%

#19
Adjusted Score: 96964%
Critics Consensus: Election successfully combines dark humor and intelligent writing in this very witty and enjoyable film.
Synopsis: Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), a well-liked high school government teacher, can't help but notice that successful student Tracy Flick (Reese... [More]
Directed By: Alexander Payne

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 96009%
Critics Consensus: Featuring an excellent ensemble cast, a precise feel for the 1970s, and a killer soundtrack, Dazed and Confused is a funny, affectionate, and clear-eyed look at high school life.
Synopsis: This coming-of-age film follows the mayhem of group of rowdy teenagers in Austin, Texas, celebrating the last day of high... [More]
Directed By: Richard Linklater

#17

Risky Business (1983)
92%

#17
Adjusted Score: 95187%
Critics Consensus: Featuring one of Tom Cruise's best early performances, Risky Business is a sharp, funny examination of teen angst that doesn't stop short of exploring dark themes.
Synopsis: Ecstatic when his parents leave on vacation for a few days, high school senior Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise) cuts loose... [More]
Directed By: Paul Brickman

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 97356%
Critics Consensus: Rebel Without a Cause is a searing melodrama featuring keen insight into '50s juvenile attitude and James Dean's cool, iconic performance.
Synopsis: After moving to a new town, troublemaking teen Jim Stark (James Dean) is supposed to have a clean slate, although... [More]
Directed By: Nicholas Ray

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 120986%
Critics Consensus: Spider-Man: Homecoming does whatever a second reboot can, delivering a colorful, fun adventure that fits snugly in the sprawling MCU without getting bogged down in franchise-building.
Synopsis: Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May. Under the... [More]
Directed By: Jon Watts

#14

House Party (1990)
93%

#14
Adjusted Score: 94521%
Critics Consensus: House Party is a light, entertaining teen comedy with an infectious energy.
Synopsis: Play's parents are out of town, and he's planning the house party to end all house parties. His best friend,... [More]
Directed By: Reginald Hudlin

#13

Heathers (1989)
93%

#13
Adjusted Score: 96383%
Critics Consensus: Dark, cynical, and subversive, Heathers gently applies a chainsaw to the conventions of the high school movie -- changing the game for teen comedies to follow.
Synopsis: Veronica (Winona Ryder) is part of the most popular clique at her high school, but she disapproves of the other... [More]
Directed By: Michael Lehmann

#12

Carrie (1976)
93%

#12
Adjusted Score: 98506%
Critics Consensus: Carrie is a horrifying look at supernatural powers, high school cruelty, and teen angst -- and it brings us one of the most memorable and disturbing prom scenes in history.
Synopsis: In this chilling adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel, withdrawn and sensitive teen Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) faces taunting from... [More]
Directed By: Brian De Palma

#11

Ghost World (2001)
93%

#11
Adjusted Score: 98267%
Critics Consensus: With acerbic wit, Terry Zwigoff fashions Daniel Clowes' graphic novel into an intelligent, comedic trip through deadpan teen angst.
Synopsis: The story of neo-cool Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) who, faced with graduation from high school, take a... [More]
Directed By: Terry Zwigoff

#10

Juno (2007)

#10
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When precocious teen Juno MacGuff becomes pregnant, she chooses a failed rock star and his wife to adopt her unborn... [More]
Directed By: Jason Reitman

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 106361%
Critics Consensus: The Edge of Seventeen's sharp script -- and Hailee Steinfeld's outstanding lead performance -- make this more than just another coming-of-age dramedy.
Synopsis: Everyone knows that growing up is hard, and life is no easier for high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), who... [More]
Directed By: Kelly Fremon Craig

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 100874%
Critics Consensus: One of the most influential of all teen films, American Graffiti is a funny, nostalgic, and bittersweet look at a group of recent high school grads' last days of innocence.
Synopsis: On the last day of summer vacation in 1962, friends Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), Steve (Ronny Howard), Terry (Charles Martin Smith)... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this 1980s sci-fi classic, small-town California teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is thrown back into the '50s when... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#6

Booksmart (2019)
96%

#6
Adjusted Score: 119746%
Critics Consensus: Fast-paced, funny, and fresh, Booksmart does the seemingly impossible by adding a smart new spin to the coming-of-age comedy.
Synopsis: Academic overachievers Amy and Molly thought keeping their noses to the grindstone gave them a leg up on their high... [More]
Directed By: Olivia Wilde

#5

Hairspray (1988)
98%

#5
Adjusted Score: 99759%
Critics Consensus: Hairspray is perhaps John Waters' most accessible film, and as such, it's a gently subversive slice of retro hilarity.
Synopsis: When Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake), an overweight teen, auditions for a spot on a popular teen dance show, she beats... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#4

Say Anything... (1989)
98%

#4
Adjusted Score: 100654%
Critics Consensus: One of the definitive Generation X movies, Say Anything... is equally funny and heartfelt -- and it established John Cusack as an icon for left-of-center types everywhere.
Synopsis: In a charming, critically acclaimed tale of first love, Lloyd (John Cusack), an eternal optimist, seeks to capture the heart... [More]
Directed By: Cameron Crowe

#3

Hoop Dreams (1994)
98%

#3
Adjusted Score: 101750%
Critics Consensus: One of the most critically acclaimed documentaries of all time, Hoop Dreams is a rich, complex, heartbreaking, and ultimately deeply rewarding film that uses high school hoops as a jumping-off point to explore issues of race, class, and education in modern America.
Synopsis: Every school day, African-American teenagers William Gates and Arthur Agee travel 90 minutes each way from inner-city Chicago to St.... [More]
Directed By: Steve James

#2

Lady Bird (2017)
99%

#2
Adjusted Score: 128243%
Critics Consensus: Lady Bird delivers fresh insights about the turmoil of adolescence -- and reveals writer-director Greta Gerwig as a fully formed filmmaking talent.
Synopsis: A teenager (Saoirse Ronan) navigates a loving but turbulent relationship with her strong-willed mother (Laurie Metcalf) over the course of... [More]
Directed By: Greta Gerwig

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 106118%
Critics Consensus: Making excellent use of its period and setting, Peter Bogdanovich's small town coming-of-age story is a sad but moving classic filled with impressive performances.
Synopsis: High school seniors and best friends, Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges), live in a dying Texas town. The... [More]
Directed By: Peter Bogdanovich

Actor, writer, director, recording artist: there’s nothing Billy Bob Thornton can’t do, including bringing a sequel to a cult comedy to the screen over a decade after the original played in theaters. In celebration of the latter achievement, playing out in this weekend’s Bad Santa 2, we turn our attention to Mr. Thornton’s estimable filmography, whose critical highlights boast eclectic riches you may not suspect. It’s time for Total Recall!


10. Primary Colors (1998) 81%

primary-colors

Based on a thinly fictionalized account of the 1992 presidential campaign written by Joe Klein (who hid, for a time, behind the nom de plume “Anonymous”), and featuring cameos by Geraldo Rivera, Charlie Rose, Larry King, and Bill Maher as themselves, 1998’s Primary Colors could easily have been overshadowed by the real-life circus that followed Bill Clinton’s administration during both of his terms — but director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Elaine May had been a creative team for decades, and their comfort with one another, as well as a terrific cast, made Colors one of the better-reviewed films of the year. Thornton, tasked with providing a caricature of Democratic strategist James Carville that was still layered enough to make sense in an ostensibly grounded drama, passed with flying colors; as Stanley Kauffmann wrote for the New Republic, “Sheerly as film, Primary Colors generally sizzles.”

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9. Chrystal (2004) 80%

chrystal

As a guy who habitually writes and directs his own movies, perhaps Billy Bob Thornton is predisposed to have a soft spot for films led by triple-threat talents — or maybe he just appreciated Chrystal, the 2004 directorial debut from actor-screenwriter Ray McKinnon, on its own merits. Either way, this drama about an Arkansas ex-con (Thornton) grappling with the painful aftereffects of his crimes earned a number of positive reviews during its limited release; despite its dark themes, wrote Duane Byrge of the Hollywood Reporter, the movie comes across as “A grand story of redemption, laced with barbecued wit and slopped with intrigue.”

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8. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) 81%

the-man-who-wasnt-there

The Coen brothers went neo-noir for 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There, drafting a stellar batch of character actors (including Thornton, Richard Jenkins, Tony Shalhoub, and Frances McDormand) to tell the story of a barber (Thornton) whose placid-seeming suburban post-WWII existence unravels into a crazy tangle of blackmail, murder, and one very precocious teenage girl (Scarlett Johansson). The black-and-white Man failed to make much of an impression at the box office, but it enthralled critics like ReelViews’ James Berardinelli, who praised it as “An unconventional, unpredictable thriller that Hitchcock probably would have enjoyed.”

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7. Friday Night Lights (2004) 82%

friday-night-lights2

Before it was an acclaimed cult favorite on the TV dial, Friday Night Lights was a Buzz Bissinger non-fiction book about life on the Texas high school gridiron — and then it was a Peter Berg drama starring Billy Bob Thornton as a football coach with the weight of a small town’s hopes and dreams on his program’s shoulders. In hindsight, it seems awfully easy to say Lights was always destined to play out more powerfully on the small screen, but the film stands up pretty well on its own; as Michael O’Sullivan wrote for the Washington Post, “The movie is full of both crushing disappointment and hope, resignation and joy, ugliness and great beauty.”

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6. Daddy and Them (2001) 86%

daddy-and-them

Thornton and Miramax enjoyed a fairly fruitful relationship (see Sling Blade), but the industry is always changing — as are studio fortunes. You’d think the guy who won an Oscar for writing, directing, and starring in Sling Blade would have a blank check, but 2001’s Daddy and Them — made for a paltry $4 million — barely eked out a limited release before heading off to DVD. As far as critics were concerned, it was a shame: starring Thornton and Laura Dern as an Arkansas couple embroiled in family drama after his uncle gets carted off to the hoosegow for attempted murder, it earned praise from scribes such as Variety’s Edie Cockrell, who wrote, “Beneath its deadpan and often absurdist exterior, Daddy and Them feels like a very personal piece of work about how family really does come first, warts and all.”

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5. Monster's Ball (2001) 85%

monsters-ball

There are dark indie dramas, and then there’s Monster’s Ball. Starring Halle Berry as a widow raising her child after the death of her husband — and Thornton as the former prison guard who strikes up an affair with her after helping supervise his execution — it’s a film whose characters are flawed to the point that most of them spend much of the film doing awful things to the few who aren’t predisposed toward unspeakable cruelty. But if it didn’t leave most viewers feeling fuzzy inside, Ball was certainly warmly received: Berry won a Best Actress Oscar for her work, and Arizona Republic critic Bill Muller echoed the thoughts of many of his peers when he called it “A textbook example of fearless filmmaking, exhibiting a brand of gritty realism that’s hard to watch but impossible to ignore.”

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4. A Simple Plan (1998) 91%

a-simple-plan

Are people inherently good or evil, or are their morals and ethics driven by the choices available to them? That’s the devilishly grim question at the heart of Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan, an adaptation of the Scott Smith book about a pair of brothers (played by Thornton and Bill Paxton) who happen upon a downed plane full of cash during a hunting expedition with a friend (Brent Briscoe). One secret and one lie seem like a small price to pay for a $4.4 million windfall split three ways, but their simple plan begins to unravel surprisingly quickly, making the trio — and, by extension, the audience — helpless witnesses to an increasingly gruesome tumble into darkness. “A Simple Plan is a suspenseful, unnerving movie that ranks as one of the best thrillers in recent years,” marveled Mike McGranaghan for Aisle Seat. “The plot and characters converge nicely, and by the end, you are left to wonder how much money is enough to entice you to sell your soul.”

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3. The Apostle (1998)

the-apostle

Two years after Robert Duvall appeared in Billy Bob Thornton’s labor of love Sling Blade, Thornton repaid the favor, taking on a role as a town resident whose views and temperament threaten to cause problems for Duvall’s titular man of the cloth. Like Sling Blade, The Apostle found its leading man working behind the camera, directing from his own screenplay — and also like Thornton’s film, Duvall’s passion project united an unusual but well-seasoned ensemble that included Miranda Richardson, Farrah Fawcett, June Carter Cash, and Walton Goggins. The result, wrote Roger Ebert, “is like a lesson in how movies can escape from convention and penetrate the hearts of rare characters.”

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2. Sling Blade (1996) 96%

sling-blade

Thornton had been around for awhile by the time he made Sling Blade, but it really marks the spot where he became a known quantity for moviegoers — and for power players in Hollywood, who sat up and took notice when it turned into an Oscar-winning sleeper hit. He wrote, directed, and starred in the rural-set drama, which centers on a developmentally disabled man who returns to his hometown years after being institutionalized for murdering his mother and her lover; not exactly cheerful stuff, but it was a story that resonated with filmgoers through its telling — and partly thanks to an eclectic cast that also included Robert Duvall, John Ritter, and Dwight Yoakam. “The lure of Sling Blade is both elemental and hauntingly familiar,” wrote Film.com’s Tom Keogh, “and I would not be surprised if Thornton’s breakthrough film is one day considered a classic in its own right.”

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1. One False Move (1991)

one-false-move

Its commercial prospects were fatally hobbled by a lack of studio faith so profound that it wasn’t even originally supposed to have a theatrical release, but thanks to overwhelmingly positive reviews, 1992’s One False Move — starring Thornton as the ringleader of a gang of criminals that runs afoul of an Arkansas sheriff (Bill Paxton) who teaches them a thing or two about small-town justice — ended up sneaking into theaters long enough for Gene Siskel to call it his favorite movie of the year. Siskel’s enthusiasm for the Carl Franklin-directed thriller was shared by the majority of his peers, including Michael Upchurch of the Seattle Times, who enthused, “Franklin’s convincing portrait of life on both sides of the color line isn’t quite like anything I’ve come across before, making One False Move one very assured directorial move. We need more filmmakers like him.”

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I learned the truth at 17, that movie critics can be mean… but not to Hailee Steinfeld and her new movie The Edge of Seventeen, a high school dramedy starring Steinfeld as a neurotic hellcat on the cusp of adulthood. And if the reviews maintain their pace, then Edge will be a future alumni of this week’s 24 Frames gallery of Certified Fresh high school movies since 2000!