Sports movies have an interesting place in American life. Even though we typically know how they’ll end (of course the scrappy underdogs will win), we just can’t seem to get enough of these zero-to-hero stories.
While sports leagues across the country remain sidelined due to the coronavirus pandemic, CivicScience took the opportunity to ask more than 1,300 Americans ages 13+ about their favorite movies for each major sport.
According to CivicScience’s always-on data tracking, more Americans say they follow the NFL than any other major sports league. That love for football extends to the silver screen, too, with classics like The Longest Yard (1974) still very much in competition with newer films like The Blind Side (2009). Out of a field of nine movies, though, it was Remember the Titans (2000) that came out on top of the pile.
When sorting by gender, though, we see that women are nearly three times as interested as men in the Sandra Bullock-led film The Blind Side. Men were much more likely to choose The Longest Yard and Rudy (1993). It’s likely that Remember the Titans scored highest in the overall poll because it struck a chord with both sexes.
Baseball ranks as the second most popular pro sport to follow in America, according to CivicScience data. And it turns out that baseball films have almost as storied a history as ‘America’s pastime’ itself; the first baseball movie was a Thomas Edison production titled The Ball Game (1898). Our survey didn’t reach quite that far back, but we still had a classic winning the pennant: Field of Dreams (1989).
When we sort favorite baseball movies by generation, we see that The Sandlot (1993) was a huge hit with Millennials, while Field of Dreams and A League of their Own (1992) appealed to viewers across generations.
There isn’t such a wealth of movies for basketball as there are for football and baseball, but the sub-genre has produced some classics over the decades, from Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes in White Men Can’t Jump (1992) to Samuel L. Jackson’s Coach Carter (2005). But not even the iconic duo of Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny in Space Jam (1996) could dunk on America’s favorite basketball film: Hoosiers (1986).
Hoosiers — a film about a high school basketball team in the largely rural state of Indiana — was a runaway hit among those living in rural areas, while Space Jam was the favorite of city-dwellers.
Rounding out the top four major sports leagues in the U.S. is the NHL. From Slap Shot (1977) to Red Army (2014), feature films about ice hockey have been rather few and far between compared to the other sports. However, in most Americans’ eyes, there’s clearly only one Great One when it comes to hockey movies: The Mighty Ducks (1992). Quack. Quack. QUACK. (You get it.)
Men were more than twice as likely as women to choose the raucous locker-room comedy Slap Shot, while women were substantially more likely than men to choose The Mighty Ducks.
Boxing / Fighting
When it comes to boxing / fighting movies, there’s an undisputed heavyweight champ: Rocky (1976). The classic Sylvester Stallone flick took home nearly half the total share of respondents among seven total contenders. The Karate Kid (1984) took a respectable second-place finish.
It may come as no surprise that fans of Rocky were far and away more likely than fans of other boxing / fighting movies to say they exercise ‘several times per week’. It’s all about that training montage.
( 🎵 It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight… 🎵 )