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Top 10 Teen Sports Movies

The Best Films About High School Sports or Teenagers Into Athletics

By

When trying to come up with a list of the best high school sports movies there was a debate about what's a sport and what's merely a game. Chess is definitely just a game but what about baseball? Hunting's a sport but do they teach it to teens? And you refer to the Olympics as the Olympic Games but it's a collection of sports. Well however you might define the term, here's a list of the best movies dealing with teen sports. Don't look for The Bad News Bears on this list because the kids were too young. As for cheerleading… well that deserves a category all its own for a variety of reasons.

1. 'Remember the Titans' (2000)

Remember the Titans
© Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Let's start with the classiest and most dramatically solid of all the high school sports movies. Denzel Washington stars as a newly appointed African-American coach who must contend with a popular white coach (played by Will Patton), and with the high school football team's first season as a racially integrated unit. Washington's coach doesn't try to ingratiate himself with players but rather chooses to win their respect through discipline and hard work. By the end of the season, the students have learned lessons both on the field and off, and that makes this a classic. Based on a true story.
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2. 'Friday Night Lights' (2004)

Friday Night Lights
© Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Less reverential about the sport of football than Remember the Titans. Friday Night Lights examines a small Texas town's obsession with high school sports. In the racially divided and economically challenged town of Odessa there's no pro football so high school ball becomes religion for the locals. Director Peter Berg delivers a gritty edge as he examines what this kind of pressure does to young players. Also based on a real story, the film spawned a TV series. Some live-action game footage of the real 2003 Permian High School football season was used in the film.
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3. 'Hoop Dreams' (1994)

Hoop Dreams
© Criterion Collection
Football definitely dominates the high school sports scene but director Steve James turns his attention to the real life drama of high school basketball for his documentary Hoop Dreams. The film follows two African American boys who dream of going pro. This detailed portrait of what it takes to try and go from high school star to college player to professional athlete is always compelling and sometimes heart wrenching.
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4. 'Bend It Like Beckham' (2002)

Bend It Like Beckham
© 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Now we move on to the European version of football: soccer. But the twist to the teen sports formula doesn't stop there. Filmmaker Gurinder Chadha further tweaks expectations by making this a teen female sports film that looks to issues of gender, class and race. This film set Keira Knightley on her way to stardom.
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5. 'Gregory's Girl' (1981)

Gregory's Girl
© 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Girls and soccer also figure in this charming Scottish tale of an awkward teen named Gregory who becomes infatuated with the new addition to the school soccer team, a skilled girl who's a far better player than the gangling Gregory ever will be. On the field and off, it's the girls who prove to be in charge and more mature.
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6. 'Dogtown and Z Boys' (2001)

Dogtown and Z Boys
© Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
It's not very often you can call a documentary kick-ass but the term applies here. Stacy Peralta focuses on the pioneering 1970s Zephyr skateboard team, a group of teens who drew on the fluid moves of surfers as they carved up the asphalt waves to create a style that was improvisational, revolutionary, and the essence of cool. Peralta, one of the original Z Boys, rips through stuffy convention to deliver an exuberant insider’s look at the early days of skateboarding. The film works for both the skateboard novice and the hardcore enthusiast. Bad boy Sean Penn narrates.
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7. 'Breaking Away' (1979)

Breaking Away
© 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Biking isn't a big sport but it figures prominently in this delightful film. Dennis Christopher plays a townie so obsessed with the Italian cycling team that he assumes an Italian accent and shaves his legs (to reduce wind resistance when he cycles). The Little 500 bicycle race plays a pivotal role in the film as it highlights the divide between the local kids and the students attending Indiana University. The race is patterned after the Indianapolis 500.
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8. 'The Karate Kid' (1984)

The Karate Kid
© Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Here's one that's become something of a cultural icon and spawned a remake. Pat Morita plays Mr. Miyagi, a handyman who just happens to also be a martial arts master. Ralph Macchio is a teen that's constantly getting beat up by bullies who know karate. Mr. Miyagi agrees to teach the boy karate and along the way teaches him about life. This film hits all the clichés and maybe that's why it was so popular and is so well remembered. Wax on, wax off. According to the DVD commentary, Akira Kurosawa star Toshiro Mifune auditioned for the part but was turned down for being too serious.
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9. 'Water Lilies' (2007)

Water Lilies
© E1 Entertainment Distribution
Here's a film that's the antithesis of the American teen sports movie. There are hardly any males, no emphasis on winning, and the sport is synchronized swimming. Sports, in this case, provides the steamy backdrop for a sexual coming of age tale involving a trio of teen girls.
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10. 'Girls Rebel Force Competitive Swim Team' (Japan, 2007)

Girls Rebel Force Competitive Swim Team
© ADV Films
That's a better title than the more mundane one chosen for the U.S. release: Attack Girls Swim Team vs. the Unliving Dead. But whatever you call it this wacky, Asian extreme actioner has a girls swim team at the center of a story involving underwater terrorists, juggling zombies, and a lesbian romance. The swim training proves of little help in fighting zombies but the girls look adorably sexy donning the skimpy swimsuits to take on the undead.

Bonus Pick:
Battle Royale (Japan, 2000) Forty-two students. Three days. One survivor. No rules. Now that's a sport! Or is it a game since it's done mostly for the amusement of the adults. Battle Royale puts a unique spin on the teen sport film and the notion of competition.
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