Tis the season for football, y'all! You might love it, you might hate it—you might be looking to lean in or lean out. Either way, each of these winning flicks gives you a story about playing games, working hard, and fighting for what you believe in. Some are genre mixers, others are for the purists who want a good story about sport and sport alone. Some are true, and others are complete fictions. No matter where you fall in your level of fandom, there's something here for you!
Without further ado, here's your gold medal–worthy lineup. (I make zero apologies for all of the sports metaphors that follow.)
I, Tonya (R, 2017, Hulu) I love everything, EVERYTHING about this movie. Based on the autobiography of figure skater Tonya Harding (played by Margot Robbie), this darkly comedic biopic meets faux documentary is the perfect depiction of a ridiculous story: Harding's ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (a very awkward Sebastian Stan) pays his friend and Harding's bodyguard to arrange the knee bashing of fellow competitor Nancy Kerrigan. Enjoy, y'all. This one is a treat.
Icarus (TV-MA, 2017, Netflix) This Academy Award–winning documentary from director Bryan Fogel chronicles his happening upon a major international doping scandal through Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory. The movie starts off with Fogel's quest to use blood doping to improve his cycling times, à la Lance Armstrong. What he ends up discovering, though, is how Russian athletes used performance-enhancing drugs to compete in the Olympic Games. This movie is absolutely wild.
42 (PG-13, 2013, Netflix) Based on the autobiography of Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman, aka King T'Challa), this film depicts the integration of the American professional baseball system. It's set in 1945, shortly after Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) learns of a promising new player, Robinson, who he would immediately recruit if not for the color of his skin. There's more than a game at stake in this must-watch movie.
Friday Night Lights (Film: PG-13, 2004, Netflix; TV Series: TV-14, 2006–2011, Hulu) Texas Forever, y'all. I shamelessly love this movie and the series that followed it. Set in Dillon, a small rural town that obsesses over high school football, the film offers a dark but inspiring take on the game whereas the series takes longer to develop and gravitates toward high school melodrama. You can watch either without the other; I'm personally feeling the movie this season.
Miracle (PG, 2004, Netflix) A true-story drama about the U.S. men's hockey team that won the gold medal against the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Miracle follows Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), a coach given the thankless task of assembling a rag-tag bunch of college athletes to go up against the professionals on the Soviet team. This is a story of underdogs and rivalries that makes you feel like you're there.
Last Chance U (TV-MA, 2016–Present, Netflix) The first two seasons of this documentary series follow junior college (JUCO) athletes at East Mississippi Community College. It's called "Last Chance U" because that's what JUCO is for these players, who couldn't land or stay at Division I programs. It's a little jarring to hear the coaches ranting and the players talking like humans rather than mouthpieces. But that's what makes this show worth your time. Season 3, set at Independence Community College, landed on Netflix last July.
Bring It On (PG-13, 2000, HBO) YEESH did I watch this movie a *zillion* and one times when I was in high school. And guess what? It still holds up! Bring it On is ostensibly about the world of competitive cheerleading, but it's actually about so much more, from female friendship, to racism and poverty, to gender inequities in athletics. Helmed by a cast that epitomizes the turn of the millennium—Kirsten Dunst, Gabrielle Union, and Eliza Dushka—and sprinkled with dazzling choreography, I give this one three cheers!
Trouble with the Curve (PG-13, 2012, Netflix) In this melodrama, an aging Atlanta Braves talent scout Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is being ousted from the industry for his old-fashioned ways. But his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) and former player/scouting newcomer Johnny (Justin Timberlake) believe in him enough to follow him from baseball field to field as he tries to find a player who is the real deal. Part sports story, part father-daughter narrative, part romance, Trouble with the Curve is pitch perfect.
Blue Crush (PG-13, 2002, Netflix) This is the ultimate surf flick. (Yes, I just said that. Yes, The Endless Summer is also streaming on Netflix.) Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) is a surfer girl who wants nothing more than to win the Rip Masters competition. Living in a house with three roommates including her rebellious younger sister whom she's in charge of raising and BFF Eden (Michelle Rodriguez), she's up at dawn every single morning to either work or practice. It's a sports movie meets working-class romance meets sisterhood story.
I thought that this was going to be a difficult roundup to write, because so many sports stories are the same song and dance. But once I started looking through what was available, I had the exact opposite problem—there are too many good flicks out there! I tried to be curatorial, but you know what? The sports genre is all about emotional investment. So that's exactly what this list is: Movies and series that I enjoyed watching, and that I think you will too.
Happy streaming, sports fans!