The Best and Worst Philadelphia Sports Movies of All Time


In his new movie Hustle, which is currently in select theaters and will be released on Netflix on Wednesday, Adam Sandler stars as an unlucky 76ers scout who unearths a young phenom in Spain and thinks the kid can help save his professional basketball career. It’s the kind of underdog plot that has a long history in sports movies and, more specifically, in sports movies with strong ties to Philadelphia.

So, to mark this latest addition to the canon, here’s a man’s list of the 10 best sports movies Philadelphia ever made. And, because we can’t have sweet here without a little acid, there’s also a bonus: the three worst Philadelphia sports movies ever made.

ten. Rocky II

Yes, the plot drags. Yes, every time the city’s sports teams are faced with this, cynics roll their eyes as they play the clip of Adrian telling Rocky, “Win,” for the 2 millionth time. But the fight sequences work just as well here as they did in the original, and the victory and Rocky’s speech at the end are a powerful emotional punch.

9. Invincible

Envisioning Mark Wahlberg as an NFL player takes a leap of imagination. But if you can get past that cognitive dissonance, you can enjoy the story of Vince Papale’s remarkable journey to becoming the most famous special teams player in Eagles history. Plus, any movie starring Elizabeth Banks (a Penn alumnus) and Paige Turco (I See You, Officer Abby Sullivan!) is a must.

» READ MORE: Critics of “Hustle”, filmed in Philadelphia, are in

8. Warrior

Two brothers – one from Philadelphia, the other from Pittsburgh – face off in a mixed martial arts tournament and in the process learn to love each other and come to terms with their family troubles and the mistakes and darkest times. dark from their past. The combat action is brutal and realistic, and if you want to understand why Christopher Nolan cast Tom Hardy to play Bane in The dark knight riseswatch and enjoy Hardy’s physically demanding performance here as Tommy Conlon.

seven. Creed

A brilliant idea well executed. Apollo Creed was such an interesting character that it made sense to explore him further, either through an origin story or, as director Ryan Coogler does here, in the aftermath of his death. Throw in a star turn from Michael B. Jordan and an Oscar-nominated performance from Sylvester Stallone as…well, you know who…and pound for pound, Creed is the finest piece of pure cinema in the Rocky franchise since the first film in the series.

6. Big fan

Both sweet and dark, this 2009 film is the fictionalized story of New York Giants fan Paul Aufiero, who is enraged to an off-putting but still endearing degree. Played by Patton Oswalt, Aufiero follows a handwritten script when calling on sports talk shows. He tailgates to Giants games to spend all day in the parking lot, sitting in a folding chair, watching the action on TV with his buddy. And he tracks down and exacts revenge on an equally obsessive Eagles fan (Michael Rapaport), which leads to the film’s surprising climax. Robert Siegel, who wrote and directed Big fancould have fallen into the cliché here, and it’s to his credit that he doesn’t.

READ MORE: How ‘Hustle’ director Jeremiah Zagar turned his basketball movie Philly into an endearing bromance

5. The last game

A personal favorite. This documentary by two independent filmmakers chronicles Central Bucks High School West’s 1999 football season, the final season in the career of legendary Bucks coach Mike Pettine Sr.. From CB West’s rivalry with North Penn — coached at the time by Mike Pettine Jr. — to the Bucks’ dramatic run to a third straight state championship, the story had plenty of natural drama and intriguing plot lines. And anyone familiar with the history of Doylestown and/or CB West football – under Pettine, the Bucks were arguably the best program in the country – can attest to the film’s accuracy.

4. Silver Linings Playbook

Ten years after its release, this film resonates as much today for its candid depiction of mental health issues as it does for its candid and often funny depiction of a family of Eagles fans who tend to get a little…intense. That said, as great as SLP is – it was nominated for eight Oscars and Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress – the novel it was based on, written by South Jersey native and La Salle University alumnus Matthew Quick, is still better.

3. foxcatcher

Director Bennett Miller’s interpretation of John du Pont’s murder of wrestling trainer Dave Schultz is as disturbing as the case itself. The film is packed with terrific performances from Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum and especially Steve Carell, who embodies the creepy and disturbing du Pont so much that it’s worth remembering that he’s the same actor who starred in The 40 year old virgin and Dinner with Schmucks.

2. The wrestler

Mickey Rourke puts the sneer aside in the role of his life as aging professional wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson, bloated on steroids and full of regrets. In the film’s most memorable scene, shot in what is now called 2300 Arena on South Swanson Street, another wrestler takes a stapler to Robinson’s bare chest during a match, an indication of how far these men are up to it. to go to cling to their ebb. celebrity. It’s a great movie, and its title track is one of the most moving and understated in Bruce Springsteen’s entire catalog.

READ MORE: New ‘Hustle’ trailer, starring Adam Sandler, shows more of Philly – and 76ers

1. Rocky

Top of the list, now and forever. Stallone captured something inherently Philadelphian in the film’s plot and its main character. Forget the pre-dawn egg shake and the climb up the steps to the art museum. Notice the interaction between Rocky and Adrian the day before the title fight, when he tells him he just wants to “go the distance” against the champ and prove to himself and everyone else that he’s not. not “just another bum from the neighborhood”. It’s the best scene in the best sports movie ever made.

steal home

If you were a kid in the late 1980s, you know that between this movie and summer school, Mark Harmon was an ubiquitous presence on basic cable for a few years. Here, Harmon plays Billy Wyatt, once a hot prospect for the Phillies who has fallen on hard times and must figure out what to do with the ashes of his late friend/first love, played by Jodie Foster. There are plenty of shots of Chestnut Hill and a ridiculous scene set in the Veterans Stadium, but local nostalgia aside, steal home not worth revisiting. It’s treacherous. It’s ordinary. Roger Ebert wrote that he “left the screening wondering if a movie could be this bad”. But hey, long live PRISM!


This film aspires to be Remember the titans for swimming and fails for being too formulaic. In the midst of racism in the 1970s, a coach at the Philadelphia Recreation Center renovates an old swimming pool, teaches several black children to swim, and leads them to a big meet. The acting is overworked. The characters are one-dimensional. And the script lacks complexity or nuance.

Rocky V

What should a boxer do after helping the United States win the Cold War? Return to the Old Quarter. Try to raise his smart-mouthed son. Train an up-and-coming fighter, Tommy “The Machine” Gunn, who eventually backfires and aligns himself with a sleazy promoter who doesn’t so subtly resemble Don King. The betrayal leads to an aging Rocky and an arrogant Tommy tossing tedders through the streets of South Philly as people emerge from townhouses and the corner bar to watch. Stan Hochman, Elmer Smith and Al Meltzer had memorable cameos as reporters harassing Gunn at a press conference. Otherwise… blech.

READ MORE: A Bucks County high school had the world (post-Broadway) premiere of “Rocky.” Here’s how it happened.


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