The Best Movies About Female Athletes


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Cinematic depictions of the sports world have tended to be a bit heavy on testosterone over the years. “Rocky IV” is a fine example of how male-dominated these movies have a tendency to be, what with the close-up, slow-motion shots of bulging biceps and sweaty torsos, all fueled by a Frank Stallone soundtrack.


While the genre may seem to be male-dominated, there have been many great movies over the years that depict female athletes. Here’s our list of some of the best ones – they may not focus on the dudes, but they’re just as inspiring as the male-led classics as they highlight the strength, resilience, and moxie of female athletes.

Image Credit: IMDb.

1. ‘A League of Their Own’ (1992)

This comedy film is a fictionalized account of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a group of female baseball players who kept the sport going while their male counterparts were off fighting World War II. It’s famous for the line, “There’s no crying in baseball,” and features an ensemble cast that includes Tom Hanks, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell. The movie was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Image Credit: IMDb.

2. ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ (2002)

“Bend It Like Beckham” is a comedy about two young women pursuing careers in professional football (or if you’re American, soccer) despite their parents’ objections. The feel-good nature of the movie notwithstanding, the story touches on such serious issues as gender norms and cultural differences and also offers a quick tutorial on how to kick a ball in the manner of David Beckham.

Image Credit: IMDb.

3. ‘Million Dollar Baby’ (2004)

“Million Dollar Baby” was directed by Clint Eastwood. who also stars in it and wrote the score. It stars Hilary Swank as an amateur boxer who trains with a coach played by Eastwood, and it caught some flak from disability rights advocates who took issue with the movie’s ending, which we’re not going to reveal here. Despite the controversy, it won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress.

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4. ‘Battle of the Sexes’ (2017)

“Battle of the Sexes” is based on a 1973 match between tennis players Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Riggs had come out of retirement to challenge female players in order to make the point that women were deficient at the sport and even at the age of 55, no woman could beat him. King accepted his challenge and subjected him to an utterly humiliating loss. Emma Stone and Steve Carell play King and Riggs respectively.

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5. ‘Girlfight’ (2000)

“Girlfight” stars Michelle Rodriguez in her first film role. She plays Diana, a Brooklyn teenager with an unhappy home life and a long disciplinary record at high school, where she keeps getting into fights with other students. She channels all that white-hot rage into becoming a boxer, despite her father’s disapproval and the refusal of trainers and competitors to let her into the very male-dominated sport.

Image Credit: IMDb.

6. ‘Personal Best’ (1982)

“Personal Best” stars Mariel Hemingway and real-life athlete Patrice Donnelly as two track-and-field teammates involved in a clandestine relationship with one another, potentially distracting from their respective performances. The movie received good reviews upon release but struggled at the box office, in part due to the fact that it depicted a same-sex relationship, which was too much for the more uptight audiences in 1982.

Image Credit: IMDb.

7. ‘Offside’ (2006)

“Offside” is an Iranian film that tells the story of a group of girls who want to watch a World Cup qualifying match at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, where it is forbidden by law for women to enter. The movie was inspired by the director’s own daughter, who had decided to attend a game at the stadium despite the ban. The movie was shot in Iran, and it was also banned from being exhibited there by the authorities.

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8. ‘Blue Crush’ (2002)

“Blue Crush” is based on an article by Susan Orlean called “Life’s Swell” which ran in Outside magazine. It stars Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez and tells the story of a group of friends who only want to surf the tasty waves of Hawaii’s North Shore. Bosworth plays Ann Marie, a former surfer who has suffered an almost deadly wipeout, which so traumatized her that she fears getting back on her surfboard. Will she overcome her past trauma to conquer her fears and return to the world of professional surfing? Probably.

Image Credit: IMDb.

9. ‘Wildcats’ (1986)

“Wildcats” stars Goldie Hawn as a track coach at an upper-crust high school who becomes a football coach at a decidedly more down-market institution of learning. It stars Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes in their respective movie debuts, and Hawn spends a good portion of the movie just trying to win over the team members, who rightly view her as an interloper. Can her infectious spirit help her take this willful and wayward group of hoodlums and turn it into something resembling a football team?

Image Credit: IMDb.

10. ‘Bring It On’ (2000)

If you enjoy watching high school cheerleaders trash-talk one another for an hour and a half, drop whatever you’re doing and watch “Bring It On” immediately. While cheerleading’s status as a sport may be dubious to some, making human pyramids with a smile frozen on one’s face for an entire game seems to require great exertion, so we’re calling this a movie about female athletes, even though its primary attribute seems to be teenage melodrama. The late great Roger Ebert called it “the ’Citizen Kane’ of cheerleader movies.”

Image Credit: IMDb.

11. ‘Soul Surfer’ (2011)

“Soul Surfer” is based on the 2004 memoir “Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board” by Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who lost her left arm to a brutal shark attack that nearly killed her. The movie recounts her struggle to overcome the horror she endured in the hopes of eventually getting back on the surfboard and resuming her life. The movie was mostly well-received despite trafficking in treacly mawkishness that was probably meant to be inspirational.

Image Credit: IMDb.

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