Top 10 Sports Movie Clichés

Script written by Nick Spake It’s not about winning; it’s about how you play the game. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Sports Movie Clichés. For this list, we’re taking a look at tropes that keeping popping up in sports movies. For this list, we're taking a look at tropes that keeping popping up in sports movies. Special thanks to our user Karma for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Sports Movie Clichés


It’s not about winning; it’s about how you play the game. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Sports Movie Clichés.

For this list, we’re taking a look at tropes that keeping popping up in sports movies. However, as familiar as these clichés may be, we can’t help but cheer every time we see them. Also, as some of these clichés reveal climactic moments in movies, a SPOILER ALERT might be in order.

#10: The Cocky Antagonists

On their road to glory, every group of lovable misfits needs to butt heads with an opposing team of primarily unredeemable antagonists. These archetypes are typically undefeated and therefore feel the need to taunt the less physically gifted. When it’s time for the final competition, however, our heroes will show these jerks what it means to be part of a team. Whether the bullies are so conceited that we love to hate them or so over the top that we hate to love them, it’s always satisfying when they fumble.

#9: The Slow Clap

Even when a sports team doesn’t take home the trophy, a slow clap is the only reward they really need. The slow clap always stems from one individual, typically somebody the protagonist has been striving to impress. That single slow clap will infectiously spread like wildfire until everybody in the bleachers is applauding. If the film has done its job right, a few people in the theater might just be cheering too. Win or lose, this is the most triumphant way imaginable to close out any sports movie.

#8: The Training Montage

So you’re on the most bumbling sports team in the world? Don’t worry! That can be corrected in a matter of minutes with a good, old-fashioned montage. Cutting between various exercises, we’ll see the protagonists instantly go from benchwarmers to all-stars. While their transformation can be hard to buy, we’re always willing to go along with the transition as long as there’s an energizing training song. It’s impossible not to get pumped up whenever you hear “Eye of the Tiger,” “You’re the Best,” or the always popular “Gonna Fly Now.”

#7: The ‘Giving Up’ Scene

Right before the most important game of the season, you can count on tragedy to strike. Whether a key player dies or a shocking truth is revealed, something will prompt the heart of the team to give up all hope. This setback will rarely last long, though, as the troubled young man soon gains words of encouragement from a parental figure, a wise janitor, or Lance Armstrong. After that, it’s only a matter of time until our hero sorts out his priorities and returns to the playing surface at the last second.

#6: The Redemption Quest / Comeback

A hero’s journey is always more engaging when they have something to prove to others and themselves. Sometimes the one trying to stage a comeback will be a struggling athlete that once had the potential to be a contender. Other times, the redemption quest will focus on a coach that gets a second shot at glory by instructing a ragtag team. There’s little doubt that the main character will find atonement by the film’s conclusion, although they might not reach that destination in exactly the way they expected.

#5: The Secret Play

If a team’s going to make it to the championship, they’ll need a couple of tricks up their sleeves. Secret plays always throw the opponents for a loop, additionally demonstrating a team’s ability to think outside the box, show off individual skills, and work together as unit. These are especially popular in “The Mighty Ducks” movies, which introduced a new generation to the Flying V and Kenan Thompson’s trademark knucklepuck. Oh, and who can forget Daniel performing the crane kick in “The Karate Kid?” Although isn’t that technically an illegal move?

#4: The Game-Ending Injury

You can never rely on the star player to single-handedly carry a team to victory because there’s a strong possibility they’re going to suffer a game-ending injury at a crucial moment – at least, that seems to be the case in almost all sports movies. Sometimes this boo-boo can be fixed with a healing technique. Most of the time, though, the injury is a little more permanent and the athlete will never play the game they love again. Don’t worry, champ, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Well, except for “Million Dollar Baby”…

#3: The Last Play

Although it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how every sports movie will end, the genre’s best outings will keep you at the edge of your seat down to the last play. It’s the final inning, quarter, or hole and everything is all tied up. The game’s outcome all comes down to one homerun, one field goal, or one hole in one. With the people in the crowd all holding their breath, everything goes silent. But as the clock counts down to zero, get ready to cheer.

#2: The Coach’s Speech

It’s impossible to get through any sports movie without hearing a rousing speech or two. And, the majority of the time, the speech will come from the mouth of the wise coach. Whether giving the speech to a lone player or rallying the entire team in the locker room, you can expect the coach to essentially say the same inspiring thing: “This is your time,” “It’s not about winning,” and “Heal as a team or die as individuals.” After that motivational pep talk, any player will gladly follow the coach onto the field.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- The Accidental Athlete
- The Lesson Learned
- The ‘It Was You All Along’ Ending
- The Special Someone Turns Up
- The Strong Woman

#1: The Underdogs

Nobody wants to see a sports movie about players that start off awesome and remain awesome until the big game. We want to see stories about underdogs, or sometimes a solitary underdog, rising above the odds after a losing streak and going for the gold. Everybody may tell the underdogs that they’re too old, too scrawny, or too feminine to play the game. Even if they don’t ultimately win, though, the underdogs will prove to the naysayers that they’re mightier than ever imagined, empowering us all to take on the impossible.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite sports movie cliché? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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