10 Essential Movies About Women in Sports

From the baseball diamond to the boxing ring, these films showcase the skill of female athletes and explore their complex journeys both on and off the field.

by | February 29, 2024 | Comments


Geena Davis in A League of Their Own (1992)

(Photo by ©Columbia Pictures)

While there are hundreds of sports movies about men, there are shockingly few about women, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t gotten some classics. From the basketball court and the baseball diamond to the roller derby rink and the boxing ring, we’ve collected 10 films that showcase the athleticism and skill of female athletes and explore the complexities of their journeys, both on and off the field. They span generations, cultures, reality, and fiction, depicting the resilience, passion, and sheer talent it takes to be a winner in every sense of the word.

Whether you’re seeking motivation to conquer the day or simply craving a heartwarming tale of empowerment, there’s a movie on this list for every occasion. For those looking to hit the green, check out GolfPass’ Celebrating Women in Golf, featuring tips and tricks and full length NCAA Division I Women’s Championships.

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley in Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

(Photo by ©20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra), an 18 year-old British-Indian girl with a passion for soccer, dreams of playing professionally like her idol, David Beckham. Despite her traditional Sikh parents not allowing her to play, Jess is determined to balance her dreams with her family’s expectations. After semi-pro player Jules Paxton (Keira Knightley) and charming coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) discover Jess’s talent, she joins their local women’s soccer team without telling her parents, leading to a series of equally comedic and heartfelt events.

Blue Crush (2002)

Anne Marie Chadwick (Kate Bosworth) is up before dawn every morning, surfing the Hawaiian waves and training for the Rip Masters competition. With the support of her friends Eden (Michelle Rodriguez) and Lena (Sanoe Lake), she grapples with fear, self-doubt, and the pressures of competing professionally in the male-dominated world of big-wave surfing, all while raising her 14-year-old sister (Mika Boorem) and navigating her feelings for NFL quarterback Matt Tollman (Matthew Davis).

Bring It On (2000)

Led by captain Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst), the Toro cheerleading squad from Rancho Carne High School in San Diego has prepared a killer routine that is sure to win them the national championship for the sixth time in a row. However, their plans are thrown into disarray when Torrance discovers that their previous routines were stolen from the East Compton Clovers, a rival squad, by the Toros’ former captain. As tensions rise between the two teams, Torrance must navigate ethical dilemmas, personal relationships, and the pressure to uphold her team’s reputation. The film went on to become a cult classic, spawning multiple and basket

Girlfight (2000)

After learning how to box herself, writer-director Karyn Kusama was inspired to make a film about the sport centered on a female boxer. The result was this debut feature that follows Diana Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez, who also makes her film debut), a troubled teenage girl from Brooklyn who discovers a passion for boxing. Despite facing opposition from her father, prospective trainers, and male competitors, Diana joins a local boxing gym and trains rigorously to compete in amateur matches.

A League of Their Own (1992)

Based on the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was formed in 1943 during WWII, this Penny Marshall sports comedy drama follows competitive sisters Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty) as they are recruited for a professional all-female baseball team, filling the void left by male players serving in the military. Led by coach Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) and scout Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz), the Rockford Peaches navigate the challenges of playing professional baseball while dealing with societal expectations, gender discrimination, and personal struggles, forging bonds of friendship and fighting for a spot in the World Series. The film was a critical and commercial success, eventually spawning a reboot television series on Prime Video in 2022.

Love & Basketball (2000)

Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) are two childhood friends who share a dream to be professional basketball players. Quincy is a star player, and Monica leads the high school girls’ basketball team. Over the years, Monica and Quincy’s bond evolves from friendship to romance, but their separate paths to making their basketball dreams a reality threaten to pull them apart.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

When aspiring boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) turns to trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) to help her achieve her dreams of becoming a professional fighter, he is initially reluctant to train the young woman. Eventually, the seasoned Los Angeles boxer relents, and Maggie quickly rises up the ranks of the boxing world — until tragedy strikes. Apart from starring in this sports drama, Eastwood also directed, co-produced, and scored the film, which won four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director for Eastwood, Best Actress for Swank, and Best Supporting Actor for co-star Morgan Freeman.

Nyad (2023)

Based on a true story, Nyad recounts the four-year journey that Diana Nyad (Annette Bening) undertook at 60 years of age, three decades after retiring from marathon swimming in exchange for a prominent career as a sports journalist. With the support of her best friend and coach Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster), as well as a dedicated sailing team, Diana sets out on the open sea to conquer the “Mount Everest” of swims: the 110-mile journey from Cuba to Florida. For their work on the film, both Bening and Foster have earned Academy Award nominations.

Stick It (2006)

Nikki Soohoo, Missy Peregrym, Maddy Curley, and Vanessa Lengies in Stick It (2006)

(Photo by ©Buena Vista Pictures)

Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym), a rebellious teenage gymnast, is sentenced to train at a gymnastics academy after a run-in with the law. Despite her initial reluctance, Haley rediscovers her passion for the world of competitive gymnastics under the coaching of Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges). As she faces the challenges of training and competition, Haley finds both friends and enemies, learning valuable lessons about teamwork, perseverance, and self-confidence. Jessica Bendinger, who wrote and directed the film, notably also wrote the script for Bring It On.

Whip It (2009)

Drew Barrymore, Elliott Page, and Kristen Wiig in Whip It (2009)

(Photo by ©Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Elliot Page stars in Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut as Bliss Cavendar, a small-town teenager looking to escape from her former beauty queen mother (Marcia Gay Harden), who insists that she follow in her footsteps. Bliss finds her refuge by joining a local roller derby team, making unlikely friends with her teammates Smashley Simpson (Barrymore) and Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig). As Bliss develops her skills under the pseudonym “Babe Ruthless,” she also becomes more daring when her skates are off, confronting a school bully and making a move on Oliver (Landon Pigg), her first crush.

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