This weekend, the seventh installment of the Rocky franchise hit theaters. In Creed, which is being hailed as a return to the more subtle charms of the original, Michael B. Jordan plays the son of Apollo Creed, who taps the wisdom of an aging Rocky Balboa to prepare for a coming fight. The movie is getting solid reviews, but is—in our opinion—an unfortunate departure from the series’ gloriously campy ’80s heyday.
We’re sure it’s inspiring and a “very good movie” by conventional terms, but Creed is lacking something that truly great sports movies all had: An implausible, often nonsensical science-fiction twist, that somehow made the story even more inspiring.
Look, if you like your sports movies to be “grounded in actual physical reality” or to have “Oscar buzz,” then, by all means, go see Creed. However, some of us prefer our sports movies to have ghosts, strange legal agreements that allow fans to takeover sports franchises, aliens or the supernatural.
In case you aren’t planning on making it out to the theater this holiday weekend, we’ve compiled this ranking of sports movies from the golden era of sports movies: The ’90s. Each is inspiring, completely implausible and still amazing.
1. Rookie of the Year
The plot of this movie is just realistic enough that if you saw it when you were a kid, it probably gave you the false hope that once you a had a cast removed, your broken limb may have healed in a way that gave you super human abilities. For a 12-year-old, it seems entirely plausible that a human elbow could somehow re-form in a way that would allow you to throw a baseball 103 MPH. Also, the scene where Daniel Stern gets stuck between two hotel doors still holds up as a work of comic genius.
2. Happy Gilmore
One of maybe five (Punch Drunk Love, Billy Madison, Funny People, The Wedding Singer) Sandler movies that actually warrants multiple viewings, Happy Gilmore was both a twisted send-up of cheesy sports movies and a trippy tribute to them. The weirder the movie gets as it plays out (Chub’s plastic hand getting crushed, the fist fight with Bob Barker, Abraham Lincoln showing up from beyond the grave), the funnier it becomes.
3. Cool Runnings
A Jamaican bobsled team! Obviously, this could never happen.
4. Angels in the Outfield
A remake of an equally bizarre 1951 film, the entire plot is predicated on the idea that prayer can actually turn the tide of baseball games—in this case, thanks to the help of actual angels who are responding to the desperate pleas of a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. For a movie that features Christopher Lloyd as a baseball loving spirit, there’s some weirdly dark child custody sub-plots that veered more into Over the Top territory.
5. Space Jam
Space Jam isn’t the best sports movie of the ’90s, but it is absolutely the coolest. The movie not only features Michael Jordan at the peak of his coolness, the Looney Tunes and the most popular members of the Dream Team, it also stars Bill Murray—as himself—in the greatest game ever played.
Technically, this criminally underrated family film is more of a fitness movie than a sports movie, but it’s notable for two primary reasons: 1) Ben Stiller’s psychotic fat-camp counselor “Tony Perkins” is basically the exact same character he would later play in Dodgeball; 2) It was co-written by a young Judd Apatow. There is no science fiction involved, but it’s hard to imagine a world where a psychopathic self-help guru would be placed in charge of a large group of children.
7. Little Big League
In this ’90s baseball flick, some kid inherits the Minnesota Twins from his grandfather and immediately installs himself as manager. It’s nowhere near as memorable as any of Disney’s other baseball offerings, but Ken Griffey Jr. was featured prominently in a few scenes, and in 1994, that was pretty darn cool.
8. That Episode of McGee and Me! Where They Played Baseball
In episode eight of the direct-to-video Christian series McGee and Me!, Nick and McGee—a cartoon drawing that comes to life—learn another Bible lesson, this time
while training for and then playing in a little league baseball game. Compared to the other themes the series tackled (vandalism, tornados and the elderly, to name a few), it’s pretty tame. Thankfully, someone uploaded the entire episode to YouTube.
9. A Kid in King Arthur’s Court
In yet another ’90s Disney baseball movie, the same kid from Rookie of Year is swallowed up by a little league field during an earthquake and is somehow transported to the medieval times and becomes a knight. Despite comically terrible reviews (“surprisingly awkward,” “badly written, acted and directed,” “numbingly bland, homogenized and deflated by an utter lack of original wit or charm”) it features one of the decade’s greatest movie poster one-liners: Joust do it.
10. The Sixth Man
The Sixth Man is basically a combination of Ghost Dad and Angels in the Outfield: Marlon Wayans’ brother/teammate dies in a freak heart attack/dunking accident, only to comeback and help his basketball team from the great beyond. On a weird side note, someone created their own trailer using an Evanescence song as the soundtrack and we can’t tell if it’s meant to be a joke or if this individual was actually deeply moved by the film and felt it necessary to pay tribute to it on YouTube:
11. The Air Bud Films
There are likely many readers who will feel that the Air Bud movies warrant a higher ranking based on the fact that even on a list that contains numerous ghosts and time travel, it is still the most implausible. If there had been only one, Air Bud, then it may have broken the top five. Even if they had just stopped at Air Bud: Golden Receiver, we could have ranked it more generously. But 11 sequels is just plain hubris on the side of the producers.
Though this film features a surprising lack of supernatural entities, animals with powers and time travel, its premise is completely insane: Whoopie Goldberg becomes the coach of the New York Knicks by winning a halftime contest. The ending is also baffling. The film concludes without giving any indication if the team’s season ended successfully.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.