Why Aren’t There More Sports Movies?

People love sports. People love movies. So why don’t you often see them together? While there have been a host of great sports movies released over the years, you can’t help but notice that the number of action-packed sports movies has been on the decline in the past couple of decades. Though Hustle and The Way Back showed that sports could do well on the big screen, the heyday of these types of silver screen offerings was back in the 80s and 90s. 

But why is this? Let’s take a look.

They’re Hard to Shoot

Cinema-goers are only interested in the final product. But the professionals who make the movie are concerned with the process of making that product. And compared to other genres, sports movies are technically difficult to shoot. For one thing, you need actors who are physically capable of performing the athletic scene. Then you need to hope that it goes exactly to plan. If you’ve ever played sports before, then you’ll know how difficult it is to put a ball (or whatever) in one precise spot. 

As a result, sports movies typically use a lot of sliced-up close shots that just don’t look anywhere nearly as good as they do in a real sports match.

Unbelievable Stories Happen in Real Life

Who needs fiction when real life is so exciting? There have been many unlikely sporting victories over the years that would have been dubbed “unrealistic” if they’d happened in a Hollywood movie. Take Leicester City’s hugely surprising 2015/16 Premier League title victory as an example, or Saudi Arabia’s victory over Argentina in the 2022 World Cup Finals.

Documentaries Are Better

Sports definitely have a place in the movie world. It’s just that it’s usually better if they’re documentaries, rather than narrative-based movies. In an age when everything is recorded, these documentaries offer a fascinating insight into what is already a dramatic and exciting world. For example, there’s The Last Dance, Senna, Diego Maradona, and Cornered. All of these provide something that sports fans want, in a way that’s more direct (and, of course, believable) than what you would get if you tried to tell those stories via a movie. Sometimes, real life is just the way to go.

The Sports Never End 

It’s also possible that we don’t have more sports movies because there isn’t much of a demand for them. After all, it’s not as if people are clamoring for more sports in their life. It’s a market that is well-covered. There’s been a sharp increase in the coverage of sports over the past ten years, to the point where it’s basically a 24/7 interest.

That wasn’t the case back in the ’80s and ’90s when sports movies were flying high. Back then, sports took place at the weekend, with minimal coverage in between games. Today, there’s a game every day, pre-match hype, and post-match analysis. Even if people wanted more sports activities in their life, they probably couldn’t fit it in!

There’s a Track Record of Poor Movies

Finally, perhaps the biggest reason why we don’t see new release after new release of sports movies is that there’s a track record of them performing poorly. It’s worth remembering that sports movies typically cost a lot of money to make, so studios need to be reasonably confident that the public will respond positively to the movie. Alas, as the long list of failed sports movies demonstrates, that’s rarely the case. As Like Mike, Rollerball, and The Fan (starring De Niro and Wesley Snipes!) all show, even sports movies that have the Hollywood marketing machine behind them can fall flat.