Here is the AFI list:
1. Raging Bull
3. The Pride of the Yankees
5. Bull Durham
6. The Hustler
8. Breaking Away
9. National Velvet
10. Jerry Maguire
Not too many surprises here except maybe Jerry Maguire which seems a bit more "inside sports" than actual sports, and besides any movie with the lines "you had me at hello" and "you complete me" should be disqualified from ANY top ten list and ESPECIALLY Sports (unless they are done as a joke as in the cinematic triumph A Night at the Roxbury)
I predicted Raging Bull would win this category and I still totally disagree. I recognize that there are some amazingly photographed and edited fight sequences in this movie but I bet the actual screentime of the boxing is less than Steven Seagal's screentime in Executive Decision...not really, just wanted to make sure you were awake. Anyway, I would classify Raging Bull as a dark, dramatic biopic about a boxer. It isn't a "sports" movie and to classify it as such is just as silly as calling Field of Dreams a biography of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (well, maybe not quite that silly...)
What I don't get is why Sappy Maguire made the cut but Seabiscuit and Chariots of Fire did not. Rudy is another pretty decent sports flick without mention. What about Rocky 2, 3, 4 , 5 , 6 and Nightmare on Elm Street 7, 8 , 9 and what were we talking about again? Seriously though, if Raging Bull is a "sports" film then so is Champion with Kirk Douglas and The Set-Up with Robert Ryan. Since ESPN has turned Texas Hold 'em into a "sport" then The Cincinatti Kid should have been considered. And don't even get me started on Auto racing, can anyone say Ricky Bobby? Dang.
According to baseball insiders Bull Durham is the best movie about the sport and the most accurate portrayal of life in the minors. On the other hand I have heard many criticisms of The Pride of the Yankees because Gary Cooper was a righty playing left-handed Lou Gehrig. They apparently reversed the image in every shot where he throws or bats to make him look like a southpaw, but the acting is still great with Theresa Wright as his wife and quintessential sideman Walter Brennan as a sportswriter.
Rocky is the only film on this list which won Best Picture. But for my money the best sports movie of all is Hoosiers , which at least made the top five. It may be the least hokie sports film ever made with very understated characters and a "less is more" approach to storytelling and dialogue. Hoosiers doesn't ever trip over it's own sentimentality or folksy Americana (even with a stirring "sports" soundtrack). It is what it is, and as it comfortably shows us the myopic, basketball-crazy world of rural 1950s Indiana we get comfortable with it and hang on every shot and every rebound until the final triumphant moment. Hoosiers IS a "sports" movie and the best example I know of.