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10 Intense Rivalries in Sports Movies

by Xtreme HD IPTV

Sports movies are among the most popular subgenre the medium has to offer, and much of that can be attributed to the electrifying rivalries that are often featured between characters therein. Though there are dozens to choose from, this list aims to shine light on the most intense rivalries of the bunch.



You’re likely to recognize most films on this list, while others may appear more unfamiliar. But rest assured: they are all of the utmost quality, made by talented directors, and they feature famous actors portraying their respective rivals. All that said, these are 10 intense rivalries in sports movies, ranked.

10 Billie Jean King vs Bobby Riggs — Battle of the Sexes (2017)

Loosely based on a 1973 tennis match, Battle of the Sexes (2017) features famous actors Emma Stone and Steve Carell in the lead roles. They play Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, respectively, while other members of the cast include Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, and Alan Cumming. Quite a star-studded crew.

What Makes This Intense Rivalry So Memorable

Both on and off the court, the leads perform brilliantly as King and Riggs. Their back-and-forth exchanges of well-written dialogue rival the intensity of the tennis matches themselves, and their rapport excels because of the casting. On top of shifting the course of tennis history, these characters battle personal struggles throughout Battle of the Sexes, with the leads showcasing their talent every step of the way. Rent on Prime Video

9 Jake LaMotta vs Sugar Ray Robinson — Raging Bull (1980)

Among the most acclaimed movies in the history of Hollywood is Raging Bull (1980), directed by Martin Scorsese. It stars Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta, a real-life boxer who reigned as middleweight champion from 1949 to 1951. And frankly, the career-defining efforts of De Niro greatly contribute to the acclaim of Raging Bull itself.

What Makes This Intense Rivalry So Memorable

In the film’s climactic fight scene, LaMotta faces off against Sugar Ray Robinson. One of the greatest to ever do it, Ray had twice beaten Jake by decision — one rather controversial. But in their final meeting, Ray capped off an intense flurry of punches with a TKO victory. It’s a terrific scene, with Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing and Michael Chapman’s camerawork intensifying the exchange. These pugilists were opponents in real life, but in many ways, their rivalry is defined by the brilliance of Raging Bull. Stream on Prime Video.

8 Doug Glatt vs Ross Rhea — Goon (2011)

A sports comedy, Goon (2011) features one of the best performances from the fan-favorite career of Seann William Scott. He plays the protagonist, Doug Glatt, while Liev Schreiber appears as his rival, named Ross Rhea. Enforcers for opposing teams, they meet in this hockey movie‘s climax, as Glatt leads the Halifax Highlanders to victory over the St. John’s Shamrocks.

What Makes This Intense Rivalry So Memorable

As enforcers, these two characters operate on the ice with a primary mission in mind: fighting, essentially. When a player on the opposing team may execute a dirty or particularly violent play, it’s the enforcer’s job to get even. Scott and Schreiber fill the roles to perfection, both individually with their demeanors and together with their rapport. And as the two most violent enforcers in the league, their showdowns lived up to the bloody expectations. Stream on Tubi

7 Björn Borg and John McEnroe — Borg vs McEnroe (2017)

Like many entries on the list, the rivalry featured in Borg vs McEnroe (2017) is partly so intense thanks to the stellar performances of its leads. Sverrir Gudnason plays Björn Borg, while Shia LaBeouf co-stars as John McEnroe. And like the back-and-forth nature of their intense Wimbledon matches, the characters share a dazzling chemistry that defines the quality of the film itself.

What Makes This Intense Rivalry So Memorable

Known for his confrontational behavior both on and off the court, McEnroe’s personality provided a clean canvas for LaBeouf to paint one of his all-time greatest performances. And in stark contrast to McEnroe’s infamous antics, tennis champion Borg was renowned for his level-headed demeanor. The latter is portrayed to perfection by Gudnason, with both actors also capturing the essence of the characters’ real-life rivalry. Rent on Prime Video

6 Bhuvan Latha vs Andrew Russell — Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001)

An epic sports film, Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001) features dialogue in both Hindi and English. Set during the British Raj, the inhabitants of a Central Indian village find themselves plagued by heavy taxes while also experiencing a drought. The Captain who instated the fees is Andrew Russell, played by Paul Blackthorne, who challenges the villagers to a cricket match in exchange for the taxes they owe.

What Makes This Intense Rivalry So Memorable

Played by Aamir Khan, the rival of Captain Andrew Russell materializes as Bhuvan Latha, a farmer. He’s the film’s protagonist, and Khan excels as the underdog archetype. With meaningful stakes at the heart of their rivalry, Bhuvan and Russell become fierce competitors as their athletic prowess is displayed. And in the end, the film as a whole resonates across the board as one of the best Hindi-language movies of the century. It’s a clear choice for the list. Stream on Netflix

5 Daniel LaRusso vs Johnny Lawrence — The Karate Kid (1984)

One of the greatest sports directors to ever live is John G. Avildsen, who directed The Karate Kid (1984) from a script by Robert Mark Kamen. It’s a famous plot, following Daniel LaRusso as he learns karate from Mr. Miyagi to defend himself against bullies, like Johnny Lawrence. Each character is played by a talented actor, with their performances helping to define the rivalry between LaRusso and Lawrence.

What Makes This Intense Rivalry So Memorable

Among the most famous movies of its decade, The Karate Kid received widespread acclaim upon release from critics and audiences alike. It’s a heartfelt script with many empowering moments, and LaRusso’s classic underdog story creates an intriguing dynamic to the rivalry at hand. This entry spawned a massive franchise, and the original holds up wonderfully today. Much of that can be attributed to the iconic rivalry between LaRusso and Lawrence. Stream on Netflix

4 Tato “Cursi” Verdusco vs Beto “Rudo” Verdusco — Rudo y Cursi (2008)

In Rudo y Cursi (2008), the titular characters are brothers, played by Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, respectively. Sibling rivalries typically offer great insight into the human condition. And while this feature runs the gamut of emotion — it’s hilarious, with well-written dialogue around every corner of its plot — it’s indeed rather poignant in its plot.

What Makes This Intense Rivalry So Memorable

Written and directed by Carlos Cuarón, the script establishes an engaging character dynamic from the film’s inciting incident. The brothers become superstar football players for rival teams, and they’re driven by disparate motives. But the intensity of this rivalry is defined by the performances of the leads, as Luna and Bernal are among the finest Mexican actors ever. They also grew up with one another, like brothers who were raised to portray Rudo and Cursi. Rent on Prime Video.

Related: Diego Luna’s Greatest Spanish-Language Films

3 Billy “The Great” Hope vs Miguel “Magic” Escobar — Southpaw (2015)

The inciting incident of Southpaw (2015) will allure audiences unlike few films of its kind. Boxing is generally known to produce the highest-quality movies the sports subgenre can offer, with brilliant camerawork inside the cage facilitating moments of the utmost poignance. And in Southpaw, emotionally stirring plot points are featured until the fireworks of its finale.

What Makes This Intense Rivalry So Memorable

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Billy “The Great” Hope, while Miguel Gomez plays his rival, Miguel “Magic” Escobar. The two performers play their parts to perfection, particularly the former. After his wife is killed at the hands of Miguel’s teammates, Billy Hope undergoes tangible character development that culminates with a fight inside the boxing ring. Stream on Showtime

Related: The 25 Most Underrated Sports Movies Ever Made

2 James Hunt vs Niki Lauda — Rush (2013)

With Ron Howard in the director’s chair, Rush (2013) tells the story of the 1976 motor-racing season in America. An intense rivalry was featured therein, between a Brit named James Hunt and an Austrian named Niki Lauda. The former is played by Chris Hemsworth, while Daniel Brühl shows up as Lauda.

What Makes This Intense Rivalry So Memorable

While you may not recognize Brühl by name, you’ve undoubtedly seen other projects in which he’s featured, like Inglourious Basterds (2009). This is among the most powerful performances of his career, and the same can be said for Hemsworth — the more popular of the two. As the plot grows personal between the two drivers and the stakes are raised in tandem, the respective performers shine brilliantly to create a rivalry that audiences won’t soon forget. Stream on Netflix

1 Rocky Balboa vs Apollo Creed — Rocky (1976)

In the world-renowned Rocky franchise, Sylvester Stallone plays Rocky Balboa, a fictional character inspired by a little-known boxer named Chuck Wepner. Meanwhile, Carl Weathers portrays Apollo Creed, an equally fictional character inspired by the much more famous Muhammad Ali. And in terms of plot, the first two films — aptly named Rocky (1976) and Rocky II (1979) — completely revolve around their rivalry.

What Makes This Intense Rivalry So Memorable

This is among the most famous character dynamics in the history of cinema, with the in-cage work of Rocky and Apollo defining for film fans the pinnacle of sports movies themselves. Much of that can be attributed to the performances of the respective actors, while their rivalry is also intense thanks to well-written screenplays. The Balboa vs Creed fights are iconic sequences regarding film in general, let alone the sports subgenre. Stream on Max

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by Xtreme HD IPTV

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