Ah, Jews and sports. Despite ugly stereotypes to the contrary, the Jewish people have a long history of athletic prowess — not to mention a cultural appreciation for all types of sports. Also, we love movies. What happens when you put those things together? Some of the greatest sports films of all time.
We found 40 of the best Jewish sports movies spanning from the ‘70s to the present, (mostly) available to stream or rent.
And if you can’t get enough Jews and sports, check out the Jewish Sport Report, a newsletter about — you guessed it — Jews and sports, made in conjunction with our pals at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
In chronological order:
Big Eyes (1974)
The comedy-drama “Big Eyes” (“Einayim G’dolot” in Hebrew) tells the tale of basketball coach Benny Furman (played by director Uri Zohar). Furman is a womanizer who’s used to manipulating his players, his friends, his wife and his mistresses. Suddenly, everything starts to fall apart for him, and he is forced to decide what he really wants in life. Fun fact: This was one of director Uri Zohar’s last films before he became an ultra-Orthodox rabbi. – Emily
Unfortunately, we cannot find anywhere to stream or rent this movie.
The Bad News Bears (1976)
Not sure if and when Jews became white people — if they did, it certainly hadn’t happened yet at the time of this movie. The Jewish players fit right in on this rag-tag team of outsiders (just Google the Tanner Boyle and “Jews” line — how could they say this in a PG movie!?!). But the movie’s Jewish soul is ultimately not about any of the players. Hollywood loves neurotic Jews, rich Jews, high-achieving Jews, underachieving intellectual Jews. This film, on the other hand, is refreshingly about a plain old down-on-your-luck working-class Jew. And that Jew is Morris Buttermaker (do you really want to argue about whether a guy with that name and played by Walter Matthau is Jewish?). Hey coach, we know deep down you’re a mensch. Don’t worry, you’ll get ‘em next year. – Ami
Chariots of Fire (1981)
A Best Picture Oscar. An even more deserving Academy Award for one of the all-time greatest scores — set to the iconic opening scene of young Cambridge men in their prime running on the shores of England. Those are pretty good credentials for this inspired-by-real-life film about two rival sprinters hoping to win gold for Great Britain in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a Christian Missionary from Scotland who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs both for his own glory and as a way to give one big middle finger to English antisemitism and classism. Oddly enough, the movie is a little slow at times. But stay the course, especially if you like seeing a Hebrew hero upsetting and upending the old English fuddy-duddies. – Ami
The Chosen (1981)
Adapted from the Chaim Potok novel of the same name, “The Chosen” tells the story of friends Danny and Reuven, two Jewish teenagers from Brooklyn who share a love of baseball and reading. Though they come from families with very different Jewish practices, the two friends navigate wartime New York together and attend Hirsch College, a Jewish university. – Jacob
Eight Men Out (1988)
Perhaps one of the most shocking affairs in sports history was the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal, wherein a group of players on the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the World Series and bet against themselves. While the vast majority of films on this list feature Jewish or Jewish-inspired protagonists, “Eight Men Out” made the cut because of the man behind the fix: Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein (played in the film by Jewish actor Michael Lerner.) While Rothstein’s involvement in the scandal is a less-than-proud moment in Jewish history, it makes for a suspenseful and emotional sports drama. – Evelyn
A League of Their Own (1992)
In “A League of Their Own,” the Rockford Peaches boast talent like “big” Dottie Hinson and Kit Keller; in reality, one of the inspirations for the film was All-American Girls Professional Baseball League all-star and Jewish slugger Thelma “Tiby” Eisen. Tiby played nine seasons in the League, making her mark on teams like the Milwaukee Chicks, Grand Rapids Chicks, Peoria Rewings, and the Fort Wayne Daises. Though the only outwardly Jewish character in the film is League manager Ira Lowenstein, “A League of Their Own” has made this list because the stories of individual AAGPBL ball players like Tiby, though amalgamated in the film, should never be forgotten. – Evelyn
School Ties (1992)
This is undeniably the greatest melodrama about a Jewish quarterback forced to hide his identity ever made. The powers that be at the elite and leafy St. Matthews boarding school in Massachusetts don’t like Jews, but apparently not as much as they dislike losing football games. So they recruit David Greene, a working class rising high school senior from Scranton (played by a dreamy Brendan Fraser) to be their QB savior, with the understanding that his being a Yid will be their little secret. After leading the team to a big win on Yom Kippur, he sneaks into the chapel to get a little davening in. The headmaster (who is in on the secret) walks in and tries to troll our Hebrew hero, derisively asking: “Was it worth it? Breaking a tradition just to win a football game?” But David has the perfect retort: “Your tradition or mine, sir?” Things get darker when one of David’s antisemitic — and annoyingly bratty — teammates (Matt Damon) finds out and spills the beans, leading to, among other things, a naked shower fight, a Swastika banner, a bunch of antisemitic bullying (including from Ben Affleck), a broken romance, an image of Brendan Fraser in the pouring rain yelling “coward,” and a cheating scandal that tests the meaning and limits of WASP honor. – Ami
Searching For Bobby Fischer (1993)
Jewish chess-heads will love the 1993 classic based on the exploits of Jewish chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, who idolized Bobby Fischer despite his self-hating qualities. It’s based on Josh’s father’s book, “Searching for Bobby Fischer: The Father of a Prodigy Observes the World of Chess,” and several famous chess players — including Josh himself — make cameos in the film. Fischer never saw the film and hated that it used his name. There’s also a Bobby Fischer film — see “Pawn Sacrifice” (2014) further down this list. Fun fact: “Searching for Bobby Fischer” was nominated for best cinematography at the 1993 Oscars, but lost to “Schindler’s List.” – Emily
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Dude (Jeff Bridges) seeks compensation for his rug, which really tied the room together. Along for the ride is his friend and bowling partner Walter (John Goodman), who’s Jewish as f—ing Tevye and does not roll on Shabbos. You can imagine where it goes from there. Watch this movie to see an allusion to Maimonides, a clash between Jesus and a Jew in a bowling alley, and the best reference to Sandy Koufax in the history of film. – Ben
The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998)
The most visceral memory I have of seeing “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” in the theater when it was released is the very end. As the credits rolled, the audience — many of whom were old enough to have seen Greenberg play in the 1930s and 1940s — went wild: There was cheering, there was clapping, there was a spontaneous hora in the aisle. More than twenty years later, that feel-good moment has stuck with me, but the same sensibility will stick with viewers no matter when or where they watch the movie. Not even the 2021 World Series could make a baseball-loving American Jew feel as proud as this movie does. The documentary does for Hall-of-Famer Greenberg what the haggadah does for Moses (the movie even refers to him as “not the biblical Moses, but the baseball Moses”): It tells the story of a true Jewish hero, creates a sense of community around his triumphs, and provides a way to share that story with generations to come. – Rebecca
Unfortunately, “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” is not available to stream. However, if you are a New Yorker who belongs to the library, you can watch it there!
One Day in September (1999)
Winner of the Oscar for best documentary, this film combines innovative storytelling and real investigative reporting — and Michael Douglas’ narration — to recount the horrific capture and murder of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics in 1972. As Tom Tugend wrote for JTA, the doc “combines the thriller genre with documentary authenticity” and “the surviving principals on the German, Israeli and Arab sides reconstruct the bloody events, reveal what went on behind the scenes, and answer questions that have puzzled investigators for more than 27 years.” Most impressively and unsettlingly, director Kevin Macdonald managed to land an interview with Jamal Al-Gashey, one of the terrorists who survived the attack, despite his being in hiding somewhere in Africa. But the film’s main villains are the bumbling German authorities who mishandled the crisis, culminating in a botched rescue attempt that left all of the hostages dead. Some critics were turned off by the film’s ending: a graphic photo-montage set to a Deep Purple ditty. And, though he gave the movie a thumbs up, Roger Ebert cried foul over producer Arthur Cohn’s essentially gaming the Oscar vote. – Ami
Beitar Provence (2002)
An Israeli film about a small-town, low-ranked soccer team, Beitar Givat Zurim, and their unlikely matchup against the highly-touted Maccabi Tel Aviv in the quarterfinal for the national championship. The story follows the ten memorable days leading up to the big game, and features Moroccan Jewish actor Ze’ev Revach as manager Shabtai Kassodas. Shabtai “dreams of getting rich and leaving this small town behind, and his chance may finally be around the corner, what with a business opportunity that has presented itself. However, to see it through, he must raise a whopping $200,000 in just two weeks. In the race to raise the money, he finds himself shaking up and stirring the locals’ lives, trying to unite them behind the team ahead of the match which, if all goes well, will mean he can sell off his star player to a top tier football team and get the big bucks he’s banking on.” – Jacob
Unfortunately, “Beitar Provence” doesn’t seem to be streaming anywhere.
Eight Crazy Nights (2002)
Adam Sandler has carried his fair share of weight when it comes to bringing the Festival of Lights to pop culture. His SNL debut of “The Chanukah Song” is the reason we all know Harrison Ford is “a quarter Jewish,” and his animated feature film, “Eight Crazy Nights,” combined his love for Hanukkah, basketball and alcoholic heroes in need of an intervention. When Davey Stone is arrested for his drunken antics, he’s sentenced to community service in the form of refereeing for his former youth basketball league. What ensues is a raunchy film with spontaneous hora dancing and surprisingly catchy songs I still somehow remember 19 years after its release. Not everyone is a fan, but you’ve got to give it to the Sandman for getting one thing right: Jews really love their basketball. – Molly
Full Court Miracle (2003)
A Hanukkah film about basketball? On Disney??! We couldn’t ask for more. “Full Court Miracle” is the tale of Alex Schlotsky (Alex Linz), a freshman at the Philadelphia Hebrew Academy, who prefers basketball to his studies. Former college basketball star Lamont Carr (Richard T. Jones) is brought in to train Alex and the rest of the Hebrew Academy Team for an upcoming tournament, and Alex realizes he needs to channel Judah Maccabee for them to win. A Hanukkah classic and a Jewish sports film wrapped into one perfect package. – Emily
This 2004 theatrical documentary tells the story of the Jewish swimmers of Hakoah Vienna, a legendary Jewish sports club, and what happened to them during the 1930s. Director Yaron Zilberman reunites the surviving swimmers in this moving tribute to Jewish sports clubs. Judith Haspel, one of the women featured, was a record-setting swimmer selected to represent Austria in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Judith, however, refused to go and was stripped of her records — which were, at long last, reinstated in 1995. A powerful film. – Emily
The horrific murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by a Palestinian terrorist group at the 1972 Munich Olympics forms the backdrop of Steven Spielberg’s masterful 2005 drama, which tracks the Mossad agents (including Eric Bana and Daniel Craig) assigned to kill the perpetrators as they delve into the murky waters of exacting revenge. Often overlooked and/or misunderstood, “Munich” is the most morally complex film Spielberg has ever made, deftly framing national pride and national tragedy under the same umbrella in the endless storm of violence. – Andrew
The First Basket (2008)
This documentary, narrated by Peter Riegert, highlights professional basketball’s influence on Jewish culture. It focuses on the 1946–47 New York Knickerbockers, basketball’s cultural symbolism in America, the development of professional basketball, and the beginning of the NBA. – Jacob
Unfortunately, “The First Basket” is not available to stream or rent. Check your local library?
A Matter of Size (2009)
This Israeli romantic comedy is about an Israeli man who finds himself when he finds sumo wrestling. Along with his friends, he creates a sumo team after being shamed in a Weight Watchers group; through sumo wrestling, they all come to accept themselves and appreciate their bodies. A body-positive comedy ahead of its time. – Jacob
Berlin ‘36 (2009)
Gretel Bergmann had her Olympic dreams crushed when she was prevented from taking part in the 1936 Olympics. Having already been expelled from her training club, she moved to London. However, she was forced to return to Germany to train for the Olympics in a Nazi effort to counter claims of antisemitism. “Berlin ‘36” tells the story of Gretel ahead of the Nazi Olympics, where she is ultimately replaced a few days ahead of the games by German athlete Marie Ketteler, who has a secret of her own: She’s not a woman.
The Yankles (2009)
This straight-to-DVD classic tells the story of a bunch of yeshiva students (played mostly by Mormons) starting a baseball team, with plenty of personal redemption, religious awakening and family making up storylines tossed in. Think “The Good News Buchers.” What this film lacks in conventional standards of quality, it makes up for with plenty of heart. And Donny Most (yes, Ralph Malph). – Ami
Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story (2010)
This documentary, arguably the definitive film about Jews and baseball, was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Ira Berkow and narrated by Dustin Hoffman. It uses baseball as a lens to tell the story of Jewish immigration and assimilation in the United States, demonstrating the game’s power to help the Jewish community overcome antisemitism and harmful stereotypes. The film discusses key Jewish athletes from each decade, beginning in the 1860s. – Jacob
Victor Young Perez (2013)
Messaoud Hai Victor “Young” Perez was a Tunisian Jewish boxer who became the World Flyweight Champion in 1931 and 1932. In 1943, Perez was arrested in Paris by members of the French police working with the Nazis. He was detained in the Drancy internment camp and was sent to Auschwitz as part of “Transport 60,” which sent 1,000 prisoners from France to Auschwitz. As the Russians advanced, Perez and other Jews were put on a death march to Gleiwitz concentration camp. Perez died on the way. “Victor Young Perez” tells his harrowing story in a straightforward manner, starring French boxer Brahim Asloum as Perez. – Emily
Try loving any announcer more than Marty Glickman after watching this HBO documentary about the legendary sports broadcaster who called more than 200 track meets, 1,000 football games, 3,000 basketball games and 15,000 horse races — while coining such hoops terms as the lane, top of the circle, the wing, the key, the elbow and the swish. It delves into his early years as an athlete in his own right — a sprinter known as the Flatbush Flash — and the infamous decision by U.S. coaches at the 1936 Berlin Olympics to pull him and fellow Jewish runner Sam Stoller, presumably in order to spare their Nazi hosts further embarrassment (Jesse Owens was bad enough). This infuriating backstory makes Glickman’s refusal to change his name that much more heroic. Among those singing his praises: Marv Albert, Bob Costas, Mike Breen, Jim Brown, David Stern, Larry King and Jerry Stiller. – Ami
Kicking Out Shoshana (2014)
Gal Gadot’s very first Israeli film is this 2014 sports comedy, also called “The Goal.” It tells the tale of Ami Shushan (Oshri Cohen), an Israeli soccer player who is forced to fake come out as gay for flirting with a mafia man’s girlfriend, Mirit (Gal Gadot). His teammates and fans shun him, but he becomes a hero of the Israeli gay community — and falls in love with Mirit along the way. Fun and campy. – Emily
Pawn Sacrifice (2014)
Amidst all the newfound enthusiasm for chess in the wake of Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit,” it’s time to revisit this criminally overlooked 2014 drama about the original troubled chess prodigy: Bobby Fischer. The son of a Soviet Jewish dissident, Fischer (played magnificently by Tobey Maguire) became an American hero for taking on Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) at the 1972 World Chess Championship in Iceland. In addition to casting Jewish actors Schreiber and Michael Stuhlbarg in supporting roles, the biopic also takes time to discuss Fischer’s infamous descent into antisemitic conspiracy theories (despite being Jewish himself), portraying his quest for greatness in this unforgiving game as a true dance with the devil. – Andrew
7 Days in Hell (2015)
Jewish actor Andy Samberg’s sports mockumentary is the ridiculous story of tennis players playing a match for seven days straight. Inspired by the John Isner-Nicholas Mahut match at Wimbledon in 2010, which lasted for 11 hours and 5 minutes over three days, “7 Days in Hell” features the fictitious Aaron Williams (Andy Samberg) and Charles Poole (Kit Harington). Any character Andy Samberg plays features his specific brand of Jewish humor, and this parody of sports documentaries delivers all the ridiculousness you could want. – Emily
This biographical sports drama tells the real story of Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), a forensic pathologist who studies the long-term effects of repeated blows to the head in former football players, a disorder he terms chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). One of the doctors central to both the research and the team’s fight with the NFL is Jewish forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks). – Jacob
Jerusalem Boxing Club (2015)
Documentarians follow club manager Gershon Luxemburg and four teenagers — two young Russian Jews, one religious Jew from a West Bank settlement, and a Palestinian from Jebl Mukaber in East Jerusalem — as they train in a boxing club that operates out of a bomb shelter. As the description explains, “A story about growing up, loneliness and intimacy, heartache and hope, and above all, about finding help where it’s least expected.” – Emily
Unfortunately not currently available to stream online.
On the Map (2016)
This documentary from Dani Menkin highlights the triumph of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team’s 1977 European Championship win over CSKA Moscow (the “Red Army”). As team hero Tal Brody said at the time, “Israel is on the map, not just in sport, but in everything.” The documentary is told through the perspective of Brody and five other American basketball players who join Maccabi Tel Aviv. – Jacob
Forever Pure (2016)
The Israeli soccer team Beitar Jerusalem has an infamously ultra-nationalist, oftentimes violent fanbase. This explosive 2016 documentary from director Maya Zinshtein chronicles what happened when the team’s owner signed two Muslim players — in short, a powder keg of racist outrage. “Forever Pure” uses the storytelling lens of soccer to ask complex questions about Israeli national identity. – Andrew
“Battle of the Sexes” (2017)
No, Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs — who competed in the famous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match — are not Jewish. But Gladys Heldman, a Jewish woman, was instrumental in forming the women’s tennis tour — and starting the fight for equal pay in tennis. In “Battle of the Sexes,” this fight plays out, and Gladys is played by none other than Jewish comedic actress Sarah Silverman, who expertly handles some serious material while playing the feminist sports icon. Julie Heldman, her daughter who was part of the original nine, said, “My mother was powerful, brilliant, and made the tour happen. And the way [Silverman] played [her] made her seem like this lightweight, and she wasn’t!” Still, she’s grateful to “Battle of the Sexes” for finally telling her mother’s story. – Emily
Tour De Pharmacy (2017)
Andy Samberg’s follow-up to “7 Days in Hell” decided to parody doping in the Tour de France, telling the tale of the 1982 Tour. It features Samberg as American-born Nigerian cyclist Marty Hass and Jewish actor Jeff Goldblum as present-day Marty. Their Jewish humor — alongside other Jewish stars Maya Rudolph, Daveed Diggs, and Nathan Fielder — makes the mockumentary a Jewish sports classic. – Emily
Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel (2018)
“Heading Home” is the award-winning documentary that chronicles Team Israel’s Cinderella run during the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The team brought together a group of American Jews and Israeli ballplayers who, despite entering the international tournament as 200-1 underdogs, beat five of the best teams in the world. – Jacob
100%: Julian Edelman (2019)
This documentary follows Jewish former NFL star Julian Edelman’s journey from a major injury to Super Bowl MVP in 2019. Featuring behind-the-scenes footage of Edelman’s family, friends, and teammates, the film provides an inside look at the New England Patriots wide receiver from those who know him best. – Jacob
Olympic Dreams (2019)
The romantic comedy “Olympic Dreams” was shot in the Athletes’ Village at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, making it the first feature film ever made inside the Olympic Village. It tells the tale of a romance between Olympic cross-country skier Penelope (played by Olympic marathoner Alexi Pappas) and on-site volunteer dentist Ezra (Nick Kroll) — and the setting is a magical peek behind the scenes of one of the world’s most famous sporting events. Helmed by Jewish director Jeremy Teicher, the plot is heartwarming as Penelope and Ezra navigate their feelings for each other. Plus, Jewish actor Nick Kroll’s Jewish dentist chatting with all the athletes (real Olympic athletes!) in his chair brings real authenticity to the film. – Emily
Uncut Gems (2019)
You might not immediately think of “Uncut Gems” as a Jewish sports movie, but let’s lay it all out: it’s got sports gambling, cameos by NBA players, an epic Passover scene, and Adam Sandler. In his ~movie trailer voice~ most dramatic role yet, Sandler fully transforms into Howard Ratner, a gambling addict who runs a jewelry store in NYC’s (very Jewish) diamond district. The Safdie brothers’ film is a dizzying, anxiety-inducing drama full of bad decisions that includes a Kevin Garnett plot line and a conversation about Jews who love basketball that can’t be printed here. It’s one of those movies you either love or hate, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: Idina Menzel, who plays Howard’s long-suffering wife, still looks great in her bat mitzvah dress. -Molly
Rising Phoenix (2020)
At the center of Paralympic history is an incredibly Jewish story — thus, that story is also at the center of the powerful documentary “Rising Phoenix.” The main thread of this film platforms Paralympic stars like Beatrice “Bebe” Vio, Tatyana McFadden and Jean-Baptiste Alaize, who speak about their lives and athletic journeys. Interwoven with these interviews and competition footage is a look at the founder of the Paralympic Games, famed Jewish neurologist and Holocaust survivor Sir Ludwig Guttmann. Together, these histories will make you laugh, cry and marvel at the strength of the human spirit. – Evelyn
This just-released documentary from Dani Menkin is a biography of basketball superstar Aulcie Perry, a Black Newark resident who became a legend for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 1970s and 80s. Perry fully embraced his adopted home, dating an Israeli supermodel and eventually converting to Judaism, before his drug habit derailed his career. Read JTA’s review. – Andrew
“Auclie” is currently airing in select theaters, or rent online from Hey Jude Productions.
The Survivor (2021)
Released this fall, “The Survivor” is a biopic of Harry Haft, a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp, where he boxed fellow inmates to survive. After the war, Haft enjoyed a brief professional boxing career in Germany and the U.S. The film, directed by Barry Levinson, stars Ben Foster as Haft and co-stars Billy Magnussen and Dany DeVito. – Jacob
This movie is not yet available for streaming. “The Survivor” will be on HBO Max in 2022.
Many thanks to contributors Emily Burack (Deputy Managing Editor, Alma), Ami Eden (CEO, 70 Faces Media), Evelyn Frick (Editorial Assistant, Alma), Gabe Friedman (News Director, JTA), Jacob Gurvis (Audience Engagement Editor, JTA), Andrew Lapin (Managing Editor of Local News, JTA) Rebecca Phillips (VP, Audience & Digital Strategy, 70 Faces Media), Ben Sales (Reporter, JTA), and Molly Tolsky (Editor, Alma).