06/18/2014 03:15 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2014

The 10 Best Sports Movies of the Past 10 Years

Sports and movies are two great outlets to escape from everyday life for a bit. Who doesn't love sitting on the couch in the morning, flipping on ESPN, and absorbing all the latest sports news with a big bowl of cereal? And who doesn't get a kick out of dropping everything, getting a smorgasbord of popcorn, nachos and soda, and enjoying a great story told through film for a few hours? It was a no-brainer for sports to spill over into Hollywood, and the pairing has resulted in some of the best entertainment of the past few decades.

The height of the sports movie seemed to come in the 80s and 90s with all of the Rocky sequels in full swing, Field of Dreams inspiring millions and Jerry Maguire having everyone shouting "show me the money!"

Over the past decade, sports flicks have shifted from the somewhat overdone and cliché underdog story to either gritty, very real athlete profiles or all-out laugh riots. With all of the absolute classics from previous decades out of the way, here's a look at the 10 best sports movies made in the past 10 years.

10. The Longest Yard (2005)
With gems like Happy Gilmore and Waterboy, Adam Sandler was the king of the sports comedy in the 90s. He tried his hand once again in 2005 with The Longest Yard, a remake of the beloved classic by the same name. Sandler paid homage to the original by giving its old star, Burt Reynolds, a relatively major role in the new film, but it still wasn't met with much warmth from fans or critics.

Sandler surrounded himself with a bunch of pro wrestlers and former football stars to create an uproarious comedy full of big hits and a little bit of heart, so naturally, my 11-year-old self ate this up. It's not Sandler's best work, but it's light years better than the crap he's been putting out recently.

9. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

I wasn't quite old enough to grasp the plot of this now-classic movie, but I remember my mom and aunt crying for days over the heartbreaking ending. Million Dollar Baby is a tough one to swallow, but it boasts three of the best performances of the decade from Clint Eastwood as a tough, firm boxing trainer with a heart of gold, Hilary Swank as a passionate female boxer ready to prove herself and Morgan Freeman as a half-blind trainer with a boxing career in his hindsight.

It's a great, down-to-earth story of passion for boxing and the consequences that come with the sport. Spoiler alert: it does not end well.

8. Blades of Glory (2007)

Many may consider Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby to be Will Ferrell's sports comedy standout, but I like his portrayal of Chazz Michael Michaels in Blades of Glory much more. How could you not find this movie hilarious just from the concept itself?

Will Ferrell and the skinny kid from Napolean Dynamite team up to form the first ever same-sex pairs team in Olympic ice skating history. The plot is comedy gold, and the execution is spot on from Ferrell and Jon Header. But viewers be warned: there are major scenes with Ferrell in full-body spandex suits. *shivers*

7. The Blind Side (2009)

The Blind Side follows the "white savior" trope a little too closely and makes real-life NFL offensive tackle Michael Oher seem a bit too much like a big, bumbling oaf for my taste, but there's no disputing that Sandra Bullock gave a heck of a performance in this heartwarming drama.

She plays a Memphis interior designer who takes in the homeless and hungry Oher and eventually channels his knack for protection to become an elite offensive lineman for the local high school team. It's a great story with an even better big screen adaptation that everyone should see.

6. The Fighter (2010)

At the surface, The Fighter is just another story about a small-time boxer named Mickey Ward in a small-time town who finally gets his shot to make it big. But this movie brings much more than clichés because of the flawed characters and excellent acting from Ward's crazy family, particularly his crack head, former boxer brother played by the excellent Christain Bale and his coddling mother played by an also excellent Melissa Leo. The story isn't anything new, but Bale, Leo, Amy Adams and even Mark Wahlberg all propel this sports drama with their superb acting performances.

5. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

Realizing this movie came out 10 years ago makes me feel very old because I still remember watching it over and over again as a grade-schooler and laughing more and more with each viewing.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story embraces the sports underdog trope (as you can tell from the title) and gives the audience one of the best farcical sports comedies ever made. With Vince Vaughn at his toned-down best, and Ben Stiller as his over-the-top counterpart as one of the best characters Stiller has ever portrayed, this story about two gym dodgeball teams competing for survival will deliver the stupid, slapstick comedy its viewers will expect for decades to come.

4. Moneyball (2011)

Sports movies never fail to follow the athlete's climb to the top of the mountain, but rarely do viewers get a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes action like they did from the Academy award-nominated Moneyball.

Don't get me wrong, if you're not interested in sports, or even just not interested in baseball, this movie could be a downright snooze fest. But for those sports nerds like me who find every aspect of the game captivating, especially how teams find their players and build their rosters, then the Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill-led Moneyball is a refreshing change of pace from all the sweat and angst of the athlete profile.

3. Coach Carter (2005)

Coach Carter is guilty of following a bunch of sports movie norms and clichés, but for some reason this movie just sticks with people. Maybe it's because it has all the factors of a "white savior" type movie, but that white savior is replaced by motherf***ing Samuel L. Jackson.

Granted, Jackson's character is way more toned down than the ones he has been known to portray, but he still provides a tough, gritty approach to teaching his team of basketball misfits that makes it more believable than other movies with the same general plot. Oh, and for all you ladies out there, Channing Tatum makes a pretty awkward pre-fame appearance that many people tend to forget about.

2. Green Street Hooligans (2005)

For my second best sports movie of the decade, we have to go across the pond to our good pal, England. The premise of this film is a bit strange at its face. Adorable, little Elijah Wood drops out of Harvard and moves to England where he finds himself joining a tough soccer gang that loves getting into bloody brawls almost as much as they love a good football match.

It sounds quite absurd, but it's really a gritty tale that shows how far fandoms of sports teams can push people and their actions. There's also a plethora of great British slang and curse words, too, so there's another reason to watch.

1. Warrior (2011)

Rounding out my list is the 2011 MMA drama film, Warrior. It's really a fantastic story of two estranged brothers separated by their completely different lifestyles who are united by their affinity for mixed martial arts and must eventually face each other in a tournament they both entered.

It's the perfect mix of human emotional drama, as both brothers cope with their troubled relationships with their father and each other, and hard-hitting action, as the MMA fight scenes are as thrilling as can be. Tom Hardy is a scene stealer, and his performance established his status as a Hollywood heavyweight. Literally.

By: Joey Figueroa, University of Illinois