Posted January 21, 2014

The 25 Greatest Sports Movie Villains

From The Jesus to The Judge

Movies

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What’s a sports movie without an incorrigible villain? It’s two hours of feel-good shlock, that’s what. As viewers, we may want to feel warm and fuzzy at the end of our sports flicks, but along the way we want to feel bad. That’s just the way it works. With that in mind, here are the 25 ne’er-do-wells who were most effective at bringing us down before their protagonist counterparts could bring us back up.

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Close, but not quite evil enough:

  • Chas Osborn, Back to School
  • Warden Hazen, The Longest Yard
  • Carl Racki, Youngblood
  • Clu Haywood, Major League
  • Teddy KGB, Rounders
  • Kevin O’Shea, Little Giants
  • Bob Sugar, Jerry Maguire

25. Dallas Carter High School, Friday Night Lights (2004)

“They’re fast, they’re big, they’re dirty … plus they’re fast.”

Such is Permian High School defensive end Ivory Christian’s assessment of Dallas Carter’s football team before the two meet in the state championship game. (Worth noting: In real life, the teams actually faced off in the 1988 state semi-finals). Though I’ve never encountered a football fan who didn’t enjoy this movie, I find that it’s rarely mentioned during discussions of the greatest-ever sports movies. This could be because it’s only a decade old, or possibly because the excellent TV show of the same name overshadowed the film. Of course, the argument could be made that the real villain is Tim McGraw’s character or, to a larger extent, the cultural obsession with high school football in Odessa. But Dallas Carter’s sheer dominance and helmet-kicking tendencies earn them the nod.


24. Jesus Quintana, The Big Lebowski (1998)

Is this a sports movie? Not really, no. Is Jesus Quintana really the villain? Briefly, maybe, but in actuality, no. Does the scene above, however tangentially connected it may be to the plot of the film, relate to sports and consistently make me laugh every time I watch it?

Yup.

the big lebowski jesus quintana gif

And so, Jesus makes the cut.


23. The Beast, The Sandlot (1993)

In truth, the Beast is just a proxy for the fear of the unknown, which is arguably the most terrifying villain of all (and one which is difficult to adequately cast). But also, the Beast is a really big dog, and that’s kind of scary too.

Sandlot writer/director David Mickey Evans recently posted a few pictures of the Beast’s costume, in case you were looking for a practical joke idea that will terrify everyone in your neighborhood:

via David Mickey Evans

via David Mickey Evans

via David Mickey Evans

via David Mickey Evans


22. The Self-Destructive Nature of Man, Raging Bull (1980)

While his nemesis in the ring was Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta’s biggest enemy in Raging Bull was himself. The tragedy of LaMotta’s character is that it was the qualities that made him a successful boxer that led to his failings as a human. He’s entirely responsible for the ascension of his career and destruction of his personal life, which makes Jake LaMotta both the hero and villain in this film.

Also: If only Bull were the last boxing movie Robert DeNiro appeared in. If only.


21. Ogie Ogilthorpe, Slap Shot (1977)

Slap Shot was such a beautiful mess that it was almost poetic in nature. While Ogilthorpe was repeatedly referenced throughout the film — often with regard to various arrests for on-ice transgressions — viewers don’t actually see him until the final scene. Interestingly, Ogilthorpe was based on a real person: Longtime minor league goon Bill “Goldie” Goldthorpe. According to a profile on the enforcer, “While incarcerated in Syracuse during the American Hockey League season, coaching staff from his team would escort Goldthorpe back and forth from prison between games.”

Sure sounds like Ogie.


20. Rachel Phelps, Major League (1989)

Major League is arguably (mind the “arguably”) the greatest sports comedy of all time, so it would be unforgivable not to include Rachel Phelps, the sabotaging owner of the movie’s fictitious Indians. Phelps served as a more glamorous (and entertaining) version of The Judge from The Natural, and was consistent in always making life harder for her players with a big smile on her face. That’s solid villainy right there.


19. Chong Li, Bloodsport (1988)

Filmmakers in the ’80s had to go to great lengths to make Jean-Claude Van Damme appear to be the underdog in any sort of fight, case in point: Chong Li in Bloodsport.

LOOK AT THIS MONSTER!

uh.

It seems like half the movie was Chong Li beating people up and then killing them at the end of the fight for no apparent reason. But according to Buzzfeed, Bolo Yeung, the actor who played Chong Li, was a big ol’ softy in real life.


18. Maggie Fitzgerald’s family, Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Million Dollar Baby (or its alternate title, Boy, That Escalated Quickly) is widely considered one of the finest sports films ever. But its real villain wasn’t the rival boxer, Billie “The Blue Bear,” who paralyzed Maggie, but rather Fitzgerald’s greedy, loathsome family. The scene in which Maggie’s mother asks her to sign over her assets while berating her for losing her final fight displays a particularly profound sort of evil that has a way of sticking with the viewer.


17. David Simms, Tin Cup (1996)

An underrated character in an underrated movie. The movie successfully portrays the two factions of the golf world that are eternally at odds: The passionate player with modest means vs. the country club snob. Kevin Costner’s Roy McAvoy gave the movie legs, but he was well-countered by Don Johnson’s performance as David Simms, a well-heeled overachiever who is all too easy to hate.


16. Max Baer/The Great Depression, Cinderella Man (2005)

You can’t really have a movie called “Cinderella Man” unless it’s going to involve some pretty compelling obstacles. In this case, Max Baer teamed up with the Max Baer of economic crises—the Great Depression—to ensure that Jim Braddock faced seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve greatness. Craig Bierko did a solid job portraying the hard-hitting, wise-cracking, womanizing Baer, while the depressing music and smokey visual aesthetic served to create a vivid representation of dreary early-1930s America.


60 comments
StephenRohrbeck
StephenRohrbeck

Great List until the top two. Ivan Drago and Cancer? I also agree with the criticism listed below for including Raging Bull. While I think it is a great assessment, it is too highbrow for a list like this. It opens the door to Alcoholism in Hoosiers, being from the wrong side of the tracks/All the Right Moves, Time/ For the Love of the Game, and gender inequality/A League of Their Own. All of these are true, but too obtuse.Take out Raging Bull Drago, Cancer, and Max Baer and add Brian Shute, Coach Klein, Jean Girard (Talladega Nights), and maybe Teddy "KGB" from Rounders.

BosephHeyden
BosephHeyden

I'm just glad Bolo made the list at least once.

ThomasRitter
ThomasRitter

2 HUGE omissions....

Where is the banker/brother from Field Of Dreams? The dude tries foreclosing on the best baseball field in Iowa!

What about Lucien Tucker in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, or the bad Jonathan Winters alter-ego. One is wearing a "trade me" sign on his chest while the other kidnaps Mona to prevent the Pisces from winning.

cbcatanz
cbcatanz

Ivan Drago isn't just the best sport movie villain, he's the best movie villain period. 

maxpower16
maxpower16

How about "Team Cinzano" in Breaking Away? Those guys were Euro jerks.

PatrickWelch
PatrickWelch

No list would be complete without John Goodman's football coach for the Atoms in Revenge of the Nerds.


NebojsaTodorovic
NebojsaTodorovic

Lame...  How is the coach from One on One not on this list?  So many weak entries and not including the coach tells me this is a list by somebody who hasn't even seen half the movies out there.  That was one of the early sports movies where we learned about the ugly side of college sports.

a7cv41
a7cv41

How about Mr. Bartholomew from Rollerball?

Joe R2
Joe R2

VERY slow news day

FOOLKILLER
FOOLKILLER

Dem racists in Remember the Titans needa beer on hizzy.

bfarr
bfarr

why is the guy from teen wolf not on this list?

LuzEscalante
LuzEscalante

Hey what about the head football coach in North Dallas Forty and One on One? Both charters were coincidentally played by the same actors J.D. Spradlin a fine character actor. They don't get meaner then that.

Plainview
Plainview

This list is quite good.  Kudos. 

JohnnyPavia
JohnnyPavia

Coach Riley/Reilly from The Mighty Ducks needs to be on here. He told his players to blatantly hurt Banks and take him out of the game. This dude was Gregg Williams before Gregg Williams. 

Listening
Listening

"Sweep the leg Johnny"  "Get him a body bag YEAH!!!!!"

x72
x72

You overcook it it's no good.

6marK6
6marK6

Clubber Lang by far over Drago. Stupid list!

chuloKirn
chuloKirn

Coach Klein/Mama Boucher/Colonel Sanders from the Waterboy

driva13
driva13

This seems like a good time to point out that Friday Night Lights is criminally underrated and you can make the argument that its the best sports movie ever 

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

"The self-destructive nature of man" for "Raging Bull?" Do you think there were a lot of people watching that movie going, "Boy, I just hate that self-destructive nature of man. I wish somebody would kill that self-destructive nature of man."

Also, isn't it in poor taste to cite "cancer" as a villain in "Brian's Song?" It's a true story of a sad situation. Comparing cancer in "Brian's Song" to the judge in "Caddyshack" or the perv in "The Big Lebowski" is ridiculous.

Dirtrum
Dirtrum

I can't stand that Max Baer is viewed as a "villian". There's a far more complex story to be told about this man, who wore the Star of David on his trunks when he took down Hitler's champion, Max Schmeling. Campbell did die as a result of injuries sustained fighting Max, but Max was also by his bedside in the hospital, praying for him and consouling his wife.


torrento
torrento

Good piece. Though I have no idea how Johnny Lawrence, Clubber Lang and Roy Turner are not #s 1, 2 3, respectively.

yummypeaches
yummypeaches

It did have to be Drago . A commie who cheated and killed Carl Weathers . The only thing he didn't do was spit on puppies .

LukeDB
LukeDB

I'm so glad that Drago is #1. That was my first thought before even clicking through. Thank you.

JacobReed
JacobReed

Shooter at #3? HES #1. Hes the greatest cinema villain of all time. 

jshiver15
jshiver15

@NebojsaTodorovic I would say it didn't make the list because no one has ever heard of 'One on One'.  I saw it when I was a kid only because we had it on VHS.  Otherwise, I've literally never heard anyone else talk about it.

Mike26
Mike26

@bfarr Nick is a wannabe.  He wouldn't scare a 5th grader today.

espnrefugee0218
espnrefugee0218

@JohnnyPavia Dont forget the cheap shot against Gordon Bombay ! 

I still hate coach Riley / the Stanson the Wolf...

AnthonyHughes
AnthonyHughes

@ListeningMartin Kove's John Kreese has to be higher on this list!  And William Zabka had that smarmy bully character nailed to a T in the 1980's.

Mel
Mel

@6marK6 Love Clubber Lang, but I'd take Drago any day of the week over Lang. Would I always wanted in a Rocky movie was a Clubber Lang vs. Drago fight! LOL

Mike26
Mike26

@6marK6 Maybe.  But you knew that Rocky was going to beat Clubber in the rematch.  However, you never knew for sure if Drago was going to kill Rocky too - while the Russians dropped nukes on the White House!

Ryan19
Ryan19

@chuloKirn No way is Mr. Coach Klein a villain.  You must be thinking of Coach Red Beauliieu.  

rentistoohigh
rentistoohigh

@Dirtrum Joe Louis took down Schmeling..representing America...What's with the holocaust ploy ?

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@Dirtrum, very true. Max Baer was an otherwise gentle soul who didn't even particularly like being a fighter, but it's what he was good enough at to earn money.

Mike26
Mike26

@yummypeaches That's because he grilled them - he LOVED hot dogs.  Unfortunately, it was left on the cutting room floor.

Dirtrum
Dirtrum

@rentistoohigh @Dirtrum Not sure what you mean by "holocaust ploy".  Baer fought and defeated Schmeling in 1933.  Schmeling beat Louis in 1936 and Louis won the rematch in 1938.