Posted January 21, 2014

The 25 Greatest Sports Movie Villains

From The Jesus to The Judge

Movies

5. Judge Elihu Smails, Caddyshack (1980)

And, we’re halfway through the list’s Judge run. Judge Smails in Caddyshack was a beautiful array of contradictions: A rich (but cheap) judge (with no respect for rules) who was addicted to golf (but had no patience). In Smails, Ted Knight created an archetype that other sports movies have tried to replicate but never quite nailed. This is because Knight was clearly born to play this role—and, perhaps moreso than any other character on this list, he was able to convincingly depict a villain of absolutely no redeeming qualities.


4. Ernie “Big Ern” McCracken, Kingpin (1996)

McCracken was the rare villain who, in his own way, was more likeable than the protagonist. Serial scene-stealer Bill Murray was in top form while playing the insufferable but oddly alluring McCracken. Big Ern managed to combine the brashness of Terrell Owens, the confidence of Muhammad Ali and the body of Steve Zissou.

And I don’t care what kind of list we’re making: Best sports movie scenes, or best comedy movie scenes, or best fashion movie scenes. The final bowling showdown makes all the lists.

Difficult not to root for this guy.

Difficult not to root for this guy.


3. Shooter McGavin, Happy Gilmore (1996)

What makes Shooter a truly great sports villain is that he’s also a buffoon, and that makes him easy target for Happy—many of the movie’s most memorable lines (such as the exchange above) are set up by a dumb McGavin comment. In that regard, McGavin is one of the more sympathetic villains on the list. The guy spent his whole life playing golf, and when he finally reaches the pinnacle of his career, he finds all the attention being consumed by a rival who doesn’t even know how to properly hold a club. Granted, buying Grandma Gilmore’s house was a low blow. But on the other hand, real estate was a prime investment in the mid-90s.

Speaking of Grandma Gilmore, there’s an argument to be made that the real bad guy in the movie is Ben Stiller as the Nursing Home director. That guy.


2. Cancer, Brian’s Song (1971)

There are two types of people in this world: Those who cry when they watch Brian’s Song, and those who haven’t seen Brian’s Song.


1. Ivan Drago, Rocky IV (1985)

He killed Apollo Creed. THE MAN KILLED APOLLO CREED. History books might tell you that the Cold War ended with the Soviet Union collapsed, but that’s myth. The Cold War ended when Rocky Balboa defeated Ivan Drago and then delivered an incoherent speech that prompted all nuclear aggression between the Soviet Union and the United States to diffuse.

But that part is just a footnote. The man killed Apollo Creed.


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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.