The 25 Greatest Sports Movie Villains
From The Jesus to The Judge
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.