The real stories behind your favorite sports movies

Many of your favorite sports movies are adaptations of real-life events. Movie makers often create films based on true stories while throwing in a few fictional characters and plot elements to zhush it up a little. Here are five popular sports films and the real stories behind them:

Two for the Money

Two for the Money is a sports movie that delves into the world of sports gambling. An ultimate grass-to-grace story, Two for the Money explores the life of Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey), a college football star whose career was ended by a bum knee. 

After exiting college football, Lang worked as a telemarketer until he was introduced to sports betting by Walter Abrams (Al Pacino). Walter is an adroit entrepreneur who noticed Lang’s unique skill for picking the correct winners in football matches. He set Lang up in a luxurious office and apartment, and together, they made a great deal of money. The movie proceeds to show their empire falling apart due to complacency, and Lang’s last-minute effort that set them back on track. 

Two for the Money is a fairly light-hearted take on the operations of the sports betting business. Although betting comes with its ups and downs, real-life bettors who use sportsbooks such as BetMGM sportsbook enjoy promotions that buffer losses, and a simple, user-friendly platform that makes betting much easier.


Widely regarded as one of the greatest sports movies of all time, the movie tells the story of Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer and loan collector who surmounted seemingly impossible obstacles on his journey to the 1975 world heavyweight championship. The critically acclaimed film went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture in 1977. The huge success of this movie triggered the release of Creed, which many movie fans also loved. 

The Rocky story is loosely inspired by the life and boxing career of Chuck Wepner, the boxer who lost against Muhammad Ali on a technical knockout in the 15th round. In the movie, however, Apollo Creed ( the film’s depiction of Ali) won by a split-decision victory. The name and fighting style of the character were inspired by boxing prodigy Rocco Francis Marchegiano – the only heavyweight champion who retired undefeated. 


Concussion is based on the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-American forensic pathologist who resisted the NFL’s attempts to suppress the results of his research on brain degeneration. 

Following the death of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, Dr. Omalu (played by Will Smith) studied microscope slides of the footballer’s brain and found proof of severe neurotrauma. Dr. Omalu’s research lead him to the discovery of the connection between repeated concussions and a brain disorder named chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)

Despite publishing his first paper on the subject in 2005, the NFL only acknowledged Dr. Omalu’s research in 2009 and testified before congress in 2016 that the NFL finally believed the result of the research. Omalu’s work on CTE earned him the Distinguished Service Award from the American Medical Association.


Released in 1993, Rudy is a college football movie depicting the life of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, an undersized walk-on player on the Notre Dame football team. Despite the many obstacles the 5 ft 6 in player faced, he eventually got the chance to play in the final season game against Georgia Tech in 1975. Ruettiger recorded a sack for his team and became the first player in Notre Dame history to be carried off the field by his teammates. 

The movie definitely took certain liberties, as there are a few differences between the real story and the Hollywood adaptation. For instance, Ruettiger actually participated in three plays, as opposed to only participating in the final sack, as the movie depicted. Also, the emotional scene where Ruettiger’s fellow seniors laid their jerseys on their coach’s desk, asking the coach to allow Ruettiger to play in the season’s final game, never actually happened. 

Raging Bull 

Directed by Martin Scorsese, Raging Bull centers around the life of middleweight boxing legend Jake LaMotta. The movie unabashedly depicts the darker aspects of boxing without suppressing the anger and violence in LaMotta’s story. For its raw and one-of-a-kind portrayal of the unpleasant side of boxing, the film earned eight Oscar nominations and won two. 

Raging Bull follows the life of LaMotta as he negotiates the hurdles of the fighting industry between 1940 and 1965. Starting from his first loss in 1941 against Jimmy Reeves, the classic movie illustrates the highs and lows experienced by the boxer as he became the middleweight champion in 1949, eventually losing his title in his final fight against Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951. 

Raging Bull is ranked by the American film Institute as the fourth-greatest American movie ever made.

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