21 Woman-Led Sports Movies to Celebrate the U.S. World Cup Victory

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Anna Tingley
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In honor of the women’s U.S soccer team beating out the Netherlands in Sunday’s World Cup Final, watch these inspiring female athletes bring their star-power to the silver-screen. From “Bring it On” to “Bend it Like Beckham,” we have you covered with movies that run the athletic gamut.

Bring it On

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Two rival cheerleading squads duke it out in a teen flick fraught with routine theft, betrayal, romantic drama, and of course high flying cheer stunts. The movie delivers on its title’s promise — the girls of Rancho Carne and East Compton High indeed “bring it on.” Watch the young Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union give starmaking performances in this cult classic.

“Bring it On Again”

The cheerleading sequel has graduated from high school drama to college campus drama. With an entirely new cast and plotline, the followup still maintains the cheer squad battles that made its predecessor so entertaining.

“A League of Their Own”

It’s the movie that spawned one of the most famous lines in film and one of the sport’s most famous mantras: “There’s no crying in baseball.” An all-star cast of Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell led by takes the field as the Rockford Peaches all-women baseball team in the 1940’s led by Tom Hanks as their manager.

Battle of the Sexes

Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) compete in a comedic take on the famous match dubbed “Battle of the Sexes.” Both Stone and Carell received Golden Globe nominations for their portrayals of their respective tennis legends.

“Bend it Like Beckham”

A teenage girl from a Punjabi Sikh family in London sets out to be a soccer star against her traditional parents’ wishes, finding romance and friendship along the way. The film features a stellar soundtrack from women led bands such as Texas and Blondie.

“She’s the Man”

Loosely based on William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” the movie features the typical Shakespearian web of tangled romance. In the 2006 update, Amanda Bynes plays a girl pretending to be a boy to play on her brother’s school’s soccer team, further tangling the already messy web of romance.

“Ice Princess”

Casey (Michelle Trachtenberg) is a Harvard bound high school student, but to earn a scholarship she needs a summer project. She takes up ice skating as her scholarship project and learns to her social life, schoolwork and family life with her newfound passion.

“Ice Castles”

Tragedy, heartbreak, romance and overcoming insurmountable obstacles come in spades for the 1978 figure skating movie. Lexie, the protagonist, pursues her goal of becoming a champion figure skater against all odds.

Whip It”

Drew Barrymore takes her skills both behind and in front of the camera for her directorial debut about competitive roller derby. Ellen Page stars as Bliss, also known by her derby name “Babe Ruthless, alongside Jimmy Fallon, Marcia Gay Harden and Kristing Wiig.

“Girlfight”

Future action star Michelle Rodriguez made her acting debut as a boxer in this 2000 film. She plays Diana, a short tempered teenager who channels her fighting spirit from schoolyard brawls to the boxing ring.

“Blue Crush”

Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez star in this 2002 surfing movie based on an Outisde magazine article. Bouncing back from an almost fatal surfing incident, Anne Marie (Bosworth) overcomes her fear and revitalizes her surfing career on Hawaii’s North Shore.

“Soul Surfer”

Surfer Bethany Hamilton’s life story of her miraculous recovery from a shark attack came to the big screen with this 2011 biopic. The film follows Hamilton as she struggles with both relaunching her surfing career and the media frenzy surrounding her life story.

“Stick It”

Rebellious 17 year-old Haley, played by Missy Peregrym, was a world-class gymnast until she walked out of a competition in the middle of the World Championships, costing America the gold medal. But after a run-in with the law, a judge orders her to return to the regimented lifestyle of competitive gymnastics. She begins studying under a legendary coach, played by Jeff Bridges, where her stubborn attitude doesn’t change — she constantly questions the judge’s scoring methods, sparking a movement within the gymnast community.

“Million Dollar Baby”

Hillary Swank stars as Missouri-hailing waitress Maggie Fitzgerald who moves to Los Angeles determined to begin a boxing career under the training of Clint Eastwood’s Frankie Dunn. While he’s reluctant to train her at first, telling Maggie she’s too old to begin her career, she works out tirelessly everyday to prove him wrong. Eventually, with encouragement from Frankie’s friend and employee Eddie (Morgan Freeman), she lands a $1 million match against a WBA women’s welterweight champion who tragically leaves Maggie as a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic after their fight.

“Love and Basketball”

The Spike Lee-produced film follows childhood sweethearts Monica and Quincy who share a love for basketball and each pursue a professional career in the sport. Over the years, their on-and-off-again relationship becomes strained through their wins and losses, forcing them to question their love for each other, and the game.

“Center Stage”

The renowned American Ballet Academy in New York City is home to dozens of young girls vying for a spot on a competitive dance team. From awkward Jody Sawyer (Amanda Schull) to sassy Eva Rodriguez (Zoe Saldana), each girl subjects themselves to physical and emotional stress in hopes of becoming the all-star dancer chosen among the pack.

“Switching Goals”

13 year-old identical twins Sam and Emma pull a “Parent Trap”-inspired swap in the 1999 TV movie starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen when they switch soccer teams to be on the one they prefer. But the pair has trouble getting away with their schemes when their differences become too hard to disguise.

“Offside”

An ode to female sports fans around the world, the film follows a group of girls in Iran who sneak into the World Cup qualifying match despite being forbidden to attend due to their gender. Based on real Iranian legislation, and inspired by the director’s own sports-crazy daughter, the titular character dresses up as a boy to get let into the game.

“Black Swan”

Ballerinas Nina and Lily find themselves in a war between good and evil as they compete for the starring role in the opening production of “Swan Lake.” While Nina resonates with the White Swan, Lily gravitates towards the Black Swan, bringing their rivalry to darker waters.

“Gracie”

After her all-star soccer player brother tragically passes away, Gracie convinces her family and school to let her to play on his all-boys varsity soccer team in order to maintain his legacy. When the school resists Gracie’s pleads, and her own dad voices his dissent, she begins taking part in risky and rebellious behavior until she finally gets on the team by smartly using the recently passed Title IX law to her advantage.

“Flashdance”

Part-time steel mill worker and part-time nightclub dancer, Alex (Jennifer Beals) aspires to be a professional ballerina. After years ignoring her passion, she’s finally encouraged by her boss Nick (Michael Nouri) to take a leap and apply to a prestigious dance conservatory.

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