Ten iconic athletes name their favorite sports films of all time, from the touching and zany to the truly awe-inspiring. Clear out your Netflix queue.
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
Dean Karnazes, Ultrarunner
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
(Artisan Entertainment, 1991)
In His Words: “I’ve seen a few friends come back from the dead during long races, and I always chuckle and think of that scene where the Terminator keeps running after being blown into a million tiny pieces.”
Our Take: Put James Cameron behind the camera and a not-yet-political Arnold Schwarzenegger in front of it and you’ve got one of the greatest action flicks ever.
Money Quote: “It was suddenly so clear: The Terminator would never stop.” [Linda Hamilton, as Sarah Connor]
Tommy Caldwell, Climber
Dosage, Volume III
(Big Up Productions, 2005)
In His Words: “Super-inspiring footage of cutting-edge climbing. Director Josh Lowell’s films are authentic.”
Our Take: Packed with first ascents, from Utah to Vietnam. Watch Chris Sharma (spiritual offspring of Spider-Man and Wavy Gravy) pinch his way over a cave ceiling in the Ozarks, upside down.
Money Quote: “These rocks have become my teacher . . . They can reflect just how you feel. So I try to make friends with them.” [Climber Ron Kauk]
Greg LeMond, Road Cyclist
(20th Century Fox, 1979)
In His Words: “The only true cycling classic. I used to race with a friend who could have been the inspiration for the film. He dressed and acted as though he were Italian. He even changed his name from Tony Comfort to Antonio Conforte.”
Our Take: Breaking Away manages to make Indiana look beautiful and make drafting an 18-wheeleron a bicycleseem smart. Fantastico! Still, we’ve never resorted to using fake European accents to woo the bellas. That’s what bike shorts are for.
Money Quote: “Are you really gonna shave your legs?” [Daniel Stern, as Cyril]
Jimmy Chin, Mountaineer
The Eiger Sanction
(Universal Studios, 1975)
In His Words: “It’s one of the few good mountaineering movies and a fully entertaining glimpse into what was cool in another era.”
Our Take: Clint Eastwood in the Alpsas an art-collecting assassin? This soft jab at the James Bond formula, full of tongue-in-cheek grimacing and groping (of rock, mostly), offers up spectacular high-altitude cinematography. And views of Eastwood in a harness that make us want to cut the rope.
Money Quote: “Now all I have to do is kill every mountain climber with a sore foot.” [Clint Eastwood, as Jonathan Hemlock]
Ingrid Backstrom, Freeskier
Ski Movie 2: High Society
(Matchstick Productions, 2001)
In Her Words: “Skiers Shane McConkey and Seth Morrison take it to the next level, and Wendy Fisher does her best ripping ever. I can watch it over and over and still be inspired.”
Our Take: As in all good pornskiing or otherwisethere’s very little talking. Just an all-star cast of powderheads hucking cliffs, ripping virgin British Columbia steeps, and grinding rails, backed by grating rap-rock.
Money Quote: “It started up on this big face with waist-deep pow. I knew the slough was gonna rip off the cliffs, and then I had a nice 35-to-40-footer at the end I could hurl my carcass off.” [Skier Aaron McGovern]
Tony Hawk, Skateboarder
In His Words: “Thrashin’ is the quintessential cheese of skateboarding movies, which makes it my favorite. The plot is a thin version of West Side Story, with plenty of eighties skate action.”
Our Take: Halfpipe dream or nightmare? Both, actually. But damned if the final skate-off between our Valley-boy hero and the skate punkfor the girl (and corporate sponsorship)didn’t make our eyes water.
Money Quote: “C’mon, man. Mr. Studly is givin’ up first shot at a virgin ramp?” [Josh Richman, as Radley]
Tanya Shuman, Freestyle Kayaker
(Young Guns Productions, 2006)
In Her Words: “The athletes push the envelope on all fronts: freestyling, river running, and cinematography. A lot of shots were taken by helicopter or by jet ski.”
Our Take: The Young Gunsincluding Shuman’s boyfriend, Marlow Longare big-wave virtuosos. But a soundtrack with whitewater rap? Keep the flow in the river, fellas.
Money Quote: “That one time you lace it and stick it makes up for all those times you didn’t.” [Kayaker Charlie Center]
Kelly Slater, Surfer
(Hoole/McCoy Films, 1982)
In His Words: “When I was a kid, this was my favorite. It was filmed in Bali, when it was a new place for surfing, and Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands, where the waves were still undiscovered. Twin fins were in full effect then; that’s what I was riding.”
Our Take: An anthropological stokemullets, short shorts, Morrissey melodies, and big-swell surfing by Gerry Lopez and Rabbit Bartholomew.
Money Quote: “Thornton, Joe, and the rest of the team took a surf break to check out a nearby village. The locals are friendly enough now. But only a few years ago these guys were real live headhunters. As you walk around the village, you can see the chopping blocks.” [Narrator Marcus Hale]
Gary Fisher, Mountain Biker
(The Collective, 2006)
In His Words: “Hands down, the Collective is the best group making mountain-bike films. You feel like you’re on the trail with the riders. The soundtrack is spectacular.”
Our Take: Mesmerizing. The camera work and editing are as sharp and artistic as the riding, which ranges from acrobatics on bridges and ladders on Vancouver’s North Shore to catching huge air off the shoulders of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.
Money Quote: “Jordie liked to build jumps. So he built a little one, and then a little bit bigger, and a little bit bigger . . . Eventually I just bought my own excavator so we could build jumps and ride in the yard here.” [Brian Lunn, Jordie Lunn’s dad]
Shaun White, Snowboarder
The Haakonsen Faktor
In His Words: It was released right when Terje Haakonsen was killing it, changing the face of snowboarding. I remember watching itI was eight or nine years oldand being amazed that someone could go so big. This film had a big impact on my career.”
Our Take: Terje and friends tear it over a velvet techno-funk score. We love the dim, backroom interviews with Haakonsenjust wish we could tell what he’s saying. Did he claim he’s going to compete in the Olympics someday? Or did he say he’s got the munchies?
Money Quote: “On a big mountain, the mountain decides what you’re going to get. You can always pick your own line, though . . . You’re turning the steering wheel of the carousel.” [Snowboarder Terje Haakonsen]