As one of America’s most legendary and distinct cities, Boston has made a name for itself with historic universities, inimitable accents, Irish pride, baked beans and hyper-passionate sports fanbases.
Many tales have been told about this fabled town, and it’s no surprise that many of them have been either through the lens of its celebrated sports teams and culture or with a tangential connection to its hometown athletes. Here is a list of nine movies & TV shows with a Boston or Massachusetts sporting twist.
1. The Town
You can’t talk about Boston sports in pop culture without mentioning Ben Affleck. The Boston native and diehard Red Sox fan directed this heist film about four lifelong friends that grew up in the Charlestown neighborhood.
While not technically a sports movie, the climax to this gripping thriller does hinge on a crew of bank robbers breaking into Fenway Park. There’s also some classic New England hockey ambiance in there and an unforgettable reference to “college soccer.”
2. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
Though the book is set in New Hampshire, not Massachusetts, it gets a place on our list because of its title and the lead character’s idol, Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Tom Gordon.
The Stephen King story tells of a young girl who’s separated from her family on the Appalachian Trail and stranded in the woods alone. With just a few belongings, including a Walkman, she hangs on to hope by listening to the Red Sox games on the radio. In 2020, it was announced acclaimed director Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here) would helm a film adaptation.
As a city with all of the “Big Four” sports, make no mistake–Bostonians love their hockey. The film Goon follows bruiser Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott), a Massachusetts bar employee who winds up in the Canadian pro hockey ranks.
After growing tired of bashing in skulls as a bouncer, Glatt attracts the eye of a local minor league hockey team, which decides to turn him into an enforcer on the ice, regardless of whether he can skate.
4. Fever Pitch
Before Jimmy Fallon hosted The Tonight Show, the Saturday Night Live favorite dabbled on the big screen. 2005’s Fever Pitch saw Fallon take on the role of Ben Wrightman, a young teacher and passionate Red Sox fan who falls in love with attractive lawyer Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore).
Meeks struggles to relate to Wrightman’s unrelenting baseball enthusiasm, and cracks begin to develop in the relationship. Things unravel after a particular incident in the stands at Fenway Park. Will baseball tear the young couple apart just as the Sox are threatening to break the Curse of the Bambino?
5. The Fighter
This Oscar-winning film is based on the true story of legendary Lowell, Massachusetts, boxer Micky Ward. Rising through the ranks proves to be a struggle, as Ward’s boxing life and family life become intertwined, and the two create a mix that almost leads to his demise.
Mark Wahlberg plays Ward, but Christian Bale steals the show as Ward’s troubled half-brother and unreliable trainer, Dicky Eklund. The 2010 biographical sports drama nabbed seven Academy Awards nominations, with Bale taking home Best Supporting Actor.
6. Celtic Pride
Celtic Pride is a goofy Judd Apatow-written comedy about a couple of diehard Boston Celtics fans (Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern).
They’re inconsolable after their team loses a game in the NBA Finals, so the friends hatch an insane plan to sabotage the Celtics’ opponents by getting their nightlife-loving star player (Damon Wayans) so drunk that he won’t be able to perform during the next game. Hijinks ensue, and things don’t go quite according to plan.
7. Good Will Hunting
Who could forget the film that catapulted Affleck and fellow newcomer Matt Damon to Hollywood stardom? Co-written by the Boston boys themselves, Good Will Hunting is a story about an underachieving janitor with a genius-level IQ but whose loyalty lies with his friends and the gritty streets.
After a chain of events backs Will Hunting (Damon) into a corner, all the pieces are finally in place for him to turn his life around. One of the most memorable scenes features Hunting’s therapist (Robin Williams) recounting a love story regarding Game Six of a Red Sox World Series.
You can’t mention Boston sports movies or television without paying tribute to one of the originals–Cheers. This classic sitcom of the ’80s and early ’90s finds its home at a Boston watering hole called Cheers.
Colorful characters perch themselves on barstools to commiserate while regaled with stories from former Red Sox pitcher-turned-bartender Sam Malone (Ted Danson). The ensemble cast produces timeless comedy that still induces laughs to this day.
9. Patriots Day
Patriots Day tells the tragic tale of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. Homegrown Boston talent Mark Wahlberg plays police Sgt. Tommy Saunders, who teams up with the FBI, first responders, survivors and other investigators to hunt down the suspects before any more carnage can occur.
It’s a gritty and heart-wrenching look at the event that rocked the nation and made the term #BostonStrong a ubiquitous cultural catchphrase.
What are your favorite Boston-related sports movies and TV shows?
It’s no surprise that there’s a long list of great sports movies and shows set in Boston. In a city where sports excellence is the standard, count on this list to grow as new legends are born.