24. Seabiscuit (2003)
Directed by Gary Ross
Starring Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, and Chris Cooper
Another one of the great sports movies to be set in the Great Depression, Seabiscuit is the only film on this list to revolve around a non-human protagonist. Well, sort of. It’s really a story about how people can form connections with animals that are as deep as the ones they make with other people.
The film chronicles the life and times of the eponymous unlikely champion racehorse. Undersized and hard to control, Seabiscuit was a colt of a distinguished lineage that was thought to be dud by his initial owners. However, he was later developed into a winner under the careful supervision and training of three men, jockey Red Pollard (Maguire), trainer Tom Smith (Cooper) and owner Charles S. Howard (Bridges).
Like the horse they made famous, the trio each faced significant life challenges on their way to success. Howard was left severely depressed by the accidental death of his son. Smith struggled to find a place for himself as a horse expert in a world that was increasingly dominated by automotive transportation. And Pollard is a man whose entire life was defined by constant adversity and suffering.
In finding each other and Seabiscuit, Pollard, Smith, and Howard found both fellowship and renewed purpose. And the film documents their struggles, setbacks and improbable triumphs with grace. Accordingly, Seabiscuit’s admittedly predictable narrative doesn’t feel trite or manipulative. When Pollard mounts the steed he came to love despite himself, the only thing you feel is a lump in your throat. And we the race is decided by a simple act of kindness, it becomes all but impossible to stop the flood of tears.