7 Scary Sports Movies
For those who think werewolves and basketball go hand-in-hand, we’ve got you covered with our favorite scary sports movies.
The CableTV.com crew loves getting into the Halloween spirit with our annual Bloodstream horror content. That got us sports writers thinking about how athletics could factor into the spooky festivities. After all, to paraphrase Rocky Balboa, sports aren’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Ask any sports fan, and they’ll tell you how gut-wrenching it can be to follow a team year after year. The ups and downs of a single game are as anxiety-driven as any horror movie. Heck, some of us wouldn’t mind Freddy Krueger haunting our dreams if it meant getting a dub on Sundays.
So, to celebrate the Halloween season, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite sports movies with a scary twist. Most films listed here aren’t straight-up horror, but you’ll still find yourself on the edge of your seat—even if it’s to cheer on the home team.
There are two levels of horror in director Norman Jewison’s Rollerball:
- Rollerball is an ultraviolet sport, much like a Mad Max–styled roller derby.
- The dystopian setting depicted in the film shows a frightening world where corporations control our every move.
In Rollerball, James Caan plays the star athlete who attempts to use survival as the ultimate defiance against the Energy Corporation and the rigged society it governs. The film’s action scenes are full of brutal intensity. But that didn’t stop event promoters from contacting Jewison to establish real rollerball leagues. He obviously—and thankfully—said no to that.
Stream Rollerball on Pluto TV.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
“You finish first or not at all.” That line from the Death Race 2000 trailer perfectly sums up the Roger Corman–produced film, another sci-fi sports flick from 1975. Set against a futuristic backdrop not too different from Rollerball, Death Race 2000 is a notable entry in the death game genre that spawned Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, and Squid Game. Its top-notch stunts and sociopolitical themes make it stand out to this day, though it’s full of schlocky moments as well.
Stream Death Race 2000 on Tubi.
The Running Man (1987)
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in The Running Man, a film about a reality game show where the contestants are convicted criminals on the run from professional killers. Derived from a Stephen King book published under his Richard Bachman pseudonym, The Running Man continues the dystopian sports theme of Rollerball and Death Race 2000. But it features more athletic variety and many one-liners that only the Governator can deliver.
Stream The Running Man on SHOWTIME®.
The Fan (1996)
Sports movies are usually thrilling by default. But director Tony Scott takes things to another level with his 1996 psychological thriller The Fan. Starring Wesley Snipes and Robert De Niro, the movie explores the dark side of sports as an obsessive baseball fan’s erratic behavior escalates when things don’t go his way. Snipes plays the San Francisco Giants’ latest blockbuster signing, while De Niro is the unhinged fan with a deadly game up his sleeve.
Foxcatcher is another dark thriller set in the sports world. Loosely based on actual events, the film deals with multimillionaire John du Pont and his relationship with Olympic wrestlers Mark and David Shultz. Steve Carell stars as du Pont, a genuinely chilling character that’s a far cry from Carell’s comedic work. And while Foxcatcher is a well-crafted movie, we recommend lining up something more cheerful to watch afterward. Despicable Me is a solid palate cleanser.
Stream Foxcatcher on STARZ.
Teen Wolf (1985)
We’re not going to say Teen Wolf is the best basketball movie. But it’s the best movie to feature a monster character using their supernatural abilities for the good of sports. (Take that, Twilight, and your baseball-playing vampires.)
If werewolves participating in athletics is your jam, you can rest assured that several werewolf sports movies exist. Teen Wolf Too took the wolf-man shenanigans to the boxing ring, while the earlier Full Moon High was all about football. There’s also the bonkers Ski Wolf, which we enjoy for its low-budget appeal.
Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf (1988)
Teen Wolf offered us one wolf-man playing basketball. But Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf gave us a whole pack of monsters facing off in the Wacky Races–esque Monster Road Rally.
If you’re looking for more age-appropriate scary movies, grab the Scooby Snacks and enjoy this classic TV movie. It even features everyone’s favorite annoying character: Scrappy-Doo. So what’s not to love?
Stream Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf on Boomerang via Amazon Prime Video add-on channels.
A brief history of sports in horror movies
As you can tell by our list, sports-themed horror movies aren’t that common. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951) is probably one of the earliest examples of a film that blends the sports and horror genres. But it wasn’t until the 1980s, during the Golden Age of slasher films, that sports-related terror caught on.
Graduation Day (1981) had several gory kills involving weaponized sports equipment. Then in 1982, the sacred union of sports and horror changed forever when Jason Voorhees donned the classic hockey mask in Friday the 13th Part III.
Over the past few decades, there have been many memorable horror movie moments that touched on sports. Principal Himbry getting gutted and hung on display at the Woodsboro High School football field in Scream (1996) is a minor one that always comes to mind. There’s also that nasty gymnastics death in Final Destination 5 (2011). But thankfully, the ghosts in Field of Dreams (1989) knew their boundaries. Otherwise, that could’ve been a completely different movie.
Oddly enough, a handful of sports horror movies came out in 2022. SHOWTIME’s Student Body and SyFy’s Bring It On: Cheer or Die are youthful entries to the hybrid genre, though we’re especially interested in Tinnitus. The Brazilian body-horror film centers on a synchronized diver with an intolerable ringing in her ears, and its trailer gives us major Black Swan vibes. Check it out for yourself below.