Ranking 25 films about sports and moving Black America forward

I teach students in my race, sports and culture class that the most significant campaigns for racial equality in sports consistently have reflected the overall quest for civil rights in the United States.

To see how Black athletes and coaches have for more than a century challenged social norms and values, one can watch many films made over the years that focus on their inspiring stories.

This quote may be from the movie “Woodlawn,” however, it easily could have been said in any film involving race and sports: “When you play for yourself, you can be great, but when you play for something higher than yourself — that’s when something extraordinary can happen.”

Which brings us to “Black Ice,” a must-see film that opened in theaters nationwide Friday. It’s not only about the challenges and triumphs of Black players, both past and present, within the predominantly white sport of hockey, but also the struggle we all share even talking about race.

Here are 25 other films that focus on Black athletes and the desire for a greater societal good. The list prioritizes true stories, excluding films such as “Bring The Noise,” “Creed,” “He Got Game,” “Love & Basketball” and “White Men Can’t Jump.” I also left off some “white savior” films such as “Cool Runnings,” “Radio” and “The Blind Side.”

The following list is far from scientific. Key factors: Did it make me cry a little, laugh a lot or swell with pride? It’s likely the ones at the top did all three.