The Best Deadly Sports and Games in Movies

Ora Sawyers

Many movies seem to have taken an interest in showing deadly and dangerous games or sports. These sports and games are often used to entertain the masses and distract them from the awful situations around them. The Roman Empire had a similar philosophy and it seems like a huge amount of films have taken that concept and expanded upon it.



Bloodsport movies, not to be confused with the movie Bloodsport, usually take place in a dystopian future, where autocratic rulers, like the Roman Emperors before them, use the public spectacle of death to preoccupy and control the population. These bloodsports can be fights to the death, human hunts, or person versus beast, but always pack the excitement of watching others perish from the comfort of a theater seat.


10 The Running Man Stands and Fights

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man (1987)

The Running Man

In a dystopian America, a falsely convicted policeman gets his shot at freedom when he must forcibly participate in a TV game show where convicts, runners, must battle killers for their freedom.

Release Date
November 13, 1987

Director
Paul Michael Glaser

Runtime
1 hour 41 minutes

Rating
R

Main Genre
Action

Production Company
TAFT Entertainment Pictures, Keith Barish Productions, Home Box Office (HBO)

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IMDb Rating

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6.7

Paramount+

The 1987 film, The Running Man, is based on a Stephen King novel of the same name, written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, and is set in a dystopian future, police state America. Following an economic collapse, democracy is replaced by totalitarian rule and the government keeps the populace placated with a death sports TV show in which enemies of the state, known as runners, are hunted down by celebrity mercenaries called stalkers.

In terms of a blood sports movie, it is fairly well done and probably has some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best one-liners, but hits home because it is eerily inching toward reality. In the film, Arnold’s character, Ben Richards, is framed for murder with a deep-fake video, something that is now a major concern. The rise of AI and deep-fake may make The Running Man seem closer to reality, but it only speaks to the foresight of Stephen King.

9 Teenage Angst and Death in The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games: a televised competition in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to fight to the death.

Release Date
March 21, 2012

Director
Gary Ross

Cast
Jennifer Lawrence , Josh Hutcherson , Liam Hemsworth , Stanley Tucci , Wes Bentley , Willow Shields , Elizabeth Banks , Sandra Ellis Lafferty

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
2 hours 22 minutes

Main Genre
Adventure

Writers
Gary Ross , Suzanne Collins , Billy Ray

Production Company
Lions Gate Films, Color Force

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7.2

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The Hunger Games, based on a Suzanne Collins novel of the same name, may not be the most original bloodsport story, but it put all the elements together perfectly to capture an audience. Doing away with hyper-macho or scrappy rebel contestants, The Hunger Games pits teenagers against each other in a winner-take-all fight to the death. This annual event is televised in the dystopian nation of Panem.

One original wrinkle is that the Hunger Games isn’t meant as a distraction for the oppressed masses, but rather as a punishment. The contestants are drawn from districts within the nation that staged an unsuccessful rebellion, and so the government created the Hunger Games to instill fear while preventing further uprisings. The fact that it is essentially children who are forced to kill each other, gives the 2012 film some extra-high stakes.

8 The Junk Science of The Belko Experiment

The Belko Experiment Poster

The Belko Experiment

In a twisted social experiment, eighty Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia, and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.

Release Date
March 17, 2017

Director
Greg Mclean

Cast
John Gallagher Jr. , Tony Goldwyn , Adria Arjona , John C. McGinley

Rating
R

Runtime
89 minutes

IMDb Rating

Stream on

6.1

Tubi

The Belko Experiment, released in 2016, is a different kind of bloodsport, in which the fight to the death is a scientific experiment on human behavior. It’s unclear what kind of scientific merit there is in making people slaughter each other, but it does make for a thrilling, and morally messed up, movie premise. Employees at a company are locked in the building and told they have to kill two of their coworkers or there will be consequences.

When the initial terms are not met, a new directive forces the employees to murder 30 coworkers or the entire staff will be killed. Just in case anyone tries to escape, they have been implanted with trackers that are capable of exploding a human head. The film works as an action, as well as a horror, but truly shines as a study of the human fight or flight survival instinct, so perhaps that’s the scientific merit of the experiment.

7 The Hunt is Hunting for Controversy

The Hunt 2020 movie directed by Craig Zobel

The Hunt

Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there. They don’t know they’ve been chosen – for a very specific purpose – The Hunt.

Release Date
March 13, 2020

Director
Craig Zobel

Cast
Betty Gilpin , Hilary Swank , Ike Barinholtz

Rating
R

Runtime
1 hour 30 minutes

Writers
Nick Cuse , Damon Lindelof

Studio
Universal Pictures

Production Company
Blumhouse Productions, Dentsu, Perfect World Pictures

IMDb Rating

Stream on

6.5

Peacock

The Hunt, released in 2020, was supposed to be satire, calling attention to the political divide in this country, but came across as more of a wedge between the sides. The advertised premise was that a group of rich liberal elites, kidnap and hunt some Red State types, which was not something that appealed to anyone on the political spectrum, and the movie was a total flop, earning just $12.4 million at the box office.

The thing is, that’s not really what the movie is about, as it’s more of a twisted tale of revenge that has almost nothing to do with political ideology. It’s a shame that the filmmakers tried to manufacture controversy with this when they had an excellent “Most Dangerous Game” movie on hand. The story is great, the action, as well as the violence, is top-notch, and Betty Gilpin, as the main human prey, is nothing short of amazing.

6 Attack of the Clones has Death Games for Jedi

Samuel L. Jackson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz, Kenny Baker, Hayden Christensen, Temuera Morrison, Bodie Taylor, and Richard Stride in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Ten years after initially meeting, Anakin Skywalker shares a forbidden romance with Padmé Amidala, while Obi-Wan Kenobi discovers a secret clone army crafted for the Jedi.

Release Date
May 16, 2002

Director
George Lucas

Cast
Ewan McGregor , Natalie Portman , Hayden Christensen , Christopher Lee , Samuel L. Jackson , Frank Oz

Rating
PG

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Genres
Action , Adventure , Fantasy

Writers
George Lucas , Jonathan Hales

Runtime
2 hours 22 minutes

Production Company
Lucasfilm, Recce & Production Services, Mestiere Cinema

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IMDb Rating

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6.6

Disney+

Attack of the Clones is not a bloodsport movie, but a pivotal moment of the film sure is. When Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padmé are captured on Geonosis, Count Dooku sentences them to death in a very Roman Colosseum kind of way. The trio is chained to pillars in an arena where thousands of cheering Geonosans are hoping to see them ripped to shreds by the savage beasts, the Reek, the Nexu, and the Acklay.

Episode II is not everyone’s favorite Star Wars movie, or even the highest regarded of the prequels, but this execution ad bestias sets off the most intense sequence of events of the first three. After Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padmé fight off the beasts, the Jedi show up to take on the Battle Droids, Mace Window Lightsabers Jango Fett’s head, and Master Yoda flies in with a whole mess of Clone Troopers, which means: “Begun, the Clone Wars have.”

5 Series 7: The Contenders Reality TV Satire

Series 7- The Contenders (2001) movie poster

Series 7: The Contenders

A TV program selects people at random to kill one another for fame and their freedom.

Release Date
May 25, 2001

Director
Daniel Minahan

Cast
Brooke Smith , Marylouise Burke , Michael Kaycheck , Donna Hanover

Rating
R

Runtime
1 hour 26 minutes

Writers
Daniel Minahan

Production Company
Blow Up Pictures, Killer Films, October Films, Open City Films

IMDb Rating

Stream on

6.5

N/A (Available to Rent or Buy Online)

In the early 2000s, shows like Survivor and Big Brother reshaped network television forever, replacing expensive scripted series with cheap pseudo-reality fare. In 2001, Series 7: The Contenders poked satirical fun at the reality TV craze with a dark comedy about a fictitious show in which contestants kill each other. The rules are pretty simple, the last person standing is the winner. There are no participation trophies, just body bags for the losers.

A civil war had cast the United States into a dictatorship, and like all good dystopian futures, a bloodsport was created to preoccupy the masses. In Series 7, contestants are picked at random from the lower class, given a gun loaded with polonium bullets, and followed by cameras as they try to kill each other. The movie is presented in the style of a reality show and, in fact, film creator, Daniel Minahan, had pitched the concept to the networks, only to be told it needed to be less violent and more sexy.

4 Scoring Points in Death Race 2000

Sylvester Stallone, David Carradine, and Simone Griffeth in Death Race 2000 (1975)

Death Race 2000

In a dystopian future, a cross country automobile race requires contestants to run down innocent pedestrians to gain points that are tallied based on each kill’s brutality.

Release Date
November 28, 1975

Director
Paul Bartel

Cast
David Carradine , Sylvester Stallone , Simone Griffeth , Mary Woronov , Roberta Collins , Martin Kove

Rating
R

Runtime
1 hour 20 minutes

Writers
Robert Thom , Charles B. Griffith , Ib Melchior

Production Company
New World Pictures

IMDb Rating

Stream on

6.2

Tubi

In most bloodsports, winning is a matter of killing the other contestants or simply not dying. Death Race 2000, from 1975, introduced some actual sport to the death games with a scoring system. Drivers in the Transcontinental Road Race, earn points by killing pedestrians in their cars, with the elderly, enfeebled, and young getting the highest scores. Following the French-caused “World Crash of ’79”, this grisly coast-to-coast race is how the totalitarian government pacifies the population.

All the racers have professional wrestling-style personas and cars to match, like returning champion Frankenstein, mobster Machine Gun Joe, and Neo-Nazi Matilda the Hun. Aside from the vehicular carnage, there is an undercurrent of espionage and rebellion. The cult classic is a brilliant political satire as well as a morbid comedy. It was rebooted into a gritty franchise, with many direct-to-video installments, but they lacked the humor and charm of the original.

James Caan in Rollerball (1975) poster

Rollerball

In a corporate-controlled future, an ultra-violent sport known as Rollerball represents the world, and one of its powerful athletes is out to defy those who want him out of the game.

Release Date
June 25, 1975

Director
Norman Jewison

Cast
James Caan , John Houseman , Maud Adams , John Beck

Rating
Approved

Runtime
2 hours 5 minutes

Writers
William Harrison

Production Company
Algonquin, United Artists

IMDb Rating

Stream on

6.5

Prime Video

In the 1975 dystopian future classic, Rollerball, corporations run the world and have rewritten history to champion them as saviors. To keep the people distracted, the corporations came up with a violent sport that devolved into a deadly sport. Ironically, Rollerball was created to crush individualism, but Jonathan E., played by James Caan, has become a huge superstar and a threat to collectivism.

To maintain their control over the population, the corporations encourage Jonathan to retire and when he refuses, change the rules of Rollerball to a death sport, hoping he will die. The film has some great action sequences and hits on all the George Orwell and Aldous Huxley themes of grim totalitarian futures. It’s also another one that seems oddly relevant to corporate power and the efforts to control the flow of information.

2 Enter the Dragon, Exit a Corpse

Bruce Lee, Ahna Capri, Jim Kelly, John Saxon, Kien Shih, and Robert Wall in Enter the Dragon (1973)

Enter the Dragon

A Shaolin martial artist travels to an island fortress to spy on an opium lord – who is also a former monk from his temple – under the guise of attending a fighting tournament.

Release Date
July 26, 1973

Director
Robert Clouse

Cast
Bruce Lee , John Saxon , Jim Kelly , Ahna Capri

Rating
R

Runtime
1 hour 42 minutes

Main Genre
Action

Writers
Michael Allin , Bruce Lee

Production Company
Warner Bros., Concord Productions, Sequoia Pictures

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IMDb Rating

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7.6

Tubi

Game of Death, the film Bruce Lee left unfinished before his untimely death, isn’t much of a death game story, but Enter the Dragon, his best movie, is one of the greatest bloodsports ever. Underworld crime boss, Han, hosts a secret martial arts tournament on his private island in hopes of recruiting the badest of the bad to be enforcers in his drug smuggling and human trafficking empire. The goal of this tournament isn’t necessarily to have the contestants kill each other, but that’s how it ends up.

To punish participants who get a little too curious, Han either makes them fight to the death or has them take on his side-kick, Bolo, which is an almost certain death sentence. Brude Lee, however, is the ultimate warrior and kicks the snot out of an entire island of henchmen, before sending Han into early retirement with a permanent nap. Enter the Dragon isn’t just Bruce Lee’s best, it is the all-time greatest martial arts film that has influenced the action genre since its release in 1973.

1 Battle Royale is Brutality at its Finest

The Cast on the Battle Royale Poster

Battle Royale

In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill one another under the revolutionary “Battle Royale” act.

Release Date
December 16, 2000

Director
Kinji Fukasaku

Cast
Tatsuya Fujiwara , Aki Maeda , Tarô Yamamoto

Runtime
1 hour 54 minutes

Rating
Not Rated

Writers
Koushun Takami , Kenta Fukasaku

Production Company
Toho Company, AM Associates, Fukasaku-gumi, Gaga, Kobi Co., MF Pictures, Nippon Shuppan Hanbai (Nippan) K.K., Toei Company, WOWOW

IMDb Rating

Stream on

7.5

Tubi

Before The Hunger Games, neo-classic, Battle Royale, threw teenagers into a fight to the death with much more violence, originality, and terrifying realism. In the film, a recession has caused an outbreak of crime and so, to crack down on juvenile delinquency, the Japanese government has created a game in which middle school students are isolated on an island, armed with random weapons, and given three days to kill each other, down to the last one.

Despite having positive themes of teamwork and compassion, the movie is a brutal case study of the human survival instinct. While the 2000 movie didn’t invent the bloodsport genre, it made it more relatable and contemporary, creating a truly horrifying spectacle. Battle Royale is also one of the most influential Japanese films, inspiring online death match modes like in the Call of Duty games, TV shows like Squid Games, and about half the movies on this list.

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