The 17 Best Movies About Lovable Oddballs Coming Together
Work It is just the latest in a long line of teen movies about outcasts and underdogs striving for something great. The movie, which debuted on Netflix in August, follows some familiar territory, contrasting a group of creative misfits with a more traditional, well-trained rival. There's nothing we love as much as a good underdog story. After all, chances are we were all misfits once, and there's something so heartwarming and reassuring about watching a group of people who don't quite fit in for some reason achieve greatness and prove the naysayers wrong.
Just because the genre itself is fun, though, doesn't mean every entry in it is great cinema. Ahead, we're looking at all the underdog and outcast movies from the past several years — see which ones we loved and which ones didn't quite make it to the top.
The Perfect Score
Every teen stresses out about the SATs, but the teens in this movie take that to the next level. Worried about their futures if they don't get the scores they need, a group of classmates team up to break into the testing company's office to steal the answers so they can all get perfect scores. It's a fun premise, but also a prime example of uninspired and cheesy teen flicks from the early 2000s.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Nothing says "outcast underdogs" like "dodgeball," and that's exactly what makes this comedy so funny. A group of employees and members from a failing gym decide to enter into a dodgeball tournament to try to raise enough money to keep it from being demolished. It's almost a parody of the "underdog" story (as you might guess by its title), and while it's got some great moments, it also is very much a relic of a specific brand of mid-2000s cringe comedy that hasn't aged well.
A small town is hit hard by a recession, making their local choir even more of an underdog in the annual competition. Although the rival leaders can't stop bickering, a budding romance between one's daughter and the other's grandson might prove to be just what the choir needs to lift them up above the competition. It's cute, and has a great cast (Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, and Jeremy Jordan), but it's fairly forgettable too.
It's the classic "battle of the bands" story, as a group of teenage misfits form a band in hopes of winning a recording contract at the annual "Bandslam" competition. Of course, personal drama, betrayals, and love triangles soon threaten to tear the band apart, and if they can't figure things out, they might not be able to perform at all. The movie is pretty tropey, but at least it's fun!
A group of Pee-Wee football kids get rejected from the town's top team for a variety of reasons, and they manage to convince one of their dads — the top team's coach's brother — to start a new team just for them. The rivalry between the teams is mirrored by the brothers' rivalry, turning it into a two-tiered underdog story. It's similar to other kid-sports flicks of the same era, but it's a cute nostalgic watch all the same.
The Mighty Ducks
An attorney sentenced to community service finds himself required to coach a young hockey team full of misfits who are underfunded and undertrained. Despite his initial frustrations — and his complicated feelings about his own past hockey career — he rallies the team together, and they make an unexpected run for the championship. The movie itself is a perfectly fine family movie, but its legacy — several sequels and a real NHL team — are even bigger.
Based loosely on a true story, this sports classic follows an unconventional Olympic story: a team of bobsledders from Jamaica. After a freak incident keeps a sprinter from reaching the Olympics, he finds a different way by forming a bobsled team, even though they don't exactly have the resources to train the way other countries' teams do. Even though the movie derives from the true story, it's still a fun inspirational movie and an underdog classic!
The House Bunny
What's an exiled Playboy Bunny to do when she's tricked into leaving the mansion? Become a sorority house mother, apparently! When she stumbles across a struggling sorority, she takes them under her wing, trying to teach them how to become more popular, but losing the meaning of sisterhood in the process. It takes them all learning from each other to find out what being "sisters" really means. There's definitely some similarities with other PG-13 sex-and-girl-power comedies, but there's a great blend of salty and sweet that makes this one worth a second look.
A high school dancer finds out that she's got a real shot at going to her dream college. There's just one problem: it all hinges on how well she performs at an upcoming dance competition. To lock down her dreams, she pulls together a ragtag group of misfits and outcasts to form a new dance group and challenge the longtime champions for the title. Does it break any new ground? No, but it trods this old territory so well that we're remembering again why dance competition movies are always a good choice to watch.
In this Pixar prequel, we find out how Mike and Sulley first met: their college rivalry resulted in them both pledging a fraternity of misfit monsters. In order to get back into the "scaring" program, they must win the university's Scare Games — which proves to be a pretty tall order for these particular monsters. It's not quite as creative or clever as the original Monsters Inc., but it's a Pixar movie, so you can bet it's got plenty of wink-y humor and a big fuzzy heart.
A Texas teen doesn't fit into her town's beauty-pageant culture, but she finds herself and her purpose when she discovers the sport of roller derby. She deals with complicated relationships with her crush and her parents while also trying to help her perpetual-underdog team finally make it to the championships. The movie, which also marked Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, is a quirky and charming story that manages to take old tropes and put just enough of a twist on them.
A group of tween outcasts decide to form their own Birdie Scouts group in order to win a talent contest. Even though they're the target of malicious slights and jabs from the more popular girls and mothers, they persist in earning their badges and putting together a quirky routine that showcases their true selves, regardless of what anyone else thinks. It's tough to make a movie about tweens that's not precious or cheesy, but this movie manages to nail that awkward stage of life in all its glory.
High School Musical
A high school basketball star and a science whiz have to face not one, but two obstacles to their budding on-and-off-stage romance. Step one: overcome sabotage from their respective friend groups who disapprove of mixing cliques. Step two: winning the roles away from the school's longtime drama club royalty. Sure, it's cheesy, but it almost singlehandedly helped make drama club cool again for a whole generation, and that's a pretty big deal!
Bring It On
The iconic teen movie follows rival cheer squads who find out that they've both been duped by a routine-stealing coach. Thanks to coaching shenanigans, both the defending-champ Toros and the up-and-coming Clovers become underdogs in different ways and have to figure out how to overcome their obstacles to earn the top prize — and each other's respect. It's easy to forget how excellent the first movie was in the swarm of "sequels" and imitators, but the original remains a classic high school comedy for a reason.
Bend It Like Beckham
Jess, the daughter of a very traditional British Indian Sikh family, sneaks behind her family's back to join a local women's soccer team. She helps them advance to the tournament finals, but when her parents find out what she's been doing, her personal life and the fate of the tournament are both thrown into jeopardy. Not only does it cover the usual "underdog sports" story, it also deals with race, culture, gender, and messy British political history.
In 1960s Baltimore, a curvy teenager and her awkward BFF team up with a talented group of Black classmates and a teen idol to make important changes at a local dance show. But with a racist manager at the station willing to go to any lengths to stop them, their cause grows much bigger than they ever thought it would. It's a candy-colored musical packed with joy, but it's also a still-relevant look at an ugly part of history that's not actually "history" at all.
The year after a humiliating incident at nationals, an all-female a cappella group gets shaken up with some quirky and unconventional new members. When the old guard refuses to change things, though, the group starts to fracture down the middle — but those changes just might be what they need to reach the next level. It's a modern classic for hitting all the tropes of an underdog story, but also having loads of fun by gently ribbing at those very tropes with a sharp tongue and a big heart.