Seeing that a few bowling games and a movie makes for the perfect date night, it’s no surprise that bowling has served as a unifying theme for dozens of flicks on the silver screen. From hilariously offbeat comedies to more poignant dramatic fare, there are plenty of popular bowling movies and lesser-known outings well worth your time and rental dollar.
Even if you don’t really dig sports movies as a general rule, the best bowling movies are ones that transcend the sport and draw you into their world with laughs, tears, and plenty of style. Whether you’re in the mood for a documentary film or an offbeat Coen Brothers classic, we’ve rounded up our favorite bowling movie offerings for our list of the Top 10 Bowling Movies Of All Time!
The 10 Best Bowling Movies Of All Time
10) Alley Cats Strike! (2000)
Starring: Kaley Cuoco, Kyle Schmid, Robert Ri’chard
Directed By: Rod Daniel
Wouldn’t the world be better if the bowling center could be used for conflict mediation? This Disney Channel original goes heavy on early-2000s TV movie kitsch, gleefully mucking about in teen movie tropes. After a junior-high basketball game between two rivals ends in a tie, the two sides put together a bowling competition to settle the score. Family-friendly small-town antics ensue at the bowling alley in a bowling movie that both kids and parents will dig.
9) Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer (2012)
Starring: Tom Autry, Matthew M. Baxter, Brad Beins, Mark Shonsey
Directed By: Zack Beins, Richard Taylor
For fans of Shaun of the Dead and other zombie flick sendups, we present to you Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer — a comedy/horror movie that twists the zombie motif into something hilarious and wild. After he pulls his team out of a corrupt bowling league and loses his girlfriend in the process, Atom (Mark Shonsey) suffers a serious head injury that causes him to mistake those around him for zombies. A helping heaping of bloody bowling ball deaths and offbeat entertainment goodness ensues.
8) Gutterballs (2008)
Starring: Alastair Gamble, Nathan Witte, Mihola Terzic
Directed By: Ryan Nicholson
Doubling down on the horror, Gutterballs is a teenage slasher flick that plays it straight in the campiest of manners. A group of teenage bowlers becomes the target of a deranged, bloodthirsty serial killer who offs them one by one in an increasingly brutal fashion. If you want a popcorn flick for you and your friends on a lazy Saturday night, give this one a go on DVD or streaming. The actors may flub their lines a bit, but that’s the sign of the best B-horror movies!
7) Life in the Bowling Lane! (2005)
Starring: Bob Zany, Murray Langston
Directed By: Bob Logan
A flick full of mindless fun and well-crafted sight gags, Life in the Bowling Lane! is a low-budget bowling movie that’s big on comedic charm. If you’re not familiar with the work of the Unknown Comic, you’ll have plenty of giggles as he tries to win the affection oromantic interest with his less-than-refined bowling skills. It’s not polished and there are bowling films out there that are tighter in plot and construction. But, it’s still a rollicking good time!
6) Mystery Men (1999)
Starring: Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, Hank Azaria, Janeane Garofalo
Directed By: Kinka Usher
While we’re kinda cheating here, we couldn’t resist adding Mystery Men to this list — perhaps the most underrated and hilarious superhero comedy of the past few decades. We included it here thanks to Carol (Janeane Garofalo). Her weapon (superpower?) is a bowling ball possessed by the spirit of her father and stuffed with his skull. It’s campy, it’s off the wall, and it’s glorious how little the fantastic actors in this film take themselves seriously.
5) A League of Ordinary Gentlemen (2004)
Starring: Walter Ray Williams, Chris Barnes, Charles Barkley, Pete Weber
Directed By: Christopher Browne
A unique look into the lifestyle of a professional bowler, this documentary film has an incredible amount of heart to it. In recent years, professional bowling has seen a pronounced decline in ratings and overall cool factor in the public eye. Filled with some of the best professional bowlers of the era, A League of Ordinary Gentlemen spotlights the efforts of the game’s top throwers as they look to bring the cool back to the game any way they can.
4) Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)
Starring: Andras Jones, Robin Stille, Linnea Quigley
Directed By: David DeCoteau
Sometimes a campy horror movie gets it just right, striking a balance between unintended comedy and true jump scares. Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama is the kind of movie that your mom warned you not to touch at Hollywood Video or Blockbuster. It’s sleazy, cheesy, and full of manufacturer teen slasher flick drama. It’s the kind of film that’s worth the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. And, we mean that in the most admiring of ways.
3) Dreamer (1979)
Starring: Tim Matheson, Susan Blakely, Jack Warden
Directed By: Noel Nosseck
Reimagining inspirational sports films like Rocky in a bowling context, Dreamer is a late 1970s drama that hits all the right emotional notes. The main character’s quest to become a decorated professional bowler is perfectly pitched, the love story is well-executed, and multiple cameos by bowling legend Dick Weber lends the movie plenty of bowling alley credibility. It’s a hard one to find on streaming or even on DVD, but it’s definitely worth the search or busting out your old VCR.
2) Kingpin (1996)
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Bill Murray, Vanessa Angel
Directed By: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
From the creators of Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin leans heavily into the unabashedly brainless and joyous comedy of its predecessor. The fictional story of professional bowlers Roy Munson and Ernie McCracken, Kingpin is basically a two-hour set piece for comedic geniuses Woody Harrelson, Bill Murray, and Randy Quaid to simply let loose. Full of inspired classic scenes and goofy moments that land awkwardly in the most giggle-inducing of ways, Kingpin is a past-and-present classic worth revisiting.
1) The Big Lebowski (1998)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro
Directed By: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
If you’re not familiar with “The Dude,” you may not be familiar with modern cinema. If that’s the case, you need The Big Lebowski in your life right away. Another in a long line of modern-day smashes from the Coen Brothers, The Big Lebowski turned its big-name box office disappointment into true cult film status in recent years. It’s edgy, irreverent, and full of quotable lines that you’ll end up repeating to friends and colleagues for weeks to come. There’s nothing quite like it that came out before and that’s come out after. It’s a one-of-a-kind comedic romp.