Remembering Great Sports Films

The best sports movie ever made can’t be rated simply by sports accuracy, historical relevance or written script. A movie must be evaluated by all of these things, and then some, incorporating both quality of acting and caliber of athlete portrayal. For the sake of making this evaluation a little easier, I will begin eliminating certain sports movie genre’s and some possible “on the fence” films which may just transcend into drama or comedy while still dabbling within the sports realm. I will also be eliminating films which do not fall under a specific three categories I consider imperative towards qualification; what I call the team condition, meaning team sports, relevant sports plot lines, and sufficient sports inclusion.

All racing films are out. This includes humpty dumpty sitting on a wall films like the comedy stylings of Will Ferrel in Talladega Nights, and the emmergrence of Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder. (Best Quote: “…he didn’t slam you, he didn’t bump you, he didn’t nudge you… he ‘rubbed’ you. And rubbin, son, is racin”. Mr Duvall I agree with you… that is racin’… but sports… that is not.) If you are a fan of NASCAR, if you are a fan of racing, than I apologize and swiftly decline argument. If you are a fan of either of these two movies, than I commend you. If you are a fan of any of the Fast and Furious films, any of the Herbie’s or Cars, don’t get defensive, these movies do not even qualify. If you are a fan of Driven, I feel very bad for you.

The next couple of sports to eliminate make spark some controversy but keep in mind, I will be ruling out some of my all time favorites in the process. From the evaluation process I must first exclude tennis, which I don’t think anyone will argue seeing as Wimbeldon didn’t make anyone’s “birdie” stand up. I will next reluctantly eliminate rugby, as I have yet to see Invictus though I truly believe that when I do, I will question this decision. Clint Eastwood is second only to Scorcese. Next, I will eliminate boxing, or fighting films all together, under the pretense that these “sports” do not in fact qualify under the team condition, or mainstream focus of my sporting interests. I understand the uproar that will ensue after eliminating all of the Rocky’s, but than again, find me a line of dialogue in that film the Stallone doesn’t choke out with a raw egg, and an actress with some talent, and I’ll evaluate these films in a little more detail. I will give the Rocky series a complementary “heart” award however, because only an Italian Stallion can fight with his eyes swollen shut and what a appears to be a mild speech impediment.

To continue with the elimination of boxing films we will take Ali out of the mix, which delivered a dramatic break out role for both Will Smith and Jamie Foxx, while taking Jon Voight to a whole new level of caliber in my book with his rendition of Howard Cosell. This movie was, however, slow and boring and had a completely different take on what fights needed to be included in the biographical story of Ali himself. On the other hand, Raging Bull and Million Dollar Baby are great films, incorporating in my opinion the top two directors respectively into the world of sports, but again, we find ourselves watching great drama genre films, not great sports movies. The same evaluation can be put to use on Cinderella Man, where we see intricate fight scenes for twenty minutes surrounded by two hours of “depression” and human drama. Individualism in a “sports film” throws us wading in the shallowness of human emotion, never truly throwing its viewer into the deep end of the camaraderie driven “gritty-ness” he or she deserves. For the sake of time I will list a few honorable mentions in this category and a few sarcastic choices as well; let’s see if anyone can distinguish which is which; Joe and Max, Bloodsport I, II, III, IV, and Street Fighter. The next in line for elimination, sticking in soon after the individualism example, is golf. Great comedies have been made using golf as a focal point, but comedies more often than not sacrifice sports facts and actual athletic techniques for laughs, which I really don’t knock them for, however through evaluation I must discard. The honorable mentions; Tin Cup, Happy Gilmore and Caddyshack. (Best Quote: Bill Murray, “Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greens-keeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac… It’s in the hole!…” …and it was in the hole.) Golf movies do have heart however, and bringing Will Smith back to center stage, the Legend of Bagger Vance is probably the best golf movie I have seen. It describes golf as strictly a mental game, and it couldn’t be more accurate. The second to last sport I will eliminate from the evaluation is horseracing, and only to give honorable mention to the “only” movie about horse racing to justifiably portray the sport and because its an overall great film; Seabiscuit. Similarly, in our last elimination spot, bob-sledding, due to a favorite of mine, and hopefully of many; Cool Runnings. Cool Runnings does in fact depict sports relevance and the team condition, however its historical accuracy and comedic dialogue leave it in a sleeper position, rather than a standout.

This brings us now, to the “main four”, hockey, basketball, football and baseball. The only sport here which, by the end of the evaluation, will not hold a movie representative in the top five, is baseball. This goes back to individualism. In sports there are teams, and there are “I” players. Kobe Bryant could be considered an “I” player, but for different reasons, so could Mike Tyson. Some notable omissions from the top five, from the baseball genre, include the sleazy yet apparently accurate Tommy Lee Jones portrayal of Ty Cobb in Cobb, Field of Dreams, a corny, no pun intended, yet appreciative sports film, 61*, an incredibly accurate, artistic and historically visual film, and last but not least, ranking in just outside of my top five all time favorite sports movies, the heart felt, technically and nostalgically focused classic, The Natural.

A few notable omissions until the top five are ranked:

The funniest sports comedies of all time; Major League and #7 on my all time favorites list, Slapshot, holds no historical accuracy and no sports relevance. It doesn’t have to.

The fill in blanks of baseball history films, both accurate and excellent movies in their own rights; A League of Their Own and Soul of the Game.

Second best hockey movie of all time; Mystery Alaska.

…tied with The Mighty Ducks…(“It’s Spaz-way…he’ll screw up…”)

The following five are ranked based on historical significance, sports significance, and a heart filled team condition. Also taken into account was the filming itself, the acting and the accuracy.

5) Any Given Sunday-Dirty side of sports, Pacino needs to calm down.

4)Miracle-Historically accurate? Yes…but than again it was televised and hard to screw up. Greatest Olympic Moment of All Time.

3) Hoosiers-Argued more often than not as number one. It is a very cheesy film until about half way in. It is a great film overall.

2)Rudy-I have actually gone against my own personal favorite here, and pushed this movie into second place. I do not know why.

1)Remember the Titans-Historical significance, political significance, sports relevance, a strong and heavily apparent team condition, and Denzel. Winner.


2 Responses

  1. You cannot replace a Gary Bertier…

  2. […] […]

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