The top 10 sports movies

The top 10 sports movies. By Simon Miraudo.

The general consensus is that movie critics aren’t the biggest sports fans in the world, what with them spending most of their time indoors, on the couch, and living vicariously through their screen idols. But then, that’s exactly what most sports fans do too! Though this writer isn’t the most accomplished athlete (all of my trophies have ‘Participation’ written on them to some degree), I find myself regularly entranced by the simplistic and primal narrative of a head-to-head battle on the sporting pitch/ring/rink/octagon/racetrack/alley/court/thumb-war arena, and sometimes there is nothing better than a good film depicting the eternal struggle between shirts and skins. In honour of the DVD, Blu-ray, and Pay Per View release of Moneyball, we’re sharing our picks for the 10 best sports movies. (*Blows whistle*)

10. Heaven Can Wait

Warren Beatty and Buck Henry (but mostly Warren Beatty) directed this remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, in which a man is prematurely taken to the afterlife. Here, Beatty plays Joe Pendleton, an over-the-hill quarterback who finally has a chance at making the Superbowl… until his seriously untimely death. He’s loaned the body of recently murdered millionaire Leo Farnsworth, which he attempts to refine into a specimen of physical perfection (it was a bit of a vanity project, as you may have guessed).

9. The Karate Kid

It’s always nice to discover that a film isn’t merely good when viewed through the lens of childhood nostalgia. John G. Avildsen‘s The Karate Kid is legitimately good, all these years later! Bullied teen Daniel (Ralph Macchio) gets a lesson in martial arts from neighbour Mr. Miyagi (Oscar nominated Pat Morita). He really is the best (around)!

8. Talladega Nights

Will Ferrell stars as the brilliantly christened NASCAR legend Ricky Bobby, in this hilarious and pointed satire of American culture. When a French F1 driver (Sacha Baron Cohen) threatens his dominance, Ricky endures a downward spiral that begins with imagined paralysis, ends with him living with his mother (Jane Lynch), and prepares him for the comeback race of a lifetime. Shake ‘n bake!

7. Warrior

Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2011 was the excellence of Gavin O’Connor‘s meat-and-potatoes, MMA-concerned Warrior, starring Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy as estranged brothers who compete in the Octagon for a $5 million prize. The performances, including that of Nick Nolte as their alcoholic father, elevated the standard plot, but even as a straight sports flick, it’s one of the most thrilling we’ve seen.

6. The Wrestler

Darren Aronofsky‘s portrait of a battered and bruised wrestler (Mickey Rourke) is certainly no tale of uplift, but it features some brutal fight scenes, and a heartbreaking finale in the ring. Also: it was a part that was actually improved by Rourke’s self-inflicted facial “enhancements”!

5. Raging Bull

Some argue that Raging Bull marks Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro‘s best collaboration (not us; we vote for The King of Comedy). In it, De Niro plays boxer Jake LaMotta, whose career is ruined by, ironically, his uncontrollable rage. De Niro won an Oscar for his troubles. You can look forward to the continued adventures of Jake in Raging Bull II, which is set to be made without the involvement of Scorsese and De Niro. Sounds promising?

4. The Big Lebowski

It has bowling in it. Good enough for us!

3. Hoosiers

In the history of tear-jerking moments in manly movies, it’s hard to compete with the final speech of Coach Normal Dale (Gene Hackman) in basketball drama Hoosiers. Instead of ranting and raving at his ragtag team at the climax of their championship match, he offers them this powerful consolation: “I love you guys.” Sorry … (pause) … did it just get dusty in here?

2. Rocky

Before he directed The Karate Kid, Avildsen delivered perhaps the best boxing pic ever: Rocky. Today, it’s denigrated for beating Network, All the President’s Men, and Taxi Driver to the Best Picture prize. Though it’s not as good as those flicks (how many are?!), the inspirational underdog story of small-timer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) taking on champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) – and romancing shy Adrian (Talia Shire) in the process – has been embraced the world over, for good reason.

1. Hoop Dreams

But not even Rocky can KO Steve James‘ legendary, breath-taking, awe-inspiring, soul-crushing, heart-rending, 170 minute opus Hoop Dreams. James follows two young African-American teens, William Gates and Arthur Agee, who dream of breaking free from their tragic lives and becoming NBA stars. Five years and 250 hours of footage later, the boys adjust their dreams accordingly, wrestle with reality, and try to find solace in the simple pleasures of the game. Famously snubbed for Best Documentary at the 1995 Oscars, it still scored a Best Editing nod, and was proclaimed by Roger Ebert as the Best Picture of the 1990s. It’s really that good, and not just for a sports film.

Discuss: OK, what did we miss?

5 Responses to “The top 10 sports movies”

  1. Is that it for The Big Lebowski? That’s hardly a comment or opinion. C’mon, Simon!

    • My adoration of THE BIG LEBOWSKI has been well documented elsewhere, so I thought my crowbarring it into a sports list alone would speak volumes!

  2. The Big Lebowski deserves to be higher up the list, imo. The sports movie for those who don’t do sport. ‘The Dude’ vs ‘Jesus’ in 10 pin bowling, Jeff Bridges was superb,as was John Goodman. I still chuckle every time I watch this and you at least inspired me to dig out the Dvd and watch it again this afternoon.
    Surprised you did not include ‘Rocky Balboa’ on the list. As good as the original ‘Rocky’ and maybe much better in many ways.

  3. OK – if we can have ‘The Big Lebowski’ because it has bowling in it, why not ‘Point Break’ …….it’s got surfing in it and an Aussie connection (Bell’s Beach at the end of the movie).
    Also, ‘Senna’ because it is a true story about the great Ayrton Senna and it’s all about F1 motor racing.

  4. The Mighty Ducks. Original, not the sequels.

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