10 Movies - 10 Sports
Right back since 1898 there have been movies made about sport, from the better known sports such as American Football to less popular sports such as Curling it seems like pretty much any sport gets it's 15 minutes of fame in a movie at some point. More recently we've had Rugby with the powerful "Invictus" but over the years there have been some great sports movies and of course some not so great sports movies. So here are 10 sports and 10 sports movies of varying quality to go with them.
Boxing seems to be one of the staples of sports movies with many contenders for me to pick from coming over the years from Kirk Douglas's 1949 outing in "Champion" to Russell Crowe in "Cinderella Man" and of course Robert De Niro in "Raging Bull". But for me it has to be "Rocky", not because it is the greatest, most realistic movie about boxing but because it is one of the most iconic.
The story of Rocky Balboa the struggling south Paw from Philadelphia who miraculously gets his shot at the title is great cinema. It delivers that inspirational story of if you put your mind to it anything is possible and along the way gives us the motivational training sequences and prominent soundtrack. It can't be bad seeing that it was nominated for 10 Oscars and walked away with 3 including the prestigious Best Picture Award. Shame that the sequels never always lived up to the standards of this movie, although the final movie "Rocky Balboa" was a great and proper way for the series to come to a close.
Over the years cycling hasn't faired so well as boxing when it comes to being the source of sports movies. But in 1985 Kevin Costner starred in "American Flyers" a movie all about the sport of cycling.
In "American Flyers" Kevin Costner plays Marcus Sommers a sports physician estranged from his mother and brother after the death of their father. But with his brother wasting his life Marcus returns and through their shared love of cycling enter the gruelling King of the Hills bike race across the Rockies. Frankly "American Flyers" is not the greatest of movies but one of the better ones which revolves around the sport of cycling. It pretty much follows an under dog style storyline with elements of rivalry, romance and family issues thrown in for good measure. But the training sequences and the actual race scenes which take in the stunning views from the Rockies make the movie worth watching.
Ice Hockey has done a little better when it comes to the movies, with some famous names such as Paul Newman, Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze all starring in movies around the game on ice. But my favourite comes from another big Star but in a movie he made before he really shot to fame; the movie is "Mystery Alaska" and features Russell Crowe.
"Mystery Alaska" is about a small town that live for their weekly game of ice hockey on the frozen pond, played by residents of the small town. But when an old resident returns things change as he sets up a game between the locals and the all conquering New York Rangers. The charm of "Mystery Alaska" comes from the small town humour; the locals failed dalliances with romance and of course their pride when it comes to playing ice hockey. The actual big game is well shot with plenty of subtle humour from the likes of Russell Crowe, Hank Azaria, Colm Meaney and Burt Reynolds amongst many recognizable names who make it a surprisingly star studded movie.
Another one of the main sports to have featured in many a movie is Basketball and there are plenty of good movies to select from for my choice. But for me the best movie to feature Basketball is Hoosiers, the tale of a high school basketball team who go from under achievers to contenders under the supervision of their new coach Norman Dale who not only manages to upset the team he inherits but other teachers and parents as his methods don't sit well with the small town folk who love their basketball.
Straight away "Hoosiers" is as formulaic as it comes with the new coach, new methods, upset locals and that he manages to turn around a less than impressive team. It's the same formula used in many a sports movie and not just those about basketball. But "Hoosiers" has two things; a stellar cast which features Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper and Barbara Hershey but it also is truly inspirational. Through the direction of David Anspaugh and the screenplay by Angelo Pizzo it features such a motivational theme that it's hard not to succumb to it's inspirational tale.
Yes another sport which occasionally gets a movie about it is horse racing and one of the best known is "Seabiscuit" the movie about the horse that encouraged a nation. "Seabiscuit" is again another one of those movies which relies on a tale of over coming adversity but it is the way it is shot, the recreation of the era, the inspirational story and the performances which makes it such a compelling movie. It's the sort of movie that even if horse racing has no appeal to you will still manage to grab your attention which revolve around the three men, the owner played by Jeff Bridges, the trainer played by Chris Cooper and the jockey played by Tobey Maguire.
Like basketball American Football is another one of those sports which get a relatively regular running in the movies. Likewise their have been many notable movies which embrace the sport in various manners often sharing that recurring them of the under dog. One which often gets over looked is "Invincible" the biopic of Vince Papale who managed to get into his beloved Philadelphia Eagles in 1976 at an age when some players would be retiring.
"Invincible" shares a likening with the tale of "Rocky" a guy who seems to have missed his chance only to get an unexpected shot at his dream. As such it follows that time worn formula of set pieces, the chance, the hard work and finally the outcome. But it is an inspirational story made all the better for being based on true life. The only negative, and there is one, is that it feels almost sanitized as if the producers wanted to turn the story into a family movie and in doing so removed anything in the least bit gritty or unsavoury from it. But that doesn't stop it from being an entertaining sports movie about American Football, filled with humour, training sequences and clever footage of actual games.
Another sport which is a mainstay of cinema is Baseball and it's been used in so many different types of movies it's quite astounding. From romcoms such as "The Perfect Catch", biopics such as "The Babe" and "Cobb" through to the story of women’s baseball in "A League of their own", there are lots of movies to have featured baseball. But on name, one actor almost stands out when it comes to baseball and that is Kevin Costner who has appeared in 4 baseball movies including "Chasing Dreams" (1982), "Bull Durham" (1988), "Field of Dreams" (1989) but my favourite is the last one he did which was "For Love of the Game" (1999).
In "For Love of the Game" Costner plays Billy Chapel a pitcher who is coming towards the end of his career where he needs to make an important decision about life. During the course of the game we watch Chapel reminisce about his life as a pitcher, his love of a woman and as all this unwinds he realises that he is on the verge of pitching the perfect game.
For me it is the nostalgia in "For Love of the Game" which makes it such a wonderful movie, the way Chapel reminisces about all those pivotal moments in his career yet still delivering that sort of mythology which comes with the legendary sport. The sports action almost plays second fiddle to the story of Chapel's life but there are enough moments that deliver the sense of being at various games to woo lovers of baseball.
Having just spoken about Kevin Costner I might as well mention that he also made a movie about the game of Golf, but for me that's not my pick of favourite golf movies. Again there have been a few movies to tackle the sport of Golf some which are serious dramas, other romcoms and of course all out comedies. My pick maybe a strange one but for Golf I go for Adam Sandler's "Happy Gilmore". I will say that "Happy Gilmore" is not the greatest golf movie of all times or the best comedy about golf, but it's one of only a few movies from Adam Sandler which makes me laugh.
"Happy Gilmore" is unsurprisingly about a young man called Happy Gilmore who wants to be an Ice Hockey player but is spotted by golf pro Chubbs who tries to teach him how to play golf. Frankly it's a daft movie, full of funny set pieces where Gilmore, the unlikely golf hero, manages to upset the golfing establishment with his riotous antics and anger problems. But it is stupidly good fun, with a lot of set pieces working really well, such as the crazy gold scene.
Now Ice Skating may not be something which instantly springs to mind as being the source of many sport movies but there have been a few such as "Ice Princess", "Ice Castles" and "Cutting Edge". Although my choice is a more recent ice skating movie and like my choice for golf is a comedy, that being the wickedly daft "Blades of Glory". Anyone who has been on my site and read my reviews will know that I am not always a fan of Will Ferrell but in "Blades of Glory" he delivers a good all round fun performance, bordering on the stupid but still good fun.
"Blades of Glory" is the tale of two male ice skating rivals who get banned from competing when they end up fighting at an awards ceremony. But they discover a loophole in their ban which allows them to compete again as skating partners, the first male male ice dancing partnership. As I've already said "Blades of Glory" is daft and makes some obvious crude jokes surrounding two men dancing together but the partnership of Will Ferrell and Jon Heder works well providing a balance to the comedy to make all the ice skating antics laughable.
Well another funny one to finish with and that is the sport of Dodgeball which means there is to my knowledge only one movie which really mentions the sport, that of "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story". As if you couldn't guess from the movies full title it's another story of an underdog although in this case it is a collective of underdogs those from the Average Joe gym who enter a Las Vegas Dodgeball competition to win enough money to stop rival Globo gym from closing them down.
Everything about "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" tries to make fun of the traditional elements which go to make up many sports movies, from their own funny take on painful training sessions and the slow motion enhanced big final Dodgeball match. It even takes on a bit of Karate Kid style mysticism but it's all done to be funny and it succeeds with Vince Vaughn leading the oddball bunch of gym members against Ben Stiller’s bouffant haired White Goodman owner of Globo gym.
So there you have 10 sports and 10 sports movies, but there are a lot more which I could have mentioned such as bobsledding in "Cool Runnings", soccer in the UK version of "Mean Machine", pool in "The Hustler" and also more recently Roller Derby in "Whip It".