Recently I was hanging with some friends and we were discussing some of my prior Friday blog Top 10 lists. One of my buddies brought up the topic of the Top 10 sports movies of all time, and a great discussion followed. Turns out, there are A LOT more great sports related movies out there than you may think. We even got into the discussion of what actually “defines” a movie being a “sports” movie. For example, I immediately suggested my all time favorite movie, “The Karate Kid” was the best sports movie ever. However, good points were made that it really wasn’t a “sports” movie – as it was not so much about a “sport” as it was about the journey of Daniel and Miyagi. Fair point. Also – as much as I respect Karate as a sport (my kids and wife are active in it) we agreed that a “sports” movie should actually be about one of the major sports (baseball, hockey, football, basketball and we also conceded Golf, because Golf). Thus – my beloved “Karate Kid” was out. While some great ideas and arguments were put out there over several beers, what follows is MY top 10 Sports Movies of All Time. The rules: One of the 5 sports listed above must be involved and the sport has to be central to the movie. As with all my lists, these are my Top 10 – not the critics favorites, by awards received or because of box office success. With the formalities out of the way, I give you my Top 10 Sports Movies of All Time (with my favorite scene linked from each movie for your viewing pleasure):
10. White Men Can’t Jump – both a great comedy and a great sports movie. The insults and trash talk fly fast and furious, the basketball scenes are more fun than they should be, and the story is also pretty cool. Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes play their parts perfectly, but for my money Rosie Perez steals this movie as Woody Harrelson’s “Jeopardy” loving girlfriend. One of the things that is always tough in sports movies is making the actors look like they can actually play – but both Harrelson and Snipes are more than believable as good hoops players. There is only one other basketball movie that is better for my money, and that movie will show up later in this list. Best Scene: Snipes and Harrelson are in a free throw contest after Harrelson has clearly conned Snipes into thinking he can’t ball. Kadeem Hardison does his infamous taunt thinking they are going to win some money with “We goin Sizzler”. We goin Sizzler!
9. The Fighter – This movie is amazing and has some Academy Awards to prove it. The true story of Micky Ward and his brother, Dicky Eklund (his trainer) and Ward’s rise from Lowell MA to world champion is both incredibly heartfelt and great sports action too. As a MA guy myself, this story has extra special meaning to see some local boys become legends. The love and conflict between the two main characters is just amazing to watch, but the supporting roles are also incredibly well done. From their mother, to Ward’s girlfriend, to their big group of sisters, this is just an incredibly well acted film with an even better story behind it. A real life “Rocky” in a sense, this is one of those movies that if on TV I will stop and watch every time. The fact that I worked with Eklund’s real life daughter when this movie came out was extra cool for me. She was really humble about it and I am sure got quite annoyed with me (several times) as I constantly peppered her with questions, but what can I say – you can’t take the dork out of me if you tried. Best Scene: So many to choose from, but how can you not go for the “feel good” moment of a heavy film – when Ward becomes a champion. Becoming a champion
8. Miracle – In real life, the 1980 US Olympic Men’s Hockey team winning the gold medal is about as “Hollywood ending” as can possibly be. Now, take that true (and amazing) story and make a movie about it? I’m in. Kurt Russell is on absolute fire as coach Herb Brooks – literally stealing every scene his in. This is an epic underdog story with “feel good” story lines throughout. The action is intense, the hockey scenes as real as anything put on film, and the performances are genuine and heartfelt. Just an amazing movie about even cooler story. Best Scene: This one was easy for me. The most iconic scene in the movie is the “practice” scene where Brooks pushes them to the absolute brink. One word – “Again”. Again
7. Remember The Titans – Another movie based on a true story, and one of two football centered movies on this list. Denzel Washington is in prime form as Coach Herman Boone, a coach tasked to oversee the first season of a once racially segregated team to one of racial integration in the south during the civil rights era. The football scenes are realistic, the acting amazing and the story epic. Seeing this team come together over the movie in spite of the world around them is just classic sports movie goodness. While Washington is great as always, the performance that steals the movie for me is by the underrated Will Patton as Coach Bill Yoast. He was replaced by Boone and demoted to assistant – and his journey throughout the movie is really great stuff. Best Scene: In the final game of what hopes to be (and will be) a undefeated season, they are down at halftime. Boone, Yost and the players deliver a “chills” worthy scene of memorable speeches that will make you want to run through a wall. The soul of a man
6. Rocky – I am a huge fan of all the Rocky movies, and truth be told my favorite is actually Rocky IV (“I must break you”). But if I am being more than a fanboy, the original Rocky is the one that deserves to be on this list. People forget this movie won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and rightfully so. A heartfelt journey of an every-man guy from Philadelphia who gets his shot at greatness, this movie became the prototype for all sports underdog movies to follow . The performances are GREAT, the music iconic and the fight scenes thrilling. If this movie doesn’t move you in some way you might want to check if you have something beating in your chest. Best Scene: How could I not go with a training montage? Yep. Training Montage
5. Happy Gilmore – Adam Sandler usually does not appear on any Top 10 movie list, but bear with me. This movie is HYSTERICAL. I know there are going to be lots of comments from readers about “How can you put this movie and not Caddyshack on this list” but hear me out. Caddyshack is undeniably great, I just think laugh for laugh Happy Gilmore is slightly more funny. The story of a wannabe hockey player who discovers he has a talent for absolutely crushing the golf ball, this movie takes on all the pretentiousness of golf and turns it on its ear. Sandler is at his comedic best, but Shooter McGavin is my favorite character in the movie. Of course, everyone remembers the Bob Barker scene, and so….Best Scene: The Bob Barker vs Happy Gilmore fight. This scene still makes me laugh every goddamn time. “The Price is wrong, bitch”. The price is wrong, bitch
4. The Sandlot – Any American male can relate to this story. A movie about a bunch of neighborhood kids playing pick-up baseball games in their local sandlot, it is literally a trip down memory lane for any male living in the US. This is both a comedy and a “coming of age” movie, and also has a strong subplot about acceptance (new kid to a new neighborhood, and a new step father in his family). There are so many iconic scenes and performances in this movie which is why to this day people still watch it and buy “You’re Killing me Smalls” t-shirts. An absolute classic of a movie. Best Scene– the boys are confronted by another baseball team and a battle of insults fly. The mic is dropped though when Ham says the famous line “You play ball like a girl!” You play ball like a girl!
3. Hoosiers – This movie is chills city from start to finish. The best Basketball movie ever made, and there is no argument against that statement. Gene Hackman is one of the all-time GREAT actors and this is, in my opinion, his absolute best performance of his career as Coach Norman Dale. The story of a basketball team in small town Indiana is the classic underdog formula but with some of the most beautifully filmed basketball scenes ever shot. It’s about redemption, determination and teamwork – and pulls at your heartstrings every step of the way. Best Scene – soooo many in this movie to pick from, but I am going to go with not a basketball scene but rather one of the most moving moments in the movie, when Coach Dale tells his team how he really feels about them. I love you guys
2. Field of Dreams – One of my all-time favorite movies. Fathers and sons, redemption, fate – all of these heavy topics are what make this movie so damn awesome. Kevin Costner, Burt Lancaster and James Earl Jones make up the pillars of the three main characters who all are tied to this baseball field built in the corn fields of Iowa. While most people consider this movie about ghosts playing baseball, that is simply the vehicle by which three people find their joy and passions. This movie is what I imagine to be as close to what it’s like to actually watch poetry on film. I know I sound sappy as shit talking about this movie, but it is that damn beautiful and moving. Best Scene: Is there any other choice but when Ray (Costner) realizes it’s his long dead father as a young man at the end and ask “Hey Dad – wanna have a catch?” Excuse me for a second, I think it’s dusty in here. Hey Dad – wanna have a catch?
1. The Natural – The perfect sports movie. Every scene is just beautiful to look at, the performances (by an All Star cast) awesome, and the story is one for the ages. This is the story of Roy Hobbs, who was once destined to be the greatest baseball player ever. He gets tragically derailed from his career as a young man, but comes back as a middle aged rookie and promptly goes on to fulfill is destiny in the most epic fashion imaginable. This is baseball – and America – at a time of innocence and beauty. The manager of the NY Knights, Pop Fisher, is my favorite character in the movie and maybe one of my favorite movie characters ever. People forget the actors and talent in this movie: Redford, Duvall, Close, Basinger, Brimley – the list goes on and on. Best Scene: You have to go with the most iconic scene – the classic home run in his last at bat with the lights system falling everywhere like beautiful rain. Awesome. THE home run
Tough to leave off Caddyshack, Rocky IV, The Bad News Bears, Slap Shot, Major League, Tin Cup, Raging Bull and so many more, but for my money these are the 10 best. What are your favorite sports movies? I love to debate this stuff – so go ahead and let me know if you think I am way off base or nailed it. Either way – have a great weekend and until next week – there is no spoon.