While society has bigger problems going on, the lack of sports is a huge deal. Film is my art form, and for others it is, say, music. Nothing brings people together more than sports. You could be enemies or never even watched a game, but a nerve-racking battle on the floor can create life-long friendships and memories. Here are my Top 10 Sports Movies of all-time. Once again, not a list of best overall movies (Yes, I excluded “Raging Bull”, better movie but not truly about sports). This is about inspiring.
10. “Miracle” (2004):
Perhaps the greatest broadcasting line ever was when Al Michaels shouted out “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES. YES!” One of the most unbelievable stories in sports history, “Miracle” is about a group of misfit U.S.A. hockey players somehow taking down the on ice juggernaut that is Russia on the way to Olympic Gold. Led by former player turned head coach Herb Brooks (An excellent performance by Kurt Russel), the team rises up and defeats the country that was an enemy to the U.S.A in the 1980 Olympics during the Cold War. Look, I am not a homer for any country as everyone on earth has the right to have a good life. But when it comes to “Miracle”, screw you Russia. “U.S.A! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
9. “Cool Runnings” (1993):
What a weird story to be true. While the 1993 classic “Cool Runnings” does take a lot of literary liberties for the sake of comedy, the idea of a group of Jamaican’s competing in the bobsled event during the Winter Olympics is absurd. Yet they did it. No medals were awarded, but with the help of Coach Irv (John Candy), this group of misfits showed up the pretentious a-holes from bigger countries and had the crowd rooting for “A Jamaican Bobsled Team!”Starting off by losing in a sport Jamaican’s are know for in track (Usain Bolt anyone?) the group is determined for a trip to the Olympics no matter how hard it will be. Three Olympic level sprinters and a dumbass stoner turn out to be the best thing to come out of the 1988 Winter Games.
8. “Moneyball” (2011):
What makes “Moneyball” so good is that it is not about the act of playing a sport but instead about the behind the scenes stuff of managers building a team. Brad Pitt leads a star-studded cast as Billy Beane, the failed star and famous GM who created the idea of analytics. Unable to compete with rich teams such as the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox in terms of keeping great players on the roster, Beane turns to Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale educated economics graduate that believes a winning team filled with cast off players can win games because they get on base. The older baseball ‘experts’ are defensive, including the A’s Head Coach played by Phillip Seymour-Hoffman (R.I.P.). They were wrong, and realize it during a American League record 20 consecutive games on the way to making a playoff run in 2002. Yes, Oakland lost in the first round. However, Beane changed the landscape not just in baseball, but all sports.
7. “The Wrestler” (2008):
No question wrestling is a scripted profession. But to brush it aside as not a sport is ridiculous. Darren Aronofsky’s 2008 award winning classic “The Wrestler” is the most humanistic take on what these athletes go through every match. From leaping off corners to having staples placed in your back, the wrestling community is a grueling endeavor. Mickey Rourke’s performance as the washed up Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson is both inspirational as well as heartbreaking. A one time pinnacle of the wrestling culture, ‘The Ram’ is now working at a grocery store and his daughter wants nothing to do with the guy. Yet he still wants to get in the ring and will not be held back, even if it costs him his life.
6. “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992):
Let’s be honest. No racism. But when it comes to sheer athleticism African-Americans are just better than white people, a concept satirized perfectly in Director Ron Shelton’s 1992 classic “White Men Can’t Jump”. Set in a racially tense atmosphere in Venice Beach, California, black and white come together on the court for one reason. Win some damn money! Stars Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson are the 90’s version of the “Odd Couple” as they hit the court and dominate in a battle of two versus two hoops. As the money flows in, the unlikely pair of ballers rack it up on their way to becoming the team to beat on the beach side courts. “White Men Can’t Jump” is purely fun for anyone who loves basketball. It also packs an underlying message of races coming together for a common goal.
5. “Million Dollar Baby” (2004):
What a heartbreaker “Million Dollar Baby” was when in theaters. In my opinion, the last movie that actually deserved the Best Picture award at the Oscars, Clint Eastwood’s in your face look at an underdog is both inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. The great Hilary Swank plays Maggie, also known as Makousla. A desperate woman nearly broke, but with the drive of an army, Maggie works her way to the top of the ranks in women’s boxing thanks to the help of her coach Frankie (Eastwood) and right hand man Scrap-Iron Dupris (Morgan Freeman). Things do not exactly work out the way one would think or want, but that does not hinder “Million Dollar Baby” from being a compelling story about the human spirit.
4. “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942):
An oldie but goodie. Director Sam Woods’1942 classic “The Pride of the Yankees” can break any heart. Inspired by the only professional ball player who contracts a disease that he is actually named for, star Gary Cooper plays New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig. An all time great, Gehrig played in a consecutive 2130 games, a record not broken for over 40 years. At 37 he fell to a rare but deadly nerve disease that bares his name. The baseball scenes are thrilling for the time, but it is Gary Cooper stepping up to the podium declaring “Today, I feel like the luckiest man in the world” that will have the tear wells going.
3. “The Karate Kid” (1984):
Being the underdog can be tough. The 1984 John G. Avildson’s vehicle centered around kicking each other crane style in the face is a classic. Once “DANIEL SON!”, as Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) calls him, intervenes, this is on. The badass Cobra Kai crew don’t stand a chance against the old school wax-on-wax-off defensive strategy that “DANIEL SON!” has learned from Mr. Miyagi. Yes, the sequels are garbage. But the original holds up. To quote the evil sensei played by Martin Kove, “SWEEP THE LEG!”
2. “Rudy” (1993):
Playing football is a gladiator sport full of men with god-given size and ability. “Rudy” is the true story of a man who refuses to give up. Sean Astin plays Daniel “Rudy” Ruttigier, a kid who grew up in a small midwestern steel mill town. Rudy loves the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. Problem is, he’s tiny. The head coach uses Rudy as a punching bag in practice for the much larger star players. It does not matter. Rudy is determined to make the team. With the help of his once disrespectful teammates turned supporters, Rudy gets his shot on the field. Even if it’s just one play, moments if life can make a human being. That is what “Rudy” is all about.
1. “Rocky” (1976):
When it comes to sports movies, what else are you supposed to choose? Over 30 years later, Sylvester Stallone’s career launching classic remains the all-time puncher of the bag. “Rocky” is such an iconic character that it is hard to find someone that has not seen the ‘Italian Stallion’ battle Apollo Creed in the ring. Going from gangster bum to getting a shot at the world championship while also grabbing the girl he loves is the stuff dreams are made of. Once the music “GETTING STRONG NOW!” plays as Rocky runs through the street in Philadelphia, how can you resist not clapping?