Hubs and I had a sports movie binge this past weekend. It started with a totally unexpected screening of “The Natural” on some one-off cable channel. After we watched Robert Redford hit the most amazing home run in the history of man we had to continue with the goose-bump inducing fun. (Hubs actually held his arm up to show off his goosebumps as Hobbs rounds third base amidst a shower of stadium-light-exploding-sparks.)
To our chagrin, we discovered we only own a few sports movies (the entire Rocky franchise, Miracle, Invincible… and Baseketball). Those we thought of immediately (namely, Hoosiers) aren’t readily available on Netflix. Thus, we (of course) had to create a to-buy list of necessary sports movies. I share it with you now. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions. And might I just add that if you have not seen Invincible you should watch it right away. Like Miracle, it’s a true story. We love it because it’s a true story about a Philly man.
I also love it because of Marky Mark, but that’s neither here nor there.
Side note: I’m not a sports person (I pride myself on being highly inactive) but sports movies are the place where Hubs (military action and historical dramas) and I (quirky chick flicks and documentaries about typefaces) can come together in glorious accord.
Hoosiers: Nominated for two Oscars and hailed by Sports Illustrated and ESPN as one of the best sports movies of all time, this triumphant tale of a high school basketball team’s long-shot attempt to win the state championship is filled with edge-of-your-seat suspense and breathless excitement! Featuring fast-break cinematography that catches the pace of the game. // One of the most rousingly enjoyable sports movies ever made, this small-town drama tells the story of the Hickory Huskers, an underdog basketball team from a tiny Indiana high school that makes it all the way to the state championship tournament. It’s a familiar story, but sensitive direction and a splendid screenplay helped make this one of the best films of 1986, highlighted by the superb performances of Gene Hackman as the Huskers’ coach, and Oscar nominee Dennis Hopper as the alcoholic father of one of the team’s key players. As the drama unfolds we come to realize that many of the characters (including Barbara Hershey as a schoolteacher with whom Hackman falls in love) are recovering from disappointing setbacks, and this depth of character is what makes the otherwise conventional basketball story so richly rewarding. Like Rocky, Rudy, and Breaking Away, this is a quintessentially American movie about beating the odds and rising above one’s own limitations. Just try to watch it without cheering!
The Pistol: The Pistol is the action-packed, heartwarming motion picture about the dedication of a parent to his child and the devotion of a boy to become the greatest basketball player ever. Filmmakers Darrel Campbell and Rodney Stone go to great lengths to bring Pistol Pete fans this re-mastered sports classic, sure to be a great addition to any family movie collection. The Pistol is the uplifting story of a scrawny eighth grade boy whose stunning basketball skills earn him a spot on the high school team! Unfortunately for young Pete Maravich (Adam Guier), his style of “Showtime” basketball is way ahead of its time, making him the target of ridicule and socially separates him from his teammates. Against all odds, Pete perseveres with the constant encouragement of his mentor and father, Press Maravich (Days Of Our Lives’ Nick Benedict) and the love of his mother Helen (Academy Award Nominee Millie Perkins). But Pistol Pete’s life was about more than basketball. Watch the Inspirational bonus material to learn what made this NBA All-Star and Hall-of-Famer one of the most admired and respected athletes in the world.
Tin Cup: An unreachable shot to the green. A hopeless romance. Driving-range pro Roy McAvoy can’t resist an impossible challenge. Each is what he calls a defining moment. You define it. Or it defines you.With lady-killer charm and a game that can make par with garden tools, Kevin Costner rejoins Bull Durham filmmaker Ron Shelton for another funny tale of the games people play. For Costner’s Roy, golf is a head-and heart-game. On both counts, that’s where shrink Molly Griswold (Rene Russo) comes in. She’s big city, Roy’s small time, and he believes only the grandest of gestures can lure her away from a slick touring pro (Don Johnson) and earn her love. So Roy and his dutiful caddy (Cheech Marin) set out to do the impossible: win the U.S. Open. With laughs, clever battle-of-the-sexes banter and a handy way with a 7-iron, Tin Cup winningly defines the moment and contemporary romantic comedy.
Whip It: Drew Barrymore makes her bow as a director with this Roller Derby coming-of-age number, which shares the spirit of so many of Barrymore’s movies: it’s loosey-goosey, cheerful, and buoyant in waving its “Girls Rule!” flag. On screen, Barrymore relegates herself to a slapstick supporting role, handing the lead to Juno gal Ellen Page. Page plays a Texas teen with a yen to join Austin’s Roller Derby squad, complete with new professional moniker Babe Ruthless, but she’ll have to keep the side career secret from her beauty-pageant-obsessed Mom (Marcia Gay Harden) and football-watchin’ Dad (Daniel Stern). A coming-of-age tale emerges between bouts of skating on the RD track (Jimmy Fallon plays the goofy Derby announcer), with a dash of romance added in the form of a generic Dude in a Band. Kristen Wiig does surrogate-mom duty as a teammate, Juliette Lewis is appropriately out-there as a track rival, and Andrew Wilson (bro of Owen and Luke) gets some hilariously poker-faced lines in as the team’s coach. All the pleasant stuff makes you almost overlook how ramshackle the movie is, and how standard-issue the parental tensions (even if Harden is a total pro, as always). Ellen Page doesn’t offer the innate audience-friendly cuddliness of Barrymore herself–thus her apt casting as Juno‘s brittle heroine–but her rapt focus is something to behold. “Babe Ruthless” indeed.
Mighty Ducks (THE FIRST ONE): Disney had an unexpected hit with this predictable comedy about a smug lawyer (Emilio Estevez) busted for drunk driving and ordered to coach a sad-sack team of hockey-playing kids as community service. The kids triumph over their sundry problems, and Estevez’s character grows up a little. End of story. A perfectly harmless movie for kids and adults who are giving their brains a night off.
Moneyball: Billy Beane, general manager of MLB’s Oakland A’s and protagonist of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, had a problem: how to win in the Major Leagues with a budget that’s smaller than that of nearly every other team. Conventional wisdom long held that big name, highly athletic hitters and young pitchers with rocket arms were the ticket to success. But Beane and his staff, buoyed by massive amounts of carefully interpreted statistical data, believed that wins could be had by more affordable methods such as hitters with high on-base percentage and pitchers who get lots of ground outs. Given this information and a tight budget, Beane defied tradition and his own scouting department to build winning teams of young affordable players and inexpensive castoff veterans.
Chariots of Fire: The come-from-behind winner of the 1981 Oscar for bestpicture, Chariots of Fire either strikes you as either a cold exercise in mechanical manipulation or as a tale of true determination and inspiration. The heroes are an unlikely pair of young athletes who ran for Great Britain in the 1924 Paris Olympics: devout Protestant Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a divinity student whose running makes him feel closer to God, and Jewish Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a highly competitive Cambridge student who has to surmount the institutional hurdles of class prejudice and anti-Semitism. There’s delicious support from Ian Holm (as Abrahams’s coach) and John Gielgud and Lindsay Anderson as a couple of Cambridge fogies. Vangelis’s soaring synthesized score, which seemed to be everywhere in the early 1980s, also won an Oscar. Chariots of Fire was the debut film of British television commercial director Hugh Hudson (Greystoke) and was produced by David Puttnam.
Field of Dreams: A phenomenal hit when it was released in 1989, Field of Dreams has become a modern classic and a uniquely American slice of cinema. It functions effectively as a moving drama about the power of dreams, a fantasy ode to our national pastime, and a brilliant adaptation of W.P. Kinsella’s exquisite baseball novel Shoeless Joe. Kinsella himself found the film a delightful surprise, differing greatly from his novel but benefiting from its own creative variations. It is the film that cemented Kevin Costner’s status as an all-American screen star, but the story resonates far beyond Costner’s handsome appeal. As just about everyone knows by now, Costner stars as Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, who hears the mysterious words “If you build it, he will come,” and is compelled to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield. His wife (Amy Madigan) supports the wild idea, but a reclusive novelist (modeled after J.D. Salinger and played by James Earl Jones) is not so easily persuaded. The idealistic farmer is either a visionary or a deluded fool, but his persistence is rewarded when spirits from baseball’s past begin appearing on the ball field. Past and present intermingle in the person of “Moonlight Graham” (superbly played by Burt Lancaster), an unknown player who sacrificed his dreams of baseball glory for a dignified life as a small-town physician … but what all of this means is unclear until the film’s memorably heartfelt conclusion. A meditation on family, memory, and faith, the film balances humor and magic to strike just the right chord of thoughtful emotion, affecting audiences so deeply that the baseball field created for the production has now become a mecca of sorts for dreamers around the world.
Cool Runnings: Based on an improbable but true story, Cool Runnings concerns the Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Director Jon Turteltaub (Phenomenon) does a fine job with both the absurdity of the situation (the athletes had never even seen snow) and the passion behind it (their desire to compete and win). John Candy, in one of his last roles, is touching as a disgraced coach who seizes the opportunity to work with the Jamaicans as a chance for redemption. The bobsled scenes look good, and the races are exciting. The climax, which is entirely unexpected, takes the film to a wholly different level, even if events in the story don’t quite match the facts.
Bill Durham: Bull Durham is about minor league baseball. It’s also about romance, sex, poetry, metaphysics, and talent–though not necessarily in that order. Susan Sarandon plays a loopy lady who just loves America’s national pastime–and the men who play it. At the opening of every season, she attaches herself to a promising rookie and guides him through the season. Unfortunately, the player she bestows her favors upon does not really deserve it. She knows it, and veteran Kevin Costner knows it. Her choice, a dim bulb played for laughs by Tim Robbins, is the only one who doesn’t know it. The film, directed by its writer, Ron Shelton, a former minor league player, is rich in subtle detail. There are Edith Piaf records playing in the background, fast-talking managers, and minor characters as developed as the leads. Sarandon’s retro-’50s outfits make you think she’s just another bimbo, not an English teacher very much in control of her life. And Costner’s clear-eyed, slightly vitriolic performance is devastatingly sexy and keenly witty. The love scenes, though tasteful, are almost as humorous as they are hot. Sarandon’s character likes to tie her players up and expand their horizons by reading Walt Whitman to them, “’cause a guy will listen to anything if he thinks it’s foreplay.” How can you not love a movie with such a wicked sense of humor?
Karate Kid (the OG): A fatherless teenager faces his moment of truth in The Karate Kid. Daniel (Ralph Macchio) arrives in Los Angeles from the east coast and faces the difficult task of making new friends. However, he becomes the object of bullying by the Cobras, a menacing gang of karate students, when he strikes up a relationship with Ali (Elisabeth Shue), the Cobra leader’s ex-girlfriend. Eager to fight back and impress his new girlfriend but afraid to confront the dangerous gang, Daniel asks his handyman Miyagi (Noriyuki ‘Pat’ Morita), whom he learns is a master of the martial arts, to teach him karate. Miyagi teaches Daniel that karate is a mastery over the self, mind, and body and that fighting is always the last answer to a problem. Under Miyagi’s guidance, Daniel develops not only physical skills but also the faith and self-confidence to compete despite tremendous odds as he encounters the fight of his life in the exciting finale to this entertaining film.
A League of Their Own: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna star in this major-league comedy from the team that brought you Big. Hanks stars as Jimmy Dugan, a washed-up ballplayer whose big league days are over. Hired to coach in the All-American Girls Baseball League of 1943, while the male pros are at war, Dugan finds himself drawn back into the game by the heart and heroics of his all-girl team. Jon Lovitz adds a scene-stealing cameo as the sarcastic scout who recruits Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis), the baseball dolly with a Babe Ruth swing. Teammates Madonna, Lori Petty and Rosie O’Donnell round out the roster, taking the team to the World Series. Based on the true story of the pioneering women who blazed the trail, on the fields and off, for generations of athletes.