Often, when there’s discussion around the water cooler about the latest reality show and the contrived drama it provides, my overused but accurate observation is that sports is the greatest reality show on TV.
So it’s no surprise that Hollywood has taken the dramatic events found in the sports arena and created great narrative for backstories that give us some of the greatest moments on the silver screen.
Here are the seven greatest sports movies of all time, and we’ve chosen seven because none of these could be left off the list.
7. The Sandlot
We all start a love for sports somewhere and The Sandlot is a movie that best captures the innocence of what sports is like before adults and parents get involved and ruin all the fun. It’s the story of a rag tag group of kids who spend their time playing baseball in a local sandlot and find themselves in the typical adventures only young boys can experience growing up. The movie is full of sentiment, fun, humour and high jinx. Hell, even Babe Ruth makes an appearance. You know…BABE RUTH!!
Haven’t seen it and don’t get the reference? You’re killing me, Smalls.
Hockey in the ’70’s was one of the greatest periods of any sport if only because of the characters that played the game. Slapshot captures the era perfectly and it’s even tough to tell if the movie reflected Hockey during the ’70’s or vice versa. The movie has an unlikely star in Paul Newman, Oscar winner and one of the greatest actors of all time. Newman plays Reggie Dunlop, a player/coach trying to keep a team and franchise afloat asking the existential question, “Who owns the Chiefs?”
If you find yourself anywhere in Canada, you will likely hear a quote or reference to the movie before the day is over. Of course, the movie created three of the most memorable characters in sports cinema in the Hanson brothers, sending shares of tin foil companies through the roof.
There are two eras of sports movies – B.R and A.R., or in other words, before Rocky and after Rocky.
The first Rocky movie released in 1976 is almost as good of a story off the screen as it is on the screen. Stallone took a huge gamble and bet on himself and the story, essentially risking what little he had and what he would be guaranteed to gain if he agreed to let someone else play the lead role. The risk he took paid off and the rest is history.
Most sports movies since the day of Rocky’s release try to follow a formula that Rocky established that made it so great. You literally cheer in your seat watching this show, not to mention the greatest soundtrack for any sports movie this side of The Natural. Rocky Balboa was the ultimate under dog and proved that the human spirit is what makes sports more than just a game.
Forget all the sequels, as a standalone, Rocky is one of the greatest movies ever made.
4. The Natural
This movie is perfect. Perfect cast. Perfect story. Perfect soundtrack.
The Natural is an adaptation of the 1952 book by Bernarnd Malamud and follows Roy Hobbs, a pitcher of incredible promise who is shot and left for dead in a hotel room on his way to make his major league debut. It’s been said this aspect of the story was inspired by the bizarre shooting incident and subsequent comeback of Philadelphia Phillies player Eddie Waitkus.
The Natural has left an indelible mark on movies and baseball for the classic elements that have made it so endearing. There isn’t a baseball player who hasn’t referred to his own favourite bat as ‘Wonderboy’ at least once. Starring Robert Redford, Wilford Brimley, Kim Bassinger, Glenn Close and Robert Duvall, this is a movie that you have to make a point and sit down and watch with your son when he’s old enough.
Without a doubt, Gene Hackman has had one of the greatest runs in Hollywood history. His movies are on more lists of ‘the greatest of all time’ than most and Hoosiers is one of this best.
Hackman stars as coach Norman Dale, a basketball coach with a mysterious past who comes to a small Indiana town to lead its beloved basketball team to a state championship.
Hoosiers follows the typical sports underdog story, but the quality of writing, performances, score and production put it above most others. Dennis Hopper, who plays the town drunk, was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor.
This is a great movie and has done for basketball what The Natural has done for baseball.
There are things that come along with the transition into manhood. Awkward hair, unwanted responsibilities, a heartbreak or two and of course memorizing at least half the lines from Caddyshack. It’s the movie that really needs little to no introduction except that it’s given us some of the greatest comedic performances of all time. Particularly Rodney Dangerfield as Al Czervik, Chevy Chase as Ty Webb and Bill Murray as Carl Spackler.
However, the greatest and most underappreciated performance has to go to the late, great Ted Knight as Judge Smails. Playing the hilarious straight man is often the greatest comedy (see Harvey Korman in Blazzing Saddles) and Knight’s timing and delivery is absolutely perfect.
You can judge a man and his appreciation for great comedy based on the number of Caddyshack quotes he can throw out in a given moment. It’s a right of passage and it’s a movie you can pick up anytime and still laugh your ass off.
So I got that going for me….which is nice.
And the number one sports movie of all time is….
I guess somehow you could fit this in either a sports movie or a romantic comedy. Either way, it’s second to none.
Written and directed by Ron Shelton, it follows the players and fans of the Durham Bulls, a minor-league baseball team in Durham, North Carolina.
Shelton, a former minor league player, brought his experiences to life in what many consider a more realistic and accurate portrayal of sports than other movies.
The movie is laugh out loud funny not just with what happens off the field, but the great scenes depicted within the game. It certainly answers the question as to what players are talking about during those in-game discussion on the mound.
Bull Durham is must see. Even with your significant other will love it. Just don’t tell her it’s a sports movie.