Top Ten Sports Movies By Conor Daniel
Let me start with a disclaimer. This isn't a blog about the ten best sports movies of all time. This is a blog about my top ten sports movies of all time. I expect there will be criticism and debate about the list. A lot of these movies came at certain times in my life, which makes them extra special to me. If there is a movie on this list that you haven't heard or seen, I would recommend you take a few hours out of your day to watch. Now that the disclaimer is over, let's get to it.
- Varsity Blues (1999)
Wind the clock back to right before the Millenium. James Van Der Beek was one of the “it” actors out there. Dawson’s Creek was one of the most popular shows. Paul Walker wouldn’t star in Fast and Furious for two more years. The premise of the movie goes as follows, Lance Harbor (Paul Walker) is the starting QB of his high school team but gets hurt, and backup QB Jonathan "Mox" Moxon (James Van Der Beek) takes over. Obviously, Van Der Beek is not as skilled. The movie takes place in Texas, where High School Football is gospel. I was only ten years old but Ali Larter made me a man. The infamous whip cream bikini scene. If you don't know what I’m talking about just google it. Probably, NSFW. Van Der Beek struggles partying with his teammates and focusing on the football season. It is senior year of high school after all. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but, “Hot For Teacher” by Van Halen plays a large role in a scene. Varsity Blues has a great soundtrack of 90’s music. Never has “There Goes My Hero” by the Foo Fighters been utilized more to perfection. If you want to watch a funny version of Friday Night Lights, and still get amped up, this is it.
- Major League (1989)
Major League is one of my favorites due to its cast of original characters alone. Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), Willie Mays Hays (Wesley Snipes), Dennis Haysbert (Pedro Cerrano), Lynn (Rene Russo), Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker), James Gammon (Lou Brown), and most importantly the lead character Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheehan). Charlie Sheehan was in his prime, way before he started “Winning!” The plot is the new owner for the Cleveland Indian’s wants to sell the team. The only way she can do that is if ticket sales nosedive, so she highers the worst players she can find (almost all the characters above). It’s one of those, a gang of misfits come together and try to overcome their almost impossible goal. I could spend the rest of this blog on why each character is hysterical, and how well the plot is but, it’s better if you enjoy it for yourself. The readers who know, know.
- Moneyball (2011)
When a film is based on a true story, it instantly makes me more interested. I won’t lie, I had heard Billy Beane’s (Brad Pitt) name before from Sportscenter and sports talk radio but I
never grasped how important he was in changing the game of baseball. As we all know, baseball is a dying sport sadly. They are stuck in their old ways and Beane developed a new way to look at how a ball club picks its team. Beane chose to listen to Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and use analytics of how often a player gets on base to put together the best team one could. Jonah Hill’s character is based on, real-life Paul DePodesta. The Oakland A’s were a struggling ball club in 2002. Beane went against every possible recommendation from his scouts and even coach (Philip Seymour Hoffman). What proceeded to happen, again in real life, is truly amazing. There is a reason why the film was nominated for six Academy Awards. I’m man enough to admit I shed a few tears in the end. Moneyball’s true story is precisely one of the reasons why I love sports.
- Miracle (2004)
Disney could not have done a better job capturing one of the greatest moments in sports history. Like I stated above, based on a true story movie, intrigues me. Also, coming from a huge hockey family, and personally playing two years of varsity hockey (no big deal), makes me able to relate on a certain level more than someone who didn’t play hockey. The cast for the team is made up of actual college hockey players. Maybe sometimes, their acting skills could have been a little bit better but that’s the only gripe I had about the movie. Kurt Russel crushed it playing Herb Brooks and nails that speech towards the end. I hope people realize how dominant the Soviets were at hockey. Back home in the U.S.S.R., the team was trained as if they were in the military. The documentary Red Army (2014) displays it real well. It was next to impossible to score a goal on them. Being at the height of the Cold War, the American team, made up of college players, should not have stood an iota of a chance. Again, a true moment in sports history that proves no matter what, never underestimate or count out a team. What the 1980 Olympic USA Men’s Hockey team achieved was absolutely a miracle.
- The Replacements (2000)
Keanu Reeves stars and leads this movie as one of my favorite names in a sports movie, Shane Falco. Just a perfect name for a great college quarterback who was known to choke in the big game. The Replacements is such a fun movie. Every scene either makes you laugh or tugs on your heartstrings. When the Washington Sentinals’ football team goes on strike and the new ragtag group of players is assembled, instantly you want them to win. A true underdog story. Keanu’s character every viewer can empathize with. Somebody who has had bad luck with their dreams. Most of us wish in life we could get a second chance at something. That’s what makes this movie pure. It is also a second chance film. The gang of new football players put together, all have a hysterical background. Great job by John Favreau playing a psychopathic linebacker. Kudos to Gene Hackman playing the motivational coach who always
has his teams back. I want it to be also known that I’m a simp for Brooke Langton, the head cheerleader.
- Mystery Alaska (1999)
If you ask most hockey players what their favorite hockey movie is, this isn’t even brought up. Another all-star list of actors and actresses. Russel Crowe, Burt Reynolds, Hank Azaria, Colm Meany, Maury Chalkin, and a few great cameos by the end, no spoilers. In the small town of Mystery, Alaska they have a regularized 4 on 4 hockey game played on open ice. It's a long-running tradition. In this town, you learn how to skate before you learn to walk. Mystery holds arguably the best group of hockey players that no one knows about. The whole town shows up for the big game each week. Russel Crowe’s character (The Sheriff of the town) is getting aged out of the game. A new high schooler who is dating Crowe’s daughter is next to start. Everything takes a huge turn when a former town member (Hank Azaria) brings a huge opportunity to the community. A chance to play the New York Rangers in an exhibition game on Mystery’s home rink. The problem being, it will be on the pond but, 5 on 5 hockey. The rink has boards, blue lines, red lines and played with NHL rules. There are a lot of funny scenes that have to do with hockey culture. It’s an underdog story. Russel Crowe is back on the team as Captain. Is Mystery's team good enough to be an NHL team? In my opinion, Mystery Alaska is not only the most underrated hockey movie of all time. But that is the most underrated sports movie of all time.
- The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)
Bill Paxton brings us back more than a century ago to 1913. Based on a true story of, the greatest match of golf ever played. Set in Brooklin MA, Francis Ouimet (Shia Lebouf) grows up in a very poor Irish family. At the young age of seven, he gets to meet Harry Vardon and accepts to hit a drive in front of him at a golf expo. His swing is perfect and the crowd goes wild with applause and laughter. After that, Francis was in love with the world of golf. Francis dedicates his whole life to golf from there on out. As a teenager, he excelled in the game of golf. His dedication and work ethic (at a golf shop) pay off as local golfers find a way to get him in the US Open. The course the Open is played on? His home course of Brookline, which is directly across the street from his house. Despite his father not seeing eye to eye with his dream, Francis plays the Open, at age 20. Francis achieves something no one has ever done in the history of golf. Also, one of the best underdog stories in sports to happen. He is playing against Harry Vardon and other well-known champions of golf, at the time. For people in love with golf like myself, I have it as my favorite all-time golf movie. Even if you aren't a fan of golf, you will love this journey.
- Any Given Sunday (1999)
Al Pacino’s speech at the end is all time. Number one thing to mention when talking about this movie. My hockey team would play it in the locker room before a rivalry game. I’m assuming by now, at this point in the list, you know the movies. The whole dynamic of, “the washed-up coach”, “the veteran quarterback on his last lap”, “the Hollywood receiver”, and “the cocky rookie quarterback”, is displayed dramatically. Steaming Willie Beamen’s journey throughout the season follows a hero story arc so well. The take on football in this movie is dark. Especially, when you add in the unethical team doctors and the lazier take on concussions. I do agree, the part with “the eye” is pretty absurd but jarring nonetheless. Any Given Sunday was the first serious role Jamie Foxx stared in. Known as a comedic actor, he shows the range we have all come to know him for today. This is one of those films that are close to me personally. I started taking sports a lot more seriously at my age in time. Any Given Sunday woke me up to how professional sports could be. It also, got me fired up to play.
- Remember the Titans (1999)
Disney is back on the list but this time with football. Taking place in the racial powder keg era of 1971. Set in Virginia, which was a state that still had a lot of racist views towards African-Americans. A white football team is forced to join a black team. This was the first time in Virginia's history such would happen. Being done by Disney, the film doesn’t get too aggressive with race hate, but as much as you can for a PG film. Being as young as I was, this was one of my first insights into America’s dark and hateful history. I had never really seen with my own eyes a racist act, or understand racism. One of the best soundtracks to a movie that brings you to the recent period in time. I mean what else can I say? It’s Remember the Titans! I laughed, I got angry, I cried and I cheered. The movie takes you on a rollercoaster. I could name the actors and characters who did a beautiful acting job but you must know them. One of the better ones although needed mentioning was a young Hayden Panettiere. Every time she was shown on the screen she stole the show. Always remember the titans and, “Left side, strong side.”
- Rocky IV (1985)
Did you think I would forget? Is he really not going to mention a Rocky movie? Where is Rocky Balboa on this list? He’s right here buddy sitting at the top spot. “If I can change, you can change, we all can change!” Be it my favorite Rocky, and arguably the best one in its series. Right from the beginning, the score is set and we are ready for war. Not a Cold War, which Rocky feasibly ends after his fight. The montages are perfect, the soundtrack perfect, the villain perfect, the time setting perfect. I know some might say Rocky I or even Creed needs to be mentioned. I agree they are just as great, but not to me. Sylvester Stallone, who wrote all of the
Rocky series, gives one of his best performances of all time. That’s saying something. Most film series start to get stale after the second or third, not Rocky. The fourth is the best. We will not talk about Rocky V and I have removed it from cannon in my mind. Rocky IV is one of the movies when it is on tv, your watching. The juxtaposition of the USA and U.S.S.R. through training montages really sticks out. It paints the picture of the cold war perfectly. True American grit verse totalitarian muscle and ingenuity. As I said, Rocky just may have ended the Cold War in 12 rounds. Never has there ever, been a better sports film made (to me).
Alrighty then! That’s my list. I’m ready for the hate. As always leave me a comment on what I missed? Why I suck? And just maybe, how you agree? This is my first blog for Wildchat and I’m not sure if there will be another after this. Oh well, “If it dies, it dies.”