Best Sports Movies
The Baseball Hall of Fame might not want Tim Robbins and Sarandon (or their liberal politics) on display at Cooperstown, but as wild-armed pitcher Nuke LaLoosh and a philosophizing Baseball Annie named Annie, they are assured of celluloid immortality. Some of the best-remembered scenes (particularly the candlesticks-make-a-nice-gift mound conference) strain credulity, but writer-director (and former minor leaguer) Ron Shelton has superb storytelling chops. Best of all, Costner, as crafty catcher Crash Davis, is a team player, having not yet maxed out on the self-importance scale.<br><br>Follow the link on the last frame for a list of our other favorites and to tell us yours.
Million Dollar Baby
A gut-wrenchingly powerful film in which every emotional and physical risk the characters take makes the fist around the viewer's heart tighten a little more. It's well directed, well written and well acted; it's inspiring, touching and devastating.
Bend it like Beckham
The movie does an admirable job representing the sometimes grueling, sometimes hilarious on-pitch moments of a would-be footballer, but it does an even better job exploring the familial and societal prejudices and preconceived notions that that would-be footballer has to overcome when she's a girl of East Asian decent.
Though the fight scenes are full of eye-popping, cringe-inducing jabs and hooks, it is the emotional and spiritual damage inflicted on the characters that drives the film.
Viewers know this film is full of clichés, sentimental moments and idealized characters, but they don't care, because in the film a home run is also a thing of remarkable beauty, a bat is a tool fit for a god and the spirit and mystique of the national pastime are just as sweet as Roy Hobbs' redemption.
When the Depression sucked the life out of America, the country needed something in which to believe. Enter Seabiscuit, a small horse with little name-recognition or pedigree but a lot of heart. Watching Seabiscuit and his crew on the screen is as romantic and inspiring for the movie-goer as it must have been for those who saw it all happen for real.
In America's bicentennial year Rocky Balboa became the first of the post-Vietnam War heroes, a frenzied expression of old-fashioned individualism. A slow-on-the-uptake palooka who gets a chance to survive a fight with the heavyweight champ (Apollo Creed, played with panache by Weathers), Balboa has a Philadelphia story with heart and purity and just enough cruelty for resonance. Stallone informed his loser with a colossal goofiness that was impossible not to watch. He was so convincingly sincere that audiences actually jumped up and screamed for him to win.
A fight film like no other, it charges at you headfirst, the way its savage protagonist did in the ring. Adapted from Jake La Motta's candid confessions and filmed in garish black-and-white, Raging Bull is a sort of anti-Rocky. Director Martin Scorsese presents La Motta's bouts as masterly edited one-act miniatures and goes toe-to-toe with fight-film cliches: He neither romanticizes La Motta nor "explains" the anger that drives the champ inside and outside the ring. De Niro's unsparing portrait of this opaque, repellent villain is poignant in its precision--even his silences are smoldering.
It's almost three hours long but director Steve James's saga of Chicago basketball stars William Gates and Arthur Agee is worth every minute. An air of dread hangs over this cautionary tale, as its protagonists confront the inevitable disappointments of hoops after high school.
Newman's hockey coach, Reggie Dunlop, revives a deadbeat minor league team by recruiting the hard-checking, high-sticking Hanson brothers. Eyes obscured by taped-up glasses, fists swathed in tinfoil, these geeky goons revel in dirty play. So does the audience.
Jack Nicholson was first choice to play coach Norman Dale, but he declined. Just as well: It's hard to imagine anyone other than Hackman goading his eight-man Hickory High team. So what if Indiana hoops history was slightly rewritten for this uplifting upset?
Intended as Nazi propaganda, Leni Riefenstahl's film is also a lyrical account of the Berlin Olympics. Critic Pauline Kael called it an elegy on youth, "dedicated to the highest ideals of sportsmanship--these young men who were so soon to kill each other."
This boy-meets-bike classic kickstands the test of time. Dooley is hilarious as a refundphobic used-car salesman, but this is above all a career movie for Christopher, who croons arias and pedals to an exciting finish against snooty college boys in the Little 500.
Chariots of Fire
It's amazing that a movie about Caucasian sprinters, some of whom look slow even for the 1924 Olympics, won the Academy Award for best picture in the go-go '80s. But there's so much heart at the finish line that we accept the lack of soul on the blocks.
Bang the Drum Slowly
Nobody looks much like a ballplayer, least of all pitcher Moriarty and doomed, tobacco-chewing catcher De Niro. But Drum movingly hugs the foul line between myth and reality. And there's not a dry eye in the stadium as De Niro stumbles around under that final pop foul.
Dogtown and Z-Boys
A hard-core look at how surfing values and style morphed into extreme skateboarding for a ragtag gang of Southern California beach kids, this movie is also a wonderful evocation of time (the '70s) and place (Dogtown, a shoddy area of Santa Monica). Groove on the old school rock.
A League of Their Own
There may be no crying in baseball--but the game once had females, as recounted in this lightly fictionalized and spiritedly feminist account of the World War II-era women's pro league. Hanks as a fall-down-drunk skipper and Davis as a loose-limbed catcher provide the pathos.
The Endless Summer
Writer-director-narrator Bruce Brown followed surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August around the world in search of the perfect wave. The story line is small, but sweet. In this classic you can see the DNA of every surf movie that came after.
North Dallas Forty
With somewhat less splash NDF demystifies the Dallas Cowboys the way Ball Four did the New York Yankees. The action is vivid and violent, the dialogue remains fresh, and pot-smoking, pill-popping, glue-fingered wide receiver Nolte is an All-Pro antihero.
A grown-men-do-cry classic. Caan and Williams are a dream backfield as Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, of course, but the TV movie gets two extra points for casting Jack Warden (as crusty George Halas) and Shelley Fabares (as Piccolo's plucky wife, Joy).
As long as men gather to drink beer and break wind, director Harold Ramis's masterwork will be deconstructed frame by frame, including the memorable bit in which Murray provides his own play-by-play as he uses a hoe to make a shot out of a flower bed.
Adulatory, voyeuristic and engaging, this irony-pumped work dissects the grotesque subculture of men's bodybuilding. The film focuses on Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose main rival, Lou Ferrigno, is incredibly bulky but not yet Incredibly Hulky.
Eight Men Out
Auteur John Sayles tackles the 1919 Black Sox scandal, telling the complex story completely. He gets brilliant, understated performances out of Strathairn (as game-fixing pitcher Eddie Cicotte) and Cusack (as apparently innocent third baseman Buck Weaver).
Remember the Titans
No cliche is overlooked in this fact-based Disney movie detailing the integration of a Virginia high school and its football team in 1971. But Washington (as the black coach put in charge) and Patton (as the white coach who has to swallow his pride) are terrific.