It’s been a while, but I finally finished the list, here are the top 5 Sports Movies of all time according to me. But by all means, tell me why I’m wrong!
5. Major League – Sure, you’ve got the ball scratching, the tobacco spitting, the foul language, the cursed alcohol and a thousand other crude gags and jokes. But you’ve also got a movie that gathers a band of never-was-nothing-never-will-be-nothings and gives them something to fight for, something to play for. In the face of the end, after coming to terms with the fact this team was assembled specifically because they were losers, Tom Berenger stands in front of the team and says “there’s only one thing left to do, win the whole fucking thing.” It’s not a dramatic speech that builds and crescendos. It’s not a screaming, animated monologue. It doesn’t end with roaring applause. But it fits the tone of the movie that you didn’t even know was creeping its way into your heart until that moment. As underrated as a sports movie as the players are in the sports world of ‘Major League’, including Charlie Sheen bursting onto the screen to do what he does best, play Charlie Sheen, this is a sports movie I could watch over and over again, and trust me, I have.
4. Friday Night Lights – For anyone that played high school football, no movie will take you back to those days better than ‘Friday Night Lights’. The camaraderie found on the gridiron is something you won’t find in any other sport in the world, and when young men are thrown into that world of dirt and blood and pads and sweat, the pressure you place on yourself is immeasurable. Of course, this isn’t the healthiest of places for young men to mature, as such ‘Friday Night Lights’ delves into the darkest places where this is true. But on the other side of that tunnel, win or lose, is a place only a few of us were lucky enough to see. Tim McGraw turns in the performance of a lifetime (seriously!) and as terrible as ‘Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift’ was, Lucas Black molds into the role of the quarterback with the world on his shoulders (or at least what feels like the entire world). ‘Friday Night Lights’ is an emotional roller coaster, mimicking the highs and lows of a football season and of real life. Billy Bob Thornton isn’t the best football coach, but he’s top ten at least, maybe top five. His big game speech brings the audience into the brotherhood of the football team, and gears you up for the finale to come. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s one of the best in a sports movie ever (although that goes without saying this high up on the list).
3. Field of Dreams – I know, I know, more than half of you are scoffing right now, thinking ‘how could this possibly not be number one?’ Well guess what? It’s not! While hosting the single greatest line in all of sports movies: “Wanna have a catch?” this movie uses America’s pastime as a lynchpin to intertwine a slightly confusing ghost story with a treatise on the inner confliction of one man’s past, present and future. While I’m pretty sure anyone reading this list has seen ‘Field of Dreams’, I still have a strong refusal to spoil anything, so suffice to say that when the story finally does make sense, there isn’t a dry eye in the house. Knocking it back from the top spot, though, is that confusion, that at its heart the story isn’t about sports at all. It’s a story that transcends sports, which some might argue makes it better, but I contend drops it to third on the sports movies of all time list. I don’t mean to knock, obviously this is a special movie to me, one that has stuck with me in life, one that holds up to the test of time, with moments I can still remember as vividly as if the movie were playing right now in front of me. ‘Field of Dreams’ is a movie that takes you back, a movie that makes you treasure not only every memory spent with loved ones, but every memory you’ve yet to make. If you have seen it, watch it again, and if you haven’t seen it, I charge you now, don’t eat, don’t sleep, don’t lift a finger unless it’s queuing up one of the greatest movies ever made, and the third greatest sports movie in the history of sports movies.
2. Best of the Best – A bit of a sleeper here, as I’m sure not as many have seen this as the previously mentioned movies, but this movie has it all. I cannot stress enough, however, the importance of not confusing the original with the three sequels that followed. Eric Roberts, James Earl Jones, Phillip Rhee, Sally Kirkland and Chris Penn doesn’t quite sound like an All-Star cast, but in 1989 they came together to make a cult classic that truly carries with it the lesson on how to be a winner. But despite the feature long fixation each fighter undertakes on winning the upcoming tae kwon doe tournament, winning really has nothing to do with winning (if that makes sense, it will once you’ve seen the film). Sure, this is a lesson any sports movie watcher has been told before, and since, but when it comes in this movie it comes unexpectedly, from an unlikely source, in a way that makes the viewer have to stop and think. Coming from a late 80’s montage-ridden underdog story about a team of fighters, the heartfelt message on what it means to give it your all and then stand tall when you have nothing left makes for one of the most enduring lessons for anyone lucky enough to see this movie early in life. Unlike other movies on this list, the finale doesn’t come in a battle for the state championship, or the pennant, or the Heavyweight Title. The entire movie hinges on a grudge match between Korea and The U.S., which for some reason has Ahmad Rashad commentating even though there’s no way anyone that famous would be there in real life. Yet the grudge match, by the climax of the film, means everything to the characters and the viewer and makes for an incredibly dramatic ending.
1. Rocky – What is there to say? This movie’s the shit. For anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t have a shot, for anyone who’s wanted something so far out of reach, they didn’t even know they wanted it, for anyone who ever wanted to prove they weren’t just another bum on the street, this is your movie. The 1977 Best Picture, ‘Rocky’, takes a random backyard fighter who gets his face punched in for a living and gives him one shot at glory, one chance to step into the lights and bare his soul in the ring against the Heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed. And I know I’ve said this about other films on this list, particularly the last one, but this fight isn’t about winning, it’s about digging down deep and seeing for yourself, proving to yourself, that there’s more to you than what others can see. Countless sequels aside, after a knock down, drag out, blood curdling, earth shaking war among men, the two fighters embrace with Apollo Creed telling Rocky “ain’t gonna be no rematch,” to which Rocky replies, “don’t want one.” This sums it up for me, since what’s really being said is, “don’t let anyone say you don’t belong here” and “I proved what I needed to.” The franchise often takes precedence over the original film in people’s minds, who think this and the other movies are simply one 80’s action star slow-motionly bludgeoning their fists against another’s face, but the original ‘Rocky’ in particular is so much more than that. The Patron Saint of Philadelphia taught us that all it takes is one shot to reach for the stars, that the holding onto the eye of the tiger and staying hungry is the most important aspect to giving the best you got.