If you’re like me, you have really skinny ankles, a fear of suckers and all things sticky, and an undying love for sports movies. You know, the ones with the inspiring music, the down-and-out team/player and the euphoric ending.
Today I’d thought I’d give you a rundown of my top-five jock flicks (yes, of course, you’re welcome). If you don’t agree, please send an angry letter to 123 Fake Street to air your grievances.
Here we go…(in reverse order).
Some people remember Dennis Hopper as the eyepatch-wearing, cigarette-smoking pirate in the 1995 movie Waterworld. But I’ll always think of him as the basketball-obsessed, heartbreakingly-alcoholic dad in Hoosiers.
This all-time classic is a trip back in time to small-town Indiana in 1951. No detail is spared, and everything feels authentic to the time period -- from the shiny yellow uniforms, to the musty old gymnasiums you can almost smell, to the players themselves, who seem to have been cryogenically frozen in the 50’s and thawed out for filming.
It’s got great music (by Jerry Goldsmith, more on him later), great storytelling and, oh yeah, Gene Hackman who delivers what is, in my opinion, the best performance of his career as coach Norman Dale.
#4 Rocky IV
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) gets punched in the face approximately 47 times by a muscle-bound Russian boxer named Ivan Drago. And doesn’t die. That’s the premise of Rocky IV, which came out in 1985 and won my heart from a young age.
I’m not sure this movie is for everyone, but for a 14-year-old at a sleepover, it’s as good as it gets. There’s punching, cool cars, punching, a montage of Rocky training in the middle of Siberia while Drago gets pumped full of roids, punching, punching, and finally, punching.
Like I said, as good as it gets.
Conversely, Moneyball is a “sports movie” that even non-sports fans can enjoy. Why? For starters, you’ve got the ultra-hunky (not that I would know) and charismatic Brad Pitt, who is fantastic as Billy Beane, the forward-thinking general manager of the Oakland A’s.
Then, you’ve got the story, which is about a small market, low-budget baseball team (think small business) trying to compete with much wealthier, big-city franchises (think major corporation). And then, you’ve got an amazing screenplay by the master Aaron Sorkin of West Wing fame. (The dude can make anything interesting, yes, even baseball, ye smarty-pants unenlightened.)
If you like sports, you’ll love Moneyball. If you hate sports, you’ll at least find it tolerable.
#2 Field of Dreams
The runner-up on my list is a movie about dead people coming out of cornfields carrying baseball bats. But instead of wreaking death and destruction on the local community, they just want to play a friendly game of nine-on-nine.
Field of Dreams is the story of Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer who starts hearing voices (“If you build it, he will come”) and decides to construct a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield, much to the chagrin of his local community, brother-in-law and psychologist.
This 1989 film captures the mysticism and magic of baseball better than any movie I’ve ever seen, with one of the most satisfying endings of all time (have some Kleenex handy). Plus, Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are … [enter superlative here].
If you’re looking for the ultimate underdog story, that’s actually good and not painfully sappy, look no further than Rudy, a 1993 film about a Notre Dame football player whose playing career lasted all of two plays and 27 seconds.
Of course, the movie isn’t just about those two plays (c’mon that would be WAY too short and everyone would ask for a refund). It’s about all the hard work and never-giving-up that came before.
Two things stand out to me about this movie. #1 is the incredible soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith. “Tryouts”, one of the main songs, was used as the official theme of John McCain’s presidential campaign and has been featured in 12 trailers, including Seabiscuit and Good Will Hunting. If you’re ever feeling down in the dumps, give it a listen. See if it doesn’t put some pep in your step.
#2 is the acting. That starts with Sean Astin who oozes heart and underdog-iness and is absolutely perfect as the good-natured yet fiercely determined lead character. There are also great performances by John Favreau as Rudy’s tutor and eventual friend; Ned Beatty as Rudy’s dad who doubts his son and his crazy dreams; and Charles S. Dutton, a former ND player turned stadium groundskeeper who mentors the undersized defensive end. (Bonus: see if you can spot a much younger and slimmer Vince Vaughn. It took me years to recognize him.)
Rudy has everything you want in a sports movie, or any other movie for that matter. A great story, awesome acting, wonderful music and lots of heart. All of which makes it hard to beat.
The Pride of the Yankees
Major League 2
Angels in the Outfield