Ah, the Sports Movie, a genre so dependable we know all the tropes: inspirational speeches delivered by grizzled coaches, basketballs swishing through nets just as the buzzers sound, the underdogs who score the winning goals, and the opponents who eventually learn they’re more alike than different. Yeah, they can be predictable. But isn’t that what we love about them? When we turn on a film that revolves around athletic endeavors, we expect to see characters overcoming adversities and pushing themselves past physical and mental limits. We want the hard-fought happy ending. Also, how can we really blame filmmakers for indulging in cliches when so many of our favorite sports movies are based on true stories? When we’re feeling down and in need of a pick-me-up, these are the types of films that remind us we are stronger than we know.
Of course, we have to acknowledge the elephant on the page: any time a real event is translated into a fictional rendering, there’s always going to be a certain degree of freewheeling with the facts. If you’re watching any of these films for a lesson in history, proceed with caution and supplement your viewing with quality resources on the topic.**
At the end of 2015, Laura Depta of Bleacher Report published the “13 Best Sports Movies Based on Real-Life Stories,” and several of my personal favorites made the cut, including: Remember the Titans, Cinderella Man, and Miracle. Each of these films represent a different sport (football, boxing, and hockey, respectively), which brings up another great reason why sports films in general are crowd-pleasers: the variety! For nearly any professional sport, there’s a feature film to depict its highs and lows: Figure Skating (The Cutting Edge, Ice Castles, Ice Princess, and several classic films starring real-life figure Sonja Henie), Soccer (Bend it Like Beckham, which I have seen oh…twenty times? Thirty times?), Basketball (Hoosiers, Glory Road, The Mighty Macs, Coach Carter, Love & Basketball), Track and Field (Chariots of Fire, McFarland USA), Cycling (Breaking Away, The Flying Scotsman), and Roller Derby (Whip It!). I even found a 2002 comedy starring Leslie Nielsen titled Men with Brooms, which is about four men who form a curling team (Curling….perhaps the most enigmatic event of the Winter Olympics, at least for us Long Islanders).
Then there are the films that revolve around the behind-the-scenes action of athletics, including Jerry Maguire, Two for the Money, and Moneyball, the latter of which was mentioned in our previous post “Books for Sports Fans” I’m not going to belabor the discussion of book-to-film adaptations, because I think we covered a decent amount of ground there, but I would like to say this: I really love Field of Dreams. I especially love Shoeless Joe’s monologue about the old days of baseball, and Doctor “Moonlight” Graham’s explanation of what he would wish for if there was “enough magic out there in the moonlight,” and for obvious reasons I love Annie’s impassioned speech against censorship. I understand it requires a complete suspension of disbelief, but hey, I also love The Lake House and the entire plot of that film revolves around a magical mailbox.
Remember a couple of minutes ago (give or take, depending on how fast you read) when I warned that feature films based on true stories often bend the truth here or there? I stand by that recommendation and suggest that if you want your sports stories told first-hand with facts and from the perspectives of those involved, you should check out some of the great documentaries featured on Complex’s list of the “25 Greatest Sports Documentaries of All Time,” such as Hoop Dreams, Dogtown and Z-Boys, and When We Were Kings (especially poignant as we continue to honor the late, great Muhammad Ali). Also, we shouldn’t overlook 30 for 30, the stellar documentary series produced by ESPN (this is the part of the post when most of the men reading this groan, like Duh).
Despite this avalanche of sports-related films, viewers keep demanding more and Hollywood obeys. Recent DVD releases include Eddie the Eagle and Concussion, which both continue the tradition of the sports biopic (others include: The Express, The Pride of the Yankees, The Hurricane, and Ali). It was just today that I watched the trailer for The Hurt Business, a forthcoming documentary about the inside world of MMA (Mixed-Martial Arts).
This summer, as you stay engaged in our Summer Reading Programs that revolve around athletics and overall wellness, take some time to chill inside with one of these inspirational films. To learn about more picks that I just didn’t have the space to highlight, visit IMDB for this ranking of the 100 Best Sports Movies.
Happy Reading and Viewing,
**Do you know who can help you go through all the online and print information and help you to find reliable sources? LIBRARIANS!