Whether they remain hard-hitting or slip into sentimentality and even predictability, there is a certain appeal with the sports movie that cannot be found anywhere else. Often inspiring, these films can get the heart racing and adrenaline pumping, and before you know it you’re barracking for a team you’ve never heard of in a sport you’d never previously cared about.
There is always an underdog, an impossible victory that just maybe is within grasp and a goal or maneuverer on the final siren. Originality may not always be at the forefront, but considering true stories are often used as the foundation this makes sense.
These five films represent some of the best this genre has to offer.
For Eddie’s 5 Must-See Sports movies click here.
Plot summaries from IMDb. Reviews by Jordan
5. The Wrestler (2008)
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky. Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
A faded professional wrestler must retire, but finds his quest for a new life outside the ring a dispiriting struggle.
The Wrestler brought the singular acting talents of Mickey Rourke back to public consciousness, and is an intimate portrait of one man’s self-destructive obsession to retain what he sees as his identity. Strong support is offered from Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood in a heart-breaking film that paints sport as the hero and the villain.
4. Green Street Hooligans (2005)
Directed by: Lexi Alexander. Starring: Elijah Wood, Charlie Hunnam, Claire Forlani
A wrongfully expelled Harvard undergrad moves to London, where he is introduced to the violent underworld of football hooliganism.
More than likely uninteresting to those unfamiliar with it’s subject matter, and best watched when young enough for the needless violence to not yet seem unsettling, Lexi Alexander’s insight into London football firms is still a favourite film to many and made with an energy that announces itself through the celebrations and the brawls.
3. Goon (2011)
Directed by: Michael Dowse. Starring: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill
Labeled an outcast by his brainy family, a bouncer overcomes long odds to lead a team of under performing misfits to semi-pro hockey glory, beating the crap out of everything that stands in his way.
What’s most surprising about Goon is that in between the bloody on-field brawls and rapid-fire ice hockey vlogging there is a beating heart tied to a relationship that offers a complete film experience. Sean William Scott has arguably his finest moment as Doug Glatt, a bouncer turned enforcer hoping to play his part for the Halifax Highlanders in it’s quest for relevance, even if he has no teeth by the time the qualifiers come around.
2. The Hustler (1961)
Directed by: Robert Rossen Starring: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie
An up-and-coming pool player plays a long-time champion in a single high-stakes match.
The Hustler is an immaculate, tense window into the high stakes world of competitive pool, in which much is risked for the ultimate prize of not only money, but bankable pride. Being filmed on location in New York City lends Robert Rossen’s classic a lasting atmosphere, and not until you see this can you realise how damaging broken thumbs can be.
1. Hoosiers (1986)
Directed by: David Anspaugh. Starring: Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper, Barbara Hershey
A coach with a checkered past and a local drunk train a small town high school basketball team to become a top contender for the championship.
Hoosiers is the archetype sports movie: once great team, controversial new coach, mysterious star player, but what makes it great is its earnestness and authenticity, in both location and character. Gene Hackman stars in an underrated role of his, but it is Dennis Hopper who stands out, with his performance as the town drunk (to completely generalise the character) helping to lead the small-town Indiana high school basketball team to victory earning him his sole award nomination for acting at the Academy Awards.
This is also Ron Swanson’s favourite movie, so you better believe its good.
Honourable mentions: Miracle, Raging Bull, Remember the Titans, Warrior