There are thousands of movies in the world, millions even. Movies that make us cry, make us cheer, make us laugh, and make us angry. There are movies based on true stories and movies created entirely by the minds of a few. Sport movies, the classics and the more recent additions, can make us feel a myriad of emotions, taking us on an emotionally twisted roller coaster ride.
Together, we tried to generate a top 5 list of the best all-time sport movies, but we failed. We could agree upon approximately 25 really great movies, but creating a top 5 list that we could mutually agree upon, that was just too hard. Instead, we decided to highlight three movies we agreed were the best, and then we each included one movie that we didn’t agree upon to round out a compilation top 5.
Growing up, we all had an experience like that of the sandlot. We either were Scotty Smalls – the awkward kid who wants to join in but really has no idea what he’s doing (Baby Ruth…come on Smalls), we were one of the team – happy to have something to do and friends to do it with (they were all “part of the game,” remember?), or we were Benny Rodriquez – the guy who is revered as a hero and legend on the field but knows that it’s about more than just the game (as The Babe said “follow your heart kid, and you’ll never go wrong”).
This movie, unlike a lot of the big blockbuster sport movies, centres around the game; it’s all about baseball – playing the game, talking about the game, saving a prized baseball from a beast of a dog – every aspect of the movie is about the game, which is what we love. This movie lacks gimmicks and big name actors, it’s about kids being kids and doing what they love in the heat of the summer (a feeling we can all relate to in some way or another). This movie is our childhoods wrapped up in 101 minutes, with a few iconic quotes mixed in there (if you aren’t telling people “you’re killing me Smalls” at least once a week, you simply aren’t living).
It’s because of its inherent cheesiness, childishness, and pure fun that we have to include it as one of our top 5 favourite sport movies. Plus, for a lot of us, The Sandlot was the first sport movie we ever saw and who wouldn’t love the movie that started a lifelong passion?
Remember the Titans
This movie is about more than just the game of football, it’s about race relations and it’s about equality. It’s about taking a group of individuals and turning them into a team. It’s about boys becoming men, and realizing that the world and life isn’t always fair. It’s about learning to overcome diversity and prejudice. You don’t need to relate to this story – we know some people do but this isn’t our history, and it’s not our story – to understand it, we know why it’s important, we get that what we’re watching is based on a true story and real people.
The story is history, but underneath it, it’s a heart-warming tale about family and football. These boys do grow into men who overcome and rise above their town’s prejudice to become a football team, a great football team at that. The first few seconds of the movie, video of falling leaves, immediately transports you to the fall, when football season is getting underway – and you never look back. You’re taken on a journey through time and you become a member of Alexandria, Virginia for the full 113 minutes.
You laugh at little Sheryl Yoast. You find yourself cheering “Left Side!” “Strong Side!” along with Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell. You can’t help yourself but tear up when Bertier tells his nurse, “Alice, are you blind? Don’t you see the family resemblance? That’s my brother.” Because, you get it. That is his brother. They are family. The Titans are a family on and off the field, through the good times and the bad. If that doesn’t make your heart swell, then we don’t know what will.
When we talk about true stories in sport movies, few are better than Coach Carter. Coach Ken Carter is a hero – a man unafraid of repercussions and angering others. He faces a group of boys who don’t respect themselves, their families, or the game of basketball. Their city, school, and neighbourhood expect these boys to fail – dropping out of school and winding up in jail. These boys are not supposed to succeed; they are supposed to amount to nothing. But Coach Carter cannot let them fail – he does not let them fail.
Instead, Coach Carter transforms these boys into men. He teaches them what it means to respect themselves. Through his teachings, they learn that they do not have to fail. That wanting to succeed and wanting to be better than what people believe they can amount to is okay – great even! He forces them to be accountable – to themselves, their families, their teachers, their teammates, and to him. He becomes a voice of hope, all while pushing them to strive to be more – pushing them to their very limits, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Coach Ken Carter is the kind of person we all strive to be, a man whose ideals and beliefs cannot be shaken. And because of him, we fall in love with this movie. We fall in love with this team and their Cinderella story ascent to greatness at the Bayhill tournament. Only to be let down mere minutes later when we see that the players have not been keeping their grades up, forcing Coach Carter to lock the gym. A risky move – one that garners a ton of negative media attention – that gains the respect of his athletes. They learn that, for once, someone in their lives is fighting to give them better and brighter futures.
Some may argue that this movie lacks the typical Cinderella story ending that we so often associate with sport movies, but we beg to differ. How is it not a Cinderella story when so many of these boys that were destined to amount to nothing gained college scholarships? That these boys who were expected to drop out of school completed their college degrees and went on to have better lives? That’s a true Cinderella story and this movie, it gets us every time.
Chris’ Pick: Moneyball
Perhaps not the most common of choices for a top sports movie of all-time, and perhaps based on a series of numbers and statistics and calculations that some may not agree with, but this movie is a favourite for so many reasons. Beyond the fact that the subject matter is one that has legitimately impacted the sport to this day and changed countless people’s way of thinking, the movie also brings in so many components that showcase why sport films are one of the most awe-inspiring genres.
There is a clear underdog, and even in knowing exactly how the season plays out before even hitting play, one can’t help but be swept up in the scrappy, monetarily meek, rag-tag group of players and personnel that make up the 2002 Oakland A’s squad. There are moments that can be looked back on and remembered, well after the final credits roll, including Scott Hatteberg’s walk-off home run to cap off the 20 game win streak, the changing of the guard in the draft room that left the experienced scouts baffled by the notion of “just getting on base”, and of course, when Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) leaves us with one simple question that solidifies so many great memories both on and off the field – “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
Sure, the biggest and brightest stars are the ones who make the most noteworthy splash. The names that people will remember from the Athletics won’t be the unsung heroes of converted 1B Scott Hatteberg, side arm reliever Chad Bradford, or past-his-prime David Justice. But that’s why a movie like Moneyball can be so great. It can shed light on the ones who may otherwise get overlooked or forgotten. Similarly, just like it is easy to focus on a powerhouse like the New York Yankees because they dole out the dough, doesn’t mean the lowly Oakland Athletics should be overlooked, even if they are below the “rich teams, the poor teams, and fifty feet of crap.”
Katelyn’s Pick: D2: The Mighty Ducks
The problem with choosing this movie is we just talked about it in the #NHLMovieNight post, but this is my all-time favourite. I know every word, every sound effect, every single moment of this movie. Sure it lacks the emotional intensity of Remember the Titans and Coach Carter, but movies don’t always have to pull on our heartstrings. Sometimes, movies can be fun, and I dare anyone to watch D2 and not have fun!
From classic one liners (“I’m no lady. I’m a duck!”) to ridiculous pranks (maybe I’m the only one who still laughs at their drive-thru jokes on Rodeo Drive), this movie is the perfect “sit back, relax, and just enjoy” type of movie. You aren’t asked to think introspectively throughout. It doesn’t require any serious concentration. All it asks is that you spend a little time and enjoy the silliness. But, if it was just a silly movie, it would not be one of my favourites.
I’ve already included my favourite line (“I’m no lady. I’m a duck!”) because, yes, even Disney movies can include a brief moment of female empowerment. And then, of course, you can’t ignore the moment Charlie Conway gives up his spot in the gold medal game to allow all of his teammates to take to the ice. It seems silly, but that’s a huge moment. Better yet, when the team is down in the second intermission, and all hope is lost, what do they do? There’s an inspiring speech. Is the speech just done by the coach or captain like it is in almost all other sport movies? No! The speech isn’t complete without the voice and participation of every single member of that team. That is what makes it great. Sure, a lot of sport movies are about uniting a team, but this is a sport movie about uniting a team (comprised of both boys and girls) when all hope is lost.
Yes the shootout is silly. No, no coach in their right mind would ever pull a cold goalie off the bench to face the tournament’s leading scorer to win the game. But that’s not important. This movie is pure fun but has a hidden message and “warm fuzziness” that many miss, and perhaps that’s why it’s never included in anyone else’s top 5 – or maybe I’m just crazy and have never truly grown up. But if that’s the case, then I don’t want to ever grow up. D2 is, and will always be, a movie that I turn to time and time again. When I feel alone or need a pick me up, I can always remember that “ducks fly together!”