Ten Sport Film Greats
As previously discussed in our sports editorial, filmmaking and this competitive community merge perfectly well together. With so many important sporting events going on, it might be time to look at ten of the best films to represent sports. Which work will come out on top? Who will even make the cut? Which films enhance sports in a whole new light? Which sports affected film in a similar way? See? We're already getting competitive. Here are ten of the best sports films out there.
10. Breaking Away
Sports can resemble life, too. In Peter Yates' Breaking Away, we remark on the rapid pace of aging (and maturation) through the speed of cycle racing. Sometimes we force ourselves to go ahead so quickly, we don't bother to see how hurt we are when we fall. It's all about getting up and moving on.
9. The Hustler
Look. The Color of Money is pretty good (plus it got Paul Newman a much deserved Best Actor Academy Award), but we all know The Hustler is the real deal. Is this the film that made pool cool? Who knows, but it definitely made our hairs stand in end. It's sleek, nerve wracking, and magnetic (down to the last pop ball being sunk).
8. Million Dollar Baby
What I don't think enough people bring up is how alike Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby are (both obviously directed by Clint Eastwood). We have the encroaching death of a genre (the sports film), the young pupil willing to take part in the final days (this time, it's a female fighter up against a sexist industry), and the ultimate devastation of an ending. In Unforgiven, it's the realization that a heart can hate. In Baby, it's that the heart had love all along.
7. Bull Durham
It was inevitable that some Kevin Costner baseball flick made it here. In Bull Durham, we don't have to build and wait. The action is right there. Hearts are booming and broken. Baseballs go flying and bases are stolen. This is one of the many examples of these kinds of films mixing social life with a sport quite well, because Crash Davis is clearly fixated on both.
6. The Champion
It might be weird to include a short, but Charlie Chaplin's The Champion affected every goofy sports film to ever come after. If anything, the frame rate almost became a focal point for timing in subsequent films. The sloppiness of a beginner next to a professional athlete may never have been captured as gloriously as this quickie.
5. The Wrestler
Yes. Wrestling will count as a sport, because we need to bring up The Wrestler. One of the great visceral films of the new millennium, this film is all about self sabotage. With a full-on performance by Mickey Rourke that will rip your heart to pieces (mostly because the majority of his problems are self inflicted), this is what it means to be rock bottom in the world, but on top in your dreams.
4. The Pride of the Yankees
Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig. Teresa Wright as Eleanor Gehrig. Babe Ruth as himself?! You may not find a better baseball film. The Pride of the Yankees remembers that the great American sport brings people together, and that passion comes from the heart. So it balances its biographical take with the thrill of the sport effortlessly; it's a true home run.
3. Hoop Dreams
This documentary is the capturing of every emotion a human can muster, and it does so in three hours. Hoop Dreams follows two aspiring basketball players that want to make it to the NBA, but everything in life is holding them back. The drive this film has, as perseverance takes the wheel, is unlike what you would find in most sports documentaries. This is authentic. This is hard hitting. This is glory.
2. Olympia 1 and 2
Forget how revolutionary these two films are. That is a whole story in and of itself. Olympia just is an absolute experience to behold. By the time you witness all of the sporting events, the staged openings, the ceremonies and more, you may actually be mad this wasn't longer.
1. Raging Bull
The ultimate destruction of self. The fighting with loved ones. The indulgences of the underworld. Raging Bull is beautifully hideous. The devotion to how much a champion can strip himself of his own title is impossible to ignore. Martin Scorsese made this film thinking it was going to be his last (he was dealing with addictions at the time), and it shows. Not many films feature this amount of patience and care. Raging Bull is the opus of sports films, because its filmmaker fought himself like the subject (boxer Jake LaMotta). It was a pairing made in heaven.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.