Best Sports Films Ever

Best Sports Films Ever

By Pat Battistini
Originally posted Apr 15, 2011 on our sister blog.

First let me say that there is no such thing as the “Best”.  The reason is because you’ll ask 100 people and the answers will be all over the place.  So the bottom line is that the “best” is what you think is the “best”.

Just because The Blind Side won all kinds of praise doesn’t mean you have to like it.  In fact, as a sports fan, I loathed it.  Even though it’s “entertainment”, sports fans need to draw the line somewhere.  My line was drawn when Sandra Bullock walked out on to the practice field to give “Michael” his blocking assignment and motivation.  Anyone who has spent one day on any type of practice field knows that a coach would never go for this.  It was just ridiculous – border line of stupid.  I know it’s Hollywood doing it’s job but it was trying too hard.

Most of the sports genre films out there have great qualities to them.  I just watched “Secretariat” the other day and found it quite entertaining.  Even though there are many “cliche” moments in the film and you know how it turns out, it kept my interest.  I remind myself all the time that these films aren’t a solid biography, but entertainment.

Most of my favorites have two common denominators in them – the writing and acting.  Yeah, yeah, so what else is left?  A lot.  If you don’t have knowledge of the story and can’t get the actors on the same page as the filmmaker’s vision – it’s gonna be a train wreck.

Here are a few of my favs (and not so favs) with a few quick notes:

Cinderella Man is another great film.  I could have used less Renee Zellweger but that’s just me.  But Russell Crowe is awesome in it.

I thought The Express was done well but again, a few too many “cliche” moments in it for me.  (I mean cliche as in the moment somebody does the traditional “point” at the opposing player or coach – yawn – that’s why I thought Remember the Titans was poorly done.)

You have to throw in Pride of the Yankees as a pure sports fan.  The movie reflects the filmmaking process at the time, (which seemed amateurish), but you have to overlook that to enjoy the subject matter.

“Rudy” & “Hoosiers” – Anspaugh and Pizzo do a great job with both of these.  Lots of fun characters to root for.  Sean Astin brought that role to the table.  I’ll watch “Hoosiers” anytime it comes on.  Didn’t like the Gene Hackman – Barbara Hersey chemistry but that’s me.  Dennis Hopper – please!  Awesome.

“Sea Biscuit” another horse movie done well.  Toby McGuire raised the bar in it.

“The Natural” – Redford’s Best – IMO.

I’d like to throw Dennis Quaid’s name in there just for his films as a wonderful actor – “The Express” and “The Rookie.”

I’ll quit my rambling with the “Miracle”.  Fun film to watch.  Again, we know the outcome, but it gives you goosebumps.  Kurt Russell was a pleasure to watch and the support of the actor’s busting their nuts to make the scenes look real added to the essence of the film.

This post was written by
Founder and President of the All Sports Film Festival, Pat began his career as an assistant college football coach. In the decades that followed, he directed several short films, wrote several screenplays, acted on television, started a family and this film festival.

2 Comments on "Best Sports Films Ever"

  • Sam Goldberg says

    Hi Pat,
    Great list! Here are some of my favorites:
    - Chariots of Fire
    - Rudy
    - Slap Shot
    - Raging Bull
    - The Natural
    - Bull Durham
    - Field of Dreams
    - Rocky

  • Don says

    Hi Pat: You are right about one man’s love is another man’s hate. Most people would include Bull Durham on their list. I however liked “Long Gone” much better. It’s similar to Bull but it was a made for TV movie that came out the year before Bull Durham hit the theaters. One thing that does bother me about sports movies, baseball in particular, is deviating from the rules of the game. In two cute little baseball movies (Little Big League and Rookie of the Year) both kids movies, the climactic scenes use clear violations of the rules in order to reach their climax. In Little Big League it’s a play on the hidden ball trick with the pitcher on the mound faking a throw to first, also known as a Balk with the runner (played not so brilliantly by Ken Griffey, Jr.) being awarded the next base, only they don’t call a Balk, they allow him to be tagged out. In Rookie of the Year, the pitcher gets to drop the ball while standing on the mound. Also a Balk. I know that the Balk rule is a little confusing but don’t they have baseball consultants to tell them these things? I can’t wait for the next one where the hitter gets five strikes instead of three so we can build the drama before he hits the game-winning-walk-off ten run homer!

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