They’re stories of triumph over adversity, with characters that’ll inspire anyone passionate about sport to get motivated. Some are Oscar winners, some are cult classics, but the greatest reward they all boast is that they’re fan favourites.
Remember The Titans (2000)
Sport depicted: American football
Tagline: 'They came together when their classmates and loved ones would not'.
Plot: In the early 1970s, two schools in Virginia integrate forming T.C. Williams High School. The Caucasian head coach of the Titans is replaced by an African American coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington). Tensions arise when players of different races are forced together on the same football team. However, the group of teens bond over a training trip and put their differences aside for the sake of the team. When they return to Virginia the players find the school and community in turmoil due to the forced desegregation of the high school.
Why it stands out from other sports movies: The movie’s message is that sport can bring together those fighting to unite with a common love. Based on a true story of racism, Remember the Titans is powerful and deeply moving thanks in large part to Denzel Washington and his monologues of motivation. There are even some moments of comedy to lighten the mood and remind the audience that the majority of the story is focusing on kids.
Chariots Of Fire (1981)
Sport depicted: Athletics
Tagline: 'This is the story of two men who run... not to run... but to prove something to the world. They will sacrifice anything to achieve their goals... except their honour.'
Plot: Two young British sprinters are competing for fame in the 1924 Olympics. Eric (Ian Charleson), a devout Scottish missionary, runs to please God. Harold (Ben Cross), the son of a newly rich Jew runs to prove his place in Cambridge society. In a warm-up 100m race, Eric defeats Harold, who hires a pro trainer to prepare him. Eric, whose qualifying heat is scheduled for a Sunday, refuses to run despite pressure from the Olympic committee. A compromise is reached when a nobleman allows Eric to compete in his 400m slot.
Why it stands out from other sports movies: Simply, this is a ‘will they win?’ story that gets the audience championing Eric and Harold. If you read more into the story, though, you’ll see it’s more than that, it examines what drives them to compete - it’s family, religion, society and all the other pressures we face in order to fit in. What makes the characters stand out is their bond; they’re both unselfish in wanting to win, which makes them worthy winners.
Sport depicted: Golf
Tagline: ''At last, a comedy that bites!'
Plot: Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) is a young caddy at Bushwood Country Club who sees his best chance at going to college is to earn a caddy scholarship. Judge Smails (Ted Knight) is the one awarding the scholarship so Danny sets out to befriend him. This isn’t made easy, though, when real estate tycoon Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) shows up and starts winding the Judge up. Judge Smails shows a quick disliking towards Al and soon there is a conflict between the Judge and Al, the Judge and Danny, and even the Judge and Ty Webb, the charming golfer who is slowly helping Danny figure out his real goals.
Why it stands out from other sports movies: Although a comedy, Caddyshack gives us the best of the golfing world because of its entertainment value. It’s incredibly funny because it pokes fun at stereotypes and doesn’t take itself too seriously; we all need to have a laugh and golf is the perfect back-drop for it. This movie doesn’t overtly have the traditional sports movie themes but if you look past the innuendos and humor you’ll see it’s about a young man trying to succeed in life.
Hoosiers/Best Shot (1986)
Sport depicted: Basketball
Tagline: 'They needed a second chance to finish first.'
Plot: Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) is a former college basketball coach of the Ithaca Warriors who turns up in French Lick, Indiana to coach their local high school basketball team. With a history of causing trouble he gets off to a rocky start with the school and local community. The neighbourhood don’t like Dale and try to get him fired but he soldiers on. With his experience and talent for teaching the players the small-town basketball team start to win, despite the odds against them.
Why it stands out from other sports movies: What makes this one of the most popular and best sports movies is that it isn’t just about sport but about the story of someone given a second chance in life to succeed. When it comes to the sport it’s the tale of David versus Goliath, with a small school’s basketball team defying the odds and becoming state champion. Anyone doubting their sporting ability needs to only watch this and be inspired to compete against any type of intimidating competitor.
Cool Runnings (1993)
Sport depicted: Bobsledding
Tagline: 'One dream. Four Jamaicans. Twenty below zero.'
Plot: Irving Blitzer (John Candy) disgraced himself when putting extra weights into his team’s bob in the Olympics, resulting in his gold medal being taken away from him. Years later, Derice Bannock (Leon Robinson), son to a former friend of Irv, approaches Irv and asks him to coach him in bobsledding for the Olympics. After some problems, the first Jamaican bobsledding team is formed and heads for Calgary. Derice, Sanka, Junior and Yul are laughed at, since nobody can take a Jamaican bobsledding team led by a disgraced trainer seriously. But their team spirit never fails and together they work hard to prove themselves.
Why it stands out from other sports movies: The trials of the bobsledding team highlights how with teamwork you can triumph. Even faced with difficulty they pull together and show what the true meaning of friendship is and how it is imperative to be competing as a unified team. It also shows that you should follow your dreams and aim high; you might even make it.
Bull Durham (1988)
Sport depicted: Baseball
Tagline: 'Major league love story in a minor league town'
Plot: Crash (Kevin Costner) is an aging minor league ball player, brought up from another team to mature a young pitcher, Nuke (Tim Robbins), with maturity problems. Both of them become involved with Ann (Susan Sarandon), a baseball groupie with her own perspective on the game. As Nuke slowly learns from Crash and Ann, his ego starts to grow. Soon he forgets all that they have taught him and heads off to the Major League, leaving Crash and Ann to face their feelings for each other.
Why it stands out from other sports movies: Bull Durham deals with baseball in the humble small southern town where, like so many places, sport is the only thing around to keep kids and adults entertained. Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins are the frustrated minor leaguers who believe their talent deserves to be displayed at the Major Leagues; it’s this ambition that drives the story forward and is so relatable to the audience. After all, what’s the point in dreaming if it isn’t ambitious?
Sport depicted: Tennis
Tagline: 'She’s the golden girl. He’s the long-shot. It’s a match made in...'
Plot: English tennis player Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) is the aging sportsman who feels it’s time to hang up his racket and take a job at a prestigious tennis club. He embarks on his final Wimbledon before he announces his retirement, without much hope of making it to the final. He accidentally meets Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), the American rising star of the game, with a fiery temper and incredible ambition to win. The two embark on a love affair, much to the annoyance of Lizzie’s father and coach. Much to everyone’s surprise Peter starts to play the best tennis of his life, thanks to Lizzie.
Why it stands out from other sports movies: This is definitely a movie that you need to suspend disbelief to watch; the core message, however, you don’t need to. In Peter lies the message that even if you doubt yourself and the odds aren’t on you’re side, with determination and luck you may prevail. The movie also captures the excitement, a grand slam that always throws up a few surprises, and fans of tennis will certainly revel in it.
Sport depicted: Boxing
Tagline: His whole life was a million-to-one shot.
Plot: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is a struggling amateur boxer trying to make the big time. Working in a meat factory in Philadelphia to make ends meet, he also earns extra cash as a debt collector. When heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) visits Philadelphia, his managers want to set up an exhibition match between Creed and a struggling boxer, touting the fight as a chance for a ‘nobody’ to become a ‘somebody’. The match is supposed to be easily won by Creed, but someone forgot to tell Rocky, who sees this as his only shot at making it as a boxing star.
Why it stands out from other sports movies: There comes a time when a sportsman will face what he believes is his one shot; in Rocky that’s exactly what Rocky Balboa does. All his life he’s been waiting for this moment to shine and change the path he’s on at the moment. What makes Rocky unforgettable is the fact he is an average Joe, with no particular outstanding feature but a big heart. His passion for boxing will encourage anyone just as passionate about a sport to continue.
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Sport depicted: Soccer
Tagline: 'Who wants to cook Aloo Gobi when you can bend a ball like Beckham?'
Plot: Of East Indian origin of the Sikh faith, the Bhamra family have been settled in Great Britain for several years. While the eldest daughter is getting married, younger daughter Jess (Parminder Nagra) loves to play soccer which is not acceptable to her parents as the right thing to do. Her parents are clearly uncomfortable with their daughter running around in shorts, chasing a big ball, instead of being clad in a traditional salwar khameez, and learning to cook East Indian recipes. Jess does well in her all-female soccer team and when she gets the opportunity to be scouted by a top soccer agent, she must decide whether her loyalty lies with her family or with the game.
Why it stands out from other sports movies: There aren’t many sports movie that appeal to females but this time it’s all about them. Bend it like Beckham shows that it shouldn’t matter what gender or religion you are, that soccer is accessible and can be played by all. Jess is an admirable character, who faces being ostracised by her family for playing the sport she loves. Within all this is enough British humor to keep everyone laughing up until that all-important, climatic soccer match.