Walter Mencken 9:52 a.m., Oct. 27
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Greatest Sports Movies Ever
The LA Times did a list of the best football movies right before the Super Bowl.
And that, combined with the Oscars, got me thinking about my favorite sports films. So, I thought I'd write a blog listing my 20 favorite movies that deal with sports.
I first want to talk about a few that aren't on the list.
Why does everyone like Rudy so much? Yes, the premise is great, but it's done in such a cornball way. When I ran into the real Rudy at a Make-A-Wish event, I almost wanted to tell him that. But he seemed so proud talking about the film.
No football movie made in the last 10 years, that deals with people laying out in the street, partying, or "over coming obstacles."
In no particular order, my Top 20 sports films:
Bull Durham. When this was released, I was so burned out on Kevin Costner; but he's perfect playing a veteran baseball player (and has played one in 3 other films). Sarandon was a bit annoying, but Tim Robbins was wonderful.
Raging Bull. Many critics consider this the best movie of the 80s. It made Joe Pesci a name. And Robert DeNiro a bigger name. And a bigger mid-section. This is the film he gained 60 pounds for (and helped Belushi quote some great lines for when he impersonated him). Nice choice by Scorsese filming in black and white.
The Great White Hope. I guess James Earl Jones will always be known as the voice of Darth Vader. But he was in two of the best sports movies ever. One was this, where he plays the best heavyweight fighter in history -- Jack Johnson, and became the second African-American to ever receive an Oscar nomination in the 60s (although, Halle Berry seems to think she broke down all these barriers a few years ago). If all you know about Jack Johnson is the guy that sings those crappy songs, Google the boxer, and read an amazing story on what he had to go thru in this country, being a black man that couldn't be beat by anyone (except the cops, for marrying a white woman).
Field of Dreams. It has the two previous mentioned actors, Costner and Jones. Some might think it was cheesy, but I liked it. I still can't figure out why Costner says to the ghost of his dad, "Let's go have a catch."
White Men Can't Jump. Written by Ron Shelton, who wrote Bull Durham and a few other sports films. I related to Woody Harrelsons character, as I've played ball in some gyms in the ghetto, and didn't get respect because of my color. And, well, I have shorts that don't hang down and show my underwear. The movie is well written, and one of the few performances by Rosie Perez where she doesn't get on your nerves.
Best of Times. The first sports film Shelton wrote, and very underrated. Kurt Russell works painting cars, and Robin Williams is a banker. They were on the same high school team, with Russell as the stud quarterback and Williams as a nerdy, third string receiver that drops a pass in the big game. A rematch happens, with similar results. One of the funniest scenes in sports movie history, is when the wives leave them because of their obsession with football. They agree to have a dinner date to work things out, and it's during Monday Night Football. They take turns going to the bathroom, walking into the living room, and turning the TV on for updates. Amazing stuff (and a young Kirk Cameron plays the son, before his huge success on TV, and now his...uh, weird career doing lame Christian films).
The Wrestler. I saw it a second time last weekend, and no...not just to see Marisa Tomei naked (that's just a nice plus). A fun, and sad, film. There's a scene where he's going to work at a deli, and they play the sounds of a crowd at a wrestling match. One of the best scenes in a movie this year.
Rocky. Stallone wrote the screenplay, and as a broke, struggling actor with no money, was offered just under $100,000 for it. They didn't want him in the lead role, so he turned down the money. What a wise decision. And what other person would do that, knowing it might be their only shot at getting the script sold? Sure, the underdog story had been done before, but probably not as well.
Requiem for a Heavyweight. I love boxing, so I probably have more boxing films on a sports list then I should. Although, I also love basketball...but movies like The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh or the Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island, just don't make the cut. Anyway, written by The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling, the version with Anthony Quinn as the heavyweight (who fights the real Ali, when he was still named Clay), Mickey Rooney, and Jackie Gleason as the two-faced manager. The Wrestler borrowed a bit from this film, so why not see the "original." One of the saddest endings in a movie. And it holds up really well. Put it on your Netflix list.
The Champ. Another boxing film (sort of). Another sad ending. This may be the saddest movie ever filmed. A friend of mine grew up the Phillipines, and said at a premiere, Kleenex did a promotion where they gave out boxes of tissues. Good idea. When Fayne Dunaway thinks she can waltz back into his life and take the kid she abandon, you want to slap her. He's naive enough to think she wants him. And also to think he's healthy enough to fight again. He needs the money, and wants to compete for his sons attention. Just typing that is making me well up with tears.
Tin Cup. I think this might be a Ron Shelton movie, but not positive. And, even more burned out on Costner when this came out, but hey...he had Cheech as a sidekick. And he was used so much better than Don Johnson ever could've. I'm not a golf fan, but this film was a blast.
Inside Moves. One of those movies that nobody remembers. I recently saw a contract The Eagles signed, for one of their songs being used in it (I Can't Tell You Why). I was going to buy it, but the seller wanted a lot (and it was only signed by three Eagles). This is about a guy that tries to commit suicide. I saw it on HBO when I was 13, and was blown away. The dude becomes a cripple, and hangs out with other handicap people that go to Golden State Warriors games and heckle the ball players. I can't explain more than that, but it goes down some very unexpected paths that are wonderful to witness.
The Longest Yard. The Burt Reynolds movie. He plays a football player as well as Costner plays baseball veterans. I heard the Adam Sandler version sucked. But, watching Richard Kiel (Jaws from the Bond films), break a guys neck, is the classic scene everyone was quoting for years.
All the Right Moves. Someone sent a letter to the LA Times when this wasn't on their football list. And they had a valid point. Watching a young Tom Cruise, in his third movie, and the late Chris Penn as a player that gets a girl pregnant, as well as Craig Nelson (Coach)...perfectly showed the craziness of prep football in the steel city. And it wasn't over the top, idiotic parties the way the more recent football movies (Varsity Blues, etc), had. These players just drank beer, flirted with women, and talked about which colleges they hoped to go to on scholarship.
Victory. This is a soccer movie, and I hadn't thought about it until I saw the Will Ferrell soccer movie Kicking and Screaming (is there a sport he hasn't covered?). I was 12 when this came out, and my neighbors loved soccer. The mom, a cute Asian woman that played soccer (and looked fabulous in her green uniform!), took us to see it. The cast might sound corny...Stallone, Pele, and Michael Caine...but when these POWs in Nazi Germany, win a game against the guards, it's a lot of fun. I haven't seen it since that time in the theatres, but I fear it might not hold up well.
North Dallas Forty. At the time, I remember reading critics that said this really captured how tough it was to play NFL football, and the pain the players put their bodies thru. I remember Nick Nolte limping into the Jacuzzi after a game, and other people with big 70s mustaches (singer Mac Davis), and great casting with Charles Durning and real pro player John Matuszak (who was also a lot of fun in Ringo's movie Caveman).
Brian's Song. I saw this on TV as a kid and cried my eyes out. The friendship between Hall of Fame running back Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccholo, who barely made the team. Brian ends up with cancer.
Something For Joey. Another football movie, that I believe was also made for TV. And it featured another running back -- college stud John Cappeletti (who played a year or two with the Chargers, but never had a good NFL season). He won the Heisman, and it's one of those stories where he promised a boy named Joey in the hospital (wait...now that I think of it...that might've been his little brother), that he'd score three touchdowns in a game (maybe it was five, my facts are fuzzy). The kid made the request, and he was good enough to honor it. His speech at the end, when he dedicates his trophy to the boy, is heartwrenching.
Caddyshack. Do I really need to explain why? Easily the funniest sports film ever made.
The World According to Garp. Okay, this last one is cheating a bit. It's not a sports movie, per se. But writer John Irving loves wrestling, and this has Robin Williams yearning to wrestle as a youngster (his mom, Glenn Close, in her first movie role that nabbed her an Oscar nomination)...wants him to play basketball. When he ends his career as a writer, he takes over the wrestling team. But, all the wrestling scenes combined, probably only make up about 20 minutes of this 2 1/2 hour film. But since John Lithgow plays an ex-NFL tight end (that had a sex change and becomes a woman). Hey...you think the movie sounds weird, the book is about 10 times weirder. But this is my all-time favorite film, so I want it on the list, even though it barely qualifies as a sports films.
That's my list. Up yours.
I mean, what's yours?
More like this:
- Football Hero and Football Zero — Sept. 4, 2009
- My top sports movies — Feb. 25, 2009
- Headhunters — Dec. 15, 2008
- American EXPRESS -- The Race Card. Don't Leave Home Without It. — Oct. 23, 2008
- Fantasy Football — Sept. 3, 2007