If there’s one kind of movie I’m a sucker for, it’s the sports movie with the soft spot. You know, the one where the action is chugging right along and you’re feeling as fired up as the players in the scene are, and then the coach will break in with a speech so inspiring, so emotionally charged, so infused with passion and love, that the next thing you know, you’re curled up in the fetal position blubbering like the baby you really are deep down. At least, that’s what happens if you’re me, and I’m not ashamed, because movies that elicit that kind of response are worth it.
It seems like there are a ton of sports movies out there, but it takes a special sort of magic to capture the range of feelings that the following movies do. Make sure you have a few tissues handy before you tackle these tear-jerkers.
For Love of the Game (1999) and A League of Their Own (1992)
If I’m being completely honest, the sport of baseball bores me. Watching nine innings worth of guys standing around just to catch a couple moments of pure adrenaline-pumping excitement is not what a good time sounds like to me. But a movie about baseball, on the other hand, that’s a whole other, well, ball game. With movies like For Love of the Game and A League of Their Own you get all the action with none of the wait. Plus, you get a story.
In real life, I’d be sitting in the nosebleed seats on a humid summer day squinting to see what’s going on in the diamond and passing the time by creating backstories for the players on the field in my head, occasionally popping a peanut into my mouth or calling out to the man who walks up and down the aisle selling beer to bring me another.
But when I watch Kevin Costner as Billy Chapel or Tom Hanks tell the girls that there’s no crying in baseball, the script writers have already given me everything I love about sports in just an hour and a half, and I get to enjoy all of it from the comfort of my own couch. The way PictureBox describes For Love of the Game pretty much sums up the heart of the film, and of almost every sports film, in two lines: “Billy Chapel is a legendary baseball player who is nearing the end of a magnificent career. He has a final chance to prove who he is, secure his legacy, and win the heart of a lady.” The streaming service currently has both baseball hits in its rotation, making for a perfectly good excuse to spend the night in front of the telly.
Miracle (2004) and The Mighty Ducks (1992)
I first watched The Mighty Ducks when I was a kid and had no idea how hockey worked. All I knew was that Emilio Estevez seemed like a cool coach and that the team’s uniforms, intimidating goalie mask included, were what I imagined sports greats wore on a daily basis. Despite the fact that The Mighty Ducks is not a very accurate depiction of how hockey is played in the pros, it’s a heartwarming movie that’s great for the whole family and still includes plenty of moments that will make even the most hardened man’s eyes damp.
Miracle is based on the true story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s victory over the Russian squad. In contrast to The Mighty Ducks, the action is this movie is completely authentic. According to ESPN, director Gavin O’ Connor refused to cast actors to portray hockey players, insisting on true athletes for the film. O’ Connor held tryouts with thousands of players in six different cities to find the perfect guys to play the 1980 teams. The payoff? A feeling of authenticity throughout, especially in the scenes where the players are most passionate about the sport, making for a movie that lives up to its title.
Friday Night Lights (2004) and Remember the Titans (2000)
Both of these football classics feature tough high school coaches who turn out to be the biggest softies on the field, leading their underdog teams to victory and turning wayward boys into caring men along the way. What combination could be better than that?
Book-turned-movie-turned-television-series Friday Night Lights delivers a look into the personal lives of the players, coaches, and families of Permian High School’s football team. Set in Texas, I expect the Southern accents, big hair, and football-or-die attitude, but the unexpected is what makes this movie so original: the gritty, true to life accounts of the pressure of playing football in a town with high expectations.
Remember the Titans has it all: rousing speeches, team chants and dance sequences, unlikely friendships, courage in the face of hatred, bits of action that’ll keep your heart rate up, and of course, Denzel Washington. What both Friday Night Lights and Remember the Titans offer is much more than the typical sports movie. When Roger Ebert reviewed Remember the Titans he said that “whether the Titans win or lose has nothing to do with the season they have played and what they are trying to prove,” a statement that could just as easily be applied to Friday Night Lights.
These films don’t only portray football, they portray the human spirit at its worst and best. And at the end of each movie, the audience is no longer just cheering for a victory on the field, but a victory in the lives of the characters.
What’s your favourite sports movie?
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