One Great Season
In honor of Sunday's Academy Awards, I've compiled a list of the six best sports movies of all time.
Anyone can do a Top 50, a Top 20 or a Top 10. If you do a Top 50, you don't really miss out on anything, leaving your readers no opportunity to write in and tell you how stupid you are. I like to take those chances.
I've seen dozens of sports movies and there are many I would have liked to have added to this list. Hundreds have been made over the years, and surely you'll disagree with this best-of countdown, but after recalling some of my favorites, I feel confident in calling this the only list you need to heed:
WEIGH IN: What Is Your Favorite Sports Movie?
6. The Express (2008) -- Rob Brown's second sports movie has him playing the role of Ernie Davis, the legendary Syracuse running back who would become college football's first black Heisman Trophy winner at a time when the civil rights movement divided Americans in the 1960s. Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder, played by Dennis Quaid in Quaid's fourth sports role, is set in his ways as he tries to make the Orange a top team in the east, but Davis teaches him as much about the world as the coach can teach him about football. Davis wins the Heisman, and his coach gets that elusive national championship.
5. All The Right Moves (1983) -- A great guy movie that has stood the test of time, as more than 25 years have passed since its debut and men of a certain age continue to quote from it regularly. Who can forget names like Nickerson, Salvucci, Spider, Mouse and of course Tom Cruise's lead character, Stefen Djordjevic? Ampipe's 6-2 stack monster was a formidable defensive front against Walnut Heights, but a late mistake cost the Bulldogs the key win and the season -- even the football-obsessed western Pennsylvania steel town -- seemed to unravel from there.
4. Slap Shot (1977) -- Also set in a poor steel town, this hockey flick is chock full of memorable guy quotes. But the story of a broke minor-league team picks up steam when veteran player-coach Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman) finally decides to insert the recently acquired trio of the Hanson brothers, who in real life are still cashing in on minor-league appearances. What unfolds after the rejuvenated squad begins to lift the spirits of a downtrodden fanbase is hardly the Miracle On Ice, but the exciting, late-season surge leaves no viewer dissatisfied.
3. Rocky (1976) -- Nearly 35 years after its release, the music from "Rocky" still makes me want to run a few miles and bang out some push-ups and sit-ups. The movie is pretty inspiring as well, the feel-good tale of unheralded boxer Rocky Balboa, a down-on-his-luck meat factory thug who gets a shot at the heavyweight champ through a publicity stunt. Just as he begins an unlikely courtship with Adrian, Rocky starts to train for his fight with Apollo Creed, triggering a series of life-changing events depicted in many, many sequels.
2. Hoosiers (1986) -- The ultimate David-and-Goliath story shows rural Indiana's tiny Hickory High School overcome the absence of its star player, an unpopular coach and even a drunk assistant on its way to an improbable state championship in 1952. The movie was loosely based on Milan High School's surprising state title run in 1954.
1. Bull Durham (1988) -- Unlike "Hoosiers," this baseball classic wasn't officially based on a true story, but something tells me what happened here probably happens a lot in the minors. A journeyman catcher is brought in to mentor a talented but immature pitcher, and an eccentric beauty comes between them. In the end, though, it's logical wisdom that brings the two players together, allowing the young hurler to advance to the majors, leaving the catcher behind in the southern sun ... with the girl, of course.